6 Stages of Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

By: Gregory Popcak

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The Painful Truth of Addiction

Sex addiction statistics show that 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites between 1-10 hours per week. Another 4.7 million in excess of 11 hours per week. (MSNBC/Stanford/Duquesne Study, Washington Times, 1/26/2000). According to Datamonitor, over half of all time spent on the Internet is related to sexual activity, with 30 million people logging on to pornographic Web sites daily. According to some estimates, sex addiction affects about 3-5% of Americans, but that number is also considered to be hopelessly low because it is based upon the number of people who seek treatment, not the probable hundreds of thousands of people who never ever look for help. Of course, this is all terribly devastating to the spouse of the sex addict who is almost always completely surprised by the revelation of the addiction and goes through his or her own stages of healing. There is help though, for people who are ready to heal. Patrick Carnes, who spearheaded most of what we know today about defining and treating sexual addiction, has identified 6 stages of recovery for partners of sex addicts.

6 Stages of Recover

Developing/Pre-discovery—This is where the partner of the sex addict has a sense that something is not right, but she can’t quite put a finger on it. Things aren’t adding up, but she isn’t sure why.

Crisis/Decision/Information Gathering—The truth is out now. Phone records or credit card statements or internet histories or other signs have been discovered. There is no denying that there is a real problem here. The partner will respond by trying to micromanage the addict. It won’t work. This is a good time to involve programs like Sexaholics Anonymous.

Shock—A hopelessness can start to set in as the partner realizes that they have been living with a stranger.

Grief/Ambivalence— The partner begins to mourn the old relationship and the lost innocence. This leads to a new honesty and a new willingness to face what is still good and worth saving in the relationship combined with an honest assessment of the work that needs to be done. This can lead the partner to wonder if its worth going on in the relationship.

Repair—Now the partner commits to the work of healing themselves and the relationship. They are learning how to hold their mate accountable without getting sucked into the drama or the con games. The spouse is honestly seeking treatment and working a program. That makes it safe for the couple to begin working on making the marriage healthy.

Growth— A new honesty and authenticity is blooming in the relationship as the couple relates to each other on a level they never have before. There are still a lot of hard conversations ahead, but each talk brings out something new and good to work with. It can be devastating to find that one’s partner is struggling with their sexuality through porn, adultery or other sexual acting out. But there is hope and healing to be found. And it is worth hanging in there.


If you would like more information on working to heal a relationship damaged by sexual addictions, contact your PaxCare Tele-Coach today. Call us to get the support you need in this most difficult situation.

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