Generally, female partners of sex addicts want to know why their male partner has a sex addiction. They not only want to know why, but how this happened. Is there hope? What can be done about it? How long will it take for them to change? Is it their fault? Is this treatable? Can it be cured? Will our lives ever get back to normal? What will be the new normal? Do they still love me? Why do they act this way? Why did this happen? Why must I be part of this recovery process? Why didn’t I need see this sooner? Why am I so sad and angry? Why am I not angry? Why did this happen me? Yeah…but why?
Female partners will go to exhaustive lengths to get answers to these questions. They will research, seek out help, read, purchase resources, go to counselors, meetings and start all over again. This can go on for years. I understand this is a necessary part of the process; however, please heed a warning. Generally, women do not find the answers they are looking for or understand the addiction to a level of satisfaction that gives them peace. So be careful, because you can become addicted to the…why.
Here are some basic reasons sex addicts act out. This is not a complete or comprehensive list, as there are different levels and variations to this list. However, please know and understand not one of these reasons has anything to do with you. A sex addict’s addiction is not about you. It’s not your fault. Hopefully, this will help you on your journey of understanding and help bring some closure.
10 Reasons Sex Addicts Act Out
Many, but not all, sex addicts have experienced physical, emotional, relational, spiritual or religious trauma and abuses. It is the pain experience from this trauma that may cause an addict to self-medicate to feel better and help escape the emotions attached to traumatic events. Counter to popular belief, trauma is not a permanent condition. Once addressed with the right help, you can live a full and productive life. Believe it or not, there are many people who experience trauma and never become addicts of any kind. We may have been victimized, but we do not need to live as victims the rest or our lives.
2. They Believe Sex is Love
A healthy person knows this is a lie. However, a sex addict may believe this lie. Due to the sexual trauma the victim (now addict) has experiences, they may have attached/connected the sexual experience done to them as love or intimacy. They may struggle with feelings of guilt and shame not wanting the abuse but “liking” it to some extent, which causes a great deal of confusion. Sex is not love. This is commonly seen in child prostitution/abuse where they believe the pimp or abuser really loved them.
Most any addiction, as well as sex addiction, is fueled with the feelings of shame. Oftentimes in an effort to rid themselves of shame, they act out to get temporary relief only to have shame return in a vicious cycle. Sex addicts struggle with a great deal of worthlessness.
Not all sex addicts have been abused. Their abuse may have been in the form of neglect by a parent or caregiver, which may explain why so many sex addicts have attachment issues and disorders. They may not have grown up with parents who were abusive, but love may not have been freely shown or expressed. Love may have been withheld, and the child had to initiate attention, touch or affirmation on their own. In my research, 64 percent of sex addicts struggle with intimacy anorexia.
Sex addicts can simply be very selfish and self-serving. They have a difficult time understanding the perspective of those their addiction hurts. They may have features of narcissism or a narcissist personality disorder.
6. Fun & Excitement
Acting out can simply be fun and exciting, especially when a sex addict doesn’t struggle with guilt or remorse. The addict enjoys the excitement or the ritual of acting out for the sake of sexual stimulation and gratification itself.
7. No Desire to Stop
Not every addict believes their addiction is a problem or that they are even an addict. In fact, they believe you are the problem; and if you would just understand their side, you would agree. Some of my most difficult clients who were finally honest with themselves after years of recovery realized they did not want to stop. They were not in enough pain, or it was not yet a priority to them. They believe they deserve to have sex when and where they want. It’s not about trauma or neglect anymore, as they have worked on those issues. It is now a matter of obedience.
This will cause many sex addicts to act out, as it is connected to trauma, neglects and their own shame. They either have not been able to let go and forgive parents, a spouse, a relationship from the past, or even God. Most often, addicts have never forgiven themselves. Until they do, the addiction will continue to have a stronghold in their life.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s probably a duck. It’s an addiction just like any other addiction that trains the brain and body to desire those chemicals (dopamine) again and again. An addiction needs more of the substance more often. They may have tried and failed many times to stop. Behaviors continue to become more extreme and reckless in order to achieve the same chemical response. An addiction will affect one or all of the following: career, health, money, relationships and legal status.
10. Power and Control Used to Abuse Others
This is a different level on the side of evil. This is the dark side of sex addiction. There are those who have crossed a different line. I have worked in corrections with all kinds of criminals, including sex offenders. Obviously, not all sex addicts are sex offenders. (In fact, very few are.) However, I believe most sex offenders are sex addicts. At this level, the sex addict generally needs legal intervention to be stopped, such as jail or prison, as well as a full psychological evaluation and close monitoring by a treatment team.
As a partner of a sex addict, remember it is not your fault. You are exhausted and have tried to help them, but they are not getting better nor do they want your help. What now? For more information, read When Your Partner Doesn’t Want Help.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.