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“Ideally, partners get their own therapy,” says Hall.
“The problem is that all the assumptions made by well-meaning friends about sex addiction are also shared by many therapists who are untrained in this area.
Some relationship therapists work with the partner’s pain by treating it as an infidelity, for example, but it’s so much more than that – and sometimes it isn’t even that at all, with some people not actually having sex elsewhere, but using porn instead.” No wonder Hall’s therapeutic practice, which recognises the uniqueness of the partner’s pain, has gone from strength to strength.
Also providing a haven of hope is the small, but growing, number of support groups.
“It could involve sex with a partner, but it may also mean activities such as viewing pornography, masturbation, visiting prostitutes or using sex chat lines,” it explains, claiming that while for most people such habits don’t cause problems, sex addicts are unable to control these urges and actions.
No wonder many partners suffer trauma, which can lead to depression, anxiety and panic attacks, rage or utter dissociation.Nobody is suggesting partners should stay, she stresses. But even then, they need support with rebuilding trust and reclaiming their sexuality.” Rachel agrees.“Much as my husband tried to stop his behaviours by understanding the nature of sex addiction, he wasn’t willing to delve into the cause.“So when he sat me down one day to tell me he was a sex addict, I actually laughed – although I soon stopped when he disclosed night upon night of watching pornography for hours on end and numerous short-lived affairs.My life fell apart.” Sex addiction hurts partners in a way that no other addiction can, says Paula Hall, who has written a book on the subject.