“One confident businesswoman recently told me that the discovery that her husband is a sex addict turned her into a ‘screaming banshee – I’ve become a stranger to myself’,” Hall tells me.
Hall believes these partners need help of their own – hence her book, which is essentially a self-help guide, covering three broad areas: understanding sex addiction and why it hurts partners so much; repairing the damage it has caused to the partner; and finally, helping the partner to work out whether the relationship can survive and, either way, how to move forward.
Joy Rosendale, a sex-addiction therapist specialising in partner work, instigated the first one in the UK back in 2005, following her own experiences.
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To be fair on Rachel’s friends, there is some debate about whether the term sex addiction is scientifically accurate, but the field of addiction is changing fast and emphasis is shifting from the substance to the psychological symptoms of addiction.
The NHS has a website page dedicated to sex addiction.
The reality for most partners I see is that they experience phenomenal shock.” The damage to self-esteem, she continues, isn’t just about the sexualised behaviour, such as visits to prostitutes that partners never knew about.
It’s the fact that they’ve lived with someone so long and had no idea.
Traditionally, most partners of sex addicts have been treated as co-dependents, says Hall.
“The presumption is that the partner knew at some level what was going on and was ‘enabling’ it, which is frankly an insult.“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.Causes can of course be more complex, while for some – a fast-growing number, according to Hall – it’s simply opportunity-induced.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.“These guys, and it is mostly guys, are on the whole loving husbands, yet they did this right under your nose, leaving you unable to trust your partner, or even your own judgements,” she explains.