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Partner Trauma

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Partners of addicts, including sex addicts, often feel broken, betrayed and wonder if they will ever be able to trust again. You may have just discovered your partner has been hiding an addictive behavior or you may be struggling with intense feelings after years of being in a relationship with an addict. You may find yourself questioning everything, feel threatened by people, places or things that previously did not feel threatening, and experience days when you do not want to leave your bed.  This is called partner trauma.

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What Is Partner Trauma?

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Are you wondering if you are in a relationship with a sex addict? Below is a quick questionnaire to help you find out. Developed by Patrick Carnes et al. (2012), this test, called PATHOS, helps quickly identify whether or not your partner has problematic sexual behaviors.

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  1. Does your partner often find himself/herself preoccupied with sexual thoughts? (Preoccupied)
  2. Does your partner hide some of his/her sexual behavior from you? (Ashamed)
  3. Has your partner ever sought help for sexual behavior he/she did not like? (Treatment)
  4. Have you been hurt emotionally because of your partner’s sexual behavior? (Hurt)
  5. Does your partner feel controlled by his/her sexual desire? (Out of control)
  6. When your partner engages in sexual behaviors, does your partner feel depressed afterwards? (Sad)

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Answering “Yes” to 2 or more may indicate that your partner has problematic sexual behaviors and you are in a relationship with a sex addict.

Identifying the problem is a great first step.  Although healing from this trauma may seem daunting, you do not need to suffer through this journey alone! Your partner’s problem impacts you greatly and your feelings are uniquely yours.  They are a part of your experience and what you are dealing with is every bit as important as helping your partner find the healing they need.

Partners of sex addicts often feel intense difficult emotions such as:

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  • Anger
  • Abandonment
  • Rejection
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

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  • Worry
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • A feeling of “less than”
  • Heart shattering pain
  • New concern about your own body image, personality, or sex

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All of these feelings can be summed up as betrayal trauma or partner trauma.  The good news is there is help and healing available for you, too — even if you feel that your heart can’t possibly be put together again.

If you are the partner of a sex addict, you do not need to suffer alone. Let’s talk. Let me help you find healing!

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Safeguarding the Home

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It is important to safeguard your home. If a family member has a sex addiction, there is greater risk for the children in the home to become addicted later on or become a partner of a sex addict. Teach healthy intimacy to your children. Read my helpful tips on safeguarding your home and contact me to schedule a session.

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1. Carnes, P. J., Green, B. A., Merlo, L. J., Polles, A., Carnes, S., & Gold, M. S. (2012). PATHOS: A brief screening application for assessing sexual addiction. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 6(1), 29–34. http://doi.org/10.1097/ADM.0b013e3182251a28

2. Corley, D.M, Pollard, S.E., Hook, J.N., & Schneider, J.P. (2013). Impact of disclosure of relapse for self-identified sexual addicts, Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 20(3), 157-170.

3. Corley, D.M., Schneider, J.P. & Hook, J.N. (2016). Sex addiction, the partner’s perspective: A comprehensive guide to understanding and surviving sex addiction for partners and those who want to help them. New York, NY: Routledge.

Additional Resources:
• Mending a Shattered Heart – Stephanie Carnes
• Deceived – Claudia Black
• Intimate Treason – Claudia Black
• Your Sexually Addicted Spouse – Steffens & Means
• Everything Changes – Beverly Conyers