Spouses of sex addicts do not have an easy road after learning about their spouse’s behaviors. For most, finding out about a partner’s sexual betrayal is incredibly traumatic. In fact, one study found that many cheated-on partners, after learning about their spouse’s infidelity, actually experienced acute stress symptoms characteristic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — a very serious condition with profound negative consequences.
Typically, the pain evoked by a partner’s sexual addiction and infidelity manifests in one or more of the following ways:
* Emotional volatility, including quick shifts from rage to sadness to hope and back again
* Hyper-vigilant self-protective behaviors, including detective work (checking bills, wallets, phone apps, browser histories, etc.)
* Predicting and living in the wreckage of the future—inventing doomsday, worst-case scenarios and dreading them to the point of not being able to live “in the moment”
* Sleeplessness, nightmares, inability (or lack of desire) to wake up, etc.
* Difficulty focusing on the day-to-day
* Obsessing about the trauma and experiencing depression and anxiety because of it
*Avoiding thinking about or discussing the trauma
* Compulsive eating, loss of appetite or other obsessive behaviors
In some ways, the pain caused by a partner’s sexual infidelity stems from the fact that, although the cheater has obviously known about his or her sexual behavior from the start (and may actually feel some relief once the truth is on the table), the cheated-on spouse is usually blindsided by the information. And even when that person had some prior knowledge of the infidelity, he or she is usually overwhelmed upon learning the full extent of the activity. (After all, sex addiction is an ongoing pattern of behavior rather than an isolated incident.)
Exacerbating the injury is the fact that it’s not just anyone who caused this pain and sense of loss. The agony experienced by cheated-on partners is amplified by the fact that the hurt has been perpetrated by the one person in the world they most counted on. Their spouse, the individual who carries the most emotional significance in their life, has essentially taken a knife and plunged it into their back, ripping apart their emotional universe with lies, manipulation, and a seeming lack of concern about their emotional and physical wellbeing.