ENQUIRY

My partner says his sexual behavior is normal – but he is hiding it and I know something is wrong. Am I crazy? What are the signs of compulsive sexual behavior disorder?

Partners of people with sexual compulsivity often come to the clinic in great distress.

They have just learned about the latest infidelity, daily Internet porn use, visits to Orchard Towers, massage parlors or KTV lounges. The images accidently left on the family computer may be shocking or alarming.   

Perhaps they have discovered condoms in the person’s luggage after a business trip, unexplained expenses on their credit cards, and unexplained absences from their hotel rooms late at night when they tried to call the person. Childrens’ birthdays, graduations and family celebrations may be mysteriously abandoned for “essential” business trips.

Partners may notice strange messages or nude photos on the mobiles; or perhaps odd phone calls at night, that seem to make the person excited or embarrassed. They may come home intoxicated at 3:00 am, after a night out with colleagues, with unexplained credit cards slips in their pockets for hundreds or thousands of dollars. They may find an STI clinic report.   

The person acting out will likely try to vigorously “manage” all this fallout with their partners.  

They may rationalize, minimize, intellectualize, normalize – or simply lie, to explain away all this overwhelming cumulative evidence. They may “gaslight” their partner, making them think they are crazy.

And it may work…for a time.

Meanwhile partners may feel: shocked; rejected; confused; angry, even rageful; anxious; and depressed. They may even blame themselves and feel inadequate as a partner and  ashamed.

They may: become irritable, angry or overly anxious with their children; stop doing things they enjoyed, stop seeing people; forego self-care and grooming; or try to become overly sexual and breach their own boundaries to save the relationship.

They may become sleepless, without appetite and lose weight – or over eat and gain weight; and they may use medication and alcohol to numb their emotional pain. They may keep getting flus and colds that refuse to go away; or chronic backaches and neck aches that make sleep or activities painful.

The shame may be crushing.

Some partners may have experienced earlier traumas in their own childhood or adulthood, in which emotional and sexual or other physical abuse, neglect and rejection were prevalent.  The acting out person’s behavior may therefore trigger strong trauma reactions, and lead to bonded relationship traumas, resulting in self-harm or even attempted suicide.

How can a partner respond when they get a feeling something is not quite right?

If they can persuade the person acting out to undertake a clinical assessment, the person will be able to understand that their behavior has become a serious self-destructive compulsion, and that they need treatment.

Even if the person won’t attend therapy, the partner can take an assessment of the extent of their trauma, and the role of the person acting out. The partner can then receive treatment, and explore the options for the family. Do they stay or go?

Promises Healthcare Pte Ltd. provides therapy for both those with compulsive sexual behavior and their partners, so that together they can find a way out of their suffering and plan a better future for their families.