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"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.No wonder many partners suffer trauma, which can lead to depression, anxiety and panic attacks, rage or utter dissociation."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." 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.
"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.Second, the partner has to feel stable again, as well as understanding the addiction and working out what they want the relationship to look like in the future.Third, the couple works together on the renegotiation of the boundaries in the relationship." While some sex addicts move on, other partners must recognise that they'll be living with someone in recovery for the rest of their life."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.
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Sex Addiction: The Partner's Perspective is overdue, Hall believes, with thousands of partners across the UK struggling with something that evokes all the most destructive ingredients of personal pain - betrayal, infidelity, deceit and shame.