“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.“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.“I could have dealt with a gambling addiction or alcoholism – anything but this,” Rachel confirms.Like most partners, she initially didn’t buy into the concept of sex addiction (“it sounded like a pretty weak excuse for an affair”) and even when she did start to believe that her husband’s behaviour was compulsive, her friends didn’t (“they’d look at me in despair, asking since when had sexual desire became a monster that can’t be controlled”), leaving her feeling isolated.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.
“One of the points of this group is to depersonalise it.
“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.
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, says Hall.
I felt that meant the risk of relapse was too great, so I left.