Are partners of sex addicts as “sick as their husbands?”

by Dan Drake, LMFT, LPCC, CCPS-S, CSAT-S


There is a common notion that partners of sex addicts are as sick as the individual with the addiction.  Often exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, shock, betrayal, ambivalence, confusion, devastation, and myriad other symptoms, addicts and the treatment community alike have mischaracterized these trauma symptoms as symptoms of pathology.  Now, I’m not saying that partners of sex addicts do not have their own issues in the relationship, some of which might actually be pathological.  That very well may be the case.  What I am saying is that expected symptoms of trauma after betrayal are being improperly mistaken as pathological.

In 2011, Reid, Carpenter, and Draper wrote an article exploring just this issue.  In their study they found that on the whole, partners of sex addicts did NOT exhibit pathological symptoms, but were actually quite normal.  Ultimately, my goal in posting this isn’t to polarize addicts and partners, but to help us all come to understand one another better.  As we better understand what we’re dealing with, the better we as the treatment community, the recovery community, and men and women in the fight towards health, can better care for each other.

Here’s the abstract to the article.  You can find a link to the full article here.  Enjoy!

“This article offers a report disputing the notion that women who are married to hypersexual men exhibit a constellation of pathological symptoms, although it is likely they experience marital distress.  The authors measured psychopathology using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2-Restructured Form and marital satisfaction using the Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale. The authors failed to find evidence supporting a common belief that wives of hypersexual men have their own pathology. Wives of hypersexual men, however, were significantly more distressed about their marriages compared with the controls in this study. Overall, these findings contradict a characterization of wives of hypersexual men as being more depressed, anxious, chemically dependent, or otherwise dysfunctional.”

Partner Resources | Sex Addiction Resources