If you are a partner of a sex addict you have most likely experienced emotional pain, hurt, and betrayal that is difficult to navigate. Many partners struggle because they love someone who is making destructive choices that greatly affect both the addict and partner. To make it worse, many of the solutions to sex addiction are not in the control of the partners. So what do you do? Sit there and watch your partner destroy their life and continue to suffer yourself. Try to control the situation, which has never actually worked in the past. Pray harder. Try to ignore the problems. Try to be the best partner you can be and hope that drives them to stop acting out. Be sexier or more sexually and emotionally available. These are all things that unfortunately, do not make sex addicts stop acting out and often leave partners feeling more hopeless. One thing partners can do to regain hope and health is set healthy boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual limits you set in order to feel safe and begin to heal. Healthy boundaries are self-focused, not something done to try to change and punish the sex addict. Healthy boundaries set by partners often end up helping sex addicts on their road to recovery, but is not a guarantee and should not be the reason for setting boundaries (or that would just be another way to try to control the situation). The desired outcome of setting healthy boundaries is healing for you as the partner!
Setting healthy boundaries, that are self-focused, is easier said than done. Though the boundaries are for you, they will also affect your partner. They may even make your partner upset. What seems black and white initially, may not be as you start to think about it more. Some questions you can ask yourself that may help are:
It may help to discuss boundaries with a trusted friend or trained therapist before discussing them with you partner. They can help you make sure the focus of the boundaries is on you and help you be more prepared for any resistance your partner may give. They can also help you decide what you will do if your partner violates one of your boundaries.
Healthy boundaries look different for everyone. Some of the examples I listed may not even be healthy for you. Creating healthy boundaries is a process. It is okay if your boundaries change over time and as you navigate what helps you feel safe and heal.