I think my partner is addicted to sex...and it’s hurting our relationship. What can we do?
Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD on August 29, 2011
In a study in the mid 90’s by researchers from the University of Chicago, several thousand randomly selected men and women all over America were asked how often they had sex. It turned out that there were about equal numbers of people having sex a few times per year, per month and per week. And then there were a few having either no sex at all…or ⎼ on the other end of the spectrum ⎼ several times a day. So it could simply be that you and your partner are in very different groups.
Remember, it’s not your responsibility to help your partner achieve sexual relief every day. For example, does she masturbate? I ask, because masturbation is one way to relieve sexual tension either by yourself or with your partner, who simply may want to be present but not actively engage.
It’s hard to know if your partner is truly a sex addict, or if there are other relationship issues that are contributing to your seemingly different levels of desire. You’re right to ask about couples sex therapy, as that’s probably the best way to discover the root cause of the situation you describe.
That said, here are some thoughts for your consideration…
What is sex addiction? Also calledcompulsive sexual behavior, hypersexuality or nymphomania, sex addiction means that a person’s thoughts, actions and/or behaviors are dominated by sex and trying to have sex...to the point where these thoughts or actions become disruptive to the other activities and responsibilities in the person’s life, and to the lives of the people around him or her.
Psychologists are still learning more about the condition, and they don’t all agree that it’s an addiction. However, aspects of compulsive sexual behavior are similar to addiction, impulse control disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD).
The good news is that compulsive sexual behavior can be treated. But if your partner is truly suffering from this addiction, the chances thatshe can “cure” herself by her own willpower is unlikely. And unfortunately, many people with compulsive sexual behavior deny they have a problem and don’t seek treatment until they hit rock bottom (like the loss of a job, the loss of a significant relationship, etc.).
Some treatment options include:
- Psychotherapy. From individual treatment (inpatient and outpatient) to group therapy and/or family counseling.
- Medications. Depending on the root of the compulsive sexual behavior and other issues the person may be dealing with, a number of medications can help – from anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications and mood stabilizers to medications that lower sex hormones.
- Self-help groups. Similar to 12-step programs likeSexaholics Anonymous, self-help groups can offer peer support during treatment.
Dr. Owens is an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor. Her areas of expertise include the medical aspects of human sexuality and sexual problems, as well as the impact of STDs ⎼ and other diseases, illnesses and disabilities ⎼ on sexuality. Dr. Owens was educated at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.