Do you find yourself in a relationship with someone who has affairs, uses pornography excessively, or pressures you to have sex when you do not want to? Are you trapped in a pattern of choosing partners who are sexually compulsive? In addition, are you trying to stop or control their behavior, caught in a web of lies not knowing what to believe, always suspicious, doubting yourself and questioning your partner? You may wonder, “is he still using pornography when I’m not around?” or,”is she still seeing other men when I’m out of town?” You may have become focused on your partner’s behavior to the detriment of your own well-being. You may spend an inordinant amount of time and energy wondering what he/she is doing and how you can change or control it so you don’t have to be in so much pain.
This codependent behavior is actually an attempt to avoid your own vulnerable emotions, though you are ultimately causing yourself more pain. Just like the addict uses sex to avoid uncomfortable feelings, the codependent person obsessively focuses on the addict to escape from themselves and their own discomfort. Often people who grew up in addictive homes – whether there was gambling, workaholism, substance abuse or compulsive sexual activity – are attracted to addictive partners who are out of control.
This may be a lifelong pattern, but with help this destructive pattern can be transformed. By taking the focus off your partner and looking at your own feelings about yourself – who you are and the choices you’ve made – you can free your partner and empower yourself. By controlling and obsessing about your partner, you actually interfere with them taking responsibility for their own feelings and actions. You carry a weight that isn’t yours which is debilitating to both parties. In addition, attempting to control an addict’s behavior only perpetuates emotional distance, resentment, rebellion, and dishonesty.
If you want your partner to stop acting out sexually and you wish to attain your own sense of stability and well-being, the most effective action is to take care of yourself. If you wish to embark upon the road to recovery, a healing journey awaits you.
Lorraine Platt, M.A., MFT
Offices in Marin and San Francisco