How to Identify a Sex Addiction in a Spouse or Partner

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Contributor: Paul Loosemore, MA, PCLC, and writer for Addiction Hope.

Sad WomanIf you are reading this article, you are probably feeling anxiety, concern, confusion, fear or any number of unpleasant emotions. Suspecting a sexual addiction in your partner is a painful thing to confront. The pain of betrayal will be felt and the pressure to find a solution often sets in.

Below are the key categories to consider if you suspect a sexual addiction. Yet before we look at them, it is vital to be reminded of the following: Sexual addiction is treatable if the person struggling is willing, and understanding support is incredibly helpful for you, the hurting partner.

There are many counseling and support services for those in a relationship with a sexual addict and I highly recommend seeking them out.

We must note that the following experiences are not unique to sexual addiction. They are commonly associated, yet they alone are not evidence. However, if you suspect addiction, it is worth following your concerns and trusting any evidence you do find—do not make excuses for evidence or dismiss it.

Turning Away from You

Often the first signs of a problem are distance within your relationship. This can be experienced at a deep level that you can’t easily explain.

We pick up on the little details within relationships, such as someone making eye contact (or not), avoiding conversation, not hugging us quite the way they used to, etc. When these small instances mount up, and our partner doesn’t engage us like they used to, we notice.

This turning away is often as a result of shame and negatively comparing a partner to “favorable” alternatives in the addict’s mind. The alternative may not ask him/her to engage fully, doesn’t need the addict, or may seem more satisfying to the addict.

Turning away can include small moments—like eye contact—and it can include avoiding time with a partner, or not engaging emotionally. The effects of this turning away are increased distance, unease and dissatisfaction with the relationship. You may both be very aware of the growing distance but not know how it happened.

Social Withdrawal

As well as withdrawing from partners, sex addicts often withdraw from healthy social contacts. They may be too tired, or uninterested in daily social events that matter to the family.

If your partner is choosing to ignore, cancel, or is often late to social engagements they could be struggling with any number of concerns.

This is however a common pattern is sex addiction. Often this time is used to pursue the addiction or avoid contact that may feel exposing.

Disconnected Sex

repair-the-damage-of-the-pastHas sex become a physical transaction including body parts? Partners can often experience demands for sex that feels ritualistic, or as if they could be swapped out for another partner. A lack of eye contact, affection or communication is common.

Further, addicts can use sex to fulfill fantasy rolls, scenarios or to complete accomplishments (like partner orgasm). They may seem mentally distant or explicitly communicate these wishes too.

Increased Irritation with Sex

Sex can further be complicated by a lack of desire shown by the addict towards a partner—often accompanied by complaints about boredom or lack of excitement in the bedroom. This can present in symptoms from erectile dysfunction, too harassment to ‘try new things’.

There is also a tendency for sex to become more goal oriented and potentially abusive. For example, addicts may ask you to perform acts you are uncomfortable with and belittle a partner who resists.

This may also appear as heightened desire for sex and concern for your physical appearance. They may ask for you to ‘work on something’ or ‘tone up’ or ‘think about their needs’ in ways that don’t quite fit a loving picture.

Anger and Short Temper

Commonly sex addicts have ‘short fuses’ and can’t name, or show many emotions beyond anger with their partners. They may seem to quickly ‘blow up’ or be very sensitive to the slightest comment or suggestion. Very often this is accompanied by an inability to be wrong and concede a point within a discussion.


Addiction is commonly connected to depression. The suspected addict may have altered sleeping patterns of staying up late and sleeping in. This connects with feeling tired and unwilling to engage in life.

Often they lose interest in previous hobbies, outlets or friends. They may complain that these things are hopeless, pointless or worthless. Depression can be debilitating and the addiction serves as an outlet that boosts their mood temporarily.

A sex addict may see their mood initially increase greatly with sexual contact and then plummet soon after.

Honesty and Transparency

Man sitting on edge of lookout over a vlleyIf you have concerns about increased lying, odd behaviors, patterns or timelines that don’t add up, they are good things to continue asking about. Defensiveness and hiding are common among addicts.

If money, email accounts and phones are ‘off limits’ to you, then this is a legitimate cause for concern about the relationship.

Sexual addicts will often lie about their sexual behaviors, consequences and other activities—often creating a compartmentalized and hidden part of their lives. If you discover this part, do inquire about it, as their response will be illuminating—particularly if the response is confusing and defensive!

Don’t ignore this or believe that you are just ‘seeing things’. Addicts can move to the position of persuading, convincing, belittling or berating a partner into believing they are wrong, foolish or simply misguided. This is known as “Gaslighting” and has the effect of leaving the partner feeling crazy, stupid, disorientated or trapped.

Reaching out

If you suspect you may be in a relationship with an addict, reach out for professional support and help. Healing is possible and I advise starting that journey by trusting and following up on your suspicions, even though this can be very hard.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Who in your inner circle have you reached out to, to share your concern? Where have you found support?

Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Written by Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—He is the founder of

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 23, 2016
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