Living With a Sex Addict

8: I Am Not A Co-Addict (and you probably aren’t either)

You can’t delve very far into the world of sex addiction without learning of “Anon” groups. “Anon” groups are designed to support the spouses and family of sex addicts and are made up mostly of broken-hearted, baffled wives who arrive with no idea why their husbands can’t stop buying sex or watching pornography. Having been one of those wives, I can assure you there is some relief in finding a group of people who know exactly what you are going through and are familiar with your pain and bewilderment, your confusion and exhaustion.


I’ve met some great people through Anon programs. I’ve learned a lot from them, too. I have seen the closeness and care that develops between members, the extraordinary dedicated women (mostly) who help others in the similar predicament of loving a spouse with sex addiction, and I have been moved by their courage and frank honestly.


Even so, I have a little trouble with Anon groups. While they definitely do help (at least some of the time), they do not necessarily help for the reasons they think. I wish someone had warned me that both COSA (Co-dependents of Sex Addicts) and S-Anon (a sister organization to Sexaholics Anonymous), the two largest 12-Step programs supporting the partners of sex addicts, subscribe to the notion that we partners are “co-addicts” or “codependents.”  The emphasis of their programs is our “recovery” from co-addiction. If you tell them that you are not a co-addict or codependent you are told that this is a typical response from a co-addict, as we are always in denial to begin with. In other words, we have no insight into our behavior and are blind to our illness.


If a sign that you are a co-addict is that you don’t believe you are a co addict, protesting won’t get you very far.  In fact, some recovery centers have you pegged at the door. According to them, the only proof they need that you are a co-addict is that you be married to (or partners with) an addict.That isn’t even a behavior on your part, but the conditions of your life at present. Let me identify the error being made. If it is assumed that a person is a co-addict simply because they are married to an addict, that is called a fallacy of composition. It is akin to saying, “Your husband is weird. Therefore, you are weird, too.”  If it is assumed that a person is a co-addict because they assert that they are not a co-addict, that is “begging the question.” Begging the question is a circular argument based on an assumption that a particular statement is true.


Anyone with a fair grasp of logic naturally dismisses such nonsense. A number of women just don’t go back at all once the program’s insistence on co-addiction is clear to them, or they go very occasionally, like me.


COSA and S-Anon are using an Addiction/disease model common to many recovery centers. If you seek help through counselling or recovery centers you will have to tackle the co-addiction and codependency label. Let me try to explain the assumptions in this model. Groups that subscribe to it (like COSA and S-Anon) agree with the currently popular notion that the wife of a sex addict had a predisposition toward obsessive bonding and co-addiction before meeting the addict. This is due to events in her past. It is no coincidence that she ends up marrying an addict—her own “illness” made such a scenario likely.  So, she is married to an addict because she is a co-addict. Like magnets, the addict and co-addict attract.


Does that sound like more nonsense? It is and it isn’t. I can imagine that if a person were sufficiently traumatized in her life she would make poor choices, including finding a very troubled partner. However, this is by no means always the case. Nobody would have imagined my husband was a sex addict or any kind of addict. Nor was he acting out at the time I met him, nor did he for years. His addiction ignited with the rise of the internet. By then, we were several years and two children into our marriage.


If I somehow managed to find a sex addict among the great masses of non-addicts out there, then why weren’t my previous relationships with addicts? And why wouldn’t he have been practicing sex addiction at the time we met and later married? Did I somehow “just know” he’d become a sex addict or is the far simpler explanation that my husband became an addict because of his own issues that have little or nothing to do with me? I’m willing to bet on the latter.


Some recovery centers tell the wives of sex addicts that their own “disease” contributes to that of their sexually addicted spouse. In other words, if she is focusing on his problems rather than her own life she is making his disease worse. It is beyond my understanding how a program that offers the 12-Steps can at the same time state that a wife is contributing to a husband’s addiction. The first step of the 12-Steps makes it clear that we have absolutely no impact whatsoever on our husbands’ addictions and are “powerless” against them. In fact, that is the entire point of the first step: to convince the spouse that she is powerless against her partner’s addiction. So, if she is powerless, how can she make it any worse or better? She can’t.


Now, I come to this notion that a wife is able to focus on her “own life” instead of that of her addicted spouse.  Many of us have our own jobs and hobbies and responsibilities for children, etc, but if we are married we are intricately involved with the life our partner. Our marriage is part of our “own life”. It is the very core of it for many of us.  What we are really being asked to do is detach from our spouses in order to survive—and here the 12-Step programs like COSA and S-Anon have got it right. We do need to detach somewhat, especially when our partners are in active addiction or early recovery.We may even have to detach altogether—every case is different.  But detaching a little (or a lot) is one of many possible responses to the trauma of our situations not a measure of our improved mental health or “recovery.”


Having said that, we do need to stop personalizing the sex part of this addiction. While it is certainly the case that infidelity goes straight to the heart of a marriage, sex addicts relationship to sex is not about us or about our marriages.  They may as well be taking drugs or drinking—which we imagine would be less personally injurious to us. However, there is a question we need to address here. Even if the addict’s intent to hurt is non-existent, he does hurt us. We are allowed to feel that pain. It is real pain. Whenever my husband has said, “I never meant to hurt you”, I’ve pointed out that he might have driven over me with a truck by accident and not meant to hurt me, but I would be hurt nonetheless.


Looking more closely at the list of symptoms of co-addiction and codependency as defined by COSA I do wonder what they imagine a “healthy” response to discovery your husband is a sex addict might be. Most of what COSA describes as identifying behaviors of codependency seem reasonable responses to living with an addict. For example, the first identifying behavior is “Believe you would be happy if only the sex addict would change.” While it is perhaps unreasonable for a spouse to assume they would be completely happy if their husband changed his addictive acting out and stopped having sex with random other people, it is certainly understandable that they might be happier.


Another defining behavior is “Spend time worrying about where the sex addict is, who they might be with, what they might be doing.” Spending time worrying? How much time? Does it make you are a codependent if you spend any amount of time? A minute a day? A minute a week? I would say that it would be far more indicative of an underlying pathology if you knew your husband was a sex addict and yet you spent no time worrying about where he was or what he was doing. Total indifference should not be a sign of improved mental health.


Another ridiculously attributed “symptom” of codependency is number six on the COSA list. Number six says, “Sometimes feel crazy and have a hard time separating the truth from lies when talking to the sex addict.”

A hard time separating truth from lies? And we are talking about addicts? It is almost impossible to separate truth from lies when talking to an addict.


I cannot stress enough how well sex addicts lie.  My husband lied to a church minister, his own therapists, his sponsors, me, and anyone else who challenged him. Professional counsellors and psychologists cannot discern when people are lying. There is plenty in the literature for professionals working with addicts that indicate this fact. So how on earth are we supposed to separate truth from fiction with our husband when trained counsellors cannot?


I am speculating now, but I believe that one reason they are so good at lying is that addicts don’t always believe they are lying, themselves. One often hears an addict who has been years sober describe how he used to engage in all sorts of wrong thinking. He’ll shake his head and say, “I used to think it was okay to act out because I had an unusually high sex drive”, or “My wife just didn’t want sex enough so I felt justified”, or “I used to pretend I wasn’t really acting out if there wasn’t penetrative sex involved”, and he’ll shake his head at these old, misguided notions. He can hardly understand himself why once he believed what he did. He probably believed the things he said at the time, and when someone believes what they are saying is true it is awfully difficult to discern what is really going on.


As for we wives “feeling crazy”, it is only that we are bombarded with dishonesty and manipulative behaviour on the part of addicts and even those who purport to be helping us. What we feel is uncertain, unsure, insecure, traumatized. And we feel this way not because we are crazy but because we are sane.


Much of what defines a codependent or co-addict (which are labels that do little to elucidate) would also describe a person who is undergoing trauma. While it is very possible that the spouse of a sex addict has a kind of codependency, I don’t think it is necessarily the case and such an assumption undermines the humanity of women seeking help. Ascribing the behavior of a traumatized person to that of a co-addict can cause a great deal of confusion for everyone, especially the one who is traumatized.


This is not to say you can’t be a co-addict or codependent, although neither of these terms is terribly helpful and probably detract from what is really going on). I am pointing out what ought to be obvious to anyone, which is that there has been no established definition of a healthy response to discovering one is married to a sex addict. That being married to an addict does not necessarily make you a “co-addict” and that labels like codependency and co-addiction are unhelpful if only because their use usually obscures what is really going on.


As for me, being married to an addict has influenced my life enormously; it is likely that if you are married to one you are feeling its effects. I think there would be something very wrong with a marriage in which one of the partners is an addict and the other is totally unaffected by his condition. Even before discovering the problem, I experienced and was sympathetic to my husband’s mental absences and anxiety, not because I thought he was an addict but because I thought he was very stressed. I made up for his physical absence by doing more around the house and for the children. I encouraged him when he needed support and helped him when he needed help. Isn’t that what we do for those we love?


However, even if his addiction had not taken him away from his home and occupied so much of his thinking, his very demanding job would have had similar effects. The bottom line was that he had a far more stressful job and he earned more than I did—a lot more—and so I made concessions. Had I been able to distinguish when he was acting out his sex addiction from when he was working hard, I would not have cooperated with the times he was seeking sex as opposed to working. But how was I to make such a distinction when I didn’t even know about the addiction?


It wasn’t as though I was unhappy with my life—I would have liked more input from my husband, yes. But I did all sorts of things: looked after my children, enjoyed my job, laughed with friends, travelled, learned a language, read novels, drank wine, planted m garden. In other words, I lived my life.


Once I knew about the addiction, I had a different feeling about when he was “working late.”  Now I was unwilling to always believe that working late meant he was actually working, or that time on his computer was necessary for completing a job-related project. I was anxious about his email, his phone messages, where he was, who he was with. All these signs that I sought security inside my marriage are understood by places like COSA and S-Anon or any of the 12-step programs for spouses of sex addicts, as signs of my “co-addiction”. For example, if I were to ask my husband how his recovery was going this would be interpreted by the COSA group as a failure to “mind my own business” which is one of the important steps toward my “recovery”. If I asked when he last struggled with acting out or whether he had spoken with his sponsor lately, COSA would also say I was “acting out” my co-addiction.


Anything that belied my interest in my husband’s behavior and how my welfare and that of my children might be affected by it was classified as an sign of my codependence. As far as the 12-Step model was concerned, I was sick.


There is a far more researched and contemporary description of the experience of the partners of sex addicts, which is the trauma model which I will discuss in another section of this website.

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Copyright © 2016 by TheWife. All rights reserved.


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  • Reply
    June 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I am so glad I found your site. I have been through a lot of what you have (from what I have read so far) and have learned so much from you. My husbands recovery will be 2 years this coming September (I stayed) and I still feel that I have such a long way to go in my own recovery still. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      June 14, 2016 at 9:27 am

      Thank you so much for leaving me this lovely message, Jennie…and I am SO GLAD your husband is doing well! I know how hard it is to cope as a partner but it sounds as though you are doing magnificently. Do please stay in touch. 🙂

  • Reply
    Co-Addict or Trauma Victim? Secondary abuse of spouses and partners of sex addicts
    August 22, 2016 at 4:01 am

    […] Living with a Sex Addict […]

  • Reply
    Amy B. Days
    January 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Wow, I am so, so glad I found your site. Two months after Discovery I am still hanging in and trying to find healing resources for myself. Some of the people at my local COSA and S-Anon meetings are lovely and supportive, but the language of the programs makes me INSANE. Your story sounds much like mine … no signs of addiction when we met and married; it didn’t begin occurring until many years later. I’m still here only because he entered a program immediately and has been successful so far in his recovery. I am not co-dependent or a co-addict. There. I own my truth.

    There are many great tools and helpful things in the 12-step programs … I’m trying to work my way through them without getting caught up in the objectionable stuff but I HATE that in the midst of my pain I have to take this kind of nonsense from some of the few resources that are out there to help me.

    Thank you for your words. I’m so glad this web page is here and excited to read everything you’ve written. You feel to me like a kindred spirit already.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      January 27, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      So glad you wrote to me, Amy! You do, indeed, sound just like me. Have you seen the POSA (Partners of Sex Addicts) site? They do NOT go by the co-addict model. Unfortunately, there aren’t many POSA meeting groups. I keep saying I will start one here in the UK but haven’t done so yet. Soon! It’s on my list… 🙂

    • Reply
      October 10, 2017 at 12:59 am


      I’m few months after…. no support, no one knows… husband seems to work out but, we will see
      It’s a lonely life…. dealing with shuttered life, trauma ( diagnosed severe PTSD ) keeping the secret
      If any of you ladies want to email me- I would appreciate that … the club we haven’t asked to be part of 🙁

      • Reply
        The Wife
        October 10, 2017 at 7:24 am

        You don’t have to keep the secret, Iguana. I certainly did not! I talked to people. At least try to visit or find a COSA group (even though they have the co-addict model, the group of wonderful people there will help you).

        Ooooh, this is so painful for you. I can hear it straight through the screen here. Bless you.

        • Reply
          October 12, 2017 at 12:57 am

          Thank you wife

          Yes, I understand that I don’t have to keep a secret; what I am concern about is outcome of NOT keeping it to myself… what will happen after I tell everyone? I don’t have an amazing support system, but with my few close friends and some family members- they have no idea what sex addiction is…. to be honest, before I realized what is happening in my marriage I also thought that porn is ok , that sex addiction is an excuse used by celebrities to cover their affairs….
          I need support- I have no energy for educating my family and friends about that… not to mention misconceptions and possible consequences pushed on my kids….
          I love your page… you are doing an amazing job…

  • Reply
    Amy B. Days
    January 28, 2017 at 12:56 am

    I wish there were POSA groups in my area as well! When I have my stuff together, maybe I can come up with a real way to better help POSAs. The only ones available to help are those who’ve been through it themselves, huh?

    • Reply
      The Wife
      January 28, 2017 at 10:29 am

      I don’t know if you have to have been the partner of a sex addict to help. I think there are some good therapists out there…I’ve never found one to work with myself who I could actually afford. The cost for an hour ranged from £100 to £200. It’s an impossible price and even when I paid I didn’t get the help I needed. However, I hear there are some people who can help. I know of a couple therapists in the UK who is very useful. Paula Hall has a good reputation (and I think she does some work with groups of women that are good and affordable for many). I have a blog on therapists here–two in fact. One is the argument for, one the argument against. Bad experiences with a therapist are pretty rotten. Good experiences are transformative, or so I am told. I’ve not had a good experience.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    I find myself in your boat….have been dealing (not dealing) with this for 6 years…..we have been married for 26. I have a question if it isn’t too personal. You say you don’t trust your husband (I don’t trust mine either)… do you protect yourself from STDS when he is acting out?

    • Reply
      The Wife
      February 16, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Quinn! I don’t trust my husband 100%. How can I? He’s an addict. However, over the years I’ve learned signs of his growing anxiety which is likely to produce acting out, so it would be difficult (though never impossible) for him to fool me. Also, if he were to act out, the likelhood would be pornography, not actual physical contact with another woman. I realise how naive it sounds of me to believe I’d know and that there is no guarantee it would end at pornography if he were to act out. I may ended up in trouble, be so far we’ve been doing great together. He is committed to sobriety and is active in his 12-step programme, attending meetings twice a week. If I were to discover he was acting out, we’d be finished completely, I’m sure. I cannot live with an active addict. However, I don’t think he can live with himself as one either. That doesn’t explain much, but perhaps give you some idea? Yes, there is still a risk. I guess with an addict–even a sober one–there is always a risk.

    • Reply
      October 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

      That is a good question- they risk their life but also they gamble with our LIVES…. for now I ask him to do full panel of stds every 3 months;

  • Reply
    March 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    Thank you for validating me and my experiences! Your words resonate with me in every single way possible! Your story is very, very similar to mine. The only groups around my area are S-Anon and I am NOT a codependent nor co-addict! I take tremendous offence with those labels!
    I have been with my husband for 34 years (married 31 years) and NEVER in my life did I ever think what he has done would have been possible. While he is now in recovery (discovery happened in July 2016) he has an addiction to bondage porn, which lead to chat rooms which lead to over 200 online very graffiti affairs, which lead to 4 in person affairs! He did get an STI that is lifelong and gave it to me.
    I’m trying to get through this..but it is hard. I have such a hard time reconciling the person I thought I knew to this man.
    I appreciate the validation. It is desperately needed.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      March 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Sandy, thank you so much for letting me know that the blog is helping you. It means so much to me. Yes, these are going to be very trying times for you. And while I know July seems far away, it isn’t. In my experience, you are going through the worst of it. Once your husband has a long period of recovery under his belt things will begin to get better. It takes a long time.

      I’ve known a few addicts of bondage porn…it seems to be quite common. He may have engaged in acts which were actually quite damaging to him. Sometimes this is due to previous trauma in his early life.

      I really wish you and your husband the very best in coping with this addiction. It isn’t easy. I nearly gave up on my husband as it took him years to really get sober. He isn’t a bad guy…few addicts are. But he was a very sick man and he needed tremendous help in overcoming this addiction. It never really ends but it does get a LOT better!

      Stay in touch. I am grateful for your message.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    What a blessing this post was to me!
    I’m 25, have been married for 2 years, and three weeks ago my husband admitted himself to a treatment facility for sex addiction. I was sent information on COSA and immediately felt myself rejecting the idea of automatic co-addict/dependent. I would be totally open to meeting with a counselor and maybe discovering that on my own, but to be told that I am a co-addict simply because I married a sex addict is absolutely horrifying to me, and I reject that entirely. I just feel so alone and can’t seem to find a group of women who really want health. My family is not supportive (they think I should have divorced him the day I found out about the addiction) and my friends are sweet and great but just have no idea what this is like. I’m trying my best to focus on myself and get strong and healthy on my own, but some days are really hard, especially when I feel alone, and the only women I know to reach out to are certain that I am a co-addict based simply on the premise of who I married.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      March 29, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      Hi, and thanks so much for our comment. I completely agree with everything you say with regard to co-addiction, of course! I wonder if you can find a POSA group? They are in America (I keep saying I will start one here in the UK, and I will soon!). They don’t believe that co-addict stuff. Their website is, which stands for partners of sex addicts resource center.

      Of course, co-addiction is possible. For example, there are people married to alcoholics who really don’t want their spouse to stop drinking because that would mean that they had to stop drinking, too! But most of the women I’ve met are anything but co-addicts. They are terribly hurt, depressed, bewildered and desperate for the pain to subside. They are trying to keep a cool head under pressure.

      Same with the men married to women who are sex addicts. They are doing their best and their best is pretty darned admirable. And they are not co-addicts either.

      So glad you found the site. Do please keep in touch. I have managed to stay married (not that this has to be a goal…at times, it was not!) and my husband is now almost 2 years “sober”. I know that sounds like nothing, but it is perhaps the longest stretch of healthy sexuality he has ever had. And we are very close now. We were not always–in fact,there was a period when I thought divorce was surely our future. But somehow he recovered and I managed to see past our history and into the future.

      Of course, anything can happen so I never get too complacent. 🙂

    • Reply
      Amy B. Days
      August 28, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      I’m so sorry for your pain. It really can be difficult to find the resources we need.

      As time has passed, I have found much support in my local COSA and S-anon groups in spite of my own disagreement with the co-addict label, and I’ve been surprised as I’ve gotten to know them, that many others in those groups don’t buy into the co-addict model. I’ve also met some women in the groups who DO fall into the classic model of codependency … living with addicts who are acting out and/or not in recovery at all, making excuses for their addicts, refusing to set boundaries to keep themselves safe. While their situation is not mine, I did find it helpful to look at their stories and some of the info in the materials as cautionary tales: warnings of behaviors to avoid that would have been temptingly easy to adopt.

      So, if you’re struggling still, and haven’t found support elsewhere, I’d suggest giving the people in those groups a second (or third…) chance. Many of them just want to get better, as you do. And some of them are going to be excellent resources for finding the rest of the pieces of support for your healing.

      Finally, if you do find support in COSA or S-Anon, within the organization is where it’s possible to enact change. The literature undergoes constant processes of change, and I have been invited to help in both groups. I can help make this more accessible and supportive to more women, and more incorporating of trauma healing!

  • Reply
    March 31, 2017 at 3:04 am

    Oh thank you so much for your transparency and honesty! It’s so encouraging

    I don’t know if you or anyone on here has any advice for this, but my biggest struggle right now may seem strange.

    As I said, I’m 25 and my husband is 32. His issue is with pornography, and then sexual anorexia in our marriage. And by that, I mean we had NO physical relations, at all, and he would act out with pornography.

    When he went to treatment, I learned his counselor was a young, pretty woman. I know it may sound crazy, but I was LIVID. I couldn’t understand what reputable facility would have a young woman treating male sex addicts. I don’t mean to sound sexist or petty, but I was furious. Not simply because she was a woman, but because once again, another woman was getting a part of my husband that even I don’t get. This woman is hearing all of his fears, all of his insecurities, everything. And I don’t get that.

    I just don’t know what to do. She said she would be willing to transfer him, but I decided to trust them. I felt like if they paired him with her, there must be a good reason. But I cannot seem to get over this. As if having a husband in treatment for sex addiction isn’t hard enough, now I have to deal with this NEW issue.

    What would you suggest I do? I can’t seem to get my brain out of this line of thinking!

    • Reply
      The Wife
      April 1, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      Hi and thank you so much for stopping by and for writing to me.

      This is a terrible situation for you. I’d feel EXACTLY the same. In fact, my husband did go to a woman therapist for awhile. I didn’t like it. I thought he charmed her, that’s why. I thought she found him handsome and believable even though he was lying half the time. I was probably inventing all this, but it doesn’t matter. The fact is, I was suffering very badly and I didn’t need to be suffering, at least over that. There were plenty of men for him to see.

      You don’t need to be fretting over this. Ask for the transfer. It is the least your husband can do for you. Your mental health and well-being is paramount in all this. You don’t have to feel ashamed of yourself for asking for this small thing. And it IS a small thing! It isn’t small to you, but it is small to the therapist and to your husband.

      Of course, he will share information with his therapist that he will not necessarily share with you–male or female, they get the goods we wish we had. However, eventually, his recovery will progress to the point at which he is far, far more intimate with you than before. That’s how it worked with my husband, at least.

      Truly, I have seen marriage go to cinders over this addiction even with husbands being willing to do ANYthing to help their wives. The fact that your husband (and his therapist) can do this one small thing to make you feel better is a blessing, in fact. It means there is still something he can do.

      Please stay in touch. And don’t be shy about stating your needs to your husband and his therapist! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 13, 2017 at 4:16 am

    Thank you for your site. How is it that a wife who has been traumatized by the discovery of her husband’s addiction is suddenly labeled as a co-addict? I believe our responses are largely “normal.” It seems much healthier to me to recognize the reaction of a wife or partner in this situation as ‘trauma’. All the therapists I have dealt with have certainly been willing to recognize that my husband’s addiction is a product of trauma. Wouldn’t it be reasonable that a wife or partner’s reaction to her husband’s acting out just possibly could be attributed to trauma? And maybe not past trauma, but what is happening to our lives, our family, our marriages, right here and now? And yet, we are continually asked to ‘regulate’ our emotions…I get that eventually, regulating our emotional responses is best for us. But are we not allowed some time to process that before we are required to regulate?

    • Reply
      The Wife
      May 13, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Hi and thank you for your comment. Also, for making so much sense. I want to say yes, yes, yes to everything you’ve written!

      I don’t know why the co-addict and codependent label persist. There appears to be a long history of therapists and others blaming the victims in the case of domestic abuse of any kind. The trauma model of understanding a spousal reaction is gaining some traction among those writing about mental health or treating clients as psychologists and psychotherapists. However, the co-dependent model is perhaps more common. You’ve been lucky to find someone who isn’t touting the co-addict/co-dependent stuff.

      Even smart psychologists make the mistake of blaming spouses for acting out or understanding them as co-addicts. I like Dr. Rob Weiss but even he (as well as his co-author Jennifer Schneider) will occasionally blame wives for behaviour from their addict husbands. I can’t understand why. I did write to Dr. Weiss and ask him specifically about an example of it in his book Always Turned On but he never replied.

    • Reply
      Amy B. Days
      August 28, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      Frankly, I think the biggest reason for the co-dependent/co-addict model is that the materials for any 12-step program are taken directly from AA and Al-Anon and changed as little as possible. They try to stay true to the original program because those programs have worked for so many.

      But there are some key differences between sex addiction and other addictions. In most substance abuse cases, the spouse DOES know about the substance use, and is making adjustments in her/his life to live with it … sometimes for many years before the addict seeks treatment. The revelation of addiction is not usually a shock.

      But in taking the materials directly from Al-Anon, no allowance is made for our special cases, for our trauma. My own decision has been to accept the help and camaraderie I find in these groups, and I am finding great healing in working the steps … but also, I have adapted the steps to be more inclusive of my trauma needs. Feel free to use them if they help you.

      Twelve Steps for Partners of Sex Addicts

      1. We admitted we were powerless over sex addiction and over the past, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

      2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity and wholeness.

      3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

      4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, realizing all wrongs can be forgiven and that the actions of the addict were not our fault.

      5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of of the wrongs in our lives, including those acts perpetrated against us as well as those wrongs we committed against others.

      6. We renounced our shame and were entirely ready to have God remove all our distortions of truth and defects of character.

      7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings, including our guilt.

      8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Made a list of all persons who had harmed us, and became willing to forgive them and ourselves.

      9. Made direct amends to those we had harmed wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Extended forgiveness to ourselves and to those who had harmed us.

      10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. When we were wronged, offered forgiveness.

      11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying for knowledge of God’s will and care for us and the power to carry that out.

      12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives.

    • Reply
      October 10, 2017 at 1:23 am

      We had so- so experience with our therapist, at least she did some testing: results- myself – severe PTSD and depression, my husband- clear on both… I’m still angry when I think about that… after years of rejecting me, and ending up with trauma and depression our husbands are in ” recovery” straightening they life ( if they choose to)
      Where was my choice when he promised to be faithful loyal and my best friend? I haven’t have any…. I was fed with lies, deception, anger etc.
      All the stolen years… I know that all of you understand…the saddest part- for the outside world- family, friends- he is the successful, smart, charming golden boy and I’m a mess who can’t get her life on the right track…
      Inside- it’s him psychologically killing my soul and stubbing my heart year by year, begging for forgiveness, asking for chances and telling me how strong I am for staying…. I didn’t, I don’t wanna be strong … I want my innocence, my love, my trusty happy go lucky personality back!!!!! I want my years of fun and sex back…. I want a time machine….

  • Reply
    ME R
    July 9, 2017 at 2:52 am

    I am so happy to happen upon your blog, I cried while reading it. I have been wary of s-anon and cosa groups because of the co-addict business. Now, I definitely have been co-dependent at times in certain ways in my marriage, more so early on. But I am not in any way a co-participant to his repeated infidelity. Weve been together 16 years and had 11 years together before infidelity, and while I tolerated and forgave a lot in those first 10-11 years – infidelity was never one of our issues. When we had our first dday – we had a 1 year old child, and after a particularly loooong dry spell – he assured me he contemplated it, but nothing physical happened. I had no reason not to believe him at that time. I have gone to counseling and am continually working on myself. I am not pretending this isn’t happening or making it possible for him to continue this behavior – I am just really beginning to understand the depths of my husbands dysfunction and try to determine what to believe about the person I’ve shared nearly my entire adult life with. First being, is my husband even truly a sex addict? How can they possibly paint every betrayed spouse with the same brush – simply because their spouse is a sex addict? How is that helpful ?

    • Reply
      The Wife
      July 9, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Hi, and thank you so much for the kind words. I’m sorry you find yourself in the situation you are in…infidelity is awful. Sex addiction is just one manifestation of infidelity and it is a tricky one. I’m not a sex addict so I can only go by what the addicts say: apparently, they try to give it up and just cannot manage. Pornography and hook-ups become a kind of go-to place when times are tough. They make all sorts of promises to themselves that they will never EVER do this again, then they do. They cannot stop without help. My husband says that if you want to find out if you are a sex addict, try giving up the addiction. If you can do it with some determination, you probably aren’t an addict. If you really cannot do it without a lot of support, you probably are an addict. Obviously there are no clean lines here.

      Meanwhile, here you find yourself. I know the feeling. I am certain that the model we should be thinking about is along the lines of trauma and not co-addiction. If someone is a co-addict they are almost encouraging the addiction because it provides something they want. I’m sure you aren’t a co-addict. Most people who find out their husbands are sex addicts never knew for one second that he was even looking for sex outside the marriage, much less that he’d found it!

  • Reply
    August 27, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Hi thanks for your perspective on this. I just wondered what your view would be of the partner that left? My partner of 12yrs disclosed his addiction last September, addicted to live video porn, spending hundreds of pounds, in July this year he cheated. He has continued the relationship with this women. He cheated whilst working away and has never come home. He reports to have lied to me, gaslighting frequently and lied to the therapist on countless occasions reporting has never had the addiction under control. He now tells me know he is coping 7 weeks clean and that my codepenendancy fuelled his behaviours. I am traumatised, bereft, confused and really struggling to cope with whats happened. Should I walk away and never look back? I am glad to be free the addiction but not of the man. I don’t think I can forgive the infidelity. Kind Regards

    • Reply
      The Wife
      August 28, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Hi EP,

      Wow, this is complicated. Let me try to get it straight. He’s been with you 12 years and disclosed the addiction 1 year ago. The particular manifestation of his addiction is live porn but, in addition to the live porn which he may or may not have given up, he has had a relationship with another woman.

      A few questions, if it is okay. 🙂 First, is he living with you? Is he going to a 12step program (which I highly recommend that he do!)? Is he still seeing a therapist?

      No therapist or 12 step sponsor would agree with your partner that you had anything whatsoever with whatever fuelled his addiction. He is simply trying to avoid taking responsibility. This refusal to shoulder the responsibility may take many guises and go on a long time. Eventually, it will subside if he gets truly “sober”, by which I mean he will not only no longer act out but will be growing emotionally and spiritually (I know this sounds very much like feather-wafting, this “spiritually” business, but it is a kind of short-hand).

      As for your future, you really have no choice but keep him at a distance if he is, indeed, still involved with another woman. The idea that he believes you are somehow responsible for a raging addiction is also folly. I’d can tell you there is hope for him, even as bad as it seems now, but he certainly isn’t there yet.

      Can you live without him for a little while longer and let him know the reasons? Infidelity seems unforgivable but mostly when it is still going on, which it very well may be in the case of your husband

      I am so sorry all this is happening to you. Like you, I’ve been heart-broken and badly treated. It took a lot to turn it around…and a lot of time during which I did not know if it would ever change. Hugs to you!

      • Reply
        August 28, 2017 at 7:12 pm

        Thanks for compassionate response. He is not seeing a therapist or is in a 12step programme. He is not living me I moved him out. The women he is in a ‘relationship’ with lives in another country. He ran away to visit her after admitting his actions which he reports not to regret.she is coming to our country to visit. He’s 33, she’s only 25. Apparently he reports he hasn’t acted out in 6 weeks although has to maintain a strick routine to stay on the wagon.

        I feel relief living without the worry of his addiction. He reports it’s been hidden for our entire 12yrs together.

        I think this is the end, his addiction ruined our lives and I think he needs to journey alone. It’s very sore and very sad. I wish I could have reached him. But I think I too am destined to journey without him.

        Thanks for the support,it’s amazing talking to someone with lived experience. I’ve checked myself into councilling for support. Maybe there will love another day x

        • Reply
          The Wife
          August 29, 2017 at 7:26 am

          Hi again, Ep,

          Your partner isn’t the least bit recovered and is under the common delusion that he can cope with his addiction on his own. I suspect he will soon be acting out again. this woman He is involved with is a kind of fantasy (I’m convinced sex addiction is a fantasy addiction) and that will run its course soon enough. He needs help — lots of it — but he’s not ready yet.

          It is clear that there is no future with him unless he makes a radical shift, and even then there may not be. I am so sorry for you because I know how much pain this has brought you. There WILL be love another day, and with someone far less complicated. I am guessing that if your partner is only 33 you are a similar age. You are young…I know it doesn’t feel like that right now! You have a huge life in front of you. I rarely give advice of this nature, but if I were you I’d walk away from him and into this new life.

          Stay in touch and let me know how things are in months and years to come. My bet is on you. 🙂

  • Reply
    February 1, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Thank you for you blog! I found out about my husband’s sex affairs 10 days ago, when he confessed to me. We had no idea he was a sex addict but after a few days we stumbled upon the the term “sex addiction” and it all made sense. We dated for 2 years before we got married 15 years ago. He was my best friend, soul mate and a super loving, caring husband and father of my 3 children. I felt incredibly lucky. A year ago I went through a tough period when my father was dying. Apparently, he felt distant from me and started to have sex with random people on his business trips. This lasted for 6 months before he fell into depression, and eventually told me about it. My life coach says that I am codependent, because I enabled his addiction. My life has been shattered 10 days ago, I was not even sure I would survive just a week ago. I understand sometime we contribute in some way maybe to the steps that lead to this addiction, but I feel even more hurt about the “co-dependent” label. My husband always had a high sex drive, but never even masturbated. He said it started with impure thoughts of other women, taking partners to strip clubs, going drinking, and dancing, staying out late on business trips, then flirting with women to eventually crossing the line – and after that it did not matter anymore, there was no stopping, prostitutes etc. During the 6 months, the only thing I noticed was that he traveled way more than ever before. That is IT. There were no red flags, no signs, no hiding his phone, computer, none of that. I was wrecking my brain to figure out why and how I could possibly be co-dependent and enabler, when I found your website. Thank you, I feel this is the first thing I read in 10 days that makes any sense, and it is giving me a peace of mind – before the long journey my husband and I have in front of us. He is going to attend his second meeting tomorrow, and I want to go to a support group this Saturday. Bless you!

    • Reply
      The Wife
      February 3, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      I am so sorry, EF. I’m sorry first about the experience you are going through that I know all too well. I am equally sorry about this horrible life coach who should be fired immediately. I wish life coaches had some regulatory body to which you could complain. I don’t know a single knowledgeable person who would ever blame you for your husband’s addiction. They’d say pretty much that nothing you did could have started it, fuelled it, and nothing you do now will stop it. It’s his addiction.

      I really hope your husband gets better. It’s so early that anything could happen. Yes, he could make a complete recovery (but will always have to attend meets and be mindful of the fact he is an addict). He cannot “play” with this addiction. It is so powerful and seems to come back and back in a manner that makes it apparently harder to kick than many others, including alcoholism. However, my husband managed it and I know lots of other men who have, too.

      If you can stand to hang in there, it might be okay. But really you can’t do a thing to influence his behavior. And there was nothing you did before to influence it either.

      Again, I am so sorry.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Hallelujah! Someone with some sense. My husband has been an addict since he was eight years old. I’ve had several healthy relationships and even broke off an engagement prior to meeting him. I was hardly seeking affection (or else I would have married the other dude).

    I had an appointment with a therapist today who labeled me a codependent and began blaming me for my husband’s addiction in under two minutes of me meeting her. I told her I was going to walk out if she said such a thing again (because “codependents” have such trouble with boundaries). When she did, I left. She told me that me being angry with my lying cheating husband was a codependency sign. Who the heck wouldn’t be angry?? I’m with you. I’d be more concerned for a relationship where someone wasn’t angry. Thank you for this article. Please write a book because far too many spouses buy into the self-blame game but then again, maybe that’s what they deserve if they do.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      February 3, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Oh wow, Kego, you’ve had an even worse therapist experience than I did! I really wonder what the heck is wrong with these people. I agree that the label “codependent” has reached a place where it is a term of abuse toward those of us who are married to addicts. I mean, it isn’t as though we knew they were addicts or gave them pornography to feed their addiction or bought them prostitutes. Our great crime was…what again? Oh yeah, trusting our husbands.

      Thank you for the kind words. I really do need to write a book!

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    Hello “The Wife”………I’m happy to have found your articles and blog. You have put into words the thoughts that have been going through my mind since “D” day which was January 23, 2018. I find the “Co” labels offensive…..I’m angry, sad, feel these past several weeks (years) have been surreal now that my husband has been opening up about his addiction/habits, but I’m not a co-addict/dependent because of my husbands acting out and sexual addiction. Thank you for your candor. Is your book in the works? Please keep me in the loop. As for “Us”, not sure how this will play out, for now I asked my husband for “therapeutic space” so he’s moved out, he’s in a 12 step program and seeing a certified male sex addict therapist. As for me, I’m recovering from a surgery I had a few months back, keeping things as relaxed as possible and myself as healthy as possible with “self-care” until I find the strength to get into the rooms with others in similar situations for support. I am taking it one day at a time and keeping the faith that this is enough for right now. Unfortunately, I believe sex addiction is on the brink of exploding with the ease of content with the internet and smart phones. It’s ludicrous to me……..disgustingly crazy!!

    • Reply
      The Wife
      March 12, 2018 at 10:40 am

      CC, I know you are right about the explosion of sex addiction. Our young people are growing up addicted. 🙁

  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    My husband’s issues started in childhood with sexual abuse and then the accidental discovery of a porn magazine in his early teens (according to him – who knows as he is really good at manipulating to make people feel sorry for him and divert the issue). He has had numerous partners, including prostitutea that he has actually been caught with and still denies completely. Unfortunately, we had kids very early in the relationship, one of whom had health issues that prevented me from working – so I got stuck, and we both knew it. Now we’ve gone through some counselling, SAA, etc and he knows the issue, but is still acting out and lying on occasion and has taken an out-of-town job that I know was used before as a vehicle for hood-ups. I love him somehow and he can be a great guy, spending time with the kids, always doing things for people and he has a love for charity. But he’s sick and every few months (or less) he has an episode and I dont know what to do. We have split up several times, once for about six months, and sexually split up for longer than that before, just to protect myself when his addiction was at its worst. I have my own life but I dont trust him, and he knows he cant be trusted because even when caught in the act he wont admit it until days or weeks later. We can be frienda but we have separate lives. I am NOT a co-addict. I have had to emotionally lock him out to a large extent just to stay able to see the signs of when he has relapsed- and I know them well by now. I dont stay because of an emotional dependence or some need that stems from a mental insufficiency, but because I cant make enough money to support the kids without him. I love him, but neither of us need this… I wish there existed support groups that wouldnt blame me for his issues as a co-addict/dependent but there is nothing to my knowledge, so I harden up and keep it bottled to everyone’s detriment. Articles like this help remind me I’m sane and keep going as we try to figure out how to push through all this, so thank you for writing it. Wish there were more out there.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    I was thinking more about it, and even this scenario “I can imagine that if a person were sufficiently traumatized in her life she would make poor choices, including finding a very troubled partner.” is either rare or irrelevant. When at LEAST 80% of men admit to watching porn, whether a woman is healthy or not the odds are against her at finding a man who doesn’t lie and look at porn. Its a sad reality

  • Reply
    June 19, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    I could just hug you and I don’t really want to hug anyone right now. 25 years of marriage before he drops this bombshell when I catch him on incognito mode. I have a counseler( she is very kind and helpful) and have read everything I can get my hands on but only you have made a damn bit of sense. So thank you ,thank you, thank you more than I can ever say.

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