Dating Someone With A Sex Addiction: Help And Advice

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Sex addiction can be complex when it impacts your interpersonal relationships and dating life. Learning different scientifically supported strategies and theories around sex addiction may be a step in living healthily with a partner who has this addiction. There are several co-morbidities and contributing factors to sex addiction and supportive strategies to help both partners experience a higher quality of life.

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Open up about your experiences with sex and intimacy

What is sex addiction? 

Sex addiction is not a referenced disorder in the most recent edition of the DSM-5. However, it is a term that can be used to describe excessive compulsive sexual behaviors and hypersexuality in individuals across the sex, identity, and gender spectrum. Sex addiction can manifest in several ways and is a personal experience. Understanding this range of possible symptoms and experiences can result in a more validating experience for those with these symptoms. 

Navigating sex addiction: Supportive strategies 

If you are dating, or married to, someone who experiences sex and/or relationship addiction, you may feel overwhelmed, objectified, or frustrated. Conversely, you may want to support your partner and not know how to begin. Reminding yourself that your feelings are valid and others may have them too can be valuable. Several supportive strategies, including the following, are available to try as you continue your relationship. 

Talk about sex and what is happening in your relationship

Sex addiction can lead to miscommunication and frustration within a relationship. To combat this, open and honest communication is paramount. While acknowledging the situation or your feelings about it may feel painful or uncomfortable, it can provide you with a deeper level of intimacy and healing in your relationship.

Your conversation with your partner may or may not be the first step toward them realizing that they have patterns of addiction around sex and intimacy. Talk about how their behavior affects you, framing the conversation from a lens of wanting to support and understand them better. 

As you speak, you may also choose to identify actions together that represent moving forward and healing, such as getting professional help and attending support meetings. A trained sex therapist or couple's therapist can work with both of you to help you navigate the individual effects of sex addiction in your relationship.

Acknowledge your feelings honestly

Some people dating a person with sex addiction may push their feelings to the side to preserve the integrity of the relationship. However, suppressing emotions isn't necessarily healthy and could encourage unhealthy relationship patterns and frustration. In addition, studies show that emotional suppression can harm health.

It may be possible that both partners in the relationship feel emotionally hurt by the circumstances. Either person may feel guilty, angry, insecure, or "stuck." These feelings can be valid, and validating each other may offer a bridge to connection. 

Note that you can love your partner or spouse while still feeling a deep sense of hurt. Overcoming events that may have happened because of sex addiction may not seem possible right now. However, it may be possible after speaking to a therapist and maintaining open communication.

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Build a support system 

Support systems can be invaluable for both the partner of the person living with sex addiction and the person experiencing sexual addiction. It might seem difficult to talk to others about what is going on in your relationship. However, having someone you trust who isn't your partner can help you release painful emotions.  

You may consider choosing your support system carefully to encourage healthy patterns and support for both partners. If you are looking for support outside of close friends or family, therapists can be an effective option for venting and processing your feelings without the risk of embarrassment or unhelpful opinions. 

Consider your boundaries

Setting boundaries may be a healthy step in your relationship. Doing so might help you communicate more effectively, and allow treatment to be more efficient for both individuals. Try to define what matters to you the most in a relationship regarding emotional, sexual, and physical connection and communicate these areas to your partner. 

Establish sexual boundaries 

While all boundaries can be crucial for a healthy relationship, sexual boundaries may benefit you and your partner. For example, continuing to partake in sex with your partner may not feel safe.  It is always importantto attend to sexual needs in ways that are mutually respectful and healthy for both of you.

You may consider requesting certain safety measures be put in place should you continue sexual relations during support and treatment, such as contraception, STD tests, or related requests. Open and honest conversation can support both or all partners in a relationship in getting their needs met and staying safe.  

Treatment options for those living with sex addiction

The treatment process for those experiencing sex addiction and those who are partnered with those living with sex addiction may involve a comprehensive approach of multiple healthcare providers. You may choose to make an appointment with a doctor to discuss what has been happening in your relationship and verify both individual's physical safety and well-being. A psychiatrist or psychologist may also be helpful. 

Some people may seek treatment for sex addiction in a rehab facility or via inpatient treatment. In addition, some who live with sexual addiction can also face other forms of addiction and may benefit from rehabilitation. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

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Open up about your experiences with sex and intimacy

Alternative support options 

Sex addiction can be a difficult experience for all people within a relationship. If you face barriers to in-person therapy, online counseling through platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples may be beneficial. Online therapy can be useful if one or more partner feels nervous or ashamed to meet a clinician in person. This form of therapy is convenient, and you can use a nickname when speaking with your therapist if you'd like to remain discreet. 

Modalities like internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have been indicated as effective for those experiencing sexual addictions as in-person therapy. Other forms of helpful therapy may be available to you in an online format, such as couples or group therapy. One study found that couples preferred online therapy due to its comforting approach and the distance between them and their therapist.   

Takeaway

Sex addiction is a personal experience. Understanding the range of symptoms and clinical presentation, as well as the implications for those who are partners of someone who lives with sex addiction, can result in a more empathetic and validating environment for all affected. Those experiencing sex addiction may benefit from boundaries, honest conversation, and therapeutic intervention, which can be done online or in person. If you or your partner exhibits sex addiction symptoms that harm your relationship, consider contacting an individual or couples therapist for guidance.

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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