Sex addiction: marriage or divorce?

If you’re married and just found out your husband has problems with sex addiction, do you stay married or consider divorce? We examine options here.

minute read

Sex addiction or sexual compulsive behaviors can be treated.  In fact, sex addicts who can’t stop fantasizing can come to reality and live in an intimate, committed relationship.  But when you do know that your marriage is over? We weigh in here, and invite your questions, comments and feedback about sex addiction in marriage here.

Why sex addiction isn’t so bad

I’ve been reading the recently published book A Couple’s Guide to Sex Addiction: A Step-By-Step Plan To Rebuild Trust And Restore Intimacy. I love it (I’ll tell you why later). But the key point to the work is that sex addicts do not know how to limit or stop sexual behaviors, and that they use sex to avoid or cope with life stresses. Just like any other addiction. But some time or another, the sex just isn’t enough – it leaves them empty, needing more, and never feeling satisfied. This is why sex addicts repeat compulsive sexual behaviors. And underlying sexual addiction is a fear of intimacy with a real partner.

So why isn’t sex addiction so bad? Because it is definitely treat-able. And if your husband or marriage partner is willing to work on the deeper issues that compel sexual compulsion, you can grow together and experience a marital connection that is deep and satisfying. Although it may take time, and you will need to build trust again, a sex addict who is ready to change CAN CHANGE. And there is hope for a marriage in which both partners support one another in personal growth. Although you may not ever forget infidelity, it is possible to forgive it.

So what is the key to staying together?


Sex addiction and marriage

If you are just finding out that your husband act out sexually online, with porn, or with other partners, you may not feel compassionate just yet for him. You probably feel a range of thing, but compassion is not one of them.

But if you are both committed to working through infidelity and sex issues and emerging as new people, your marriage can survive. Your connection needs to be strong enough, and you may need a determination to continue with him despite setbacks. But the good news is that sex addiction treatment options are out there.  If you work to understand sex addiction as well as your own personal issues, you can grow. If your husband works to do the same and ALSO commits to limit or stop his sex actions, you can emerge as a different, more intimate couple. How can you do this? I’d suggest you check out A couple’s guide to sex addiction.

A couple’s guide to sex addiction

If you are looking for true guidance for repairing and healing your relationship after sex addiction, I highly recommend the book A Couple’s Guide to Sex Addiction. The authors (who are married, one a former sex addict) have a clinical background in treating couples with marriage problems. In fact, it turns out that sex addiction is not as taboo as you might think. The book is very easy to read is FULL of couples’ stories that you can relate to. This helps you accept the sexual behavior as a symptom of larger issues.

Plus, the book informs and guides you through the shock of finding out your partner is a sex addict. There are multiple MINDFUL exercises that you can do together (and that can help anyone interested in self-growth) that help process the pain and hurt of addiction, as well as identify issues that drive sexually compulsive behavior. Written to HIM and HER, this guide is truly an essential tool in repairing relationships that are damaged by the suffering that sex addiction causes. I will not hesitate to purchase a copy for friends (I know of a couple) who suspect infidelity from their partners or who commit infidelity and want to stop.

Sex addiction and divorce

There are cases, of course, when divorce occurs after sex addiction is found out. Your decision to support a husband who soothes himself with sexual behavior will be based on the strength of your overall relationship. And on his commitment to REAL CHANGE. Some reasons that you may want to end a marriage and get divorced from a sex addict are if:

  • you are unable to forgive betrayal or accept the sexual addiction
  • your husband is unwilling to stop sexually compulsive behavior
  • your relationship lacks a strong foundation or commitment

It is perfectly understandable if you do not want to continue a partnership with a sex addict. In fact, this decision is yours to make. Only you can really know what your tolerance is for others and when it is time to throw in the towel.

Sex addiction, marriage, and divorce questions

Do you have a question about sex addiction and marriage? Please ask it here. We welcome all comments, questions and experiences from married couples who are facing sex addiction. And we will do our best to answer you promptly or refer you to someone who can help.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the conditions outlined in the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

  1. My husband is a sex addict . I found out about his chest less then a year after we married . It took a few more times of me catching him before I suggested that maybe he was an addict and should seek help. He seemed to be relieved to finally be truthful about was going on with him started attending meetings over the phone ( there arnt any near us) . I thought we were moving in the right direction. Only to find out that he relapsed only a month after I caught him last time even with going to meetings, and constantly telling me how many days he has sober. He denies cheating even when I show him proof. After this last time I told him I want a divorce. I couldn’t take the lies and cheating any more. He has asked if there is any way to try and save our marriage, after thinking about it for a few days I told him I needed him to disclose all of his cheating and to take a lie detector test. So that we can begin to try and build the trust in our marriage again. He says that he isn’t on that step. And doesn’t think it’s a good idea. I told him that for me it’s the only way I could possibly move past this and continue trying in our marriage. I told him that I can’t make any promises that it will change my mind about the divorce but it would be a step in the right direction.he agrees that there isn’t much to lose at this point but is trying to say him disclosing now would hurt his recovery. But he doesn’t want to lose me. I need an outsiders opinion someone who has gone through this . Please help.

    1. Hi Meghan. Why don’t you try a family therapy for both of you? And, your husband needs to see a sex therapist about his problems.

  2. I’m a newly wed and my Husband average 4 to 5 releases per session, between being intimate with me and masturbating. He claim its his attraction to me, but I say its more. During sex is the only time he talk to me, otherwise there’s no communication, no laughter, and a lot of laying around in the same spot. Sex is the only time I see life in him, energy, and enjoyment. What to do?

    1. Hi WV. I suggest that you speak openly with your husband about your concerns. If you concluded that your problems are deeper, consider family or sex therapy for both of you.

  3. Caught my husband via iPad 2 years ago. Corresponding with men 4 men site. Admitted to numerous encounters with women and men. Voyeurism and exhibition on computer cams. Pornography usage daily for hours everyday. We’ve been in “recovery ” for 20 months. Come to find out he hasn’t completed the first of 12 steps. He’s “studying ” about it first. He wants to quit talking and avoid shame. He’s growing angrier lately. He withholds discussing his recovery/therapy. I think I’m being gaslighted. Our therapist is CSAT. She says he’s still in denial. Thoughts please?

  4. I’m a 44 married man with two children. I started watching internet porn about a year ago. I started small at first, but i watched it more and more. I also found an adult chat site and texted to a girl who gave me her phone number. I called her on and off for 6 months before finally stopping. however my curiosity for porn and phone sex continued. Over this last month i started looking for more free phone sex numbers. i wasnt successful but did make several calls. Lastly, i visited an adult video store and used the viewing booth. Well, my wife found out last month. she didnt find out everything at once and im ashamed to say that I wasn’ t honest about disclosing everything. She found out about the video store visit and some of the phone calls to the girl i talked to, but not all of them. I told her (vaguely) that i did attempt making other calls but didnt have conversations or start another relationship with anyone else. i was thrown out of my house but returned a week or so later. I thought we were starting to work things out but when the latest phone bill came out that was it. i was thrown out again. my wife now sees me as nothing but a sick pervert and doesnt want me around her or the kids anymore. i had one visit with a therapist so far and have read several articles on the subject of sex addiction amd whether my marriage can survive it. I have stopped everything and honestly feel that after getting thrown out and facing divorce, I will never even think about doing any of thus again. I feel like I am not the person who was doing those aweful things and I cant believe that i did them in the first place. I love my wife and children and want nothing more than to return home and be the best husband and father I can possibly be. Is it possible for my wife and i to work things out? Am i truly ‘cured’ of wanting to look for porn/phome sex on the internet? I am truly devastated over this, but I know my wife is much more. is there hope?

  5. Hello,
    I just discovered my boyfriend is a sex addict. I went through is phone and discovered that he has been sleeping around , sex chatting and sending pictures of his nudity to more than 20 women in the last two months. When I confronted him he opened up and confessed that he is addicted sexually. I have to learn from his close friends that he has been in this addiction for over 10 yrs, he has relapsed 3 times. I feel hurt , confused and in fear. In all this mess deep down, I still love him, I care about him but I am in fear of what if he relapses. We are not married but we have been planning to even though our relationship has experienced many challenges. Over and over I would feel he is absent emotionally and barely made any efforts to make our relationship work. Here I am now, having discovered the evil that has been causing all bad, i am not sure whether to quit or stay and walk with him towards recovery. He says he wants to change and recover, he is optimistic and hopeful that he will be fine. But that is him saying, having eroded my trust, I can’t believe any word he says at. I know the ultimate decision is with me. Please give me some tips on which direction to take and what means yo take any of the direction. Thank you.

    1. Hello Doris. Sorry to hear that. Everything’s up to you. It’s your call. Have you talked about group therapy? Every addiction affects not only the user, but also the people around him/her. I suggest you both consider consulting with a certified therapist, and see what happens. After all, you still love him, and he deserves a second chance.

  6. Hi Lynn. My real recommendation for you would be to speak with a psychotherapist who specializes in sexual addictions. Here is the IITAP Directory: Check out the book: “A couple’s guide to sex addiction” and/or get in touch with the authors. While I can relate to your feelings, and applaud you for your love and positive boundaries, you’re going to need the help of a professional to move forward. It sounds like you’re doing the right thing…but I’m just a lay person doing my best to understand. Does that help?

  7. I just found out my husband of 26 years is a sex addict. He had been lying and sneaking around behind my back for at least 3 years.He has moved on to being with men. His chances at recovery are very slim, I know that. I also know that without help his behavior will become more deviant and dangerous. I am very concerned about my own well being and that of my children. He has no family support and I fear without my help someday he will be in prison or dead as he seeks a better high. I am not in a state that offers legal seperation but I want us to separate as he attempts recovery. I know he did not do any of this to hurt me, but he has scared me so terribly. I told him that I am not promising I will not divorce him, in fact he has agreed to draw up legal documents stating that in the event he does not complete therapy or commits any acts related to his addiction he loses all rights to any of our assets and the children. I don’t know if I am making a mistake, I don’t have any of the right answers. I just know I have loved this man for almost 3/4 of my life and I cannot just turn that off and let him destroy himself. The marriage may still end but maybe he can have a healthier life. I just know that if I don’t help him no one else will. Any helpful suggestions and advice are appreciated.

  8. I’m afraid this article is ill – conceived, ignorant, patronising, glib and damaging to partners of sex addicts. I accept the author intended none of those things but it minimises the pain of the spouse / partner and, whilst aiming (I hope) to be encouraging, the author suggests that sex addiction “isn’t so bad”. Two months ago I attended the funeral of a member of my recovery group. At 42 she had taken her own life after learning that during her 12 year marriage she had been betrayed right from the start, including through 2 pregnancies and supporting her, now devastated husband, through medical school. Her husband is the victim of great childhood trauma but, as another commentator observed, became the perpetrator. She was incredibly clever, witty and attractive. Far more so than her husband. Another member of this group has had to have a hysterectomy, at 31, because of complications caused by STDs. “Not so bad” eh?

  9. What a condescending, arrogant and judgmental article! Whoever wrote it obviously has not experienced sexual addiction in their relationship.

    Quote – “So why isn’t sex addiction so bad? Because it is definitely treatable.”

    Quote – “If your husband works to do the same and ALSO commits to limit or stop his sex actions”
    LIMIT?! You mean only see one skanky street walker a week instead of 3?

    Quote – “Only you can really know what your tolerance is for others”
    YES ONLY I KNOW WHAT MY TOLERANCE IS. If you can IMAGINE tolerating these things then you should go out and find a sex addict and marry him, so your wonderfully tolerant nature can be utilized.

  10. My husband has battled with porn and masterbation addiction since pre teen years. He has been clean now for 9 months, however hasn’t progressed far along in his recovery steps and more importantly continues to lash out at me and criticizes me as a person, my spirituality, my work, my hobbies and passions. I cannot handle anymore. How long before you leave, before you lose too much of yourself because of this? This has affected me in every aspect of my life. I’m lost and I don’t know what to do, because I feel unloved, no security and hopeless.

  11. Wow, this article felt very judgmental against the betrayed spouse for divorcing. ‘If you work to understand sex addiction as well as your own personal issues, you can grow.’ Grow? Sounds like the woman is being expected to be understanding, take the burden of the relationship, no matter the man’s role or expecting him to be responsible for his own actions. ‘In fact, it turns out that sex addiction is not as taboo as you might think.’ Taboo? No, deeply traumatic and potentially life threatening. ‘Only you can really know what your tolerance is for others and when it is time to throw in the towel.’ Language about being tolerant, manipulative words for women who have been trained to tolerate the subtle signifiers of such behavior in the first place, and an insinuation that the woman isn’t properly tolerant of others. Women are expected to be forgiving, and this shows just how unwomanly she is if she is so intolerant. ‘Although it may take time, and you will need to build trust again, a sex addict who is ready to change CAN CHANGE.’ So, if you don’t stay by him, it is your intolerance and unwillingness to stand by another who can change. Even if the change rate is about 5%, hey, it is your issue if you weren’t willing. Sure, if you are willing to chance STD’s, more and more lies, and the highly unlikely event of real recovery while you continue to be dealt blows of lies and new discoveries, hey, stay married. Or, choose health.

  12. My husband started obsessing over a married co worker last June, he asked for a seperation to ” work on himself” during the seperation he dated and and had sex with 3 other woman then called me and told me he wanted a divorce. He needs treatment, but his counselor told him he would be better off divorcing me and starting over with someone with no baggage. We are in the middle of divorcing now and I so not want the divorce! He clames he is happy and healthy and has never felt so alive and not broken and working on his steps! He says I am the one with the problem. That his dating was to see if he would end up alone . And that he is and was sober? We have been married for 31 years. I am in recovery with Sanon! His reasons for the divorce now are all bs! Help!!!!

  13. If I may respond to Jeanne. I facilitate at a support group specifically for people with sexual addictions. We use a book called Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing. I highly recommend it. It’s the program guide for our spiritually-based recovery meetings.

    Unfortunately, I have some idea of what’s going on in your husbands head. Put briefly, it’s pride… and shame.

    The essence of pride is putting your will before somebody else’s will. It’s competitive in nature. Most people stuck in this addiction start out a victim and end up a perpetrator.

    The shame that he’s feeling will be overshadowed by the angry thought of, “Why can’t they accept me for who I am?” or “They know nothing about my life and how hard it is!” However, I can promise you that there is a fair amount of shame, even if it’s deeply buried. This isn’t the kind of shame that leads to humility, but the kind that leads to further pride.

    I don’t know what I recommend you do as far as stick with it or get a divorce. I do recommend daily scripture reading (you probably already do that) and getting the book I mentioned above.

    I have a blog about spiritually-based addiction recovery and healing. Check it out at pasgonline[dot]blogspot[dot]com.

    Addiction Blog, this post was great to read. I really enjoyed it.

  14. Hi Jeanne. While I cannot relate personally to the issue of sex addiction, I can relate to you as the loved one of an addict. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that some people seem to constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves – they are not at fault, they seem to be born that way. I remind myself of this and then ACCEPT my loved one’s behavior, but he is in my family, not a chosen mate.

    If your husband is truly not willing for change, and I put myself in your shoes, I would probably consider moving on, as you seem to be doing.

    Does this help at all?

  15. After finding out that my husband had been watching porn, going to strip clubs (for 5 – 10 years)and having an affair with a stripper, I tried to understand that he had a problem. Said he loved me. Everything is finished with that part of his life We went to counseling. He started to move back in after about 11 months. Then I find that out he is still cheating a going to strip clubs. Now he Says he still loves me. Again everything is over but he didn’t have a sex addiction and he just needed attention. To top this off, he is going to counseling groups that are attended by mostly young women. I don’t think he wants to change and feel I have no choice but to divorce. His kids had intervention and they say he showed no emotion. What is going on with him. Can anyone identify and explain ?

I am ready to call
i Who Answers?