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3. WHY


Many couples are confused about the difference between infidelity and sexual addiction.



Infidelity is the breach of trust that occurs when a partner withholds sexual and/or romantic secrets from his or her primary romantic partner.

Sexual addiction is marked by the following:

  • preoccupation and/or obsession with sexual behaviors and fantasies,

  • the loss of control over his or her actions or thoughts (this becomes evident by unsuccessful efforts to cut back or quit),

  • escalating patterns of the actions or thoughts, and

  • serious negative consequences resulting from these behaviors and fantasies.


Sadly, the sex addict often desperately wants to save the marriage but, unless they get into recovery, will be unable to stop their compulsion to act out. Sometimes, sexual acting out started before the marriage, stopped for a while after the marriage, and then restarted after a stressor or strained intimacy triggered a recurrence of the behaviors. Usually, all of this starting and stopping occurs in secret accompanied by feelings of shame.


It is common for sex addicts to have a background of sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse and neglect. Their family histories may also be reveal substance, sexual or other addictive behaviors. The compulsive sexual behaviors may be a misguided attempt to manage an inability or struggle to achieve emotional intimacy. The behaviors may also be an attempt to self-medicate difficult feelings such anger, loneliness, or low self-worth.


If you are wondering whether you may have a sex addiction, you can start your journey of finding out by taking one or more of these self-assessments:


Sex Addicts Anonymous Self-Assessment


Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST)


Please be aware that the Sex Addiction assessments are imprecise and do not replace the expertise of a trained therapist. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone who is in the "infidelity camp" to get a sex addiction result. The nuances of sex addiction versus infidelity are often hard to tease out but it is important to do so (with the help of your therapist).


A partner may be both a sex addict and an adulterer. Or this person may be either one without the other. 


An unfaithful partner may (or may not) also be preoccupied to the point of obsession, out of control, and experiencing negative consequences. If so, the unfaithful partner is also sexually addicted. If not, there is no sexual addiction.


A person who is sexually addicted may not be committing adultery if he/she is not keeping secrets from a primary romantic partner. He or she may be single and or may be in a relationship with open boundaries (or with no violations of agreed-upon boundaries).


It is important to clarify that the nature of the behavior or fantasy does not determine whether a person has committed adultery or has a sex addiction. Kink, on-line or non-typical sexual behaviors may occur in healthy relationships or those marked by infidelity or sex addiction.


The difference between adultery and sex addiction matters because the treatments for each is different. To be clear, our Affair Recovery Roadmap is built for infidelity, not for sex addiction. We would be glad to help you determine what best describes the behaviors present in your relationship. If the sex addiction description is appropriate, we would be glad to make referrals to some excellent resources.


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