So, you’ve been dating someone for awhile. Maybe you’ve been hanging out for just a couple of weeks, or maybe it’s a long-term relationship. You know that sometimes, you can be suspicious by nature, but lately, things just don’t seem right. There are things about your partner's sex life that you suspect they might be trying to keep secret from you. They may be going through a tough time. Perhaps they are hooking up with someone else. Or perhaps, you're dating a sex addict.
First things first: sex addiction isn’t just about loving sex. The main symptoms of sex addiction include being unable to control sexual decision-making, failed attempts at stopping unwanted sexual behavior, and a pattern of negative consequences resulting from one's sex life, from anxiety to depression and legal problems. It is estimated that 12 million people have some form of sex addiction in the U.S alone.
When a sex addict cheats, or indulges in their fantasies, they are dosing their brain with dopamine and other chemicals that excite, distract, and otherwise cover up the underlying distress or emptiness they suffer from. The sex addict's impulse is to cover the pain of feeling damaged inside with sex. They almost always feel very guilty and ashamed of their behavior.
I should know: I spent most of my life acting in sexually addictive and compulsive ways. I finally got to a point where because of my actions, I had nothing left. I spent seven weeks in rehab getting help for sex addiction, and this list is a compilation of everything I’ve learned about sex addiction from my own experience and treatment, and heard from many other men in groups I’ve been part of. Because of this, this list might reflect the experience male sex addicts have in heterosexual relationships — but of course, sex addiction does not just apply to men. Women can suffer as well.
So what do you do if your partner is exhibiting three or more of these signs? Start off by talking to them. Don't assume the worst just yet. You never know: They may be relieved to have it out in the open. Talking through your suspicions is the only way to find out.
1. They Fool Around On You.
This one can be confusing: A lot of people cheat. But with a sex addict, the cheating is pretty much nonstop. At my worst, I was carrying on three or four relationships at once outside of my primary partnership.
If you suspect your partner of cheating, you're probably right. It may be difficult, but confront them about it — it's the only way to begin to stop the cycle.
2. They Lie All The Time
If you are hanging out with an active sex addict, it is pretty certain that they are going to lie to you. The lies are numerous: They are not where they say they are, and they aren’t hanging out with the people they say they are. They may tell you they make more money than they really do. They may lie about their past. They may tell you they are working late, but then come home smelling like booze.
The lies they tell might have nothing to do with sex, but the fact that they are compulsive liars is itself a warning sign. Again, they might just be cheating, or hiding something else, but if they are lying all the time, you may be dealing with a sex addict.
3. They Masturbate All the Time, No Matter How Much Sex You Have
You just had some of the most awesome sex of your life. You've never felt closer to your partner; you fall into a deep sleep with a smile on your face. A half hour later, you wake up, and they're masturbating next to you in bed.
This is not about you, no matter how much it affects your self-esteem. If someone is masturbating compulsively, it's because they can't stop, and might have a problem.
4. They Never Leave Their Phone Out Of Sight, And Always Log Off Their Computer
They never leave their phone laying around, and might even take it with them when they go to shower. If you ask them if you can use it, they look nervous.
When they are on the computer, they minimize the screen if you come in the room to talk. They always log out of their email and Facebook, even if they just go away from their computer for a couple of minutes. If you ask to use their computer, they log out of everything.
Again, they might just be having an affair, but they might also be hiding a sex addiction.
5. They Have No Serious Relationship History
If you are young, then this could be relatively normal — but it also could be a huge red flag. It might make you feel special to be with them, but it's definitely something to note.
6. They Always Get What They Want In Bed
Sure, they are good in bed, but they need to be in charge the whole time. You may end up feeling that you're less their sex partner than someone being led around and controlled.
There are some sex addicts who don't care whether you get off or not; others who not only want, but need to be your best lover ever. But either way, they likely always need to be in control.
If you’re into that, then maybe you're lucky. But if it's attached to these other warning signs, you might be with a sex addict.
7. They Are Constantly Flirting
All of the people at work love them. When they go out to a bar, if there is a cute bartender, they chat her up. They talk to the young woman behind the register when you shop. They still send birthday cards to ex-girlfriends. They send fun texts to your female friends... never crossing the line, of course.
Basically, they flirt with every person who catches their eye. For some people, this might be normal, even healthy. But for a sex addict, it's a way of getting off, and often, grooming potential partners.
8. When Cornered, They Manipulate You
If you suspect them of doing something wrong, they will do their best to make it seem that they are innocent, even to the point of questioning your integrity or sanity for suspecting them.
The mind of a cornered sex addict can be like an animal caught in a trap. When it's all going down, they will pretty much do anything necessary to avoid admitting that they might be the freak they believe, deep down, the world thinks they are.
9. They Treat You With Suspicion
Even when you're doing nothing wrong, they spend a lot of time being suspicious of you and acting like you're the untrustworthy one. When a person has a habit of treating others badly, they often think that others are capable of treating them the same way.
10. You're Being Pushed Way Outside Your Sexual Comfort Zone
There is nothing wrong with exploring kinks. But if their sexual interests become all-encompassing, and if you are being pushed physically or emotionally beyond your comfort zone, then your partner clearly has some issues that may add up to sex addiction.
11. Your Gut Tells You They Are One
You aren't stupid or crazy. Don't try to persuade yourself that nothing is going on. Recognize it — and talk about it. The worst place for you, and your addict, is the place that stays within the lie.
You may assume, after all you've been through, that they won't be receptive to talking, but you have some influence here. Sure, if you come at them saying "You f*cking asshole, I know you cheated on me," you won't get an honest response. But if you can find it within yourself to ask if they have a problem, and let them talk about it without shaming them, you may be surprised with the outcome.
Image: Hernán Piñera/Flickr; Giphy