Sex Addiction: The Partner's Perspective - A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Surviving Sex Addiction for Partners and Those Who Want to Help Them by Paula Hall is a self help book for those who are or have been in a relationship with a sex addict. The research field of sex addiction has been quite small but is according to Hall growing as this type of addiction is receiving more attention.
Hall states that sex addiction is on the rise, very much so because of the easy access to internet pornography. Often research focus on the addict and there has not been enough emphasis on what the partner of a sex addict is going through. Therefore, this book is written with the partner in mind and includes practical help, facts, tips and self-help exercises. The book is divided into three parts: Part I identifies sex addiction and explores the myth surrounding the topic. Part II concerns helping the partner and part III focuses on the relationship, whether to stay or to leave.
In the first part of the book Hall is concerned with explaining and discussing sex addiction and defines sex addiction as: "any pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior that causes problems in someone's life" (p. 15). Hall writes that there is often much suspicion surrounding sex addiction and that the topic is often riddled with different myths and misconceptions. For example, it is common that people, and the partner faced with sex addiction, does not believe that sex addiction is real and that it is simply an excuse for cheating, for poor moral judgement or that sex can not be an addiction. It is true, Hall writes, that sex addiction is usually discovered after a partner has been unfaithful but the addiction is very much real. What is difficult to understand for many partners is that sex addiction is actually not about the sexual act. Instead the sexual act or acting out works as a mood regulator for example anxiety, trauma or stress.
In the second part of the book Hall is concerned with helping the partner coping with the trauma of sex addiction. Part II is very interesting because it describes how a partner's sex addiction can cause much psychological distress in ways that are similar to trauma. Partners can experience a number of different emotions such as shame, disgust, anger, sadness, grief, loss, betrayal, rejection, disbelief and guilt. Hall talks about these emotions and how to manage them in a healthy way. Hall also discusses how to rebuild trust, how to recognize cognitive distortions and understanding why the partner reacts the way that he/she does.
Part III, as stated above, focuses on whether or not a relationship is worth continuing. Hall is straightforward and honest in saying that not all relationships are worth working at. Some relationships are worth it but it will be a long and hard road to travel. Hall provides tips and helps the reader with issues such as making an accountability contract and agreeing on commitments, both for the addict and the partner (for example to not delete internet history for the addict and for the partner to continue to receive support from a therapist or from friends).
Hall is excellent at writing in a clear and understandable manner and to describe the issue at hand so that is becomes easy to understand and interesting to read about. The book therefore is easy to read, understand and follow and Hall has a great way of explaining complex behaviors or brain patterns in a manageable way. I appreciate that Hall has included real life stories that explain how people feel about sex addiction, their reaction to it and also the feelings and reactions of those who have an addiction to sex. I also appreciate how Hall places such emphasis on actually describing how and why partners of sex addicts feel the way they feel and I will not be surprised if readers of this book have many "aha-moments". I believe that this book would be of excellent use to any one interested in sex addiction and it would also be of great use in classes dealing with sexuality. My only negative comment is that I would have liked even more real life examples, especially on what sex addiction could look like and more on how different couples have worked through their issues.
© 2016 Elin Weiss
Elin Weiss has a Bachelor´s Degree in Psychology and a Master´s Degree in Women´s Studies from University College Dublin, Ireland.