Partner Reactions To Relapse

M. Deborah Corley, Jennifer P. Schneider & Joshua N. Hook (2012) Partner Reactions to Disclosure of Relapse by Self-Identified Sexual Addicts. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 19:4, 265-28


Study type: Quantitative

Sample size: 92

Demographics: “Participants were 92 self-identified partners of sex addicts who completed an online survey about their experiences. Participants ranged in age from 21 to 72 years (M = 44.4, SD = 11.9). Participants were predominantly female (95.6%) and heterosexual (95.6%). Most participants (82.0%) were married or in a committed relationship.”

Key findings & quotes: 
  • 78% of partners reported they did not know their mate had issues with sex addiction before committing to the relationship.
  • Once the partner found out about the sexual addiction, 90.1% asked their mate for additional information. Of the participants who asked for more information, 28.1% asked for general categories of behavior, and 71.9% asked for everything to be disclosed, including specific details.
  • 16.7% of partners reported their mate took a polygraph test as part of his/her addiction evaluation or recovery plan. Of the partners who reported their mate took a polygraph test, 46.7% reported the results confirmed what the mate had told them, 20.0% reported the results helped them trust or begin to trust the mate again, 26.7% reported the results helped their relationship, and 26.7% reported the results were very upsetting to them.
  • “After the initial disclosure, 41.1% of partners reported they separated for a period of time, 15.6% moved into separate bedrooms, and 43.3% stayed together. Among the partners who separated for a finite period, the separation lasted an average of 10.2 months with a range of a few days to 2–1/2 years.”
  • Reasons the partner agreed to get back together after an initial separation included: 49% of partners noted the mate got help; 27% of partners noted commitment or love; and 10% of partners noted children or financial considerations.
  • The total number of relapses of sexual acting out varied widely: 27.2% reported one relapse; 33.3% reported 2-5 relapses; 7.4% reported 6–10 relapses, and 32.1% reported than 10 relapses.
  • 41.3% of partners reported that the term “co-addict” or “co-dependent” described them, while 40.2% said they didn’t, and 18.5% said they did somewhat.
  • 76.9% of partners reported identifying themselves as a “victim of interpersonal relationship trauma”.
  • “1/3 of partners reported their relationship to be excellent or good (32.6%), slightly less than 1/3 of partners reported their relationship to be ok (28.3%), and slightly more than 1/3 of partners reported their relationship to be poor or very poor (39.1%).”
  • 54.1% reported their sexual relationship worsened after the disclosure of the relapse; 25.9% stayed the same; and 20.0% improved.
  • 38.5% of partners reported that the disclosure of the relapse has damaged the relationship to the point that the partner could not trust the mate again.
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