My Top Six Books for Partners of Sex and Porn Addicts

Last time, we took a tour of some of my recommended books for those struggling with porn and sex addiction. Today, we’ll consider some books for partners of sex and porn addicts. Fortunately, resources have become more and more available for partners in recent years; the mental health professionals treating sex addiction are recognizing the devastating effects of the addict’s betrayal upon his or her partner. Discovery of the addict’s behaviors is extraordinarily traumatic, so that partners too need supportive care.

 

In about the last 10 years, the literature focusing on partners of sex and pornography addicts has shifted from a co-addiction model to a trauma model. I don’t want to dive deep into an explanation of the differences here, so let me summarize. The co-addiction model understands the partner as addicted to the sex addict, attempting to control his behavior and ignoring her own needs. Understandably, the outcry in recent years against this model has led to the trauma model, which views the partner’s emotional and behavioral responses as attempts to find safety after the world-shattering effects of betrayal. It’s worth noting this evolution because co-addiction still pops up in the literature, especially in older titles.

 

1) Sex Addiction 101: A Basic Guide to Healing from Sex, Porn, and Love Addiction (R. Weiss)

I know, I know. Sex Addiction 101 was on the list of books for sex and porn addicts, right? So what’s it doing here? I often recommend this book to partners for a number of reasons. First, after discovery, a basic, informative overview on sexual addiction can help them more fully understand what exactly it is that’s caused them so much pain. In other words, Weiss’ book, especially when combined with other books on this list, is great for helping them really understand sexual addiction, how addiction works, and the stages involved in the addict’s healing. In this way, they may be better equipped to identify boundaries they need to feel safer and begin their own healing.

 

I also really like this book because of Weiss’ discussions on what the addict needs to start doing to repair the relationship, so that the partners can fully expect the addict to take certain steps to heal and be accountable in promoting honesty and transparency in the relationship. Finally, the book also includes helpful tips on how partners can recover, regardless of the effort that the addict is putting into the relationship. Check it out here.

 

2) Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal (B. Steffens and M. Means)

Published in 2009, Means and Steffens really tackle the co-addiction vs. trauma debate head on in this text, arguing forcefully for a trauma perspective. What’s so immensely valuable about this is that without exposure to this thinking, partners can unfortunately be re-traumatized when going to certain 12-step groups intended for partners that still hold to the co-addiction model. Your Sexually Addicted Spouse is probably one of the most validating books out there for partners, because the authors understand just how devastating and utterly traumatic the betrayal that partners have experienced really is.

 

I also like this book because it ends on a hopeful note with stories and anecdotes from addicts and partners who’ve been to hell and back, only to have their marriage thrive. As hope can be in short supply early in recovery for partners, these poignant and trenchant tales are welcome. Be warned, though: I’ve heard from addicts and some partners that the stories about addicts’ sexual behaviors in this book are triggering, so that it may be best to read after going through disclosure. Need a copy? Buy one here.

 

3) Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts (ed. by S. Carnes)

Of all the books on this list, Carnes’ edited collection of essays is the place to start. Partners often have many, many questions. Accordingly, each chapter in her volume, which are written by experienced therapists and experts in the field, provide sound and trustworthy answers to questions that partners ask most frequently. Just take a look a some of the chapter titles:

  • “Chapter Two: I Need to Know Everything that Happened. . . . Or Do I?”
  • “Chapter Four: Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
  • “Chapter Five: How Do I Set Boundaries and Keep Myself Safe?”
  • “Chapter Eight: How Can I Begin to Take Care of Myself?”
  • ” Chapter Nine: What Should I Tell the Kids?”

 

The pages in this volume are saturated with helpful information that is a welcome lifeline to partners who are usually overwhelmed and drowning after discovering the addicts’ secret sexual behaviors. It also has a great bibliography in the back for further reading. Take a look here for more information.

 

4) Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts (V. Tidwell Palmer)

Sometimes partners need help in reclaiming and using their authentic voice in an empowering way, especially when it comes to creating and enforcing boundaries after intimate betrayal. Tidwell Palmer’s book expands upon shorter discussions within the other books in this list to describe in detail how to identify, create, and maintain healthy boundaries. The author rightfully states that healthy boundaries are vital for self-care and are also an absolute must for healing.

 

Partners I’ve worked with described this book as being wonderfully practical. Tidwell Palmer provides a step-by-step guide for partners to knowing and owning what’s real for them, finding and using their authentic, empowering voice, and creating and implementing an action plan that works. It’s a how-to guide for moving out of betrayal trauma. Read more about the book by clicking here.

 

5) Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts (M. Lee, S. Carnes, and A. Rodriguez)

It’s not just a workbook for partners. It’s the workbook for partners, brimming with guided, step-by-step exercises and reflections designed to facilitate partners’ healing. The go-to resource for Certified Sex Addiction Therapists everywhere, Facing Heartbreak helps partners sort out the pain, confusion, and anger that accompanies the revelation of intimate betrayal and takes them through a courageous journey to hope and healing. I like this book because it covers all of the bases in creative and engaging ways: assisting partners with naming and effectively voicing their feelings, creating boundaries, making empowered choices, and how they can care for themselves.

 

Another reason that I recommend this book, or at least chapters of it, time and time again is that I know one of the authors, Mari Lee, and her heart for partners. She is a recovering partner herself and knows the pain of intimate betrayal. Her heart and compassion shine on every page, her presence is a light in the darkest of places when partners need it most.

 

6) The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (B. van der Kolk)

You can’t have a list of books for partners of sex and porn addicts without at least one book devoted entirely to trauma, and for that, The Body Keeps the Score takes the cake. When my therapist friends and colleagues in Facebook Land are asked about their favorite books, they drop Bessel van der Kolk’s tome constantly and for good reason. Sometimes people suffering from severe trauma just want to understand more deeply what’s going on with them, and this book breaks down trauma and its effects in an eminently readable and accessible way. This is surprising because the book clocks in at a whopping 464 pages.

 

van der Kolk’s book is awesome not just because of its articulate and thorough discussion of trauma. It also talks about treatment options and self-care, everything from yoga to EMDR. So the book not only describes trauma at a granular level; it also describes practical means of healing trauma, empowering partners with excellent explanatory chapters that detail how EMDR, yoga, and other options can actually further recovery. To check it out, click here.

Jeremy Mast
jmast@awakeningsrelationalcounseling.com
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