Does the fact that my partner had a one-night stand mean he’s a sex addict?
As counselors specializing in sexually compulsive behaviors, this is a question we’re often asked.
In the Back of a Minivan
A blog I read recently addressed the issue of the aftermath of a one-night stand. A reader wrote to author and psychologist Samantha Rodman PhD:
“I just found out my husband had a one night stand. It was with some random girl from a bar in the back of our minivan seven months ago. We have been together 13 years, and he says this is the only time. He didn’t fess up, I called him out on it. … We have two kids and I am six months pregnant. I feel so betrayed and angry and I hate him. I can’t stop thinking about it, and I’ve always said that it would be the only reason I would ever divorce him. … And at the same time, I’m not sure I could divorce him; he’s my only love since we were kids.”
Dr. Rodman responded to the reader and encouraged her to seek couples counseling. While not condoning the one-night stand, she suggested the reader could use the incident as an opportunity to examine and perhaps deepen the marriage. (To read Dr. Rodman’s entire blog, click here.)
If this couple were to seek advice from Compulsion Solutions, here’s what we’d want to pursue …
Was This Truly an Isolated Incident?
One incident doesn’t necessary signal sexually compulsive behavior. But was this truly an isolated incident? I’d want to find out if it had happened before and would ask further questions, such as:
Does your husband use porn?
Do you suspect that he’s a sex addict?
Does he have a history of hiding behaviors and/or lying?
I would also make sure both the husband and wife were tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
This could truly be a one-time occurrence. Some therapists might consider such an incident an indiscretion. However, in my experience of nearly 30 years counseling men with sexually compulsive behaviors, the minivan incident could point to a pattern of sexually compulsive behavior. The husband might be really good at not getting caught.
In our counseling practice at Compulsion Solutions, we’d want to talk with this man and find out exactly what he’s done and is doing. If he’s not telling the truth, then the marriage could be in for a very difficult time. If he’s acting out compulsively, then there are likely to be more incidents in the past and will probably be more future.
Additional Avenues of Inquiry
We frequently advise therapists who don’t specialize in sexually compulsive behaviors. We have specific intake questions to determine if a one-night stand is a one-time occurrence or indicative of a compulsive pattern of behavior. We might talk to the husband and assure him that he must tell us the truth and that we won’t tell his wife, although we’d encourage him to do so and advise him on ways to communicate that would be the least hurtful to her.
We would, of course, not condone the betrayal, but address it in a way that could help the survival of the marriage. (Valuable information to help repair a relationship can be found in our book: A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction: A Step-by-Step Plan to Rebuild Trust and Restore Intimacy by Paldrom Collins and George N. Collins.)
Consequences of Not Addressing the Issue
In some instances, both the husband and wife just wish the incident would “go away.” They don’t want to address issues in their marriage or admit that the husband might have a compulsive behavioral pattern. However, there can be major consequences to not taking a deeper look. Marital problems don’t just go away. Patterns of sexually compulsive behavior don’t just go away. Sexually transmitted diseases don’t just go away.
Exposing the truth can hurt. But hiding the truth can hurt even more. Addressing the underlying issues in a marriage and in a partner’s patterns of sexually compulsive behavior may be uncomfortable. But not addressing those issues can prove fatal for the marriage.
by George N. Collins, MA
Author’s Note: If you’re a therapist or counselor seeking additional information about intake questions and procedures for potential sex addicts, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org