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Nobody is suggesting partners should stay, she stresses. But even then, they need support with rebuilding trust and reclaiming their sexuality.” Rachel agrees.“Much as my husband tried to stop his behaviours by understanding the nature of sex addiction, he wasn’t willing to delve into the cause.“The reality of the Western world today means you can find anything you desire easily and anonymously.Indeed, you can find a whole load of stuff you don’t desire, but get hooked nonetheless,” she says.The reality for most partners I see is that they experience phenomenal shock.” The damage to self-esteem, she continues, isn’t just about the sexualised behaviour, such as visits to prostitutes that partners never knew about.It’s the fact that they’ve lived with someone so long and had no idea.“These guys, and it is mostly guys, are on the whole loving husbands, yet they did this right under your nose, leaving you unable to trust your partner, or even your own judgements,” she explains.
“First, the addict goes into recovery on their own to work out causes and develop relapse prevention strategies.
“I could have dealt with a gambling addiction or alcoholism – anything but this,” Rachel confirms.
Like most partners, she initially didn’t buy into the concept of sex addiction (“it sounded like a pretty weak excuse for an affair”) and even when she did start to believe that her husband’s behaviour was compulsive, her friends didn’t (“they’d look at me in despair, asking since when had sexual desire became a monster that can’t be controlled”), leaving her feeling isolated.
“Ideally, partners get their own therapy,” says Hall.
“The problem is that all the assumptions made by well-meaning friends about sex addiction are also shared by many therapists who are untrained in this area.