Anyone who has been in a relationship with a Sex Addict is referred to as the
Partner or Co-Sex Addict. The COSA (Co-Sex Addict) is in need of treatment just as much as the addict is. Even if you are no longer with this person chances are you will end up with another addict somewhere along the way. It is important to get support and understanding about your experiences and subsequent feelings to try and avoid future trauma.
A COSA will often feel like a “crazy person”. They usually begin to have some idea that their partner is acting out sexually and will confront their partner about it. The addict, due to narcissistic tendencies and denial, will say anything they can to make the COSA feel wrong and as if they are crazy for thinking anything is going on. And so begins a pattern of “insanity”.
In these situations it is common for a COSA’s to begin his/her own pattern of addictive behaviors. Some COSA’s have admitted to doing things they “never thought they would ever do”. COSA’s become wonderful private investigators. They begin searching wallets, checking emails and phone records, following the addict, paying close attention to details in stories and looking for contradictions, becoming more attentive to smells and behaviors of the addict when returning from anywhere….the list goes on and on. What this all means is the COSA is losing herself/himself in the addict’s world. They begin to lose freedom of comfort in the home, lose a sense of safety and connection, and can become somewhat paranoid. If the addict is really good at minimizing and rationalizing their behavior it will cause the COSA to tumble even farther down into feelings of insecurity, suspicion, confusion, anxiety, depression, and despair. And all along the COSA is thinking “I used to be so normal and happy, what happened?”
Many times the COSA suffers a loss of sexuality. Sometimes they became sexually anorexic (ie: sleeping with clothes on, eating to much in order to be “too full for sex”, gaining weight, using a pillow to put in between the partner in bed, having headaches, staying up late to work to avoid going to bed at the same time, etc.) Sometimes the COSA increases sex with their partner in order to try and “fix” the situation. Sometimes the COSA becomes sex or love addicted to their partner. In any case, it is not healthy sexuality and it becomes chaotic and “crazy making”.
Recovery for a COSA begins by dealing with the grief and loss of the life they thought they knew, loss of their sexuality, and loss of trust. It is extremely helpful if their partner admits to the problem and gets treatment. Part of treatment for the addict should involve a disclosure. When a COSA receives a disclosure it is often extremely validating and provides a sense of relief that she/he is not crazy after all. The COSA also needs to process and heal from the trauma of broken trust, intense feelings of anger, and the need to “make sense of it all”.
Recovery for a COSA is not an overnight cure. It will take a long time for her/him to learn how to feel safe in a relationship, how to trust, and how to find her/his healthy sexuality again. Although an addict can begin recovery, stop their behaviors, and begin building sobriety in a matter of months, a COSA needs a
significantly longer amount of time to heal. It is important that the addict give their partner as much time as she/he needs. Couples therapy is highly effective for this process if the couple remains together. S-Anon or COSA are 12-step groups for partners of sex addicts and can be extremely helpful in the recovery process. Al-Anon or CODA can be helpful, as well. The most important action the COSA must take is getting herself/himself into therapy. This is where the trauma, pain, anxiety, anger, and despair will begin to be healed. You don’t have to do this alone. There is hope.