You storm into the living room, where your honey sits hunched over his laptop, TV blasting, after-work-beer close at hand. “What’s this?!” you exclaim, waving a magazine at him. “Huh?” Honey replies. You grab the remote, power the TV off with a jerk. You tap your foot. You glare. He sees the magazine. Connects the dots. “Oh, that.” “Yeah, that!” you say, “Girls Gone Wild! And there’s a whole pile of these in back of the cabinet under the sink.” He smirks. “Well, you wouldn’t want them in here.” You’re shocked. That’s his answer? “I don’t want them anywhere!” “Well, what do you expect? I’m a guy, OK? You’re not always available. I have needs. I can’t help it. It’s not like I’m cheating on you,” he grumbles. “Gimme back the remote.”

Your girlfriend sobs into her iPhone the next day, “He’s cheating on me! He admitted it. And he says he can’t help it. He says he’s a sex addict! That it’s a disease and I should understand and forgive him.” Shivers run down your spine. Can’t help it? Where did you just hear those words . . .OMG. Is your man turning into a sex addict? First porn in the bathroom, then it’ll be strip clubs and lap dances and then – “Are you listening to me?” your girlfriend cries. “He’s a cheating, lying SOB and I’m supposed to forgive him and be OK with it because he’s a sex addict!”

Well, let’s take another look at that, shall we? Sex addiction is a serious, debilitating disorder. Persons addicted to sex, like people addicted to alcohol, gambling or drugs, may start out having a good time, but very quickly, the addiction takes over their lives, and the good time goes down the drain. Addicts put getting their drug of choice before everything else, neglecting their jobs, their careers, their children, their relationships and their families, with disastrous consequences. Addicts take horrible risks with their personal health and safety to satisfy their addiction. They often ruin themselves financially attempting to get that next fix. And with it all, they are miserable, because addicts need more and more of whatever it is to get momentary relief from the loneliness, emptiness and often self-loathing that lies beneath. Since denial is the addict’s first line of defense, it can be a very long time, and a very ruined life, before the addict gets the help he or she needs.

Saying you’re a sex addict to justify fooling around is like saying you have cancer (when you don’t) to get people to feel sorry for you. It’s an insult to the people truly suffering. It’s an insult to your partner. It’s a cop-out, used to justify bad behavior. So before you buy into the “I can’t help it, I'm a sex addict” excuse when it comes to a sexual activity you believe interferes with your relationship, visit your friendly marriage counselor. Consult a therapist or psychologist. Look upon your spouse’s behavior as a symptom of something in your relationship that needs exploring.

Your partner may very well be a sex addict. But that’s not where you start when looking at a sexual behavior that upsets your relationship apple cart. Start with the garden-variety ills that can disrupt the intimacy between you: loss of closeness, feelings of betrayal, boredom, lack of mutual understanding, failure to communicate, lack of appreciation. In all likelihood, what was oh-so-easily labeled “sex addiction” is in fact something – mercifully – much more benign.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, consultant, speaker and author. Her latest book is "Your Man is Wonderful," (Free Press, 2009). For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives through appreciation--at work, at home and in relationships. E-mail:, website: