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Sex, Love, and Addiction

May 24, 2018

Dr. Barbara Steffens joins Rob to talk about betrayal trauma and her many extensive years of work within the field. She looks at addiction and infidelity through both the lens of the addict and the partner and works to normalize all parts of what occurs in the addiction and healing process. She and Rob discuss what betrayal trauma is, why some partners may decide to stay, and how they can eventually begin to possibly trust again.


Dr. Steffens founded and is President of The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists, and helps clients and also therapists work with people experiencing profound trauma and betrayal. She is also the author of Your Sexually Addicted Spouse.



[0:49] Dr. Barbara Steffens has been a specialist in sex addiction and partners of sex addiction since 1999. Her book Your Sexually Addicted Spouse is a lifeline to help partners cope and heal after betrayal trauma.

[2:22] Often times people first associate a trauma with abuse, either physical or mental, but there is also a trauma that goes along with a betrayal within a relationship. When there is an expectation of trust, safety, and security that is violated, it can have a profound effect.

[10:43] The partner acting out still can have love, attachment and a connection, but the quality of how deep their intimacy can actually be changes over time as they must compartmentalize in order to not feel too much guilt over their behavior. It’s an internal split for the addict, and hard for the partner to understand how the addict can say they love them and yet still betray their trust.

[16:15] It is another betrayal when partners are not heard for what has just happened to them, and the addict may even blame some of their behavior on the spouse.

[18:12] Dr. Steffens had to first go to the infidelity field to learn about betrayal trauma from the partner’s point of view, as the addict field just focused primarily on the needs of the addict.

[19:32] While partners may not be able to trust the way they once did, they can develop an ability to trust the heart, intent and the behaviors they observe along with their own ability to detect lies and deceit.

[23:01] Dr. Steffens tells partners that they did not make their partner cheat, and they don’t have the power over how someone else responds. She encourages them to work with their own emotions and speak their truth rather than prescribing a one size fits all protocol.

[32:36] Partners sometimes stay with an addict when there is a relapse due to not wanting to ruin the stability and course of what they have built in their life. Dr. Steffens knows every partner has the choice to decide what is right for them, and takes the judgement away from those no matter what they deem tolerable.



Sex and Relationship Healing


Sex Addiction 101

Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency

Dr. Barbara Steffens

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse

Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists



  • “The best thing that the field can do is really listen to the partner as an individual.”
  • “Over time that ability to attach and connect when somebody is engaging in other behaviors has to loosen because so much of the attachment and attention goes to the addiction.”
  • “There’s no intimacy when there are secrets.”
  • “Traumatized people look messy because they are - their life has just exploded.”
  • “Addicts can look very slick and together, even when they are not.”
  • “The greatest gift we can give to partners when we are helping them is the ability for them to trust themselves again.”
  • “There is no pain-free way to deal with this situation. It’s just what kind of pain and how true to yourself are you going to be.”