So you have found pornographic material on your partner’s computer, or overheard their late night phone calls, or you recognize the signs of sex addiction in their encounters with you – now what? Do you assume that you’re overreacting or misunderstanding? Do you get angry and start to act out in your own way? Do you confront them about what you think is going on?

How to start the conversation

It is important not to bring up your suspicions or evidence of their addiction in the heat of the moment. If you are both worked up about something else, your emotions are too high and unpredictable to have an important conversation like this one. Wait until a calm time when you are both most open to talking about a deep issue – even if those moments are few and far between, you can be the best judge of when to talk about it.

Even if you want to, try to stay away from accusatory language like “I know what you’ve been doing” or “What is wrong with you?!” It will be best for both of you if you go a more open route, saying something like “I have seen some troubling things on your computer – do you know where those pictures came from?” or “I feel like you don’t spend as much time with me and the kids as you used to – is something going on?”

How they might react

It is possible that they are not aware that they have a problem with sex or porn. In this case, they might try to explain away the things you found on their computer or make excuses for their late nights “at the office” by insinuating that you just don’t understand their needs. They probably have an idea that their behavior is unbalanced, so this might be a wake-up call to them, or they might not yet understand that they have an issue.

On the other hand, they may know that they have sex or porn addiction and could become very defensive when you confront them about it. You’ve caught them, and even if you are understanding and receptive, they might still initially be belligerent. Don’t be discouraged by this knee-jerk reaction. Once they know that you know about their problem, they will be more inclined, to be honest with you and appreciate your willingness to walk with them through this tough time. This is where it is very important that your heart is in the right place, genuinely wanting what is best for them and being available to help them.

How to help them now

No doubt, unless you are a licensed therapist, you are ill-equipped to help them walk the path to recovery on your own. The best way you can help them is by supporting them in finding a therapist in your area. It is a big step for them to admit that they need help, and your support can mean so much. That could mean researching therapists, rearranging your schedule so you can pick up the kids and they can go to their sessions, setting up an accountability system that they want to put in place, or just reassuring them that you are there for them.

Your partner will be sifting through a lot of baggage that they might have been suppressing for a long time, and even while your heart is hurting for them and because of them, your presence will be foundational to their recovery. While both of your worlds have been disrupted, you can learn to lean on each other as the new day dawns.