Sex addiction can be an extremely uncomfortable topic for spouses. However, it can have a huge effect on marital happiness. Sex addiction is a sexual dependency that can lead to problems like multiple affairs, compulsive masturbation, and excessive pornography use.

This addiction can affect your marriage in several ways. It can damage emotional and physical intimacy with your spouse; put a financial strain on your family; result in self-esteem issues; and cause trust issues between you and your spouse. While you may feel stuck letting this addiction affect your marriage, you have options.

Staying Married

The first option is to stay married and help your spouse seek treatment. Sex addiction is treatable for most people. Consider individual or couple’s therapy. In these sessions, the therapist will help you manage the strain on your relationship and the addiction’s impact on your individual well-being.


There are two types of divorce in North Carolina: Absolute Divorce and Divorce from Bed and Board.

Absolute Divorce is what most people typically think of as a divorce. An Absolute Divorce will end your marriage. To qualify for an Absolute Divorce in North Carolina, you or your spouse must be a resident of North Carolina for six months. Additionally, to qualify for a divorce you must be living separately for at least one year or your spouse must be incurably insane. Since these are the only two grounds for divorce recognized in North Carolina, a divorce will not be granted solely for sexual misconduct associated with sex addiction.

Divorce from Bed and Board is an action that does not end the marriage, but will give you access to similar resources as an Absolute Divorce. These resources include the right to live apart and monetary support for you and your children. However, neither you nor your spouse may remarry since the marriage is not officially terminated. Divorce from Bed and Board is only permitted in a few situations. To qualify, you must prove that your spouse’s actions fall into one of those specific situations. Sex addiction may qualify if it puts an intolerable and burdensome strain on your marriage or if your spouse has committed adultery.

It is important to consider the effect of sex addiction on other issues associated with divorce. When considering the custody of your children, the court may consider the impact of the addiction on the child. The court will award custody and visitation rights based on the best interest of the child; this interest could be affected many different ways depending on how the addiction manifests. Additionally, the court may consider the addiction when granting and setting the amount of alimony. This is particularly important if the addiction resulted in marital misconduct or financial recklessness.

Other Legal Options

While divorce is a legal remedy between you and your spouse, you also have a legal remedy against people outside of your marriage who interfere. North Carolina is one of the few states to still recognize what are known as “heart-balm” actions. These actions are Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation.

Alienation of Affection lawsuits are used to prevent and remedy intentional interference with your marriage. All that is required is proof that you and your spouse were in a valid marriage with genuine love and affection, that the love and affection were destroyed, and that they were destroyed by the intentional act of another. Sexual misconduct is not required for an Alienation of Affection action.

Criminal Conversation, on the other hand, requires that your spouse engage in sexual intercourse with another person during your marriage. While divorce may be a remedy between you and your spouse; criminal conversation will hold the third party accountable for the affair.

Seeking Comfort

There is no quick fix for sex addiction and it will not work itself out. It can only be managed with proper treatment, support, and a desire to change. Sex addiction not only affects the addict, but also the spouse. You may feel hurt and betrayed or that you will never have a healthy sex life with your spouse. You should weigh your options. If you are ready to explore legal options, consider consulting an attorney.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is sex addiction common?

It has become increasingly common in recent years. While the numbers are hard to assess because many spouses are uncomfortable and many sex addicts try to hide their addiction, a 2014 estimate indicated there were 30 million people suffering from sex addiction in the United States

When does looking at porn become an addiction?

Pornography becomes an addiction when it interferes with your spouse’s daily activities. This includes financial, parental, and work responsibilities.

Is my spouse’s sex addiction my fault?

No. Sex addiction is usually a coping mechanism for underlying problems. Many sex addicts will deflect the blame to their spouses so they do not have to acknowledge the problem.

Who can I talk to about my spouse’s sex addiction?

Many people find this subject difficult to discuss with friends and family. Therapists, doctors, and lawyers are required by law to keep these kinds of discussions confidential.

Is pornography the same as adultery?

Pornography addiction can feel like an emotional betrayal for the other spouse. It can also interfere with the physical intimacy between you and your spouse. However, the court does not consider pornography a form of adultery.

Are there legal ways to make my spouse attend therapy?

Judges can order a spouse to attend therapy. Also, if your spouse is willing to attend therapy, you may be able to reach a written agreement holding them to their promise. You should consult a lawyer before entering into such an agreement.

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