While not included in the diagnostic classifications of sexual disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), sexual addictions and compulsivities are increasingly being encountered by mental health professionals, and the field of sexual addictions is gaining wider acceptance (Delmonico & Carnes, 1999; Garos, 1997). Research shows the majority of people struggling with sexual addictions and compulsivities involving the Internet are married, heterosexual males (Cooper, Delmonico, & Burg, 2000), and that women who are married to these men are directly impacted by this problem (Schneider, 2000b). Although there is research on many issues relating to wives of sex addicts, there is currently a void in the research literature regarding the kinds of support women find most beneficial when dealing with a spouse's sexually addictive or compulsive behaviors. The primary purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the kinds of support women find most beneficial when dealing with a spouse's sexually addictive and compulsive behaviors. Using grounded theory methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), twenty-two women from Canada and the United States were interviewed to find out what they found most helpful as they sought support to cope with a spouse's sexually addictive and compulsive behaviors. A theory of support for this population emerged from the data. It was found that women in affected marriages utilize two main categories of support, namely, coping supports, and change-oriented supports such as Recreational, Relational, Professional, Spiritual and Conceptual. Responding to problematic sexual behavior is moderated by numerous internal and external factors. Five common factors of positive support experiences were identified across the sample. These five common factors were: (a) Connection, (b) Advocacy, (c) Validation, (d) Education, and (e) Direction (CAVED). This study did not succeed in identifying distinct pathways of support for women who discover this problem versus those who have it disclosed to them, nor did this study identify specific treatment modalities that are effective. The results of this study provide a useful template for clinicians, support networks and researchers to begin understanding what is helpful and unhelpful when working with this population.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





sexual addiction, sexual compulsivities, pornography, Internet addictions, spouse, wives, couples, supports