Restorations Therapy Blog

A Public Partner

by on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Anna Duggar. Some of you reading this will know who she is. Others might just recognize the last name in connection to Josh Duggar, a son in the large, celebrity family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” television series. Anna is Josh’s wife and the mother to their two children. Very little is known about her, nor do very many news outlets or readers seem to care. I think there’s something to be said about that. But, first, a little background might be needed.

Just a few months ago, Josh Duggar was accused of having inappropriate contact with young girls. Because of his high-profile status, this made the news cycle for multiple weeks. Much was said about Josh – mostly negative comments and accusations. Still others came to his defense. Anna was mostly ignored, except by those offering their unsolicited advice for how she should feel and respond. Little was asked of how this had affected her.

Fast-forward  a few weeks, and the current news cycle has Josh square in its sights. It became public that Josh had been a member of the website – Ashley Maddison – that was recently hacked, exposing him along with 32 million of its members. From current media reports, it seems that Josh has come forward to admit he’s not been faithful in his marriage, including an addiction to pornography developing into extramarital sexual behaviors through the Ashley Madison website. Speculation will not be made here, and certainly judgement is the furthest from my intentions as I write this. I very much hope that Josh seeks help for whatever he’s dealing with and commits to recovery and healing. 

My focus here is on Anna – the overlooked partner. A Public PartnerHer experience, and the experience of so many partners of addicts like her is seldom mentioned. For too long, therapists and treatment centers have helped to perpetuate this injustice. It’s only recently that those specializing in addiction recovery have woken up to the reality of the partner’s need for attention and healing. By allowing these men and women the opportunity to share their stories and giving them voice, we’ve come to recognize that there is truly only one word to describe what they’re going through – trauma. 

Trauma, at its core, is defined as “a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems, usually for an extended time.” Those who have been a partner of an addict often experience dramatic symptoms. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a term for the complex set of disordered emotional, physical, and spiritual symptoms that often make the partner’s life overwhelmingly difficult. Such symptoms include:   

  • emotional turmoil, such as tearfulness and depression
  • fear that may manifest in self-protective behaviors (acting like a detective to determine if the addict is acting out again)
  • obsessing about the trauma
  • avoiding thinking about or discussing the trauma
  • intrusive thinking about the addiction or acting-out behaviors, which can make it hard to focus on normal life
  • sleeplessness and/or nightmares

These are just some of the many possible symptoms a partner may experience from discovery of the addicts double-life and the truth of his or her actions.

I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Anna Duggar. However, I do hope that she is given the opportunity to be heard. No doubt, she’s living her own personal nightmare and being forced to make very difficult decisions on how to take care of her self and her children. She is a more visible example of an often invisible group of partners, each of whom have joined a club in which no one wants to be. 

If you’re a partner of a sex addict and have never heard that you are living in trauma, please know that your story matters! No matter what you decide to do in your current relationship, you deserve to get help working through this time in your life. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is build a support group of close friends who can know the whole story and will support you no matter whether you decide to stay or leave the relationship. Your support group should have no other agenda but to encourage you each step of the way.  Find a therapist that specializes in partners of sex addicts and seek out therapy groups and support groups. You have worth and value that may have been shoved aside and trampled over, and it’s going to take a team of caring individuals to help you find your center again.  But know this —There is hope!

About Stephen Sbanotto

Stephen Sbanotto joined Restorations Therapy Center as the doors opened to help those walking through the tough but worthwhile journey of trauma recovery and couples therapy. He follows a holistic approach to recovery and restoration from sexual addiction for his clients. Having worked through abuse from his childhood and the sudden death of his brother during graduate school, Stephen brings a genuine and passionate zeal for helping others in their healing process. Stephen received a Masters of Science in Community Counseling and Marriage & Family Therapy from John Brown University. His work experience includes private-practice and pubic mental health, focusing on adult depression, anxiety, grief and loss, and relationship issues. Contact Stephen via email at or telephone at (720) 319-7384.

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