Discovering a partner's hidden behaviour can be life-changing for their spouse, says Paula Hall.

There's a growing list of sexual assault allegations. He has been fired from his production company. And his wife has left him. So reports that Harvey Weinstein has flown to Europe to undergo therapy for an alleged sex addiction and "other behavioural issues" are perhaps unsurprising.

In a statement, the disgraced movie mogul said: "I sat down with my wife Georgina, who I love more than anything, and we discussed what was best for our family. We discussed the possibility of a separation and I encouraged her to do what was in her heart."

Chapman, 41, was initially thought to be standing by her husband. But, yesterday, the Marchesa designer described his behaviour as "unforgivable" and said her "heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain".


So just what constitutes a "sex addiction" and what impact can it have on a spouse? We spoke to Paula Hall, one of the UK's leading specialists, to find out...

Shock, isolation and disbelief: these are the first things a woman will feel when she finds out her partner has a sex addiction. She will be utterly stunned and often feel very alone.

And it's not surprising. Sex addiction is little understood and most people will have gained what knowledge they do have from high-profile celebrity cases.

It means that one of the first questions my female clients ask (and it is, overwhelmingly, men who are the addicts) is: can sex addiction be real, or is it an excuse for infidelity, porn and bad behaviour?

That's understandable. Whatever drives their partner's behaviour, the result will be betrayal and deceit. Adultery is adultery.

But sex addiction is a real condition. And the longer it goes untreated, the more extreme behaviour the addict has to explore in order to achieve the same level of excitement - the same dopamine release.

There are varying types of behaviour: use of pornography, masturbation or sexual encounters, but these addicts do not necessarily go on to become sex offenders. Yet the public - and the current Weinstein scandal will encourage this opinion - tend to conflate the two.

It means the partners of sex addicts often feel intense shame. They ask me if the addiction is somehow their fault: were they loving, attractive, sexy enough? They fear they will be judged. That they "should" have known what was happening and stopped it.

These feelings are intensified where the couple has a family. Women can feel like their parenting will be called into question, on top of everything else.

I reassure them that it is normal not to realise your partner is a sex addict. Unlike drugs, alcohol or gambling, there are often no outward signs.

Couples can have been together for years, without any hint of a problem - Weinstein has been married to Chapman for a decade and the couple have two young children. Uncovering that kind of deception can be very destabilising.

Sometimes, the wife may have been in denial. But often they may have been told repeatedly, by their partner, that their suspicions are ridiculous - until they lose confidence in their ability to tell reality from the lie.

Many of these addicts lose interest in marital sex entirely. Women who discover that their seemingly celibate partners are addicts, often feel cheated of their own sex lives as a result.

To help, I might suggest a client considers the relationship as a whole: is their partner a good person? Would they describe him as loving and kind? Or are his compulsive sexual behaviours matched by anger, selfishness, lying and cheating in other ways?

The former would suggest that the sexual behaviour is out of character, and most likely to be an addiction. The latter would imply that infidelity or porn use was personality driven - that here is a man with no moral compass in the first place.

We do not yet know whether Weinstein fits into either of these categories, or whether he is indeed a sex addict. Only time, and therapy, will be able to establish that.

But separating behaviours out like this, even at such an early stage, can indicate whether a couple has a chance of rebuilding their relationship, as Weinstein has indicated he would like to do - although many women do choose to leave a partner with sex addiction, if they can afford to.

One of the most important things a woman can do is meet up with others in the same situation. Self-care, physical and emotional, is also vital.

Weinstein's wife has already announced she is leaving him, but I suggest no further decision making for six months to allow recovery from the sheer shock.

Only when a woman is feeling safe and secure - and their other half is in recovery - can they decide whether they want to go on with the relationship. Rebuilding trust is a long process, and takes commitment from both sides.

Finally, I tell them to remember the three Cs: you didn't Cause it, you can't Cure it and you can't Control it.

This article was published in The Daily Telegraph.