Sexual Addiction Is A Cultural Epidemic In Our Society
Written By: Mark Smith
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Sexual addicts come from every walk of life: the school teacher who molests a student, the salesman who is obsessed with on-line pornography, the boyfriend who runs up thousand-dollar telephone bills to sex talk services, or the wife who has a series of affairs. In this column I will attempt to explore and discuss answers to the following important questions: Why do we seem to hear about these incidents of sexual acting out more frequently? What is sexual addiction? And finally, what can the sexual addict and his or her significant other do right now in order to avoid losing marriages, ruining careers, getting arrested, or risking public embarrassment?
Sexual addiction is on the rise because sexual materials are so much more readily available now through the Internet, chat lines, etc. Men who would never frequent an adult bookstore can get enough porn to fill a bookstore in the comfort and anonymity of their own home. The unbelievable power of the Internet makes it almost unfair for struggling sexual addicts to stay sober.
I will share five characteristics of sexual addiction that I have noticed to be present in various degrees in almost all sexual addicts.
#1 Obsession - Sex addicts use sex to medicate feelings and to alter their moods. When an alcoholic gets depressed, he drinks. When a sex addict gets depressed, he gets on-line or he "has" a woman. He isn't having relationships with real people; he is ingesting a substance.
#2 Loss of control - A sexual addict spends too much time on addict sex. He spends too much money on it. He betrays his wife. He degrades himself. He gets arrested. He loses his job. He loses sleep to it. He thinks about it all day. It is the most dominant, exciting, and stimulating thing in his lonely life.
#3 Relationship problems - Sexual addiction tears people away from people. Many men have been taught to bury their neediness, their emotions, and their humanity extremely deeply. They are competitive, driven, strong, money making machines whose goal it is to feel in control at all times. They don't know how to love.
#4 Secrecy - Sexual addiction lives, breeds, and grows best in the darkness of secrecy. I frequently hear from my clients about their experiencing double lives - being very upright and moral on the outside while being given over to sexual addiction in their inner lives. Recovery from sexual addiction begins when the addict opens up and shares his secrets. Many times, in order to have the humility and brokenness to finally open up, the sexual addict must "hit bottom" by experiencing painful consequences.
#5 Shame - The defining characteristic of sexual addiction is shame. Shame is an overpoweringly toxic and destructive energy that tells the sexual addict in powerful, emotional ways that he has to hide his addiction because he is bad, dirty, and even evil. Even men who seem absolutely shameless in their constant pursuit of perverse sexual conquests are driven by shame. Shame has its roots in childhood - placed there by critical, abusive, unaccepting, non-nurturing, or perfectionistic parents.
Here are 4 steps that a spouse of a sexual addict can do to cause them to face their addiction.
#1 Get help - Seek the help of a therapist with experience working with sexual addiction immediately. Frequently women who marry sexual addicts grew up with a sexual addict or addicts. They tend to be insecure, dependent, too other-centered, and too passive. They aren't connected with themselves enough to set appropriate limits regarding how they are to be treated by their sexual addict.
#2 Honesty - Many times the spouses of a sexual addict are like ostriches with their heads buried in the sand. What is the truth about your spouse's addiction? What is your intuition trying to tell you about the nature of the problem? You had better take a long hard look at it before it bites you.
#3 Name the issues - The spouse of a sexual addict almost always gets to a point where she is totally fed up, and she then begins an explosive campaign of trying to control her husband's sexual addiction by raging, belittling, and otherwise shaming him into submission. This, of course, only makes everything worse. Through much work in therapy, we will teach you to NAME the issues in powerfully effective ways instead of shaming him.
#4 Set boundaries - Spouses of sexual addicts desperately need to learn to set boundaries. In order to set boundaries effectively you need to not feel like a victim, you need to be fully in touch with your feelings, you need to see the sexual addict in your life in non-shaming terms, and you need to be willing to back way up - even if that might mean a separation for a long while.
To the sexual addict who is ready and willing to work on his sexual addiction I would say two things: #1 get in therapy immediately, and #2 attend a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting even sooner. I also recommend reading Patrick Carnes' book, Out of the Shadows, right away. See you next week.
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