Relationship

This page is information on relationship

Family & Parenting
Couples
Sexual Dependency/Issues

Relationship counselling and family therapy

Relationship counselling is for couples who want to sort out problems in their relationship. You attend sessions together and the aim is to help you to express you difficulties, to listen to each other, develop an understanding of each other, and find ways of making their relationship work better. You may decide to end the relationship but, with luck, having gained more understanding of why it was not working and what lessons you can learn for the future. Family therapy works in just the same way, with the entire family attending.


Family & Parenting
What can we do to improve family relationships?

A problem, here, is that, nowadays, British cultural life is short of events that adults and children can enjoy together. There is a lot of scope here for creative problem-solving! We can look developing your own communication skills, creativity and assertiveness. We can look at your pattern of communicating within your family. Consider who you talk to, and what about and how. If communication consists mainly of criticism and complaining, we will look at ways in which you could change that. We can look at what’s happening now and how issues have been dealt with in your family before and work with that. We will examine your expectations of your family. How realistic are they? How much is your way of reacting to them a habit, rooted in the past, and to what extent does it reflect who you are now? Therapy may help you to come to terms with childhood events and past losses that may be affecting family relationships. If your relationship with your partner is a source of distraction we can look at individual, couples and if needed family therapy. If you don’t feel heard in the family or your kids are driving you to despair we can help with the way you communicate.

What do we understand by ‘family’?

Families are often thought of as mum, dad, and 2.4 children, but, in fact, that is only a small part of the picture. Families include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, stepparents, and others to whom we are related by blood or marriage, or with whom we have a close bond. Families vary. Family life could mean, for instance, the life of a commune with over a dozen members who all share a household, but who are not necessarily related to each other by blood. It could mean a ‘blended’ family, where you have a father and his kids, plus a mother and her kids, plus kids of both father and mother. Perhaps the children don’t all live there full time. It could also include a same sex couple and any children they have.

Families come in many shapes and sizes; there’s no ‘right’ structure. Different families and different cultures have different needs and values, and express this in their patterns of relating. Families also differ in how they relate after divorce. Some separated or divorced fathers lose all contact with their children. Others are able to arrange shared child care with their ex-partners, in a relatively friendly way.

Coping with family life is a complex business. We may feel our families are too much with us, or else that they are not there at all. It’s possible to feel both at once! We can be with our relatives most of our lives, and yet feel that they do not understand us or see us as we really are. On the other hand, they may, literally, not be there. We may be separated by space, because they are living in another city or country, or because they have had a serious disagreement or quarrel. There is often a scape goat, the one with the problem that neede to come and see us as the rest of the family are fine.

Perhaps many of us expect far too much from our families. We want them to make up for the hurts and stresses of life outside for example when a relationship breaks down or a work situation becomes very stressful. Family members may behave as though they are entitled to make enormous emotional demands on one another, and to expect unquestioning loyalty and obedience.

Each generation will have very different ideas about the right attitudes and behaviour, as will people from different cultural backgrounds. This may result in conflict. For instance, a person may wish to choose his or her own partner, when their parents may think that only an arranged marriage is acceptable.

We may harbour the unrealistic expectation that family life will be ‘happy ever after’; that when we have won our partner all will be well. It’s very hard, but very maturing, to wrestle with the reality that our spouse or partner is only human, and makes mistakes – just like we do – and to forgive them for it.

The very nature of family ties adds to the stress and strain. These are often the people who changed our nappies, fed us, read or told us stories and held our hands crossing the road, when we were children. The length and intimacy of these ties explains why our feelings are so mixed. We both love our relatives and get furious with them. We may even feel we hate them, at times. We want our families to be a support, a shelter against life’s storms. But, at the same time, we don’t want to be confined or tied down by them. We are also deeply attached to them and need them for our emotional wellbeing. Yet, we sometimes have to separate ourselves from them. However much we may dislike them, move away from them, geographically, or refuse to speak to them, they are facts in our lives.

Why is family life more difficult nowadays?

 Smaller households

Most people live in smaller households, and at a greater distance from their extended families than, say, 50 years ago. This means that feelings within the home, both good and bad, are more intense. The people who might once have dissolved tensions – aunts, uncles or cousins – live further away. Our communication often isn’t face to face with the internet making communication still possible, just different and have we caught up emotionally?

Community breakdown

Few of us enjoy the support of a close community of friends. Even neighbours may be strangers. As we rely more on the private car for transport we can perceive the streets as more dangerous for our children. We have to keep them indoors, the media confirms that.. Local shops close and we shop more in large supermarkets. We no longer meet people we know, as we walk around our neighbourhood to the shops, or keep an eye on each other’s children, at play, in the street. We may have to move house to another place, to follow our own, our partner’s or our parent’s job prospects, increasing our isolation.

A fair division of labour

Nowadays, there is much more of a split between the worlds of work and of home. At work, ‘important’ things happen, money is made, and the tasks performed have money attached to them. At home, on the other hand, children are reared, no money is made and tasks are performed ‘for love’.

Traditionally, ‘work’ has been seen a male sphere, and the home as female. Housework – the many daily hours spent cooking, cleaning, shopping, decorating, washing, ironing, tidying up, mending things, caring for sick and elderly relatives and minding the children – is not usually counted as work. Or, only if it’s being done for money for someone else’s family (when, it’s paid badly and has low status). It is endless, private, and invisible.

The sphere of ‘work’ is very different. Work has a beginning and an end, it’s public and it’s paid. The hours worked and the rate of pay attached to them may be the subject of dispute, but the work is visible. The pay gives the worker power and status within the family.

There are now more women than ever doing paid work. However, men are not showing a comparable enthusiasm for sharing the unwaged and constant labour involved in housework. This is hardly surprising. But it means there are more disputes over money and housework and sex – three of the major causes of family breakdown, according to marriage guidance counsellors.

Money pressures

When it becomes harder to earn money – for example during an economic recession – it makes things more difficult both at home and at work. At work, many people are made redundant, and many more become afraid they will be too. Shops may close and whole neighbourhoods may become run down. Libraries and other community facilities suffer financial cuts, reducing or worsening public services. These all make the tasks of running a home more difficult, at the same time as more stress is being brought into the home from the workplace. We are currently experiencing a crisis financially as this has an effect on relationships.

More surprisingly, perhaps, economic growth can also make family life more difficult. A work promotion may involve uprooting your family from one place and taking them to another. Having a better life than your parents (more money, a bigger house, and further education) can be very difficult. You may feel guilty, or feel you can’t communicate across the generations any more. Sometimes, one partner benefits more from, or may react differently to, the changed economic circumstances.

What makes families work well?

Families who are able to develop the following characteristics seem to be happier and more successful at nurturing all their members, generally speaking.

Coping with change

Families need to develop the capacity to cope with change. Change is central to life, as we move from being infants to claiming our old-age pension. Lack of change is stifling. But people differ in how they feel about coming changes. For some families, who are open to it, change is welcome; others find all change frightening. Most of us are somewhere in between.

All changes involve loss as well as gain. When we move house, we not only gain a new one (however desirable), but we lose the old. When our child starts to walk, we lose our babe-in-arms. Marriage for example is a positive step for those entering it, yet it also means a loss of perceived freedom, a name maybe and of living as an individual or within a family.  We often acknowledge this aspect of life by having a party – to say goodbye to friends when we move, or to mark leaving school or a job. But if we fail to mark these events, and especially if we have other unacknowledged losses in our past (perhaps a traumatic move in our childhood, or the death of someone close that has not been fully mourned), changes can bring on depression. This can then make us resistant to further change that others close to us want. It can make us repressive, as parents, and lead to family tensions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open communication

The ability to communicate with each other is crucial. We will look at how you communicate, how that has worked for you and what patterns and traps you may have fallen into The more we express our feelings, the more we are able to understand each other. This means there’s more chance of everyone being satisfied with family life. This is not easy to achieve! All families have some forbidden behaviours that are taboo or unthinkable – ‘bad’ feelings such as anger, envy, lust, and associated ‘bad’ behaviours.

It’s often easier to see – or imagine we see – this kind of feeling or behaviour in other people. It can be comforting to believe that ‘people like us’ don’t have drink problems, or extra-marital sex, or become angry and use violence, or fall in love with someone of the same sex, or abuse children. People who do these things are ‘them’. ‘They’ are of a different class, or gender, or race. ‘We don’t have any of that where we come from’. In a family that holds on to this kind of delusion, things will be very difficult for a family member who does the taboo thing or expresses the forbidden feeling. It may cause a permanent split. Either the family member concerned will split away from the family or, if this is too hard, they may ‘split off’ the part of themselves that wanted to break the taboo. Both outcomes cause great pain, on either side, although often it isn’t possible to admit this. Family taboos often have a history to them, of which the person who challenges them may not be aware.

Another outcome is possible. The family may adapt or soften the taboo, so that the challenging family member can stay as part of the family. This outcome is enriching for both sides, as it widens the range of emotional expression that is allowed within the family. Where tolerance is practised, this kind of devastating conflict is less likely to happen. Even if it does happen, it’s more likely to be resolved with the least possible emotional hurt.

Asserting yourself

Assertiveness is the skill of letting others know what you want and how you feel. If you don’t have it, you can have huge problems in your family life. For example, a woman is angry with her partner, because he doesn’t spend much time with her or do any child care or maybe housework. However, she doesn’t like to admit this, even to herself, as she has always been taught that good women, especially mothers, don’t get angry. But she is just not interested in sex any more… Meanwhile, the man is feeling she is just too preoccupied with the children and not giving him enough attention, or appreciating how hard he is working. After all, he has been brought up to believe that a father shows his love for his family by going out to work and providing for them. So he spends more time at work, to show her.

This situation could turn into a vicious circle of misunderstanding. We can look at expectations and communication and enable the relationship to change.

Of course, what is troubling this family is not just the lack of assertiveness between the parents. They are wrestling with the daunting tasks and responsibilities of being parents, in a culture where children’s needs have low priority and communities are fragile. They would benefit not only from better communication, but also from more practical help. They need more adults to be around during the day, a nursery place, shorter working hours and more places for the children to play, that isn’t always possible so managing expectations of yourself, others and partners, children is an area we will look at again.

Having fun

Creativity can enhance family life in various ways. It can be applied to thinking up shared treats, meals, outings or other events. One of the most important aspects of creativity is a sense of humour, the capacity to make others laugh – a vital survival skill. It can also be an avoidance method and again we can look at that.

Creative activities work, ‘The family that plays together, stays together’. Activities can also express and confirm the values the family hold in common, a way of affirming their sense of who they are.

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Couples

Therapist’s can’t save or break a marriage, just create a neutral space where you can explore. They can examine how you communicate, what you think you’ve said and what you think you’ve heard as that’s a common issue. I speak, I think you hear what I said. I hear, I assume I know what you said. But why?

When two people meet they meet as individuals, equal, open and often eager. Or so we assume.

When two people meet, whether we know it or not, we bring our life, our family, our friends, our previous relationships, those of our family around us and all our past experiences with us into that relationship. How we deal with stress and anger emotion is down to our family of origin. Patterns are in the family even if we choose to perpetuate the unfamiliar out of awareness. Wow, I am turning into my Mother, Father or using the expressions I always said I wouldn’t? Any hobby you learn is as good as the person who taught you, how much effort you put in and what is perceived as “ok”. The same can be said of communication and relationships and the blue print we have of those things from those around us. So, theres a lot going against us as well as for us when we commit to a relationship. Relatiuonships go through natural stages of development, each bringing its own good and bad points. Add into that mix all of the above and that is why a third party enables you to explore, re discover and learn to communicate.

These are a guide to the developmental stages of a relationship.

1. ROMANTIC LOVE

This is the love that Hollywood loves to promote as the only kind of love. Romantic love is wonderful, easy, and effortless. It is very spontaneous and alive. The feelings and perceptions that go through both people are that we are one; we are the same. You are perfect. I can give and receive love with little or no effort required. There is a tremendous emphasis on maximising similarities and minimising differences. There is a belief and expectation that you will provide most or all of my wants, needs, desires. There is generally a high degree of passion and feelings and expressions of romance come easily and often. The partners think about each other constantly, and make much eye contact and are very affectionate when they are together. Many people experience this as living in a state of near-constant bliss and infatuation. There is a belief that these feelings and experiences will go on forever, that ‘we will never disagree on anything’, and that somehow fate or forces larger than themselves have brought them together.

This stage generally lasts from six months to two years, and is the SHORTEST stage of any of the stages of long-term committed relationships.

2. ADJUSTING TO REALITY

Ah, reality. Inevitably, predictably, eventually, reality rears it’s head and the bubble bursts on the Romantic stage. Sometimes it is a slow leak, other times a sudden and complete blowout. But either way, something happens which causes a minor or major conflict in the new relationship. Sometimes the trigger is living together and having to share household chores and experiencing personal habits
up close. Sometimes it is an act of deception which is discovered. Sometimes it is planning a wedding, buying a house, or sharing finances. Whatever the cause, after the conflict occurs, it becomes impossible to continue the fantasy that this person and this relationship are immune from struggle, from effort, from reality. Differences which were previously obscured suddenly become visible. Conflicts, anxieties, disappointment and hurt replace the effortless flow of the Romantic stage. There is a sense that this person is not living up your hopes and dreams, and there is an accompanying loss of closeness. Gradually each person is forced to relinquish some of their most cherished romantic fantasies, or to cling to them desperately in a state of denial.

In this stage, it is common to feel as if someone or something or even Life itself has cheated you or robbed you of something precious, almost like a stage of grieving the loss of something innocent and wonderful. There is a desire to be close again but confusion as how to create that. It is the first time that fears of intimacy begin to arise. Suddenly the couple must learn how to deal with very real differences, how to deal with conflict, and how to integrate being an independent person as well as someone in an intimate relationship.

In short, Adjusting to Reality is the stage where the Real Relationship begins.

3. THE POWER STRUGGLE

As the disillusionment of the adjusting to Reality stage deepens, the couple tends to have more disagreements. Minor issues blow up into larger arguments. Yelling appears for the first time, if it ever will. Both partners dig in their heels and defend their positions on issues fiercely. Each person digs in their heels and protects their turf. This once-tender effortless loving relationship has become a battleground and evolved into a daily Power Struggle. This is a typical stage in the development of a long-term committed relationship. For the first time in the relationship, there are occasional or frequent thoughts of leaving the relationship. This person who only recently appeared to be the embodiment of pure love and joy in your eyes suddenly seems self-centered and not to be trusted. Doubts arise as to whether the other person really loves you. There are consistent feelings of ambivalence and anger. Blaming and accusing becomes the most common form of interaction. Each partner is afraid of giving in, and wants the other to change. This is where deep resentments begin to form, which if left unchecked, become the cancer that eventually eats away at all the love and tenderness that has come before. Sarcasm and hostility enter into daily conversations. This does not have to be the end of the relationship. The tasks for the couple here are to develop problem-solving, conflict resolution and negotiating skills. The conflicts will clearly not go away on their own. Each person much learn to listen respectfully to their partner’s position, even if they don’t agree with it. They must learn to support their partner’s own growth, even if they feel it compromises their own. They may see the origins of the patterns of their conflicts (and their dysfunctional ways of resolving them) in their family of origin.

4. RE-EVALUATION

The Power Struggle isphysically and emotionally draining, and if the couple can survive, they move into the next stage, of a conscious Re-Evaluation of the relationship. Whereas the original commitment one makes is typically based on projections of fantasy, this Re-Evaluation takes into account the reality and fears and defenses of each person. Do I really want to stay with this person? You know who this person is now, you know their limitations, and you know the range of which they are capable of improving or getting better. Knowing all that, do you still want to stay? That is the question that gets answered during this stage. Both people tend to turn outward to resolve their issues, instead of toward each other. As a result, fears of abandonment come up strongly here. Can I make by myself? Am I really okay the way I am? Will anyone else find me attractive or appealing? Both people emotionally (and sometimes physically) disengage and withdraw during this stage, which makes it the stage in which separation, divorce and/or an affair are most likely to occur. Feelings of resentment are less intense in this stage, as the affect in the relationship is likely to be very flat and empty. The sexual relationship sporadic at best  and more likely non-existent. Things are ripe for an affair to burst on the scene, and often a person in this stage will begin to confide in someone of the
opposite sex. This confidante will take on more and more importance in the person’s life, due to their neediness and vulnerability, and they will often get emotionally very involved without consciously realising it. At this point even the slightest affection is like throwing a match in the forest on a hot summer day, and a passionate, intense affair will begin. The danger is that when an affair begins at this stage, it is almost impossible for the relationship to recover. The primary relationship has too little going for it in the way of gratification on either side, and the inevitable comparisons between the affair and the relationship seem like night and day. A separation can be useful here to help each person gain perspective, due that too can lead to the demise of the relationship if outside gratifications seem to dwarf the emptiness of the relationship.

The task for each person here is to stay present and honor their commitment, develop individually and be able to see their partner as a separate person. This is the only way the relationship can survive and move into the next stage.

5. RECONCILIATION

In this stage, after the distance of the Re-evaluation, if the relationship has survived, there is a re-awakening of interest in getting closer and connecting again. Knowing all that they know, coming from reality and not fantasy, there is a decision to have the willingness to try once again. There is an open acceptance of the conflicts and differences in the relationship, but they are approached with a different attitude: they are used as opportunities for learning about oneself and the other person. They are catalysts for growth and change. There is a recognition that the differences are real and won’t go away, and that neither person can really change the other. Thus begins a process of struggling to create an honest, genuine intimate relationship. The people connect again and the relationship again begins to produce on going satisfaction for both partners. In this stage there is also a deeper sense of taking responsibility for one’s part in conflict and in lack of satisfaction. Each person may recognise the link between what they learned as children in their families of origin and how they approach intimate relationships. They own their distortions and projections onto their partners. They begin to see their partner as they see themselves, as a somewhat flawed yet decent person who is making a sincere effort to love and be close and still take care of their own needs. There is a deeper acceptance in this stage that any relationship cannot and will not save you in any sense. You still have your own individual needs and issues and they does not go away just because you are in a relationship. But the part of your life that can be nurtured and shared in a loving, accepting relationship is also real and in this stage each person looks to the other for that connection. The war is over, the conflicts are accepted, and there is a sincere desire to learn how to work through the issues to a satisfying resolution.

6. ACCEPTANCE

The final stage in a committed relationship, which researchers estimate less than 5% of couples ever reach, is one of complete Acceptance. There is an integration of the need of the self and the needs of the relationship. Each person takes responsibility for their own needs, for their own individual lives, and also for providing support for their partner. A high level of warmth is present. The couple is able to maintain a balance between autonomy and union. Conflicts still arise on occasion, but as a result of the struggles of the previous stage, the couple has figured out how to resolve most conflicts relatively quickly. Resentments are few. There are few surprises: these are people who know one another and know what to expect. They accept what they are getting, with no denial or fantasy involved. They work together as a team to stay connected and also maintain their own identities.

These are the six stages that  most couples go through during a long-term committed relationship. While not every couple goes through every stage or in that exact sequence, nonetheless this roadmap, based on the research on actual couples’ experiences of intimate relationship, still provides the best roadmap we have available for charting the most likely path of an long-term committed relationship. And if we have a roadmap, we can chart the healthiest and least disruptive path to the goal of a fulfilling, intimate relationship. We can work out where you are and improve the communication and ability to speak with, listen to and hear each other.

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Sexual Dependency/Issues

Sexual issues come in many shapes, sizes and formats. They are as unique as we are individual. There are many classifications and these can be divided, generally in to

Reduced sexual desire: lacking sufficient interest in making love or having an aversion to certain or all forms of sexual contact.

Sexual arousal disorder (problems whit getting sexually aroused): the erection disorder of the man (problems in getting or keeping the penis completely stiff while making love) or problems of the woman in getting aroused (insufficient lubrication of the vagina).

Orgasm disorders: coming too early or not at all.

Sexual pain disorder: having pain while making love (dyspareunia and vaginismus).

Sexual disorders from other causes.

Some sexual problems are not called sexual disorders, but this doesn’t mean that they are not important or untreatable.

We recommend that you see your G.P to rule out any physical reason you may have an issue too. Otherwise therapy can also look at the sexual issues you have.

 

What is sex addiction?

Please also see our addiction page.

The term “sexual addiction” is used to describe the behavior of a person who has an unusually intense sex drive or an obsession with sex. Sex and the thought of sex tend to dominate the sex addict’s thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships.

Sex addicts engage in distorted thinking, often rationalizing and justifying their behavior and blaming others for problems. They generally deny they have a problem and make excuses for their actions.

Sexual addiction also is associated with risk-taking. A person with a sex addiction engages in various forms of sexual activity, despite the potential for negative and/or dangerous consequences. In addition to damaging the addict’s relationships and interfering with his or her work and social life, a sexual addiction also puts the person at risk for emotional and physical injury.

For some people, the sex addiction progresses to involve illegal activities, such as exhibitionism (exposing oneself in public), making obscene phone calls, or molestation. However, it should be noted that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders

It’s estimated that six per cent or more of the population experience sex “addiction” and one in five are women.

Maybe if you look at the sheer physical damage that addictions such as heroin or cocaine can wreak on the body then sex addiction may indeed seem like a different sort of problem. But sex addiction certainly meets some of the criteria for an addiction. Like other dependancy, the person is driven by a compulsion to seek out and engage in the behaviour that brings them the benefits or a sort of intoxication that they seek, even though it may cause enormous disruption and even harm to their life.

If you’ve a sex addiction you may find you need a markedly increased amount of sex to feel sexually fulfilled. And you may have such a persistent desire that you’ll spend abnormal amounts of time involved in activities necessary to fulfil cravings, or recover from its effects.

As a result this addiction may interfere with work, hobbies and relationships with family and friends. You may struggle to cut down or control your behaviour, and continue despite being well aware of the psychological or even physical damage that it’s doing.

Sex addiction symptoms

Of course most people enjoy sex, get a buzz from it and welcome the chance to engage in it. So when does sex become addiction?

One clue comes from a definition often used by experts, who suggest that sexual addiction is any sexual behaviour that feels out of control. Another important feature is that, like other addictions, those affected find their emotions swing between intense highs and lows.

Behaviors associated with sexual addiction include:

Compulsive masturbation (self-stimulation)

Multiple affairs (extra-marital affairs)

Multiple or anonymous sexual partners and/or one-night stands

Consistent use of pornography

Unsafe sex

Phone or computer sex (cybersex)

Prostitution or use of prostitutes

Exhibitionism

Obsessive dating through personal ads

Voyeurism (watching others) and/or stalking

Sexual harassment

Warning symptoms of a sex addiction might include:

Certain types of behaviour such as frequent casual sex, multiple affairs when you’re in a relationship or high-risk sex
Excessive use of pornography
Feeling worried about the possible behavior
Wanting to stop or change your sexual behaviour
Feeling unable to stop, despite wanting to
Using sex as a way to cope with other problems
Needing more sex to get the same fulfillment
Feeling very low or guilty after
Spending large amounts of time planning or engaging in sex
Missing important social events or even work in order to pursue sex
The debris of a sex addiction includes consequences such as breakdown of meaningful relationships, loss of job opportunities, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancy. Depression is common among sex addicts (it may even be a factor which leads to the addiction or aggravates the problem) and as many as one in five may have contemplated suicide.

Molestation/rape
Generally, a person with a sex addiction gains little satisfaction from the sexual activity and forms no emotional bond with his or her sex partners. In addition, the problem of sex addiction often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. A sex addict also feels a lack of control over the behavior, despite negative consequences (financial, health, social, and emotional).

Following the gratification and sought–after high that the sexual behaviour brings, emotional lows follow. Typically you may feel:

Shame
Regret
Remorse
Anxiety about your behaviour
Trapped by your helpless need
The only way to relieve these feelings may be another sexual encounter, so you go in search of more sex.

Advice and support

It may be very difficult to admit to a sex addiction and seek help. Many of those addicted feel intense shame about their behaviour and are reluctant to talk about it. But few are able to change their behaviour without some professional help to explore why it has developed and how the behaviour can be changed.

So recognising that you have a problem is the first step. Then talk to us, we won’t judge and this is an accepting space.

Whether sex addiction is a true addiction or a form of compulsive behaviour, the main approach to treatment is the same, and consists of psychological therapies, which involves learning about and understanding your condition, and how to make changes to your behaviour.

If you still feel unsure then take a look at the following questions:

Is internet porn a problem?
Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?
Do you feel that your sexual behaviour is negatively affecting your life?
Has your sexual behaviour ever created problems in your relationship?
Do you have trouble stopping your sexual behaviour when you know it’s inappropriate?
Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behaviour?

Here are some signs and symptoms  you might consider…

Pattern of out of control behaviour
Severe consequences due to sexual behaviour
Inability to stop in spite of adverse consequences
Persistent pursuit if self-destructive / high-risk behaviours
Sexual obsession or fantasy as a primary coping strategy
Severe mood changes around sexual activity

How is sexual addiction treated?

Most sex addicts live in denial of their addiction, and treating an addiction is dependent on the person accepting and admitting that he or she has a problem. In many cases, it takes a significant event — such as the loss of a job, the break-up of a marriage, an arrest, or health crisis — to force the addict to admit to his or her problem.

Treatment of sexual addiction focuses on controlling the addictive behavior and helping the person develop a healthy sexuality. Treatment includes education about healthy sexuality, individual counseling, and marital and/or family therapy.

Sexual addictions are caused by misuse of a person’s natural sex drive. The addiction will usually be started in puberty but it can also be developed later in life. Once started it leads to a compulsion the sexually addicted person tries to avoid, but can’t. In the later stages it can affect every part of the person’s life. Self-respect, intimate relationships, associations with family and friends, finances and career can take second place to his sexual addiction. If the sexually addicted person is honest with himself, he’ll realize that his sex life is underscored by confusion, conflict, and regret. The joy of wonderful loving sex now competes with his sexual addiction.

The movies and the media portray sex addicts as having fun. A sex addict compulsively tries to use sex to conceal his personal problems just as an alcoholic uses booze or a drug addict loses control over his life to drugs. Sexually addictive behavior, like any other addiction, delivers short-term thrills followed by long-term miseries.

Getting a sex addiction stopped is the most important decision the sexually addicted person can make in his or her life. The fear of failure is normal, especially if you’ve failed before at stopping.

Just about anyone who acts sexually addictive has made some attempt to stop. It might have been only for a day, but they tried – and they failed. If you’ve tried to overcome sex addiction before and weren’t able to, the biggest barrier to your success is believing you cannot succeed.

Let’s imagine you wanted to teach a kid how to ride a bike. You’ve taught lots of kids and you’re sure this kid can make it. He doesn’t believe he can. He tried to learn before but was not taught correctly. Now he’s sick and tired of failing. You know that the only thing holding him back is his belief that he can’t do it.

The answer to the fear of failure is to find a successful approach and persist.

Let’s change the problem from learning to ride a bike to learning how to overcome sexual addiction. Remember that the kid felt hopeless because of his past mistakes. This same problem can become your biggest obstacle to success, if you let it. You are not doomed to failure. A therapist can help you identify your past mistakes and help you correct them before they get in your way.

But what if you don’t believe that you can correct your mistakes? Ask yourself this question: “What if my situation isn’t hopeless? What if I really can overcome my addiction?”

Here’s what it takes to overcome sexual addiction:

Free will,  Knowledge,  Hard work.
Good counseling will provide you the knowledge. Good counseling will also help motivate you to make the free will choice to stop. Providing the effort is up to you. Just like the kid who can learn to ride the bike if he makes the effort, you can overcome sexual addiction, once your efforts are properly guided. We provide insights about developing effective motivation and will explain other mistakes to be aware of.

Don’t let past failures defeat you. Learn from them. Don’t give in to hopelessness. Use it to build motivation.

The first obstacle to overcoming sex addiction is not in your genes, your childhood or your environment. The first obstacle is the decision not to try. If you’re willing to make the effort, good counseling can guide you to success. The decision to make the effort and find the right guidance doesn’t apply only to sexual addiction. It applies to accomplishing anything.

Sexual Addiction and Self-deception

Self deception is the addict’s strongest defense against admitting s/he’s addicted.

Sexual addiction is more deceptive than most other addictions because sexual addiction provides the illusion of pleasure. The pleasure is escapist oriented. When the escape ends, the thrill of the addiction is over and the demands of real life return with a vengeance. Now the sex addict is confronted with the decision to face reality and gain the real pleasures of life or flee back into shallow fantasy. All too often the sex addict decides that sexual addiction is not escape and not an addiction. Some of the rationalisations used are:

“I’m not addicted. I do it to relieve stress.”
“It’s not an addiction. It’s a way of having fun.”
“All my friends do it.”
“You’re uptight about sex. I’m not.”
“I have more sex drive than most people.”
“It gives me pleasure. It can’t be an addiction if I like it.”
“I know guys who are sex addicts. I’d never do what they do.”
“I’m normal. You’re abnormal.”
“Sexual addiction is a myth put out by small-minded bigots and hypocrites.”

You know that your partner has a sex addiction. But do they know? If they don’t want to accept that their sexually addicted, what can you do? Even if they’ve accepted that they have  a problem, are they willing to stop? How can you help them stop? People are also quick to diagnose a healthy interest in porn or sex as an addiction.

Pornography is not like any other sexual addiction. It is usually associated with a masturbation addiction. Other sexual addictions, such as promiscuity, anonymous sex, phone sex, fetishes, and voyeurism, function independently from porn. Contrary to what you are told by the media, there are millions of sex addicts who have no interest in porn.

If the masturbation addiction is overcome, the interest in porn fades away.

From a partner’s point of view, pornography might seem to be the addiction. If you want to know what the real addiction is, ask your partner if they masturbate when they use porn. There are very, very few sexually addicted people who use porn without masturbating. The sexual charge that seems to be in porn is not the porn. The sexual charge is generated through masturbation. Some people will spend a whole night looking for the “perfect” image to masturbate to. Other will masturbate continuously while looking at pornography. Here’s another question which will shed light on the real addiction. Ask you partner, “After you finish masturbating, do you continue looking at porn?” Expect the answer to be “No.”

If the real addiction were porn, they’d still be using it even after they finished masturbating. If you want to understand why someone gets addicted to porn learn about the connection between addictive masturbation and pornography.

Pornography used in conjunction with addictive masturbation gives the sexually addicted person the illusion that fantasy can be more satisfying than a real relationship. In the most extreme cases, the sexually addicted person prefers sex through pornography addiction instead of loving sex with a real person. Even in these situations, the addiction can be overcome and the relationship can be saved, if the addiction is approached correctly.

A pornography addiction cannot be overcome in the long run without dealing with the underlying masturbation addiction.

If the sexually addicted person is not in a relationship, they face a different challenge because pornography addiction becomes their sex life. The situation is far from hopeless, though, if the pornography addiction is approached correctly.

The Complexities of Sexual Addiction

Sex addiction is an intimate addiction and a complex one.

Successfully overcoming any problem begins with knowing what you’re dealing with. Sex addiction is diverse.

There are virgin sex addicts who never had sex with another person. His or her entire sexual experience has been only with themselves through masturbation and/or porn addiction. It’s ridiculous to give a virgin sex addict the same treatment as the person who’s been promiscuous all their lives.

An obsession with a fetish is not the same problem as a porn addiction. I am totally kink aware and kink friendly. A promiscuous person does not have the same addiction as the virgin sex addict. The husband cheating on his wife is not in the same boat as the voyeur. From these simple examples, we can see that an “every addiction is the same” approach does not apply to sexual addiction.

To begin successfully overcoming sex addiction, apply this easily observable fact:

All sexually addictive behavior falls into two categories:

Addictive sex alone
Addictive sex with someone else

The most common forms of addictive sex alone are masturbation addiction and/or pornography addiction.

Promiscuity and infidelity fall into the category of addictive sex with someone else.

The other sexual addictions can be categorized as either addictive sex alone or with someone else.

Many sexually addicted people have sexual addictions in both categories. Besides identifying which category the addiction resides in, you also need to take into account if the addicted person is in a relationship. A couple trying to hold their relationship together while struggling with a sexual addiction requires a very different approach than the sexually addicted person who is not in a relationship.

Understanding if you are engaging in addictive sex alone, or with someone else, or both will help you control your sexual addiction because it will help you understand it better. But identifying a problem does not end it.

When it comes to relationships, sexually addicted people can be classified into two major groups:

Those who seek relationships to satisfy their addiction.
Those who have a sexual addiction that conflicts with their genuine, loving relationship.
The person whose relationships are defined by sexual addiction uses people for an addictive fix. Characteristically, this type of sex addict doesn’t get into long-term relationships. S/he does not represent most sexually addicted people.

The majority of sexually addicted people seek a long-term committed relationship. They are serious about commitment yet their sexual addiction creates an impersonal barrier between the relationship they want to develop and the addictive fantasy life they’re obsessed with.

The partner usually doesn’t discover their partner is sexualy addicted until after they’ve committed .

The partner of a sexually addicted person experiences emotional and/or sexual neglect. Usually, the sexually addicted person doesn’t even realise that their sexual addiction is creating emotional barriers between them and their partner. In some cases, they doesn’t realise it until they lose the relationship.

When the partner discovers that their partner is sexually addicted, they will usually suffer more than the addict will because thay mayt feel that they have to compete against the sexual compulsion. They also might feel that her relationship is hopelessly lost to sexual addiction. Yet, in most cases theywill stay until the bitter end trying to save the relationship.

Millions of sexually addicted people have lost good relationships and their loving families because they did not overcome their addiction. Relationships don’t have to end because of sex addiction. The addiction can be overcome and the couple can build the partnership they had expected to have.

Sexual Addiction and Financial Issues

Sexual addiction is not free. Even the person with a porn addiction who gets their porn for free on the Internet pays for their addiction by investing valuable time and precious effort into fantasy. Everything has a price. Sometimes the loss of money is the least painful price. The toll that sexual addiction takes on a relationship and the emotional isolation it causes cannot be healed by money.

Those sexually addicted people who spend money on their addiction usually don’t realise how much they’re spending. They don’t want to look at the financial costs because adding up how much they’ve spent can ruin the fantasy.

A sex addict can invest hours surfing the Internet and not even realise they’ve lost an entire evening to sex addiction until the sun comes up to remind them that there is a life outside of fantasy. Every addicted person deludes him or herself about the real costs of their addiction, lack of sleep and finding you haven’t gone to bed with your partner or sneaking downstairs whe they’re asleep are not uncommon.

The worst price paid for sexual addiction is loss of an intimate relationship and or finding yourself trapped in a world of emotional isolation. The real riches in life are gained through intimacy and effectively dealing with reality.

Promiscuity, Infidelity, and Meaningless Sex

A promiscuous person has meaningless sexual encounters with numerous people.

By comparison, some people who engage in meaningless sex have only one partner.

The promiscuous person and the person who has meaningless sex with only one partner share a common trait. They are both attempting to avoid intimacy.

Genuine loving sex requires commitment and emotional vulnerability.

The difference between meaningless sex and loving sex is the difference between addiction and intimacy

Meaningless sex releases a person from emotional vulnerability. The person might be completely faithful to his or her partner, but they are not emotionally committed to the partner. The partner is a human sex toy. Some people take a warm bath for relaxation and enjoyment. Some people read a book, listen to music, take a walk, or spend time with friends. For the person with one meaningless sex partner, sex is just another form of taking a warm bath, or any other non-intimate activity.

The promiscuous person doesn’t even make the effort to create any kind of loyal relationship. To him or her, people are interchangeable bodies. As one promiscuous person told me, “I don’t want to be stuck with just one flavor of ice cream.” He wasn’t kidding. To him, people were just different flavors to be sampled and discarded.

Helping the promiscuous person overcome his or her sexual addiction is more difficult than helping the person who engages in meaningless sex but is not promiscuous. The path to overcoming sex addiction for both persons is traveled by opening oneself up to the need for intimacy.

Infidelity occurs when someone in a committed relationship is unfaithful to his or her partner. In the context of sexual addiction, the unfaithful person might be promiscuous or might be unfaithful with only one person. But the underlying emotions behind the unfaithful activity are the same: sex without intimacy or emotional involvement. (Note: if the infidelity involves an emotional affair based on a real connection, it might not be addictive behaviour.)

What makes infidelity worse than promiscuity or meaningless sex with one person is the lying and dishonesty that accompanies the unfaithful acts. Ask any person who’s been victimised by infidelity and they will tell you, “The lying and betrayal hurt more than the unfaithful sex.”

The unfaithful person needs to go beyond just sex addiction and to deal with honesty issues also.

 

Types of Sexual Addiction


Unlike alcoholism, there are many different forms of sexual addiction. Please note, the use of he can be read as she also.

A fetish addiction is a more detached escape from reality because the focus of the addiction is on an object, not a person. The fetish enables the sexually addicted person to experience sexual pleasure without even the fantasy of human contact. In some instances the object is used to stimulate a fantasy of human contact. However, any sexual compulsion towards objects intensifies intimacy problems that can lead to divorce or a life of emotional isolation. If no other person is involved, it is in the category of addictive sex alone.

Voyeurism (the Peeping Tom syndrome) also removes the sex addict from emotional vulnerability. Through this form of sexual addiction, the voyeur seeks sexual pleasure without the risk of intimacy or even revealing himself. And he doesn’t respect the privacy of the people he spies on. Since the voyeur relies on using another person for sexual stimulation, his addiction falls into the category of addictive sex with another person.

Phone sex is another form of addictive sex with someone else. Although there is no physical contact between the participants and they don’t even see each other, the sexually addicted person is using the other person for sexual stimulation he could not experience alone.

Sadomasochism goes beyond avoiding intimacy. It is based on gaining sexual pleasure through destructive and humiliating sex acts. It is certainly a form of sexually addictive behavior with someone else.

Nymphomania is a form of promiscuity. It enables the sex addict to escape the demands of a real relationship and gain a short-term sexual pleasure that leads to a life of continual loneliness. The need for loving intimacy and genuine emotional involvement cannot be replaced through promiscuity.

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