Normally sex and intimacy should be with the same person
Sex Addiction is called an intimacy disorder because people who are sex addicts do not know how to relate in an intimate (close) relationship in an open and comfortable way. Not only are sex and intimacy detached from one another they are not even in the same neighborhood. Intimacy is an essential part of love relationships. It is the ability to share all parts of ourselves (our thoughts, our bodies, our feelings), to be vulnerable, and to be honest about what is going on inside of us. Even with someone they love, sex addicts are “intimacy disabled”, that is they are fearful of sharing their true selves with another person and are therefore unable to share one or more aspects of their true selves. They are unhappy and lonely and desperately want to “connect”. Like the now cliché lyric says, they are “looking for love in all the wrong places”. But the solution to the problem does not lie outside of them. It is more than just bad choices, poor judgment or a lack of adequate information. It is a deeper problem and that is why it is termed and intimacy disorder. The sex addict is literally unable to break down the wall that distorts and separates his sex life from his normal life and unable to integrate the various parts of himself in the context of a loving relationship. See for partners of sex addicts.
Origins in Infant and childhood bonding problems
Sexual addiction as an intimacy disorder results in part from a lack of adequate bonding due to some disruption in the relationship to a primary caregiver (usually the parent). Sex addicts were often sexually abused as children but they are more often emotionally neglected and tend to come from families that are rigid, authoritarian or sexually repressed. This failure leads to an inability to trust and to bond normally with another and a fear of sharing all the parts of oneself with another. In sex addicts this intimacy disorder results in the addict leading a “double life”. Most often the addict’s sex life exists apart from his or her life with a spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend. Even when the sex addict is having sex with a partner or spouse, it is often the case that the addict is not “all there”. He or she may be lost in fantasy or just going through the motions. Many addicts feel they are having satisfying sex with their partners when in fact they are not really able to be present. Even addicts who feel they really desire their partner usually have some other more compelling and highly charged experience that they revert to outside of their relationship whether it is serial seduction, hook-ups, prostitutes, chat rooms or affairs.
It’s not always the parents’ fault
Not all problems with attachment in childhood and the resulting intimacy disorders come from parental neglect. Some attachment problems also arise through accidents of fate such as the illness, absence or death of a caregiver. (There is also thought to be both a genetic predisposition to addictions in general which may be passed on as a predisposition to addiction in the case of sexual addiction as well.)
Intimacy disorder is curable
A person who is so-called “intimacy-abled” is able to form a healthy intimate and sexual attachment with a partner in adulthood. That implies the ability to trust your partner, to trust your own ability to set boundaries, to communicate your feelings in the moment, to be able to commit, and to relate to a partner with all aspects of yourself and not to lead part of your life in isolation or compartmentalization, separate from the one you love. The untreated baggage of a disordered attachment history leads to mistrust, fear, distancing, sexual conflicts, feeling unlovable, and lack of experience with healthy communication. These are underlying problems that are effectively treated in sex addiction treatment and sex addiction therapy. The work of recovery is not only about becoming able to abstain from compulsive sexual addictive behaviors; it is about learning to relate to others in a different way. Tackling the intimacy disorder aspects of the sex addict psyche is fundamental to lasting recovery from sex addiction. See also Getting Help.