Intimacy Disability and the Loneliness of Sex Addicts

Addicts are profoundly lonely. They may be active and sociable; they may have friends. But in terms of the deeper emotional connection to a partner, they tend to keep themselves on a starvation diet. The loneliness of course is self-imposed. Addicts are not addicts because they are making up for the fact that they don’t happen to have a lover. Their addiction and their emotional isolation are both related to a deep fear of intimacy. It has always been striking to me that they should suffer so much in their alienation.

Childhood issues

I find that most often sex addicts are not aware of how fearful they are about intimate relationships.  They have most likely come from families in which they received inadequate or inappropriate forms of connection with adults. Without realizing it, they have adopted a way of behaving based on fear and the avoidance of intimate connection.

I have heard many addicts tell me that as a child they felt ignored discounted, abandoned or invisible. This is their model of close relating; it is one of intense pain and stress. And this can be true despite the fact that their family life and childhood appeared outwardly “normal“.

Intimacy avoidance and sexual acting out

Many sex addicts are using their addictive acting out behavior as a substitute for an intimate connection. Their addictive behavior provides an illusion of some kind of connection, reinforced by sexual gratification in a situation that is safe. Sexual acting out is emotionally safe because it requires nothing from the addict on an emotional level.

For the typical sex addict, this way of finding gratification without intimacy is not a matter of wanting to be selfish and controlling, although that is how it ends up looking. But rather it is a way of finding an escape from negative emotions and achieving some gratification without having to experience intense discomfort and fear. Sometimes it is due to sexual inhibition and shame. Other times it is the fear of letting their guard down and feeling that they will inevitably be hurt. Or it involves feeling so unworthy and unlovable that they cannot feel free to be who they are. Usually it is a combination of the above.

Intimacy avoidance in relationships

The intimacy avoidance that goes along with sex addiction shows up in relationships in a number of ways.

  • Avoiding sex

Sexual connecting in the context of an intimate relationship can be too difficult for an addict to do comfortably. Even if they are very attracted to their partner or would-be partner, they may try to create emotional distance. For example, they may be emotionally absent during sex or lost in fantasy, they may want to drink alcohol as a way to be less present during sex, or they may avoid sex altogether.

  • Avoiding physical intimacy

Sex addicts often come from families in which there was an absence of physical touching and affection. Thus they may feel that hugging, cuddling, etc. are awkward and uncomfortable. Some addicts were smothered by physical touching in an inappropriate way and they too may avoid physical affection due to feeling vulnerable.

  • Not being able to express their needs

Many sex addicts isolate themselves emotionally by avoiding letting the other person in on what they feel, need or want. This is a fear of being unworthy or of being rejected or hurt.

  • Being self conscious around people or in social situations

Often addicts substitute a role or facade for actually showing up emotionally. They may play a role, eg teacher, guru, performer, etc. with people instead of just being able to be who they are and take their chances.

  • Withdrawing into work or another addiction

Some addicts escape the demands of intimacy by becoming swallowed up in work or exercise or other hobbies that take them away from their partner and other potentially intimate contacts.

  • Fleeing intimate connection

Many addicts can enter a relationship but leave before it becomes too intimate. They may think this is a fear of commitment, or not the “right person”, when in reality they feel inadequate to the demands of a relationship and/or fear being abandoned by anyone they are close to.

Intimacy avoidance and loneliness

The same addict who is doing everything to avoid intimacy will often feel desperately needy and lonely. Sometimes the addict is aware of a longing for connection; other times the addict lives without intimate relating but doesn’t quite know what is missing or why they push people away. Isolation and loneliness can then become the excuse and the occasion for sexual acting out such as online sex, sexual massage parlors, prostitutes, etc. It is only in recovery that the addict can recognize his or her own lack of intimacy ability and begin to practice new behaviors to overcome their fears of being known and connected.

Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource

Fake Romance: Understanding a Seduction Addict’s Playbook

“What just happened?”

That can be the feeling you get when you’ve encountered a seduction addict. These are the “nice guys” of sex addiction.  But anyone who has ever dated a compulsive seducer can tell you that they are as intimacy disabled as any other sex addict, maybe more so.  They tend to leave a nasty trail of non-relationships behind them and their future looks pretty much like their past.

We’ll look at what to expect in a typical scenario of a person dating a seduction addict, but first let’s look at the essential features of this kind of sex addict.

Characteristics of seduction sex addicts

  • They are addicted to the rush of falling in love, not the sexual act.
  • They are obsessed with being desired sexually and making a romantic connection.
  • They begin to lose sexual desire for a person immediately after the initial conquest.
  • They are not interested in having a real relationship.
  • They cannot sustain interest beyond the initial romance.
  • They are deeply cynical about lasting relationships because they fear them and don’t understand them.
  • They often carry on multiple flirtations to insure a supply for the future.

The stages in a seduction addict’s romantic scenario

(The seduction addict can be male or female.  I am using “he” for convenience only.)

  1. Predatory Flirting.  He  uses any encounter to start a flirtation.  He finds extremely subtle ways to be romantically suggestive.  For example, he might say “Maybe it’s not an accident that we ran into each other.”  Sometimes he will take a strong interest in you, or he may be very protective.  But he keeps it vague and indirect so he always has an “out.”
  2. Romantic Connection.  Assuming you actually connect, there is the initial romance.  Everything is exciting and special.  This beginning stage in an attachment is called “limerence” and it is an altered state.  One seduction addict admitted to me that the high point of a relationship for him was the first kiss.  However, at no point can you expect the addict to take the lead. Instead of making a definite plan for a date he may call or email on some flimsy pretext in order to get you to take the initiative.  Above all he wants to know he is desired.  He will want to feel that you initiated sex.
  3. The Affair of the Century.  The two of you are perfect together.  You are likely to be swept away and to not notice that you don’t know anything about what this guy really wants for the future.  That’s because the future doesn’t exist.  If you ask what his intentions are you will get only vague hints. You never really get past his “story,” that prefab profile of himself that he uses to win people over.  He will resist appearing socially as a couple. Real life would spoil his addictive “high.”
  4. The Exit.  The final phase is one in which the seducer’s “high” wears off. He begins to feel trapped. Often he will hide his waning interest by “doing things” for you; anything from walking your dog to painting your kitchen.  This is partly to avoid a real relationship and partly out of guilt, as he knows he’s getting ready to leave.  He has already begun noticing new targets for seduction.  He will then exit, perhaps explaining that he has neglected his work, or that he’s not ready to make a commitment.

Compulsive seduction is the same as any other sex addiction

In the end, the seduction addict is the same as any other sex addict.  Voyeurs, exhibitionists, pornography addicts; whatever the behavior the addiction is the same.  The addict uses the behavior to avoid intimacy and kill the pain of low self-worth.

Not realizing he needs help, the seduction addict may think he wants a lasting relationship but he will not realize that the problem is him.  He may go on for a very long time without hitting bottom.