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In ‘The Inner Fix’ - the book I wrote with my friend Joey, I rather brazenly shared how I’ve done some pretty unsavoury things in the relationships department over the years.
I cheated on every boyfriend I ever had, I had multiple one night stands, and I hooked up with (and ended up dating) men who were already in relationships, to name but a few.
However, whilst I certainly wasn’t proud of such behaviour, I didn’t find owning up to it half as challenging or scary as I’ve found speaking openly about what’s helped me overcome these issues:
Attending Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings.
(Just typing that has made me cringe a little...)
In today’s world, there seems to be even more stigma around sex and love addiction than there is around food, drugs or alcohol-related addictions - especially when the sex/ love addict in question also happens to be a woman.
I’ve yet to see anyone on social media celebrate a sobriety birthday from sex and love addiction, for instance. Not one.
I think this stigma’s what makes it so hard for people to admit they have a problem in this area, let alone seek help with it.
Well, I think it’s high time we did something about that.
After all, nothing can be changed until it’s first acknowledged, and the more open we are about stigmatic topics such as this one, the less power they have over us – just look at how much attitudes have changed around mental health in recent years.
Being a love coach, I have people come to me with all sorts of struggles around their love life, and whilst many of them wouldn’t necessarily identify themselves as being a sex or love addict as such (again, largely because of the stigma), most of them do relate to the characteristics associated with sex and love addiction.
Now, before I share these characteristics with you, it’s worth mentioning that, unlike substance-related addictions, individual patterns of sex and love addiction tend to vary significantly.
I’ve never had an addiction to porn, for example, whilst another sex or love addict may not have the same predisposition to codependency in relationships that I do.
So, as you read over the following list, just be aware of what seems to resonate for you personally, and most importantly, don’t panic or judge yourself, because most of us will identify with at least a couple of these characteristics (I’ve related to every single one at some point!).
* Also, don’t be off put when you see the word ‘God’ – Twelve Step fellowships often use this as a convenient stand in for the concept of spiritual connection.
The Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction
(taken from: http://www.slaauk.org)
1. Having few healthy boundaries, we become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them.
2. Fearing abandonment and loneliness, we stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships, concealing our dependency needs from ourselves and others, growing more isolated and alienated from friends and loved ones, ourselves, and God.
3. Fearing emotional and/or sexual deprivation, we compulsively pursue and involve ourselves in one relationship after another, sometimes having more than one sexual or emotional liaison at a time.
4. We confuse love with neediness, physical and sexual attraction, pity and/or the need to rescue or be rescued.
5. We feel empty and incomplete when we are alone. Even though we fear intimacy and commitment, we continually search for relationships and sexual contacts.
6. We sexualize stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing, care, and support.
7. We use sex and emotional involvement to manipulate and control others.
8. We become immobilized or seriously distracted by romantic or sexual obsessions or fantasies.
9. We avoid responsibility for ourselves by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable.
10. We stay enslaved to emotional dependency, romantic intrigue, or compulsive sexual activities.
11. To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all intimate involvement, mistaking sexual and emotional anorexia for recovery.
12. We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations.
Still with me?!
I know that can be a pretty daunting read – it certainly was for me when I first read it back in 2011.
If, like me, when you read over that list you felt a sickening feeling of identification in the pit of your stomach, my first suggestion to you is to just RELAX.
I’ve been where you are, and I promise you, there is a way through it. If I’m now able to have a happy, healthy relationship (for the most part), I genuinely believe anyone can – as long as they’re willing to get the help and support they need.
For some of you, attending Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings might feel like the right next move (if so, you can find out more about these meetings here: http://www.slaauk.org/is-slaa-for-me/)
For others, that may feel like waaaaay too big a step for you right now, and that’s absolutely fine, too.
Perhaps looking in to getting one-to-one therapy sessions with a professional experienced in sex and love addiction or relationship-based issues is where you’re at right now (I still attend therapy too, by the way). Just head to Google and look for some therapists near you, as a first port of call.
Or, maybe you just want to learn a little more about all this stuff from the comfort and safety of your own home, in which case, I recommend the following books – they’ve helped me so much over the years:
Facing Love Addiction – Pia Mellody
Facing Codependence – Pia Mellody
Codependent No More – Melody Beattie
The Language of Letting Go – Melody Beattie
Wherever you are with all of this, I encourage you to just take one small step towards the solution, whatever that might look like for you.
I can tell you from my own experience that investing even a small amount of time, money and energy in to my sex and love-based issues has changed my life and all of my relationships indescribably.
My hope is that you’ll feel brave enough to do the same for yourself.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Having read the above, do you identify as a sex or love addict? Which characteristic did you resonate with the most? (I know you’re gonna have to be brave to share this with me…)
If you have any other questions or thoughts around this topic, I’d be so grateful to hear them in the comments below – I think it’s so important we start talking openly about this stuff if we’re to remove the stigma :)
All my love,