By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C, Seattle Christian Counseling
References “Wired for Intimacy” by William M. Struthers and “Out of the Shadows” by Patrick Carnes
All people long to bond with others. We want someone to share in our joys and support us in our sorrows. As Romantic pianist and composer Frederic Chopin said, “It is dreadful when something weighs on your mind, not to have a soul to unburden yourself to. You know what I mean. I tell my piano the things I used to tell you.”
How Sex Addicts Distort Intimacy?
Unfortunately for sex addicts, they share this longing for companionship, but cannot have it. For them, every relationship must be sexual. And their fear that someone will discover their addiction makes them keep everyone else at a distance.
Most sex addicts are sexually abused as children. Parents teach their children how to approach relationships. When a parent introduces sex to that relationship, the child assumes all relationships have to be sexual. (Carnes 59)
“As a child matures, there begins a search for what is dependable–something that you can trust to make you feel better. When a child’s exploration of sexuality goes beyond discovery to routine self-comforting because of the lack of human care, there is potential for addiction. Sex becomes confused with comforting and nurturing. Moreover, the assumption is made that everyone else feels and acts the same. Therefore, to feel secure means to be sexual.” (101-102)
How Sexual Addiction prevents Relationships?
Not only are they incapable of having nonsexual relationships, they are also convinced people would not want a relationship if they knew about their addiction. “The belief ‘I am basically a bad, unworthy person’ structures the emotional foundations of the addict’s world.” (Carnes 108) And because they do not feel comfortable sharing their feelings of worthlessness with another person, they self-medicate with sex. The rush of eroticism makes them feel better, if only temporarily.
Emotional and Physical Intimacy in marriage
An inability to pursue emotional intimacy in addition to sexual intimacy is one reason couples struggle sexually, even when sex addiction isn’t a factor. Struthers uses the example of husband who wishes he could have sex with lots of women. He supports his argument with the popular theory that men are biologically driven to spread their seed. (162)
Struthers counters by asking him, “What if you got to be promiscuous with your wife because your understanding of her was always changing? What if you discovered things about her that her always new, always fresh? She could be a new woman for you to pursue every day.” (163)
While enjoyable sex is possible without emotional intimacy, it is an inferior substitute. Emotional intimacy enhances everything. Meals with people you care about are more fun than when you eat alone. Teams of athletes who get along play better than those who don’t.
Christian counseling for misplaced Intimacy
For people who misunderstand intimacy, relationships are shells of what God intended them to be. God created Eve so Adam would not have to live without emotional intimacy. He may have had plenty of animal companions and work to do in the garden, but he would still be lonely. Ecclesiastes and Proverbs are full of scriptures about the benefits of non-sexual intimate relationships. “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord. One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:22, 24 NIV)
If you struggle with sex addiction, or if the emotional intimacy has left your marriage, consider getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They can help you understand why you have so much difficulty forming emotional bonds with others. A professional Christian counselor will use therapeutic techniques and biblical principles to help you create a better life for yourself.
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