A Cycle of Shame and Despair
In his book Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict, Patrick Carnes states that,
Contrary to enjoying sex as a self-affirming source of physical pleasure, the sex addict has learned to rely on sex for comfort from pain, nurturing, or relief from stress, etc., the way an alcoholic relies on alcohol or a drug addict on drugs.
The sex addict has persistent and escalating sexual thoughts and acts on them. Most addicts develop a routine or ritual that leads to sexual acting out, and which results in feelings of denial, shame, and despair. An addict will convince him or herself that it will never happen again, but soon the craving becomes too strong, and they once again succumb to the ritual and the acting out.
What is Gaslighting?
If you are the partner of someone you suspect is addicted to sex, you may have been made to feel a little crazy. You may have noticed things that the addict denies, which is called “gaslighting.” In the 1944 movie Gaslight, which starred Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, Boyer attempts to have his wife declared insane so that he can have the jewels her aunt has secreted somewhere in their home. His attempt to make her feel crazy and to doubt her memory and herself has come to be known as gaslighting. Addicts are especially good at hiding what they are doing, and will often gaslight their partners in order to prevent being discovered.
How to Tell if Your Partner is a Sex Addict
Here is a partial list of some signs that your partner is an addict. Although the following by themselves are not necessarily signs of addiction, taken together they can indicate that there is more than a casual interest in sex, and can help to identify whether that person has an addiction.
1) Are staying up late to surf the web, or watch television, more often than not.
2) Are often looking at pornographic materials.
3) Are often out of touch and/or unwilling to inform you of their whereabouts.
4) Are unwilling to explain 800 or 900 toll-free numbers on the phone bill.
5) Are controlling and demanding with regard to sex, including having certain requirements such as times, places, positions, etc.
6) Are uninterested in intimacy other than during the sex act.
7) Are dishonest about what they are doing.
8) Are using sexual humor frequently.
9) Are uncommunicative during sex.
10) Are masturbating frequently.
Christian Counseling for Sex Addiction
If you suspect that your partner is a sex addict, there is help available for both the addict and their partner. Therapists trained in sex addiction can help. As a Christian counselor and trained and certified sex addiction therapist candidate, I can help.
“Tree,” courtesy of -epsilon-, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Through the Mist,” courtesy of dbarcus1, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Sunrise,” courtesy of Dennis Yang, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)