One client’s story
I look back
now, and I feel sad for most of my life. What I mean by that is I
made excuses for my parents, and I blamed myself for the lack of
intimacy with my husband. If I had just been a better daughter or a
better wife, a better little girl and a better woman, then maybe
things would have been happier for me. But the truth of the matter
is, my mother and father rarely paid any attention to me.
So, of course,
I married a man who was very nice, but who never initiated any love
or even attention with me. I guess I first noticed it when I was
dating. Why did I marry him? I believe now it is because all I
ever knew was - no attention from people that say they love me. I
guess I thought that was what love was. At least that is what I was
When I first
realized all this in therapy, and that nothing I ever could have
done would fix it, I was so angry for taking the blame for all those
years. Now I am just sad for who I was. What a sad and lonely
person I was. But thanks to my therapist and the 12 step group, I'm
not sad "now" with my present life. I'm just sad when I think about
who I used to be. I wish I had been more educated years ago.
Oh well, I plan
on living forever under God's Kingdom, and at least now I'm not that
sad neglected little girl or lonely woman always trying to be good
enough to be loved. Now I know that I really am precious in God's
eyes. Funny I never felt like that before. That was the sad me.
This is the new and improved me!
My husband is
now also in a 12 step group and getting counseling with Heart to
Heart. Who knows, maybe soon I can even be happy with him. But
whatever happens, I know I will be better than I ever have been
throughout my whole life.
I thank you,
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It’s about how to move forward in your life and
what to expect during recovery. She discusses family of origin work,
relapse, relationships, and the process of breaking free.
Beattie addresses all the ideas dealing with
shame, growing in self-esteem, sharing recovery with others and
getting beyond fatal attractions to find relationships that work.
Most of all, this is a book about growing in
self-love, and how to affirm and nurture yourself. Along with that
it is about loving others and letting them love you. It’s about
knowing it’s okay to continue working on yourself and not how to
change or help the other person. It does a great job of covering
boundaries, intimacy, and how to negotiate conflicts. Finally, this
is a book about the spiritual and trusting God and finding love.
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Recovering from Sexual Addiction”
Couples who do well:
Have made their
individual recovery a first priority
with others through attending
12 step meetings as well as reach out to others for support
individual and couple counseling to identify systems that no
couple recovery is a challenging and evolving journey
Read books and
employ audiovisual resources for information
Are willing to
Have a strong
respect for and commitment toward each other
What to Expect
The first three to six months of couple
recovery are usually the most stressful. Both partners will
experience a wide range of powerful feelings. There are often
difficulties in the areas of communication styles, intimacy levels,
sexuality, spirituality, parenting, past trauma, and finances.
Identification of the sexual addiction/co-addiction systems,
although painful at first, holds hope for eventual relief of the far
greater pain of the addiction.
The following is a list of
what to expect in the early stages:
The addict usually finds a great sense of relief after admitting the
secret of the addiction. The end of the double life and shame may
bring a premature sense of accomplishment that needs to be
reinforced by attending meetings, going to therapy, and connecting
with program friends for support. Co-addicts also feel a sense of
relief at the end of secrecy and validation of their experience of
Both partners can expect to experience anger. The revelation that
the life partner is a sex addict may trigger much anger mixed with
legitimate hurt and betrayal. The addict feels anger about the need
to make changes as part of recovery. Both partners may blame and
shame the other.
The work being done by both partners can bring new life and hope to
the relationship. Both partners are encouraged to attend separate 12
step meetings as well as couples meetings such as Recovering Couples
The self-esteem of both partners initially may worsen but with
continued recovery will improve as both work on a recovery program.
Recovering couples begin to communicate at a more intimate level,
often on issues they have never discussed before. Communication
skills such as empathic listening, being respectful, and expressing
vulnerability, are essential to both partners' recovery.
The addict experiences pain over the loss of their "best friend,"
the addiction. The co-addict mourns both the loss of the
relationship as it was imagined to be, and the reality of the
partner being a sex addict. Co-addicts often berate themselves for
not having been aware sooner of the addiction.
Sexuality has a different meaning in recovery. The goal becomes
intimacy rather than intensity. Abstinence, and later the frequency,
types, and quality of sexual contacts, are issues that the
recovering couple must address. Past sexual relationships as well as
possible past child sexual abuse of either partner need to be
explored. Where other sexual partners were involved, the possibility
of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases must be
faced early. Couples who continue to learn about healthy sexuality
will do better as they address these sexual issues.
Couples who grow spiritually together have hope that a power greater
than themselves is also involved in the re-creating of their
How to Get Help
Therapists trained in sexual addiction are an
invaluable recovery tool for both the individual and for the
relationship. Addicts and co-addicts benefit from individual therapy
as well as group therapy – especially 12 step group therapy with
Call us for more
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What is sexual anorexia?
Sexual anorexia often coincides with withholding
emotionally, spiritually, and physically (such as touching, hugging,
etc.). As a partner, you feel like you are trying to attach to
someone who continually brings you pain. There is no intimacy for
the sexual anorexic as they do not connect with the primary partner.
People have no value to the sexual anorexic because they are objects
to them. Their focus is avoidance and they are good at manipulating
for avoidance. They act out with themselves or others sexually, but
withhold from their partner so the partner does not get their needs
can be men or women. The manifestations of sexual anorexia are many,
often masked. The anorexics history may include childhood sexual
abuse, sexual exploitation or severe traumatic sexual rejection. It
could be the
reaction to a
partner's sexual addiction. Commonly, it is the latter stage of a
sex addict who has progressed through the addiction to a point where
they prefer their addictive behavior over relational sex with their
partner. Then the sexual anorexia becomes an obsessive state where
the physical and emotional task of avoiding relational sex dominates
marry and never consummate the marriage. Some go through long
periods (sometimes years) of sexual abstinence with their partner.
Typically, sexual anorexics will experience some or all of these:
For control, they put everyone
in their life in a state of deprivation
They avoid intimacy
They suffer guilt and shame and
keep everyone walled off
They suffer stress and us the
anorexia to cope with it
They have fantasies that
Withholding love from partner
Withholding praise or
appreciation from partner
Control by the use of silence
Ongoing criticism or ungrounded
criticism that causes isolation
Withholding sex from partner
while they are sexual with self or others
Unwilling to discuss feelings
with their partner
Staying so busy there is no
Making “it” about the partner
and not owning their own “stuff”
Controlling or shaming partner
with money issues
attachment disorder with cross gender parent and sexual addiction.
SEXUAL ANOREXIA in the
become sexually anorexic in order to control the addict. Typically,
this is an extreme compensating mechanism used by the partner to
balance the relationship. Usually, the more out of control the
addict is, the more closed down the partner becomes. In order to
know if you have been doing this or if you have the presence of this
type of behavior, you can answer the following questions. If you
answer yes to 2 or more, you have the presence of sexual anorexia.
Do you isolate from your partner?
Do you withhold sex from your partner?
Do you withhold love from your partner?
Do you withhold praise or appreciation from your partner?
Do you use anger or silence to control your partner?
Do you stay busy so there is no relational time for your partner?
Do you have an ongoing criticism of your partner?
Do you make the issues about your partner instead of owning your own
Do you avoid or are you unwilling to discuss feelings with your
Do you use control or shame on your partner around money issues?
scarred, damaged or don't exist when:
healthy boundaries aren't modeled or taught to children
children's boundaries and rights are invaded or violated
children are forced into inappropriate roles with those
adults are chemically dependent or compulsive disorders
children are neglected emotionally or physically
children are abandoned or not nurtured-a self cannot develop
in a void
there is abuse, humiliation, or shame damage
inappropriate generational roles occurred among family
children have to take care of someone who should be their
caregiver and they feel responsible for that person
controlling people invade territory
boundaries, relationships will cause us fear
With too many boundaries, there is no relationship
Developing healthy boundaries:
- Set a limit clearly without anger and in as
few words as possible using "I messages"
- You cannot set a boundary and take care of
another person's feelings at the same time
- Anger, rage, complaining, and whining are
clues to boundaries you need to set
- You will be tested when you set boundaries
- Be prepared to follow through by acting in
congruence with boundaries-need to match the behavior
- Some people are happy to respect our
- You will set boundaries when you are ready
and not before
- A support system can be helpful when you
strive to establish and enforce boundaries
- Boundaries are a personal issue
- Strive for balance and flexibility
- What are the most difficult boundaries for
you to set?
- Is somebody in your life using you, or not
treating you respectfully?
- What will happen if you set the boundaries
you are considering
- How do you feel when you are around people
with no boundaries?
- In the past, what have you been willing to
lose for the sake of a relationship? What are you willing to lose
now? What are you willing not to lose?
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