Dr. Marcy Dater Weiss, Ph. D, LCSW, CEAP, CAP, SAP is a Psychotherapist and Board Certified Sexologist. She has worked extensively with clients with addictions, sexual abuse, depression and anxiety as well as anger management and family issues.
It can be difficult for recovering sex addicts to know what a healthy intimate relationship feels like.
Healthy romantic love is a unique experience which can encourage bonding, intimacy, and the opportunity to play and explore with that special new person.
Romance, encourages personal growth as each new relationship forces new insights and self- awareness. The beginning of a love relationship is known as the “Limerance Stage” which can be intense and exciting. There is a chemical “rush” during the first stage of love and romance; it’s reminiscent of your favorite songs, warm greeting cards, and happy memories. Healthy intimacy, begins from those romantic interludes and turns into mature love if the couple endures the “tough times”. After a while the newness wears off and a couple is left to deal with real life “character defects” that threaten the relationship.
It is a challenge for anyone who is not a sex addict to really ascertain how sexuality can be exploited and progress into destructive patterns of addiction and compulsion. For a sex addict, romantic love, sexuality, and closeness are experiences that are often filled with pitfalls, anxiety, and pain. The sex addict is imprisoned in a world of desperation and despair, fearful of being alone or rejected.
Understanding what a healthy intimate relationship consists of can be challenging at best. It is, however, an integral part of gaining awareness and growth. The following are ingredients found in a healthy sexual relationship:
1. A feeling of well-being is derived by sex: Feelings of safety, connection and validation naturally occur in a healthy sexual relationship. For a sex addict it may take time to move away from feelings of danger, disconnection and shame.
2. Experiencing emotional and physical sensations: In a healthy intimate relationship, both partners are aware of their own vulnerability. They take care to please their partner and enjoy sensations themselves.
3. Use of balance and moderation in sexual relationships: Sex addicts tend to live in extremes of sexual energy, experiencing excessive sexual tension or repressed, walled-off sexual feelings. When you develop sexual maturity, you can control an appropriate flow of sexual energy.
4. Creativity and passion are rediscovered: Feeling relaxed and safe, partners can be more creative and passionate and yet feel safe.
5. Learn to nurture yourself in non-genital ways: Healthy sexuality can be experienced without intercourse or sexual behaviors. Enjoy the sensuality of being together doing other events that are not necessarily sexual. Nurture yourself by learning to relax; perhaps a hot bath, a massage, enjoying the beach or having lunch with friends.
6. Learning to deal with Life without resorting to sexual behavior: Being able to cope with disappointment, sadness, grief, tiredness and difficulty without resorting to sexual relief is an important part of recovery. Using sexual behavior whenever one feels uncomfortable, overwhelmed, sad or stressed needs to be identified and new coping strategies learned in order to recover.
7. Be emotionally honest with your partner: Most sex addicts fear betrayal, and sexualize their feelings to protect themselves from vulnerability, in a healthy intimate relationship you realize that vulnerability is central to relating honestly with others.
8. Maintain healthy boundaries with others: Healthy boundaries keep individuals safe and allow for each to get their basic needs met. Sex addicts have difficulty with healthy boundaries, either being too rigid, or not recognizing the importance of boundaries in keeping both people in the relationship safe.
9. Learning to trust: Begin by trusting yourself and learn to recognize what is truth. Utilizing healthy boundaries and understanding that your perception may be different from another person.
10.Forgive yourself: Be kind to yourself! The past behaviors cannot be changed, but beginning now you can learn a new way, a new path to true intimacy. Sex addicts tend to be hard on themselves. They are full of feelings of humiliation, shame, regret, frustration and self-blame. When sex addicts begin to forgive themselves they can be more compassionate in an intimate relationship!
MOST IMPORTANTLY- KEEP GROWING AND MOVE FORWARD!