title:Using Sex Addictively
author:Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Robert consulted with me because his wife, Andrea, was no longer interested in having sex with him. “Andrea says she feels objectified when we make love, and I don’t know what that means,” he stated. “I love her and I don’t think I see her as an object.”
“Well, when you want to make love to her, why are you wanting to make love? What is motivating you?” I asked.
As we explored this question, it became apparent that Robert’s desire for Andrea was generally motivated, not only by his physical need for sex, but also by his need to be validated by her and to relieve his stress. No time in his discussion with me did he say he wanted to make love to her as an expression of his love for her. At no time did he state that there were many ways he enjoyed sharing his love with her, such as time together, sharing fun, affection, cuddling. His focus in being with Andrea was in having sex with her, and if she didn’t want to, he was generally angry or withdrawn. While he professed that he was expressing his love when I asked him about it, his behavior was anything but loving.
“So, if she doesn’t feel turned on to you, and would rather cuddle or spend time together in some other way, that’s not okay with you? You don’t stay loving with her unless she does what you want?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I guess that’s what I do.”
Robert was quite distressed to learn that this is why Andrea felt objectified, and also to learn that he was using sex addictively. Anything we use outside ourselves to relieve stress, validate ourselves and fill ourselves up can become an addiction. In Robert’s case, he was using sex to avoid dealing with his stress and low self-esteem. He was using Andrea and sex as a Band-Aid to temporarily alleviate anxiety. And, he confessed, he went further with his addiction. He would masturbate to pornography and attend expensive strip clubs in his efforts avoid responsibility for his own feelings and needs. Underneath his addictive behavior, Robert felt deeply insecure and afraid much of the time. Rather than dealing with his fears and insecurities, he was using sex, just as someone else might use food, drugs or alcohol.
As long as Robert was coming to her needy rather than loving, there was nothing for Andrea to feel turned on to. Andrea wanted their sex to be an expression of their love for each other, not a way to relieve Robert’s anxiety or fill his emptiness, and had reached the place in her own growth where she was no longer willing to be used by him.
Fortunately, Robert was motivated to do the inner work necessary to heal his sexual addiction. Through his work with the Inner Bonding process that I teach, Robert was able to establish, for the first time in his life, a connection with a spiritual source of love and guidance. Through learning to work with his spiritual guidance, he was able to begin to heal the limiting beliefs he had absorbed as he was growing up about his adequacy and worth. As he began to discover the beauty within him – his gentleness, integrity, creativity, and ability to care about others – he began to feel much better about himself. He learned to speak up for himself in work and social situations, as well as with Andrea. As he learned be loving with himself, the emptiness within him that led to his neediness gradually diminished. The more he was loving with himself, the more powerful he felt, and the more he was able to express his love to Andrea. When the day came that Andrea actually felt his love rather than his neediness and emptiness, her sexual feelings for Robert returned.
Robert’s desire for pornography and strip clubs gradually vanished as he learned to take full responsibility for his own feelings and needs. He still loves to make love with Andrea, but he no longer gets angry and withdrawn if she is not turned on. He no longer needs her to take away his anxiety or validate his adequacy. He is no longer using sex addictively.