What should you do when the new friend you recently began to date tells you he is in recovery from sex addiction?
Before we begin, let’s call his illness compulsive sexuality, which I feel removes the negative connotation associated with the word addiction, identifies the origin of his problems, and reduces additional burdens.
Let me share a few observations. First, I commend you for not ending the relationship when your new friend said, “I’m in recovery for sex addiction;” many women most likely would have ended the association immediately. Second, you sought information about this complex condition to find out what you might do to help him manage this process. I also applaud your new friend for sharing his information with you early in your relationship; this is encouraging.
It is highly likely that your friend still experiences some of the following signs and symptoms of his compulsive sexuality disease, so let’s see what they are:
- He is almost always in a state of anxiety due to his compulsive thoughts, with an almost constant invasion of unwanted, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, desires and thoughts with a recurring pattern of increased frequency and intensity of exhaustive sexual behaviors
- These fantasies and urges probably become unbearable for him, and are temporarily relieved by his many diverse sex acts with many different people.
- His expensive sexual activities have probably left him financially drained, and with his time-consuming sexual activities it is almost impossible for him to have kept a steady job
- His sexual activities initially relieve his anxiety, guilt, shame and self-hate, but these feelings quickly return
- His sexual activities have probably eliminated any expressions of love, romance, affection or intimacy with another person that included any depth, meaning or emotional bonding
Treatment for compulsive sexuality has improved tremendously over the past 20 years. While no absolute cure can be assured, the majority of associated behaviors and their contributing factors can be removed or reduced in frequency with professional help. A sexologist, psychologist or psychiatrist is best prepared to help your friend through the use of specific medications and a behavioral therapy approach (which involves unlearning unhealthy behaviors and replacing them with healthy ones). However, commitment by your friend to both therapies is absolutely essential for continued success.
Below is a list of actions that might help you decide where you want to go with this relationship.
- Ask him what he means when he says “he’s recovering from sex addiction” to determine his current situation and let him know you have a general awareness about his sexual issues and care
- Follow with a discussion about his life situation, even though he might verbally resist and resent what he perceives as intrusion
- Do not dwell on his past experiences, but ask him about his AIDS/HIV status. Do not have sexual intercourse with him until you have evidence he is HIV negative
- His probable extensive history of lies, deception, of being untrustworthy and manipulative, may still exist. Give him time to establish his credibility, but call him out on these behaviors
- Support him when he faces his personal anxieties and maintains appropriate behavioral interventions, but discourage over-dependence on you or plays for your pity
- Reinforce and support his absolute commitment to treatment
- Don’t get involved with him financially
- Do not tolerate any use of alcohol, illegal drugs or unsafe sex
- Recognize that he may not be able or want to have a meaningful relationship with you; he may be unable to establish emotional or physical intimacy
- Determine if your relationship might benefit from couples therapy
I wish you all the very best with this relationship.