We’re on part 3 of our series of blogs looking at what having an addiction to sex or porn means and the common questions that people ask. Our first blog explored ‘Am I an addict, or am I just overreacting?’ and our last blog focussed on ‘Am I an addict, or do I just have a high sex drive?’ Today, we’re going to dig into another question, ‘Am I an addict, or am I just in the wrong relationship?’
The Importance Of Relationships
Relationships are a core part of who we are. If you’re asked to fill in almost any kind of form, you’ll be asked your name, gender, age, and at some stage, your relationship status. Whether you’re single, married, cohabiting or widowed – your relationship is deemed as an important element of who you are. Although as a society we seem to be experiencing more relationship breakdowns than at any other time in history, research shows that young people still want to be in partnered relationships and the vast majority continue to choose monogamy. Whether or not humans were designed for monogamy is highly debated, especially if we’re talking ‘till death do us part’, but whatever your view, it is still the type of relationship that most people opt for.
Relationships And Addiction To Sex Or Porn
What does this have to do with an addiction to sex or porn? Well, as we’ve explored in many blogs before, addiction is ultimately a symptom of a life that’s not working. Whether that’s the uncomfortable emotions that we explored in our previous blog series such as anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness or low self-esteem, or challenges within our primary relationship. To be clear, difficulties with relationships don’t cause sex or porn addiction, but they are a significant contributing factor. How could they not be when relationships are such a significant part of our lives and indentities? Whatever the state of your relationship, a better one will not make your compulsive behaviours go away.
Our relationships affect our behaviours and our behaviours affect our relationships – it’s a two-way street. Maybe you’re in a relationship where you’re dissatisfied with your sex life because you expect your partner to look like, or act like, the images you’ve seen in porn? Or maybe sex was fantastic at first but it’s fizzled out and you’ve lost interest? Perhaps that’s a repeating pattern? Many people struggle when they realise their real-life partner can’t compete with the endless novelty and choice that acting out offers, but they continue to hang on to the myth that the ‘right’ relationship is just around the corner. This is common throughout the population, not just among those people with an addiction to sex or porn.
Maybe the problems are more emotional? You may find you live in fear of your acting out behaviours being found out. What if your partner knew what you’d done or what you were really into? When we feel shame it can make us doubt that anyone could like us, let alone love us and that can make it difficult to open up and get the closeness and intimacy we so often crave.
What Else Comes Into Play?
You may be in a relationship that hasn’t been working for many years. For those with a home and children, it can make separation difficult. Or it may be a shorter relationship, but one that you feel would be difficult to disengage from for a variety of reasons. Like being single, difficult relationships often result in feeling lonely and isolated, but more than that, you may also feel misunderstood, unappreciated, disrespected and unloved. Perhaps you also live with constant conflict. This can happen to anyone, not just those individuals with an addiction to sex or porn.
On the outside, it may look like you function well as a couple and you’re happy, but inside you feel empty because something is missing. That may be sex or certainly intimacy and connection and you use your behaviours as a way of seeking solace or as a way to feel validated. Or you may feel more understood and connected with strangers than you do with your own partner. It may even be that because of your anger and resentments, you use your behaviours as a way of silently fighting back. Excuse my language, but perhaps acting out has become your way of saying ‘fuck you.’
Needless to say – no relationship was ever improved by leading a double life. Even when a partner doesn’t know about your other life, secrecy blocks intimacy and connection. Acting out becomes a way of avoiding working on issues and resolving them. Your behaviours become an escape, but the problem doesn’t go away – it gets worse.
I would say that of the people that come to The Laurel Centre for help with an addiction to sex or porn, there’s about a 50/50 split between those who have a good relationship with a happy sex life and those who don’t. Those who don’t think that their lack of relationship satisfaction contributes to their behaviour, or even that it’s the main cause. But those who are happy in their relationships and enjoy a good sex life realise their acting out behaviours really have got nothing to do with sex.
The bottom line is this – an unhappy relationship may be a contributing factor to your addiction to sex or porn, but it did not cause it and your acting out is almost certainly making your relationship worse. A happy relationship is not an antidote to addiction, nor is it a vaccine against developing an addiction or a cure if you already have one. However, a happy, connected and meaningful relationship can be a powerful motivator and support during recovery.
Getting Help For An Addiction To Sex Or Porn
For more help in identifying if you’re struggling with sex or porn addiction, try our confidential and anonymous self-assessment tool – ‘Am I A Sex Addict?’
To find out more about The Laurel Centre’s services, you can use our ‘Talk to a Therapist’ service and find out what help is most appropriate for your situation and circumstances. Or you may prefer to sign up for one of our Kick Start Workshop and find out more about The Laurel Centre’s approach and our recovery groups for addiction to sex or porn. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for more news and information.