How addiction wrecks relationships

Addiction is like a tornado that leaves behind a path of destruction. It not only damages our lives as addicts, it also takes a tremendous toll on the people around us. Sex addiction in particular wrecks relationships (especially families). It creates sadness, anger, confusion, and a host of varied reactions from people who care about you.

Friends and family may resent us for the hurt our addiction caused them. Sometimes mixed in with that anger are feelings of sadness and worry that they may have been in some way responsible for our struggles.

Spouses sometimes take on the belief that if they were more attractive, attentive, or … something … that they could have kept us from doing what we did. Sometimes we as addicts believe this too, and this blame-shifting is part of our denial. But the reality is that no spouse is capable of meeting the needs of a sex addict. Even so, sex addiction is unique in the devastation it creates in the marital relationship.

Our friends and family can heal during our recovery. Each person must concentrate on his or her own issues while learning how to detach with love. There are groups that offer support for spouses of sex addicts, and Faithful and True Ministries also offers phone counseling for spouses who are struggling.

What makes sex addiction especially toxic for families is the wall of secrecy that is usually built around the addiction. Since sex is so personal, and fear of other people finding out about our struggles so overwhelming, many couples try to go about recovery while living in a bubble of secrecy and shame. Children, extended family, and friends experience various forms of suffering because of the addiction, and are often left in the dark about what is really going on.

Sometimes it’s necessary to withhold the truth of our addiction from people who were affected by it, because they can’t be trusted to handle the information. Discussions about how far to extend the circle of disclosure are ongoing and complex, especially during the early years of recovery. But even if we decide not to disclose the truth of our addiction to family and friends, we must honest with ourselves about the level of damage we have brought into their lives.

Our addiction touches all the people in our lives, whether we realize it or not. It causes us to neglect people we should be attentive to, to isolate ourselves, to be withdrawn or cranky, and sometimes even to sexualize people and situations that should not be sexualized.

Our awareness of this damage will grow over time, and we must be careful not to drift into shame and self-hatred when it does. Our shame dissipates as we keep working our recovery, and as we make amends to the people we have harmed in whatever ways are appropriate.

7 thoughts on “How addiction wrecks relationships”

  1. I must object to the picture you selected for this blog. The young women is to revealing for a sex addicive trying to recover. May I give you some boundries for selecting pictures of women? 1. No clevage. 2. No bare knees or thighs. Your picture violates both of these boundries. It appears whoever selected the picture dose not have a sexual addiction problem.
    The young man may be a problem for same gender men or female addicts, but I don’t know anything about that.
    I like your blogs and hope you keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks for writing Bill. I hear what you’re saying about this, and will be even more careful about pictures I put in the blog in the future. But I can’t guarantee that all the future pictures will meet those criteria. I think those are generally good criteria, but to be honest I didn’t notice those elements in the picture when I selected it (and I AM in recovery).

    Your comment raises an important issue … how do recovering sex addicts live in the world without being “triggered” all the time? I’m not going to try to defend the picture I chose here, but just observe that if such a picture pushes someone’s buttons, then wow … that person is going to have a hard time watching any TV, movies, reading magazines … and (more importantly) going out in public where women will be present.

    I agree that a blog that is devoted to recovery from sexual addiction should be super careful not to have anything close to provocative photos in it.

    I’m curious to hear from other readers about this topic? Where is the line? Do you think this picture crossed it? How do you deal with this?

  3. Im am 65 years old, and you may think that at this age, I would be “old fashion” or have a rather “narrow mind” about life, and other things, and you may be right in some instances. I have lived long enough to learn about myself, life, how the mind works, and have earned the right to say things as they are, and invoke wisdom.

    but honestly, I agree with Mark…. It is REALLY not the picture that is the problem, it is more what YOU THINK about the picture… Every indecency is in the mind of the person interpreting it. When a person picks a Playboy magazine, that person may see it as pornography, while another may think that those are pictures of beautiful naked women. You need to agree that often it is not what we see, but how we react to it…and therefore the problem is created by the MIND.

    That picture was perfect Mark…. If anyone has a sex problem it is not created by the way a woman dresses… if you had put the picture of a naked woman, or a turtleneck on her, it would not have made a bit of difference. It would be rather ridiculous to say that the problem is created by the woman’s dress… that would be denying responsibility for your own thoughts.

    As you say, we need to be able to be presented with all kinds of circumstances, and then react to it in the way we think. and that is the secret word… how we “think”, not what we “see”.
    it’s all in the eye of the beholder, as they say.

    Good job Mark…. I am looking for sites where I can get help for someone close to me who has an addiction problem (drugs), and try to instigate an “intervention”… I fell upon your site by accident, and glad that I did.


  4. I need to add something. I re-read Bill’s comments, and this is what I think. I dont know anything about sex addiction, so forgive me if I sound ignorant on this subject.

    Bill, this is my question:

    If the woman sitting next to the man was pictured with long pants and a turtleneck, would that take the problem away from him?

    you think about it.

    I am just trying to understand your point of view, and not judging by any means. Please take my rant as a “conversation” and not an “argument”.


  5. And so do i. i don’t think the picture is a problem, it’s a simple scenario of the topic above.its just my opinion and were here to speak as a free individuals. continue the great job mark and looking forward for more post .

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