Category Archives: Sex Addiction

Marriage and Sexual Fidelity

In the wake of recent news stories of marriage problems (Governor Mark Sanford, pictured at left with his wife Jenny in happier times; note also Jon and Kate plus 8), the New York Times ran a fairly upbeat article about the state of marriage today. It’s worth a look, as a great backdrop to the discussions we’re having about marriage and sexual fidelity today. It’s also worth a look for couples dealing with sexual struggles in their own marriage … if for no other reason than to see our challenges in the context of our culture as a whole. Here are a few notable quotes from the article:

Despite strong social riptides working against it — the liberalization of divorce laws, the vanishing stigma of divorce, the continual online temptations of social sites like MySpace or Facebook — the marriage bond is far stronger in 21st-century America than many may assume. Infidelity is one of the most common reasons cited by people who divorce. But surveys find the majority of people who discover a cheating spouse remain married to that person for years afterward. Many millions more shrug off, or work through, strong suspicions or evidence of infidelity. And recent trends in marriage suggest that the institution itself has become more resilient in recent years, not less so.

“People tend to assume that bad people have affairs, and good people don’t, or that affairs only happen in bad marriages,” said Peggy Vaughan, a San Diego-based researcher who runs the Web site dearpeggy.com, and author of a forthcoming book on infidelity and marriage, “To Have and to Hold.” “These assumptions are just not based in reality.”

In any given year, about 10 percent of married people say they have had sex outside their marriage. These numbers say nothing about whether the affairs were discovered; but researchers have surveyed couples in which they were. In one survey, among 1,084 people whose spouses had affairs, Ms. Vaughan found that 76 percent of both men and women were still married and living with that spouse years later. Similar surveys have found rates of about two-thirds and higher.

Perhaps the strongest risk factor for infidelity, researchers have found, exists not inside the marriage but outside: opportunity.

The investment in a marriage lasting more than a few years usually includes more than fidelity. Spouses share history and goals, children and strong bonds to friends and community. And there is some reason to believe that in recent years, such deeply integrated marriages have become more prevalent.

For instance, one of the most commonly cited statistics about marriage is that half of marriages end in divorce. But that number reflects the expected lifetime divorce rate of people married in the 1970s.

The story is different for more-recently married couples. A comparison of 10-year divorce rates among college-educated men married in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s shows that divorce is becoming less common, said Dr. Stevenson, the Wharton researcher. Among men who married in the 1970s, for example, about 23 percent had divorced by the 10th year of marriage. Among similar men married in the 1980s, about 20 percent had divorced by the 10th year. Men married in the 1990s are doing even better — with a 10-year divorce rate of 16 percent.

Three challenges confronting recovering couples

It’s hard to be a couple in our culture, let alone a couple in recovery. There are many pressures working against relationships. Facing these challenges with realism and honesty can help us establish the priority we need on our recovery. It won’t “just happen.”

Challenge #1 The way we live today makes intimacy hard to maintain

Historically, people worked, ate, played, and celebrated together. Compared to those times, there is little support for families in our culture. Today family members simply aren’t together much.

Our culture separates adults from one another, as well as from their children, for great portions of each day. In many couples both partners need to work to support the family. The kids go off to school and unless they are close in age, they won’t even be at the same school. Everyone arrives home at dinner time (or later), exhausted. They may eat together, but many families have schedules that don’t allow this. Then Mom and Dad scramble to do house work and other projects while the kids deal with homework – or everyone plops down on the couch to watch TV, or at computers to play games and surf the Net.

It doesn’t take long before family members really don’t know much about each other’s lives, because they have few common experiences. And because intimacy is based on shared life experiences, many families have little intimacy.

Recent studies of typical American family life reveal an astounding fact. Voice-activated tape recorders set up in participants’ homes monitored all the conversations in the household. The results showed that the average couple spent less than 27 minutes a week in any kind of intimate conversation.

Continue reading Three challenges confronting recovering couples

Coming to terms with sex as an addiction

William Cope Moyers says: “Addiction is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. Addiction is not caused by a person’s character, or willpower; it is caused by the way an addict’s brain is wired.” I would add that especially with sex addiction, it is caused by the way early life experiences shaped the brain.

In other words, a tough marriage, boring job, or challenging boss doesn’t cause addiction. The availability of pornography or affair partners doesn’t cause addiction. Addiction’s roots go deeper. Difficult life events and the availability of sexual gratification lead to addiction when they meet a person who has been conditioned to seek solace in sex.

Is the knowledge that sex serves as an addiction enough to keep a person from using sex to cope with life’s challenges? Absolutely not. Does the fact that sex serves as an addiction mean that an addict is not responsible for the pain his or her actions bring to spouse and family? Absolutely not.

BUT … the fact that sex serves as an addiction can help us be more compassionate towards ourselves, and will guide us to greater wisdom about how to deal with our sexual struggle.

A person suffering from addiction can’t stop using, even when faced with losing everything. Addicts lose jobs, family, even their lives because of their addictions. This is because we can’t control the way our minds and bodies react to the stimulation we create with our acting out behaviors. This is powerlessness.

Learning to accept the reality of addiction is an important part of our recovery, because it forces us to face the power of sex in our lives. Once we accept that sexual craving has a grip on us that is no less powerful than the grip of alcohol to an alcoholic, or drugs to a drug addict, we are ready to take the steps toward recovery.

Then we can stop feeling frustrated or sorry for ourselves because we can’t watch certain movies, or read certain magazines without moving into obsession … like “ordinary people” seem to be able to. Then we can stop telling ourselves that it’s okay to isolate and that we can “take care of this little problem ourselves.”

Facing your fears: a key issue in recovery

It can be scary in the first few months of life without addictive sexual behavior. When we are in our addiction, we lived in fear of being found out. Now in recovery, we feel a great sense of relief to not be hiding those behaviors … but we also have other new fears to face.

Common fears of people in early recovery include:

  • fear of returning to old behaviors
  • fear of losing spouse and/or child custody as a result of our acting out
  • encountering the stigma and judgmental attitudes from people who know about our addiction
  • going to support group meetings for the first time and not knowing anyone
  • fear of boredom or emptiness in life without our addictive behaviors
Fortunately, recovery also gives us new tools to face our fears. As with any emotion, we learn that fear is not overpowering or permanent. Like a wave that washes over us, we know that it will come and go. We can reach out to others for support when we feel alone or insecure. We can turn our fears into prayers, and ask for God’s help.

We can use journaling to make a “fear to gratitude” list. We can list not only our fears, but also the things we are grateful for. By focusing on the things we’re grateful for, we’re reminded that God has protected and cared for us in the past. If we’ve been helped in the past, chances are we’ll also be helped in the future.

Ultimately, we don’t really “conquer” our fears, we surrender them. We acknowledge them, and choose to let them go. We turn them over to God.

I have it most helpful to do this by using the Serenity Prayer. When I pray the Serenity Prayer, I usually find that the fear I am carrying is about things I can’t control anyway. So I am reminded to simply focus attention on the things that I actually can do something about. Then I surrender the rest to God’s care.
Serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Tiger Woods is only latest in line of celebrity sex addict outings

Tiger Woods … a sex addict? Is he a sex addict, or just a player? The photos that surfaced recently that allegedly were shot of him in a treatment facility only raise the issue again. Let’s keep this in mind … Woods is not alone in this “celebrity sex addict” story. Just in the past several years, a few celebrities have outed themselves – or been outed – about sex addiction. I wonder if there are more celebrity sex addicts who just haven’t gotten treatment yet?

Eric Benet
In 2002, the former husband of Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry reportedly checked himself into a rehabilitation center for treatment of a sex addiction.

David Duchovny
An actor who plays a sex-obsessed man in the TV show “Californication,” Duchovny acknowledged he entered rehab for sex addiction in 2008.

Michael Douglas
In the early 1990s, Douglas was labeled a sex addict by his ex-wife. The actor sought treatment in a Los Angeles clinic.

Kari Ann Peniche

A model, she was kicked off Dr. Drew Pinsky’s celebrity-themed “Sex Rehab” show about sexual addiction on VH1 in 2009, after failing to live up to the rules of the program.

Wilt Chamberlain
In 1991, the late NBA player claimed he had sex with 20,000 women in his second autobiography, “A View from Above.”

Source: Detroit Free Press article

Training event for church leaders about how to help sexual strugglers

Helping the Sexual Strugglers*

A training event for pastors, church staff, and lay ministry leaders

June 4, 2009

Changes in society and the advent of the Internet have led to an epidemic of sexual struggle around the world. All are vulnerable, huge numbers of people are struggling, and for many the struggle has developed into a full-blown addiction. Church leaders are looking for ways of helping people caught in the web of compulsive sexual behavior. Our vision at Recovery Remixed is to provide teaching and guidance not only to sexual strugglers, but also to the ministry leaders who seek to help them. So we are jointly sponsoring this training event with Faithful and True Ministries for pastors, church staff, and ministry leaders.

Many people needlessly suffer because the church leaders providing teaching and care to them have limited knowledge about sex addiction /compulsive behavior and inadequate approaches to dealing with it. We want to present the findings from the latest research and our experience in working with strugglers, in the hope that more can be done to stem the tide of this growing problem.

Register today for this important training event for pastors and church leaders.

What is it?
Helping the Sexual Strugglers is a one-day training event for pastors, church staff, and small group leaders. Continue reading Training event for church leaders about how to help sexual strugglers

The first task of recovery: Establishing Sobriety

Pat Carnes is one of the “founding fathers” of the sex addiction field. One of his fundamental principles is that the first task of recovery is to “establish sobriety.” There are two ways to understand this, both of which are essential:

1. To establish sobriety, we must define it

First, we need to “establish” what we mean by sobriety. This is not as easy as it first appears. “Sobriety” – when used in reference to compulsive sexual behavior – is the state of living that is free from the addictive or compulsive behavior. Sexual sobriety is not the same thing as sexual purity … it’s not sexual perfection. It is the ongoing experience of abstaining from unhealthy, addictive sexual behaviors. But, of course, this begs the question … which behaviors are addictive, and which behaviors are healthy?

Recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs is simpler. Sobriety there means abstaining from the drug. Period. But sexual behaviors are much more varied, and recovery for most married people will not involve ongoing abstinence from sexual activity. The task of early recovery is to determine what kinds of sexual behaviors are healthy and lead to genuine intimacy, and which ones are unhealthy and destructive.

Some programs (such as Sex Addicts Anonymous) leave the definition of the specific behaviors in this category up to each individual addict. In these programs, each person decides for him or herself what behaviors are “off-limits”. Other programs are critical of this approach, believing that it creates too much room for self-delusion, and it allows people to define their sobriety so broadly that they don’t really make progress in addressing their problems.

Continue reading The first task of recovery: Establishing Sobriety

New survey results confirm increase in teen sexual activity

Former model-turned TV talk show host Tyra Banks has done some research for a recent show about teen sexuality. This past summer, over 10,000 teens took part in an anonymous survey that revealed disturbing trends, and confirms other research in this field. Here are some highlights, culled from an article on the Today Show website (Banks was interviewed about this study on a recent episode of the show.) Parents, brace yourselves:

  • On average, girls are losing their virginity at 15 years of age.
  • 14 percent of teens who are having sex say they’re doing it at school.
  • 52 percent of survey respondents say they do not use protection when having sex.
  • One in three says she fears having a sexually transmitted disease.
  • 24 percent of teens with STDs say they still have unprotected sex.
  • One in five girls says she wants to be a teen mom.

Here’s an exerpt from the article:

Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer, a teen sex education program based at Rutgers University, said the survey results sound plausible and are consistent with other research on teen sexuality.

“This so clearly points to the need for comprehensive sexual education for kids,” Schroeder said. “An adolescent … is supposed to be making poor decisions. Developmentally this is the way they’re supposed to be behaving. They need help …. Parents need help talking with their kids about sexuality, and schools need to be talking to kids about sexuality.”

Banks told Lauer [on the Today Show episode] that this kind of communication simply isn’t happening for many teens.

“They are not talking to their parents; they’re embarrassed to talk to their parents,” Banks said. “And more than them being embarrassed to talk to their parents, their parents are embarrassed to talk to them. So they’re finding all [about] sex education with their friends, with their peers.”

And, I might add, from pornography. The challenge of hyper-sexualized teen culture is growing. There is a great need for teaching about sexual sanity for teenagers. Stay tuned to this website for more information about upcoming seminars about this topic.