Category Archives: Sex Addiction

Sexual Addiction – Help for the Sex Addict’s Spouse

Special guest blog post by Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

(Note that this month, our teleseminar is also devoted to supporting spouses of addicts.)

Can the spouse of a sex addict find help individually for the effects of the sexual addiction on their lives? Sure. Much of the time, however, it is the crisis of discovery of the acting out, or some other related crisis that brings the sex addict and spouse into treatment. If the spouse gets help, it is usually because they seek services at the same time. Unfortunately, many times only the addict is treated.

Although there are inpatient and outpatient treatment services, many sex addicts and their partners have a difficult time finding an appropriate treatment provider. Couples may seek marriage counseling and not address the sexual addiction.

Possible reasons for this are varied, but couples often come to counseling with a variety of relationship complaints that may not be immediately identifiable as sexual addiction. Addiction-related behavior or problems may be hidden intentionally or unintentionally from the therapist and the couple may not understand the connections between the sexual behavior and their other presenting problems. Additionally, many treatment providers have a general lack of knowledge about sexual addiction.  Sexual addiction demands treatment.

Once sexual addiction has been correctly diagnosed, the addict’s number one goal would be abstinence from the compulsive sexual behavior(s).  A first step in achieving that goal is to define “abstinence”. Although abstinence in drug addiction treatment is easily defined, that is not necessarily the case with sexual addiction.  A lifetime of abstinence is not usually recommended, but treatment for sexual addiction will often involve complete sexual abstinence for a period of time (often 60-90 days),  Spouses should be part of the discussions about definitions of abstinence and any expectations of abstinence within the marriage for any period of time. This is important because couples often assume that they agree on something when it has not even been discussed.

Treatment for the addict and co-addict would involve education about sexual addiction. The importance of using all recovery resources available, (i.e., sex addicts anonymous (SAA), sexaholics anonymous (SA), Co-SA (co-dependents of sex addicts), group counseling, individual and couples counseling would be discussed. Therapists would also usually make reading recommendations.

What kinds of issues would the spouse of an addict work on in counseling? Many spouses initially have the attitude that it is the addict only that has “the problem”. But when you look at the devastation in your own life that is associated with the sex addiction, you begin to see not just the benefit of counseling but the importance of it.

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“90 Days to Sexual Sanity” now available as a home study program

NOTE: this program has been updated to what is now called: The Recovery Journey. The Recovery Journey is very similar to the “90 Days” program, but it includes video as well as audio, and lasts longer (for the same price as the 90 Days program!). The links will take you to the Recovery Journey page.

After years of working with people in recovery from sexual addiction, I have developed a program to help people make a new start in their recovery. Originally, this program was developed as a follow-up experience for people who go through our men’s workshops, but I have come to see that it’s also helpful for many people who want to make a new start in working on their sexual issues.

Each week you’ll get “daily guides” that contain meditations, teaching, and action steps to take each day that week. These guides average 35 pages per week (formatted to be readable on computer screen as well as printed out). The idea is to be doing some work every day towards recovery.

Along with the daily guides, each week you’ll get an hour-long audio seminar on a recovery topic. You’ll get the audio recording of the teaching session, along with the “action guide” (outline and space for notes). These audio seminars are usually recordings from teleseminars I’ve done, and include topics like:

  • “What is relapse and how to prevent it”
  • “How to find a local recovery group that fits your needs.”
  • “The spiritual questions and challenges of recovery”
  • “What spouses and parents need to know about sexual struggle”

To learn more – and/or to purchase this program … go to the new program website:

http://recoveryjourney.com

Will “Sex Addiction” Become an Official Diagnosis?

At the moment sex addiction is not recognised by any official diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered the definitive word on psychological disorders.

However, the term “hypersexual disorder” is being proposed for the fifth edition of DSM, due out in 2012.

The controversial proposal has critics worrying that the criteria are too vague, and the chances for misdiagnosis and bogus pharmaceutical treatment are too great.

To be diagnosed with the disorder a patient would have to meet four of the following five criteria:
•    Spending a “great deal of time” consumed by sexual fantasies and urges,
•    Using sexual behaviour to deal with stressful life events (or anxiety, depression, boredom or irritability),
•    Disregarding the “physical and emotional harm” to those involved,
•    Patients must have tried but failed to curb the behaviour, and/or
•    Patients must have suffered distress and harm to their everyday life.

The proposal is being put forward by Dr Martin Kafka, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in the US, who says the disorder has been neglected for years.

He says it causes everything from marital dysfunction and divorce to increased risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

“By the time people come to me, they’re very distressed,” Dr Kafka said of the patients he sees at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. At the moment they are diagnosed with “Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” which he says is “a diagnostic wastebasket”.

Dr Dan Zucker, of the University of Toronto, heads a working group dealing with the next edition of DSM and he expects “hypersexuality disorder” to be listed. He admitted the proposal was controversial but said the issue was about where to draw the line on what was normal and what was not.

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Free Teleseminar: Personal Environments – the secret to success in recovery

“Personal Environments: The secret to success in recovery”

Thursday February 18

7:00pm, central time

Many people who are trying to overcome sexual struggles unconsciously sabotage their recovery. They don’t understand the incredible power of personal environments to shape behavior. This free teleseminar will focus on the latest insights about life change from the fields of psychology and life coaching, applying those insights to the experience of recovery.

click here for more information

Guided conversations to build intimacy between addicts and spouses

CoupleCouples in recovery need to stay connected emotionally, and addicts’ spouses need to get consistent updates about sobriety. People struggling with sexual addiction/dependence often have a hard time with this — they resist the accountability of regular sobriety updates, and they struggle to know how to build emotional intimacy in general. On top of this, most couples – even when addiction is not present – find that in the busyness of a typical week, this emotional connection gets easily lost.

Over time, my colleagues Mark and Debbie Laaser have developed an acronym for couples to use as a guide for regular “check in” conversations. These conversations can be long or short, it’s up to you. We use the acronym FANOS – from the Greek word phainos which means “to bring to light” – to guide the conversation:

  • Feelings – Describe what / how you’re feeling
  • Affirmations – Find one or two things you want to affirm about your spouse. This could be something you want to thank them for, or some kind of praise or affirmation you want to extend.
  • Needs – Something you need today, not necessarily from your spouse. (Hint to the sexually addicted  spouse: saying “my need to today is to have more sex with you” is not recommended.)
  • Own – Something you’ve done or said that you take responsibility or apologize for. This could be something you’ve done wrong, or some way you hurt your spouse, and you need to ask forgiveness. It could also be something you recognize is hard for your spouse, or something you’re doing what – while not wrong – is making things unpleasant (eg. snoring, or being moody, or working late).
  • Sobriety – Give a report on the status of your sobriety.

To go through the conversation, one person goes through all five “questions” or topics in a row. Then it’s the other spouse’s turn. I suppose it’s obvious, but the spouse of the addict does not check in about sobriety. Depending on how much detail you want to go into, the conversation can last 5-10 minutes, or over an hour.

My wife and I have used “FANOS” conversations for over five years. Early on, we tried to do these conversations every day. Now we do them several times a week. We find that when we go through this conversation, if there is time, we wind up asking each other clarifying questions, or thinking of other things to say beyond a strict answer.

Try using this acronym as a guide for a conversation with your spouse every day or every few days. You will be amazed at the sense of ongoing intimacy you experience.

One husband says: “FANOS conversations have been a key part of re-building intimacy and trust in our marriage. Sometimes we go through them quickly, and just give short updates, other times the questions open up issues that we spend more time on. They’ve been really helpful for my recovery, and great for our relationship.”

Why accountability partners don’t work for pornography addiction

Most of the men I work with have a long history of failed attempts at overcoming sexual temptation. One of the most common strategies people in churches use is having an accountability partner. I have nothing against accountability partners … they just don’t work.

Listen to this recording – a short excerpt from an audio program called “The Spiritual Questions and Challenges of Recovery” – to find out why:

Show me a pornography or other type of sex addict who has an accountability partner – and is doing little else for his recovery – and I will show you someone who is struggling. Either acting out with whatever behaviors he’s dealing with, or hanging onto his sobriety with his fingernails and really struggling. Church leaders, spouses of strugglers, parents … please hear me on this … accountability is over-rated! It’s only part of the solution.

If you want to hear more about this and other subjects related to dealing with sexual struggle, check out this audio program

Free teleseminar: Understanding our Sexual Blueprint

Date: January 21 (Thursday)
Time: 7:00pm, central time

now available for purchase on the Recovery Remixed site

When we were young, we took in messages about ourselves and the world that powerfully shape who we are and how we live today. Because these messages were taken in at a young age, we weren’t developmentally able to rationally reflect on or evaluate them — we simply internalized them.

This conditioning powerfully affects our attitudes and actions related to sexuality. To move forward in our recovery from any kind of sexual struggle, we need to understand the messages we’ve internalized about sex, and learn how to “recondition” ourselves.

Click here for more information

Guarding against emotional affairs

An emotional affair happens when a person invests too much emotional energy with someone outside their marriage, and in turn receives too much emotional support and companionship from that relationship. How much is “too much?” There aren’t black and white rules for when a relationship moves from innocent friendship to an emotional affair … but there are patterns, and signs to watch for. In an emotional affair, people often feel closer to each other than their spouses, and often experience increasing sexual tension.

In fact, emotional affairs are often the gateway leading to full blown sexual infidelity. “About half of such emotional involvements do eventually turn into full-blown affairs, sex and all.” (Source: MSNBC) Viewed from another perspective, most sexual infidelity happens between people who were in relationships that were already in – or edging into – emotional affair territory. Infidelity researcher Shirley P. Glass reports that “82 percent of affairs happen with someone who was at first ‘just a friend.'”

In a marriage, time together and emotional energy is limited, and so if one spouse is sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with someone else, this time and emotional energy is not available to their spouse. People in emotional affairs often don’t feel guilt about what they are doing, because there is no sex involved. But their spouses don’t see it that way.

Many marriage experts view emotional affairs to be as damaging as sexual affairs. A common characteristic of emotional affairs is dishonesty with one’s partner about the relationship. People in emotional affairs often deny and deceive their partners about how much time is being spent with the “affair partner,” and/or how much emotional intimacy is being shared. Much of the pain and hurt from an emotional affair is due to this deception, and the consequent feelings of being betrayed.

Some guidelines*:

You’re in danger of crossing the line if you…
1. Touch your friend in “legal” ways, like picking lint off his blazer, or putting your hand on her shoulder as you walk through a door.
2. Pay extra attention to how you look before you see him / her.
3. Think crush-like thoughts like “She’d love this song!”
4. Tell him / her more details about your day than you do your partner.
5. No longer feel comfortable telling your mate about this person and begin to cover up your relationship.
6. Experience increasing sensual tension; you admit your attraction to him/her but also insist to yourself that you would never act on it.

It’s about to get physical when you…
1. Find yourself feeling vulnerable and turn to the other person for support rather than to your mate or a trusted relative or friend.
2. Accelerate the level of intimacy through sensual or suggestive talk over email or the phone.
3. Put yourself in a situation where the two of you could be alone.

You can avoid the potential affair if you…
1. Stay honest with your partner. Share with him / her all your hopes, triumphs, and failures — as well as your attractions and temptations, which will help keep you from acting on them.
2. Stay honest with some close recovery friends. Telling them about your attractions and temptations will also help keep you from acting on them.
3. Make sure you have “couple time” with your spouse on a regular basis — away from the kids, your friends, and family. Given today’s busy schedules, this often requires commitment and planning.
4. Surround yourself with happy couples who don’t believe in fooling around. Having positive, emotionally connected role models will help you stay on track.

Some quotes about emotional affairs:

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