Part 1 of 2
When people or their partners are trying to understand a behavior they think is a problem it's common for them to latch onto a term they think describes it, but sometimes in the end doesn't. Just like when we search on Google for something we often find that we have to refine our search term from what we originally thought would work. Sex addict is such a term that frequently gets misapplied and misused.
Is He a Sex Addict?Women regularly ask me if the behavior of their partner means he addicted to sex. This inquiry is most often prompted by the discovery of his viewing porn. Because this revelation is typically so shocking and disturbing these partners assume the worst - "He's a pervert...sex addict...not who I married." Here's an example:
I need help because every time I find some information on this topic, the info never really "hits the nail on the head", so it leaves me more confused. The love of my life, fairy tale style, is causing me some concern. What he does is uses a controlled substance of the stimulate variety, binge style, and the entire time he is high he has multiple pornographic movies going on one screen and masturbates for HOURS. I'm talking double digits in hours. The longest he was in front of it was at least 14 hours. I know he has shame, due to bisexual feelings and childhood trauma. I know that the drugs helps him escape the shameful feelings he has. But we are great communicators. He told me about his possible bisexuality a few months ago, which was so hard for him because he has never told anyone before. He feels it is because of brief sexual encounters with either his father, grandfather, or both, but he can't remember the incidents. My question is: Is he a porn addict, sex addict, or drug addict? -TraciWhile this man's problems are complicated by his drug abuse, the usual question still remains - does he have a porn or sex addiction? Partners often confuse, mix up, and interchangeably use these two terms. There is some commonality between them, but they're also different and distinct problems. However, without a better understanding of how to distinguish the differences it's easy for partners to mislabel their man.
I am married to a sex addict. I have been with him for 21 years. I was unaware of this type of addiction until years into our relationship he told me he had it. I trusted that I could handle it but I guess I was wrong. I found out for the past 7 years he has had a relationship with another sex addict. He says love to him is all about the orgasm and she will do anything he wants sexually. I am so hurt. We have sex but I guess I can't satisfy him. He does not want to seek help. -Morgan
He Looks Like He's Addicted to SexMost of the men I treat aren't sex addicts. They usually either have an addiction to porn, a heightened need for sex (which can be caused by a problem that has a psychological origin), or sexual interests that are different and uncomfortable for their partner. Just because these men don't meet the definition of having a sex addiction doesn't mean they don't have a problem that needs to change and often requires professional help.
Here is a brief description of a few of men I'm counseling who could look like sex addicts, but really are not:
- Terence looks at porn. He can binge on it for several days at a time and then go weeks without watching. While porn viewing has negatively impacted his view of, and interest in, sex with his wife, it does not make him a sex addict despite her calling him one.
- Mike chats with other women online and his girlfriend has caught him sexting with other women too. He's also posted nude pictures of himself online. His girlfriend is doesn't understand why he needs to do this and she isn't enough to meet his sexual needs.
- Steve has an insatiable need for sex. He would have sex every day if his wife would be willing (by the way, Steve's not in his 20s, he's 56). His wife has become so worn down by his nonstop requests, disappointment and depressed mood when he doesn't get it, that she obliges him with various forms of sexual release to appease him and keep the peace in their relationship. While Steve could just be a guy with a high sex drive, like his wife thinks, it's more complicated than that and he actually is a sex addict.
There are many characteristics that can make a man look like a sex addict when he isn't. Could your man be one? Sure, but it's likely he's not, just like Terrence and Mike. In the next article we'll look at sex addiction symptoms to better understand what someone addicted to sex really looks like and where sexual behavior crosses the line into an addiction like it has for Steve.