Am I a Sex Addict or Love Addict?
When many clients come in for their first session, they will ask “am I a sex addict or love addict?” This is an understandable question, and it can be difficult to tell which is most true. These addictions are both intimacy disorders and they both can share similarities.
Sex addiction has a lot to do with compulsive numbing, out of control sexual behavior, and secrets and lies. Sex addiction often includes affairs and cheating behavior.
Many sex addicts will report some level of dissatisfaction in their marriage or relationship. They’ll often attribute their addictive behavior to lacking enjoyable sex in their marriage. The truth is that this is many times more about avoidance, and poor shame and vulnerability resilience. Most relationships have some lull or struggle in their sexual connection at some point. All couples have to talk about this. However, when many sex addicts look back in their lives and they didn’t feel as though they could bring this up. This prevents connection and eliminates any possibility of working on a serious issue.
But the issues are often deeper than just sex. There is often a perpetual feeling of disconnection, and a struggle with attaching. This is most often processed as a part of sex addiction therapy. After managing their behavior, sex addicts learn about their struggles with connection and attachment. They also are able to link this to their own past relationships.
Love addiction is out of control focus on fantasy, rather than the reality of relationships. Although it seems like a love addict just wants intimate connection, this isn’t actually the case. There are rigid ideas of how a relationship should look. The vulnerability of possibly being abandoned can be constantly overwhelming.
This fear of vulnerability can lead a love addict to manipulate or try to control the relationship. There is a fantasy that is created where there will be safety and security. In that fantasy, there is no risk of abandonment or emotional neglect. Love addicts push their partner towards the fantasy.
What makes this even more tricky for people is that are times where it can all feel really good. There are moments where the levels of passion and romance are high. This can make a love addict feel very secure. So there is often a chasing back to this sense when this passion fades.
Love addiction can involve sex as part of it, but sex is often confused for love itself. It can be difficult to tell the difference. However, the addiction is more about the romance, intensity, and passion, than it is about sex.
Love and Sex Addiction Together
There are some sex addicts who are also love addicts, or vice versa. Although one of these is likely more prevalent than the other, many people really are dealing with both. They struggle with communicating their emotional needs, and struggle to separate fantasy and reality. They mix up love and sex.
Many people who live with both of these addictions will find multiple partners to “mix and match” a creation of the “perfect” partner. They’ll also work to completely avoid the vulnerability of feeling emotional neglect or fearing abandonment.
In love and sex addiction therapy, emotional tolerance of these fears becomes a critical piece to their work. Clients learn that they’re more capable of handling these feelings than they previously thought. This increases their tolerance for asking for what they need as well. Many addicts feel that they aren’t worth their own needs. With self-worth therapy, this changes for sex and love addicts. Everyone has a need for connection, love and belonging.
Regardless of which of these addictions you could be living with, finding a qualified therapist is critically important. Looking for a therapist who is experienced with the work of Pia Mellody and Patrick Carnes can be very helpful. Look for support groups such as SLAA. With time, work and balance, you can have loving, healthy relationships.