The cycles of behavior exhibited by people with sex addiction are often connected to traumatic…
Addicted Husbands: How High Powered Men Turn to Sex and Cheating
By Tommy Williams, LADAC, ASAT-C, Primary Therapist, Men’s Sexual Addiction Program, The Ranch
The headlines are filled with stories of high-powered men who are accused of being sexual predators, aggressors and harassers. Many of them are famous and successful men at the top of their professions. Most have wives and children and financial freedom. They have access to most anything they want.
So why do they want women outside of marriage and why do they pursue women in the most inappropriate and dangerous ways imaginable?
Some men have sexual appetites that match their hunger for power and they think they are entitled to whatever they desire. Others are troubled individuals with painful childhood trauma and they have used sexual activity to hide that pain. Untreated trauma can lead to compulsion and sex addiction.
Evolution of a Sex Addiction
Sex addiction can be traced back to the earliest relationship with parents and caregivers. It evolves and escalates over time.
- Early trauma. Men who become addicted to sex often did not bond properly with their parents as infants. As a result, they did not receive the nurturing they needed as babies. Sex addiction is also related to early childhood trauma, such as abandonment (either physical or emotional), abuse or loss. And if men experience additional loss in early romantic pursuits, their ability to be authentic in an adult relationship can be severely impacted. Because of poor parental relationships, or lack thereof, as children, they grow up without a healthy model for intimacy. They have few or no tools for building relationships and they are incapable of intimacy.
- Early self-sufficiency. Trauma can lead them to be highly self-sufficient at a young age. One man said, “I knew if I didn’t make bread-and-butter sandwiches for me and my little brother, we weren’t going to eat.” Their inner child gets buried and they have to grow up fast. They never had a chance to grieve or process trauma, so they try to cover the pain. To survive, they do everything they can to control the world around them ― and the people in it.
- Self-soothing with sex. They begin medicating with sex to self-soothe. It can start when they discover masturbation and the escape it can provide. From there, the “arousal template” can continue to grow. Just like alcoholics and drug addicts moving to stronger substances to get the same results, the sex addict’s behavior can progress, often beginning with porn. A lot can be learned about the addict’s progression simply by asking them what kind of porn they watch. There is porn out there (hardcore, extremely graphic and explicit) for whatever point of progression an addict is in.
The progression can move into inappropriate and dangerous behaviors with real people, graduating from strip clubs, bath houses and massages with a “happy ending,” to prostitutes/escorts, and exposing themselves or masturbating in front of women. In addition, some men learn about sex exclusively from porn and become sexually aggressive with women as a result.
- No relationship skills. Studies show that attachment predicts adult relationships. Men with addiction often have no clue about how to be in a real relationship, and while this can improve in a loving marriage, it often does not. They’re attracted to the outside package. Research shows that the early days of love and courting cause a chemical reaction in the brain that is not unlike sensations felt by someone who is addicted to alcohol or other drugs. It feels good! And they want to have that chemical release go on and on. When it doesn’t, they keep looking for it in someone or something else. They may love their wife, but that relationship is just not enough for them.
- Compulsive desires. They have an itch for something that will fulfill what they did not get at young age. It’s primordial. It’s basic. It goes back to when they discovered sex for the first time ― whether it was masturbating or playing doctor with a young girl. They expect their wives to help them find that feeling. When that cannot be maintained, they compulsively search for ways to get it. They don’t know that intimacy and sex are meant to go hand in hand.
- They can never be satisfied. Sex addiction may start with only small behavior changes, but as the disease progresses, so does the acting-out. In other words, there was a time when watching “regular” porn helped fill the need. Or they would cheat on their wives with just one affair. Or, they could see a hooker when out of town and be satisfied. But before long, their arousal template escalates and they have to look for more exciting ways to fulfill their desires.
- Things get out of control. As mentioned above, the need gets more intense and dangerous. Maybe they’ve moved on to locking themselves in a hotel room to watch porn for an entire weekend or their tastes have turned to extreme or illicit videos. They may have multiple affairs or see prostitutes frequently. Or, maybe they will start going to the park and exposing themselves to strangers. Part of the arousal template is the fear of getting caught. The behaviors are as addictive and dangerous as drugs.
- Women are “triggers.” Men with sex addiction get to a point where they are unable to resist women. Just the sight of a female is a trigger for their compulsion. They cannot pass up an opportunity to flirt, pursue or act on their fantasy, which often involves younger women. It leads them into situations where the power is imbalanced — for example, when the male is the boss and the woman, who might be much younger, works for him. It can lead them down a road of desiring women who are barely legal, or worse.
- They love only the hunt. Liaisons and flirtations don’t last because the man is interested only in the hunt, the flirting and the release of chemicals that makes them feel good. Research shows sexually compulsive activities become their drug. They’re high, and they need a fix on a regular basis. They crave sex much like a cocaine or heroin addict craves their drug. This is why the public often hears multiple stories from numerous people about abuses and inappropriate behavior on the part of one person acting alone.
- Leading a double life. Sex addicts are masters at compartmentalizing. They keep their hunting life separate from their family life. They may chase lustful, romantic feelings all day, but when they come home, they switch hats to dad and husband. Even so, they have very little practice at intimacy and they fear it. While they may be highly responsible about home life requirements, they are often never able to get deeper than the sexual experience with partners.
For these individuals, every sexual interaction is a means to an end. It’s the fulfillment of the chase for pleasure. A sex addict will do everything in their power to avoid being caught, yet stretching boundaries and pushing the limits is also part of the addiction. It is usually a crisis that causes the façade to crack and the healing to begin. Even if someone is publically accused, they still have to take the first step of admitting there is a problem in order to find their way to sobriety.