Sex addiction, at base, is an intimacy disorder. And “intimacy,” according to Linda Hatch, Ph.D.,…
Sex Addiction and Codependency
Sex addiction is a complicated issue. Some experts would argue that it is a true addiction, but all agree that people can develop unhealthy sexual attitudes, behaviors and compulsions. When sex addiction exists in a codependent relationship, two people are locked in a destructive way of living. Codependency is not uncommon, but when it comes together with sex addiction, it creates a situation that requires therapy and other treatments to correct.
What Is Codependency?
Being codependent describes many people. The symptoms and signs of codependency are so common, in fact, that experts rarely agree about whether it should be considered a psychological disorder. If it were, most of us would have it. Any type of family dysfunction leads to at least a couple of symptoms of codependency. It often begins in childhood and can lead to codependent relationships later in life. In short, a codependent relationship is one in which you feel dependent on the other person in order to feel worthwhile or to have an identity. Here are a few of the common symptoms:
- Low self-esteem
- A desire to please others and difficulty saying no to anyone
- Strong reactions to the feelings and opinions of others
- Poor relationship boundaries
- A desire to have control
- Obsessing over relationships
- Poor communication skills
- Dependency on one person to feel whole
What Is Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction is an obsessive need to engage in sexual behaviors of some type. It does not have to be actual sex. A sex addict may be obsessed with using pornography, with self-stimulation, with making sexual jokes or comments, with flirting or anything else related to sex. A sex addict engages in one or more behaviors despite negative consequences. As with any other addiction, the behavior becomes a problem and infiltrates every aspect of the addict’s life. Stopping is difficult even if the addict recognizes the need to do so.
Sex Addiction in a Codependent Relationship
The term codependency was first used to describe the relationship between an alcoholic and his or her spouse. The spouses of alcoholics were originally called co-alcoholics to describe the way in which they often contribute to the disease of alcoholism in their partners. When one partner has an addiction, the codependent partner enables the behaviors whether she is aware of it or not. The addict needs his partner to enable his addiction and to care for him, while the codependent needs to care for her addicted partner and to get a sense of self-worth from him.
The relationship between a sex addict and a codependent partner is an unhealthy one. The two are engaged in a cycle of need and dependence. The good news for anyone in this type of relationship is that treatment can help. Most often, the addict in this relationship will first seek help for the sex addiction. But once in treatment, he will come to realize, with the help of a good therapist, that he is also engaged in codependency. It is important that both partners go through this therapy, as the codependency involves them both.
Sex addiction and codependency are destructive forces in a relationship that damage each person’s mental well-being. For those who can recognize that there is a problem and seek professional treatment, there is hope and a possibility of recovery. And with recovery comes the prospect of a healthy and rewarding relationship.