Thursday, July 18, 2013

There is just no point in continuing

It is simply unhealthy for me to continue to blog about something that is over. I have moved on. It's just not healthy for me anymore. Maybe I will start writing a blog one day about how difficult it is to co-parent with a sociopath. Sex Addiction - whether male or female - is a terrible addiction. As an innocent spouse it can be devastating. I gave my new partner HPV thanks to my ex who did even have the guts to let me know she had contracted it. Once again, narcissistic behavior. I could never forgive myself for transferring this virus to her and allowing myself to contract it. Simply put, being a partner of a sex addict is now in my past. I'm in a healthy and happy relationship with an amazing and wonderful woman of great moral character and family values. Someone who has earned my trust and respect as I have earned hers. It's not fair to me (or her) that this my horrible past gets triggered by me checking and posting on this blog. I am on a new path - a path of happiness and joy. When I was truly struggling this blog help me express my feelings and deal (in a public yet anonymous way) with my struggles. I will keep it up in hopes other partners of sex addicts find comfort, background, support and information in it. I will no longer be posting or linking from Google+. I wish all my readers health and happiness. I know there are exceptions to every rule, but I truly believe sex addiction can not be treated enough for the behavior to stop - it is just too engrained in the addict. Sadly, I feel by staying the a relationship with one you are wasting your time and not coming to grips with reality: that your partner will not stay sober and will continue to act out despite every good intention that you have to support them. In my case, it was a waste of time, energy and health. I was stupidly naive. I'm glad, even grateful, I shed the sex addict in my life. Quite simply, I am much, much, much better for it. I'm 47 and looking forward to the next chapter in my life and leaving the past behind. Thank you all for reading and trying to understand.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Sex Addict's Destruction of a Marriage: WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me start that being the spouse of a sex addict just sucks. If you are here, you are probably know that already. If you are here because you are a sex addict, open your eyes and mind to the utter destruct to your loved ones that you are imposing.

Every situation is different. Mine can be found on this blog as "my story" (link to the right) as well as the first entry to this blog.

There are exceptions to every rule. My hypothesis: You are wasting your time trying to stay in a monogamous and/or healthy relationship with a sex addict. It just won't work out long term. Don't be falsely convinced by what you believe to be the sex addicts sobriety because it's not happening or if it is, it won't last long. They just can't be trusted. Don't be fooled again. The root causes of their addictions occurred prior to your relationship with your significant other and it is virtually impossible for them to stop acting out and stay truly sober. They will always be craving another hit. They are woefully desperate and settle down without their drug of choice. The addict is the only one that stop. It has to come from within. Most can't live with them self, so recovery is just very difficult, if not impossible. The spouse naturally is a co-dependent and you must let them go and stop trying to control the addict. Stop torturing yourself and take car of yourself first (for a change) and let go.

It is hopeless and futile effort on your behalf. Being totally direct: You are in TOTAL DENIAL if you think otherwise. My opinion is that you should stop finding ways and excuses to save the relationship and just BE DONE!!!!!!

However difficult (or not): Hit the eject button now!!!! Don't waste your money, time and energy. The sex addict will not change. I'm sorry to say that you need to believe it, accept it, deal with it and move on. It's a runaway train that you need to get off - immediately.

The end result, if you could not figure it out already, is that my marriage over. I believed that all the therapy, inpatient care and SLAA meetings would put my marriage on a sober path. It never did and that makes me sad.

I can look back and say that I did everything to save my marriage, above and beyond what any rational man (or woman) would ever submit them self but the result was purely futility.

It's been a while. Why? Because I was working to save my marriage and then transition into and maintaining my own household, as well as bring stability to my kids life and my work life.

I've seen the traffic for this blog increase over the last few months (with no new posts) and I felt this post was necessary. My assumption is sex addiction is manifesting amongst our society in much greater numbers than ever before.

I will be as candid and as straightforward as I can in the paragraphs that follow.

I used to harbor an intense amount of anger with these men and I still am bitter and angry. It takes two to tango and two to compromise their moral codes. Today, my upset, disappointment and disrespect has multiplied against my wife. Sadly, the woman I was married to for almost 17 years and who I share children was and continues to be incredibly narcissistic. I always gave her the benefit of the doubt, believed in her and trusted her. Oh how wrong was I. The lying would not end. The deception was consistent. In the end, she clearly did not know the difference between right and wrong. She let her addiction hold her ransom.

It also bugged me that my ex was unwilling to go on a higher doses of drugs that can control her addiction, hyper sexuality and bi-polar condition She said she would gain weight. How vain. The parallel is if I had cancer, and I decided that I would only take 1/8 dose of chemo. My cancer would get worse and it would not be eliminated. The chemo would pretty much be useless. My opinion, if you are sick, you give yourself the best possible chance for recovery...oh well.

I still kick myself all the time for not leaving earlier. I kept telling myself that I would stay in the marriage to keep my two children in a stable environment. It would have been nice. I though it would be best for my children, but it was not. It was horrible, chaotic, stressful, angry, dysfunctional and unpleasant. Finally, I took the big step of taking care of myself. Sure, for five years I was lonely in my own house. Not a good thing. My ex would go to bed around 8 and supposedly was fight off migraines and depression. I guess it was tremendous guilt from her behavior that was driving this disconnect with the family. The only consistency I had was a warm greeting from the family dog. It got to a point where I did everything in the house (i.e. Cooking, kid transportation, Shopping,laundry, paid bills, submitting insurance claims et al. FYI: we had a cleaning crew come in to take care of the household and it was still a mess.)

Why did we separate in January 2012. I discovered she was texting a male (from SLAA meetings). (Btw, much later I found out that she was having sex with him) Which was a bottom line offense that she promised that she would not do ever again. That's when I left. Both her therapist and her begged me to agree to what is called a structured separation. I agreed. You work on yourself for six weeks and you live separately. After six weeks, if you both want to proceed you start marriage therapy but still live separately. I did about 90% of the self work from her therapist, she did very little.

Of course, I was the one that moved out of the house. In the meantime, I found a therapist that works with sex addicts and spouses. She is very good at getting my head around the trauma of the affairs and getting myself straighten up.

With that experience, I told my ex that I would only do marriage therapy with a sex addiction therapist. She begrudgingly agreed. I had to leave work in the middle of the day to attend this. I was truly trying to save my marriage. She also kept delaying the first appointment, waiting for an extra month...Hmmmm I wonder why.

During my individual work during the separation, my therapist recommended I write an emotional disclosure to my ex. (FYI: I never got one from her). Needless to say, it was cathartic. It was 20 pages of all the crap I had been through. My emotions for the previous five+ years and her activities. When you live with an addict, you are always on your guard for further inappropriate discovery. I became hyper-viligent. My investigative skills, although sick, were very impressive. However, it was clearly unhealthy for me. My therapist begged me to stop saying it wasn't good for my recovery. She would ask me every session are you checking. I would admit yes but I would try to stop again. Usually, I would make it a few days before I would slip again. Candidly, it became my addiction. I never trusted my ex (truly never could), and to have a marriage void of trust is a recipe for disaster.

I read the emotional disclosure letter in her therapist's office in February 2012 and in the middle of my reading, my ex made me stop. I'm sure she felt very shamed and could not hear what I was saying anyway. She was vapid then and vapid now. She said she could not take it all in. I am sure she was correct. Then she dropped another bomb on me during the session: that she was an affair with someone from her SLAA meeting (a different guy) that she just ended. She claimed she did not have sex with him...right. (FYI: Unless your spouse goes to a Men only or women only meeting, you are asking for trouble.) The sex addicts are like kids in a candy store at these open meetings despite their claim of safety.

And I still did not file for divorce. I believed with guidance from her therapist that she had finally seen the light. We never moved back together again but we commence marriage therapy in April. (BTW, I found the therapist...did you expect anything else?) My ex, in marriage therapy, always try to establish that it was all my fault. That my anger, which manifested during her constant distractions, depression and affairs, was the sole cause of her sex addiction. She took zero accountability. Total BS!

Sex addiction they (they who? the addicts as a built in excuse to slip) say is the toughest addiction to over come, because men (or women) are everywhere and talking to them give the addict a hit. Life is about wise choices. At the fork in the road, which way do you go?The whole thing is just so unacceptable for a married woman to be engaging. Clearly there is no moral compass. Yes, if you haven't figured it out, it's all narcissism. Once a narcissist, always a narcissist. They will always choose the wrong path. They cannot stop themselves. Sick

The during the second week of June, the week of two family graduations, I decide to take my children, during my custody time, to a music concert they wanted to see. The venue was 2 1/2 hours from my house I was living.

In marriage therapy the proceeding day, I expressed concern that every time I left town my ex would act out. She assured me in therapy that nothing is going to happen. I'm just paranoid. Even the therapist said how good it was that I put it out there. "I'm just going to play some tennis and then spend a quiet evening at home and just chill out. You having nothing to worry about."

That is where the "Find my iPhone" app comes into play. As we were at the concert, I was just checking in with her via text and phone and she did not respond. So about 7:30 p.m. I checked my iPhone app and found she was at a bar that is 25 minutes from the house. About 15 minutes later, she then called from a quiet area (probably a bathroom) and said she just got out of the shower (i knew otherwise). Then about 30 minutes later I found her located in a hotel (obviously with another man). I left my hotel drove in the middle of the night, dropped my kids off at their grandparents house and I got to the hotel about 3:30 a.m. At that point, I had a key and removed her car and moved it about a mile away from the hotel. At that moment it became official, I was done. It was the first time that I ever caught her red handed, not like it never happened before.

For the record, the guy she was sleeping with lives in Nevada and he communicated to her via a blackberry he bought her as well as the messaging system inside the Words with Friends app. The addict finds creative ways to hide and disguise her addiction and uses it to set up hookups.

Fast forward today, I have 50% custody of my kids (you think narcissistic sex addict wants more responsibly?). I pay her an exceeding large amount of alimony and child support. And she is still struggling with her addiction. I got her out of the house by forcing its sale (I didn't want it).

Her individual therapist fired her for lying after discovery of the affair in June. She tried to see the marriage therapist as an individual and the therapist said NO because she lied to her as well.

So she is keeping the hispanic struggling Nevada person around selling him on how committed she is to him. Sadly, he has no idea that she is a member of PlentyOfFish.com, banging ever athletic guy that shows interests in her. She is no doubt going to hell for her choices.

At the end of the day, I know I gave her every chance to recommit to our marriage (as I did) and she may have wanted to, but the addiction took over and feeding it was clearly a more important priority. I know I did all I could, above and beyond what a married man would do,to save his marriage. I clearly, and finally enough. I have no doubt that I put forth maximum effort to save the marriage and for that I can leave the marriage in peace and with my only regret is that I did not leave it immediately. It takes two to work on a marriage and it was only I who made the effort.

At first, I was devastated by the hotel affair and the impending divorce. After about a month, I started to get myself back in order and I realized it was time to move on. (it didn't help that she stayed in the June relationship during this time.) It would have been so less traumatic, if she just said, I don't want to stay married to you. It would have been so much more dignified.

That is not what happened though. We sold the house, drained all the bank accounts for attorney fess and now we are both renters. Even today, I don't she sees how the divorce will affect her. She was a stay at home mom enjoying the good life. She has already lost the house, she is going to have to back to work and she will be forced to perform all motherly and household responsibilities. Unless she re-marries well, she will never own another house but she will not remarry because she will lose her lifetime alimony.

She has replaced me as her primary with the guy from Nevada and when he is not there she is probably acting out. Not my care or concern. I have left the island and, except for my children, I am not returning

Today, I am so happy and strong. My marriage was a sham for so many years but it's in the rear view mirror now. Her problems are her problems. I'm so glad that I let her go...it was never going to end. Because the addict wants to keep you around forever and attempt to control you. It makes them feel good, its a hit. They desire to keep you around. I refuse to engage her because of the hit it provides. It's not happening with me anymore. And I am do much better for it. I feel incredibly healthy, vibrant. I lost myself in her addiction and my co-dependency. I have it back now and it feels GREAT!!!!! I can't recommend it enough.

If you pull one thing out of this blog entry, simply put: The Sex Addict is not going to get better. Give up now. Don't waste the time and energy for them to fix themselves because they can't. All men and women in a relationship with an addict should have the courage and strength to leave. And if you don't, take some advise and get some fast.

Your life will be so much more fulfilling and satisfying than it is now. I know it because I'm living it. If you worry about your children or idyllic family life you will find them remarkably adaptive. You should tell them "I love you" all the time and make them feel safe.

Failure is not something that was ever an option for me. Failure is never an option with me. But my marriage failed. It made me sad at first, but I have recovered. I was taking it one day at a time, but no more. I have renewed faith in myself and living my life's dreams by making them a reality. I have already started and is feels terrific and empowering. I have absolutely no regrets about moving on. As someone said I finally made the decision that she did a long, long time ago. I could continue to kick myself, but what good does that do? Enjoying what will be an exciting future, staying driven and successful as well as the best Dad is my entire focus. I am happier than I may have ever been.

I'm not moving to a new chapter of my life...I have started a new book! Trust yourself to do the exact same thing. You will be infinitely better.

I wish for you the peace and strength. I am now fully empowered and my fondest hope for all my readers to be as well.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sex Addiction: The True Love Slayer

I found this poem on another website and it is most appropriate. Read it and believe it. My update will be posted soon.

A poetic and philosophical tale of my painful journey alongside, and then away from, a sexual addict.

Maybe you felt inadequate, unworthy, alone, and afraid. Perhaps your insides never matched what you saw on the outsides of others.

I guess you came to feel disconnected—from parents, from peers, from yourself. You tuned out with fantasy and masturbation. You plugged in by drinking in the pictures, the images, and pursuing the objects of your fantasies. You lusted and wanted to be lusted after.

You became a true addict: sex with self, sex with others, group sex, promiscuity, dangerous or unsafe sex, dependency relationships, kept alive longer with yet more fantasy and sometimes even adultery.

You got it through the eyes; you bought it, you stole it, you traded it, you sold it and you gave it away. You were addicted to the intrigue, the tease, the dangerous, the mysterious, the taboo, the forbidden... In the end the only way you knew to be free of it was to do it, over and over again, even while you wondered if something was not right, and even after you finally realized just how destructive it was and could be ....

"Please connect with me and make me whole!" you screamed to me with outstretched arms, and I ran to you.

But still lusting after the Big Fix, you took away my power, and kept it for your own.

All this produced was guilt, self-hatred, remorse, emptiness, and pain. You were driven ever inwards, away from reality, away from love, away from me, lost inside yourself, inside your fantasies. Your true self became separated from the self you showed the world and then was gradually buried beneath layers of scar tissue, your senses desensitized by all those painful, scary feelings till the only ones you noticed were not uncomfortable, not unwanted... Over time those feeling became so familiar to you that they actually became comforting, you wanted them more and more until like any true addiction, they became necessary for you to feel normal, to function normally.

Your fantasy became your reality. And fantasy corrupted the real; lust killed your love.

Like the most drugs that are bad for you, the addiction to your own emotional chemicals came at a high price. Your habit made true intimacy impossible. You could never experience a real union because you were addicted to the unreal. You were addicted to the instant gratification obtained from the "chemistry" of lust, the novelty of which ran out quickly, causing you to look else where for another hit, never even knowing that you continued to by-pass the road towards a much nicer, healthier and longer lasting chemical state that can only be achieved with real intimacy and true union: the non-toxic, self sustaining, stable and wonderfully satisfying chemical state achieved with true love.

First a lust addict, and then a love cripple, you took from me and others to fill up what was lacking in yourself. Conning yourself time and again that the next one would satisfy you, unaware that you were really losing yourself as you continued to bury your real self deeper and deeper inside. Losing yourself and at the same time wasting your life as the years ticked by...

Eventually, you buried your real self so deep inside that you forgot that it was there. You also forgot that I was there. Indeed, you buried your true self so deep inside that it became almost impossible for that self to ever be found again. Impossible, except for one special person who could still see a faint light shining within you, who was hopeful enough to look closer, and who instantly recognized that treasure buried deep inside you. That one person who possessed a unique ability to see your heart and soul trapped deep inside the shell you had become.

This one person may have been the only person who could ever have saved you, but you would not let them, you did not want them to.

You didn't want to be saved at all.

That courageous person with that special ability could have unlocked the chains that still bind you, opened the lid closed for so long, and explored your inner most recesses, flooding your depths with their warm light, as they searched. They would never have faltered, only looked deeper and deeper until they had found the treasure you never even knew you had lost, but they had sensed was there.

Once they had found your real, true self; cold, malnourished, and cowering from their light yet yearning for their warmth, they would have had the courage to reach out, touched your heart and then grabbed your soul by the hand, to bring you back to the outside. Sheer strength of character would have maintained their stamina, and they would never have let go, but persevered past the point of spirit endurance until they had lifted up your soul, gained your trust, lent you strength, offered you life saving warmth and nourishment, and nurtured you until you shone back with your own bright light, reached out to touch them with your own warm hands.

Then you would have opened your eyes to see it had been me who came and found you. I would never have given up if you had let me try. Together, we could have walked side by side, hand in hand along the rest of life's road, basking in each others warmth and lighting each others path, and sharing the beauty of intimacy.

But instead, the morbid, solitary darkness of fantasy and lust slayed the beautiful, warm light of love and reality, forever.

-Spouse of a Sex Addict

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lonely, Bored, or Lame?

A very interesting and insightful post from Audrey Steinle, M.A., LPC regarding female sex addiction and what may fuel it for many women. Well worth the quick read as will be her new blog: 

Some Ladies Use Their Sexuality

Do you agree?  In my wife's case, the boredom seemed to be a major contributor but any attention from men that she no doubt believes comes from her sexuality is a big trigger that she is fighting to settle within herself.

Monday, January 16, 2012

If You Slip, How Far Do You Fall?

My wife made me a promise: No chatting, texting or face-to-face meetings with males.

I discovered this morning that she was communicating with another man.  She was not transparent with me but she insisted that she did not act out with him.  She said I was coming to incorrect conclusions.  (Honk, if you have heard that before.).

To be honest, I don't know what to think and what to believe. There is no smoking gun....Heck there never seems to be.

She has admitted to not honoring her promise and "slipping".

For me, this was a bottom line violation.  It has me contemplating divorce and at the very least separation.

It's just so sad after all that I have been through to give up on things now just feels so stupid and reckless.

But can I live in constant fear that my wife is staying on the path to a healthy recovery?  Can she be trusted?

After everything that has happened, I still here it. It seems ridiculous to throw in the towel now but I am seriously considering it.  I have too much living to do without being angry, bitter and on alert. I'm not being fair to myself because I believe I just can't get over my wife's sex addiction and her multiple violations of our marriage vows.

I have made an appointment with a family law attorney..

I am in great contemplation as to what to do?  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Trying to Understand Female Sex Addiction: How and Why It is Different Than Males


As I have educated myself over the past seven months and try to understand what my wife maybe going through as she stays committed to her recovery, I come across a lot of information about Sex Addiction, but limited current information pertaining to female sex addicts.


I understand this is a rather lengthy post but it specifically and intelligently tackles the differences between female and male sex addicts and how and why these women struggle with their behaviors.


I encourage all my readers to please take the time and read this article by therapist Ross Rosenberg that he posted on his blog. He has generously allowed me to post it here.


It is comprehensive and a truly valuable resource in beginning to understand about female sex addiction. Thank you Ross!

The Emergence of Female Sex Addiction: Understanding Gender Differences

 

By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Clinical Care Consultants
 
Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, there is still no formal diagnosis for sex addiction.  To make matters worse, female sex and love addiction is similarly not recognized as a bona fide addiction disorder.  However, most addiction specialists agree that it has risen to “epidemic” proportions (R. Weiss, 2011).   

The term “sex addiction” was coined by Patrick Carnes.  Carnes first used the term in his 1983 seminal book on the topic: “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction.”  Carnes is largely responsible for popularizing the study and treatment of sex addiction, as well as establishing a valid and commonly used diagnosis.  

 Because most statistics are based on sex addicts who seek treatment, statistical representation of this disorder is considered to be low.  Women are less likely than a man to seek help for her problem sexual behavior for a variety of reasons – mostly related to shame. (Weiss 2011).  Research and treatment fields have directed little attention to women’s struggle with this addiction.  Other than an early treatment by Charlotte Kasl (author of Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power) and some writings by Carol Ross and Jennifer Schneider, sex addiction in women has been largely ignored (Feree, 2001).  According to Carnes, 3% of the total U.S. population is female sex addicts.  In other words, of all American sex addicts, 37.5% are female.  Carnes’ research also indicates that approximately 20% of those seeking help are female.  This statistic is consistent with similar statistics regarding females seeking alcohol treatment (Carnes, 1983).  According to Robert Weiss (2011), an international sexual addiction expert, author, educator and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, 8 to 12% of those seeking sexual addiction treatment are women.  

Statistical support for the prevalence of sex addiction is starting to build.  According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, a nationally known speaker and expert on sex addiction issues and recovery, estimates that 5-8% of Americans are sex addicts.  The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity estimates that between 6-8% of Americans are addicted to sex.  Mary Ann Miller, a psychologist who founded the Chicago chapter of Sexual Addicts Anonymous (SAA), estimates that up to 6% of Americans are (sex) addictsRobert Weiss, another well-known expert and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, guesses that 3-5% of the U.S. population suffers from sexual addiction.  The Mayo Clinic estimates that 3-6% of adults in the United States are sex addicts.

“Many others (Coleman, 1995; Goodman, 1993, 1998; Irons & Schneider, 1999; Kafka & Hennon, 1999; Money, 1986; Orford, 1978; Schneider, 1991; Schneider & Irons, 1996) have described problematic hypersexuality and, as Goodman (1992) observed, there is general agreement that the pattern of behavior exists…” (Finlayson,Seal & Martin 2001). Therefore, the estimated number of sex addicts in the U.S. is between 9,200,000 (3%) and 24,500,000 (8%) individuals.   


Sex addiction is not just a modern problem.  “It has existed at all times in human history.  Sexual excess and debauchery have been described and catalogued from antiquity. Nymphomania, a term derived from the Greek, has been used in the past to describe female sexual excess.  Don Juanism, after Don Juan…has denoted male hypersexuality.” (Finlayson, Seal, & Martin 2001).   

“(in 1886) Krafft-Ebbing…described a case of abnormally increased sexual appetite, “to such an extent that permeates all his thoughts and feelings, allowing no other aims in life, tumultuously, and in a rut-like fashion demanding gratification and resolving itself into an impulsive, insatiable succession of sexual enjoyments. This pathological sexuality is a dreadful scourge for its victim, for he is in constant danger of violating the laws of the state and of morality, of losing his honor, his freedom, and even his life.” (Finlayson, Seal, & Martin 2001).

Our societal gender bias significantly affects the accurate statistical representation of female sex addiction.  A society that regards male hyper-sexuality in positive terms has created a shameful backdrop and societal prejudice for women.  Hypersexual men are commonly considered “virile” or “studs,” whereas hypersexual women are considered “sluts,” “whores” or “nymphomaniacs.”  These unfair and egregiously incorrect conceptions of sex hyper-sexuality and addiction have marginalized and minimized the seriousness of female sex addiction.  Gender bias is also found in addiction-related research.  In most addiction studies, females are underreported; underdiagnosed and overlooked (S. O’Hara).  For example, the American Medical Association recognized male alcoholism as a disease in 1956; but it was not until the late 1980s that significant findings regarding female alcoholism was represented in research studies. 

Sexual addiction in women rarely receives the same research and popular media attention received by men, so it continues to be underreported and minimized.  Moreover, media and news coverage seems to cover female and male sex addiction differently.  Female sex addicts are often portrayed as manipulative, power hungry, sex crazed and shameless individuals.  On the popular VH1 reality series, “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew (Pinsky),” female sex addicts are mostly porn stars.  On the other hand, media reports on male sex addicts include powerful celebrities whose sex drive has led them astray (Tiger Woods, Michael Douglas and David Duchovny).  At the end of the day, men seem to remain famous, while the “famous” female sex addicts’ careers crumble and end in shame and disrespect.     

There seems to be a mistaken assumption that sexual addiction is a “one size fits all” disorder.  This could not be further from the truth.  Female addiction is often misunderstood, incorrectly diagnosed and inappropriately and ineffectively treated.  Although female and male addiction share many similarities, female addiction is distinctly different. 

In actuality, sex addiction tends to parallel our society’s gender stereotypes.  For example, men tend to prefer face-to-face anonymous contact and are more aggressive and dominant.  They typically favor sexually explicit chat, cyber-porn and interactive sexual play - virtual and in person.  They gravitate toward the voyeuristic forms of sexual behavior, i.e., chronic masturbation, Internet pornography, strip clubs and the use of real-time videos (webcams).  The goal for most male sex addicts is to seek sexual stimulation – not the sexually stimulating relationship.  To the male addict, the euphoric “fix” is in the act, not the relationship.

Another gender difference in sex addiction is found in the relational boundaries of the acting out behavior.  Men tend to maintain distinct and clear emotional boundaries with the “object” of their compulsive and lustful desires – not as often seeking a romantic or personal experience.  They seek sexual opportunities that come from discreet, anonymous and disconnected “hookups.”  To the typical male sex addict, the relationship is the vehicle by which his lustful obsessions and compulsions are satiated.  If there is a “relationship,” it is often fantasy based – lasting just long enough to satisfy his out-of-control pursuit of sexual contact.  For the typical sexually addicted male, at the conclusion of the sexual act – usually at orgasm – he becomes disconnected, disinterested and even repelled by the object of his lust. 

It is important to note that females can also look like stereotypical male sex addicts, as males can also look like stereotypical female sex addicts. 


Female Sex Addiction Myths
Female sex addiction has been largely underrepresented because of misunderstandings and the subsequent development of myths.  Such myths or commonly-held erroneous beliefs have contributed to the ignorance, fear, shame and consequent silence concerning female sex addiction (Ferree 2011).

Myth One: Females Cannot Be Sex Addicts.
Within the addiction treatment field, it is a well-known fact that women, like men, can be addicted to sex.  However, the general public believes that sexual compulsivity is mostly a male phenomenon.  The belief that women do not struggle with sexual compulsivity comes from societal prejudices, double standards and ignorance rooted deeply in the American culture.  A female “sex” addict, like her male counterpart, is addicted to uncontrollable compulsive sexual behavior.  Even with the similarities, women tend to use sex for power, control and attention.  “They score high on measures of fantasy sex, seductive role sex, trading sex and pain exchange.” (S. O’Hara) 

Prior to the mid 1950’s, women who had sex outside of marriage were subjected to harsh and unfair judgment.  Female sexuality outside of marriage, especially masturbation, was viewed as the closest thing to moral bankruptcy.  It was with the 1953 Kinsey study, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” that normative data regarding female sexuality was made available to the public at large.  The Kinsey Reports played a significant role in changing the public perception of female sexuality.  Fifty-eight years later, women with aberrant sexual behavior, such as sex addiction, are still viewed through the lens of hypocrisy and condemnation.  That which was acceptable for men was considered “ugly” and “perverted” for women. 

A myopic society that scorns, rejects and unfairly judges female sex addiction (while being more tolerant with men) places roadblocks for support, education and counseling/treatment.  A fear of being disparaged, blamed, shunned and, ultimately, isolated by their loved ones prevents many women from feeling safe enough to seek help.  It is no wonder that women sex addicts maintain their silence and secrecy about their addiction.
 

Myth Two: Female Sex Addicts Are Only Addicted to Relationships or Love - Not Sex. 
Even though most female sex addicts are “relationship” or “love” addicts, many others are addicted to sex, masturbate compulsively, use pornography, engage in a variety of Internet sexual activities, have affairs with multiple partners, engage in anonymous sex or phone sex and are exhibitionists.  According to Kelly McDaniel, licensed professional counselor and author of “Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction,” therapists have recently seen more women with (sex addiction)…in connection with Internet porn, which has become a “gender-neutral” addiction.  “Before, female sex addicts generally tended to have affairs or become sex workers.”

Most female addicts avoid the term “sex addiction” because it carries negative connotations of sexual perversion, nymphomania and promiscuity.  When given a choice, women prefer the romantic and nurturing connotations of “love” or “relationship” addiction.  The “sex addiction” label is resisted because women are often not motivated by the pursuit of sex only – but instead by a deep and insatiable desire for love, acceptance, affection and affirmation.  Naturally, female sex addicts prefer a term that represents their femininity.  


Myth Three: Women Who Are Sex Addicts Know About Their Problem.
Rarely do women identify themselves as sex addicts.  Similarly, when a sexually addicted female seeks mental health services, it is likely that the clinician will misdiagnose her.  It is common for untrained clinicians to only diagnose a comorbid (co-occurring) mental health problem, while completely missing the sex addiction diagnosis.  As a result of a scarcity of research, training and effective screening protocols, the female sex addict who is in denial of her problem is likely to interface with professionals who share her ignorance and denial systems.      

If sex is the core addiction, it may be hidden beneath a more obvious and less shameful concurrent addiction.  Having more than one addiction, women are prone to only seek professional help for the addiction that is more obvious and socially acceptableShame, embarrassment and fear of consequences, i.e., divorce or social alienation, may push the sex addiction – the primary or core addiction - to the addict’s unconscious.  Simply, sex addiction is easier to deny than another addiction such as alcohol or drugs.          


Myth Four: Consequences Are the Same for Females and Males.
Although female sex addicts experience the same consequences as men, a societal sexual double standard also creates more painful and harsher consequences.  Additionally, women are more prone to suffer health concerns such as unwanted pregnancies or sexually-transmitted diseases.  Because of the power and strength differential of men and women, women face a higher probability of physical harm such as rape or aggravated battery.  Women suffer unique and agonizing consequences because they often feel responsible for the shame, embarrassment and punishing social judgment that their male partner and children endure.   


A Sexual Double Standard
Our culture/media encourages women to be sexually provocative and available, while holding them in contempt if they cross the boundary of society-determined rules concerning sexual decency.  Male sex addicts are afforded greater tolerance and freedom than females.  “The belief that women and men are held to different standards of sexual conduct is pervasive in contemporary American society.  According to the sexual double standard, men are rewarded and praised for heterosexual sexual contacts, whereas women are derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors.” (Kreager & Staff, 2009) 

Sexual double standards date back to earliest recorded history.  Biblical archeologists and religion historians point to frequent sexist and misogynist references in religious documents and art.  These scholars believe that references to sexism in religious texts were at least partially influenced by patriarchal, tribal, violent and intolerant societies.  The sexual double standard also can be traced back to the 13th century during the crusades when a knight required his lady to wear a chastity belt to ensure her sexual fidelity.  As hard as it may be to believe, this punishing and humiliating device is still in use today; in 2004, the USA Today reported that a 40-year old British woman set off a security alarm because of her steel chastity belt.  This woman said her husband had forced her to wear the device to prevent an extramarital affair while on vacation in Greece.

Yet another historical reference of sexual double standard is illustrated in Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic novel, “The Scarlet Letter,” which was written in 1850.  The main character, Hester Prynne, was placed in prison with her infant daughter for conceiving a child through an adulterous affair.  Hester struggled to redeem herself in a society that was harshly judgmental and punishing to females who defied the sexual mores of her time.  Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” has become a symbol of modern society’s harmful, harsh and punishing sexual double standard. 

Fifty-eight years after the publishing of the “The Scarlet Letter,” Sigmund Freud further perpetuated the myth of sexual inequality in his 1908 article "On the Sexual Theories of Children," in which he introduced the concept of “penis envy.”  According to Freud, the defining moment of gender and sexual identity for a woman occurs when she realizes that she doesn’t have a penis.  Freud believed that girls wished they were born with penises instead of vaginas.  Critics of Freud’s work argue that he was a patriarch, anti-feminist and misogynistic.  One could argue that Freud was merely a product of the sexually repressed Victorian society in which he lived. 

Even today, the double standard continues to be inexorably entwined in our culture - so much so now that women themselves are guilty of discriminating against their own gender.  A significant percentage of women judge highly sexually experienced women more negatively than men (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).  It is still commonplace for women's sexual histories to be used against them in workplace harassment cases or in cases of sexual assault (Valenti, 2009).  The double standard creates a dangerous backdrop for women who are considering getting help for their sexual addiction. 

Concurrent Addictions
Especially with sex addiction, addictive disorders tend to coexist or fit together (Carnes, 1983).  Concurrent addictions, which are multiple addictions that are simultaneous expressed and/or ritually connected, are quite common for female addicts.  Examples include smoking marijuana before going online, drinking alcohol before an Internet date to lower inhibitions and taking stimulants in order to surf the net all night.   Concurrent addictions, like alcoholism, may have been started to hide or numb the pain or shame caused by out-of-control sexual compulsions.  Alcohol, especially, lowers inhibitions and alleviates anxiety – making the sexual acting out more “pleasurable” and “easier.”  Rarely does a sex addict have just one addiction (Carnes, 1983).  Carnes’ research on sexual addictions revealed that 83% of sex addicts reported multiple addictions:
•      Chemical dependencies - 42%
•      Eating disorders - 38%
•      Compulsive overworking - 28%
•      Compulsive spending - 26%
•      Compulsive gambling - 5%


Four Categories of Female Sex Addiction (Feree, 2001)
Female sex addicts may be categorized (in order of prevalence) into four groups: Relationship Addict, Pornography or Cybersex Addict, Stereotypical Sex Addict and Sexual Anorexic.

Category One: The Female Love or Relationship Addict
Female love addicts compulsively seek total immersion in a relationship – real or imagined.  The “lust” for an intoxicating relationship becomes a dramatic obsession that may be stronger and more compelling than the overwhelming desire for sex.  Love addiction creates an illusion of power, control and even dominance.  Love addicts compulsively seek exciting, exhilarating and mood-altering relationships, which by definition are unstable.  They practice serial monogamy: seeking multiple relationships, which begin with intense passion but end relatively quickly.  These unhealthy relationships become the organizing principle of the love addict’s life.  According to a renowned expert on love addiction, Pia Mellody, it is dependent on, enmeshed with and compulsively focused on taking care of another person (1992).  Like any addiction, the drug or process, in this case the relationship, persists despite the addict having no control over it and suffering obvious negative effects. 

Female love addicts are habitually preoccupied with romance, intrigue or fantasy.  They are driven by an insatiable desire for a romantic “fix,” which requires a steady stream of new and exciting short-term romantic monogamous relationships.  They rely on their exhibitionistic and seductive “powers” to “feed” their addiction.  They are entranced by the intoxicating “high” initiated at the point when they meet their love object.  Beginning with hope, excitement and a huge desire, these relationships usually devolve into disinterest; disillusionment and conflict.  The euphoric “fix” escalates and then maintains until the relationship does not deliver the drug-like euphoria anymore.  Like with other addicts, female love addicts try, but never succeed in satisfying their insatiable and compulsive need of romantic euphoria – their drug of choice. 
 
Signs of Love or Romance Addiction:
•      Thinking you are in love despite just meeting (“love at first sight”)
•      Valuing the time spent with love object over time and attention needed for self
•      Relationships create feelings of safety, happiness and optimism 
•      Mistaking sexual or romantic intensity for healthy love
•      Constantly “on the prowl” for a romantic partner
•      Short, intense and conflict-based relationships
•      Pattern of failed relationships
•      Using sex, seduction and intrigue to "hook" or hold onto a partner  
•      Using romantic intensity to hide, cover or “medicate”  emotional pain, conflict or problems
•      Pattern of “dating” abusers, narcissists and addicts (emotionally unavailable, distant and harmful)
•      Flirting and/or having an affair while in a relationship
•      Pattern of broken promises to stop the behavior/addiction
•      Sacrificing time with friends or family to act out
•      Avoiding relationships to control the addiction

Unlike sex addicts, love addicts tend to act out within a relationship.  Often, they are unable to avoid or let go of toxic relationships, even if they are unhappy, depressed, lonely, neglected or in danger.  Typically, love addicts are disinterested in the sexual aspect of the romance, including orgasm.  The “pull” and the power of the “love” in love addiction almost always exceeds the addict’s sexual desires.  It is not unusual for the female addict to report apathy or even dislike of sexual activity, including orgasm.  Love addicts tend to use sex to manage their feelings or to control their partner – the co-addict.  To the love addict, the sexual experience is a means to the end.  According to the Love Addiction Anonymous (LAA) website, “unlike sex addicts, love addicts crave an emotional connection and will avoid, at any cost, separation, anxiety and loneliness.” 

Many female love and relationship addicts report that they are addicted to the intoxicating, intense and all-consuming feelings experienced in the attraction phase of a relationship.  This “rush” is described in Dorothy Tennov’s 1979 book, “Love and Limerence: the Experience of Being in Love.”  Tennov coined the term “limerence,” which she described as an involuntary state of mind that results from a romantic attraction to another person, combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated.  

Symptoms of Limerence (Tennov, 1979):
•         Intrusive thinking about the limerent object (‘LO’)
•         Acute longing for reciprocation
•         Mood fluctuations based on LO's actions 
•         Can only feel it with one person at a time 
•         All-consuming obsession that the LO will relieve the pain 
•         Preoccupation (fear) with rejection
•         Incapacitating and uncomfortable shyness in the beginning
•         Intensification through adversity
•         An aching `heart' (in the chest) when there are doubts 
•         Buoyancy (“walking on air”) with reciprocation 
•         Intense obsessions demotivate the person from other responsibilities (friends, family, work)
•         Emphasis is placed on positive attributes of the LO, while ignoring the negative


Category Two: The Female Cybersex Addict
Cybersex is virtual sex where sexually explicit material is viewed or exchanged to evoke a sexual response.  The cybersex addicts act out their sexual compulsions through the use of and involvement with the Internet.  Cybersex requires vivid, visceral and sexually evocative sexual stimuli.  Female cybersex addicts typically do not meet in person, but in “virtual” places, i.e., email, chat rooms, with video cams, prolonged email interactions and role-playing activities.  While creating a safer experience, anonymity often enhances the sexual excitement for the female cybersex addict.  Cybersex addicts usually act out together in “virtual” places through masturbatory activities.  Female cybersex addicts are more prone to have phone contact or seek relationships through their activities (Schneider, 2011). 

Cybersex Addiction Activities
•      Viewing and masturbating to Internet pornography (photos or videos)
•      Live webcam sexual interaction
•      Sexual membership sites (Swingers, BDSM, etc.)
•      Membership in cyber affair sites (AshleyMadison.com)
•      Seeking sex through personal sex ads (Craigslist or Backpages)
•      Participating on sex-related chat sites
•      Adult dating sites (Adult Friend Finder)
•      Cell phone hook-up applications
•      GPS hook-up applications (Grindr)


Category Three: The Female Sex Addict
Female sex addicts can fit the stereotypical “male” pattern of sexual addiction.  This is an addiction driven by a lustful and compulsive preoccupation with a sexual activity.  Sex addicts typically engage in chronic masturbation, with or without pornography, and have anonymous sex with individuals who they either met online or “picked up” in a bar or other public place.  To the female sex addict, the relationship is less important than the thrill of the sexual experience.  While female sex addicts are less voyeuristic, they are more exhibitionistic.  Typically, they are exotic dancers or strippers, prostitutes or women who sell sex or trade it for something desired.  
 
Female sex addiction occurs with the same 11 behavioral forms of sexual addiction that Patrick Carnes outlined in his breakthrough book on sex addiction, “Out of the Shadows.”  It should be noted that despite the commonalities, there are clear gender differences and gender behavior preferences. 
1. Fantasy Sex – Sexually charged fantasies, relationships and situations
2. Seductive Role Sex- Seduction of partners
3. Anonymous Sex — High-risk sex with unknown persons
4. Paying for Sex – Purchasing of sexual services
5. Trading for Sex – Selling or bartering sex for power
6. Voyeuristic Sex – Visual arousal
7. Exhibitionistic Sex – Attracting attention to the body or sexual parts of the body
8. Intrusive Sex – Boundary violations without discovery
9. Pain Exchange – Being humiliated or hurt as a part of the sexual arousal
10. Object Sex – Masturbating with objects
11. Exploitive Sex — Exploitation of the vulnerable


Category Four: Sexual Anorexia
The term “sexual anorexia” has been used to describe sexual aversion disorder (DSM code 302.79), a state in which the patient has a profound disgust and horror at anything sexual in themselves and others (P. Carnes, 1998).  The title of Carnes’ 1997 book, “Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred,” describes the sex or love addict’s psychological motivation for this disorder - contempt and self-hatred – often for their sex or love addiction. 

Sexual anorexia is the inverse of sexual addiction.  Sexually anorexic women are as compulsive with their aversion to sex as sex addicts are trying to have sexual experiences.  Sexual anorexics suppress or repress their sexually addictive compulsions by denying their own sexuality, avoiding all sexual encounters, rebuking others for any and all sexual interest and/or vehemently condemning others for their sexual proclivities or desires.  Sexual anorexia includes a binge/purge cycle, during which a woman may uncontrollably sexually act out for an extended period of time, and which may be followed by a sexual shutdown – avoiding all forms of sexual expression and activity. 

Symptoms of Sexual Anorexia (Carnes, 1993):
·         Persistent fear of intimacy, sexual contact, sexual pleasure, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
·         Preoccupation, to the point of obsession, with sexual matters, including the sexuality, sexual intentions and  
          sexual behaviors of others, and their own sexual inadequacy.
·         Negative, rigid or judgmental attitudes about sex, body appearance and sexual activity.
·         Shame and self-loathing over sexual experiences.
·         Self-destructive behavior in order to avoid, limit or stop sex.

Conclusion
The treatment of sex addiction as a gender neutral problem has created unnecessary roadblocks to females seeking services for sex and love addiction.  Although there are distinct gender differences with sex and love addiction, the problem is clearly universal.  Until the popular media represents female sexual addiction in a more socially acceptable and less derogatory manner, women will be "shamed" out of seeking the much needed help, support and services.  The mental health and addiction fields also need to overcome its own limitations regarding unsubstantiated and unsupported beliefs regarding women and sex and love addiction.  Until our society's gender blindness, sexist beliefs and double standards are corrected, scores of female sex and love addicts will be deprived of timely, effective and compassionate addiction services.  It is time that all mental health and addiction practitioners open their hearts, minds and offices to female sex and love addicts.

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