Learning to Be in a Relationship
2. First Level Friendship
3. Second Level Friendship
4. Intimate Relationship
The step-by-step process by which we reacquaint ourselves with healthy pleasure is part of reviving our ability to recognize what is going on inside of us. Once we can properly identify our emotions, needs, and wants, and attune to our bodies, we must learn how to communicate that truth with respect and listening to the truth of others with respect are the basic necessitates of healthy relationships. But, because sex addicts have damaged relational sills, in self-defeat they put all sorts of blocks in the way of relationship and connection.
Because of the abuse we have endured, learning to relate is
one of the most challenging tasks we undertake in our lives. As we have explored, the issue of betrayal is huge for sex addicts and so, in turn, is the restoration of trust.
Most recovering sex addicts are terrified of re-creating painful or shaming experiences. We teach ourselves to sexulaize our feelings in order to buffer ourselves from being emotionally vulnerable. Sexual addiction becomes the defense against real or imagined emotional rejection.
Aware of it or not, the suffering sex addict learns to approach all potential and real relationships through the filter of his relational history. His intuition tells him that being close to or vulnerable with another is not safe. When a new person comes into his life, he will screen this person through that filter, and the message that will be relayed is: danger!
By the time sex addicts have arrived in treatment, they usually have few, if any, friends. They may have many people in their lives, but most of these relationships are based on enhancing their addiction.
The floors of the high school halls shine like the polished deck of a luxury yacht. The low morning light gleams from them as Mitchell makes his way to his locker. His habit of arriving early to school began years ago. The early start gives him an added edge, which Mitchell finds comforting. He usually sits on the floor, his back against his locker, reviewing or finishing his homework. He likes to imagine that the "peer-proclaimed wimp" is in control. It provides a confidence booster prior to the distress he feels when the halls stream with fellow students.
Mitchell's daydream is interrupted as he notices the signs hung by the student council the night before; brightly colored artwork lines the halls. Mitchell feels despair as he reads the announcement for the homecoming dance.
Mitchell lives in a small town in southern Indiana, a tight-knit community that demonstrates its enthusiasm and spirit through Fourth of July parades, town-hall Christmas carols, and sold-out high school sporting events. An event like this is a big deal.
"How did the dance turn out for you?" I ask.
"It was the worst," Mitchell says. "My mother, if can believe this, set me up with this girl, who I later found out was paid to go -- some girl from another country who didn't talk to me all night."
"Your mother probably thought she was being helpful, but that must have felt like betrayal. And then add the humiliation of how your date acted," I say.
"Exactly," Mitchell says, no animated. "That really cemented my fear and distrust of women."
"Wasn't this when your addiction really took off?"
"Big time. After that, I just gave up."
Mitchell learned to hide his addiction to porn. He leaned that his shame and fear of emotional rejection far outweighed the risk of being vulnerable. Instead of living in connection and sharing his truth with another, he learned to live in reaction, behind a wall of fear, anger, and resentment.This was the home of Mitchell's trauma. From this place, he could never have a relationship, much less a truly erotic one.
Like other recovering addicts working toward healthy sexuality, Mitchell must identify his fears and expectations as belonging to his wounding. He also must understand how his dysfunctional traumatized self undermines his attempts at intimacy.
This means that, if a person is going to engage with another, whether in friendship or intimacy, he has to learn how to access his needs and wants while respecting the needs and wants of his partner.
End of part four (1).