Monday, November 18, 2013
Slow Courtship (Part One)
Intimacy with a New Partner
When sex addicts move into a more intimate relationship, they must slow down the process. I recommend seventeen dates spread over at least three months before genital contact. During that slow courtship, the recovering sex addict has time to practice the habits of self-esteem and boundaries that he has learned in therapy and in group.
This courtship period at first involves boundaried communication, emphasizing the pleasures involved in being honest and respectful. I urge clients to use talking and listening boundaries because this kind of connection creates safety and trust. The recovering individual is implying, "I trust you. I am willing to be open to you. I trust myself enough to trust you."
For most sex and love addicts, sex has always equaled power and control, something other than connection. So entering love in this way is a whole new experience for a sex addict because he is being present. And being present can be terrifying.
Once you are developing good communication skills, learning who your partner really is, and knowing your own needs and wants, you introduce physical but non-genital expressions of affection and love.
Activities might include massages, holding hands, snuggling, rubbing each other's back, and washing each other's hair; this allows connection to the physical. You want to take what you enjoy and share that with your partner. And your partner will do the same.
Learning relationship skills, meaning boundaried behaviors, is hard enough. So how does a recovering sex addict share, during the boundaried interchange, that he or she has behaved in destructive, unethical, immoral, and harmful ways?
If you are starting to date a new person, you want to share in broad strokes. You don't want to get into the details, but you do want him or her to know you have issues around your sexuality that are based in your trauma. Go into detail only to the level of what appears appropriate to you. You must trust your sense of authenticity.
Before you do this, do a practice run with your Twelve Step sponsor or therapist. Have it scripted out. Talk about it in group and with other people who have done it. Prepare yourself before the event with your support people and afterward share with them what the experience was like for the two of you. By doing so, you are connecting in a healthy way, and you are supporting yourself in doing something that is terrifying to sex addicts.