Beyond the Bedroom: Healing for Adult Children of Sex Addicts

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9780757303258: Beyond the Bedroom: Healing for Adult Children of Sex Addicts
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Did one or both of your parents:

Become emotionally distant and unloving to their spouse?

Talk about sex or sexuality in an inappropriate way?

Spend a lot of time away from home or form unusually close platonic relationships?

Continue their destructive behavior, even when confronted by the damage it was causing?

If so, you are an adult child of a sex addict.

Sex addiction is not about parents who cheat on each other or have multiple partners, although it does manifest itself that way. It is about any sexual dysfunction between people in a long-term relationship: sexual withholding, emotional detachment, bullying or demeaning behavior, etc. These relationship problems form subconscious impressions on children and lead to unfulfilling relationships in later life.

This book, for the first time, identifies 'sexual addiction' as a root cause of many of the dysfunctions in relationships. It helps readers analyze their parents' relationships. It then shows them the possible dysfunctions these problems caused in their own relationships, giving both general guidance and personal anecdotes from a select group of children of sex addicts. Finally, it gives readers several specific exercises to help free them from their past, heal their relationship with your parents (especially the 'victim partner'―often the wife―who is subconsciously blamed for not stopping the spouse's disruptive behavior), and repair any damage in their current relationships.

This book is not just about cheating or abuse. It is about finding the way back to the loving relationships you want...and that those around you deserve.

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About the Author:

Douglas Weiss, Ph.D., a national leader in the field of sexual addiction, is the author of several books on sexual addiction and its impact. His frequent speaking engagements cover topics pertaining to intimacy in marriage, singlehood, men's and women's issues and recovery from addiction. A popular expert for national television and radio shows, he is Executive Director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

What Is a Sexual Addiction?

O nce again I am sitting in a comfortable chair in a television studio. Along with me are the host, lights, camera and 'action' from the floor director. The most frequently asked question is, 'So, Dr. Doug, what really is sexual addiction anyway?' I'm sure you're probably also sitting in your comfortable chair right now with the same question popping into your mind.

A sex addict, much like an alcoholic or overeater, uses his or her drug of choice (sex) to avoid past or present pain and escape the realities of life. The sex addict uses sex in such a way that many of the following questions would be answered with a 'yes.'

The Sexual Addict Quiz

1. Have you engaged sexual behaviors that you wish you could stop?

2. Do you feel abnormally driven by your sexual drive?

3. Have you been in relationships just for sex?

4. Has masturbation been ongoing even after marriage?

5. Has pornography continued for you after a long-term, committed, sexual relationship?

6. Does your sexuality seem to be dragging down your personal potential?

7. Do you find that you spend a significant amount of time online viewing pornography or grooming others for sexual encounters?

8. Have you experienced an unwanted sexual encounter during childhood or adolescence?

9. Has monogamous sex grown boring?

The sexual addict tends to have a secret sexual life. He or she has a normal exterior life as a citizen and parent, and may be politically, socially or spiritually active in the community. But he or she has a secret life of cruising, masturbating, and frequenting adult bookstores, Internet chat rooms or prostitutes, or having affairs.

Everything may look normal on the outside, but the addict suffers silently. Unable to be honest, the addict is unable to sustain a true, emotionally intimate relationship. He or she lives with a voice inside that says, If you really knew me, you wouldn't love me.

Personally and professionally I know the hell of this addiction, and it's not fun. Fortunately, there is now help. Unfortunately for most of you reading these pages, there may not have been help or information available on sexual addiction when your parents were in the midst of their struggles. Most suffered secretly with an addiction for which they hated themselves.

Now to make it more complicated, sex addiction is not limited to one behavior. A sex addict, whether male or female, can be addicted to a variety of sexual behaviors. Some of these behaviors are listed below, but problems are not limited to these:


―Voyeurism ―Fantasy ―Pornography ―Fetishes ―Chat rooms ―Exposing oneself ―Sexual literature ―Affairs ―Prostitutes ―One-night stands ―Masturbation ―Anonymous encounters ―Cross-dressing

Some sex addicts have affairs outside of their marriage; some use their spouse in a sexually disconnected manner; some leave their spouse alone sexually, preferring masturbation, fantasy or pornography. A sexual addict is similar to an alcoholic, where some prefer martinis, scotch and water, or beer, but all alcoholics still use alcohol in a way that is destructive to their lives.

There are common characteristics of sexual addiction that are shared by all types of addicts. Sexual addicts are either in denial or rationalize why they do what they do. Similar to other addicts, they blame others for their addiction.

Several roads may have been taken to becoming sexually addicted. Many sexual addicts have been victims of sexual, emotional or physical abuse. Others got on the path of sexual addiction due to a reward system they set up with pornography and fantasy. Others have chemical imbalances and as adolescents they treated this with orgasm responses to feel better. If you want more detailed information on the origins of sexual addiction, I recommend my book The Final Freedom: Pioneering Sexual Addiction Recovery.

Sexual addiction is often confused with a high libido―another question I get asked frequently by the media. A man or woman with a high libido can have spirit, soul and body sex. He or she can also ­experience sexual satiation regularly. A high libido person enjoys relational sex―the key word here being 'enjoys.'

A sexual addict rarely if ever has sex in a spirit, soul and body manner. The sex addict often disconnects from his/her spouse during sexuality and orgasm. The sexual addict rarely feels satiated or satisfied sexually.

I think by now you can see why sexual addicts' lives might be chaotic and frustrating. They chase a high that can never satisfy them. They keep going for more, but they still aren't satisfied. They go for 'different' (whatever that may mean to them), and that doesn't satisfy. They go to their endless fantasy world, and that doesn't satisfy. So they go to the Internet, and they are left disconnected once again.

Being a sex addict isn't fun. You feel alone, disconnected and often disqualified from the very best of life. A hug from a loving child is chilled by the memory of where you were that day. The 'I love you' from your spouse seems shallow because of your secret life. Being unable to connect with those you love is the life of the sexual addict. Unfortunately, that means the sexual addict is not the only one impacted by his or her addiction.

Sexual addiction also has a huge impact on the spouse of a sexual addict. In our survey of adult children of sexual addicts, we found that most of the spouses were women and the sex addicts were men. Thus, if you are an adult child of a sexual addict, most likely your mother was the spouse of a sexual addict. It's also possible your mother was the sexual addict, which we will discuss shortly.

If your mother was the partner of a sex addict, the sex addiction probably had a tremendous impact on her soul. Who she was as a wife, friend, sexual partner, spiritual being and mother were all impacted. Her spouse was probably emotionally, spiritually and morally still an adolescent. He was also most likely extremely self-centered and insensitive to her needs. Her need for connection would have been unmet.

If she knew about her husband's addiction, her own sexuality could have been impacted or shamed. She probably felt like she never measured up and was married to a man for whom she was not his first love (the sex addiction was). There was also a 29 percent chance that her husband was a sexual anorexic.

As a sexual anorexic, her husband would have avoided her spiritually, emotionally and sexually. She may have gone months or years without sexual intimacy as he would use porn, masturbation, or have sexual or emotional relationships with others instead.

Sexual addiction in your family of origin may have resulted in the divorce of your parents. This divorce may also have brought into your life many individuals who your parents may have dated, married or even divorced.

I have worked with wives of sexual addicts for more than eighteen years. I can tell you in my professional experience that as a woman and a mother she is hurt, angry and impacted in almost every area of her life by this addiction. She alone often carries the secret of her husband's addiction.

In my book, Partners: Healing from His Addiction, I surveyed seventy wives of sexual addicts. The research shows that your mother had a large probability of struggling with depression, lower self-esteem and food issues. She may have acted out sexually herself, or alternatively became cold and distant to your suffering, or too clingy and manipulative.

I say all this so you can see that your mother and her parenting were impacted by the sexual addiction in your home. The mother she could have been and the mother you actually had were significantly different due to sex addiction.

A mother whose spiritual and emotional needs were being met would have been very different. A mother married to a man who truly was morally developed would have been different. A mother married to a man who wasn't self-absorbed and deceptive would have been different. A mother without the deep sense of betrayal from adultery or pornography would have been different. Without the secrets and the shame of your father's sexual addiction, your mother would have been different―and better.

Your mother had choices to make, but she also had fears of raising you alone, not feeling like she could work to make enough money and many others. She had reasons for her choices. Some of her reasons may have been less healthy than others, yet she was reacting to an unhealthy situation. If you grew up in a home with sexual addiction, then both parents were impacted. If your mother was a sexual addict, this would also have been true.

I think you're getting the picture that growing up in a family where there is a sexual addiction impacts all the family members. There still is one other person the sexual addiction would have impacted. That is you .

You have been impacted by the secret of sexual addiction. You had to react, adjust and grow up in an environment that sexual addiction was destroying. You didn't ask for this, and neither did I. But we can acknowledge the impact that sexual addiction has had on our lives.

We also have the choice to heal. We can stay unhealthy, or we can choose a lifestyle of recovery. I chose healing and recovery. My wife and children have had a man in their lives who did his own work to heal. My family is worth it, and I am worth healing.

You are worth it as well. The pages ahead will be insightful, and at times painful, but will definitely give you the possibility to place your feet on a path of tremendous healing. So grab hold of my hand and heart, and the hands and hearts of those who have participated in our survey, and we will walk together to a place called recovery.

Ashley's Story

M y dad was an alcoholic and a sex addict/ sexual anorexic. My mother struggled with borderline personality disorder and violent rages. Life was a daily hell-in-a-handbasket. We never knew what the evening was going to be like from one day to the next. One day we were hiding under the bed scared to death; the next day all was fine and dandy. My mother was in such turmoil all the time―she hated my dad. She hated him looking like the nice guy, while she was always seen as the crazy one.

I would stand outside my mother's door at night as a child and listen for noises to tell me if she was alive. I was convinced she would commit suicide, but if I could hear her crying at least I knew she was alive. My dad would be gone. He was either out drinking and 'sexing,' or downstairs reading. He was never available for us.

I started to notice early on that my mom was starving, and I couldn't figure it out. My dad seemed so nice and easy to be around. As I got older, I began to see that they never interacted with each other, so I began requesting that they talk or hold hands or kiss. It seemed odd, and I assumed a role that turned out to run my life later. The role was that of caretaker/facilitator―getting them to work it out was my mission.

They came to me for advice, and I would usually have some good advice for them. I tried to get them into therapy, but they never seemed to be on the same page when it came to 'wanting help.' As I took on this role, it interfered with everything: schoolwork, friends and boys. Everything normal got tainted by what was happening to my parents and to us kids.

I noticed all kinds of weird characteristics in my life that I didn't have control over, so I began attending Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) meetings and that helped a lot; at least I could see other kids were suffering, too. I began to understand that my parents had a lot of addictions and that I was a product of that environment. I began to understand that I had built a lifestyle around helping them instead of centering my life around God. This was starving me of God's plan for my life.

I had so much confusion and rage, but I was determined to find my life. I read every book I could get my hands on, and learned and grew in my understanding of addiction and codependency. It was a hard road, but it felt good to be me.

Nine years ago my father died of cancer, and it was eye-opening because my mother changed. All of a sudden this woman I had known for thirty-one years was coming alive―she lost weight, she joined a gym, she took classes, she began to travel, and she started to spend money more freely. It was remarkable! And she would say over and over again, 'I'm free to live now! I feel like all the hate just drained out of my body when your dad died.' I can now see my mother, and it was incredibly healing and freeing for me to see her happy. It was freeing to break the silence in my household. We began to talk about it and deal with it.

Two years ago, I watched a video by Dr. Weiss called Sexual Anorexia. What happened to me as a child had a name―sexual anorexia. The slow, silent starving of our family through my father's addiction had a name! I shared this information with my brothers and with everyone I came across who had similar circumstances. I felt further freedom in my life to move out of the trap of addiction and into a life of peace. I see life as a journey, and I am learning every day how to walk free―and now I have the knowledge and tools to grasp what is happening and resolve it. I live with a loving husband and two children who love God, and I am involved in an exciting ministry where I use the gifts God gave me. There is life after being a child of a sex addict!

George's Story

I remember racing on my pride and joy, a Honda 50cc motorcycle, and hitting the roads outside the city limits in our rural agricultural community. I was off to visit an older woman in her mid-twenties. She was a friend who had ­pursued me. In my imagination I made it seem that she was my girlfriend. Nothing like this had happened to me before, and it seemed to awaken within me passions that I had no awareness of before that summer. I would often drive out to her home in the country. I would spend summer days with her in the family swimming pool, hang with her for a few hours, and then head back to my house in our small Midwestern community. It was the summer of my fourteenth year. The world was mine. You see, I had a crush on this woman. She unquestionably had my heart. She could make me feel alive, like nothing else I had ever encountered.

The interesting thing is that she had also captured my father's heart. He also was spending unusual amounts of time with her. In fact, one time when I was visiting this woman, my father, according to her, had also visited with her on that same day. She revealed that my father called her often. It wasn't long before I realized that my father was having an affair with this woman.

She became part of the bigger story in my father's life. This woman helped him redecorate our family home when my father sent my mother to another state to visit her sister. This woman picked out the carpet, helped paint, hung wallpaper; her personality was permanently fingerprinted in our home. My mother came back from her visit, walked into the house, and as I watched her face in horror I realized that she had been duped. My father somehow made this all seem plausible. He pulled off these types of things from time to time during the course of my parents' marriage.

My mother told her sons on several occasions that she was not my father's first choice for a marriage partner. Although they had dated, he actually pined for someone else and apparently settled for my mom. She grieved ...

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