Today, I will start with a declaration. A “Thus Sayth Doctor Dick,” sorta deal. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I reject the concept of sex addiction, that is floating around in the popular culture these days. I know this will rankle a bunch of you, but you need to get over it. Ya see, there ain’t no such thing as a sex addiction. Period!
That being said, I hasten to add that there are sexual compulsions, plenty of ‘em. However, compulsions are not addictions and addictions, while they may involve irresistible impulses, are not the same thing as compulsions. Get it? Got it? Good!
Check it out. With the help of my handy-dandy dictionary, a good place to start in all such discussions, I discovered these two very distinct definitions.
Addiction — a need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. Broadly: persistent use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. A state of physiological and psychological dependence on a drug.
Compulsive — driven by an irresistible inner force to do something; i.e. a compulsive liar.See! Different words. Different meanings. Not a particularly complex notion to grasp, right?
And listen, just because a bunch of pseudo-intelligent afternoon talks show hosts banter the two concepts about like they were interchangeable doesn’t make it so. In fact, we do ourselves a huge disservice by jumbling these two very specific concepts. Because finding the proper intervention for either an addiction or a compulsive behavior will be as specific as the problem itself. One thing is for certain; misidentifying one of the things, as the other will surly complicate the problem solving. It’s kinda like going to the doctor with a headache, and when the doc asks where it hurts, you point to your stomach. It simply won’t do.
Dear Dr. Dick, I’ve been married for 5 years now and truly love my wife, however I can never seem to get enough sex. I am 30 and she’s 29, but I constantly find myself in the chat rooms and porn sites lookin for more sex. It’s more than just a hobby; it’s a habit! And if I have a few cocktails in me, and that happens more and more, I really can’t stop myself. I once lost a job once because I used the work computer to search the web for sex. It’s like I’m addicted to sex. My wife knows I have played around (we even did a 3-way once and it was totally hot) but she has no idea how extreme it’s become. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m not unhappy with my wife. I just can’t seem to stop wanting sex. Any suggestions? — Brian
You got it bad, and that ain’t good!
It’s interesting to note that you tell me about your compulsive sexual behavior in the same breath that you claim to love your wife. Love and sex are two very different things. And as you’ve probably guessed already, there’s no necessary connection between the two. Sometimes they go together, but not always. So it is possible to love someone dearly and deeply, but still be consumed with pursuing sex with others.
It appears to me that you’ve really got two problems happening simultaneously. First, your compulsive prowling of the internet for sex. (This is complicated by your alcohol abuse.) Second, the deception you’re practicing on your wife. Let’s deal with each of these in turn.
Your particular sexual activity, like any compulsive behavior (over eating, excessive shopping, etc.), is more than just a bad habit. It’s a serious dysfunction. Take it from me, breaking this behavior pattern will be very difficult, if not impossible, without some professional help. If the problem is as serious as you say, then you’d better seek help right away. This sort of thing, if left untreated, will not only destroy your marriage; it will ruin your life. When you seek professional help, I encourage you to include information about your alcohol consumption. If there is an addiction in all of this, it’s the alcohol, not the sex. And in your case, your (alcohol) addiction may be fueling your (sex) compulsion.
Look for a sex-positive therapist, someone who has experience working with other people similarly challenged. A support group may also be an option. Since you’re not alone in this, there is probably a group already meeting in where you live. You’ll need to do some legwork to uncover these resources, but I promise you it will be well worth your effort.
Now, regarding your relationship. It’s imperative that you come clean with your wife about your (sex) compulsion and probable (alcohol) addiction. Not only will you feel better not having to deceive her anymore, but you’ll also need her support in overcoming these problems. I suggest that you attend to this right away. There’s not a moment to lose.
Hey doc! I think I’m addicted to having sex on the internet. I haven’t told my partner. Do you think this is a form of cheating or is it just harmless fun? I like getting off with guys in chat rooms and with my webcam. I feel guilty about it so I guess this tells me something!— Luke
You’re having what is commonly known as cyber sex, right? If that’s a good call on my part, I don’t consider it a form of “cheating” on your partner, any more than I would consider jerking off to porn to be cheating. (We’ll address this notion of cheating in a later column.)
However, your feelings of guilt are another thing all together. They tell me that you are not at peace with your sexual practices. Maybe you need to take a look at this. Are your cyber pursuits a serious concern? Do you squander your sexual energy on cyber sex, instead of sharing it with your partner? Only you can determine this for sure. I can assure you that the guilt feelings will continue to plague you until you dump the sexual practices that are hurtful to you and those you love, and integrate healthier ones in their place.
Hi Dr. Dick, My boyfriend cheats on me. Every time he does he begs me for forgiveness. I think ok, but don’t do that again. I love him, but I hate feeling bad all the time. I feel stupid putting up with all of this, but I can’t leave him. I still love him. Please give me some advice. Thank You. Hope to here from you soon, Denise
Before we turn our attention to your boyfriend, let me make a quick observation about you, Denise. You’re a mess, girl! I mean really, take a long hard look at yourself, you’re a freakin’ doormat! How’s the BF supposed to respect you when you have no respect for yourself? How can you say that you love a person that makes you feel bad? You are deceiving yourself, girlfriend, cuz LOVE don’t ever make you feel bad.
As screwed up as your BF is, and he is pretty fucked up, he is just part of the problem. You’ve got some obsession issues yourself that you need to address.Your boyfriend probably has you pegged as a pussy…and not in a good way. He knows you will tolerate his misbehavior, which of course gives him permission to do whatever he feels like doing whenever he feel like doing it. If you’re really serious about reining in the bastard, you’d better come up with a clear, unambiguous message about what you will and will not tolerate. Until you do precisely that he’ll just think that he can roam wherever he wants and whenever he wants.
There are root causes for his behavior, just like there is a root cause for your behavior. To get to the bottom of all of this each of you will need to invest a good deal of time and energy with a therapist. One can only hope that there’s a bank of goodwill between the two of you, enough to carry the day. However, if I had to guess, I’d say there was a slim to no chance for that, right? If so, I advise you throw the bum out. And no more relationships for you till you get your head screwed on tighter.