Sex / love Addiction and Partner of Betrayal
INTIMACY avoidance / ANOrexia
There is much misunderstanding around sex and love addiction, including the pain experienced as a result – for both the person in the addiction and the partner affected by the addiction. Research has found that both sex and love addiction is often rooted in childhood trauma and / or in our attachment styles. Now, 9 out of 10 of our clients report no known childhood trauma, and that often is the case. Therefore, most of the time these addictions are often based on one's attachment / relational styles. Attachment style is the way one acts and reacts around sharing emotions and needs in a relationship. Our experience has found most intimacy dysfunctions are rooted around anxious and avoidant attachment styles. This ultimately is where most of the therapeutic work lies. Also, sexual addiction is tied directly to the following section of Intimacy Avoidance / Anorexia and the two really shouldn't be separated because they are one side of the same coin. You can learn what your attachment style is by taking the following assessment. To start, we usually recommend Option B: Attachment Style Test
This does not diminish the responsibility of the person struggling with the addiction, nor the long road of work he/she has before them. The focus cannot just be on the behavior, but should encompass both behavior-focused work (i.e. 12-step programs and behavior modification counseling) and new relational and emotionally-focused types of therapies.
For the spouse experiencing sex addiction betrayal, the discovery is often one of the most traumatic experiences one faces in his or her life. The challenge lies in the confusion of what to do next, along with trying not to take one's own anger and rage back on the other, whereby it makes healing even more difficult. One's work going through this is to find their inner voice and to be able to trust the direction they need to go and then to follow through with it. For more specific and detailed information click here.
Healing trauma is at the center of all our therapy; it is the heart of the counseling process and the place of greatest change. It may sound strange at first to think in terms of having trauma, but all of us have gone through some sort of trauma. The evidence of trauma is always apparent in our flight, fight, or freeze responses. Or another way to put it, anytime we feel something bigger than the moment, it points back to the past – or if it's hysterical, it's historical; therefore, we must go back and re-grieve so we can move forward in a more whole fashion. When we experience trauma, it usually creates these separate parts of us that expose us to feeling less whole.
Intimacy Avoidance and Intimacy Anorexia can be defined as not only being avoidant of emotional intimacy, but also feeling turned off both emotionally and physically from intimate connection. Intimacy Anorexia is an addiction to withholding. It is a way to protect and maintain control over emotional pain. Physical symptoms are nausea, tensed muscles, and panic attacks. One may also experience humiliation, shame, and low self-esteem for rejecting their partner.
As with any condition, there are people who fall on either end of the spectrum – sex addiction on the one hand and sex avoidance/anorexia on the other. Sex avoidance can come in the form of sexual anorexia, which happens when sex and intimacy are obsessively evaded in the same way those with food anorexia avoid food. In some cases, the person experiencing sexual anorexia may enjoy physical intimacy once it has been initiated, but may not be able to instigate sex. Or, they may take it a step further and turn down their spouse or partner’s desire for physical closeness more often than not.
Intimacy Anorexia occurs because the primal part of the brain gets activated – particularly the flight/freeze action – and the person has little to no control once fully activated. This is due to a trauma response and has to be treated accordingly. The treatment then becomes two fold: (1) brain-based type therapies such as Brainspotting, EMDR, or Internal Family Systems (IFS) and (2) couples therapy where the person can slowly begin showing up with their full voice and from an emotional standpoint.
This is one the most dynamic aspects of counseling because there is so much energy that enters the room when both partners fully engage to resolve their disconnection. Couples counseling can be one of the most pivotal transition points in one's life because nobody knows you like your partner; it holds the largest capacity to be hurt but also to be healed.
Peloton Counseling bases couples therapy on two main treatment modalities: Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Both work together seamlessly, but have two very different focuses. EFT focuses on the emotional connection component and helps get to the different underlying issues under the anger and frustration that each couple usually feels. EFT helps guide the couple to the softer emotions (sadness, hurt, fear) so the other can see, understand, and connect with them. NVC provides the tools and skills that we have found so many couples asking and needing during couples therapy. The most requested need out of therapy is usually help in communicating and NVC is the most helpful resource that we have come across. For more information on EFT click here. For more information on NVC click here.