Sex continues to be the news in some surprising and shocking ways. And now it’s being characterized as being potentially addictive. From the reported misdeeds in the sports world, to the political arena, to celebrity disclosures, stories about this seemingly new addiction are popping up regularly. You may have begun to wonder if you or your partner might have a problem. One of the first steps in the investigation is to talk to your partner. But how do you begin the conversation?
Our society gives us mixed messages about sex that are both prudish and wildly open. Sex sells. Sexuality is used to get our attention. In advertising for milk, cars, and sports, we are bombarded by images of women’s breasts, legs, and hair. But advertisers don’t present sex as an expression of intimate loving connectedness. We are inundated with sexualized images and messages, while often after years of marriage a husband and wife can’t speak openly about their sex life, even with each other. We don’t learn about how sex is connected to love, or even about the natural intimate connection that comes through the pleasure of sex. In order to investigate the potential addictive qualities of sex, first we need to be able to have a conversation about the beauty of sex.
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My husband, George, and I work with couples from all over the world who are dealing with the sexual addiction of one of the partners. Now George doesn’t have any difficulty talking about sexuality anywhere—with friends, strangers, or family, at a party, or in the grocery store line. It wasn’t so easy for me. When I first met him and we began to have conversations about his struggles and triumphs in the world of sexuality, I had to learn how to converse about a subject that until then was off-limits, and certainly forbidden territory for conversation in "mixed company." If I could find my way out of that bunker of silence, so can you.
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When I was first introduced to George and he told me that he ran a center that counsels sex addicts I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and shout la-la-la-la-la. I determined in that moment that this was someone with whom I would certainly attempt to avoid future conversation—particularly if it involved discussing s-e-x. But life does seem to have a wily sense of humor. Not only did I marry this man with the oh-so-embarrassing career, I joined him in his practice so that now I too, when asked what I do for a living, have to speak that "sex" word coupled with the term addiction. And when the person who has asked the question blankly responds, "oh… really?" and changes the subject, I imagine they may be having their own fingers-in-the-ears kind of moment.
I grew up in a conservative household in Oklahoma after all. I learned that sex was a subject that was not talked about. My understanding and conclusions that came from how sex was discussed (or more accurately not discussed) were that sex was absolutely private, that speaking about it was unseemly, and yet somehow inside the container of a marriage there was some kind of "good sex" that was allowed and blessed by God.