Can a sex addict love you? There isn’t an absolute answer to this question, but they certainly can’t love you fully without first healing themselves.
Every person is unique, and so is each experience with sex addiction. Not having an answer to this critical question may make you uncomfortable. Questioning the authenticity of your relationship is a vulnerable place to be. As a human being, you want love and connection with others. But people with sex addiction have problems with this kind of genuine love.
Understanding these issues may help you answer the question of whether a sex addict can love another person.
Are You in a Relationship with a Sex Addict?
Sex addiction is a type of compulsive sexual behavior. A person with sex addiction feels out of control of their sexual impulses, thoughts, and behaviors. Their recurring thoughts become all-consuming. Daily responsibilities fall to the wayside, and sex is the ultimate preoccupation.
Sex addiction may not be as apparent as you may think. A person with sex addiction often goes to great lengths to hide their activities. What behaviors are they hiding?
Signs of sex addiction include:
- Obsessive and consuming thoughts about sex, pornography, or swiping on hook-up applications
- Spending excessive time and money on sexual outlets
- An unsuccessful history of trying to stop sexual behaviors and thoughts
- Compulsive masturbation, even in situations with severe consequences
- Avoiding activities that don’t include sex or sexual outlets
- An inability to maintain meaningful relationships with a fear of intimacy
- Engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors like paying for sex workers, exhibitionism, or voyeurism
A person with sex addiction likely has a traumatic past. It is the past trauma that causes a sex addiction to manifest.
Sex Addiction and Trauma
When a person survives a traumatic experience, they may look fine. However, internally, emotionally, and mentally, it may be a different story.
When responding to trauma, the brain puts the body into fight-or-flight mode. This mode leaves only the essential systems online. As a result, it prevents you from fully functioning. Only certain things can remove your system from fight-or-flight mode. They all have one common denominator — dopamine.
Dopamine is the feel-good chemical the brain releases when something is pleasurable. Many things cause dopamine to surge, such as eating fatty foods or drinking alcohol. But, one thing that releases a nearly overwhelming amount of dopamine is sexual arousal.
After a traumatic experience, a person may turn to masturbation, porn, or sex to help calm their nervous system. Sexual excitation offers a quick hit of dopamine. While dopamine may calm the initial fight-or-flight response, it can lead to a habit.
You learn that sexual release makes you feel better after a stressful time. Therefore, you start to turn to it during times of stress. This self-soothing soon gets out of control and becomes a compulsion. Instead of processing your trauma, you’re coping with it through addictive behavior.
Trauma can be one isolated event, such as the death of a parent or a natural disaster. It can also be an accumulation of small traumatic events over time.
Using sexual release as a coping mechanism leaves scars. It can lead to personality traits that impact a person’s ability to love another person.
A person with sex addiction may appear:
- Insecure and/or narcissistic
- Unavailable for genuine connection
- Having unpredictable mood swings
- An inability to be vulnerable or honest
- Having an “intense” personality
- Overly seductive
These personality traits result from a fear of intimacy.
How Sex Addiction Impacts Intimacy
An intimacy disorder is when a person has issues developing, maintaining, and expressing feelings, emotions, and levels of intimacy. Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder.
Authentic intimacy requires vulnerability, trust, and a willingness to express yourself. A person with an intimacy disorder, such as sex addiction, fears letting anyone get too close. They want to connect with others, but they also need to maintain a sense of control and personal protection. As a result, they may deliberately sabotage their relationships or potential connections. They’re doing this out of a need for self-preservation. While they may long for an intimate relationship, they can’t allow themselves that vulnerability.
People may misinterpret someone with an intimacy disorder as being angry or indifferent. But it’s likely that they’re just showing signs of avoiding intimacy.
Signs of avoiding intimacy include:
- Suffering from low self-esteem
- Having extreme trust issues
- Actively avoiding non-sexual physical contact
- Difficulty forming or committing to relationships
- Having a history of unstable relationships
- Inability to share feelings or express emotions
- Having an insatiable sexual desire
This fear of intimacy, like sex addiction, results from trauma. Previous rejections, abandonment, or past abuse can leave a person shielded from others. It is a way of protecting themselves against pain. They may feel like it’s “just how I am.” If a person is willing to get help, they can develop lasting and loving relationships.
Keys to Establishing a Loving Relationship
A person with sex addiction can feel love and fall in love, but they can only truly love someone after they heal themselves. They need the right kind of support to help them recover from their addiction.
At Begin Again Institute, we know people with sex addiction can love. We start with understanding the trauma behind the addiction and create a care plan to help support recovery.
A person with sex addiction can learn how to replace hiding with transparency. They can substitute toughness with vulnerability. But, most of all, they can learn how to replace uncertainty with a desire for commitment.