Follow Up To My Follow Up

It occurred to me that I omitted an important point in my last post. Although I don’t think I could have gotten another point in there if I’d wedged it in with a shoehorn… :) But it seems quite glaring, since it’s what made me think of this group in the first place, so I’m tagging it on now.

The book that I’m finding so helpful has a section where the author describes various types of sexual addiction/aversion, some of which hit my nail squarely on the head. I’d never fully understood why I stayed in a sexless marriage until I read this.

I knew part of it, of course (aside from the usual I-love-him-and-our-relationship-is-otherwise-good, then later well-we-have-kids-so-what-are-you-gonna-do) was my lack of confidence that my life would be any different if I left. But this explained it so clearly that I had one of those light bulb moments – aha! This is why I’m still here - why we’re both still here - sticking it out in a marriage that’s been making us miserable for years. And it was this that made me think of the group, because I used to wonder why so many people seem to do this.

Anyway, as with the rest of it – I’m sharing it just in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

Here are excerpts from a few of the passages I found particularly relevant from the book:

"Type 5 - Simultaneous Anorexia

Sometimes both partners will be sexually anorexic. The scenario goes like this: Two people grow up very wounded emotionally and sexually. They are attracted to each other and like the companionship. They also like the fact that the other has no desire for sex. So part of their original covenant together is not to be sexual - or at least very sexual. As time goes by, however, they each become aware of some emptiness in their lives...The aphorism of 'opposites attract' is often true. But many therapists have also seen how both partners will often come from the same type of family systems. There is an attraction to the safety of the familiar. There is also a bond that can exist in shared terror - even if it is unspoken.

Type 6 - Simultaneous Binge and Purge

The pattern of sexual bingeing outside of the relationship while being sexually aversive in the relationship can be true for both partners [my husband used to (maybe still does – I stopped caring long ago) have major issues with ****. In particular, preferring that to actually having sex with me. It made me wildly angry at first, but how could I argue with it when it was safer emotionally for me to get my needs met on my own too?]...

Sexual Anorexia, Addiction and Co-Dependency

We must now separate the concepts of sexual anorexia, sexual addiction, and co-sex addiction, or codependency. Many thousands of scholarly articles exist documenting addiction as a family illness...Like other codependents, co-sex addicts are obsessed with the addict's behaviour [I could spend hours documenting the time I spent perusing our computer's history to confirm to myself that my husband was still accessing ****, or hunting through the house to find his **** stash – which I then enjoyed myself while being furious with him for doing the exact same thing – but it will be much easier if I just stipulate to the obsession... :)]. The difference is that compared with other codependents, the co-sex addict is often more intense. If our partner chooses a bottle or a slot machine rather than us, there will be hurt and anguish. But if our partner chooses other women or men rather than us, the hurt and anguish are amplified by profound feelings of sexual rejection and abandonment. Sexual dependency shares the same kinds of internal mechanisms that create problems for the addict and the anorexic. Codependents have the same core beliefs about being unworthy and unlovable. They have elaborate rationalizations for their various efforts to change the addict. They are often in denial about themselves as well as the addict. Their codependent behaviour such as lying to cover up what the addict has done creates tremendous unmanageability. The lives of codependents are filled with obsession and preoccupation as well. The difference is how codependents view sex. They have a core belief that sex is the most important sign of love...The codependent concludes, 'If my partner is sexual with someone else and not me, I am for sure not lovable.' Terror and anxiety about abandonment rule the co-sex addict's life.

Sexual anorexia can also be central to codependent obsession. There can be co-anorexia. If the partner drags the anorexic who is in denial to see a therapist in order to change the anorexic into sexual responsiveness, the preoccupation is no different than when the co-addict drags the addict into treatment. Co-anorexics may conclude that their sexual problems are their fault, that they are not sexy or desirable enough - which are the same conclusions co-addicts reach in order to explain their partners' behaviour. Efforts to coerce and control the anorexic into sexual responsiveness are as effective as the co-addicts' efforts to control the addict. Figure 3.2 graphically illustrates how the three obsessional states draw on the same core beliefs about unworthiness, unlovability, and distrust. [Figure 3.2 is a Venn diagram showing the first three core beliefs overlapping, but the last one is either "sex is my most important need/sex is my most terrifying need/sex is the most important sign of love", depending on whether it's an addict/anorexic/co-dependent.] The obsession shifts according to which belief has predominance. Thus addiction, anorexia, and codependency are all separate and definable. However, it is common for a co-addict to be anorexic but not always. Some co-addict's sexual desire can remain unaffected or even amplified in the presence of a sex addict. A sex addict can be co-anorexic attempting to push an anorexic partner into sexual responsiveness. Some anorexics are neither codependent nor addictive. A good number of people are all the above [that would be me...]. The recovery lesson here is this: It is very important to see that we are describing variations of a theme. Neither the addiction nor the anorexic extremes can be defined without understanding the relationship between them. Nor can they be understood without examining the family relationships, because the extremes appear there as well. If we throw in other forms of deprivation and excess, the resulting mosaic of extreme behaviour tells us how pain and anxiety are managed.

The core beliefs remain as the foundation for all the variations of sexual obsession. The differences are really about fear. Sex addicts are afraid they will miss out on sex that will make then whole. Anorexics are afraid that if they are sexual, they will experience how empty and hurting they are. Co-addicts are afraid of being left alone because of sex. Which obsession will dominate? That depends on what the individual is most afraid of."

With that background in mind, one of the case examples that followed summarized my marriage perfectly:

"They realized that they had entered what her therapist called an ‘anorexic covenant’. The basic components of that contract were (1) no sexual demands of one another; (2) no risk or instability after the chaos of the past; and (3) an accommodation with general unhappiness. Her therapist categorized the last part as a 'pact for misery'."

A risk-free, sexless "pact for misery" - yes, that's my marriage in a nutshell… :)

And just in case they ring true for anybody else, here are the first of the four core beliefs:

1. I am basically a bad, unworthy person.
2. No one would love me as I am.
3. My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others.

For anybody who’s interested, I’m going to post a separate story that talks about these issues in a bit more detail – the beauty of having a best friend who lives in another country is that most conversations take place by email, thus rendering these things permanently available, and searching through some of them for the bits and pieces I’ve included here reminded me that there is much in this book that made me think of this group, refusers and the folks who put up with them.

Cheers all!
aamater aamater
46-50, F
Sep 21, 2012