Sometimes, good people end up in toxic relationships. But, while that’s normal, what’s not is when people are stuck in patterns of bad relationships. This phenomenon is known as sex and love addiction and is characterized by a need to feel fulfilled with relationships. This compulsive need for self-fulfillment and acceptance often is more important for people with sex and love addiction than the destruction that these bad relationships can bring. But, fortunately, for those living with this type of addiction, there is help available through treatment and psychiatric therapy.
What Leads to Sex and Love Addiction?
Not every person develops a love addiction for the same reason. However, most people who develop issues with patterns of unhealthy intimate relationships have experienced the inability to place a high value on themselves. Typically, this is the result of things that have happened to them during their childhood. These experiences can include childhood neglect, trauma, abuse, and having parents who either do not provide validation or loving environments. During childhood, it’s vital to have caregivers who validate and provide an environment of love and acceptance. Otherwise, a child can develop a pathological and uncontrollable requirement for relationships to provide love and acceptance. Therefore, when these children become adults, they place their value within the acceptance and love they receive in their adult relationships.
What Relationships Look Like for People Living with This Issue
Those who have lived through childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect often try to recreate these scenarios in adult relationships without even knowing it. While these individuals may understand that their relationships are toxic, they continue in attempts to imitate the dynamics of past unhealthy relationships. This is an effort to repair the issues and rectify the lost love and acceptance of past childhood family dynamics with their new, adult relationships. Essentially, people living with this type of addiction are trying to rectify the issues with past relationships by recreating the same unhealthy dynamics within their adult relationships so they can work to “fix” these issues in order to justify to themselves that they are worthy of the love and acceptance they didn’t receive as children.
Unhealthy Boundaries in Relationships is Often a Key Motivator
One thing that all people struggling with sex and love addiction have in common is unhealthy boundaries within their relationships. With past relationships, people living with this issue may not have formed or understood healthy boundaries. This can happen when parents force their children into mediation roles or don’t utilize healthy boundaries themselves. When parents don’t use healthy boundaries, children learn from this example and may use the same methods themselves in their adult relationships. Therefore, children of parents who don’t use healthy boundaries, as adults, don’t know or understand what healthy boundaries in good relationships look like.
Some types of unhealthy boundaries that people struggling with sex and love addiction may portray include:
Distancing: People that struggle with keeping people at an emotional distance may have trouble with this type of boundary setting. By keeping people at bay, these individuals feel like they’re protecting themselves from getting hurt. But, in reality, what they’re really doing is making it more difficult to have a real, lasting, and meaningful connection with other people.
Codependence: This type of unhealthy boundary includes when a person becomes immersed in their intimate partner’s lives, adapting to their personality traits and behaviors. Individuals with codependence boundary issues often experience toxic and unhealthy treatment from their partners. In most cases, the poor treatment of these individuals, to them, is overshadowed by the connection they feel for them. So, they will stay in these unhealthy relationships regardless of the consequences.
Breaking the Cycle of Unhealthy Relationships
People living with sex and love addiction need to understand that they are worthy of love and relationships that aren’t harmful, unhealthy, or toxic. And, that people who prey on those with these types of issues are predators. So, in many ways, the cycle of abuse and unhealthy relationships isn’t really their fault, it’s the fault of their predatory partners and the pattern of unhealthy relationships they’ve experienced in their lives thus far.
Identifying unhealthy boundaries, learning to set healthy boundaries, and identifying past trauma and issues with past relationships can help people living with sex and love addiction recreate their adult relationships. And, give them the tools they need to begin and manage healthy relationships with others in the future. At Willow Place for Women, sex and love addiction therapy is available to women on an outpatient basis. Learn more about our outpatient programs and how we help women living with all types of mental health issues right on our website today.