Dear JoAnn,

I’m not married nor going out with a s*x addict. But I am attracted to someone who I believe is a Sex Addict.

He’s a 2-year old work contact who in recent months has become a personal friend.
We share a lot of common interests – we work in online development and marketing of the same leisure industry sector, have similar ethical values in how we see that progressing, and support each other with work. We’ve both worked extensively with the public so are sociable, confident and approachable people. We get on very well and have good chemistry, many people comment on it. From early November, I realised I was falling for him.

We’ve also both had absent fathers – his through death, mine through mental illness, but we deal with our issues in very different ways.

My father’s manic depressive schizophrenia meant i grew up in a very volatile environment, where I learned to become very sensitive to people and moods, feistily independent against the control and manipulation he exerted, and self-reliant to shut myself off from relationships due to a lack of trust.

I’m a very emotionally driven person and I have put up walls to protect myself. It’s hard to realise a father can never love you, because they are so wrapped up in their own selfish depression, let alone the effect on a child’s or adults esteem a parent’s suicide threats, attempts and violent outbursts can have.

I was parent to my father for many years, then walked away for my own survival – physical, mental and emotional. My brothers suffered too. Drugs, dysfunctional relationships and anger management. I have coped by independence, not dependence. And my (natural and learned) heightened sensitivity – extreme almost to the point of clairvoyancy – I see through people and very quickly “get” their ulterior motives – which makes life quite hard sometimes. Recently, having spent 6 months in therapy, I realise I am now more ready and willing to open my heart to a loving relationship. I want to be married in the future, not on my own, and commitment and trust are very important to me.

And so in spending time with my friend, a man who really fits my (admittedly defined) idea of the sort of man I would like to be with (clever, sociable, hard working, emotionally intelligent, loves animals, as good in business as on the piste), it’s come as quite shock that he fits the bill of a s*x addict.

I now look back and wonder whether I am a friend that he respects and trusts, whether he truly finds me attractive, or whether I have just been groomed for 2 years.

My gut reaction on first meeting that he was gay. Reinforced by a mutual contact who had seen him with a man half naked. Reinforced by witnessing playful simulated-s*x with one of his best friends. He said not. The little flirtations in emails or on work calls. The message wishing me well on my holiday, when I didn’t recall telling him I was going. The little presents, a conker here, a tomato plant there. The little physical touches. The calculating emotional detachment. The almost violent, manic greetings at times. The seeming jealousy at the mention of other guys. The open invitation to meet his friends – and bring mine (which I never have) – to parties and social engagements. The errant wanderings, trance-like searchings and disappearing acts when I was there. The sad, empty and guilty look upon return, wanting a hug. His general avoidance of one on one situations. His noticeable Our growing intimacy and intensity, from which he retreats. Even his tiny but noticeable reaction to the words “addict”, “compulsive” and”obsession”, when used relating to other matters.

Something suddenly clicked. It one fell swoop, driving home (with another friend) from a 3 day weekend party, a sudden realisation. I cried. And cried. A sudden grief which hit me, and I came home and researched and researched and read and read. Because I’m an intelligent person and to cope, I learn, to learn to cope. I’m quite open, I’m very tolerant (too much sometimes) and I feel a need to understand. And I do feel strongly for him. Deeply love him even. Or do I? I’m confused.

I need to decide where to go from here. How and where to set my boundaries? I do want to help him to help himself. I don’t feel I just want to walk away from someone this important in my life. I want to be the best friend I can be. I presume I need to absolutely not sleep with him. I want to be closer so he trusts me so I can approach and talk to him about this, I don’t know how. I want him to see, admit, acknowledge. I understand he is likely to deny. Because we’re not too involved, I’m not angry with him, rather compassionate and coming from a place of love – probably the best place I could be. But I don’t want to witness his behaviour towards other women, or the reactions of so-called friends who seem to laugh his behaviour off, so used to it they are, or be somewhat ashamed of him.

But is the situation too damaging and unstable for me? I’ve already had terrible dreams, insomnia and developed an eye twitch in the 2 weeks since I came to the realization.

Am I just being attracted to the emotionally unavailable, or someone to mother, as has been my pattern in life – like my father, and also my brother after him. Or is it to be almost expected as such an indepedent woman, a very dependent man woud be my complement? Am I co-dependent, a term I have learned from your fantastic site and users.

Many would say run for the hills, now, as fast as you can. Is there any hope? Any others been in this situation? It would be easier for me to extract myself now than in time. At the moment he’s away and that allows me some thinking space about my next moves. Any advice?

Many thanks in advance, and in retrospect for all the teachings you have given me so far