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


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16 Responses

  1. Hi V-You sound like a highly intuitive and intelligent woman, and it also sounds like you have youself an SA. Everything you describe fits the profile to a tee. I think when you have a gut feeling-go with it.I also believe when there is smoke there is fire, and it sounds like you have heard and witnessed some very suspicious behaviors. The “calculating emotional datachment,”as you describe, kind of tells it all since sexual addiction is primarily an intimacy disorder. Many SA’s also have abandonment issues.
    The thing that concerns me is your need to keep the relationship active by staying connected in a friendship role. I think that would be very dangerous for you, because from how you describe your childhood, it makes you a poster child for getting involved and hooked in the caretaker role. You also profess feelings, maybe love, for this man and this role sets you up to try and fix him and get hooked into the relationship more than you need to be. Could it be that you are so programmed in taking care of of your
    father and that this role seems normal to you? If you are familiar with trauma bonding, you will know what I am talking about.
    If you see behavior early on that a man is emotionally unavailable, believe it. I would not get any more involved with this man than you already are. You describe all the issues you have witnessed and hear about, and you are questioning if you are in love with him?? No you are not. A relationship is not built around suspicions and lack of trust. These are HUGE red flags. His need to push away from you indicates he lacks the ability to fall in love and have a committed relationship.
    My recommendation is get out now and find a healthy man. One who puts you on a pedestal, and puts you as his first priority.
    Talking from experience.

  2. Honey,

    There isn’t a day that goes by where I go… “what on earth was I thinking?” I had those same signs, those vague feelings which I just dismissed, because… he was so… all the things that you said… yes, yes, chemistry up the wazoo!!! how well I know. Please learn from my hideous mistakes.

    Honey, he IS all the things that you need him to be. That is what SAs do; He is exhibiting all of the signs and symptoms of a man with a massive intimacy disorder, malignant narcissism and sex addiction. And he might even pretend to put you on a pedestal and make you his first priority; for a time, that is… until the “fun” begins. Actually, reading again, I see that it already has. He’s doing something called “intermittent reinforcement.” Scientists have done this with rats, and it drove them to insanity. I promise you, that what lies ahead for you,if you stay involved with this man is nothing but much heartache and pain. And one day, like me, will be asking yourself, why? Why would I do this to myself? Please go find a qualified therapist to help you deal with your own issues. And listen to your instincts. They are never wrong. never.

    And no… its not love– at least not the healthy kind. my best ~ Holly PS: I had a mentally ill father too.

  3. Run, get out, never look back. You have no idea how painful your life will be with a sex addict. They are master manipulators……and you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. The on again, off again, intermittent reinforcement is meant to keep you completely off balance and dependent on him. Stop it. You’ve fallen for someone who will always be emotionally unavailable, just like your Dad. Please don’t carry on a relationship with this “man.” He will destroy you.

    My best, Betty

  4. The other thing I would say is that you say “I want to help him to help himself” but it doesn’t sound as though he’s anywhere near (or might ever get near) wanting that help. Addicts have to absolutely get to the end of themselves and be desparate to want to stop (and really want it). Anything less and there is no hope/incentive/reason to change. This man would love for you to become his “helper, saviour,” so that he can ring you dry for all his needs whether they are emotional or physical. You will get nothing from this relationship unless you need to find identity through “helping” him though as I’ve already said he hasn’t even asked for this. Ask yourself why you would want to put yourself through any of this when you don’t have to? You say he is “emotionally intelligent” and I wonder how you have assessed that as it doesn’t fit with an SA. Maybe he talks like one and can therefore appear that way, but that is the veneer – his actions speak louder than words and they don’t sound very emotionally intelligent. You were right when you said many you would “run for the hills” – I can’t think anyone on this website would say anything different

  5. There is absolutely nothing you can do to help him. If he crawled to you across broken glass and begged you to help him, there is nothing you could do. He has to help himself, and nothing you do or don’t do will affect the outcome. Harsh, huh? But that’s the way it is with addicts. The only one who can help him is himself.
    And, frankly, it doesn’t sound like he wants to help himself from what you wrote. I could be wrong, I’m not there and I don’t know him or you, but nothing you wrote sounds like he wants to get the help he needs. And if you want to know the outcome, just read through the stories posted on here. I was exposed to HIV. I wasn’t infected, fortunately, but I could have been.

  6. Good post Scott, and very realistic. I am just wondering if you believe an addict can be cured. I am of the belief once an addict always an addict. An SA can learn to manage their addiction if motivated to do so, but probably the most one can expect in living with one. Also, the fear that the ball will always drop sooner or later, because most addicts I know of have slips and relapses down the road. What do you think”

  7. I agree, there’s no such thing as a cure for addiction – any addiction. The best you can hope for is that the addict switches to something less destructive.
    I’ve been addicted to cigarettes since I was 19. I’ve tried everything to quit and nothing worked, I always went back to it. I’ve now switched to something less harmful to my health (my doctor is thrilled) but still gives me the nicotine I crave. But even now, I crave a cigarette and I know that just one would get me right back on my 2 pack a day habit. They’re convenient, you can pick them up in any corner store. They’re everywhere, with loads of advertising.
    Very much like a sex addict’s addiction, I was appalled to find out. I’d never thought about how easy and available random, casual sex was until I had a stinking pile of information I didn’t want dumped in the middle of my home.

  8. I’m impressed that you can see who this friend is inside – truely. Most men (addicts) like this one hide it so well no one sees it until they are too close to get out of it easily, or fall victim. Men that are addicts on the inside and wonderful friendly people on the outside have themselves so convinced that all is well that they either convince themselves out of ever changing – or crash really hard.

    You can’t change him. Don’t even try. I’ve been caught in that trap too – for 10 years – until I said “enough”. .. and that step to detachment may destroy our relationship permanently.

    You defintely don’t want to be married to an addict if you can avoid it. Your father was mentally abusive. Living with an addict is too,even if they are the nicest kindest, most “loving” person. They will knock you down over and over. There is a massive difference between being a supportive friend, and stuck on the rollercoaster.

    And I’m sorry. I vote grooming – even if he doesn’t realize he’s doing it.

  9. Do not do it. It is a rollercoaster that will destroy your relationship, other relationships and yourself. I (luckily) escaped a marriage to a SA that was just under two years. We have a child together. I would not wish being with or married to a SA on anyone… ever. Run… run far, and NEVER look back. You won’t regret. You are worth so so so so much more. If I had KNOWN I was with a SA and knew everything it entailed… I would have NEVER gotten into a relationship with him. You have the knowledge that he is an SA… consider yourself lucky so that you can WALK away knowing you are better off.

  10. I agree with Grace – you’ve got to steer clear of this guy. Sounds like he think he’s “hiding” it well, but you can definitely tell that something’s wrong. His reactions to words of addiction are especially telling. Even the most guarded people can reveal their true nature (without realizing it) when you really push their buttons and make them realize the negatives about themselves.

  11. You ask whether you are codependent. I would have to respond to this with a resounding, eye-twitching YES. There are lots of ways to define codependency, and one of the ways I define it is that the feeling of being possibly NEEDED, the opportunity to nurture – those feel to you like real, soul-gripping intimacy. And, yes, it is a trap.

    You talk about this man’s possible relations with other women – but only describe hints of encounters with men.

    I have a feeling that this man will not let you get close to him anyway, so you are probably not going to become trapped by your own codependent urges, although you desperately want to indulge them!

    Meanwhile, I would encourage you to read up on the outcomes of addict/codependent relationships and the polarizing that happens in them. Or very likely, you can reflect on your own past relationships and see a pattern there.

    I do think this man is very damaged and hope he gets help. And I think you are indulging in a fantasy of being able to help him – for your own gratification. I’m sure you also have genuine, non-possessive compassion, but that is not what is driving you. I also think you don’t realize the extreme self-centeredness that others can live in for their whole lives, never truly appreciating the compassion of others, and never truly interested in others’ needs – ever. I’ve noticed that codependents have a giant blind spot here – they think that everyone feels some shade of the compassion that they do, and don’t realize how coldly some people can cut others down, never looking back. This is usually so far out of the codependent’s frame of reference that it can take years and decades to begin to see it. I think you mistake this man as having something to give, even if it’s only his own gratitude for your help. It’s very possible that, were he to let you get closer to him, you would discover that he has no gratitude, and no ability to treat you like a human being. It is sad, I know – a horror, even.

    Good luck – take this as an opportunity to read up! Next time, try going for a less severe case.

  12. What these spouses are telling you are so true.I have been married to my husband for 27 years.He is a sex/porn addict.Not only does he lie like a trooper,but has had multiple affairs /flings ,some which he admits to some that he does not.He promises that its the last time and things will be ok for a while….then.What kind of person can even look their spouse in the eyes after just leaving their obsession we all wonder.A very self centered one thats for sure.Someone who has more self pity for themselves than a dying child.Well this time Ive been a little smarter-having a post-marital agreement entitling myself to everything including all assets.At 50 Im back in school (which he pays for)so when I do leave( when Im finished) I will be living very comfortably-and he will struggle to survive-just as I have for all these years with his problem!Remember always to be one step ahead -You can play the game too.LOL

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