March 2017: Am I Sex Addict? & A Bothersome Old Affair
Am I Sex Addict?
Dear Dr. Jane,
Please help, I’ve got nowhere else to go. I can’t talk to my family or friends about this. I’m worried that I’ve become a sex addict.
I was married very young to a very controlling man. It wasn’t exactly arranged, but there was an ‘expectation’ that we would get married as we had been together as a couple since early teens. We were to married for 5 miserable years with me doing everything in the marriage.
After much heartache for me, my family, his family, both of whom are now barely even registering my existence, I managed to extract myself from him. He got the joint flat and most of the savings, I just wanted to be free.
But since then I think that I’ve gone a bit wild. I am willing to have sex with just about any man, who pays me the slightest bit of attention I’ve had sex with men at work, ones I’ve met in pubs, even to my huge shame a friend’s husband. If they pay attention it’s as if I feel I have to sleep with them to say thank you for taking notice of me. I don’t go looking for them, but it does happen a lot.
My only saving grace is that I never tell anyone and even though some of them have asked not to, I always insist on condoms. Am I going to be a sex addict for the rest of my life?
I’d really appreciate your help.
To answer your most pressing question first. Are you going to be a sex addict all your life? No, because you are not one now. You have sex with different men because, as you say, you feel as if you are expected to, as a reward for taking notice of you. You are not addicted to sex, you say you don’t go looking for them, you just let what happens happen. You are dependent on the fleeting, but guaranteed attention of grateful men not the sex.
There are two important things going on when you feel you should have sex with virtual strangers. Firstly letting sex happens is a role that you have learnt over the years. It’s your role to be there at the convenience of another for whatever reason they need you this maybe for sex, but it could equally be for lots of other things, money, cooking, cleaning, transportation.
Secondly you say you feel that you have to reward men with sex for noticing you. It really sounds like your sense of self-worth and self-esteem have been so jaded and hidden for the years you were together with your ex and I suspect your original family who have been quick to disown you. You are stuck in a cycle of low self-esteem. For you having sex equates to brief attention which momentarily boosts your self-esteem.
So what you need to do is find somewhere else you can start to get a good sense of yourself, This doesn’t have to be something enormously positive like landing a new job. It can be something much easier to achieve.
I always think that self-esteem is a triad, comprising of Positive, Negative and Neutral aspects. So start by going for something that’s neutral, even mundane, like taking notice of the everyday things you do well each day, getting to the station on time, remembering birthdays. Anything that you can take a second or two to acknowledge as something done well. You will be amazed how quickly and positively the small things can spread to the bigger things in your life that affect your self-esteem.
Dr. Jane’s Self – Esteem Triad
Whenever you need to remind yourself that you are a good worthwhile person who deserves the best, stop seeking it in fleeting and unfulfilling sexual encounters and allow yourself to find it elsewhere.
Dr. Jane x
A Bothersome Old Affair
Dear Dr. Jane
Thirty-three years ago my husband had an affair for three months. When I found evidence, I confronted them. I asked if they loved each other and she (a divorcee) replied yes and my husband said he ‘thought a lot of her’. After much discussion with them both, I gave my husband a choice of leaving with me (and we’d try to put the pieces back together) or remaining there with her.
We left together and to the best of my knowledge he has not set eyes on her since. He says he wouldn’t recognise her if she walked in the room.
We’ve had a wonderful life since, even though I have tended to make reference to his affair quite often.
Why, after all this time, do I keep asking him to tell me why he did it to me? I’m haunted by the fact that he took her abroad for a weekend (to a hotel we had been to earlier), to lunch on our second wedding anniversary and generally saw her as much as possible, me being away at our newly acquired holiday home.
She has never re-married and still lives in the same house, so if he’d wished to revive the affair, he could easily have done so.
I know I’m being silly and my questioning is probably opening up old wounds, but I still can’t get my head around the fact that he jeopardised our marriage with this affair that meant so little he could just walk away.
You seem to want you and your subsequent 33 years of a marriage to be, if not entirely defined by this short affair, certainly frayed around the edges a little by it. Remember that when you gave your husband the opportunity to choose, he chose you. Would have been better for you and your belief about yourself as a wronged woman for him to have chosen the other woman for the last 33 years? Who knows what both of your lives would have turned out, but defining yourself as wronged and suspicious has, I suspect cast a cloud over your, if not his memory of the ensuing years.
When given the choice the facts are he chose you, yet I suspect you feel that he should not have, which I think is as much as part of your own self-worth and deep down opinion of yourself as it is about your marriage and relationship.
It is never too late to discuss and do a little digging into what made you behave and think about not only your, but your doubts and fears about your husband’s infidelity towards you. You may uncover some interesting parts of your own personality, that would explain your seemingly unwarranted fears about him. You say you know the woman he had the short affair with is living in the same house and could easily be contacted by him, but you have no evidence that he is as interested in her whereabouts as you seem to be. At the time he said he “thought a lot of her”, but by being with you, you’ve been the one he’s loved, you’ve not just been “thought a lot of”, but loved, people don’t tend to stay together for 33 subsequent years if there’s no love between them. Yet it seems by the tone of your letter you can’t quite seem to let yourself believe that he wanted to spend his life with you and not some exciting divorcee.
He doesn’t tell you why he did it, either because he is protecting you, perhaps he found sex with her more exciting at that time and does not want to wound you. Or, and this is my hunch, he simply does not recall in any great detail why he started the affair, perhaps it was just on offer and as a man entering middle age it was just too good an opportunity to turn down at the time, it really can be as simple as that.
Having had one affair of course you proceed with caution, and you talk about having a wonderful 33 years together and wanting to have as happy a time as you can in your retirement years, but if you keep using this historical incident as a tool to bring out to beat, not just him with, but yourself with when it seems timely to do so, then your remaining years together will be sullied not by his actual affair, but by your emotions and attitude about it. If you really don’t want to you do not have to fully 100% forgive him, but you can 100% acknowledge it happened, his affair and him choosing you, and really move on. And with the help of a little work on your own self , you can enter your twilight years together and enjoy them together without the imaginary presence of this other woman constantly looming. There’s lots of tips for booting your self-worth and confidence online, perhaps have a look at some of them – you’ll be pleasantly surprised what a slight change of attitude about yourself can achieve.
All the vest best,
Dr. Jane x