The Therapeutic Use of Abstinence in Relationship and Sexual Addiction Recovery
Try telling a sex addict to stop pursuing and having sex for a month or more and you may quickly find yourself pushed aside for a more enabling (and less directive) therapist, sponsor or friend. Inform a profoundly love addicted (attachment disordered or trauma survivor) woman – the one who lives to seduce – that she can’t wear provocative clothing or makeup for at least 2-3 weeks and you will quickly learn about her level of dedication to recovery and change.
Such is the initial challenge of cognitive-behavioral treatment with sex and love addicts. In truth, a period of abstinence from sexual and romantic behavior, combined with contracted and prescribed boundaries around romance/seduction/dress, can be highly useful clinical tools toward expanding a sex and love addict’s sobriety skill set. This is especially true when working with individuals who’ve spent their whole lives seeing themselves and others as objects.
Why Abstain from Sex and Romance?
Active sex and relationship addicts base their adult self-worth on whether or not they are desirable and typically think, “I have value if I can get x, y or z to desire me sexually.” As such, they objectify themselves and others completely, often viewing their lives and relationships through a lens of conquest, seduction and intensity. This can sadly make the most mundane activities, like finding oneself in an elevator with an attractive stranger or walking past a good-looking person in the grocery aisle, a sexually charged opportunity to pursue people as objects.