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Intimacy 101: 3 Important Things to Consider

Loving couple embracingSex Addiction is called an “intimacy disorder” because the addict fears intimacy with a partner and chooses to split off a part of him or herself from relationships.  Sometimes addicts avoid having close relationships altogether.

Intimacy disability is intimacy avoidance

This avoidance is usually based on early life experiences which left the person lacking in basic trust of those close to them and a feeling of being unworthy of love.  The sex addict seeks a safe way to feel gratified and to release inhibitions.  Through the use of pornography, masturbation, casual sex, prostitutes or other behaviors the addict can have sexual pleasure without the possibility of rejection or the demands for openness that are involved in relating to a real partner.

The practicing sex addict is safe instead of vulnerable, in hiding instead of being known, and self-contained rather than bonding with another.  In other words, the addict achieves total control in an area of his or her life and avoids any real intimacy in the process.

Obviously there are a number of factors involved in overcoming one’s fears and learning to bond with a partner in a healthy intimate relationship.  Recovering addicts will be learning how to be trustworthy, how to tell the truth rather than living a lie, and how to be more honest and open in communicating their feelings wants and needs.  These are long term goals and require time and practice.

But there are at least three areas in which addicts can begin to change the way they think about relationships at the outset.

 I. Face intimacy avoidance head-on

If you are the recovering addict, what you first need to do is to face the fact that part of you doesn’t want intimacy, that it’s not that comfortable for you.  You can tell yourself you want to be open and authentic, caring and nurturing but this is not going to come naturally or easily to you.

Many addicts get around their own avoidance of closeness by feigning devotion.  They are compliant and placating, trying always to please their partner and not to get them angry.  But this self-sacrifice is a part of the problem.  It is itself a form of avoidance, avoidance of being real.

It will be necessary to look at and admit all the ways you are dodging being real and the feelings of inadequacy and fear of rejection that underlie them.

II. Take an honest look at your partner

If you have been with your partner since before you entered recovery then your relationship will of necessity be totally different now that you have begun to change.

You will need to look at the ways in which you have grown and determine whether the relationship will work for the new you.  You will have gained a great deal of emotional maturity.  Will your partner have made parallel changes?  In recovery you will have different expectations about an intimate partner— prior to recovery you may have been looking for a mother or a superficial relationship in name only.

You will have to assess whether your partner can adjust to the new you.  Perhaps their emotional needs were such that they needed you to be the patient.  Or perhaps they will not longer see you as being quite as romantic or exciting as before, and so on.  You will have to ask yourself whether you can accept your partner wherever they are on their own recovery journey.

III. Stop thinking like an “I”, start thinking like a “we”.

Sex addicts, and maybe all addicts, tend to be focused on getting their needs met.  They are loners who don’t believe they can trust anyone else to meet their needs.  They are on their own trip.  This can put a big roadblock in the way of intimacy.

The addict will likely be concerned about getting their own way. And they may be willing to make trade-offs, I’ll give you this thing you want if you’ll do that for me.  But the process of genuine mutual care and nurturing that is involved in creating an intimate bond may elude them.

Becoming intimacy-abled involves really caring for and nurturing the relationship.  It also involves moving through life and making decisions individually and as a couple.  It’s not always what I want and what you want.  There has to be a process that involves a we.  What do we want?  This can involve a vastly different an unfamiliar way of thinking.  Sometimes addicts need to ask themselves “do I want to get my way or do I want to have a good relationship?”

Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource.

Intimacy 101: 3 Important Things to Consider

Linda Hatch, PhD

Linda Hatch is a psychologist and certified sex addiction therapist specializing in the treatment of sex addicts and the partners and families of sex addicts. Linda also blogs on her own website at

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APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2019). Intimacy 101: 3 Important Things to Consider. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2019
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