I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY MY HUSBAND IS ADDICTED TO SEX
By Dr. Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC
I hear it weekly. It’s a catchall statement a lot of wives make. They don’t even ask my opinion first. They just blurt it out as fact,
My husband is addicted to sex.”
What reasons do they have for saying this?
- He wants to have sex all the time
- He talks about sex a lot
- They fight about sex
- He watches porn
- He checks out other women
- He says how “hot” he finds other women
Do I need to give more examples?
If your husband thinks and talks about sex all the time, he must be addicted to it, right?
A lot of wives say their husband is addicted to sex because he wants sex so much more than they do. It seems to many wives that anyone who thinks about sex that much, must be addicted to it.
Aren’t All Men Addicted To Sex?
No, not all men are addicted to sex. In fact, very few men are actually addicted to sex.
Do most men have a higher sex drive than their partners?
Can this make it seem like they’re addicted to sex?
There are a number of factors that contribute to men having a higher sex drive than their female partners. Here are a few of them:
- Biological. Males are wired to desire more sex. It’s a necessity for the survival of the species and can be seen in the animal kingdom too.
- Societal. The level of sexual stimulation aimed at men in our culture is very high –advertisements, social media, video games, movies, etc.
While societally it’s all considered normal, men are exposed to a lot of sexual stimuli and the effect can wrongly make many look and feel like a sexaholic.
- Behavioral. Men also feed their desire for sex, and as a result, it intensifies beyond what would be normal.
Who you follow on Instagram (such as bikini models) or sharing sexual memes or pics with friends for laughs are examples of the all too easy actions that can intensify sexual desire. Or more intentionally, by visiting porn sites or going to strip clubs.
How To Know When Your Husband Is Addicted To Sex
The manual mental health professionals use for diagnosing mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, the DSM-5-TR, doesn’t include sex addiction as a diagnosable problem.
This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, because it does.
It just means that there isn’t an agreed-upon definition of the problem and it’s typically described in broader terms, such as an impulse control problem or a behavioral addiction. The same problem exists for porn addiction.
What this means is that when you’re asking the question, “Is my husband addicted to sex?”, there isn’t a list of criteria for you to use to get a reliable answer.
So, how do you know if your husband is addicted to sex?
Here are a few clues. Look for,
What do I mean? Read on.
When someone is addicted to something (alcohol, pot, gambling, or sex), there is a pattern of behavior. Addiction doesn’t mean doing something once. It means on an ongoing basis. But this doesn’t have to mean daily, weekly, or even monthly.
When someone is addicted they become dependent on the substance or stimuli. It’s no longer something that’s just enjoyable, it becomes something they need.
Addiction often means that something that’s good, like sex, has become bad because it’s being misused.
Sex is a perfect example. Sex in moderation, with boundaries, and in the right setting is very beneficial. But it can have a negative impact when it becomes excessive, without limits, and goes beyond its intended purpose.
Most of us don’t recognize how we can take normal, necessary things and use them in ways they weren’t designed.
Again, sex is the perfect example of how this can happen.
Another example would be shopping when it becomes “retail therapy” and not a function of daily life.
In someone who’s become addicted, sex gets used in unhealthy ways like a means for gauging the health of a relationship, feeling good about yourself, coping with stress, managing negative emotions, punishing or controlling, etc.
For a real-life example of what all of these can look like, consider a married couple I’m currently counseling.
In this situation, it’s come to light that the husband has secretly been going to massage parlors for sex throughout their marriage. This was a crucial revelation as there were a number of relationship problems that we weren’t fully able to understand and address until this secret was discovered – he’s addicted to sex.
The pattern became that he would get a ‘massage’ every couple of months, sometimes more frequently, sometimes less.
His dependency can be seen in both the pattern and the timing of his visits, which coincided with times his wife was distant, they were disconnected, or fighting.
There were a number of impacts from his behavior. Among them,
- Guilt over his behavior
- An anger problem partly fueled by the guilt
- Increased distance as he pulled further away from her
- Lack of physical affection and intimacy
- Breakdown of communication
- Unhappiness and isolation for both of them
He used the ‘massages’ to feel better emotionally, compensate for the less sex with his wife, cope with stress, and feel attractive and wanted.
Here’s another example. As you read this woman’s description look for the patterns of dependency, impact, and using.
I am about to marry a guy with whom I have been in a relationship since past 7-8 years. Just 5 months before our marriage we agreed to speak TRUTH to each other. I told him I had sex once with my ex. He told me he had sex with 5-6 girls by the age of 19, not all were his girlfriends. He told me he went to a prostitute one year ago, in shorted he cheated on me. The coming two weeks he told me more stuff daily. He told he has been visiting prostitutes since last two years. His friends knew that he is cheating on me. In fact they always encourage him to do this cause they all cheat on their girlfriends and wives. He said I used to become very furious with anger at times and that was the moment when he went with his friends ‘advice’ of having fun to relax himself. I’d like to add here that he had asked me for a threesome and couple swap at times and I was always willing to enjoy anything with him. But he always backtracked when I asked to call a male for threesome. He only wanted another female. Couple swap was only talked about. It could not be executed cause he couldn’t see me with another man. Anyhow I was more than willing to support him (till then I didn’t know he has had sex with some 20 prostitutes). The problem I face now is that I think he is addicted to sex. I love him. I want to marry him. I am willing for sexual adventures with him. But I am not sure I should trust him ever again.” -Chantalle
He’s Addicted To Sex, Now What?
If he’s truly addicted to sex, then there are two big challenges that must be overcome in order to address the problem.
He needs to,
- See it as a problem (with him, as opposed to thinking you’re overreacting)
- Be motivated to fix it
It’s easy to take these two challenges on yourself and see them as your ‘job.’ They’re not – they’re his!
However, your job is to,
- Be a mirror
- Set boundaries
You can’t change his thinking or motivation, but you can influence both.
- Point out how you see each of the 4 elements described above in his behavior (Patterns, Dependency, Impact, Using).
For instance, “You seem to depend on us having sex every week. When we don’t your mood changes. What do you think about that possibility?”
- Tell him how his behavior affects you. “It feels like you don’t really care about me. All you want is to get off.”
You can also be a mirror and reflect his behavior back to him.
- “Do you recognize how much you talk about sex? You’ve made some kind of sexual comment every day this week. Yesterday you said…”
- “I know you say you have to take your customers to a strip club when you go to Vegas, but isn’t there a part of you that wants to go too? I notice you come back different.”
You also need to set boundaries.
What can those look like?
- “We won’t have sex for a month if you ____ again.”
- “I’ll move into the guest bedroom if you ____ again.”
If these don’t turn out to be enough, find a therapist experienced in men’s sexuality for more guidance and support.
What To Take Away
I’d recommend you read two other articles I’ve written on sex addiction before you make the decision about whether you think your husband is really addicted to sex.
Still think he’s addicted to sex? Then apply the following:
- Having a high sex drive or strong interest in sex doesn’t mean you’re addicted to sex.
- There are biological, societal, and behavioral factors that contribute to men’s focus on sex.
- Consider your husband’s sexual behavior from the following perspectives – patterns, dependency, impact, using.
- How can you influence him more effectively? Practice being a mirror. Set boundaries on what’s acceptable to you regarding your sex life and his.
Please remember, most men aren’t addicted to sex, so be careful about jumping to that conclusion or making that accusation. Nearly all men react negatively to the suggestion that they are, even if it could be true. So, choose your words carefully, your goal should be to get him to change, not to label him.