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Is My Boyfriend a Sex Addict?

Hump Day: Is My Boyfriend a Sex Addict?

Welcome to Hump Day, TrèsSugar's new sex advice column! Are you confused about sex? Do you have trouble having an orgasm? Is there something you'd like to try but you're worried it's too weird? Send your questions to TrèsSugar, and our friend Dr. Charlie Glickman from Good Vibrations will offer his sound advice!

Today's Question:

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for six months, and I’ve started feeling funny about the quality of our sex. At the beginning, sex was fantastic between us. We both have high sex drives, are creative in bed, and I think we both felt that we’d found our sexual soul mate.

Lately though, I’m feeling more and more objectified by him. He texts overly sexual things to me. (That’s fine, but how about an “I miss you!” every once in a while!) He wants to do rougher things, and although I don’t mind that and even find it a turn on, I'm beginning to feel less like a partner to him and more like an object. I know he’s really into porn, he masturbates a lot, has had lots of casual flings in the past and I’m beginning to wonder if he’s a sex addict.


What are the signs? What should I do? I care about him, but I am feeling suspicious that he no longer sees me as an equal, and I wonder if, with his insatiable appetite, he might even cheat on me. I know he’s done it in the past. Help! To hear what Dr. Glickman has to say,


Dr. Glickman's Answer:

First thing — good for you for listening to your intuition and your feelings on this. A lot of people ignore or don’t listen to those early warning signs, and that often leads to a worse situation. It’s important to pay attention to them when they first show up and I’m glad you did.

I hear the term “sex addict” used a lot. To be honest, there isn’t any consensus among therapists or sexologists about what it means and there is still a lot of debate about whether someone can be addicted to sex in the way that someone can be addicted to drugs, with all of the physiological effects that can have. At the same time, it seems pretty clear to me that some people have sexual compulsions that they have difficulty controlling or working with.

Now, maybe most people outside the sexology or therapy worlds don’t really care about the difference between sex addiction and compulsion. But I think it’s important to not throw the “addict” label at people (not that I’m suggesting that you’re doing that) because it can be really triggering. In my experience, it tends to create a lot of shame and judgment on top of whatever difficult feelings someone may have because of their actions. Of course, if someone wants to use the word to describe themselves, that’s fine. It’s about self-definition, after all.

Leaving aside the question of whether your boyfriend is a sex addict, I think that the place to start is the fact that you’re not getting what you want. From what you say, it sounds like you enjoy some of the same things, which can be helpful. But if you want sweetness and loving moments mixed in with the rough and tumble, that’s a totally fine thing to ask for. Have you spoken with him about that? If so, has he been open to hearing that? And what have the two of you agreed to do? If you haven’t raised this topic with him, why is that? What could make it easier for you to talk with him about it?

Along those lines, what about the non-sexual parts of your relationship? Are you getting your needs and desires met? Does this pattern extend into those realms, too? If he’s open to talking with you and finding ways to support your relationship, great! That’s a good starting point for working through how things are for your sexual connection. But if he’s not open to that in other arenas, that’s probably a good reason to reconsider whether being “sexual soul mates” is enough of a foundation for a relationship.

Assuming that you two are both willing to work on this together, there are a few directions that you could take things.

One of the challenges that can arise when someone explores some of their sexual desires is that it can cause a disconnection from their partner, especially if they go through a phase of wanting to focus on a particular set of fantasies to the exclusion of other ways of being sexual. I’ve seen people fall into those patterns when exploring many different sexual practices, although it seems to be especially likely when rougher sex is on the menu. I’m not aware of any research on the topic, but my sense is that for some people, the heightened intensity of the interaction can make it easy to get lost in the fantasy and hard to stay present and focused on the real life person they’re with. So finding ways to connect in other ways, such as sweet text messages or more romantic sex can be a big help.

You might want to take a vacation from the rougher sex for a while, at least until you can reconnect in other ways. Being able to ask for the types of connection that work for you can be a big help. I like the book The Five Love Languages for that. The author describes five basic ways of giving and receiving love and care (words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch). He also talks about how we tend to have our preferred method and that we often get into conflict because we’re using different languages, not because we don’t care for our partners. It’s a good read, although I personally don’t care for his biblical approach and had to filter that out. You can get the basic idea on this page of his website without getting into his particular religious perspective, if that works better for you.

It could also be worth talking with your boyfriend about why he wants to have rough sex. For that matter, you might also get a lot out of exploring what your motivations are, too. There are many different reasons people enjoy any type of sex and having a clear understanding of what yours and his are could be really helpful for both of you. If you’re clear about what you want to get out of it, you’ll be much more likely to be able to create the connection that you desire. If you go that route, I strongly suggest not having that conversation during or after sex. Set some time aside for it when you’re both feeling relaxed and ready.

Finally, if none of that works for you and things don’t change, or if he’s not open to talking about it, that may be a sign that things really aren’t going to change. Take a good look at the situation and listen to your feelings. (It sounds like you’ve already been doing that.) I think that whether your boyfriend is a sex addict is less important than whether he’s able and willing to sit down with you and talk about your relationship, and whether the two of you are able to engage in the give-and-take that all successful relationships need.

(Remember, if you have questions for Dr. Glickman, send them to TrèsSugar and we'll pass them along!)

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Join The Conversation
nicky44 nicky44 5 years
I forgot to add we have been very open in our communication and we both know what each other thinks as we have had several good talks about it
nicky44 nicky44 5 years
Help I don,t know what to do, this may be a bit long winded but i need some answers before i go nuts. I needed to move town about 4 months ago but had no way of getting there, so i called on a ex boyfriend of mine and asked him if he would help me to shift, i am a solo mother of 44 years with a 12 year old daughter, my ex picked me us from the station and took me us to his place who he shares with his 18 year old son.  basically my daughter and i have lived there for 4 months.  I fell back in love with my ex but he does not feel the same he only wants to be friends with benefits. May be more of a relationship later. I started to remember why we broke up in the first place back in 2005. He I am sure is a sex addict as he basically seems to live for sex, 3 times just about everynight, next to no foreplay is involved though he still tries to satisfy me at times not to much success. He is always looking at porn whether in front of me or not, though on mentioning this he does it less in front of me but will still go into his room. He has an extreme passion for wearing womens high heel shoes, though not in public and has quite a collection of them, sometimes I feel he loves them like they were his girlfriend He loves anal sex, I wonder if hes gay? Anyway outside of the sexual relationship hes quite nice though tends to blame me and his son on lots of things.  Its got me to the point that im feeling quite used and i am considering on getting my own place, im at a cross point where i want my own space but dont want to leave him either.  Im so confused i hope you can help me sort my head out.
Abnormal-girlie Abnormal-girlie 7 years
I agree with the last two posters. Communication is the key. Be open, be caring about his needs, enjoy the sex, don't be judgmental and these things will come back to you just the way you put them out there. The more attentive I am to my guys needs, the more attentive he is to my needs. If I come home in a bitchy mood and take it out on him, we end-up not speaking for days. If I come home and tell him I had a rough day, can he take the kids a while or help me with them, he makes my problems better. The more I respect him, the more he respects me.
I think a lot of women go through these same situations with their male partners. (Overly sexual, overly focused on the physical aspects of the relationship). I think that so far you are handling it correctly by rememebering that you are still sexually attracted to him and not completely shutting down, but like mallorycurtis & the Doctor said.. you HAVE TO COMMUNICATE. Men are not mind readers, and they are sort of primitive in their sexual desires.. so if you do not communicate.. you will end up dissatisfied. Just tell him you miss A, B & C. Compliment the things you like and kindly point out the ones you don't. Be to the point & hopefully he should be completely willing to fix the problem!
mallorycurtis mallorycurtis 7 years
communication communication communication. how is he supposed to know you don't like certain things if you don't tell him? men are not mind fact, most of them need things laid out on the table right in front of them a lot of the time.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
agree with the other two posters. don't give him an "out" by blaming his behavior on an addiction - he's being selfish and demanding.
sparklepants sparklepants 7 years
leila is right. demand respect! i wish i had done that in a previous relationship. i knew something was wrong but i couldn't really put it into words at the time, but it was that he had no respect for me i later figured out. give him a chance and if he still doesn't respect you, leave. it's not worth it. that slightly icky feeling you have now will only worsen over time.
heatherhas heatherhas 7 years
Umm, your dating a guy. If you are feeling uncomfortable then just put him in his place and demand respect.
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