Out of Control Sexual Behavior

Yes. It is a thing. And, therapists see a lot of it! Client’s coming in married or in a committed relationship having multiple affairs on the side-without their partner knowing. The devastation is unbelievable for unknowing partners. Yet, the behavior continues and is growing in numbers.

So, what is the story behind out of control sexual behavior and why does it happen? The answers to these questions are unique to each person of course, like all therapeutic issues. The general idea is one or more of these; a mishap in sexual messaging growing up, reinforcement of out of control sexual behavior, trauma, bipolar, low-self worth/esteem.

In an article written by Scott Church MA, LPC (2015), “Douglas Braun-Harvey (2014) defines Out of Control Sexual Behavior (OCSB) as “a sexual health problem in which an individual’s consensual sexual urges, thoughts, and behaviors feel out of control [to them]” (p. 10). Braun-Harvey views Out of Control Sexual Behavior as a sexual problem, not a sexual disorder or illness (personal communication, February 10, 2015). Furthermore, Dr. Neil Cannon (2015) finds that Out of Control Sexual Behavior is often not about sex, but rather untreated trauma/abuse, untreated mental health issues, unresolved relationship issues, and problematic habits (p. 18).”

There’s been a long debate in the mental health field about whether there is a such thing as out of control sexual behavior-formerly called “sex addiction.” As more therapists are seeing these types of sexual patterns in the office there is strong discussion now about creating an official diagnosis called Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD) (WHO, 2018). With advances in technology, allowing such easy access to sex and pornography, it is no wonder why these sexual behaviors are on the rise.

So, what do we do about it? First, any untreated mental health issues need to be worked on with a mental health therapist. When I work with out of control sexual behavior most often early on in sessions (but can come at a later time) there is a referral for a mental health evaluation by a mental health therapist, if they are not already working with one, to see if there are any issues that need to be worked on simultaneously while working on sexual value systems/messaging, honesty, self-growth, behavioral patterns, the meaning of sex, relationship issues (past and present). We will often utilize different modalities such as 12 steps as well as newer models such as Cannon (2015) uses, dealing with language (a sex problem) and exploring problematic “habits.”

Helping people through these problems is possible but the first step for individuals is admitting there is a problem- something many are not ready to do. One has to first own their behavior and not blame others. Working with relationship issues with self and others will come soon enough in treatment. With the right treatment people can control their behavior and lead happy productive lives both individually and relationally. A client can begin to look at what is sexual health- something that isn’t thought about when someone is out of control sexually.

References:

Braun-Harvey, D. (2014). Treating out of control sexual behavior [Presentation by Dr. Douglas Braun-Harvey on September 19-20, 2014 in San Francisco, CA].


Cannon, N. (2015). A strength based approach to treating out of control sexual behavior (ocsb)[Presentation by Dr. Neil Cannon on February 6, 2015 at the Buehler Institute].

World Health Organization (2017) Taken from Compulsive Sexual Behavior Is Now Recognized as a Disorder, But It Isn’t the Same as Sex Addiction (SELF, NA, 2018).

What Are Your Sex And Relationship Goals?

Do you have any?

Do you want to give yourself the opportunity to be free to be yourself? Or, do you want to stop faking orgasms? Or, perhaps, you want to be able to express more love and affection to your self and your partner?

What do you want? Do you ever think about this or do you just accept whatever is happening?

We tend to make everything else in life a priority, our jobs, our children, our stress, etc and we forget about our relationships and the glue that holds “romantic” relationships together- sex. This behavior is destined for disaster.

I invite you to make a list of your sex and relationship goals for the rest of 2019 and then again in the beginning of 2020. Make it a priority to do this. I can promise that the results will be obvious. Where we put our focus we see results- hence the phrase “energy flows where focus goes”- whatever is the focus of attention becomes more prominent.

Go ahead….make the list!

Every day do something that honors that list and watch what happens!

Self-Awareness Is The New Sexy

Is it?

This is a complicated question.

The consciousness of knowing one’s own character, motives, desires, feelings- Introspection. 

On one hand, self-awareness is one of the main ingredients to a successful life- it’s a cornerstone to emotional intelligence.  We need to be self-aware in order to know ourselves which in turn allows others to know us. It opens the door for a deep connection not only with ourselves but with others we choose to allow in to our lives.

Most of the time we as people are on autopilot.  We are not “there” enough to show up for our lives.  This usually leads to passive or aggressive reactions instead of conscious decision making.  With all the messaging coming at us from all over the place, religion, cultural beliefs, music, television, etc we get caught up in what and who we think we should be.  Then the narrative starts, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and others. We then take up camp in that space- we live there.

There’s so much more on self-awareness but you get the picture.

Now, here’s the kicker… Since most people aren’t living consciously, when you find someone who actually does it can feel intimidating and threatening. We often don’t know how to handle “that person.” They’re a Unicorn.

We are strangely attracted to them but scared of them as well. Who are they? Are they going to see me?  What if they don’t like what they see?  Who am I?  The mind keeps turning and turning and turning.

The bottom line is people who are self-aware or working towards self-awareness are more evolved emotionally.  Practicing mindfulness, journaling thoughts and feelings, meditation, spending time in nature contemplating are all ways to bring on self-awareness. There is a stillness about these folks, an unmistakable energy.  It is sexy because it’s different.

Should we care what other’s think? Should we not work on ourselves because our partner is not working on themselves, our friends are not? Do we stay in a non-growth pattern because of other people? The answer to these questions is NO.  We continue OUR journey. We do what we feel is right because it’s the highest way to live.

To Know Thyself….

Change

Change is something that seems to be more and more difficult for people to grasp. The fear around change for many is debilitating. There are small steps to change and much larger steps to take-there’s no right way to change- as long as it is taking place. Change leads to growth. Growth and contribution are two of the major keys to life- needs of the spirit. I will talk about contribution at another time.

Change brings about uncomfortable situations, feelings, and thoughts. Most people do not embrace this. It’s often so uncomfortable that people resist change possibly more than anything else in their lives. WE have become masters at dodging the process. Yet, fail to recognize it’s the only way to grow.

As a noun change is defined as “the act or instance of making or becoming different.” While it’s true that our brains prefer predictability, our brains are also highly adaptable- it’s fear that gets in the way. The fear comes from the running dialogue in our heads- the stories we tell ourselves. Get real quiet and listen to these stories- once you get quiet you will see how loud they are. The stories need to be modified. The “what ifs”, “what will they think”, “how will I get though it”, “how can I face myself”? And, all the other fear based strategies your brain comes up with to keep you stagnant and what it percieves as “safe.”

When you hear your storyline, remember that there are choices. You can choose to say what if? Or, you can choose to say I can do this, I will do this, I am doing this.

Be careful of the “change trap” as I call it. You can’t change yourself (at least not in theory). For example, If I say, “I want to eat more vegetables for my health” is a statement of behavior. Behavior can be changed. If I say, “Today it’s time I change and becme the type of person that eats more vegetables”- you’re not re-inventing yourself to eat vegetables as the second statement implies. The second statement brings out the fear- who will I be when I change into that person? Will people like me? What if I don’t like myself?….What will they think? (ultimately, who cares but that’s for another blog). Point is when we think about change as behavioral we often soften the fear.

Small behavioral changes = EVOLVEMENT.

And, frankly, that’s what we are ALL here to do.

Stop dodging the process because of your discomfort. Look it in the eye- face it.

Separation.

Is a separation ever justifiable in a relationship?

This question is layered and one that is asked in my office often. The short answer is yes. The long answer is - It’s complicated. As with everything in life, intention is key. I ask people everyday, “what is your intention?”

Statistically, when a couple separates there’s a roughly 50/50 chance of success. Again, depending on the intention. Separations have to be done the right way and for the right reasons. I am a believer in the therapeutic value of a temporary separation with the intent on strengthening the relationship. The general consensus on the length of time is roughly six months (which can be tailored).

A separation needs to be seen as a period of time to gain perspective on the relationship- a retreat of sorts. Often, when couples get to the point of separation there have been other interventions that were unsuccessful. Often, couples are feeling hopeless at this point. In life, perception and perspective means EVERYTHING! Instead of looking at a separation like a means to an end, and letting the fear take the wheel, separation can be seen as a tool to stay together. As counterintuitive as this may seem, for many it works very well.

Of course, there are some people that this will not work well for AT ALL. If you are seeing someone else and are going to continue to see that person while separated, likely will not sit well with your partner. If you start surfing dating apps to see if the “grass is greener” you need to check your intentions. When there are REPEATED breaches of trust a separation will likely not work. If a coupe is considering a separation they need to be totally honest with themselves and their partner. If this can not be done for whatever reason then a separation is not going to lead to positive results.

So what are the rules for a positive separation/retreat?

  1. Back to intention- If the intent is to work through some issues and gain some perspective then a therapist or relationship coach that works well with couples is an absolute MUST. If the intention is anything other than that the relationship is a ticking time bomb.

  2. Communicate- while in therapy, you’ll likely be learning better ways to communicate, negotiate and collaborate- This is the time to put these new skills in to practice.

  3. Set clear expectations- The cliche statement “trust is the foundation of every relationship” is TRUE! This is a time of rebuilding trust. And, it’s a very fragile time when it comes to emotional trust- if one person expects to have a phone call every night and the other desn’t, there’s going to be hurt feelings and emotional trust is going to start to diminish. Talk about it. What are the expectations during this time?

  4. Work on tailoring the separation to fit both your needs with your therapist or coach. This will enhance the separation.

While grasping the idea of a separation may be difficult for many, there are some great books on the topic.

One of them is titled “Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go” by Gadoua. Another good one is Survive Marriage Separation: What to Say and Do to Keep Your Marriage” by Wasson. And, another great one is “Hope For The Separated” by Chapman.

Separation is a time of reflection, re-connection, and growth both individually and as a couple.

If you are in this space, follow the above rules, educate yourself, and keep your intentions in a positive place and you can get through it and have a more depthful relationship.

A Short Book List For Your Growth

The following is a short list of books I recommend for growth in all areas of life. The below list of books are some of my favorites that can really have a profound impact on your life, relationships, emotions, outlook etc. You can find all of them on Amazon just type the title and author into the search box and they will come up.

When it comes to books I believe you get the most out of them when you actually apply the principles (if you agree with the principles). Many people read books and they stay very cerebral with the information and it never transpires into application- the end result is - no change and no growth. Take these books seriously as they are all written by masters- some of the most influential people around!

There are so many more books I love but these are some I wanted to share at the moment!

 Louis Hay: You Can Heal Your Life

 Gabrielle Bernstein: The Universe Has Your Back

 Michael Singer: The Untethered Soul

 Nathanial Brandon: The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem

 Esther and Jerry Hicks: Ask and It Is Given

 Dr. Wayne Dyer: Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life

 Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit

 Brene Brown: Braving The Wilderness

 Mark Manson: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck

 Jen Sincero: You Are A Baddass

 Rick Foster and Greg Hicks: How We Choose To Be Happy

 David Schnarch: Resurrecting Sex AND Passionate Marriage (both books are amazing)

 Michele Weiner Davis: The Sex-Starved Marriage

 John Gottman- The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work AND

What Makes Love Last (Both of these are amazing)

 Michael Castleman: Great Sex

 Esther Perel: Mating In Captivity

 John Kehoe: Mind Power

 Tony Robbins: Unleash The Power Within- Audio Book

Your Inner Critic

Silence that BEAST!

 

Do you catch yourself saying “I blew it” or “I can’t believe I just did that?”  “I’m too old” “I’m not good enough.”  Does your brain start to rehash all of your mistakes and wrongdoings? When you succeed in something do you breathe a sigh of relief versus being full of joy at your accomplishment?

 

Some people have stronger inner critics than others.  Many people when they have a big success the achievement for them doesn’t feel genuine.  It’s their inner critic that squashes their joy and leaves them feeling fruitless.   The self-critic in you is harmful to your sense of well-being and needs some help.

 

Self-affirmations are a good place to start.  This involves redirecting our thoughts to our strengths and talents.   This is a great start to re-training your brain in a positive direction- but it takes dedication and work.  You can start with when you hear your inner critic bashing you switch your thinking to that amazing dinner you made last night, the wonderful organizational skills you have, the way you love other people, your drive, tenacity, etc.

 

Counter examples- In the face of self-affirmations your brain will provide you with many counter examples, ”but wait, your house is a mess your organization skills suck!” This is where discipline must come in and as much as I don’t like labels this is a great place to label your inner critic. The self- talk needs to switch immediately to “that’s just my inner critic again, no big deal, it’s about recognizing and letting go.

 

Self- compassion- Not many people practice this but it’s important for a happy life.  The fact is NO- ONE is perfect and we are all a little insecure. Recognizing this is important for self-care.  Too often we think what other people are thinking of us and comparing ourselves to others in a degrading way.  Being aware that everyone is “figuring it out” is a self-compassionate thought. Accepting the fact that YOU and everyone else grow in unique ways and your journey is special.  A great exercise here is imagine you were a dear friend of yours and that friend is going through what you’re going through.  How would you treat them and what would you say to them?  Now, go ahead and say those same things to yourself.

 

Take a break from social media- social media in and of itself is a direct path to yourself critic. I learned a long time ago that intermittent breaks from social media provides breathing room for negative thought patterns.  As a matter of fact, I personally take at least three social media breaks a year which can be anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks per break.  During that time, I go hard on inspirational books, personal growth such as goal setting, personal care behaviors (eating dinner in a calm environment, more exercise, researching healthy products, etc.), and mental health exercises (grounding, meditation, nature walks, etc.)- These are just examples. Social media breeds the space for self-comparison and self-doubt and takes up WAY too much of our time- time spent being productive!

Your goal is to act like the person you want to be so your brain starts to believe it.  Of course, you have to have a vision of who that person you want to be is.  Imagine for just a moment who you want to be.  Do you want to be happy and carefree? Healthy and energetic? Positive and loving? All of these?  In order to move forward you must be moving towards something- get your vision clear- write it down and look at it every day. 

 

If you practice these things above you are well on your way to making incredible long-lasting change to your inner critic and the narratives you create in your own life. And this my friends is what’s called “Alignment.”

Are You In A Healthy Relationship Or A "Hurried" Relationship?

I’m going to keep this simple. I want you to really think about this and be brutally honest with yourself.

A Healthy Relationship is on where you take the time to listen to your partner. You are present and aware of their needs. You actively search for ways to please your partner and make them a priority. When it comes to a gift you actively (consciously) put thought into the process of choosing what to get your loved one. You are kind, you express your feelings (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in a mindful way. You touch your partner regularly. You look at them with love (ever hear of a smile?).

A “Hurried Relationship” is, well, just the opposite. There is no thought (or not much). You don’t think about what would please them. You don’t listen to them (or rarely do). On Valentine’s day you do the status quo- roses. No thought. You’re not interested in touching them or seeing them happy and comfortable. Or maybe comfort is all you can give (or think you can give) through paying for material things. You are rarely positive, can be jealous of your partner’s success (happiness, friends, lifestyle, etc).

I see both types of relationships. Therapy is not (I repeat) IS NOT just about broken relationships- Often, healthy relationships want to improve even more (that’s some serious priority right there)! “Hurried Relationships” are usually in a 911 situation (whether they know it or not). You can not sustain any type of relationship with “Hurried Relationship” dynamics. You’re in your own way.

So, think about where you are. Again, be brutally honest because that’s where change happens. Once you see your SELF and your relationship with honesty, the next step is to figure out what you want. Do you want to stand still? Or do you want Healthy? What’s your vision?

Self- awareness is hard for a lot of people, change is even harder for some. It can be done though. Take the first two steps. Be brutally honest and what’s your vision?

Get at it!

Deb