I'm struggling with the concept of SA as an illness and therefore out of the control of the addict.
There is controversy even with the professionals as to whether or not addiction is a valid "disease". It is easy to find both sides of the arguement online. And as the technology & better research is giving additional information, it makes it easier to know what approaches will be successful in what way or not.
I can understand the drive to act out but surely they know its wrong, else why the guilt & anger transference afterwards?
Knowing something is wrong is not always enough by itself to stop people from doing it, or feeling badly afterwards. In some cases, I believe that feeling badly afterwards is as much of the "allure" or "fix" if you will, as the chosen self sabotage even on a subconcious level.
With us, H had suffered tons of abuse before me. When I didn't abuse him, he started to abuse himself. He was more comfortable feeling like a worthless piece of crap than a valued, cherished & loved human being. That was a completely foreign state of being for him (other than love of his kids).
And if they know it's wrong, why do they continue without getting some help?
Because you can't solve a problem with the same thinking, habits & patterns of behavior that caused it. And a huge part is an inability to see that they need help, being too ashamed to seek it or unwilling / unable to admit the truth so the magnitude of the problem is acknowledged to themself or anyone else.
They may believe they can't be helped, or scared to find out how screwed up they are. They may believe everyone else is like they are, that it's "normal". They may believe that they can solve the problem themself. With SA's, many believe that the marriage and/or partner can solve their issues without ever admitting the extent of the problems they are struggling with.
For example, they think that being married will give them enough sex to stop the desire for SA activities. No one or any marriage in & of itself will ever be enough to do that, so then they can often be disappointed / hurt / angry or even feel betrayed that the partner doesn't automatically solve a problem they are often unaware even exists.
Then they may think that they just married the wrong person instead of being able to acknowledge or maybe even realize they have be truthful & seek help to actually fix the real issues.
When they seek help, they focus on the wrong thing (such as the partner's faults or dissatisfaction with the marriage) so the help they get is only a bandaid on a hemorrage they refuse or are unable to admit is going on in them.
In reality, SA is an intimacy / attachment / bonding disorder. It can make a healthy relationship feel extremely uncomfortable or even unbearable to them. They just can't explain why when they may want to be loving & loved, they do things that guarantee they will be alone & lonely instead. It takes a lot of help & soul searching to reverse that dynamic since its roots are deep in their subconscious & often, in their abuse / trauma history.
Are they really so lacking in empathy that they can't see the problems? And if so, can a SA ever really gain that empathy - and, with it, the ability to be intimate?
Lack of empathy is only one symptom of the issue. It's lack of self awareness & an inability to practice consistently good coping / partnership skills or other healthy behaviors as well. And once the right issues are properly addressed that better knowledge along with those healthier patterns of behavior with better coping / partnership skills can be put into operation.
As many successfully recovered addicts & their partners can attest to. But not all will become or can be caring, emphathetic, loving, honest partners especially if they refuse to aggressively & consistently tackle the problems with honest disclosure of what is going on with them.
Here's some more thoughts as to the seeds of dysfunctional spouses, altho I don't subscribe to the 'birth trauma' being the sole cause of the SA issues, but certainly an abusive childhood with crappy parents or abandonment will be the seeds of dysfunction in life, including the disconnection & addictive behaviors:
Cuddling & Holding As Stress Reducers & ... As Possible Stress Increasers by John A. Speyrer
"Bonding is a strong emotional attachment that helps us want to be with one another, help & protect each other & touch & become sexual with one another. High levels of oxytocin encourage & strengthen bonding.
Because early trauma & lack of love affect the output of this hormone, the ability to relate to others & have good sex later in life may be determined even before birth & just after.
We learn how to bond emotionally in adulthood through early bonding in childhood, as simplistic as that sounds." Dr. A. Janov's blog: On Vital Signs in Primal Therapy, 2/10
AS A STRESS REDUCER
The July/August, 2005, issue of Psychosomatic Medicine reports how "warm partner contact" or cuddling can mitigate the effects of stressful activities.
A study by Grewin, Girdler, Amico & Light at the University of North Carolina's department of psychiatry reported on two studies of couples, in stabilized relationships, who before undergoing a stressful experience (they were told they would be giving a public speech) received body cuddling from their spouses.
Each group & its control were placed in separate rooms, their blood pressure, oxytocin & cortisol (a stress hormone) levels were measured.
During their speeches those speakers who had not received hugs & cuddles from their partners had heart rates & blood pressure rates which were much higher than speakers from the other couples who had held hands & embraced for 20 seconds.
It was reported:
"Our findings suggest that when the relationship is supportive & strong, time spent with the partner may be beneficial by reducing blood pressure & protecting against future heart disease," & concluded:
"These are the first findings in humans linking oxytocin to the strength of the partner relationship, & it was seen in both men & women."
The study surmised that oxytocin is one factor which gives marriage its beneficial effects by calming distress.
Perhaps the increased level of oxytocin explains why married couples live longer, although I remember reading somewhere that some wag claimed that marriage couples didn't live longer - it only seemed longer!
Statistics show that being divorced, single or experiencing grief can damage one's health. Increased oxytocin may have a number of other unknown health benefits.
And not just any hug or touch will do. For example, a perfunctory hug will not raise those desirable hormone levels.
AS A STRESS INCREASER
[quote]"More typically in healthy relationships, sex improves with time & shared experiences.
Addictive sex, on the other hand, wanes with increased knowledge of the other person because it no longer provides escape from buried feelings."
-- Charlotte D. Kasl, Ph.D. in Women, Sex, & Addiction
The implications of a full study of the effects of touch & cuddling would have been much broader if it had included couples where the relationship wasn't "supportive & strong", to use the words from the authors of the study, who apparently screened out couples from participating in the study when the relationship wasn't "supportive & strong."
Those of us in primal & other deeply regressive therapies know how biographical traumatic events which go back to birth & before & to infancy & early childhood cause us to become who we are, & possessing personalities which we are powerless to change.
If such "neurotic" partners of couples had been intentially included in the study, there might have been measureable biochemical data that showed a qualitative & quantitative difference in touching & hugging, which might be a function of the repressed trauma in those individuals.
Couples can go through the motions of touching & hugging & these behaviors can result in a very different biochemical experience, depending on the shape & amount of their repressed pain, & whether there has been enough time for it to rise in their relationship.
Repressed memories from early physical events like spankings, sexual abuse & birth trauma can all be unconsciously triggered by touch & holding; even by touch & holding received from loved ones. In such cases, my guess is that the level of oxytocin could very well become reduced.
What this means is that there are people who, under certain conditions, cannot be comforted in the same way that "normal" people can be comforted in a stressful situation -- & attempts at comforting might even have an opposite effect.
I would guess that there are some people who have so much repressed pain related to touching & holding that touching & holding would increase their cortisol levels & reduce oxytocin levels, in what for them is a stressful experience because it triggers enormously stressful repressed experiences from the past.
It's all about repressed emotional pain & learning.
Try petting a stray dog who has been kicked & abused & you just heighten its anxiety, as the animal always expects to be mistreated.
So instead of hugging releasing the "love" & "relaxation" hormones, cuddling for some people, could conceivably not have the desired effect, & it might have the opposite effect.
In most marriages, the sexual honeymoon of newlyweds does not continue indefinitely, & in a disheartening number of cases, love is soon replaced with tension & constant bickering.
Why does the deep love originally shared by the spouses soon turn them into strangers & even enemies?
Primal therapist Alice
"The men become distraught either because the relationship feels claustrophobic or because their wives no longer want sex.
Often it is the woman who is unhappy with the relationship because she claims her husband has greater priorities than spending time with her." [Bonds of Fire: Rekindling Sexual Rapture, p. 34]
Some become driven to cheat to dispel the tension from unconscious memories which begin rising due to the intimacy or the "togetherness" of their relationship.
Before marriage they had been able to leave the other's presence, after a date, to recuperate, to repair their defenses, but the marriage with its continual proximity, for those, often becomes an overload of intimacy.
This can happen to varying degrees & in different ways.
With minimal repressed pain & strong defenses a couple's love & closeness with each other can deepen.
But many partners who did not have an loving positive relationship with their parents can sabotage their marriages.
They do not realize what is happening.
They become more distant & unsharing in their thoughts & feelings, & as a result, they ruin the relationship with their spouse who only expects normal intimacy.
I assume that the couples in the study reported in Psychosomatic Medicine were those in "good" marriages.
A good marriage is one in which one or both spouses don't have enough repressed pain to sabotage the marriage, or because of good defenses, the dark shadows from the crib have not as yet broken through to consciousness.
The marriage relationship become more burdensome & tedious as innumerable physical & psychological triggers meet with spousal defenses.
In such cases, attempts at greater intimacy brings up feelings & memories of relationship deficiencies which each had lacked decades earlier.
Both want from the other the good mother or father which they had not had & this truth is behind the lack of satisfaction in the relationship in the present.
The birth of a child can trigger resentful feelings of rejection in the needy father since his wife must now spend less time with him. Some men have a difficult time relating to their wife as a mother.
When he thinks of his wife as a mother be begins thinking of his wife as his mother. This does not mean that his wife was not thought of as his mother before she gave birth, it only means that after his wife becomes a mother, those blocked feelings become more powerful & often are more difficult to keep blocked.
Incredibly, homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant & recently pregnant women. See Intimate Partner Homicide & Pregnancy.
Breuer & Freud believed that neurotics suffer from reminiscences, but the suffering is mostly endured by the women partners of those who act out.
As some of his early mother-related material leak into consciousness the partner may suffer from more neurotic symptoms than heretofore as those memories attempt to become conscious‡.
There are many examples.
A well known one is the case of Elvis Presley. He asked his wife, Priscilla, late in her pregnancy, for a trial separation. He needed time to think he said. His daughter, Lisa Marie, was born two months later.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_& _Me )
In a more rational world, the death of a parent of a spouse or the death of one of their children would draw the couple closer but instead such losses can become potent triggers to unresolved traumatic memories.
One would expect that the grieving spouses would find some solace being able to rely on each other during such a tragedy.
However, the death of a child has resulted in many failed marriages & those are again due to a triggering of very early repressed trauma.
When one spouse concludes that attempts at change have become hopeless, the early childhood feelings of frustration can interfere with the relationship.
Indifference & low level depression escalates from pouting & petulance into open anger & hostility.
Dr. Alice Rose writes that the need to escape the "suffocating" (birth feelings) confines of the marital relationship are acted out in adultery, desertion, & divorce.
The sexual relationship in marriage follows a similar course as does the closing up of emotional intimacy in the marriage. The culprits in both spouses, once again, are usually the unconscious memories brought into the marriage.
Often these repressed memories arise slowly but sometimes such ascending memories occur during an early stage of marriage & also explains the seemingly incomprehensible behavior of "honeymoon cheating" by a spouse, when on rare occasions, a spouse is driven to unfaithfulness on their honeymoon a result of spousal intimacy bringing forth unconscious memories of repressed early trauma.
For those with few such early emotional issues, love & sex continue to flourish over time.
For those with severe repressed trauma, even the post-orgasmic intruding feelings from long ago begin to become uncomfortable.
The dissatisfied partner is usually the husband as he looks to his wife to provide him with the needs his mother never adequately supplied. But his wife is not his mother; & may not wish to play that codependent role.
Instead, she may unconsciously regard him as the good father which she never had & wants to remake her "bad boy" husband into a good father.
The success of these unconscious goals are doomed to failure.
But why does the husband have more problems with intimacy than his wife?
Rose explains that it is usually the husband who feels trapped since he unconsciously relates the pain of birth with his relationship with women. This has to be so because his very first intimate relationship with a woman, his mother, was a painful one (during birth & in infancy & perhaps both physically & emotionally).
He continues to get triggered by all subsequent close relationships with women - the most desirable ones - the ones he especially admires - the ones upon whom he projects his unconscious needs..
After all, as an infant there was no one more desirable than his mother, especially so if he was rejected by her!
It is most probable that his choice of a spouse was based on his relationship with his mother.
Orgasm can reduce the level of our defenses & thus has the potential of allowing us access to our early traumas.
Unfortunately, for some, an orgasm is followed by an amorphous depressive feeling accompanied by a need to get away from the suffocating feeling with which he becomes enveloped.
The normal desire of his spouse for post-coital cuddling is felt by some men as intrusive: "You're not giving me any room"; "I can't breathe; I'm suffocating" "Give me some space; You're too clingy"; I've got to get out." An easy & common defensive escape from these feelings is sleep. Post-coital cuddling is avoided since it can further threaten defenses already lowered by orgasm.
Often the "I've got to get out" feeling is acted upon, & a spouse gets out of the marriage. It works but the relief is only temporary.
Once again, it takes some time for the symptoms triggered by the intimacy of a new relationship to rise.
But, after the excitement of sex with a new partner becomes dulled, the old buried feelings arise once again to threaten the new relationship.
Sexual addiction in marriage is thus explained as the adulterous acts outs, which are just other examples of pseudo-intimacies, escalate into serial escapades or desertion.
Sexual addiction is like drinking seawater when you're thirsty. It doesn't quench the feeling. You can drink & drink & drink, & you're still thirsty because it doesn't satisfy & fufill your real need.
The real need in a neurotic marriage is the old repressed needs of the spouse as a baby, & those needs can never be filled - they can only be felt. ....