The Second Look

David walks into a restaurant, looks around and spots an attractive woman across the room. She is sitting at a table with a man. She looks up toward David, and their eyes lock for an instant. They both look away. A few seconds pass, and he turns to look at her again. As he is turning she lowers her coffee cup and looks straight back at him. This time the gaze lasts a few seconds before they each slowly turn away.

His heart races. His eyes light up. He smiles at the hostess, takes a deep breath, and floats to his table. He doesn't walk. He floats. A moment ago he walked into this restaurant just another guy on his lunch hour, but now he is King of the World.

This is the moment a sex and love addict lives for, The Second Look. It lights up his brain like a spike in the arm, like a dry martini, a line of cocaine. It says “You are a sexy guy, a worthwhile person, clearly someone of wit, intelligence, passion and erudition; someone who could make me happy, give me beautiful babies, maybe the answer to all my prayers. Maybe you are the ONE.”

Or it could mean “You are a hot guy. I would love to jump on you right now.” Either way it works for David. It gets the spark plugs in his brain firing.

Never mind that he doesn't know the first thing about this woman. He can project onto her whatever he likes to bring this fantasy to life. The fact that she is with another man is not a deterrent. In fact it is a bonus. She not only thinks I am hot, but it is clear she can see that I am superior to that guy she's sitting with. I'm a winner. He's a loser.

For some sex addicts actual, or even virtual sex, is optional. More central to their mood alteration is the validation, the feeling that they are desirable and desired. We see this often with “emotional affairs”, a relationship with a colleague or client. The person, a man or a woman, replaces the primary partner bestowing affection, understanding and tenderness, stopping short of any actual sexual involvement. That keeps it legit, or so the belief goes. Truth is, men and women who do this are robbing their partners of a large chunk of themselves. They share their true feelings with the other, then come home and watch television.

It is complicated, of course. We all like to receive validation and attention from others. And no one gets all their needs met by one person. But for those afflicted with this disorder it is not simply a momentary blip of pleasure at being appreciated by another. It is necessary for their very survival. It is a deep need to be seen and accepted.

The thing that makes sex and love addictions so easy to deny is this characteristic. It is not one or more behaviors that define the addiction, but rather it is the compulsive nature of the behavior. Alcoholics regularly associate with people who drink more and worse than they do. It allows them to say “Well I'm not as bad as that guy.” With sex addicts it is easy to say “At least I don't...Fill in the blanks: Affairs, strip clubs, escorts, massage parlors, dating sites, Tinder hook-ups, office intrigues, sexting masturbation, pornography...Endless ways to medicate yourself with sexual arousal.

The place to look is not at the behaviors, but at what surrounds the activity. Does it create shame? Is it secret, requiring a double life? Have you tried unsuccessfully to stop or moderate it? Do you make promises to yourself, and then break them? Do you continue the behavior in spite of negative consequences? These are some of the indicators there is a sexual compulsion at work. These compulsions can be helped. The first step is recognizing they exist.//

© Tim 2015