Midlife Dimensions


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People who struggle with sexual addiction seem to have had a common cluster of childhood problems. They were:

  • Sexually abused
  • Psychologically abandoned or abused
  • Physically abused
  • Feel disconnected with their parental family

Life for them feels out of control, and all of their lives they have been desperately looking for love and emotional nourishment.


Emotional abandonment


It is very common for addicts to come from divorced homes. The child or teen, feels caught in the middle of the parental conflict. "Who’s right? Who’s side am I supposed to be on? Why do they keep telling me all of their problems, as if I'm an adult? Why can't they just love each other and let me have some peace?"


In this nonstop raging battle within the home the child's needs for security, care, and emotional warmth, are totally overlooked. The parents are so preoccupied with their own problems that they are totally oblivious to the normal needs of the child. Plus, they don't have even the slightest insight into the terrible damage their causing in the child's immediate life — and for years to come.


Most people believe that children are not greatly affected by a divorce. Yes, they acknowledge some immediate pain, and divorcing parents try to excuse themselves by saying, "They will get over it". However, long-term studies by Wallerstein Tell a Different Story.


Her studies found that children somewhat did get over the marital breakup in about a year, however they continue to bear the emotional scars of the separation for many years into their lives.


Many studies, such as those by McGuire, have listed some of these long-term problems of children coming out of divorced homes. They have, "more behavioral problems, frequent truancy and delinquency, a lower work effort, a and less appropriate social behavior."


Additionally, McGuire discovered that children from divorced homes have many problems in relationships with people, as well as themselves:

  • Less empathy,
  • Pathological lying,
  • Lower satisfaction in courtship,
  • Short-lived sexual relationships,
  • Higher divorce rates,
  • Difficulty in expressing and controlling emotions.

Does this list described anyone you know? It's no wonder that children growing up in emotionally deprived homes will have a natural desire to reach out for someone to love them, to connect with them, to want them. The tragedy, however, is that these children have no understanding of how to achieve this warmth and connectedness with people. So they dropped into an addictive pattern — lust and sexual neediness.


In extensive studies which I've done, I discovered that it was not only children coming from legally divorced homes who struggled — but also people who came from emotionally divorced homes. In these homes the parents did not divorce, but there was no love and emotional connection in the home. In my book Adult Children of Legal or Emotional Divorce, I wrote about the national survey I conducted which affirmed many of the emotional deficits which others were finding about children who came from legally divorced homes, such as:

  • 72 percent were unhappy.
  • 65 percent felt powerless.
  • 61 percent felt lonely.
  • 52 percent were afraid.
  • 48 percent felt abandoned.
  • 40 percent felt personally rejected.
  • 30 percent were hostile.
  • 30 percent felt worthless.

( For additional understanding about this problem, see the book, Adult Children of Legal or Emotional Divorce, by Jim Conway, Inter-Varsity press, 1990. Available at your library or at Borders.com)


Sexual Abuse


Another common trait for people who struggle with sexual addiction is that they came from sexually abusive homes. They may have been sexually molested by one of their parents, a relative, or someone else in their community.


But the sexual abuse of their childhood may have been just the climate of sexual talk & addiction. One of the parents may have been a sexual addict, or the home environment could have been one of constant sexual joking, innuendos, or flirting.


The child growing up in a sexual home feels confused. Part of the child's subconscious recognizes that the sexual acting out of the parents is wrong — but they are the adults! So conflict develops, "Do I listened to my conscience, or do I listen to my parents?" Typically the child begins to experience a less sensitive conscience, which then sets him up not to feel bad when he sexually exploits other people.


Growing up in a sexual home teaches a child not to have any boundaries in the area of sex. The child has watched the parents live without sexual boundaries or restraint, and that seems normal to the child. Many sexual addicts have no concept of boundaries, or of the pain cause other people by their sexual acting out.

The sexual addict sees only his or her needs and cannot understand the needs of other people. The addict learned exploitation in the parental home, not empathy.


Physically Abused. Another piece of the addiction puzzle is physical abuse. The child does not have enough life experience to judge the parents physical abuse of them as inappropriate. The child only concludes that he or she is bad. This sense of "badness", and physical abuse, causes the child to retreat for safety into a cave of isolation.

A common trait among sexual addicts is the inability to connect with people, yet they have a deep desire to be loved, accepted, and to be close. But the addict’s home life never taught them how to relate to people — only to be afraid. It is common for an addict to be with a group of people yet feel alone, disconnected, and fearful that someone might find out how really bad they are.


Sexual addicts are desperately looking for love and emotional nourishment. However they feel as if they are aliens who speak a different relational language. Everyone else seems to be able to connect — except them! Because they have always felt disconnected from their family, they feel as if they are doomed to a life of disconnection with people.


Conway / Farrel Articles ~    Reprint by permission only,  ©2011

Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com


The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.

Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.