Adult children of Addicts & Sexual Response

Adult Children of Alcoholics, Addicts and the Mentally Disabled

Another pattern noted by some sex therapists is the sexual aversion often experienced by adult children of alcoholics, addicts, or a mentally disabled parent. These men and women report that their interest in sex is low, even negative. Sometimes they may be non-orgasmic. For others, they often are able to experience climax, but quickly lose the feelings of closeness and these previous positive experiences appear to have little impact in helping them be more interested in subsequent sex.

One explanation for this pattern has been that children with parents who are drug or alcohol addicted or have mental health problems, grow up in an emotionally chaotic environment. The lack of emotional control by the parent causes the child to assume responsibility for the control of the emotional environment. They can carry a fear of losing control into their adult lives and into their sexual life. Orgasmic sex requires the person to surrender to the sensory experience, to yield to the rhythm and pleasuring of their spouse. Their chronic fear of being out of control can inhibit their ability to freely surrender to their spouse in their love making.

There are a number of helpful strategies that these adult children of alcoholics/addicts/mentally disabled, can undertake.

  1. Journal on your experience in your childhood home to help you identify the roots of your need to be in control: What was like for you growing up with a parent who was an alcoholic/addict/mentally disabled? What feelings do you experience as you reflect on your childhood?
  2. Work towards forgiving your parent(s) so that you can be free to move forward: What are your feelings towards your parents – both the alcoholic/addict/mentally disabled and their spouse? Where are you with forgiving them for how they hurt you? Pray for compassion, and try to understand their emotional injury that causes the addiction.
  3. Write a letter to each of your parents, offering your forgiveness. It is not necessary to give this letter to your parents, as its power is in its writing, not in its reading. Start by describing how they hurt you. Be specific, describe your feelings of pain in full. Then describe how this emotional wound is leading you to hurt others – your spouse, your children etc. Detail all the ways that your behaviour, as a result of this experience, is damaging your relationships. Finally write your forgiveness.
  4. Turn your need for control to your advantage: In the busyness of modern living, many couples’ sex life just gets left behind. We mistakenly think that love making will just happen spontaneously, or we wait until we feel in the mood for loving. The reality is, that if we wait for our feelings or a spontaneous space in the diary, we will get very little lovemaking, if any. If you like to be in control, use that impulse positively. Make a plan for your intimacy. Schedule a regular time to just be together, and make sure that you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to fully present to your spouse.

If it’s hard for you to be open sexually when the kids are needing attention or your favourite TV show is on, make sure that you get the kids settled before hand and the show is being video-taped. If stress distracts you, schedule beforehand a bath, a workout, or whatever activity helps, so that you can be fully present to your spouse. Light candles, put on perfume, play soft music, get out the massage oil out – if it helps you to be more attentive and present to your spouse, do it!

Posts in this Series

Sexual Response: here
Desire: here
Arousal: here
Climax: here
Adult children of Addicts: here – this post
Pornography & Infidelity: here
Enhancing Sexual Communion: here
Recommended Reading: here

Francine & Byron Pirola

Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children. Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links. For Media Enquiries Please Contact us here

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