by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: I am a married man with children. For reasons of identity, I don’t want to say much more than that. I would like to think that I am happily married, love my children, believe in God, and pray. But I recognize that I am a womanizer. Sometimes, I pray and believe I will never flirt with another woman, other than my wife, but when alone, even for a few minutes, I find myself trying to connect on Facebook and other forms of social media with women. In the work setting I find myself looking for opportunities to flirt. This feeling comes over me and I sense a rush, but afterward, I regret it. In the past, my wife has caught me texting other women, and sometimes the dialogue become quite playful, even if we never get together face to face. When my wife catches me, it almost always results in a fight, and I vow to never do it again. But here I am writing you. If I believed I would never do it again, I wouldn’t be writing you. I am wondering if this might be a sexual addiction. And if so, how do I get help?
Answer: The word “womanizer” is somewhat of a subjective term, so it may mean different things to different people. In essence, it is a married man who seeks out other women with whom he can have a sexual or romantic relationship. Webster’s Dictionary defines “womanizer” as a man who pursues “casual sexual relationships with multiple women.” The reward might be sexual or romantic, but it may embody an element of conquering, a sense of conquest. For many womanizers, it is a game. So as to not be unfair to men, women also engage in these behaviors and are called “seductresses.”
People with sex addictions realize there are consequences as a result of their behaviors but find it difficult to stop the behaviors. Further, the behaviors of those with sexual addictions tend to increase in intensity over time. The increase in intensity may manifest as increases in sexual partners, increase in use of pornographic materials, or more blatant flirting on social media. Also, those with sex addictions will experience a “high” thinking about making the contact.
Though you do not want your identity known, you have given me a lot of information to work with. You define yourself as a womanizer, but your behaviors appear to have taken on an addictive quality. Below, I have listed some characteristics that are consistent with an addiction:
Loss of Control. The drive to connect with other women has taken control of you, rather than you controlling your behavior. You find that you can’t seem to stop.
Discomfort. Though there is rush associated with the thought of getting involved with another woman, you are uncomfortable. That’s why you wrote me.
Problematic/Interfering Behavior. Your behaviors have become problematic enough that they are interfering with daily living and potentially with your work as well. Energy that should be going into building and maintaining a relationship with your wife is going into illicit illegitimate play. They are not really relationships. It is a form of play.
Secret. Your connections with other women are not public. They are secret. That’s why you didn’t want to reveal much about yourself. You are ashamed of your behavior, and you really don’t want your wife or anyone else to find out that you are a womanizer.
Abusive. You may not be physically or sexually abusive to the one with whom you engage in these antics, but you are abusing your marriage relationship, and if the other person is married, you are abusing that relationship. Further, the relationship can go nowhere without destruction of current relationships. It is a tease; it is abusive.
Feeling. Just thinking about engaging in one of these trysts creates a rush of exciting feelings. That is a very good warning signal that you are addicted. Biology is taking over.
Empty. At the end of one of those illicit contacts or trysts, or when you get caught, you feel empty. You regret ever having become involved with the other person. In fact, you may feel so empty, that you tell yourself you will never do it again.
Please notice that the beginning letters of the last four highlighted words spell S.A.F.E. SAFE is a nice acronym that can remind you to stop the behaviors leading up to womanizing. Play it SAFE! If you are doing these behaviors in secret, refuse to do anything you wouldn’t want your wife to know. If anything you are doing has an abusive tone to it, stop immediately and talk with someone about it. And if you find yourself experiencing a rush just thinking about contacting a woman other than your wife, let it be a signal to go no further. Also remind yourself of how empty you will feel when the tryst is over. Instead, think about how good it will feel to look your wife in the eyes, knowing you have nothing to hide.
If you have an addiction, there is help. If I can’t help you, I would be happy to refer you to someone who is an expert in the field.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]