Saturday, March 20, 2010

When should I get into a relationship?

I was asked a question about the right time to get in a relationship for someone who struggles with sexual compulsivity. Obviously the only answer I can give is depends. I do have some benchmarks that I want a client to consider: if you answer “no,” or “maybe” to any of the benchmarks below, I don’t think you’re ready. Ultimately it is up to the you, the client, to consider when it is the right time to get into a relationship.

Benchmarks to consider:

1) Are you aware of your acting out cycle? This requires you to understand the components of the acting out cycle, different ways you act out, and the underlying factors associated with the acting out cycle. If you don’t understand the words in this benchmark, I don’t think you’re ready to be in a relationship. (An example as a HINT: You’re aware of the thinking errors and subsequent feelings of shame that result from a history of sexual abuse and how they contribute to your chemical use and/or sexual acting out.)

2) You’ve addressed the major issues contributing to the acting out cycles in #1. My workbook has a list of 22 major issues that often need to be addressed. These are listed elsewhere in the blog or at the website for the workbook. (See table of contents). While I don’t think these issues have to be completely resolved, I do recommend that you have a basic understanding of how they impact your life.

3) Do you have prevention plans to address the topics in #1? Each feeling, thinking error and high-risk situation needs a basic prevention plan.

4) Are you open to a conversation about your history with your potential partner? If you’re not willing to share your history with him/her, you risk setting up the trap of secrecy and the subsequent trust issues. Repeatedly I’ve shared that my bias is full disclosure. Timing and support (usually in couples therapy) is important at this point.

5) Are you aware of your sexual interests, relationship needs, intimacy goals, and able to communicate these to your partner? Is this sharing mutual?

6) Are you talking about all of these benchmarks with your support network and your potential partner?

While these may seem easy benchmarks to read, I know that the underlying work is substantial. Perfection isn’t required, but in the end understanding the substance of these benchmarks will help you strengthen the relationship.

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