Active sex addicts rarely view their escapist sexual fantasies and behaviors as the cause of their unhappiness and life challenges. Even when they are neck deep in consequences, they somehow don’t let themselves view their sexual acting out as a contributing factor. In fact, they typically see their behavior as the solution to rather than the cause of their emotional discomfort and various life problems. They either refuse to see or are unable to see the destructive effects of their compulsive sexual fantasies and behavior. This is their denial.
With sexual addiction, as with other addictions, denial is a complex series of internal and external lies and deceit. Typically, each fabrication is supported by one or more rationalizations, with each rationalization bolstered by still more falsehoods. When looked at objectively, denial is about as structurally sound as a house of cards in a stiff breeze, yet addicts act as if they’re living in an impenetrable bomb shelter. They defend their flimsy lies and deceits with reckless abandon—no matter how ridiculous those lies are. The rest of the world can easily see through the smokescreen, but addicts either cannot or will not.
Common forms of denial used by sex addicts include:
- Blame/Externalization: “With the lousy sex life I have at home, who wouldn’t be looking at porn and using hookup apps?”
- Entitlement: “I work harder than anyone else at my company, so if I spend a few hours here and there online looking for sex, that’s just a reward that I deserve.”
- Justification: “If I was in a relationship I’d be having sex every night, so why can’t I have sex every night when I’m not in a relationship?”
- Minimization: “It’s just porn. My spouse doesn’t like it, but at least I’m not actually cheating. I’m not having affairs like a lot of my friends do.”
- Rationalization: “If my spouse doesn’t know about it, he/she can be hurt by it. And it’s not like I have feelings for any of the people I meet online.”
- Feeling Like a Victim: “Everyone in my world takes advantage of me and uses me, and there’s nothing I can do about it. The only time I feel free and powerful is when I’m being sexual.”
Sex addicts never intend to destroy their relationships, or ignore their kids, or ruin their careers, or mangle their finances, or get arrested, or whatever. Yet they often end up in these very circumstances, arriving there incrementally as their denial escalates. Over time, they grow less able (and less willing) to see the connection between their increasing personal problems and their sexually addictive behaviors. They are often deaf to the complaints, concerns, and criticisms of the people around them, and they devalue and dismiss anyone who tries to point out the problem. Instead of accepting that they may have a serious issue, they ignore attempted interventions and accuse others of nagging, being prudish and restrictive, not understanding them, and asking too much of them. This is their denial.