This week the Ten Things I Hate about Your Addiction series continues with a look at apathy.
For those of you who might be new to the series, to date we’ve looked at how sex addiction frequently goes hand-in-hand with:
- lying/hiding and anger (part 1)
- fear and cowardice (part 2)
- hypocrisy (part 3)
- cruelty and violence (part 4)
That’s not to say that every male sex addict exhibits all of these traits. It’s also not to say, that the 10 things I will cover off are going to be the only poisonous traits a sex addict may exhibit. However, these are some of the more common traps that those who are habitually acting out frequently fall into.
I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. – John 8:34
Many addicts display a frustrating lack of interest in life: their own life, the family’s life and others’ lives. Examples of the first include:
- Not taking good care of their own physical wellbeing (including diet, hygiene, health care)
- Not seeing projects through to completion
- Setting low goals for themselves – beneath their own capabilities
Within the family unit they commonly:
- Don’t listen well to others as they share (i.e. don’t stay present)
- Don’t initiate relational connection or activities
- Don’t participate in planned family activities
- Show little interest in household/family concerns
- Don’t take a fair share of the burden of childraising and household management
Moreover, they often complain bitterly when they are asked to do more for themselves or others. It's not uncommon for them to accuse their wife of being over-demanding. The result? An extremely frustrated, overworked and under-supported wife.
The brain chemical most associated with motivation is dopamine. Sex addiction, like all addictions, hijacks the brain’s ability to use and produce dopamine efficiently. Without sufficient dopamine it becomes difficult to find the motivation to do such daily tasks as getting out of bed, going to work, caring for our children, etc. In other words — we become apathetic and find everything "boring."
The late Dr. Pieter Rossouw—a neuro-psychotherapist at the University of Queensland (Australia)—once told me that in porn users, porn very quickly becomes the only route to dopamine. Thus, the joy and motivation we should find in our intimate relationships dries up and disappears when using porn regularly. Those relationships no longer draw the addict and he stops pursuing them. “Them,” of course is us, our children and God.
Those of you who watched the interview with Dr. William Struthers I linked to last week will know that there is, however, hope for healing. Sex addiction therapists frequently talk about the need to go “drug free” (i.e,. without acting out) for 45 days in order to heal the worst of the damage to the brain’s addiction-rewired neural pathways.
Paula Hall, sex addiction therapist and educator in the U.K., gives an excellent explanation of that process in this short video (one that my husband and I often ask sex addicts to watch).
The apathy won’t, of course, magically evaporate in 45 days. However, in a well-supported healing process you can expect to see signs of motivation — and interest in life — returning as time goes on.
Some men, even after they have good sobriety continue to display this apathy. Brad Hambrick, in his booklet, The Self-Centred Spouse, describes a type of "lazy, apathetic" self-centredness in which:
"The apathetic spouse makes every request seem like a big deal and his areas of neglect seem normal. The offended spouse begins to be forced into the role of a parent more than a spouse. If the house is going to function, [s]he must be the responsible spouse. The lazy or apathetic spouse enjoys being cared for but resents when this caretaking causes [him] to feel juvenile."
Hambrick suggests that some of the root causes of this kind of behaviour include immaturity, depression and a sense of entitlement. He recommends that, if depression has been ruled out (e.g., he is perfectly motivated in other areas of life), that others be brought in to help hold the self-centred spouse accountable.
He also warns the wife that the transformation into a man who accepts "normal adult responsibilities" is not an overnight process, so expect "effort fatigue" at times, and remember to speak to the overall goal, more than to the specific failures to achieve. For example, you might calmly state, "I see you didn't do the dishes while I was bathing the kids. That's too bad because that was a perfect opportunity to improve your responsbility stamina. This is the kind of thing that we'll have to bring up to our accountability couple."
The God, who offers us living water, wants to be the source of our motivation, when our soul is "panting".
Next week we'll take a look at the topics of pride and narcissism.