Recovery Messages & News

Sex, Love, and Relationship Addiction

By Dr. Raju Hajela, Addictionist

Sex is a biological process that is essential for life for the propagation of our species! Hence, it is not surprising that sex and orgasm are highly rewarding and reinforcing so that individuals are motivated to engage in that behaviour. The sexual activity for procreation requires a partner of the opposite gender, therefore, a relationship of some kind with another becomes essential, especially to help each other in raising an offspring to whom both parents become attached.   Attachment is an essential component of relationships and we experience it as attraction and love. Attachment and relationships are essential for brain development too, as the neural circuitry associated with learning and maturity requires healthy interaction with our environment that consists of people, places and things. Pathological attachment to sex, love and/or relationships with behaviours focused on wanting ‘more’ and/or ‘my way’ constitute Addiction.


The attachment can become pathological when there is a lack of it initially, as in circumstances of abuse or neglect, or it becomes focused on acquisition of material things, power or control. Sex, which is a natural part of a healthy, intimate relationship, can also become a form of control in dysfunctional relationships or escape in instances where there is no relationship, as in “hook-ups” without attachment, prostitution or rape.   Similarly, sex-with-self (masturbation) can create a pathological attachment where fantasy becomes supreme, any challenges related to interaction with a partner are avoided and the ability to have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship with a partner can become compromised. As the Addiction definition states – initially the pathological pursuit may be for reward but as the disease progresses the pursuit or escape becomes more focused on seeking relief. Reality becomes more and more painful and scary as the disease progresses


Life in general for all of us and even more so for recovery, the priorities in our relationships for love need to be – first, with our individual self and our Higher Power; second, with our significant other (partner); and third, with all others including children. The first level relationship requires bio-psycho-social spiritual balance to have clarity regarding our Being. The second and third level relationships then enhance our sense of Becoming and Belonging. It is essential to recognize that a healthy Being is necessary for Becoming (behaviour); and healthy behaviours are essential for a healthy Being and healthy Belonging! People, especially mothers, often assume that children need to be the highest priority. However, that approach can result in dysfunction with children who grow up with entitlement issues and less sense of responsibility for themselves and others. If the significant other becomes most important, that other becomes the ‘drug’ in relationship Addiction. Boundaries – internal (thoughts we engage or not) and external (who/what we associate with or not) and balance in our approach to ourselves and others are always necessary for optimum health. Ultimately, every one of us needs to be aware of the personal gift life is for us, which requires us to act responsibly towards ourselves and others with compassion and equanimity!



= a state of Being in which one can maintain a sense of balance and health, without attachment to or disturbance from external factors (people, places or things), internal factors (fear, anger or shame) or concepts such as good or bad.