From Addiction to Connection: The Value of Learning “How We Love”


“How We Love has the capacity to change not only your marriage but every relationship that’s important in your life” – Josh McDowell

As a therapist who specializes in the treatment of sexual addiction, the perspective that guides my work in attachment theory. From this viewpoint, sexual addiction is an attachment or intimacy disorder. In the Healing through Connection workbook used in our LifeSTAR program, I wrote about this concept, explaining:

When a secure attachment to a caregiver is not developed, a person is more susceptible to addiction. Flores (2004), states it this way: “No one ever escapes their need for satisfying relationships, and the degree to which we are unable to form healthy interpersonal intimacy determines the degree to which we are vulnerable to substitute [addiction] for human closeness” (p. 53).

In families or other relational situations where there is abuse, trauma, emotional neglect, or disapproval of the sharing of feelings, this can teach children that people are unsafe as sources of care, connection, and comfort in times of pain. Early life experiences such as these often create attachment styles that are considered “insecure”. These styles are described in various terms such as Avoidant, Ambivalent, Disorganized, Anxious, Vacillator, Pleaser, Controller, and Victim. Knowing your personal attachment style will provide valuable insight into how you relate to others. Combine this lack of relational trust with the opportunity for a mood-altering experience, such as using pornography, and it is a formula for creating a powerful connection with a non-relational entity. Over time, this can become a person’s primary method of relieving stress, soothing sadness, calming anger, and managing other moods.

Looking at addiction through this attachment lens, one of the primary sources of healing is choosing to disconnect from addiction while simultaneously learning to connect in safe relationships. One of the best resources I have encountered for recognizing the specific ways a person disconnects from others and learning how to connect deeply with others is the book How We Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich (2008).

On HowWeLove.com, a free, online “Love Style Quiz” is provided, where people can learn about their personal “Love Style” (attachment style). The possible styles are defined as Secure, Avoider, Pleaser, Vacillator, Chaotic, and Victim. Once a person determines their Love Style, the book guides readers through the childhood experiences related to each specific style, deepening a person’s understanding of how their style was molded in early life.

The next section of the How We Love is brilliant, in my opinion. In the “Duets” section, the authors describe what difficult dynamics occur when people with different Love Styles interact within a relationship, such as when the “Avoider Marries the Pleaser”. This section is a valuable resource for couples, providing deep insight into how they experience conflict and stay disconnected.

The beauty of the book is that it doesn’t stop with why and how people disconnect. The rest of How We Love is focused on helping people learn how to move toward a secure attachment style, which is a primary goal for all people with attachment difficulties, especially those in recovery. A workbook is included to help people dive deeper into the application of the material.

When I recommend this book to people I tell them that this is a Christian book but that the content is valuable regardless of one’s faith background. The content is so good that I believe everyone will benefit from this knowledge.

In an attempt to communicate how great this book is, I have told clients that I believe this book is worth a year’s worth of couple’s therapy. In regards to deepening understanding of relationship dysfunction and healing, I believe that statement to be true. Of course, this bold declaration does not discount the value of therapy. In fact, being in therapy while working through this book can provide a more powerful experience and a safe place to process and practice the concepts of How We Love. Additionally, couples impacted by a sexual addiction experience unique relational trauma that often cannot be mended without knowledgeable outside help (such as a program like LifeSTAR).

It is important to note that How We Love is not just helpful for couples. Understanding one’s attachment style is important because it reveals how people relate to everyone in their life – to romantic partners, to friends, to parents and siblings, to children (See How We Love Our Kids), to God, and even to oneself. Realizing how people disconnect and learning how to love well are incredible lessons that lead to deeper, meaningful, healing connections that benefit all people in all circumstances.

It is my hope that reading and using How We Love will lead to life-changing experiences in your journey to greater health and wholeness. As you contemplate the power of learning to connect, let me leave you with these closing words from the Healing through Connection workbook:

“Recovery is a process of letting go of lust and letting love replace it. It is an opportunity to learn the art of connection and engagement in life. It means letting go of your attachment to unhealthy coping mechanisms and connecting with what is real. Living a life of engagement rather than disengagement will change everything. Learning how to connect will likely be the hardest yet most rewarding adventure of your life.”

-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, MFT Intern at LifeSTAR of the Central Valley

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About fbenedict

Forest Benedict is the author of Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery. He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider (SATP). Forest loves the work he does as the Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley and the Program Manager/Teacher in the SATP program at Mid-America Nazarene University. He writes numerous articles on the LifeSTAR of the Central Valley blog (https://lifestarcentralvalley.wordpress.com/) and also on his personal blog (http://forestbenedict.com/). He created the Life After Lust VLOG on Youtube, sharing insights about recovery from sexual addiction. Forest also writes and speaks publicly about protecting children from pornography.
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12 Responses to From Addiction to Connection: The Value of Learning “How We Love”

  1. Pingback: From Addiction to Connection: The Value of Learning “How We Love” | Write Forest Write

  2. Jolene Jones says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information. I will order the book yet tonight. I just wrote a memoir “Dwelling” that showcases this very issue. God Bless you for the work you do…it is such a tough row to hoe, but so essential if we are ever going to get off the fast trackof
    addictions.
    -Author Jolene Jones http://www.Jolenejones111.com

  3. Thank you for the resource. This was a very well written article! I am always looking for group material. I am currently looking for Anger Management curriculum to lead a group, if you know of an exceptional piece of christian literature?

    • fbenedict says:

      Jeannie,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed this article. I’m not aware of Anger Management definitely recommend the self-compassion exercises for managing difficult emotions (see out other articles on that). Take care. Forest

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