“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.”