Redefining Your Sexuality in Recovery: The Dos and Don’ts
Do you have a list of regrets when it comes to your sex life? Do you, for instance, resent that you slept with someone, cheated on a partner, or had sex in exchange for drugs?
If so, you’re not alone. Many people in recovery struggle with shame, guilt, or insecurity about their sexual decisions. Furthermore, addiction often coincides with impulsive behavior, reinforcing even more regret.
That said, you can redefine your sexuality in recovery and take steps to reclaim your well-being. Here’s what you need to know.
Do Prioritize Emotional Intimacy First
In many ways, physical intimacy is much safer than emotional connection. The act of sex itself, after all, is fairly mechanical.
But emotional intimacy creates a safe, supportive foundation for physical connection. Emotional intimacy requires a sense of vulnerability and letting go of control. You are essentially revealing your flaws and trusting that another person won’t reject you.
Emotional intimacy is crucial in committed relationships, particularly if you’re trying to rebuild trust with your partner. Some of the core components include:
- Actively listening to one another
- Embracing open and honest communication
- Spending quality time together
- Aiming to give your partner the benefit of the doubt
- Taking necessary steps to repair wounds
If you and your partner struggle in this area, it may be worth considering couples counseling. A therapist can help you strengthen your communication patterns and rebuild trust and connection.
Do Establish Your Boundaries
Having emotional and physical limits can help you hold yourself accountable to your values. Sexual boundaries tend to be either explicit or implicit.
Explicit sexual boundaries refer to your personal preferences and values. These boundaries can be clearly defined and communicated to someone else. For example, consenting to sex or stating that a certain sexual act is off-limits are two examples of explicit boundaries.
Implicit boundaries are more covert, as they are rooted in societal expectations, human behavior, and general themes of socialization. For example, feeling pressured into having sex just because you like someone may be an example of an implicit boundary crossing.
Boundaries may change over time, and it’s important to consider that relationships are inherently dynamic. But feeling uncomfortable about something is often a clear sign that it’s time to reevaluate your limits.
Don’t Jeopardize Your Recovery
It’s no secret that sex can impact your recovery. This risk does not mean you need to be celibate, but it does mean that you need to be mindful of how certain people or situations may trigger cravings.
Sex can also jeopardize recovery by:
- Shifting your focus onto dating or romance too quickly
- Substituting a drug or alcohol addiction for sexual compulsion
- Using sex as a way to avoid or numb your feelings
- Feeling insecure, abandoned, or lonely if a sexual partner rejects you
Over time, these patterns can harm your recovery and may cause you to relapse. It never hurts to slow down and check in with yourself. If you’ve noticed yourself feeling increasingly agitated, stressed, or insecure, it may be time to reevaluate your recovery needs.
Don’t Assume You Need to Know Everything Right Now
Sexuality is fluid, and your needs, preferences, and values may evolve. Such changes are normal, and you should try to be compassionate with yourself.
Remember that recovery is a lifelong journey. You will continue to grow and learn new insights about yourself.
Enjoying fulfilling relationships and intimacy is one of the best parts of recovery. That said, it’s important to be aware of the risks and potential triggers. If you’re struggling, consider taking a step back or seeking professional support.