I am worried I am addicted to casual sex

Tell Me About It: Does my need to hook up with new people mean I’m not ready for a relationship?

Illustration: Getty Images

Illustration: Getty Images

 

Problem

I am a male in my late 30s. I was in a long-term relationship for almost 12 years with someone I was devoted to and really wanted to marry and have a family with. However, she did not feel the same, and two years ago our relationship finally ended after years of uncertainty. I had little experience of being with other people and almost immediately started using dating sites. I have had dozens of dates with women slightly younger than me. Most of these dates could be described as one-off meetings over coffee. However, a small number turned into second and third dates, with a few progressing beyond that. I really enjoy the casual nature of these dates, with some resulting in no-strings-attached sex.

One of these encounters has turned into a relationship that is now going on about six months. I really like this girl and think we could have a future together. She has never brought up the issue of our relationship being exclusive, but I assume that she believes it is.

I continue to have dates with new people as well as hook-ups with girls that I previously met online. The excitement of meeting virtual strangers gives me a thrill that I had never previously experienced. I know that I am cheating on my new girlfriend and I have tried to stop on a few occasions.

But I often end up checking my profile for hits or responding to texts. I am unsure if this is a sign that I am not ready to commit to another long-term relationship or if I have become dependent on these casual encounters. I do know that I cannot continue to lie to this person, who has been very kind to me.

Advice

It is completely understandable that you are enjoying yourself meeting new people and testing out your attractiveness after 12 years in a long relationship. However, the women you are meeting, and the one you are dating, might be looking for a solid, long-term relationship, and you are smart enough to understand this. It seems that you are struggling with this knowledge. As an adult you must take responsibility for your actions and choose a direction and be upfront about this with whomever you are meeting.

As always, we would like to have the situation both ways, as both options are attractive, but you are lying to your new partner by keeping the truth from her. This is one of the moments in your life when you have to pause, take stock and decide which direction you want your life to take.

You have been in a relationship that has struggled with commitment, and so you know what effect this can have. Do you really want to impose this on someone who has been kind and loving to you.

Relationships assume fairness and loyalty in order to survive, and you might be lacking in both these qualities at this moment. Fairness requires that you return to your partner the same qualities that you would expect from them – deceit or withholding the truth are not what you would like to be at the receiving end of, and in fairness to this person, with whom you might consider spending the rest of your life, she deserves to know what is going on in her life and in her relationship.

Loyalty is also a cornerstone of any relationship and this means that you trust that the other person will put you first in terms of their consideration. For example, in children’s friendships, this means that you expect your best friend to choose you for their team, even if you are not the best at that sport.

The test of this is: how you would feel if your partner found out what was going on?

Of course, you do not have to choose the relationship and you are totally free to explore the world of dating and casual sex, but it might give you a clearer conscience if you were upfront about this – for example, by putting this on your profile.

We can become addicted to checking our online profiles or hits, as this gives us a confidence boost, a feeling that there are many people attracted to us. But this is not real confidence-building and might, in fact, reinforce the idea that you need these internet hits to make you feel good. Like all habits, it is one that needs to be tackled when it starts to interfere with our lives and our sense of self or when we become dependent on it. If you want to break this dependency, the easiest way is to get support and reinforcement from someone who loves you – could this person be the partner you are enjoying so much?

  • Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. Email tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com for advice. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into
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