Relationship Issues

Discover how The Bridge to Recovery can help you with relationship issues.

"Attending The Bridge to Recovery changed the lens through which I look at every relationship in my life, including the relationship with myself." - Paul Hamblin, retired CEO of The Bridge to Recovery

Unresolved trauma causes pain.  

Unhealed pain causes us to experience a state of emotional disease.  

In this state, we cannot effectively and healthily participate in relationships, as parts of ourselves are disconnected. 

This state of emotional disease can affect relationships with our:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Jobs/Careers
  • Community
  • Religion
  • Sex Life
  • Hobbies
  • Schooling

And much more.

It is important to understand trauma. Past experiences are part of what determines who we are, and when trauma interrupts the natural development of our emotional response systems, our ability to engage in healthy relationships also can become impacted.

Our clients get the life-changing opportunity to heal at The Bridge to Recovery. They report that attending our program improved EVERY relationship in their life, including and, most importantly, their relationship with their whole-self.

Request a Confidential Callback

Learn More

Relationship Between Codependency & Trauma

One of the Original Codependency Programs

Five decades ago, our co-founder, Carol Cannon, developed the definition you see above. The codependency movement was taking shape, and the focus shifted to understanding the correlation between family, childhood experiences, and adult relationships.

"Five decades ago at The Bridge to Recovery, we created a safe space for people to address their family dysfunction, their woundedness, and their unresolved pain. It was not the traditional "rehab," and people finally felt like they had a place to go that fit their needs. "

Mainstream media, books, and talk shows began taking notice of the wave of codependency-related information. As with every serious and confounding reality, Saturday Night Live even used comedic irony to draw attention to what so many households were experiencing: family dysfunction. However, the comedic irony combined with published articles diminished the importance, relevance, and need for the movement, causing it to lose momentum and power.

But during these past decades, The Bridge to Recovery always retained momentum in our mission. The response to our trauma is pain, which, when left unresolved, creates negative thinking, behavior, and feelings. We have continued to help thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of families experience healing, hope, and resulting happiness.

Language Matters. Language Changes.

As negative stigma became more attached to the word "codependency," the less likely people wanted to be associated with it.

"Don't call me a Codependent"

Grievous misunderstandings about the term 'codependency' caused it to be mocked and disappear from visibility. The critical importance of its role in individual and family dysfunction, however, did not get lost.

Society began associating being codependent with being weak, frail, and damaged. It was mainly associated with women, and even the mental health industry went away from using the term.  

But only as a technicality.

The mental health and addictions industries were actually growing stronger in their belief that unresolved childhood trauma was an acute cause of things like chronic relapse, anxiety & depression, love, sex & intimacy issues, and much more. What the industry defined as trauma was the same as what we had defined codependency all those decades ago.

Two different words: Trauma & Codependency

Same causation (negative childhood experience) + Same Response (Pain) = Same Outcome (negative thinking, behaving, & feeling) Trauma.

There was a word the industry could get behind that did not have the same negative feel to it that codependency had. Suddenly, the word trauma was everywhere. It was a buzzword, and it caught on quickly.

Our message and mission, the one we have stayed steadfastly focused on for five decades, has never changed. What we do has never changed. What we will do for decades to come will not change. Whether society prefers the term trauma or codependency, we will continue to help people heal from their woundedness within so that they can experience hope, healing, and happiness.

Codependency

If you look at sociological explanations of codependency, you will find that it focuses on imbalanced relationships between people, often enabling one another in an unhealthy way. At The Bridge to Recovery, we have always viewed codependency in a much broader, more encompassing way.

At The Bridge to Recovery, we view codependency as an individual having an unhealthy relationship with anything in their lives, such as with:

  • People
  • Places
  • Substances
  • Money
  • Sex
  • Job
  • Community
  • Religion
  • and, most of all, relationship with OURSELVES

You can find more on the relationship between codependency and trauma. It is an important concept to understand since they are linked so closely together, almost intertwined.

At The Bridge to Recovery, our focus is on helping those individuals heal those relationships. When we experience trauma, including childhood trauma, we experience negative thinking, behaving, and feeling. When left unresolved, this becomes our common emotional response system.

Just an hour and 20 minutes North from Nashville, Tennessee sits our healing refuge. Hidden away on 120 acres of rolling Kentucky hills.

What we help with

Sex and Intimacy Work

A recent study found that 50% of the female participants have sexual related personal distress, and 1 in 5 women experienced some sort of sexual dysfunction. (fertstert.org)

Studies and research suggests that up to 10% of men struggle with Sex Addiction.

Sexual Struggles in Our Society

We have become sexually desensitized to sex, love, intimacy and everything that comes with it. Our society is filled with sexuality: some good, some very unhealthy. Sex-positive movements are gaining ground, but we still find ourselves surrounded by unhealthy sex in society.

While sex is everywhere, so is the stigma that comes with sexual dysfunction.  

SEX is the thing on everyone's mind (naturally), but SEX is the thing no one wants to talk about when it comes to dysfunction.

Sex & Trauma

Sex is a natural force in nature. It serves biological, emotional, and physical purposes.  

What Sex Should Be

  • Fun
  • Consensual
  • Pleasurable
  • Fulfilling
  • Loving 
  • Intimate

What Sex Should Not Be

  • Scary
  • Uncomfortable
  • Unfulfilling
  • Abusive
  • Nonconsensual
  • Leaving Feelings of Shame

Unfortunately, when we carry around pain in our lives from unresolved trauma, our sexual behavior is often impacted, including our ability to be intimate (or "connect") with our partner. Whether it be sex with self, sex with others, sex exploration, or any other variation of sexual behavior, we can find ourselves unable to enjoy healthy sex.

Unresolved trauma can lead to unhealthy sexual behaviors, such as: 

  • Extramarital Affairs
  • Non-intimate Sex (such as with sex workers)
  • Emotional-Avoidance Sex (such as one-night stands)
  • Compulsive Masturbation
  • Compulsive Sex (growing or unhealthy cravings for sex)
  • Impulsive Sex (sexual behaviors and/or situations that go against our internal moral code and that we normally would not engage in)
  • Masturbation or Sex that is Physically Harmful to Ourselves or Others
  • Chronic or Serial Sexual Relationships

While unhealthy sexual behavior most certainly impacts our relationship with ourselves, it also impacts our relationship with others. And, because of the stigma attached, sexual dysfunction is often one of the most blanketed mental health struggles that exists.

Being intimate, sexual, and loving with ourselves and others relies on healthy levels of feeling safe.

It only makes sense that our ability to do so is threatened when we have unresolved trauma – of any kind.

Let's Talk About Sex

It is important to understand what sex and intimacy are so we can better explain how at The Bridge to Recovery, we help individuals heal and overcome sex and intimacy struggles.

sex·u·al·i·ty

/sekSHo͞oˈalədē/

noun

capacity for sexual feelings

These feelings can include:

  • Biological Sexual Desires
  • Erotic Desires
  • Social Sexual Desires
  • Spiritual and Sexual Relationship

And much more.

in·ti·ma·cy

/in(t)əməsē/

noun

close familiarity or friendship; closeness

Types of intimacy can include (but certainly not limited to):

  • Sexual Intimacy: Engaging in sexual activities.
  • Intellectual Intimacy: Sharing of thoughts and ideas.
  • Emotional Intimacy: Sharing of feelings.

Sex & Shame

Because sex carries with it a lot of shame in our society, when we experience sexual trauma or our trauma creates sex and intimacy struggles, we carry an overwhelming amount of shame.  

Whereas anxiety, depression, and some other mental health issues are gaining momentum in ridding societal stigma, sex is certainly not. It is the one that is left in the shadows of shame, unrelenting, full of embarrassing feelings and closeted behavior.  

At The Bridge to Recovery, we help our clients heal from their unresolved trauma, understand and let go of their shame, and their unwanted and unhealthy behaviors so that they may move forward to enjoy happy and healthy sexual and intimate relationships.

Some of the sex and intimacy issues our clients identify as causing problems in their lives:

  • Marital (or outside the relationship) Affairs
  • Prostitution or Selling Sex
  • Excessive Masturbation
  • Inability to Masturbate or Engage in Self Sex
  • Seeking out Unhealthy Sex (unsafe sex practices, numbing sex behavior, etc.)
  • Engaging in Abusive or Physically Damaging Sex
  • Avoiding Intimate or Sexual Relationship All Together
  • Fear of Commitment
  • Addiction to Dating Apps
  • Inability to Engage in Partner Sex
  • Painful Sex
  • Inability to Show Affection (i.e. holding hands, touch, rubbing, etc.) 
  • Pornography Addiction (or used in and unhealthy manner)
  • Voyeurism
  • Public Sex or a Desire to be Caught
  • Serial Dating & Sex
  • Inability to be True to Sexual Orientation/Identity

This list is certainly not comprehensive, but is some of the most common ones self-reported to us. These are all symptoms of trauma, which is the common denominator amongst all of our clients – the pain they carry from their unresolved trauma.

We Can Help

Sex & Intimacy Healing at The Bridge to Recovery

In order to heal the behavior and emotional response system, we must heal the trauma.

However, in short, we need the opportunity to 

  • Uncover and discover our pain.
  • Understand our shame.
  • Reclaim our identity.  

This is what we do at The Bridge to Recovery, and by doing so, we are able to further address the unhealthy and unhelpful behavior patterns we have used to survive.

Clients struggling with sex and intimacy issues begin to reclaim their sexual identity by:

When safety is taken from us because of our trauma, it must be reestablished before we can regain our sexual self. Once safety is reestablished, we can begin to move from survival mode to healthy living.

When we experience trauma, our boundaries are violated, impacting our sense of self. Boundaries are critical in the establishment of healthy sexual and intimate relationships. Learning how to regain those boundaries is critical for healing.

Trauma shakes us to our very core and causes us to question everything we think or know about ourselves. This impacts our relationship with self – which prevents us from feeling vulnerable with others. Building back our sense of self is especially important and happens by:

  • Letting go of those old stories we tell ourselves.
  • Reconnecting pieces of ourselves that have been damaged or lost.
  • Learning to love ourselves.

While a diagnosis for Sex Addiction has not yet been included in diagnostic manuals, there is no doubt to those in the mental health industry that sexual dysfunction is very much an issue that impacts an individual’s ability to live a healthy and normal life. 

 

Certified Sex Addiction Therapists, ongoing research and education around sex dysfunction, and sex-centered programming is evolving as we speak to help provide resources to those in need.

 

When we experience trauma, our safety and boundaries are violated. This has a domino effect on our lives. Throughout our website, you will find a lot of information on negative behavior patterns, but this also includes negative response patterns. One of those often impacted by trauma is sex and intimacy. Trauma often keeps us in a state of fight or flight, making it difficult to experience healthy relationships – with ourselves and with others. It is difficult to maintain a healthy relationship, especially sexual and intimate relationships that rely on safety and vulnerability, when we are in a constant state of survival, uncertainty, escape, panic, etc. 

 

Common misconceptions are that sex behavior is more impacted when there has been sexual trauma. While certainly correlated, it is not the only type of trauma that can trigger sex and intimacy issues.  

All types of trauma affect our safety.