Book Review: False Intimacy

In my last book review I looked at the book Not Even a Hint by Josh Harris, which addresses the issue of lust. I said that while I found the book very helpful, I felt it somewhat unsatisfying at the end of the day, as it did not seem to really address the root issues involved.

Another book that I have read recently, False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumburg, comes much closer, I believe, to a deep, Biblical analysis of what drives lust.
False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction
False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction

Dr. Schaumburg believes that all people need intimacy; that it’s what we’re created for. God created Adam and saw that “it was not good that he was alone.” Fellowship and communication is fundamental to God’s own nature, being a Trinity, and so it is also fundamental to man’s nature, being created in God’s image.

So we go into marriage looking for intimacy, but are inevitably disappointed because our spouses are sinners just like we are. So they hurt us, disappoint us, judge us, and the intimacy we crave either doesn’t come at all or in the best of circumstances comes only partially and at a high cost of effort in the relationship. People therefore turn to other things to fulfill their need for intimacy, things which can create an illusion of intimacy for a short time, and at little or no relational cost. They turn to pornography or prostitutes, or affairs, or romance novels or a hundred other ways to create the illusion they are looking for. There is no chance of rejection or judgment from pornography, from a prostitute, or even from a one-night stand, since the partner in a random affair doesn’t know you well enough to really hurt you. They also look to fulfill that need or at least to numb that pain in non-sexual ways as well- substance abuse, work, achievement, possessions, friends, and all of the other ways that people use to avoid the pain of their lives.

Often, and especially in the worst cases, this process has begun much earlier than marriage. In childhood, people are often hurt by parents, teachers or others. This may take extreme forms such as abuse and molestation, or more everyday forms like ridicule, neglect, emotional coldness or the like. And so the child perhaps from a young age learns patterns of behavior to protect himself from this emotional pain. He learns to create these illusions which will protect him from insecurity and rejection. He carries those patterns into marriage, and perhaps at first he thinks that marriage will give him what he’s been lacking all these years, but when the inevitable hurts and difficulties come, then he retreats back into his illusions. In the most extreme cases this pattern presents itself in sexual addiction, where the person engages in extreme, very dangerous and self-destructive behaviors in his quest to try to ease his craving for intimacy while avoiding relational pain.

This explains why these behaviors are so hard to stop, and why so many efforts to combat them are ineffective. Education is not the answer. The person knows these behaviors just create an illusion, that they’re not the real thing. The person knows that it will ultimately be unsatisfying and that the guilt will be terrible. But for a short time, it eases the unbearable pain, and so the cost is considered worth it. External efforts to create control will also ultimately fail. The sexual addict is seeking to ease a terrible pain, and no external pressure brought to bear against him will be worse than the internal agony of loneliness and alienation. Man needs intimacy, and needs it desperately, and he will soothe that agony even at great cost to himself.

This also explains the only real cure that is available to us. Ultimately, we must learn to seek real intimacy with God. He is the only one who can satisfy what we need. When we place the burden of fulfilling our needs on spouses, we ask something of them that they can never ultimately give us. We must learn instead to cultivate a real relationship with God. This means we need to learn to pray, not to get something, but merely to draw close to God. Likewise we need to learn to read our Bibles, not just to learn something or fulfill some duty, but to hear God’s voice and get to know Him. As James tells us, Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you.

The goal of the covenant of grace is fellowship with God. God did not save us because He had a bunch of rules that He needed someone to follow. He saved us to create for Himself a people with whom to fellowship. Jeremiah 31:34- “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Intimacy with all other people must first be based on intimacy with God. Fellowship with God was broken by the sin of Adam, and the immediate result of this was that Adam and Eve became ashamed of their nakedness and had to hide from each other, and from God. When I begin to re-establish fellowship and intimacy with God, with starts by accepting forgiveness of sins by the death of Jesus Christ, then I can start to learn how to have real intimacy, though not perfect intimacy, with my fellow man (and woman) as well, first and foremost being my spouse.

Schaumburg’s book is an excellent study of the nature of sexual addictions and what causes them. It’s well-written and very Biblical, going deep into the nature of the problem. His book, while focusing on fairly extreme kinds of behaviors, does much to explain a wider range of behaviors, as we come to see that sin has a common root- alienation from God and rebellion against His rule. I recommend it to anyone interested in the issue, whether for personal growth, to combat the particular issue, or for help in understanding a spouse or loved one trapped in sexually addictive behavior.

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