Addicts: Is Your ‘Picker’ Broken?

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Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW

As recovering sex and love addicts, we often feel like we have a broken picker, like we’re continually chasing relationships that are not right for us while discarding relationships that could be healthy. We seem to continually pair up with the wrong person, getting really excited about the spark of attraction we feel until we discover that, once again, we’ve found the least emotionally available person possible.

The good news is that we needn’t let the patterns of our past define our future. There are proven ways we can overcome broken picker syndrome. Generally, this is a four-step process:

  1. Find a posse. We need people who know us and can see through our BS – people who will give us honest feedback about our thoughts and actions.
  2. Ask the posse for help. If we could manage healthy dating on our own, we would, but we can’t.
  3. Let the posse know our history. This way, they know what to look for as they steer us away from bad decisions.
  4. Create a traffic signal dating plan (see below). Then share this plan with the posse, amending it based on their feedback and suggestions.

When we’ve taken these four steps, we are ready to go on a few dates, making sure we get feedback from our posse before and after each date. If, after a first date with someone, our posse agrees we’ve found another loser, there is no second date. And when our posse thinks someone is worth a second date, we take their advice.

The Traffic Signal Dating Plan

This is exactly what it sounds like. Red lights are signals that we should not date this person no matter what. Yellow lights are not deal-killers, but they’re enough to make us cautious. Green lights, obviously, are traits we find healthy and desirable in a long-term partner.

Possible Red Lights

  • An active addict
  • Still in a relationship or living with an ex
  • Habitual lying

Possible Yellow Lights

  • Habitual lateness
  • Financial issues
  • Lack of interest in your friends and family

Possible Green Lights

  • Wants a healthy long-term relationship
  • Cares about our thoughts and feelings
  • Shared hobbies and interests

When we utilize our traffic signal dating plan in conjunction with feedback from our posse, we move an emotionally driven process (dating) to an intellectual space. Our dating plan and our posse put a check on our intense feelings of initial attraction and fix our broken picker, helping us separate the losers from the possible winners. 

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If you or a loved one are struggling with sexual addiction, Seeking Integrity can help. In addition to residential rehab, we offer low-cost online workgroups for male sex addicts new to recovery. The next session starts March 4, 2023. Click here for more information.