If my Fledgling has identified him or herself as a sex addict in the early stages of recovery, I’m guessing you’d follow in my footsteps and leap to this page first.
“What can I do to fix my relationship?” was where I put all my energy in my recovery.
That mentality blinded me from being truly supportive towards my former spouse and, in many ways, worsened our chance of reconciliation.
In recovery, I still made everything about me and what I needed for me to feel safe; all at the expense of my former spouse.
Head’s up for the addict!
If you want to salvage your relationship, please read the following list of articles BEFORE you read this one:
More Trauma in Partners of Sex Addicts
Treatment for Partners of Sex Addicts
Now, if my Fledgling has identified him or herself as the partner of a sex addict in the early stages of recovery, I’m guessing that this is the last blog you even want to look at. I wish I could say, from my experience, that a relationship after betrayal can be salvaged, but unfortunately, in my situation, it wasn’t.
I’m grateful that my former spouse and I remain good friends and are on the same team as co-parents. Unfortunately, the definition of what I wanted “family” to look like is different than it has become.
I believe what hurt our chances to heal our marriage was that I never learned the concept of first triage for the partner, eventually followed by relational triage in our recovery. All I could focus on was skipping what she needed to heal and jumping to what I wanted; relational triage.
In many ways, our relationship became a power struggle. She needing to heal from the post-traumatic stress my actions caused, while I fought for our marriage as the only way to manage my own fears and my own insecurities.
Both of us were screaming for our needs to be heard, but we were deaf to each other because of our own pain.
When both partners are screaming to be heard, they are deaf to each other due to their own pain. Click To Tweet
What I’ve found in my research is that both my former spouse and I were correct. She needed support and healing over the trauma and eventually, if we both wanted our marriage to work, we needed to learn how to help each other manage our triggers.
I never allowed my former spouse the time, space, or the safe environment to truly heal from what I had done. Nor did I, or our therapists, allow her to safely express her truth that she did not want to work on our marriage. We forced her to believe that fixing our marriage was the only path available to her in recovery. And many times, I used shame and guilt because she wasn’t willing to work on us.
Once again, I’m going to emphasize that if both the addict and the partner’s long-term goal is to salvage the relationship, the sex addict needs to understand that in the beginning months (or years) the addict must use fellowship and therapy to deal with his issues (not the partner) and the partner needs the sex addict to be supportive as she heals.
The addict is in the doghouse. Relational triage begins only when, and if, the partner decides to allow you back in the house.
The information for this blog was taken from watching Marnie Breecker’s video about using a trauma based treatment plan for the partner of a sex addict. This blog focuses on the relationship, whereas Treatment for Partners of Sex Addicts uses the same video to focus on healing the trauma in the partner.
I want to reiterate, that the ideas I pulled out of the video are biased from the viewpoint of a sex addict and my own personal recovery. Everyone’s recovery is different and what I might have missed may be of importance to you. For this reason, I highly recommend that both the sex addict and the partner watch this video so you can both jumpstart your treatment and healing with a solid footing.
Can the Couple Heal?
With all that trauma isn’t it hard to imagine how the relationship can heal?
Marnie is amazed when she sees people healing from sexual betrayal because it is that hard.
“I have never seen a couple heal from this who have not truly put in a lot of work.”
A couple can heal from sex addiction and betrayal, but both must truly put in a lot of work. Click To Tweet
When both people are willing to participate in treatment, they both are in individual therapy, they both are in a group, the addict is going to 12-step meetings, the partners are talking to other partners and getting support, and both the addict and partner are doing couples work, a relationship can heal.
This takes a lot of time, money, effort, and courage. And, it’s incredibly painful. Even as a therapist, Marnie states that watching the couple work through the pain and heartache is hard to witness. “But there definitely is healing!”
The Addict Needs to Understand Their Partner
It’s important for the addict to understand their partner. Just getting an addict sober is not enough due to the distress at home. Their partner has been traumatized and will be reactive. The addict needs to understand why.
Read books such as Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, Back from Betrayal, and Mending a Shattered Heart (make sure to get the newer edition of Mending a Shattered Heart that is more trauma based than codependent based).
We must help him understand her trauma and we need to help her understand his experience.
In order for the relational healing to occur, both eventually have to have empathy for each other. This is where the triage comes in.
In order for relational healing to occur, both couples must have empathy for each other. Click To Tweet
It’s very important to understand that the responsibility is on the addict’s shoulders during the primary stages of recovery. If he’s not showing empathy and showing empathy for her after what he’s done, there’s no way that she’s going to be able to show up and have empathy for him. That’s where it gets very complicated working with the couple.
“Oh God, Rafiki. I never did that. All I did was fall back into my pain and complain about my crap. She never could heal because I never, ever gave her that.”
“Phoenix, you did the best with what you knew at the time.” Rafiki’s tone is gentle. “What happened has happened. It won’t do you or your former spouse any good if you shame yourself for your past actions. Do you remember the time I hit Simba?”
“Yes! How could I forget. Just like the first time you hit me.”
“Remember, the past does hurt. You can either run from it or learn from it. You’re learning today. You’re giving a gift to your former spouse. It just took a little more time than it should have. And, by being open and vulnerable to the world, hopefully you will give others the same gift.”
I Wish I Would Have Known: What an Addict Needs to Hear
Many sex addicts, like myself, will come into treatment and say they will do anything to save the relationship. What should a therapist tell them?
A therapist needs to tell an addict that this is what it’s going to look like.
- It’s a LOT OF WORK!
- You will have to go through disclosure.
- You are going to go through not being trusted for a long time.
- You might take polygraphs.
- You might be asked to sleep in another room.
- You might be asked to find another place to sleep out of the house.
- You might even be asked to move out for a while.
Many addicts often get sober and think, ‘I’m sober now, so when you are you going to move on?”
“Boy, that’s preaching to the choir,” I tell Rafiki. “I was so lost and confused when my former spouse asked for separation four years into recovery without a slip. To me, being sober was a huge accomplishment. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with being sober. She never truly had her pain addressed and I was still so self-centered expecting her to take care of me.”
“You were still in your addiction,” Rafiki responds.
“That’s so hard for an addict to comprehend. In my mind, I believed that my addiction was when I was acting out. I never realized that my addiction also included my thought processes and my behaviors.”
“Sobriety means you’re not using your drug of choice to manage your emotions. Recovery means you’re using the tools of your program to stay emotionally grounded. If you haven’t learned how to take care of yourself first, there’s no way your relationship can heal.”
The betrayer expects that it shouldn’t take long at all. This was the information that addicts were getting in the 12-step meetings and from other therapists. It was bad information and it was wrong information.
Trauma doesn’t get healed like that.
In the book Mending a Shattered Heart, Stefanie Carnes estimates that it takes three to five years to repair the relationship.
Couples freak out when they hear this. This doesn’t mean you won’t find good moments in that time. It means that there are different stages you’re going to go through.
In the end, you will recognize the gifts of this experience.
“In the early stages, couples would want to take my head off for even thinking there would be something good that could come out of it,” Marnie Breecker states. “It doesn’t mean that in 2-3 years there isn’t some repair and that the family is not coming back together. It means that healing will take a while.”
The partners are desperate to get the truth. They want their reality validated. They can then once again trust their intuition. They are no longer being told that they are crazy, they are wrong, and their reality is being denied. They are no longer being gas lighted.
Explaining Trauma Recovery to an Addict
Let’s say a woman is in a parking lot wearing a low top blouse, a mini skirt, and has a history of promiscuity. She gets attacked, raped, and brought to the emergency room. She’s bleeding and in a terrible state of emotional trauma.
Are they going to say, let’s bring her into this room and let’s talk about why she’s wearing this outfit? And let’s talk about your history of promiscuity? Why were you in the parking lot at this time of night?
No. The clothing she wears and her background is totally separate from this rape.
Will it come up later in treatment? Most likely at some point.
They’re going to triage her first. They’re going to clean her wounds. They’re probably going to do a rape kit. They’re going to have her speak to a psychiatrist. They probably wouldn’t get to that other stuff for a while, because she was traumatized from being attacked and her sense of safety has been totally shattered.
That’s the idea of triage.
A partner of a sex addict will be in triage. The relational issues cannot be addressed in the beginning because we’re in crisis management and it can take a long time to get through that crisis stage.
How Does the Partner Let the Anger Out?
A partner needs to discharge her pain. In therapy, Marnie finds that when a client is really angry and she can express that emotion, it deescalates.
The problem is, that the therapist is not in the house with the couple. No matter what happens in session, it’s very difficult to manage what’s going on in the home.
Marnie suggests during the early states, especially during triage, that the couple not talk about this stuff. This stuff causes them to go crazy. Talk about news, sports, and weather. Don’t discuss what’s going on in therapy.
This is the same thing with the disclosure session. Minimize talking about it outside of session.
This is not to punish the couple. It’s because they don’t have the tools. Every time they do that, it’s a disaster and it makes things worse than they were before.
“Well, I failed there Rafiki.”
“That’s because you were determined to fix it. You couldn’t manage your own wounds so you believed that talking about it would make them disappear. The problem was, you only kept re-traumatizing both you and your former spouse. You didn’t have the tools to take care of your inner child.”
Until Marnie really feels that the couple has demonstrated an ability to process some of this stuff and has some tools to handle their emotions and to handle each other’s triggers, she tries to get them to not to have those discussions.
“Over and over things are crazy at home, yelling and stuff. Sometimes they need to do this dance until it stops. And sometimes people are very compliant and they don’t. Not following this rule at the beginning only ends up making the relationship worse.”
What’s the Prognosis for the Couple?
Most couples stay together. One of the reasons is the children.
Really, when an addict is truly engaged, and can be empathic, validating, and show up without the resentment, this takes a while to get, but when they do it, healing happens.
“Once again, another failure in my recovery. I held so much resentment.”
“Phoenix,” Rafiki’s voice is once again gentle, “Your anger was imbedded deep within the core of your being. The belief of not being important was instilled upon you by your parents. Little Phoenix screamed to be heard, but was never seen. Little Phoenix was never nurtured and thus never learned how to nurture himself. You expected to receive from your former spouse what your parents never gave you. After what you had done to her, there was no way she could possibly give you that. It’s understandable that resentment due to your old wounds would bubble to the surface. Little Phoenix was hurting and had no tools to take care of himself.”
After a moment of silence Rafiki adds, “Your former spouse needed you to hear her due to your actions. Your childhood wounding prevented you from being able to give her that gift. Instead of healing, the two of you kept adding more kindling to the raging inferno that devoured both of you. Anger and resentment became a norm for both of you. There was no way either of you could heal while you kept adding fuel to that fire.”
“If someone is expressing to leave, I would never stop that. I would talk about it. What’s going on for you? How will you know? You will know when you know,” Marnie explains.
This empowers partners. You have a choice. You’re not necessarily a victim here. You have a choice to stay or go. You are not a victim anymore. You have choices. Sometimes they need to set very clear boundaries with consequences. Sometimes it’s to say, I’m going to accept this, cause he’s not changing and I’m not seeing recovery.
It’s beautiful when you can get past the crisis and do some of the deeper work. This work is extremely hard and there’s so much crisis. After a session, Marnie will sit on her couch and say, “Oh my God.” She loves what she does, but it is really challenging.
One of the biggest reasons for the challenge in early relational work with these couples, sobriety, therapy, and some recovery, is that the addict has forfeited their rights to talk about the relational issues they want to bring up.
That’s hard for a narcissist.
“If only I had known…”
Rafiki stops me. “No ‘if only’ Phoenix.” He shakes his head. “That takes you from accepting responsibility for your actions. You can’t change the past, only learn from it.”
If the addict had chosen, instead of acting out, to bring those issues to their partner saying, “I’m struggling,” then all those relational issues you wanted to talk about would have been addressed.
Instead, the addict has shattered the trust in this relationship.
The relationship is in pieces, your partner is barely holding it together, and your partner can’t trust you. You can’t talk about the fact that when your kids were born you felt neglected. You can’t do that, even though that was a genuine concern that you had.
Marnie tells addicts, “What it takes, is a lot of falling on your sword for some time.”
Marnie had one client say, “I’m now married to the man I wanted to be married for so many years.”
However, if the partner still needs what you’re needing now in five years; if there’s still no trust, still needing polygraphs, still unable to communicate, still being defensive, shame still being triggered constantly, there’s no stabilization and your nervous system feels as if it’s constantly out of whack, then there’s something wrong here.
It’s not supposed to be like that forever. The deeper issues will eventually need to be addressed, but not at the beginning.
In non-relational trauma, each couple learns that triggers are their own and they need to take care of them on their own. Like the 12-steps, you stay on your side of the street.
That doesn’t work in a relational model. It doesn’t work when you are working with betrayal trauma at all.
To increase the prognosis for the couple, it’s also important to do triage on the relationship. Two parts to that triage are co-regulation and communication.
Co-Regulation and Managing Triggers
In relational trauma, we have learned that when one partner is emotionally activated by the other, the person who’s having the trauma response cannot effectively regulate themselves. They need somebody to help them kind of come back. That is called co-regulation. The activated partner needs the co-regulation from the activating partner.
Co-regulation is very important as the first thing to teach couples.
A couple is driving together in the car. Everything’s fine. The partner looks up and sees a big billboard for that show called The Affair and the partner gets triggered; it’s because of the sex addiction. That partner is having trouble regulating and really needs the help from her husband/partner to bring her back.
First Step: Confirm, Validate, and have Empathy over that Trigger
For the addict to help the partner so she can regulate and think straight again, he needs to be able to provide empathy for her. Empathy is something she needs to help her stabilize.
That requires a lot of willingness to act as this regulator. If you have a very defensive addict in the car who gets angry because she got triggered, “We were just having fun and we weren’t talking about sex addiction this weekend and now you are going to bring it up again?”
That’s not the willing, empathetic partner that’s going to help regulate. If anything, that’s going to exasperate this trauma response.
I appreciate the 12-step model, but staying on your own side of the street in a relational piece does not work. You can’t be relational, “I know you are having a trigger over there, and I know it’s because I was as sex addict, but you need to figure it out for yourself and I’m going to stay over here on my side of the street.” It just won’t work.
When co-regulating you must confirm and validate that trigger. The addict is validating and taking responsibility for the trigger in his partner. This is not a time to defend, blame, go to shame, make it about themselves, and minimize the experience by saying “it’s not that big of a deal, it’s just a billboard.”
A great video for addicts to watch is Helping Her Heal by Doug Weiss.
“I can see how it’s like when I did x.”
“It’s understandable that you feel anger, fear, etc…”
“Why wouldn’t you feel that way?”
Second Step: Reentering the Present Moment
It’s important that the addict helps to orientate his partner to the present moment. “I understand this feels like when I was doing ‘x,’ but I have your back now. This is where we’re at today. I’m sober today and I’ve got your back. Today, I really am doing everything to keep you safe.”
A key to regulating the nervous system and reorientation to the present moment is touch. The addict must remember to ask first. The fastest way to calm a nervous system is a chest to chest hug.
A key to regulating the nervous system and reorientation to the present moment is touch. Click To Tweet
The fastest way to calm a nervous system is a chest to chest hug. Click To Tweet
As the nervous system becomes more regulated, the heart rate returning to normal, then she can hear without flooding and a deeper conversation can occur.
“I’m feeling some guilt and shame right now,” I say to Rafiki.
“What are the thoughts behind those feelings?”
“I was never able to do that in my marriage. Whenever my former spouse was triggered, it would instantly trigger me. I’d quickly get defensive and angry. I couldn’t regulate myself. I’d instantly flip what she was feeling and make it about me. Her response was, ‘those are your issues, not my issues’, which would further cause me to spin.”
“You have to remember, Phoenix, your former spouse never got past the initial trauma that you caused. She didn’t have the therapeutic support to help her deal with her trauma. She didn’t have a group of peers that understood trauma and what she needed to heal. And she didn’t have your support. She was told everything was partly her fault. In addition, you too, didn’t realize how much your childhood wounding was trauma based and how you were getting triggered. You expected her to co-regulate you since the very beginning. She was not only unable to do that, that wasn’t her responsibility.”
“She never really had the support she needed to heal.”
“You both didn’t. Once again what are your childhood wounds?”
“Abandonment, feeling invisible and not important. Feeling like a third wheel.”
“By not addressing that she had trauma and by not helping her heal her trauma first, only exasperated your childhood wounding. Not only was she short-changed in her recovery, but your relationship was too!
Rafiki voice starts to rise. I think he’s tired of repeating himself. “There was no healing going on in the coupleship. The model you based your personal recovery on was, get Phoenix sober and everything else will fall in place. Sobriety from your acting out has nothing to do with healing your marriage! That’s only the starting place.
“Your former spouse didn’t have the therapeutic help to focus on her trauma. You weren’t really told what you needed to do to help her heal. Without this knowledge, you two kept triggering one another. Without any change in your behaviors, your former spouse finalized the decision she had made four years earlier when you went into treatment. She was done.
“Had both of you had the proper support and understanding at the beginning, maybe she would have been able to continue in the coupleship and the two of you could’ve worked on the relational triage.
“It’s sad to think that with better understanding it could have turned out differently,” I sigh.
“It happened the way your Higher Power wanted it to happen. What you need to work on now is acceptance and forgiveness. You need to let the past go and move forward with what you have learned.”
Communication and containing a couple is very important. Marnie believes in teaching couples the Imago Dialogue.
Prior to having an imago dialogue it’s important to ask the question, “Would you be willing to have an imago dialogue right now?”
If the answer is no, a typical response is, “This is not a good time, can we do it after dinner?”
It’s important that the person who’s not ready to have the dialogue schedule a time in the future when they would be willing to talk. It then becomes that person’s responsibility to make sure that they come back. If they don’t come back, that could be a huge trigger.
What’s the message if they don’t come back? The message that comes across is that the topic is not important; that you’re not important.
Three Parts to An Imago Dialogue
“What I hear you say is…” Repeat it verbatim or ask them to repeat it.
This is very important! When one partner gets it, the other really feels heard.
It’s much harder than what people think. This is not a summary. Initially, couples need the help of therapists to guide them.
I’ve listened carefully to what you’ve said. What you said makes sense. That is important to me. Thank you for sharing that.
Make a compassionate statement to really connect to the emotional attunement. “I imagine that you’re feeling sad. I imagine you are feeling scared. I imagine you are feeling devastated.”
Then you would check. Is, that right? Are there other feelings I missed?
It’s not a dialog when I respond, “I didn’t roll my eyes.” My perception is that you did. It’s recognizing by the imago dialogue that there are two different perspectives.
If you’re so busy trying to make you right, that means you’re trying to make them wrong. That’s not being relational. That’s a power differential, not relational.
It’s more about, I want to know my partner, I want to hear you. This is a very sophisticated technique.
In early crisis, it’s very difficult for a couple to get this. In fact, it’s almost impossible to go into this at the beginning. They need more psych-education. What is addiction? What does recovery look like? Learn to understand the trauma. And let the different pieces unfold.
Questions and Answers
When do you introduce the co-regulation piece?
The co-regulation piece is introduced once recovery is underway and after the triage piece has been worked on. When the arousal is less and the addict and the partner is not so hyper aroused, then I teach about co-regulation.
One thing about co-regulation is that we live in such a culture that has constant triggers. We are saturated with sexual imagery, infidelity and movies that have so much infidelity. Even the way people dress are considered triggers. There is so much out there.
If the addict continues to say they want to connect with their partner, they need to learn to help co-regulate and understand that their partner is triggered and needs help.
Whose responsibility is it to bring up the trigger?
Usually a genuine trauma response is very noticeable. This is where your brain goes off line; like the high-jacked brain. At that point, you’re not thinking straight. In this case, it’s the other person’s responsibility to recognize it. Because when you’re not thinking straight, you can’t recognize it.
If I wasn’t thinking straight, and it’s my responsibility to ask for help, I can’t ask for help. I’m just not able to do so.
It’s about helping him understand how to do that. Usually these trauma responses are noticeable.
Eventually, because addicts have trauma responses too, yet only when there has been some triage and the partner is feeling safe, she will need to learn how to co-regulate the addict also. The future goal is for both partners to be able to co-regulate each other.
It’s very important to remember: Until the partner feels validated by the person who has betrayed her, and sees that he can consistently demonstrate empathy for not only the original betrayal but for subsequent triggers and trauma, relational repair can’t be achieved.
When he has consistently demonstrated that, then she can be empathic and co-regulate him.
As an addict, what am I supposed to do when I get traumatized?
If you’re getting so traumatized by your partner, then some of the boundaries we need to do is to limit some of the time you’re spending together. You should really do some deep trauma work, go to 12-step meetings, and talk to the guys in your group because they can help you in ways that your partner who has been hurt by you can’t.
How does the partner know when to leave?
It’s up to her. Giving the partner back their intuition, giving them a support network so they have other partners that they are communicating with, and talking to and giving them a lot of information, often, they know.
Marnie does a process she calls Trauma Reduction Therapy (TRT), based on Trauma Resolution Therapy. In the first stage, she has the partner simply write out every single traumatic incident that had occurred regarding the sex addiction. This is not a family of origin, only things specific to the sex addiction.
This could take many months depending on how many incidents there are. Often times, this becomes such a reality check for the partner, that this is when the partner will leave. Sometimes, even the acting out during the recovery process gets triggered again. “We’ve been in this process and he’s still doing this.” That’s getting them to see the reality. It’s very helpful for helping partners decide to leave.
However, from Marnie’s experience, the majority stay. The earlier you can plant the seeds the better. We’re not there yet, but I just want to plant the seed. They’ll remember.
Different Therapies for Couples
I have also included some of the various methods of treatment for couples and a brief description for each. Please remember, it’s been recommended that the trauma piece for both the partner and the addict be addressed before working on the relationship.
I hope that as healing continues, these different ideas can help your relationship grow that much stronger.
Emotionally Focused Therapy
The name of this therapy clearly reflects the heart of this treatment approach: If healing is to occur, the salient role of emotions must be the primary focus. You can’t approach a problem deeply rooted in emotion by intellectualizing it or merely changing communication styles. Either of those approaches may improve things for a period of time, but the results tend to be short-lived as old interactional patterns – patterns driven by emotion – re-emerge. Dr. Sue Johnson (one of the co-creators) likens this interactional pattern to a dance. When couples and families are experiencing conflict – which is almost always directly connected to unmet emotional needs – this dance becomes quite complicated and messy.
Emotionally Focused Therapy helps you become more aware of your emotions and express them more authentically and openly. It also helps you learn to regulate your emotions and develop greater empathy for others. By examining the underlying cause of emotional detachment in relationships and working from there, EFT is a highly effective form of therapy.
EFT essentially “reprograms” the way you approach and interact with those closest to you. It helps you learn healthy ways to get your needs met in your relationships. It also fosters deeper emotional connections – stronger attachments – between you and your spouse, partner, or family. It does this by providing a safe environment that facilitates open and honest emotional expression, which is essential if you desire a fulfilling, healthy, and loving relationship.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy
Falling in love and getting married is a normal part of life for most people. After all, infatuation is easy. Unfortunately, though, it’s not enough to sustain a marriage through both good times and bad. If couples don’t establish a much deeper bond, support each other, and learn to work through the inevitable difficulties that occur, the odds of their marriage lasting are slim to none. At best, they may stay together due to financial or religious reasons, or “for the children” – but the relationship will be anything but happy or fulfilling for either person.
In his research, Gottman has discovered three core elements of lasting relationships:
- They have a strong friendship
- They know how to manage their conflicts effectively
- They genuinely support each other’s dreams and hopes for the future
He has incorporated these findings into his therapy and workshops with couples. Together, he and his wife help couples learn how to accomplish or strengthen these three important elements in their relationships. They do this by focusing on the nine components of healthy relationships – also known as “Sound Relationship House”.
Imago Relationship Therapy
Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) was created by Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of the best-selling Getting the Love You Want: A Guide For Couples.
The term Imago is Latin for “image,” and refers to the “unconscious image of familiar love.” Simply put, there is often a connection between the frustrations experienced in adult relationships and early childhood experiences. For example: If you frequently felt criticized as a child, you will likely be sensitive to any criticism from and feel criticized often by your partner. Likewise, if you felt abandoned, smothered, neglected, etc., these feelings will come up in your marriage and committed relationships.
Most people face only a few of these “core issues,” but they typically arise again and again within partnerships. This can overshadow all that is good in the relationship, leaving people to wonder if they have chosen the right mate. So here is the good news: when you can understand each other’s feelings and “childhood wounds” more empathically, you can begin to heal yourself and your relationship, and move toward a more conscious relationship.
Imago Relationships International can help you do this by teaching the “Imago Dialogue” process by helping you move from blame and reactivity to understanding and empathy. With this process, you can transform conflicts into opportunities for healing and growth and connect more deeply and lovingly with your intimate partner.
Integrative Behavioral Couples Therapy (IBCT)
Behavioral therapies like IBCT stem from the basic premise that all behavior – good or bad, desirable or undesirable – is learned. Anything that is learned, therefore, can be unlearned. Of course, that’s a bit oversimplified as humans are complex creatures and other factors come into play as well. Integrative behavioral couples therapy recognizes this fact. Rather than focusing solely on the goal of positive behavioral changes in the relationship, it also focuses on the goal of emotional acceptance as well. When both partners in a relationship learn to genuinely accept each other, positive changes occur more readily as well as more naturally.
A couple recovering from the betrayal of sex addiction can salvage their relationship. It takes an incredible amount of work, but it can be done.
What’s important in the beginning is that the addict focuses on sobriety, learning the tools he needs to manage emotions, and being supportive of his partner’s healing journey as she learns to navigate the triggers he has caused.
As a recovering sex addict, I can attest that this is extremely difficult to do. If you want to salvage your relationship, it’s something you must do.
Even if it means leaving your home so you can learn how to manage your emotions on your own – that is what you do.
My heart and prayers goes out to both the addict and the partner who are struggling. I cannot say I know what a partner goes through, but I empathize with you. I have seen the pain I caused my former spouse and how it has affected our family. I watch as a bystander as she has slowly worked to rebuild her confidence, love in herself, and to trust others again, while at the same time learning how to manage her triggers.
There’s a part in me that wishes I could have known then what I now know. And when I find myself focusing on the past what if’s, I have to tell myself that I’m not staying in the present.
Staying in the present reminds me that I am a survivor. That I am a grateful recovering sex addict. That I have a special friend who is an incredible mother to my two girls. And that through my pain and rebirth, I can help others who are in the trenches.
It’s all about learning to love ourselves. It’s integrating our parent and our inner child. It’s about being able to give and receive love from others.
It’s about coming together so Together We Can Heal.
PS: The following is a screenshot of a daily email I receive from The Center For Healthy Sex called Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence. This one was dated October 8, 2017.
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