Have you ever had a survival kit? They are usually built to optimize efficiency, sustain life, and to sustain you until you find life giving resources.
Sometimes the items in the survival kit taste horrible, seem difficult to use, or simply leave you wondering, “What do I do with that?” This is a perfect illustration for the four survival items I want to share with you today.
The effects of sexual addiction discovery are traumatic and confusing for the spouse who wasn’t involved. Their world is rocked, and nothing seems to be what it was.
It is vital that truth and honesty reign over the relationship so that trust and stability can slowly be rebuilt. For example, if you are going to be late home from work, let your spouse know, and know why!
If you are struggling to get along, feel depressed and need support, let your spouse know. If you can’t figure recovery out and you are getting stuck, let your spouse know! I think you get the point.
Honesty is the bedrock of any surviving marriage. The only caveat is to not share traumatizing intimacy details from the sexual addiction that could unnecessarily invade your future sex life.
Honesty also means allowing yourself to come to terms with the damage inflicted on the marriage, your own view of people and sexuality, and the emotional struggle that underlies the addiction.
This work of self-knowledge doesn’t happen over night, and consistent effort is required to discern your motivations, fears, and thinking.
When the spouse of an addict is overwhelmed, scared, panicked or frightened it is critical the offending spouse continue to own their part of the problem.
This means the addicted spouse can validate the painful confusion of their spouse (best done by imagining being in their shoes and having the situation reversed) and patiently provide what the spouse needs (1). If for example, you are at the mall and your spouse gets panicked seeing other women on-mass, she may demand to go home.
Your response should be to own the pain caused and attend to her need. “Honey, I can only imagine how hard this place must be for you. I am so sorry I brought this fear into our relationship. Let’s go home if you would like, is there any other way I can support you right now?”
You will notice this stance of owning the situation requires you to be fully involved and not overly concerned with protecting your own self-image and desires.
This is a big task that can be challenging for sex addicts who often struggle with self-image and self-focus. Find the support you need to step out of being defensive and instead own the part of the problem you are responsible for (2).
Rituals of Connection
Relationships die when there is no connection, and connection is often avoided when people are in pain with one another. It is critical to find low stress, low demand strategies to build consistent contact points with which you can both engage.
You may have to wait until after the initial fallout has resided a little, but don’t wait too long. Often, people do the opposite and have a separation, which only further serves to isolate each spouse.
Good examples of the connections you can foster are as follows:
1. Commit to knowing the main agenda item of one another’s day before either of you leaves the house. This will help you to support and encourage one another.
2. Slot in 5 minutes after dinner every night to have coffee and share with one another the stressors you have from outside of the marriage (stick with outside the marriage and don’t give
advice on how to fix the stressors).
3. Come up with your own relationship specific needs for connection and actions that you can both commit to at this point.
Contempt is a death stroke to relationships. When we speak or react with contempt to one another, it means we are taking the posture of being ‘above’ or that your spouse is ‘inferior.’
If you catch yourself making statements like, “Really, you think that is important, what, are you stupid?” Or, “I can’t believe I am married to someone who is this mentally slow.”
These are corrosive to another person. I encourage you to think about conversations you have that are not going well and ask yourself if it feels like your or your spouse are attempting to ‘one-up’ the other, to gain the higher ground. If so, contempt is running loose.
The better way is to catch these statements and replace them by communicating your feelings and needs. You will do this by talking about you.
For example: “When X happened, I was left with this gut feeling of X, it is a real struggle for me when that happens, I think I need you to X, to help sort this out.” This way you own your experience and invite your spouse to connection.
Many couples need outside eyes and ears to help them catch and eliminate patterns of contempt. Find a counselor or trusted friend to help you change your communication patterns.
If you these four principles into your marriage, you will help yourselves move from survival towards thriving. It is truly worth the work.
About the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.
(1) Steffens, B. A., & Means, M. (2009). Your sexually addicted spouse: how partners can cope and heal. Far Hills, NJ: New Horizon Press.
(2) Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2014). Why marriages succeed or fail. London: Bloomsbury Paperbacks..
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on October 5, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 5, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com