Rebuild Shattered Trust due to Sexual Addiction

Woman thinking about shattered relationship

Trust is the bedrock of any relationship. When we meet people we offer a little information, our name for instance, and they respond in kind. This is a reciprocal act of building trust. We continue in this fashion into more complex webs of interlocking trust with one another.

Battleship, the classic childhood game is a perfect example of when trust goes wrong! The moves and adjustments are all made in secret, and then the fallout comes and you can do nothing about it.

Except in hurting relationships, we feel like we should be able to do something about it and reach over to the other player’s ships, move them into our firing line, and turn all of our own ships into submarines so they can’t possibly be hit.

When we operate in hurting and divisive relationships we need to come to the table and offer a peace treaty. Sadly, when sexual betrayal has occurred the peace treaty isn’t a straightforward negotiation.

The most effective strategy is for the offending partner (who engaged the sexual acts of betrayal) to come forward with a white flag, and the offer to fully protect the others ships, to cease all hostility, to lay down their arsenal and even pay for the repairs to the ‘enemy fleet’.

First Steps Towards Trust

The first step towards this treaty is to appreciate the value of trust within intimacy.
It isn’t commonly appreciated that trust requires a trustworthy person.[1] I don’t trust you arbitrarily, but because you have demonstrated the willingness to engage in a way that sustains trust.

“The only way to experience a safe, trustworthy relationship into the future is to expose the secrets and become a trustworthy person again.” [2] Exposing secrets, flaws, hurts and more is a painful process that can inflame our current emotions. Shame and fear can jeopardize the process and lead to more isolation.

Marriage handsOur defensive, self-medicating sexual betrayals are often built as a medicating response to our deeper needs.

For instance, it is our nature to long to be deeply known and accepted just as we are—without any battleship pretense.  This seems perilous when we are born into a cold and subtly unforgiving world.

Taking the scary step of leaving the medicating sexual acts behind exposes us to our foibles, weakness and pain.

It is crucial to share and admit all of the destructive ways we have coped with sexual acts. At a later date we can return and also share our deeper longings.


Any full disclosure of sexual betrayal will be incredibly painful to the one who receives it, but it offers the opportunity for both parties to start healing. The betrayed knows they don’t have to fear the unknown, and the betrayer starts the release from shame.

There is never a perfect time, or a perfect way to disclose such painful details to a partner, but it is critical that you do. Below are detailed steps from “21 Movements towards life”[3] that describe how to facilitate your own disclosure. It is also worth considering if you will need further support from a counselor or trusted supporter for this difficult work.

Disclosure Guide [4]

  1. One could write a letter to your partner which covers the following:
    • Spelling out the details of your sexual behaviors, but without the traumatizing details (e.g. no reference to body part sizes, positions, specific comments etc.). This should disclose if you used porn, and what general type of porn (images, videos, homosexual porn), and if you met with people for sex, and if their was emotional engagement as well as physical etc.
    • The consequences of your behaviors to health, finances, legal and anything else relevant.
    • Express how your heart is affected and your deep regret.
    • THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE OR DEFENSE FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR. You may however need to explain some of your actions as questions arise, but do not justify your actions.
    • Especially if your partner already knows about some of the information, ask them what they need to know to help them start to feel safe again and include it in the letter. Do not give traumatizing details and if they ask why, refer them to this article or others about spouse PTSD.
  2. You can read the letter to your partner when you have set aside plenty of time and no pressing commitments. If your partner wants to read the letter, then let them. Allow them to take breaks as often as they need, and affirm you are willing to support them, and ask them to communicate (if they are able) what they need from you (which may be to get out of the house!).
  3. Layout the tools and plans you have for recovery and a return to trustworthiness in your relationship. This could include counseling, accountability, support groups and more.
  4. Let your partner have their emotional reaction without trying to stop it. Do not shut them down or move into problem solving mode.Couple hugging and watching sunset on the beach
  5. Affirm to your partner your loving commitment daily after the disclosure even when you are struggling, or met with harsh and critical responses.
  6. Ask them periodically if there are identifiable things you can do to support and care for them in this time and follow through on these things if you agree to them.


Paul LoosemoreAbout 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 where you can find his guide, or contact him.


[1]:  Gottman, J. (2011) The science of trust: Emotional attunement for couples.
Loosemore, P. (2016). 21 Movements towards life.
[3]:  Ibid.
 Adapted from: Blankenship, R. (2013) Spouses of sex addicts: Hope for the journey.

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 May 11, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 4, 2017.
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.