Scar tissue always forms around a wound when it heals, it is tough and can be an irritant—a marriage can carry a similar feel when sexual addiction has cut it open. Assuming that the addicted partner is in recovery and working their program, then rebuilding can begin.
Beginning the Process of Rebuilding a Marriage
The first thing you both need to know is “Am I safe”. This touches the physical and emotional dimensions. Physically, I always recommend that someone who was an active sex addict have a medical examination to rule out STDs—as many as 65 million Americans currently have an STD.
This is a courtesy to their partner and can prevent another painful backlash. A rebuilding marriage also needs to know that it is secured from the intrusion of people or pornography. This may require physical boundaries to be placed, computer access to be limited, or any number of physical changes to safeguard the marriage.
Emotional safety can seldom occur if the offended partner is still wondering: “Is that it, or is there more?” The most effective way to tackle this is to have the offending partner (when contrite and humbled enough) to present a full disclosure of what they have done (without traumatizing sexual details).
This is a painful process for sure, but allows both partners to know exactly where they stand with one another—this isn’t a luxury for a marriage, it is a key to its health. It is also worth noting that the offending partner needs reassurance that they are still—at least to some degree—still accepted by their partner, otherwise their insecurity may grow.
Building a Healthy Foundation
Secondly, the relationship needs the right structure. Shirley Glass was the first to discuss relationships in regards to “Walls and Windows”. Glass clearly demarks that relationships where betrayal has occurred need to realize that personal information and emotions have traveled through “windows” that existed between the offending partner and someone outside of the relationship.
The goal is to have “walls” around the relationship and “windows” within, so that intimate sharing occurs within the safely defined limits of the relationship (because of the “walls”). This doesn’t mean a couple should be isolated, but helps give a tool to think about who is being given access to you or your partner, and if you are getting the access you need.
Ultimately the marriage is to be held in esteem as the central place for sharing emotional connection above all others. Ask yourselves, “how have we positioned our “windows” and “walls”?
Connection and Communication
Thirdly, establishing rituals and time of connection is critical. Relationships that are in trouble have little in the way of established rituals (or if they are present, they are hollow) that provide connection points and moments of tenderness. This can range from a kiss good-bye and knowing about the others day, to specific bedtime rituals, to Saturday morning snuggles.
The event isn’t the point—it is the symbolic, safe, and life stabilizing connection point that binds two people together. Hand-in-hand with this idea is carefully discussing how to mark off specific marriage time.
“Date nights” are all the rage, yet this limits the notion of quality time a married couple can find within their relationship. Get the calendar out and figure out where and when in your weeks you can intentionally share time—this doesn’t have to be deep conversation, and can include lots of fun!
Fourthly, partners need to develop the skills of sharing their hurts, needs and desires. When an addiction is present this type of sharing fades away. Relearning, or learning these skills takes time, patience, and a willingness to push through anxiety. Deep insecurities may abound and therapy is very helpful at this point.
The hurt that needs to be listened to by the offending partner is how the offended partner feels at the core of their being—not “I’m mad at you”, but “when you choose other people over me sexually I feel so rejected and lost. It makes me feel worthless”.
Very different! Needs and desires are to be shared calmly, when they surface, and without manipulation—this is how a marriage can become the interwoven, caring place that we long for it to be.
Fifth, committing to look for the positive aspects of your partner’s behavior and attempts to connect with you are vital. Betrayal readies us to see the bad, the ugly and be protective, which is the opposite of the joy and care you long to experience.
We have to choose actively to live in the present and feel alive now, even though we were hurt then. This can look like verbally appreciating when a partner sticks to the time-sharing plan you have devised, or compliments you on preparing dinner.
Sixth, don’t hesitate to ask—hesitate to accuse. Many marriages get stuck in fear and insecurities that don’t get named, and then erupt into pain filled accusations later on.
If you aren’t sure about the direction you are headed, or you feel unsafe, gently ask your partner for clarification or support. This heads of the accusations that can come with resentment, that inevitably injure relational wounds and allow more scar tissue to build.
Rebuilding a marriage is possible and will take time. Acknowledge your reality; accept it, and start talking. Find a therapist to guide you if you get bogged down, and know that there are places to go for support.
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.
: Reported on: http://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/surprising-std-facts-statistics/ . Accessed 11/1/16.
: Glass S. (2004). Not “Just Friends”. Atria Books.
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.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 12, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com