When you learn an art, a leisure pursuit, or even a subject, there is a rich language that accompanies that new venture. For example, if you delve into the world of art, you start with words like “hue,” “balance,” and “composition.” You then evolve into an ever more sophisticated and meaningful dialogue with rich words that illuminate new avenues of life and art.
Oddly, just like any grand experience, reconciliation with someone in sexual addiction treatment demands a language, understanding and recognition of many factors. In my experience, it is common for women and sexual addiction treatment to use different languages in the healing process. My hope is to help you with the language you need for yourself, in your recovery and support process.
A key assumption I am making at this point is that the spouse with the addiction is engaged in a recovery and support process of his or her own. This would mean hard work, practical changes, growing emotional vulnerability and usually a number of “slips” or “setbacks”—for example, returning to porn use, followed by lament and rededication to the process . Before you can reconcile with this person you must reconcile with the following:
Your Pain is Real
Many men and women affected by a spouse’s sexual addiction are slow or reluctant to allow the full emotional weight of the addiction to be known to themselves. This is because the emotional-sexual betrayal is deep and breaks relational rules, vows, sanctity and more. It is incredibly painful, the experience of losing all stability and trust in your most intimate relationship .
Whilst it maybe a spouse that needs sexual addiction treatment, it is you that needs love, care and attention as you look to process the pain you feel—this often necessitates a higher level of professional care as the normal spouse support isn’t trustworthy to you. You cannot reconcile without first knowing and accepting your experience.
Safety is Important
Reconciling requires that your spouse be in recovery and support networks. Without this, you would be unwise to rebuild with an active addict! If the addict is working a recovery program and speaking with you about their progress and changes, this signals a basis for trust to be restored.
You should also consider personal safety needs, that might include physical boundaries, sexual infection testing, answers for your questions, and more. However, it is important not to ask for details of sexual acts that could create painful comparisons, or images in your mind. This can be traumatizing and will not help your reconciliation.
Anger Will Come and Go
Anger (and pain) will surface as a result of memories and reminders of your painful experience (we call these triggers). When anger surfaces, it is important to remember a few key points .
It is legitimate to express anger to your spouse—but it isn’t ok to be abusive yourself, verbally or emotionally. Anger will come and go like a wave, so let it be present but don’t dwell on it or attempt to hold onto it. Expect it to come again and be willing to allow space for it. Talk to a trusted friend or loved one who will not judge you over your anger—this may require a professional.
Forgiveness as a Process
Forgiving someone for a betrayal as potent as sexual addiction isn’t a one-time deal. You can only forgive by reckoning with your own experience (as mentioned above) and choosing to not hold it against your spouse.
Again, this is only possible if they are in sexual addiction treatment—otherwise the forgiveness may be a “looking past” behaviors to hold onto some safety or affection.
When your emotions or desire for distance from the one who hurt you returns, it doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven them, it simply means you are now going to have to choose again in this moment to continue forgiving them. Forgiveness doesn’t equal no emotional impact!
Self-Care as Necessity
Self-care is often neglected as we search for stability and harmony in relationships. However, if we are not nourished, rested and healthy, we cannot hope to sustain the stress and hard work that reconciliation will entail. This is easy to overlook, but mustn’t be.
Steps in a Process Toward Sexual Addiction Treatment
As you consider all of the above, you can begin to reconcile by following the following steps:
- Have the sex addict come clean about all of their behaviors and consequences (not traumatizing sexual details) so you know the full picture.
- Both of you need to work through and process your feelings with others first (a long process).
- Establish recovery and support for the addict.
- Work to establish rules, boundaries, consequences and safety with your spouse.
- Communicate forgiveness in your time, and as often as you may need to and are able.
- Commence activities together that are low stress, low pressure and feel safe for you.
- Take care of yourself, and know you cannot choose for your spouse.
- Join together sharing the emotional impact of the addiction and betrayal—you will likely need couples therapy to facilitate this healing process.
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 Stop Sexual Addiction where you can find his guide, or contact him.
: Maltz, W., & Maltz, L. (2010). The porn trap: the essential guide to overcoming problems caused by pornography. New York: Harper.
: Steffens, B. A., & Means, M. (2009). Your sexually addicted spouse: how partners can cope and heal. Far Hills, NJ: New Horizon Press.
: Viscott, D. S. (1996). Emotional resilience: simple truths for dealing with the unfinished business of your past. New York: Harmony 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.
Published on August 12, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 12, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com