One of the most vital and life giving threads of the human experience is deeply connected relationships. These relationships require trust to grow, and without these relationships we suffer from depression, anxiety, fear, fatigue, hopelessness and more.
Disrupting our Connection
You will know if you have ever spent a major holiday alone just how crucial human connection is. Sadly, addiction really disrupts our ability to connect because addicts are seldom trustworthy.
“Why is this the case?” you ask. Commonly addiction leads to behavior changes that are wide spread. These changes have stories attached and secretive thoughts that help the addict to maintain their addiction without the sense that they are harming anyone else.
What will happen is other people will experience the addict:
- Being in denial
- Behaving compulsively
- Acting selfishly
- Numbing emotionally
- Showing a lack of empathy
Now that isn’t a picture of someone you are likely to find trustworthy!
Putting our trust into something or someone who is trustworthy allows us to move towards. For example, if I don’t believe my chair is worthy of my trust, then I will not sit on it for fear of being sprawled on the floor. If I don’t believe my partner is worthy of trusting, then I am unlikely to share my concerns and joys with them for fear of being mistreated or abandoned.
Disclosing Sexual Addiction
When a sexual addiction is disclosed to an intimate partner it is common for them to experience many of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Why? Because they have experienced a betrayal of their deepest assumptions, sense of safety and stability with you.
When you remove someone’s ability to trust in their safety with you they are likely to have a visceral and unwanted collection of reactions that become acted out ways of trying to regain safety. You may see hypervigilance for further disliked behavior, questioning may occur, or they may track you. At its core, this is all an attempt to regain safety.
Sadly, an addict finds it difficult to immediately change the behaviors that have scared and hurt their partner, which leads to further pain, erosion of safety and increased unpleasant responses from the partner. The key is to restore trustworthiness—which is kin to ending the addiction.
Accountability in Sexual Addiction
Accountability is a necessary process that will help to both end the addiction and rebuild trustworthiness. But what is accountability?
One way to think of accountability is the act of setting up checks and balances for an addict’s behavior. Often this entails a group or network of people who understand the addict’s behaviors, lies, story and who are willing to be a resource, coach and support. The addict needs to commit to actively changing their behavior but recognizes that trying to do so in isolation is normally folly.
When our behavior becomes trustworthy, then in turn our spoken word can follow suit. For an addict this demands accountability, both to a betrayed spouse and also with others who are aiding in the recovery process. The accountability to a partner is the commitment to life in a different manner, and dedicated honesty. The accountability with other supporters is more “nuts and bolts” where help and challenge in recovery is given.
Trustworthiness in Recovery
This separation is designed to help the partner have space to heal from betrayal and not become responsible in any way for helping the addict recover. The addict has to recover under their own design (with accountability and support) to rebuild their trustworthiness. If the partner is fueling the trustworthiness, then it feels hollow and trite.
Trust is given with the “eyes” in recovery. A partner can only trust what they see because they have been lied to or manipulated previously. Once behavior starts to change (no lying, following through on commitment, no outside sexual activity, displays of caring attention), then words start to earn back their meaning on the basis of this new trustworthy behavior.
The new rules of engagement for a sex addict must be this: Say what you plan to do, do what you have said, admit any failure quickly and return to the plan with additional plans to help mitigate the failure.
A Guide to Rebuilding Trustworthiness
Here is a step-by-step guide to get you started in rebuilding trustworthiness.
- Carefully consider the person you want to be and what you would like your relationships to look like.
- Write a detailed list of the ways you intend to start behaving, both personally and in relationship. (Positive things to start, and negative things to stop).
- Present your thoughts and plan to the one with whom you would like to rebuild trust.
- Use accountability and other recovery skills that you will need to learn to change your behavior.
- Only once your behavior is changing can you expect trust to be given based on this new trustworthiness.
- Ask openly if your partner has seen and felt the effect of your changes. If yes, then you can begin to ask for your word to be trusted in small amounts.
- If your partner isn’t ready to trust your word, accept this, and continue to build your trustworthiness through supportive actions.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What steps have you taken towards building accountability and trustworthiness?
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.
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.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 8, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com