Whatever you are feeling as you discover this betrayal, it has been a familiar experience to others before you. You are not crazy or overreacting, or underreacting. Allow yourself to be where you are right now. “Betrayal trauma shakes the foundations of our beliefs about our safety in our marriages and it dissolves our assumptions about trusting our spouses.”
There are some really important things to know as you try and figure out “what on earth I should do next”! Let’s walk through them together, and as we do I would encourage you to move slowly and consider what you need the most.
Understanding It Isn’t You!
One of the first questions we ask ourselves is “why would they do this to me?” It comes out in many different questions, but ultimately leaves us considering what is wrong or deficient in us that caused our spouse to betray us. I cannot emphasize enough, that it isn’t you! You have been deeply offended, but you aren’t the reason.
There are of course relationships with pain and discord, but this never justifies the action of betrayal—that is solely the choice of the betrayer. Their actions were, or are, one of many ways to engage previous issues.
It is critical to remember that if you are in a relationship with an addict they will be acting self-centered. Addicts frequently justify their actions and are in denial. Whatever reasons they have for the betrayal, it isn’t likely to be the full picture.
Ultimately, an addiction is a “fix it” attempt based on felt needs. An addict may say incredibly hurtful things like “well, you have let yourself go”, and (even if it is true) is focused solely on one aspect of the issue. Sex addiction warps the focus of the addict to an ever increasingly sexual comparison.
Bodies become objects and open for consumption and comparison. This isn’t the reason for the addiction, but a symptom. There are many more examples of addicts self-focus I could give, but remember—it isn’t you! The addict has chosen their path to solve their issues.
What Does Safety Look Like
Tell your spouse you know. You may need support to do this, but confront them in as even a manner as you can. Do not take responsibility; do not let them off the hook—no matter what excuses they supply. Tell them you will be taking this very seriously and expect them to do the same, which includes a program of recovery.
Start thinking about your safety. What boundaries do you need to set up with your spouse for your sake? For example:
- If I find you using pornography again, I will ask you to sleep in the basement for three days to give myself space.
- If I see you looking at other women in public, I will immediately leave you there and return home—I will not tolerate feeling demeaned in this way.
- If there is another instance of extra-marital physical contact, we will separate and I will be filing for divorce.
How Can I Keep Self-Respect?
Rage and sorrow are appropriate to communicate—yet our expressions of these can happen in such a way that the addict doesn’t hear them or uses them as fuel for their own self-pity. Do your best to communicate your needs in a non-threatening way so that you can be heard! That is the goal. Self-respect may also require you to ask yourself regularly “how do I handle this so that I feel ok with myself afterwards?”
Do You Need a Disclosure?
Learning to trust an addict takes time and healing, this can be facilitated by using a disclosure process. This is where an addict honestly admits what their actions have included. At this point, you have an open baseline to start rebuilding from. This isn’t to be rushed into out of curiosity, but out of the desire to rebuild.
This process stops the offenses and pain going “underground”, which might seem desirable at first, but will further secrecy and emotional pain will go toxic. If you are to heal yourself, you need to know what you are healing from and have a way to know that the footing is solid. A disclosure shouldn’t include traumatizing details about specific sexual acts—this will only get burnt into your mind’s eye!
For a guide to this type of disclosure, see “21 movements towards life”, a complete guide to sexual addiction recovery which can be found at www.stopsexualaddiction.com.
Recognize Your Need for Comfort and Support
As people we need physical, practical and emotional support. Actively plan how you can receive the care you need from trusted friends, relatives etc. Asking for help doesn’t disrespect or harm your marriage—that has been done by the addict! Make time to nurture yourself to remain in health. You will need to guard sleep, eat well, take baths, and practice pleasurable activities (even if you don’t feel like it).
Lastly I want to mention the ugly and often unthinkable—testing. If you have any reason to think your spouse was involved with someone else, get both of you tested for your own health. Have support from a trusted person in this difficult process.
There is much more that could be written on this difficult subject. Please feel free to contact me for more help and support.
Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!
What resources were helpful for you and your spouse while healing from a sexual addicton?
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.
: Steffens, Barbara. Your Sexually Addicted Spouse. Print. 107.
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 January 5, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com