How Do I Know if My Sex Addict Spouse is Really in Recovery?

“How do I know if my sex addict husband or wife is really in recovery?”

Why do we ask this? Because we've been deceived so many times, we can't be sure of what's truth and what's deception coming from a sex addict.

Our husbands' or wives' word has lost its worth. A person's actions, is where their truth is.

We've heard the promises before, only to see them broken repeatedly.

We see others who are really in recovery, apparently happy and more connected. What evidence is there that shows me they're really working towards healing and recovery? How do I know?

 Sobriety alone is not, “recovery”

Without real recovery, sobriety is usually short-lived and tenuous at best.  Because recovery comes in waves for addicts. We're deciding to gift our spouse with forgiveness and reconciliation, but only if they get into recovery. Real recovery.

So, after so many fake or failed attempts, what does real recovery look like?

🔴 First it's the, “white knuckle”, or “dry drunk.” “I can do this on my own” – which doesn't work. They may be “sober” for a while, but that doesn't mean recovery, which prevents relapse. They may be pushing against the addiction label and say, “I'm not that bad.” Some have what's called, “terminal uniqueness” which means they think recovery works for other people, but they're special and it doesn't apply to them.
💛 Then it's the “I can do this for you to make you happy”. They go to therapy and meetings for show but nothing is changing internally.  Which doesn't work because they aren't doing it for themselves. They do it for you or to make it look like they're doing recovery.  Maybe they don't have access to a real recovery resource like a CSAT,  or take advantage of a full recovery program and just “check off the list” a few recovery items. They may even offer to have monitoring on their devices to “show” us they are in recovery and on good behavior. However they often just become better at hiding their addiction to objectifying and lust. 
🍏 Then after they relapse a few times because the approaches above just don't work. We lay down the boundary of “real recovery or we're done”, or they hit some other “rock bottom” and seriously see, “I can't control my addiction any longer.” They finally embrace real recovery for themselves.  And it shows in their behavior. 

A sex addict in a real, heart-felt, heart-change recovery will do this more:

There's no checklist, of either/or behaviors. None of these will happen overnight, and they may come easily for him one day, and then difficult the next.

Progress, not perfection is the goal. This is an addiction we're dealing with.

You can't tick off a list, and change – as we will know too, if we struggle with weight, drinking, smoking or other behaviors we need to change – change doesn't come by flipping a switch, but by flipping several switches, and repeated attempts at change. Eventually the brain rewires, “and diet creates appetite.” They will come to love their recovery, because it's freedom from the hell of not being able to manage emotions in a healthy way. They will protect it.

  • Has humility, and is humble.
  • Takes ownership and accountability in recovery attempts – therapist appointments, group meetings, reading and writing homework
  • Accepts that recovery is a lifestyle change for life. A lifetime of honesty, working through difficult emotions,  adhering to physical and emotional boundaries. (Bonus points if they are grateful for this change.)
  • Isn't practicing, “image management” i.e., always trying to look like a “great guy”.
  • Shares personal insights from recovery work
  • Is willing to sign off on you being able to check in with his therapist from time to time
  • Willing to go outside of himself for help – not trying to do recovery “on his own”
  • Is eager to rebuild trust by showing transparency and honesty.
  • Doesn't blame you for his addiction behaviors or current bad moods
  • They don't engage in gaslighting
  • Won't criticize you for where you are in your recovery. (Doesn't say things like, “Can't we just move past this?” and the like. )
  • Is willing to do a Full Therapeutic Disclosure as a benefit to his own recovery, and to benefit your healing and the healing of relationship.
  • Doesn't complain about your requests for transparency and safety.  Is eager to  lean in to your emotional needs for safety and is happy to provide them
  • Being emotionally and mentally present, connected and engaged in conversations with you
  • Knows when to “tap out” of an emotionally flooding situation. Makes an effort to resume the conversation when no longer flooded.
  • Initiates check-ins for recovery work updates and sharing emotions and needs
  • Develops friendships with other strong male role models or other men in recovery. Will cultivate healthy relationships, with other healthy males (friends, neighbors, family members, church.
  • Being considerate, kind and patient in thought and deed
  • Tolerates your difficult emotions (this takes time for him – remember addicts are used to medicating difficult emotions, rather than  feeling and processing them in a healthy way. Empathy requires that he “feel” and that takes compassionate guidance from his recovery support team. )
  • Non-sexual intimacy in the form of sharing deep emotions, or boundary-appropriate physical contact, depending on where you are in couple's recovery.
  • Doesn't pressure you to trust, or move more quickly to reconciliation than you're ready for
  • Owns his betrayal behaviors and expresses remorse, without getting impatient, frustrated or angry about you wanting to discuss how his past behaviors have negatively impacted you.
  • Awareness of what his triggers are, and has a process to deal with them in a healthy way
  • Has a relapse plan, and knows exactly what steps he'll take should he be triggered to act out. (Ideally they present this to you at Full Therapeutic Disclosure.)
  • Spends quality time with himself on hobbies or other interests, but does not use it to isolate away from you and family
  • Has more gratitude for big and little things in life
  • More time focused on his “Spiritual” or “inner” life with prayer, or thoughtful meditation
What have you noticed in your spouse that helps you feel confident they're working a real recovery?

What would you like to see in a real recovery from sex addiction? ( See also: What Does a Betrayed Spouse in Recovery Look Like? )

Copyright 2020 by Pam Blizzard

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Pam B.

I'm a spouse recovering from betrayal trauma, with more experience dealing with betrayal trauma than any individual should ever have (28+ years. I went on to complete training in the APSATS Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model. I'm a certified Life Coach and NLP practitioner, and completed the Door of Hope trauma informed peer facilitation training. Currently experiencing post-traumatic growth and trying to help others not make the same mistakes I did, and help others find recovery, healing, restoration, redemption and peace. Turning tragedies into triumphs is my main goal in life. Faithful follower of Jesus, wife to a husband in good recovery, and mom to her favorite college student.

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