My husband will not share what happens in therapy

A member writes:

𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘨𝘨𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘣𝘪𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘪𝘴𝘦. 𝘔𝘺 𝘏 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘬 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘺 𝘴𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘥𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴. 𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘨𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘐 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘩𝘪𝘮 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘦. 𝘐𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘺 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘶𝘮𝘢 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰, 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘺𝘦𝘥…𝘦𝘵𝘤…𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘮𝘦. 𝘐𝘵 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘵 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴, 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘮𝘦…𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴, 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘭𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭…𝘢𝘮 𝘐 𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘰𝘵𝘩 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺?”

There are several things about this I want to point out:

I also had these exact same thoughts and fears. This comes up often in my groups and coaching. It’s common for us to have these thoughts about their therapy, that lead to difficult emotions.

In my case, (and many of my clients also agree) what we're really looking for, is safety.

There’s a thought that says, “𝘪𝘧 𝘮𝘺 𝘩𝘶𝘴𝘣𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘥𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘰𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘢 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘪𝘴𝘵, 𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘰𝘳𝘴.”

Followed by, “𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 ‘𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵’ 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘪𝘴𝘵/𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘭𝘺?” and more questions that are looking for, “𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥?” There’s also “𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵’𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘴 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘵𝘩 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘺𝘢𝘭.”

There were several problems with this line of thinking for me, and I’m going to assert that it was a cognitive distortion  on my part, that it would reassure my safety from future deception or wounding.

The cognitive distortions  for me were,

  • Mind reading “He’s purposely not telling me to hide something.”
  • Fortune telling and black and white thinking“If therapy doesn’t work he will relapse/if therapy works he won’t relapse.”
  • Personalization – his therapy is for my benefit
  • Discounting the positive – he’s willing to go to therapy and be present while another person listens to him and gives him feedback. Some women would kill for their husbands to be willing to do that.
  • Fallacy of change – my own recovery and the ability to be happy again depends on another person changing.  I do get that the caveat that deception and betrayal is abuse and our partners must become safe again IF we are to be close and develop trust again, but therapy alone doesn’t make them “safe.” I can still find my own safety by enforcing limited contact and limited vulnerability to him, and do recovery and find pockets of happiness.

I challenge my own cognitive distortions by looking for facts:

  •  He could  get to the root traumas of his behaviors but that doesn’t necessarily mean changed behavior. Having insights about our past doesn't equate to new skills of how to deal with painful or difficult thoughts or increased capacity for difficult emotions.
  • The therapist could teach him better coping skills, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to apply them well immediately out in the world. Until a new skill is learned, installed, practiced and perfected, the old wiring is still going to be all the addicted brain knows to find pain relief.
  • Sometimes therapy will plunge a person into finally facing the darkness for the first time in their lives, and cause more depression, sadness, grief – the feelings they never dealt with and instead using their addiction to act out. Sometimes it comes with their own cognitive distortions as a coping mechanism, or even disassociation for the addicted person. I was asking him to share things, he hadn't yet fully processed himself. Do you want to know your partner’s half baked processing of their most difficult feelings, when they aren’t ‘done” yet? Or are you willing to wait until he's processed it with an expert that will lead him to new insights and better tools? Hearing his cognitive distortions might be more fear-inducing, and cause us cognitive distortions too.

If you’ve ever gone into deep psycho analysis or family of origin “stuff” then you know it's no picnic.

All of a sudden your own sense of reality, and how you make sense of the world and your place in it, and how you relate to family has all been destroyed and now you’re reconstructing it. Again, half baked at any given time.

It can be intensely painful, and intensely personal, and as such, there may be “no words” yet for what's happening there. 

Would you like your spouse to read every journal entry you ever made to yourself, or every post you made here, or email you sent to a friend about what happened in your betrayal and then answer questions about what you wrote from a man who is overtaken with fear of rejection and abandonment that you'll leave him over this? ? (Some ya’ll are badasses and will answer, “𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘺𝘦𝘴!”, but just please stick with me for a minute, so I can make my point. )

So where does real safety in our relationships come from?

Not from a therapist, group, or workbook. Not from step work. Sorry if I’m popping your bubble- but it doesn’t.

  • It comes from knowing how to retreat to the sanctuary of your sacredness if things start to feel unsafe. Boundaries.
  • How we behave with one another, for one another with integrity.
  • How we communicate, what we communicate, how often we communicate.
  • Being able to make requests ( for example, “I need to see behavior that shows you accept me for who I am, as I am, and that you choose this relationship first, over others, over work, etc. ) observing whether those requests are met or not as data while still holding mindful, self-compassionate boundaries for ourselves.
  • It comes from learning how to function securely as a couple, as taught in EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy,) or by the work of Dr. Jake Porter over at Daring Ventures who includes EFT and attachment theory in his Couple-Centered Recovery work.

Yes, I know addicted people struggle with relationship skills early in recovery. Living in their addiction, they’ve turned inward, self-protective and defensive, become introverted and self-centered in their thinking and don’t have the skills or capacity yet, to branch out into thinking about how to step into someone else’s world.

But they can start – with education (EFT) and you making requests for what you need, for example for checkins like FANOS. You can make it a boundary, that in order to feel safe, he initiate on a regular basis and frequency you both feel comfortable with.

Please don't make the mistakes I did, and insist on hearing what happened in the therapists office, as a significant indicator for “𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘴𝘢𝘧𝘦 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘳 𝘯𝘰𝘵?”. It's entirely possible that it's completely unrelated.

Dig into your needs and make requests for what you need to feel safe, and then observe THAT BEHAVIOR as “data” about whether he’s becoming a safe person or not.

Turn those requests into boundaries if you're not getting what you need, so you can self-care and stay grounded in your own self compassion. Teach others that you're not fully available – to those who don't make themselves fully available. 

What requests can you make that will help you feel more connected to the new version of your recovering husband?

Boundaries support group. Master Boundaries, get support for boundaries to guard against gaslighting, blame, denial, minimization, manipulation and isolation.

* If this website, or any part of our private, tightly moderated Facebook Group has helped you, you can encourage me to continue publishing helpful content by Buying Me a Cup of Coffee for as little as $3.

I use your donation continue my training and education in recovery from betrayal trauma, sex addiction and coupleship recovery.

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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