Start here: Unraveling the Chaos
YOU ARE NOT CRAZY.
YOU ARE NOT WEAK.
You've been traumatized, and that deserves attention.
"D-Day" - discovery day, the day you found out you have been betrayed. Your are faced with evidence that your partner has been engaging in shocking behaviors - watching porn, emotionally and/or physically cheating by a startling array of methods.
You are traumatized. Confused. Not sure what to think, feel or believe. You don't know what to do or say. You do know, that you're in extreme emotional pain.
You don't "just get over it". You don't simply "forgive and forget". You probably don't know where to turn, and even that feeling is foreign to you, especially if you've always prided yourself in "self sufficiency".
This list was put together by women who are already on the road to recovery. This is, "what we wished we knew on day one", aka "d-Day".
YOU ARE NOT "CRAZY"
- Though you may feel confused, off-balance, not sure of what is real or not, this is a very common feeling among spouses of people who have been betrayed by infidelity, or problematic sexual behavior. Out of guilt, fear, embarrassment or shame, the addicted persons become masters of deception and manipulation and know how to make you doubt your sanity or perception of reality. This is called crazy making or gaslighting. It's not you.
BOUNDARIES FOR YOUR EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL SAFETY
- Most addicts, especially sexually addicted people, have a problem staying within boundaries. One of our most profound human needs is for safety and stability, and a betrayal from the person who was supposed to be there for you no matter what, can make you feel unsafe and unsure of just about everything. Setting rock solid boundaries can provide a sense of strength, autonomy, choice and therefore safety and stability. Nothing gets inside your boundary, that you don't allow. Your safety, and sense of control of your world is key, to your recovery and ongoing relationships. You can join our special Boundaries for Clarity and Peace, a boundaries education and support program specifically designed for wives of sexually addicted men here.
To get a quick start on boundaries with sex addicts use the form on this page to download, "Boundaries with Sexually Addicted Spouses" right away.
RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE
- You're reeling now and your world is upside down. It won't always feel this way. Maybe you feel like you don't know what's real, and what's not. Not only do you doubt your partner, but you're doubting yourself and your own ability to discern truth from lies, safety from fear. You're not alone, and it won't always be this way. There is a way up from this, through your own recovery, whether you stay in your relationship or not.
KNOW IT’S A ROLLER COASTER
- The emotions brought about by significant partner betrayal are extreme. It’s the same trauma as if you were in a live battlefield, or a violent accident. You are likely suffering triggers, physical flashbacks, and feel that your life — and self — as you knew it has been shattered. Give yourself some grace, and patience, and don’t beat yourself up for the sadness, depression, anger, fear, physical effects, and the confusion of still feeling love for your partner. You could feel “ok” one minute and crash the next. That’s common and over time, and with recovery efforts, you will feel differently and go through different phases. You will not “feel” a certain way, forever, as it sometimes feels.
Jumpstart your boundaries with your sexually addicted spouse:
Boundaries with Sexually Addicted Spouses Quick Start
- A 12-page PDF to get you started with boundaries, written especially for spouses of sexually addicted partners.
- Boundaries are the first key to recovery, for you and your sexually addicted spouse.
Get one on one coaching and mentoring rom an experienced partner who has been where you are now and recovered peace.
FOCUS ON YOUR OWN HEALTH FIRST
- FOCUS ON YOU and YOUR HEALTH (not the addict) - this is hard, but not impossible. It's hard to turn your attention away from the person whom you the love the most, and who hurt you the most, but this is the fastest route out of the pain. You must focus on your own feelings, your own self care, your own safety, your own security, and not look to your partner for relief. His illness got you both here, it's not likely he can do anything of real value yet, to help. Put yourself first. Learn about boundary creation, and enforcement, to create a feeling of safety. Your therapist will advise you on how to stay *safely* connected to your recovering partner, if that's what you desire.
KNOW YOU’RE A TRAUMA SURVIVOR
- Experts are starting to understand that we have been traumatized by the shock and surprise of the level of betrayal and deceit. You’re going to experience fear, unwanted thoughts and images, and at times, obsessive thoughts and be “triggered” by places, images, songs, photos, and even your spouse. You’re not crazy, you’re scared, but it's going to be ok. Speak to your therapist about trauma therapy to navigate the triggers and symptoms. EMDR is a therapy that has only requires a few sessions, and many betrayed spouses report is extremely effective.
- You're probably feel embarrassed, ashamed, and not sure who you can tell. We can assure you that you don't have to feel embarrassed or ashamed, because you didn't create this problem, and you could not have controlled it, even if you knew about it all along. End your isolation. Start to build a support system of people. Find support groups such as S-Anon, COSA or a church group that sponsors Celebrate Recovery, that supports partner recovery. Facebook groups, such as our private group (contact us for the private link) Recovery Nation, or Bloom for Women, for betrayed partners. Get hope, resources and support from others who have recovered from the effects of their partner’s sex addiction. Recovery IS possible. You WILL feel joy and peace again, regardless of whether your partner chooses recovery or not. We currently have book based, study support groups here. I also provide one on one coaching and mentoring
RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE FOR THE SEX ADDICT AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP
- You're in shock and may be very angry - completely normal under the circumstances, and may also feel conflicted about your partner. You don't stop caring about the person you fell in love with, and joined into committed relationship, just because you've suffered a betrayal. You may be wondering, "how do we fix this?" Please know that many people have learned how to truthfully recover from all the behaviors that come with sex addiction: deception, betrayal, sexual acting out, denial, anger, isolation and more, and become safe and loyal people. Recovery is about understanding the root cause of what the addicted person is trying to medicate, and replacing those thinking patterns with healthy coping skills. Recovery is possible for those who want it, and many couples report that in their mutual recovery (the addicted, the betrayed and the relationship) their personal lives and relationships are even better than before "discovery".
MARRIAGE COUNSELING IS NOT THE IMMEDIATE ANSWER
- Sex addiction and betrayal are not caused by issues in the marriage, it is an individual's abuse problem. Until the betrayer gets counseling for his root issues, and until you get trauma treatment, and both of you experience healing and growth, neither of you are fully able to participate in a healthy way in marriage counseling. Once you each have your own individual counseling in place, consider marriage counseling with a CSAT or counselor who is well versed in sex addiction, or infidelity and partner trauma. Arranging therapy for separate, individual counseling with specialized therapists should be on the first to-do's on your list.
GET AN APSAT TRAINED THERAPIST FOR YOURSELF; A CSAT FOR THE SEXUALLY ADDICTED PERSON
- An APSAT (Association of Partner of Sex Addict Trauma Specialist) is trained and experienced in how your partner's sex addiction or compulsive sexual behavior has affected you, and partner trauma recovery, and can advise on the best practices for a good recovery for you. Because they understand the addiction and its effects, they understand the partner experience more than just a standard therapist with no experience.(Your partner will be best paired with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT)
If you can’t get an APSAT trained or CSAT, look for therapists who understand addiction, PTSD, relational trauma, emotional abuse, intimacy disorders, attachment disorders, EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.) I completed a training in the APSATS Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model, and I can help you get started on your recovery program right away. I am also a recovering partner, and my husband in recovery have 3+ years in a solid recovery. We fully enjoy a healthy, recovery lifestyle.
- There’s many myths, paradoxes and misunderstanding about sex addiction, even in the therapy world. Read books about sex addiction, betrayed partner recovery, trauma, attachment injury, listen to podcasts, talk to others who have been there. The cause of sex addiction behaviors is not rooted in sex itself, but in the need to escape difficult emotions. A recovery lifestyle is possible, and there are many examples of individuals and couples who have recovered, and found gifts in recovery.
- A 12 step program will support you in your day to day recovery, in addition to therapy. A 12 step program encourages you to you to have excellent self care without guilt; to take personal responsibility for your own healing, and avoid “victim” mode. 12 step programs provides educational and inspirational literature and other tools to help you navigate your personal recovery.
12 Step programs are not a replacement for therapy, for the sex addict, or the betrayed partner, but can be a great adjunct to therapy. *Important note: You may have heard that S-Anon "uses a codependent or co-addict model". This is untrue. S-Anon doesn't promote the idea that we are codependent or that anything we did, caused us to be attracted to the addict. In fact it teaches just the opposite, that we are not to blame. While other 12 step groups may use these terms, S-Anon stays far away from placing any blame from the betrayed spouse and doesn't mention those terms anywhere in their literature.
NO MAJOR LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS
-Because you are probably in shock, and experiencing extreme emotions, do not make any major life changing decisions quickly, like divorce, or moving out (a therapeutic separation may help, but is very organized and planned.) Shock subsides, and emotions do change. Many people who make life changing decisions during such an emotional time may regret those changes later when the strength of those emotions subside. If you are in a dangerous situation, get the help of qualified therapist to support and guide you into a more reasonable, safe situation.
- Therapeutic separation is a physical separation to create safe boundaries, and healing as individuals for the purposes of coming back together as a couple, and can be instrumental if you want to salvage the relationship. Because emotions are so high, and enmeshment is common in addicts, it’s healthy to “go to your opposite corners” where you can be sad, cry, scream, and vent out all your emotions without adding unnecessary shame and trauma to the addict. It allows you to set healthy boundaries for yourself, and reclaim, “you” that we so often lose in relationships where addiction is present. It’s healthy for him to go somewhere by himself, so he can begin his recovery work, unhindered by your strong emotions, and he can also begin to reclaim his authentic self, who he is without his addiction. If you can’t afford separate residences temporarily, you try an in-house separation.
GET AN STD Test -
- Because of the progressive nature of the disease, and the secrecy and distortion used by the addict to protect their disease, we have no idea in the beginning of the full extent of our spouses behavior. Addicts become very skilled in deception and may have claimed that they haven't physically cheated, but please don't take their word for it. To be safe, ask your medical provider for a full work up for STD’s. If you trust your provider, it’s a good idea to be honest about why, so they can also become part of your support system. We know this can be very hard to do, but it's vital to your safety.
INSIST YOUR PARTNER GET AN STD TEST
- Before you resume any physical relations, have your partner get a full panel STD test and see that the results are clear. Insist that you be present when the results are made available, and that he does not open them without you so the results can't be faked. Addicts will do almost anything to avoid shame, embarrassment and responsibility and may try to rush to prove that he's a safe person, but still be practicing dishonesty to avoid consequences.