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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:13 am 
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Dear Dr Steffens,

I've not yet read your book, though I have a copy coming, on order. Among his other acting out behaviors, my husband photographed, filmed and had sex with me, without my knowledge or consent while I was asleep/incapacitated. I have a deep loss of a sense of safety. I sleep poorly, wake up way too easily, am always tired and am emotionally volatile. My husband, children and counselor think I am coping extraordinarily well but I know I am far more labile than I would like. This and my loss of trust in myself, how come I didn't know this was going on for twenty-three years? How can I trust my judgment in people again when the man I picked as husband and father of my children was doing this stuff and I didn't pick it up? How did I misread things so badly?

Like 12peace, my husband lived in such an extremely sexualized world that everywhere I go, I see people, places and objects that he used in the course of his sexual acting out, from brothels to adult bookshops, from our house, to our car to the beach, from ordinary household objects to foodstuffs. I am assailed from every place I turn my head, from this computer I'm using, to our bedroom window where he used to stand and masturbate to passersby. Sexual types that attracted him? Men, women, objects, it was all the same to him. Now those things trigger me, my sadness, regrets and pain.

Also, now that the truth is out, how much do we tell the children? I don't want them to be scarred by knowing but on the other hand, what if his acting out involved them at times? Or what if they have come across evidence of his behaviors? How to find out without risking more damage? How to deal with any damage if it's been done or if any occurs in the future?

Finally, for all the hours we wasted in marriage counseling, why didn't any of these "highly trained" well paid therapists pick something up? I bared my soul in those sessions while my husband sat, as closed up as a clam. When I told one counselor that we had a problem with sex, the therapist said that he didn't think we had a problem with sex and closed down all discussion on the topic which gave my husband license to continue to keep quiet on his end. How come these marriage counselors didn't notice the signs?

These are some of the issues that concern me at the moment. I look forward to reading your book.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:49 am 
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My dear Dr. Steffens,
You asked what we would like to see included in your workbook. For me, I think the most important lesson I have learned and continue to relearn is to Listen To My Gut. I could have avoided so much additional pain if i had trusted in my own instincts. In the early days this is so hard, if not impossible to do. Our worlds have been shattered. Our trust in ourselves has been decimated. How can we trust our instincts, our gut feelings, when we didn't even know what was going on? Add the symptoms of PTSD into the mix, the lack of support and adequate counseling and I think it's a testament to our strength that we ever regain some stability.
You asked about therapist horror stories. Had I listened to my gut I might have left therapist #1 much sooner and avoided so much more pain. I don't beat myself up about not understanding the damage sooner. After all, it's generally considered a healthy thing to turn to and trust in therapists when one is in crisis. Amongst all the other unknowns these addictions bring us, who would think that therapy could be a damaging thing?
What damage did our therapist do? After leaving therapy, I wrote a ten page (typed) letter going over the damage and read it to the therapist at our last meeting. She, of course, didn’t agree with any of it and blamed ME. She took no responsibility for any of her actions and didn’t even hand any over to my partner. It was all MY FAULT that we weren’t healing. At that point I knew enough to not take on her nonsense. I felt empowered by telling her face to face exactly what I thought of her therapy.
I won’t print the letter here. Way too long. I’ll try to pick out some of the main points for you. We had weekly joint and individual sessions for nine months.

At the start, she told me she was experienced in addiction therapy and had treated those with pornography addictions. If that statement was true, I pity those poor addicts and their partners. She told me I was not to challenge my partner’s statements and I was NOT to discuss this as an addiction with him. That was her job and she could do it unemotionally. I had told her all of my discoveries, including his daily secret use of internet porn.I kept waiting for my partner to recognize this as an addiction. I kept waiting for the challenges to come, but they never did. Even when my partner was so obviously being untruthful or blameshifting she didn’t challenge him in joint sessions. I assumed she was doing this in individual, but she wasn’t. In fact, she was accepting the addict’s words as truth. She never got close to the full extent of his involvement with pornography. She accepted his blameshifting as reality. Her attitude towards me definitely underwent a negative change. When I would try to discuss with her the unreality of his statements, she would tell me that sometimes we had to agree to disagree. How can one agree to disagree about such important events that NEVER happened or were warped perceptions due to the addiction? Had I not been so traumatized I think I would have seen the damage much sooner and left.

She kept telling me I had to be patient with the process. Any time I questioned her about what this process was, she would tell me it was constantly evolving. I was a problem because I wasn’t more patient. In my little world, I thought I was being too patient. Despite my misgivings, I hung in there. I told myself she was an experienced sex & addictions therapist. I had to trust her.

Throughout the therapy, my pain was never addressed. I would come into individual sessions and cry my eyes out. I thought she was listening and caring, but she wasn’t. She never once gave me any strategies to deal with my pain and betrayal. I had to figure those things out by myself. The only strategy she gave me was to go to Al Anon as there were no COSA groups in our area. Once again, I was being told that I was at least partly responsible for this addiction that started decades before I knew my partner. I completely reject that idea, but at the time I thought she must be right and dutifully spent months attending groups that told me there was something wrong with me.

Misinformation. So much misinformation. Not only did she not give either of us a basic education or understanding of addiction, she gave us so much information that was incorrect. Most of that was slanted in my partner’s favor. When a therapist gives an addict an excuse to avoid facing their behavior, they’re going to take it.

At 6 months, I separated from my partner. We both continued therapy, but I refused to come back to joint therapy until he was ready to give me full disclosure. At nine months, they scheduled a joint session for that purpose. What a disaster that was. That was the session where the pieces started to fall into place for me and I realized what a bad choice in therapists I had made. She wanted me to accept his statement that he had acquired this huge collection of videotapes, but only watched them once and she was angry with me when I refused to believe this. A high school kid knows better than that. Here was a so called trained professional expecting me to believe this. Nine months of weekly therapy and me “being patient with the processâ€Â


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 Post subject: Training professionals
PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:32 pm 
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I'd like to offer a few encouraging things about training professionals. Currently, the training program for Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (C-SAT's) has my research as required reading for helping partners. That is a move in the right direction. Also, there are a handful of other therapists who are treating the trauma in partners...but only a handful. But I do believe change is happening.

As far as helping to train professionals, I have spoken at several professional conferences and so am getting the word out that way as well. I hope to add a section in the workbook for the professional or group leaders...and perhaps write another journal article in the coming year. Whew!

Maybe my journal article can center on the lack of training and empathy for partners.

I am so glad there are wonderful online support opportunities for partners like Recovery Nation!! What a gift to those wading through healing- and with wonderful support and information.

My next post will be about the broader society and SA....


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 7:12 pm 
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We are fortunate to have some therapists that seek out our site for information and understanding. We have a project that was started by Jon that will help bring HBR to the professionals. It is a software system for professionals that supplies all of the tools we have here plus some that are not finished yet. It is made for multiple users so that a whole office can run off of it. We have training materials mapped out and a plan to go out and train in person those that would be interested. We even have a center that is willing to be the test subjects. But this is nowhere near completion. There is a lot of programming that needs to be done and the materials created. Just as on the home software project, which is to be used to help fund the bigger project. But both are in need of funds and volunteers. These are the two biggest goals Jon had. We hope to have it realized for him.

In the meantime we get the word out by the means we have available to us. And you are all apart of that by helping to spread the word.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:21 pm 
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Hi Dr. Barb Steffens!!! Such a privelage to have you here with us.


LIke some of the other women here I have to say that your book was the very first piece of advice and/or literature that really spoke to me.

I too was seeing my husbands christian CSAT because she also dealt with the partners, supposedly. I have to say that when you come out of therapy sessions feeling even more hopeless and more angry, that should be a HUGE sign that something isn't working. But she made me feel like I was being resistant because of my co dependcy or co addiction. So I kept going thinking it was my stubborness. But the last session I went to she mentioned what her bibilical thought was on divorce when I said I felt I had a right to divorce him. I left crying. It was just truly horrible for me. I was also once asked that if my husband had diabetes, would I leave him? When I said NO she said well why would you leave him with this disease? I was being taught to cater around my husband's addiction in which I 100% did NOT agree with. But because I didn't know otherwise, I tried and tried failing over and over.

I read your book and I swear I wanted to email her the title and tell her.. READ THIS!

I then saw a trauma therapist who definately listened and took a complete different approach. I couldn't keep going to her because of work but once I move, I plan to find another therapist. Turns out that my dissociation isn't me being emotionally unstable or co dependent. It's a real condition in which I was taught proper tools by my trauma therapist to handle.

I am sooo happy that us partners have help like what you have provided. This is truly the hardest thing I've ever been through, hands down.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 8:51 am 
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Wowee!!! What a privilege to have you here, Dr. Steffens! I can echo every word that has been posted here about how much your book helped me. YOU GET IT!!! YOU UNDERSTAND!! I think - no, I know that an essential piece to our healing is to be heard and not blamed. This wonderful site has been great in that regard, and your book took that further in helping us all understand why we can't just 'get over it'. Thank you so much for the effort you put into understanding our experience and putting it in print!

My husband was arrested almost 2 years ago for internet luring and attempted sex assault on a 13-year-old. Thankfully it was a cop and not a little girl. I was totally shocked by this - but then learned that my husband of 20+ years had been having sex - both online and in person - with hundreds of women throughout our marriage. I had no idea in the world. I thought we had a great marriage! Like others have said, as a result of learning all this my faith in myself to trust my gut was totally blown out of the water - and I still have issues around trusting myself that my perceptions of things are real and valid.

I tried to stay with my husband and make it work, but after 15 months decided the burdens placed on me and my children were too heavy to bear. On top of the discovery of my husband's extensive adultery, as a result of his conviction and probation restrictions, we lost everything - our house, our retirement, his job and health insurance and ended up filing for bankrupcy last December. At almost 50 years old, I'm starting all over again.

I know you focus on partners. I wonder if you could expand on helping our SAs have sincere empathy and understanding for what they've put us through. There is some information on this site, which is helpful. My husband also read your book and thought he finally 'got it', but he continued to give me the addict explanations for his behavior - which gave me no comfort. (I wasn't even sure what I was looking for until I read your book!) I tried once again to explain to him what I needed a couple months ago. I recounted the time I was collapsed on the floor sobbing uncontrollably after yet another disclosure. I looked up at his face and it was blank - like he'd totally blocked me out. I told him every time he gives me the addict explanations I feel the same as I did when I looked up at his blank face. I think he tries to understand, but he was never able to give me what I needed without blaming his behavior on his addiction. I'd ask him sometimes, 'How much do you think the victims' families of the people Manson killed care about his terrible childhood? Their loved ones are still dead.' All the explanations in the world do not change the reality of my experience.

We both also struggled with how he could ever make amends to me and our kids. He tells me he's paid a tremendous amount for his behavior and arrest - which he has - but none has been paid to me and the kids. We are now a broken family and we are left to pick up our own pieces.

I no longer feel like his 'getting it' is essential to my healing, but had he been able to 'get it' earlier on I might have been more willing to stick around and make things work. I am past the worst of the anger and pain and now mostly feel tremendous sadness for what we've lost.

To sum up, I'd like to see more in the way of helping our SAs 'get it' (which would help us in our healing) and also how to make amends.

Incidentally, I told the lead counselor at the sex offender treatment place we both went to about your book. It is now part of required reading for the sex offenders in their empathy module. Which is great! But I'd like to see more in this area.

Thank you again for your great work in helping us partners!

Kind Regards,

Patty


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:24 am 
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Not really realated to the thread...just wanted to say pattypp...you amaze me. Your courage and strength are inspiring.

On another note...I agree that having the SA "get it" feels so very important. It's almost a feeling of utter desperation to explain to them the effects of their addiction and behaviour. I felt desperate for him understand my pain and anger. But, yes, after a while that desperation fades. It would still be nice to have that understanding from them, but I think for many of us that never comes - and eventually the time comes where we must accept that, and try to move on.


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 Post subject: Helping SA's "get it"
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 7:42 pm 
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Wow- this issue sounds so familiar....I can't tell you how many women have said how desperately they long for their husband to get it...to understand the devastation and trauma. Some SA's are able to begin to understand, once their own recovery process has begun. I believe some never do, because they are not at the place to have real empathy for someone else. I agree that for many partners there comes a time when they need to let go of the hope that the SA will "get it" and seek the validation for their experience elsewhere.

The most important person to validate my experience is ME. In my own recovery and healing, I had to come to know that my wounding was real- whether or not anyone else ever agreed, believed or empathize with me. That's not easy but it was about self-love and self-respect. I would hope partners would receive validation from friends, family, therapist...but all too often even that doesn't happen. How fortunate that you have found validation and support through this forum- through RN. As you care for, validate and respect one another, you are also validating your own experience.

I do think hearing of the trauma perspective for the partner helps some SA's understand or get it in ways other approaches do not. Compare D-Day to a person's assault, or the day of a traumatic death- sometimes that helps. I find that if I identify the symptoms of trauma and allow the SA to see those in his partner, that can also help. But there is, sadly, no guarantee!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2010 8:32 pm 
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Wow...thank you for your book. I actually just saw it today at the library. I didn't connect it to RN, just had gone there because I was looking for something to read on this topic that would actually be helpful. I was talking to a woman from church on Friday, and she was very nice and just listened to me, but at the end, when I had the hard questions, she was like, "I don't know, I don't know what your role should be" etc. I was also murky about her past with her H--I do not think she actually had it IN their marriage--I think he struggled with it before they were married and had beat it, which is an entirely different animal--somewhat the same, of course, in some issues, but very different in most others.

That said, when I went to the library, it was the only book I could find on porn addiction. And I read it today in one sitting. IT was amazing. For the first time, I felt like, "this book is actually helpful." and "this person actually knows what is going on." I'm not codependent, I'm independent, lol. That label has always made me mad, and also the church saying that you have to stay 'for better or for worse' since he 'hasn't cheated physically (hasn't he? I dont' know)' is sometimes too much to bear. Your book made me realize that there are few people who really grasp the depth of this or what it does to a marriage, and that if I do all I can and still decide to walk away, that is okay. That is not wrong, that is taking care of myself. Now I know there are varying views on this and my intent is not to put words in your mouth or offend others--but that was the biggest thing I got from it--the amount of completely uninformed people out there and the damage that does to spouses and partners, as well as to those struggling with the addiction (not taking it seriously enough).

IS there any way programs can be institued into schools and colleges? I know that's a tall order, just wondering if there is anything out there that does this. I believe strongly that education would be the best way to teach people about this--the real life consequences, and also the best way to impact the industry by taking a stand against it. Is there anything out there? Just curious.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 3:47 am 
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Good Morning Dr Steffens,
I too have read your book and found it very informative and validated my belief that I was/am suffering from trauma following the devastating discovery of my husband's use of prostitutes over a 25 year period, only stopping when his secret was uncovered.

Quote:
Also, there are a handful of other therapists who are treating the trauma in partners...but only a handful. But I do believe change is happening.


Since November last year I have been seeing a therapist who specialises in our kind of trauma. She is one of a very few qualified and experienced therapists in this field in UK. She doesn't have me working on my relationship with my H right now, she has me working totally on myself and how I ended up being in this relationship. We have gone right back to my childhood experiences and joined up the dots. I am almost 61 years old and for the first time ever have an understanding on how I became 'primed' to find the relationship I ended up having with my H of almost 40 years. I understand my own 'acting out' behaviours - and boy I had a few. It's taken me quite a while to own up to these because they don't make me 'look' good. I think quite early on here at RN I admitted to having many failings of my own but I glossed over them afraid to really look too deep. My therapist challenges me to examine everything in detail and to face unpleasant memories.

At our last session she leant me Patrick Carnes - The Betrayal Bond (Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships) - for me this book is more about my early experiences with my parents and extended family. There lies the root of all the problems I faced as a teenager and adult. The sexually charged environment I was raised in was 'normal' for me and I (unknowingly) sought out someone who would fall within my comfort zone. Trauma bonds are very powerful and unless you have an understanding (and very few of us have, why would we need to???) of how they are formed it's difficult to know how to break them.

The situations we find ourselves in now, for some of us at least, have everything to do with our FoO and unless we address our childhood issues we'll go on repeating the same mistakes in future relationships - well, for those who leave their present relationship. For me just addressing the present situation would be like applying a sticking plaster over a graze. When I feel I have resolved and come to terms with my past then I can fully address what's happening now. I know we have to let the past go because we can't change anything. I'm not trying to change my history, I'm trying to understand and learn from it. As I peel away the layers, anger, resentment, pain, fear are lessening and I'm beginning to feel moments of real happiness within myself as I feel compassion and love for ME. I think - hope - this all means that I'll find more compassion and understanding for my husband and we can both leave all our yesterdays behind.

Lizzie.


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 Post subject: FoO issues
PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:57 am 
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Hi Lizzie.
I really appreciate what you said about the importance of looking at family of origin issues.

I have seen many partners who have worked on their family of origin issues prior to their D-day and then after discovery, are told they must to it again- my position is that you work on the current trauma, then look at what earlier trauma may be complicating the current trauma that have not been previously addressed, and then address unhealthy patterns that have formed as a result of FoO issues.

What I'm saying is I think what you are saying- each partner's needs are unique and it takes assessing the specific needs of each partner, and then designing a recovery path based on her needs. For one, it may mean spending a lot of time on childhood and FoO, and for others it will focus solely on the here-and-now trauma recovery.

I hope this is clear. What do others think?

Dr. B.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2010 9:14 am 
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I think it's important for the SA to work on and develope the skills they need to recover from their addiction - and it is equally important (at some point) to work on their family of origin issues. We are each shaped and impacted by our childhoods and it's not only important, but necessary to figure out who we are and how we came to be here, in the place we find ourselves.

Those lightbulb moments of realizing a connection between current behaviour and a past experience is eye-opening and can be freeing experience. Having a deeper understanding of yourself is vital and exploring your past and those experiences is so important. Not to be used as an excuse for behaviour - only as a way to see the entire journey and how it began.

ie: I have issues with shame around eating...always have. When I went to therapy and talked about how my father would serve me dinner it made things very clear. As a child, I usually didn't finish my dinner - so my father would put a single pea on my plate and told me if I finished that pea, I could have another one. After asking for a pea 15 times, I felt angry and embarrassed, so I eventually said I was full..."yes, thank you...20 peas are plenty and now I'm full". Then, I would sneak food into my room to eat alone. Understanding my shame was sooo vital in learning to work on it and move past it.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 4:05 am 
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Partner's Mentor

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My dear Dr. Steffens,
Quote:
I'd like to offer a few encouraging things about training professionals. Currently, the training program for Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (C-SAT's) has my research as required reading for helping partners. That is a move in the right direction. Also, there are a handful of other therapists who are treating the trauma in partners...but only a handful. But I do believe change is happening.

Could you please explain this for me? Is this training program at a state or national level? What is it? Where is it?


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 Post subject: CSAT training
PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:28 pm 
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There is a training program offered by folks affiliated with Patrick Carnes and the training results in a nationally recognized certificate in treating sexual addiction. The organization that provides the training is called the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP).

Their website is http://www.iitap.com/

I hope this answers your question.

Dr. B


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 4:32 pm 
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Quote:
What I'm saying is I think what you are saying- each partner's needs are unique and it takes assessing the specific needs of each partner, and then designing a recovery path based on her needs. For one, it may mean spending a lot of time on childhood and FoO, and for others it will focus solely on the here-and-now trauma recovery.


Dr Steffens, I'm so relieved to hear you say that! I think a lot of the problems in terms of getting help as a partner come from the professionals not treating each partner as an individual in this regard, but applying a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. I exhausted myself trying to 'persuade' my therapist to deal with the 'here-and now', but she literally would not believe me that I had a very nice, undramatic, healthy FoO from whom I got nothing but love and care. For example, I am 34 and my mom just sent me socks through international post because 'it makes me feel good to take care of you.' My father cried during his speech at my wedding. These people are not the explanation of why I wound up with a PA. But I do understand that for many, their FoO and childhood background needs to be examined, processed and understood in order for them to move forward in relationships now. That is why it is so comforting to have a professional acknowledge that this needs to be an individualized process.':g:


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