Couple's Self-Help Workshop: Orientation
Welcome to the Couple's Self-Help Healing Workshop offered through Recovery Nation. This workshop is for those couples who have already made the decision to heal their partnership — be that as friends, parents and/or lovers. It is not necessary that you believe that your relationship can heal, nor is it necessary for you to believe that recovery from addiction is possible. It is only necessary that you are both committed to building a healthy foundation in each other's lives and in yourselves. That you both want to be healthy and both want each other to be healthy. All lessons, exercises and activities within the Couple's Workshop have been constructed with that as the primary goal: to instill a foundation of health where true partnership can be experienced.
Illusions aside, for many of you this will likely be the first time that such a foundation will have existed in your life and so, nothing will be taken for granted. Skills involving areas such as communication, conflict resolution, sexual intimacy and goal management will begin with the mechanical basics and move progressively towards natural implementation and complexity. Unlike the individual workshops, where one's values and boundaries are uniquely established by the individual, here in the Couple's Workshop many shared values will be expressed as universal expectations. Values such as respect, equality, transparency, compassion, empathy, nurturing...these aren't treated as ideals to strive for, they are seen as practical skills to learn and implement. By both of you.
There are two main paths in Couple's Healing: those just starting out and those who have already completed the Individual Partner's and/or Recovery Workshops.
For Those Just Starting Out
If both of you are new (or relatively new) to Recovery Nation and know that you are motivated to work through this traumatic event in your lives together, the path is fairly simple. Comprehensive, painful, rewarding, exhausting, empowering, challenging...but simple. The skills you will develop and how you will develop them will transcend just about all learning curves. Those entering this process with high mental and emotional intelligence should find the same types of challenges as those lacking such ability — the difference will be seen only in the depth and complexity of application. In other words, there are no skills taught that you or your partner will be incapable of developing and implementing. Additionally, the process is laid out so that the progressive implementation of these skills will indeed lead you both not only through the trauma of this event, but to maintain a healthy, empowered relationship beyond this healing process. The only variables within this process are the ones that can be used to predict your potential to heal: sincerity, motivation and effort. It will be assumed — since you are both choosing the Couple's Healing Path rather than two Individual Paths — that you both currently possess sincerity and motivation. And so, your effort becomes the only remaining variable. For everything else, there are answers. Known answers to every obstacle, challenge and threat that lays in your path.
For those couples just starting out, simply complete the lessons in order. As noted earlier, the workshop is progressive and so, the order of learning is important. What you learn in early lessons will be applied in more complex situations later. What you develop in your individual work will be applied and expanded upon in your couple's work. Note now that there is not a single insight or activity shared within this workshop that does not have a specific purpose. Many times, you will not be aware of that purpose until it is revealed through more complex implementation. Many times, you will think you know where a particular function is headed and thus, intellectually go through the motions until you get there. This would be a mistake. Don't underestimate anything — not a single word — that is shared. Not that missing a particular insight or skill will doom your effort, it won't. In fact, if you maintain your sincerity and effort, you will overcome any obstacles — including your own complacency or arrogance. It will just take you longer. And cost you more in terms of what you will have lost to this addiction/recovery.
"How long will this workshop take?"
First, don't make the mistake of thinking that 'this workshop' is the lessons. It is not. The lessons provide you with the map you will need to navigate beyond the trauma and end the addiction. They provide you with the intellectual insights and the basic tools you will need to be successful in this transition. However, the REAL WORKSHOP exists in your day-to-day life. This is where you will both be asked to actually develop those insights/tools into functional life-management and relationship-management skills. And so the question, 'How long will it take?' is deceiving. It is a question that can only be answered by integrating your personal effort in applying what you are learning. For instance, a person in recovery can get from Lesson One to Lesson Thirty in two weeks. That would include reading the lessons and completing all learning tasks associated with it. But how much practical knowledge/experience would they possess after two weeks? Very little. And certainly not enough to then understand and apply the more complex issues in say, Lessons 45-55. On the other hand, that same person completing those same lessons over two months — personally integrating them into their day-to-day life; recognizing that the more they learn, the more they have to apply and the more time and energy it requires to seek out such application; recognizing that experience and personal evolution is every bit as important as intellectual learning — well, that would be two months of progressive, functional learning. THAT is the type of learning that is required to complete the workshop. Not the 'two months', but 'two months spent actively in learning, application and evolution'.
And so, THAT is the standard that the following timeline will follow.
The initial couple's stage (twelve total lessons) should be completed over approximately three weeks. This initial stage will provide the groundwork for organizing, monitoring and managing the healing process for you both — prior to moving into your individual work. There are some emotionally challenging activities in this stage that will require an absolute adherence to the Partner's Contract that you develop — also in this stage.
Upon completion of the foundation work, you will each be asked to move into your Individual Workshops where you will spend between two and four months engaged in building a solid foundation for health. Each workshop has overlap so that, upon completion, you will both have a shared sense of vocabulary, process and tools to evolve in the remaining couple's stages. Additionally, not all of the lessons will need to be completed prior to moving into Stage Three of the Couple's Workshop. For those in recovery, once you have completed Lesson 59 of the Recovery Workshop, you will be ready to move on in Couple's Work. For those partners in healing, you will be ready to move on upon completion of the Fifth Stage of that individual workshop.
Stages Three, Four, Five and Six
The bulk of what remains will evolve two individually healthy foundations into a single, shared foundation (which will include among other things, valuing each other's individuality). These lessons involve taking the more basic independent skills and insights (respect, compassion, intimacy, values, boundaries, etc.) and forging them into more complex shared skills like conflict management, managing ingrained destructive relationship rituals, sexual intimacy, goal management and more. Typically, you should anticipate a three-month investment to progress from the basic relationship-management skills explored in stage three to the deeper skills associated with sexual intimacy explored in stage six. A month less if the foundation for many of these basic skills are already laid; a few months more if they have been severely damaged and/or extreme deficiencies exist. In no case should it take longer than six months. And to clarify this last statement, it may take longer than six months to establish sexual intimacy within your relationship — but it won't be because of the unknown. It will be only through sabotage, ongoing deception, complacency or mental illness.
But what if we aren't sure if we want the relationship to survive? What if one of us isn't motivated?
A few things to consider. First, if either or both of you are unsure if recovery from addiction is even possible; or if either or both of you are unsure if it is possible to rebuild things like trust, respect and intimacy — note that this is normal and healthy. Do not allow these doubts to stop you from committing yourselves to change. To repairing the damage your relationship has endured. It is not important if you have confidence in your ability to salvage the relationship. Ultimately, the survival of your relationship should be a consequence of your actions from this point forward, not a motivational goal. The commitment should be attached to wanting each other to heal. It should be attached to the willingness to sweat, to sacrifice and to hurt — all in the name of health. But only in the name of health; and only when both of you are committed to the pursuit of that health.
On the other hand, if one or both of you are unsure if the relationship is worth salvaging — even if recovery could be assured — then you will follow a different path. If either one of you doubt your love for the other — should addiction/recovery be removed from the equation — then your path will be to begin your healing as individuals, not as a couple. There are many reasons for this, starting with the need for both of you to establish clear, healthy identities so that, should you choose to move forward together, you are making this choice out of desire, not fear. Another potential obstacle in pursuing a couple's recovery when there is doubt in whether or not you want the relationship to succeed is that, without such clarity, subconscious sabotage becomes an issue. The dynamics of the recovery change from two people working together towards a common goal: health; to two individuals testing and competing for leverage — which undermines not only the health of the couple, but each individual as well. Bottom line: if you aren't sure that you are ready to pursue a 'life beyond addiction' with your partner (again, this can involve friendship, parenting or romance), then choose the individual healing and/or recovery path. You can always return to the Couple's Path when that commitment is felt. To choose otherwise is to intentionally place a major obstacle on both of your paths.
For Those Who Have Already Completed the Individual Workshops
For those who have already completed the individual workshops and are now ready to work together to rebuild and/or strengthen your existing relationship, the path will be similar with the following exceptions: if you began your individual workshop after 6/1/2008 but prior to 4/1/2009, there are a few lessons that may look familiar to you. These were deemed so valuable that the decision was made not to hold them back until the full Couple's Workshop was complete. They have now been integrated into the Couple's Workshop with the proper supporting skills/tools in place. You may skip these lessons if you have already completed them SUCCESSFULLY. Additionally, there is one lesson: The Ceremony (third lesson of Stage Two) that you will do PRIOR to moving forward with any Stage Three lessons.
For Those Who Have Completed the Couple's Intimacy Challenge
If you successfully participated in the Couple's Intimacy Challenge offered in the summer of 2008, many of the activities offered in that challenge have been integrated into the lessons of the Couple's Workshop. Some have been altered and additional activities have been added. You are strongly encouraged to repeat these activities as many times as you want — no matter what the current status of your sexuality/intimacy within the relationship. They were constructed to build progressive intimacy within a relationship, but they also serve as excellent refreshers/stimulators throughout that relationship. My wife and I continue to use them regularly for generating playfulness and priority.
To facilitate learning, many lessons are subdivided into areas labeled with (SA), (P) or (SA & P). Areas marked with either 'SA & P' (aka couples) or not marked at all should be read by both of you. Areas marked with 'SA' (aka recovery) should be read by those in recovery from addiction. Areas marked with 'P' (aka partners) should be read by those partners healing from another's addiction. Of course, there is nothing wrong with everyone reading everything…just know that the mandatory insights for each participant have been labeled as outlined above.
Reading about the experiences of another is one way of learning; experiencing things for yourself is another. To ensure that you gain practical experience in implementing the information presented, carefully constructed exercises are presented that will challenge the limits of your awareness and skill. It will be your active participation in these exercises that will aid you in moving your relationship beyond addiction. These exercises will be presented throughout the manual.
Many of the exercises in this book will present the foundation for relationship growth and development. Once you have completed these exercises, you are welcome to submit them for evaluation via the Recovery Nation forums. Please note, because of the large volume of requests for assistance, those who have actually purchased the optional, supplemental coaching package will be given ongoing, prioritized coaching. Everyone else will be provided feedback as coaches/mentors are able.
Gender and Labels
Throughout the workshop, those struggling with sexual addiction will be considered male, while their partners will be addressed as female. This is not to imply that sexual addiction is a gender-based affliction. It is not. At best, it is found more frequently in males, but the destructive consequences for any given individual are genderless.
While the terms husband, wife and spouse are frequently used throughout the text, it should not be inferred that marriages are the only relationships worth saving or that were taken into consideration in the development of this workshop. Sexual addiction equally destroys all partnerships: heterosexual and homosexual, married and unmarried.
Because of the negative connotations that have been attached to the label of 'addict', this site takes the stance that such a label undermines the very identity changes that need to take place in a healthy recovery. And so, except in rare situations, the label of 'addict' is not used. Instead, the reference will be on the person struggling with the addiction, not the addiction itself. There are times however, that such a term is used — but those times are for convenience of differentiating them from their partner only.
Your Biggest Obstacle: Choosing Health over 'Recovery'
The biggest obstacle in rebuilding your relationship will not be your ability to move beyond the addiction, it will be your ability to see beyond the addiction. It will be a tendency for both of you to filter everything — past, present and future — through that addiction. You will rewrite how things were. You will disbelieve how things are. And you will doubt how things can be. This is all natural in the wake of the discovery of a sexual addiction but understand this: the addiction itself is not the problem; it is merely a symptom of the problem. In other words, addiction is not at the root of your relationship's difficulty and recovery will not be the cure.
Let me explain.
Right now, your relationship is very much like a neglected house. From the outside, it may look like it is in beautiful shape (or it may not); but inside, there is mold growing in the basement, the wallpaper in the kitchen is starting to peel and the roof has begun to leak. What's worse, you discover that the wood used to build the foundation of your home was infested with termites long before you even began construction. In your relationship, these termites represent the warped values and life skill deficiencies that led to the development of the addiction. Understand that: the addiction evolved from those warped values/skill deficiencies and perpetuated their further destruction—but it did not create the deficits. Looking at it from another angle, the foundation for the problems that you two are now facing was laid long before either of you met. And note, we are not necessarily talking about childhood abuse or neglect; we are talking about a lack of maturation of healthy life management skills. What you are now forced to deal with are the consequences of that rotten (and rotting) foundation. Like termites, for as long as this foundation goes untreated, it will eventually destroy everything you have built together. You can add a fresh coat of paint or fix the leaky roof (e.g. passively approach recovery), but without addressing the fundamental issues, the house will crumble. In fact, the damage may already be so severe that the only option you have is to either tear down the structure of your relationship and build again; or, end the relationship.
When considering healing from a couple's perspective, note that it is not enough to replace the original wood (the addict's value system). That initial infestation has spread to healthy wood (the partner's value system, the addict's emotional management system) and all of it needs to be repaired and/or replaced. Nor is it enough to remove the termites (remove the warped values, end the addiction); destroying the termites will leave a weak foundation that has the potential to collapse when placed under stress. Nor is it enough to focus solely on repairing the damage caused by the termites. There is mold to eliminate. Wallpaper to smooth. A roof to fix. In other words, it is not enough for you two, as a couple, to merely get past the addiction. There are issues within your relationship that must be addressed as well—just as there are personal issues within each of you that require attention. This is what is meant by rseeing beyond the addiction'. You are not currently engaged in a 'recovery from addiction'; you must commit yourself to a transformation of your relationship.
Ironically, and contrary to what many in the recovery community have come to believe, eliminating the addiction is the easy part of this transformation. This is a frustrating reality for many partners of SA—to see rapid and permanent change in their partners—leaving them incredulous as to why, if change was always this easy, they were forced to endure such trauma. And there are answers to this, but they will be discussed later. For now, let's focus on why it is so easy to end addiction.
The Evolution of Addiction RecoverySo why is it that people can struggle for decades with addiction and/or recovery, then make dramatic and permanent change in a matter of months? It comes down to ignorance. Not ignorance bred out of deception, but ignorance perpetuated by a recovery community that until now, simply hasn't known better. A hundred years ago, if someone wanted to travel a thousand miles across land, they had to walk or ride an animal. Not the most efficient method of travel, but it got them to where they wanted to go. Fifty years ago, a car could make that same trip with much more efficiency. Today, an airplane offers even more efficiency. Tomorrow? Who knows? Molecular transports? Space bending? It is beyond our current social comprehension.
A hundred years ago, if someone wanted to recover from an addiction, they had to force themselves to stop. This isn't historically accurate, as certain bands of 'recovery groups' existed way back then, but they weren't yet a part of the social consciousness and so the point remains. Fifty years ago, if people wanted to recover from addiction, they could use the disease-based, powerlessness-based twelve-step model. The introduction of that model propelled the efficiency in which people could recover. Today, people can use a Health-Based Recovery to end their addictions in a matter of months.
Tomorrow, who knows?
What has been advanced over the past ten years of recovery is that addiction is not based on powerlessness, disease and/or mystery. There is a very logical life transition that must take place and when it does, addiction ends. It really is that simple. This path to health has been laid by tens of thousands who have experienced the same rituals as you two are now facing. What sets them apart is that they have rejected the notion of accepting a lifetime spent in recovery. Of accepting that once an addiction has developed, that they are fated to forever attach the label 'addict' or 'codependent' to their identity. Instead, these men and women have walked the path of a health-based recovery and have rebuilt their houses from the ground up. Some have even turned them into homes.
Applying Today's Knowledge to Today's RecoveryWhat does this mean for your recovery as a couple? Everything. Imagine setting out on a thousand mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean where the only direction you are given is that you must 'sail straight'. That's it. If you sail straight, you will reach your destination. And so you do. For a thousand miles you sail as straight as a person can sail and when you reach the end of your journey, you look around to find that you are far from where you were hoping to be. You did what you were told to and yet, you are nowhere near your destination. What happened?
What happened was, while you may have sailed in a perfectly straight line, your ship was initially pointed in the wrong direction.
Such is the difference between a diseased-based recovery path and a health-based recovery path. In the former, your 'destination' as a couple is perpetual recovery. Your foundation will be built around an identity that is fundamentally flawed. It will lack the stability to sustain a partnership where equality, empathy and intimacy flourish. Where trust and commitment are a part of the foundation, not merely values on a wish list. In a diseased-based recovery, you may have killed the termites but you are using the same rotten wood.
In a health-based recovery, you are tearing down the rotten foundation and rebuilding with healthy wood. You are rebuilding your home so that it will be capable of providing stability and sustaining growth. It will be capable of weathering the strongest of storms. It will serve as a true foundation from which to base the rest of your lives.
What's stopping you from building this healthy foundation? Only you. Everyone is capable of making the changes required in a health-based recovery. The skills themselves are fairly simple and can be absorbed into one's life quite naturally. They take time to ingrain, sure; but the skills themselves can be broken down into such fundamental steps that anyone can learn them. So why then do so many struggle? Perception. There is a perception that needs to be developed by each of you that, once gained, will serve as the glue to holding the insights and skills together throughout the recovery process. For the person with the addiction, it is the belief that they can change. For their partner, it is the willingness to look beyond the addiction and reconnect to what's left of the man inside. To look in their eyes and see humanity, rather than addiction.
Committing to ChangeTo transition a relationship marred by addiction, you will both need to open many doors and choose to walk through them. Doors that are now locked. The key to many of these doors will be your unwavering belief that you can indeed change. Mind you, we are not talking about 'hoping' that you can change. Nor are we talking about change in response to the attitude of 'having nothing left to lose' or 'no other options'. We are instead talking about having a belief similar to the unquestioned faith that some hold towards God. Or, the absence of God. The belief that, 'It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks…this is what I believe and this is how I will live my life.” In recovery, that translates to: “I don't care if others doubt me; I know I will end my addiction—or die trying.” For partners, it is found in the belief that, “I did not choose to be in this situation; I have not prepared myself to be in this situation; and so, I will give myself time to examine my life—past, present and future—and make the decisions that are in line with the things that I value.” It is only by adopting such beliefs that realities are created that simply don't exist otherwise.
The single greatest predictor of your ability to successfully transition your relationship into a healthy partnership will not be the ability to control or maintain abstinence from sexually compulsive rituals; it will be you both recognizing that the ability to heal/change is within your own control. This is not an easy belief to embrace. Not in this brainwashed era of 'once an addict; always an addict'. Or in the face of being told that as a partner of an addict, you are diseased as well (e.g. 'codependent'). To believe that healthy change is possible, you have to believe that you are both inherently good people. You have to be able to isolate the addiction from the man, and the addiction from the relationship. Not now, that is too much to be expected given the emotional volatility of early recovery and how much of an influence this addiction will have had on both of your perceptions; but at some point, this ability to isolate the addiction will need to occur. You have to recognize that your relationship has not/is not/will not be founded on addiction and/or recovery; but that it has been, in essence, taken hostage by it.
(SA — required reading for those in recovery)
Giving up ignorance and embracing weaknessThis means you will have to give up the comfort of ignorance—such as, when you begin your individual work, you will learn that there is no such thing as a true 'compulsion' that forces you to act. That what has been labeled 'compulsive' is little more than an intense emotional urge that, with insight and experience can be managed effectively 100% of the time. Acknowledging this is the equivalent of performing as a magician while first telling the audience how all of your tricks will be accomplished. In other words, you will not be a magician for long. It's the mystery that drives the audience, just as it is the mystery that drives your addiction. And just like magic, there really is no mystery at all. The compulsive rituals that make up your addiction are instead a logical series of actions that you will soon be mastering. So, by giving up your ignorance, you are also giving up your willingness to continue to deceive yourself. To give up feeding the addiction with the knowledge that, soon, it will die. That's a scary (and courageous) thing to do.
You will also have to give up the notion that your addiction is more powerful than you are. Your values may currently be weak; but they will strengthen rapidly. To achieve health, you have to embrace the opportunity to take responsibility for your life: what you have done, what you are doing, what you will do. This will require courage on our part. It will require faith that, while you may not know how to change, you have no doubts about your sincerity to want to change.
But what if I can't change? What if I don't know if I want to change?
Now for the more difficult issue: whether or not you can change. The fact is: you will change. That's not because HBR is some magical program that will transform you—it is because you are a human being. And in being such, you are enslaved to the laws that define human nature. Human nature dictates that change is inevitable. So, you will change. The question then becomes, how will these changes occur? Will you sit back and passively wait for your life to adjust to your current situation? It will—one way or another. Or will you take a proactive role in defining the changes? You can—and dramatically impact your life.
So you know that change is inevitable and you know you have the ability to directly impact what change occurs. The next question is the jackpot question: “Can I live without my compulsive sexual rituals? Without my addiction?” And to this, you just don't know the answer. You can't know the answer. Nobody knows the answer to this question when they first start out. It would be like asking a man whose legs were amputated whether or not he will run again. The desire may be there, but the ability is not. Yet, some go on to run in spite of this uncertainty. Why? What's the difference between those who do and those who do not succeed? The answer is 'choice'. They commit themselves to run again and come to see any obstacle in their path as a challenge to overcome. Were they certain they would run again? No. Life has its limitations. The only thing that they were certain of was that they would never run again if they didn't commit themselves to doing so. They risked failure. They made themselves vulnerable by pursuing not what they knew they could achieve, but by pursuing what they wanted to achieve.
You are at this place now. You are faced with the choice of pursuing a perpetual recovery/relapse cycle to manage your addiction; or pursuing a permanent transition to a healthy life. Are you guaranteed that healthy life should you choose to pursue it? No, you are only guaranteed that your life will be less than what it could be otherwise. That your relationships, your legacy, and your life will never reach their potential. So if you haven't done so already, look inside yourself and make the choice to develop a healthy life. Risk failure.
(P — required reading for partner's of those in recovery)
Seeing beyond your partner's addictionIt's natural for someone who discovers their partner's sexual addiction to embrace that addiction as the trigger for all that is wrong. If the decision has already been made to end the relationship, then this approach is sufficient. “He wasn't the man that I thought he was; I could never love a man that has done the things that he has done” is a sufficient reason for terminating a relationship. It doesn't matter why he did these things. “He did these things. He hid them from me. I am done.” You have that right. But if the decision has been made to try and heal the relationship (whether or not eventual reconciliation occurs), then you are being confronted with a most pressing reality: his addiction is not the problem. It is a symptom of a more fundamental problem relating to how he has learned to manage his life.
Granted, the addiction has caused direct damage—and very likely, substantial damage—to you, to your partner and to the relationship. All of this damage will need to be assessed and repaired—and scars will remain. But know too, that there will be lasting scars whether you choose to rebuild the relationship or not. It is an inevitability. And so, as a partner, you are faced with the challenge of willingly giving up the high road (as the moral, healthy individual) so that you can join your partner as an equal in first, rebuilding your lives (with eliminating addiction as one part of that process); and second, rebuilding your relationship by establishing shared values, boundaries and goals.
Another challenge you face is to shift your perception from 'my partner and his addiction' to 'my partner and I'—with addiction existing as an external, isolated behavior pattern. This is especially difficult given that it is likely that your partner has not yet separated that addiction from his own identity. Still, it is a necessity. Your partner is not his addiction and a permanent transition to health requires that you both come to understand this. But again, it is not necessary to feel this now. As you work towards your own healing and as your partner works to instill a healthy foundation, this awareness will come.(SA & P — required reading for both)
Making the choice to rebuild togetherUnderstand that at this point, it is too early to know whether or not your relationship will survive. You may both want it to, but unless you are willing to settle for living on a foundation of rotting wood, it would be unhealthy to have already made the decision that it will survive. Building a healthy relationship out of the ashes of addiction will take a phenomenal effort on both of your parts. It is hard enough to build such a relationship given two healthy adults, but replace one of those healthy adults with a shell of a man; the other with a traumatized woman whose values have been shattered and you can see the task at hand. It is a task that cannot be accomplished alone. It will take both of you fully committing yourself to rebuilding the relationship to even find out if the relationship can survive the trauma it has endured.
That is an important realization to make. Without both of you making a full commitment to rebuild, some of the doors that need to open for the relationship to survive will remain closed. The relationship skills that need to be developed will remain inadequate. The shared values that need to be strengthened will remain weak. As individuals, you may very well have overcome the addiction and the trauma, but as a couple, you are no closer to partnership than you were. For example, let's say that one area that needs improvement in your relationship is communication skills. Specifically, as a partner, you need your emotionally aloof spouse to be more vulnerable in sharing his emotions and you need him to initiate more meaningful, spontaneous conversation with you. This type of skill development cannot occur on an island—it will take both of you working on it together. Imagine his initial efforts to improve his communication skills being met by you with resentment and/or belittlement. It will be like the turtle struggling for weeks to get up the courage to come out of its shell, only to be whacked on the head with a two-by-four the second his head is clear. A healthy partnership cannot be developed unless you are both actively pursuing it.
Exercise OneIf you are new to the site and have not already completed your individual workshops (up to Lesson 59 in the Recovery Workshop; up to stage six in the Partner's Workshop), complete the following:
1. Write a letter to your partner that discusses every sexually compulsive and/or destructive behavior you have engaged in. Include in this letter all affairs, lies, broken promises, etc., that you can think of relating to your sexual addiction. This letter will NOT be seen by your partner — ever. And so, if there is a key-stroke program installed on your computer...write this letter by hand.
2. Once you have written out every major incident that you can recall (details aren't necessary, but make sure you don't intentionally leave out people, places, activities or things due to shame, fear of discovery, laziness, etc.), go over that list once more. Purge yourself of ALL sexually compulsive and/or damaging events. If you have been molested, add it. If you have been raped, add it. If you have fantasized about homosexual encounters — though have never and would never engage in one, add it.
3. If you are in coaching, consider sending a copy of this list to Coach Jon (either through the mail or PM) to be used in individual recovery work. This is optional, however.
4. If you want to share this letter with your partner, don't. If you want to use it as a tool to show your sincerity and transparency, deny yourself this option. If your partner demands to see it, refuse. The effectiveness of this activity is directly related to the absoluteness that this letter will NEVER be seen by your partner.
5. Seal this letter (put it in an envelope, tape it, etc.) and keep it hidden for three days. At the end of the third day, don't open it. Simply look at it and ask yourself, 'Is there anything that I have done that I have intentionally left off of this letter out of fear of it being discovered, to protect my partner or to protect myself?' If the answer is no, take the letter and destroy it. If the answer is yes, give yourself the opportunity to try this exercise once more. Open the letter and add what needs to be added. If you still choose not to, inform your partner that you are not yet ready to recover as a couple. That you are not willing/able to value partnership above self-preservation. Let her know you will be pursuing an individual recovery path for now.
Note: You should continue on with your lessons over these three days. Do not suspend your work.
1. Regarding the letter above, do NOT search for it. If you come across it, do NOT open it. If your partner requests for you to read it, refuse.
2. If you find yourself ruminating and/or obsessing about what might be on this letter, allow yourself to feel the anxiety and pain of these ruminations. Informally compare their intensity to the intensity of other ruminations/obsessions relating to your partner's behavior (no need to document these, just explore them if they exist).
3. If you find yourself feeling 'the right' to read the letter because of all the pain you have been forced to endure, deny yourself this right. Place your commitment to health above your need for self-comfort and/or control. Recognize that while self-control is a major objective in your healing process, there are unknown elements in play that you must trust. That you must make yourself vulnerable to. That there is risk to your commitment to recover as a couple and that you are willingly taking that risk.
4. While it is not unusual to experience even a strong urge to see this list, if you find yourself going beyond that urge — if you find yourself actually demanding to read or searching around for it under the belief that you have the right to know such truths — then inform your partner that you are not ready to pursue recovery as a couple. That you must first pursue your own individual healing process.
Summary: This activity tests critical pieces of your current mindsets and abilities. The purpose for the writer is not to relive their past; nor is it to generate shame. It is to test their willingness to be completely honest with themselves and, to prioritize that honesty above fear and risk. For partners, this activity serves the purpose of establishing that, while you do indeed have the right to such information, there are certain things in early recovery that are more important for the welfare of you both than to have every spontaneous urge/need fulfilled immediately. For partner's who have experienced such a traumatic event, there is a tendency for that partner to adopt destructive and sometimes debilitating coping skills. This workshop will help you avoid/minimize those obstacles — with your willingness to trust. Without it, the path to health should be an individual path — as it will pose far fewer dangers for you both.
If you have already completed the majority of the individual workshop lessons
There is no need to complete the activity above. However, you will each need to gather the following material and post them in your thread. If you are involved with Couple's Coaching, you will want to post these materials in your Couple's Thread — NOT your individual threads.
a. An updated vision for the life that you are leading (this may require no effort at all if your current vision established in your individual workshop is accurate)
b. An expansion of your vision in the area involving partnership (specifically focus on two areas: what you hope to experience within your partnership over the next year; and, in looking back on your life from the point of your death until now, what challenges, experiences and memories you hope to share with your partner)
c. A simple list of the likely obstacles that are/will be standing between you and enacting this vision. (Think current or likely future obstacles only; such as inefficient communication rituals, alcohol, lack of forgiveness, etc.).
d. A simple list of goals that you have for the remainder of your life. (Important goals that you feel the need to accomplish to experience a sense of fulfillment in your life. Don't leave any out. If there is something that you feel that you must experience, list it. For instance, I know that at some point in my life, I need to spend a year or more in the mountains—surviving off the land. Even if it kills me, it's something I need to do to feel like I lived the life that I wanted to live. What do you need to experience—if anything?)
e. A simple list of the goals that YOU BELIEVE your partner feels the need to accomplish in the remaining years of his/her life (Don't ask for these, share from your current knowledge base)
f. An updated list of your top ten practical values (the areas of your life that you currently derive the most meaning and fulfillment from)