Couples Recovery Workshop

Why the Relationship Must Change

A frequent desire shared by those caught in the aftermath of the discovery of a sexual addiction is the desire to get things 'back to the way they used to be'. Back to the way things were before that life-altering, identity-shattering discovery. Before the lies. Before the shock. Before the shame. Back to a time when that relationship was driven by ignorance and illusion. When passion and intimacy helped define the love that was being shared. When hopes and dreams seemed almost too perfect. When their love seemed uncomplicated.

You should realize by now that that is the last thing either of you should want. To go back to ignorance? Illusion? Back to secrecy and deception? Back to being in a partnership but living separate lives? Absolutely not. Going 'back' is not an option. For you, your partner or your relationship. You will for the rest of your life carry the memories of what you have experienced; of what you have endured. And no amount of time or 'personal growth' will change this.

And this is good.

To achieve the healing necessary to re-establish a healthy partnership (or develop a healthy relationship with a new partner), you must embrace the fact that you are not the same person that you once were. That you will never go back to that naive, innocent, weak person. 'Weak' referring to your ability to protect your life through your existing values and boundaries. This applies to both of you equally. For the rest of your life, you will carry the experiences of having been forced through one of the most devastating traumas that a relationship can endure. And you will carry the realization that you came through it with your head held high and your life and values intact. In fact, you came through it stronger than you have ever been. This is an amazing accomplishment that will serve you both well in many areas of your life.

Yes, there was pain. Yes, there was confusion — disorientation, even. Yes, feeling of inadequacy, helplessness, hopelessness may have existed. But in that blur, you found the strength to regain control. You found the courage to stand up and fight for a better life. For a better you. These are good, good things. And they are experiences that will positively influence every relationship you have for the rest of your life.

So, getting your relationship back to the way it used to be? Ridiculous. Your relationship has changed. Every relationship that you will ever be a part of has changed. You have become a smarter, stronger and more aware human being than you have ever been. You have more experiences to rely on. More skills to invoke. Couple these changes with an established value and boundary system and you have as powerful a foundation for true intimacy and partnership as there is. Embrace this change. Cherish it. By the end of this transition, you will have both earned it.

Exercise Twelve

Intimacy Activity: Partnership Scavenger Hunt

Purpose: To help develop shared perceptions and experiences

Rules: Over the next several months, both of you will be engaging in fairly comprehensive and challenging individual healing efforts. It will be easy to lose sight of why you have engaged in this recovery together: that being, you both want to establish from this process a stronger and more capable partnership. Over the next three months, complete as many of the activities as you can. Try to accumulate as many points as you can. Do not allow a single week to pass without consciously engaging in at least one activity from this list. Have fun with the items on this list. Allow yourselves to be silly. Allow yourselves to be romantic. Allow yourselves to venture outside of your normal comfort zones. DO NOT see this as an activity to complete. DO NOT see this as a chore. It is a privilege to have someone to share such things with and so, treat it as such. Seek out ways of enjoying each other.

Scavenger Hunt List

*At night, walk or drive to a secluded place and slow dance with each other for at least two songs. The place you choose must be outside. Describe the situation/list the songs in your Couple's Thread (2pts — 1 bonus point for choosing the songs in advance; total of 3 possible pts)

*Pick a flower (don't buy it) and give it to your partner when they aren't expecting it. Don't leave it for them to find, look them in the eyes as you hand it to them. (1pt each; 2pts total)

*Kiss each other in the snow/rain (or sprinklers). Focus on the silliness, not the getting wet part. (5pts if kiss/embrace lasts longer than five minutes; 3pts if kiss/embrace lasts longer than a minute; 0 pts if kiss is a peck just to check this off the 'to do' list)

*While in public together, find a couple over thirty that are holding hands (1pt)

*While in public together, find a couple over sixty that are holding hands (3pts)

* Playfully pardon someone for a mistake that they have made. This must be a spontaneous mistake that you witnessed. For instance, your partner is horsing around with the kids and a glass of milk gets spilled across the table. Walk over to your partner, gently tap him on the head and pardon him. Then, for fun, do the same with your kids. (1 pt/pardon; max three pardon situations each; total 6 points)

* Take partial lyrics from at least three songs and use them to represent the positive feelings that you have for your partner. Share these lyrics with your partner and in your Couple's Thread (3pts each; total of 6 possible)

* Bake cookies together. Or brownies. Or some snack that requires mixing in a bowl and baking. Must have equal participation to count. (3pts; Bonus 2pts for feeding each other afterwards; Bonus 2pts for licking the bowl clean — together, without either of you using your hands to hold the bowl)

* Make a simple collage/poster that represents at least five good things in your partner and/or your relationship. Discuss with your partner what you added and why. (3pts each; total of 6 possible)

* Play in the mud together. Build a mud castle. Draw mud pictures. Do something to get yourselves muddy (at least). (4pts)

* Find something you own that hasn't been seen in at least a year, yet holds a special memory for you both. Talk about this object together. (2pts)

* Find a positive article (magazine/newspaper) that involves a couple who has been married for more than fifty years (1pt)

* Watch a happy 'family home movie' together. This would be a movie of you, your childhood, your children, your family, etc. (If this movie was produced more than ten years ago: 5pts; otherwise: 3pts.) OR, if no such movie is available, sit down together to look at old family pictures. (3pts)

* While together in public, initiate a friendly conversation with a stranger. This can be as simple as the weather, but BOTH of you must engage in the conversation. Support each other through any shyness/uncomfortableness. (3pts)

* Plant a tree together and name it (5pts). Or, plant a seed/seeds together (2pts).

* Observe someone sneezing in public (both must witness this) (1pt)

* Play or sing as song for each other. (1 pt each; 2 total. Bonus: if you are particularly shy and uncomfortable singing, and you do so anyway — in the face of self-consciousness — 3 pts)

* Observe your partner doing something nice for a stranger/neighbor when they don't realize you are paying attention. Share your observation with them. (1pt each; 2pts total)

* Pet a dog (other than your own) together. Both of you must be petting the dog at the same time. (1pt)

* Observe someone holding a door open for a stranger (1pt)

* Observe someone other than yourselves holding a door open for their partner (1pt)

* Write a poem/short story about a special memory that you and your partner have shared. Seek a memory that you don't think your partner realized how much it meant to you. Don't worry about technical quality, just share from your heart. (2pts; 4 total)

* Purchase a $5 (or less) MEANINGFUL gift for your partner and give it to them. Share what you purchased and why it was meaningful in your Couple's Thread. (2pts each; 4 total)

* Find something that represents your partner at least ten years ago. This may be a picture of him/her, artwork he/she did, a paper they wrote, etc. (If this item has been 'hidden away' for more than five years: 3pts; if this is an item that you just now discovered: 2pts; if neither of these, 1pt)

* Observe a shooting star together (5pts); or, observe a sunrise together (3pts); or, observe a sunset together (1pt).

* Seek out a maintenance chore/responsibility that your partner typically is responsible for and complete it without their knowing (1pt each; 2 total)

Notes about this activity

The idea is not to try to accomplish everything, but to seek out a few items on the list each week. For instance, a walk together through a park or a shopping mall can potentially knock out five or six of these items in an hour. A ten minute spontaneous search through the garage or attic can knock out another two or three. Don't put pressure on yourselves to complete all of the activities; just make the time to have fun with those items you do collect. Upon completion of the individual workshops, you will be asked to summarize the total points that you have accumulated. Just for fun, you will be given a summary of the totals from other couple's who have participated in this hunt, along with some of the awesome and creative things that they did. You will also be asked to create a 'scavenge' of your own, to keep this hunt an ever-evolving source of fun and intimacy for others that follow.

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