Couples Recovery Workshop
The Individual Healing Process
In Stage One of the Couple's Workshop, you were exposed to some of the common obstacles/objectives found in working together to heal a relationship from sexual addiction. Over the next several months, you will be pursuing an 'individual' path of healing. Make no mistake though, this 'individual work' will not be done in isolation. You have both committed to working together to heal and so, ongoing communication throughout Stage Two is required. Logically, this is the only way that a partnership can heal; so welcome this opportunity to share your insights, experiences, frustrations, confusions, progress, regression, etc., with your partner openly. The following are general guidelines to follow as you proceed through Stage Two.
What you should do while pursuing your Individual Healing
- Prioritize your healing. This may sound obvious, but all too often it is the person in recovery that receives the bulk of attention and support. You must make your healing a priority in your life.
- Risk failure to achieve success. This doesn't mean that you approach your partner's recovery with recklessness; it means that each action you take relating to that recovery (and your own healing) is done with the expectation of success. With the expectation that your partner will transition away from their addiction and a true, lasting partnership (or at least, friendship) will develop. This can't be done if you hold yourself back out of fear that he will fail.
- Encourage and support your partner's full transition to health. Recognize that there is no downside to his becoming healthy. Whether you stay with him or not, his ending that addiction will ultimately promote your values more than any short-term emotional gains you will achieve from vengeance or seeing him struggle.
- Work at your own pace. Unlike the recovery workshop, there is no absolute path that you have to follow. The lessons are structured to guide you through many of the developmental issues that most partners struggle with. But not all. If you aren't interested in learning about the nuances of your partner's addiction/recovery — don't. Or, if you start to learn and realize that you 'know enough' to be comfortable, don't force yourself to continue just because the lesson is there. Your partner has to learn all of the insights/skills introduced in the first few months of their workshop to be successful. You don't.
- Repair the damage that has been done to your values. When you have healed from this trauma, there will be scars; but there should not be open wounds. Make it a priority to repair the damage that has been done through your partner's deception, selfishness and addiction.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to address other issues in your life, marriage that is unrelated to your partner's addiction. Weaknesses in how you manage your life. Destructive rituals that you may be employing. A lack of vision and/or application of that vision. This is your time to heal...take advantage of it.
- Anticipate your partner's complacency. It happens to just about everyone at some point so don't wait for it to happen to them and then react with condemnation. Anticipate it. And when it happens, encourage them to talk about it. Don't force them back into recovery. Don't challenge their perceptions if, while talking, they feel they remain on track. Just share your observations and allow them to take responsibility for themselves. You return your focus to your own health.
- Act on all threats to your value system. Allow no threat to go unchallenged. Allow no boundary violation to go unconfronted. Do this in a way that projects the esteem and worthiness you have established in your values; as opposed to reflecting their inferiority. For instance, if your partner chooses to secretly look at porn and then lie to cover it up — confront this as a threat to your values pertaining to partnership, intimacy, sexuality, etc. Not as their immorality, perversion, weakness, etc.
- Trust your gut. You don't need proof to share concerns or to express doubts. Allow your gut feelings to guide you once more. Often, a partner will feel that their gut instincts have betrayed them in the discovery of their partner's addiction but this is rarely the case. Most likely, it was their refusal to trust those gut instincts or to ignore them that led to the discovery taking longer than it might have otherwise. But this isn't a bad thing. As will be repeated again and again — trusting your partner, loving your partner, believing in your partner — these are good, healthy things. It would be the sad relationship that didn't have this. But, now that this trust has been violated, you have to return to a more protective state. You have to redevelop trust in your instincts again. Above his words. Above even his actions. Trust yourself.
What you shouldn't do in Individual Healing
- Don't allow anyone to dictate how you 'should feel' or what you 'should do'. Not your partner. Not this workshop. Not anyone. However, there are known patterns that both facilitate healing and obstruct it. Learn these patterns and filter your behavior through them. There are many threats to your health — and not all of them are related to your partner's addiction/recovery. Some may be born from that, but take on a life of their own. Some have existed prior to your marriage.
- Don't be critical of your partner's work. Just as you need a safe environment to express your thoughts as you experience them — not as they should be experienced; so too does he. Will his perceptions differ from yours? Probably. Will his memories differ from yours? Probably. Will his reactions to certain events seem misguided? Probably. But so what. Allow him to recover. Allow him to transition these things as his understanding of addiction grows.
- Don't manage his recovery. As hard as it may be for you to witness, if your partner cannot muster the sincerity and effort to invest an hour or so a day for several months into the saving of your marriage (not to mention his life) — it might be time for you to consider healthier options. Like ending the relationship. At the very least, you should dig yourself in for witnessing a long, chaotic recovery process. Years long. Damaging chaos. The best your threats and/or pressure will have on his desire to change will be short-term only — AND, it will rob him of the need to develop internal accountability, motivation and basic life management skills. Don't fall into this trap — even if it threatens your marriage. Force your partner to take responsibility for his recovery. And what's more, his life. Force him to show that he cares about you and your relationship through his free-will actions, not his obedience.
- Don't dwell on the details of his addiction. At some point — the sooner the better — you will realize that addiction is comprised of many compulsive rituals that typically progress further and further beyond social norms. As this progression becomes entrenched, they detach their behavior from existing social values and boundaries. They do not process potential consequences and risk as a healthy person would; they instead process it through their warped world. At some point, how far beyond the norm and what those rituals specifically consisted of are valuable only to the person in recovery and who they are working with. To you, the partner, they are distractions. They get you looking at the symptoms, rather than the fundamentals. What's more, they allow your partner that same distraction. As he is fighting you on meaningless (in the context of recovery, not consequences) details, he is distracting himself from where that focus should be. So, the sooner you are able to see that your partner's twenty affairs over the last three years (something that is important for you to know) resulted from an ingrained addiction; the sooner you can realize that the pursuit of details: 'Did you sleep with any of them in our house? Did you enjoy being with them? What were their names? Were they skinny? How old were they? Did they give you head better than me? To did orgasm? Did they?" is irrelevant. Quick note: not all details are irrelevant. If your partner is engaging in illegal acts (e.g. child porn) and/or dangerous acts (e.g. having unprotected sex); you have the right to know. But beyond this, do YOURSELF a favor and let go of the need for details. Once he has detached himself from his addiction, he will be in a position to offer such details without filtering them through shame, embarrassment, consequence, etc. If they are still important to you then.
- Don't allow your values to be further damaged. Meaning, don't intentionally engage in behavior that you know to be self-destructive. Don't stalk your partner. Don't obsessively check his whereabouts. Don't ruminate about where he is and what he is doing. Don't secretly spy on his computer usage. Don't sleep with someone else just to 'get even'. Don't begin drinking to have an escape of your own. Your partner has done what he has done; and will do what he will do. That might mean investing in your life together or it might mean simply trying to survive this crisis and keep his secret world alive. That choice is on him. You have to choose whether or not to live by your values. And, whether or not to protect those values. You engaging in self-destructive behavior as a result of his addiction/recovery is not protecting your values — it is allowing them to be further damaged.
- Don't neglect other values in your life. Your kids. Your career. Your friendships. Your hobbies. Your personal goals. Your personal challenges. All of these things must be integrated into your healing process. You cannot allow his addiction/recovery to dominate the stability of your life any longer. As the partner's workshop states from the beginning: you must take back your life.
Much of the personal work will be doing in the healing workshop will be expanded upon in the advanced couples work. The lessons on establishing a vision, strengthening values, developing boundaries — these are all fundamental life management skills/tools that will be needed in the more complex partnership lessons. So, while you don't have to complete each lesson in the workshop, you are strongly encouraged to complete Stage Three at a minimum.
And finally, take the Couple's Scavenger Hunt seriously. It exists to bridge the intimacy gap that may widen as you both enter more individual areas of recovery/healing. You can't allow yourself to lose sight of what it is you are recovering for. So continue to seek out ways of showing love and respect for each other — even if you don't necessarily like each other at times. Also, note that none of the activities are intended to lead to sexual activity. Some are romantic, but if you don't feel comfortable with say, 'kissing in the rain', then substitute that for say, hugging. But do so based on your comfort level, not as a punishment.
The Individual Partner's Workshop can be found here: The Partner's Healing Workshop