Introduction: Healing from Your Partner's Sexually Compulsive Behavior"I was in shock. It was the worst night of my life. I had never felt so betrayed or been treated so badly in my life. I couldn't believe that the person who I had loved, respected and trusted could take me for granted. I just couldn't believe how it was possible. I felt like he had been controlling me, making me think I had something that I really didn't. Making me do things I wouldn't do if I had known who he really was. My world collapsed in front of me and I felt like something I had cared about for so long had died."
Lucy G, after listening to her partner confess details about his secret life.
“I knew something was wrong. There used to be such passion in our relationship. We were so in love.
Soul mates, even. And now, after discovering his porn collection-hidden on our family computer under the folder, “Taxes”-I find
myself lying beside a complete stranger. How will I ever get over this?”
Laura H-upon discovering her husband of eight years was addicted to porn.
“Sex, sex, sex”it's all he thinks about. I'm sick of it. What I wouldn't give for just a single day where I'm not subjected to his sexual jokes, gestures or innuendo. Where I don't find a lotion bottle or wadded up tissue stuck between the cushions of the couch. Where we go out to dinner and he doesn't ogle the other women in the restaurant. And if he grabs my breasts one more time I'm going to scream! He thinks it's funny. He thinks I'm the one with the problem-for not being more “sexually spontaneous”. But this isn't spontaneity, it's harassment. It's objectification. And it needs to stop””
Michelle M-discussing her husband's sexualizing of their relationship.
“It couldn't be happening again, I thought. She promised. She swore on our children's lives. And yet, there we were, tearfully discussing the details of yet another affair. I know she loves me, but what am I supposed to do? If only she didn't make me prove it this time? If only the past six months of trying to catch her hadn't become my obsession. How much time did I lose in spying on her? How much energy did I waste in checking phone logs, trash cans, receipts — anything that would remove my doubts of her infidelity? Did I really install tracking software to monitor her online activity? This isn't me. This isn't the life that I want to live. This isn't the relationship that I want to share. Will I ever be able to trust her again?”
Daniel C-upon the discovery of yet another of his wife's sexual affairs.
Introduction to Healing
The process of healing from your partner's sexual addiction begins with this fundamental understanding: the situation you have been forced into managing is not normal — it is extraordinary. With the exception of the sudden death of a child or spouse, it is the most difficult challenge any relationship can face — and there is no way that you could have prepared yourself for it. In terms of personal trauma, it rates as intense as sexual assault, molestation and/or physical abuse. Why so extreme? Because the effect of a partner's sexual addiction on your values, your potential, your esteem and your needs — on the fundamentals of your life — can be devastating. To make matters worse, the full scope and consequences of your partner's addiction will likely not be known for quite some time. And worst of all? The consequences will continue — through ongoing deception, minimization, justification, rationalization and just plain selfishness — until he is deeply entrenched in his own healthy recovery. Not any recovery mind you, but a healthy one. The discovery of your partner's addiction has likely shaken the foundation of your life — and what your life has been built upon: trust. Everything you have come to believe about your relationship will now be challenged and your future completely rewritten.
Assessing Addiction Severity
How much of what was described applies to you? That will likely depend on the severity of your partner's addiction. But a word of caution here, the severity of one's addiction cannot be measured solely by the symptoms of that addiction. An addiction consisting solely of compulsive masturbation can be every bit as damaging as an addiction marked by multiple affairs, prostitution, or voyeurism etc. Each symptom has different consequences, to be sure...but even a pattern involving something as simple as compulsive masturbation can completely devastate one's ability to develop and share intimacy, which then affects esteem, which then affects potential, which then affects...well, you get the picture. If your partner 'only looks at porn', that is no indication whatsoever as to the severity of his addiction. Likewise, if the rituals your partner engages in have evolved to include setting up anonymous meetings for same-sex encounters; that too is not an indicator of the addiction's severity. It is only an indicator of the presence of an addiction. What will assess severity? More than anything else, it will be the consequences of that addiction on you, your partner and others that will most accurately demonstrate its severity. But even this is deceptive, as there are subtle consequences of a secret addiction that cannot be measured directly. Things like potential emotional damage, lost opportunities, etc. Early in the workshop you will have the opportunity to assess these consequences in depth; until then...recognize that it is more important for you to begin the healing process for yourself than it is to fully understand your partner's addiction.
Establishing Your Foundation
This is where your focus must be now. You can seek the truth from your partner early on, but you will likely not find it. You can seek answers from your partner about the what and why of his addiction, but he is likely unable to answer. For most, this discovery is just as devastating to them as it is for you — the only difference involves what has been devastated. For you, it has been your reality that was shattered. For your partner, it was his secret world that was shattered and his social world that is now in jeopardy. In the healthiest of people, having the foundation of your life exposed as vulnerable is a difficult crisis to manage. Add to that situation the extreme emotional immaturity that your partner brings to the equation and you have a person who is too unstable to offer anything of lasting value to you in your own healing — at least early on. And so, the responsibility of reclaiming your life falls on you — whether he chooses a healthy recovery or not.
Establishing a healthy foundation for your life constitutes the crux of the Partner's Healing Workshop. Here are some specific areas that will need your early attention:
- Separating your healing from his recovery
- Regaining control and stability in your life
- Understanding addiction in a functional way
- Repairing the damage that has been done to your value system
- Supporting your partner's recovery effort
These areas are more complex than they may seem. For instance, your need to support your partner's recovery does not stem from his needs, it stems from what is in the best interest of your health. It stems from what it will mean to your restoration, when you are able to look at your partner and see not an addiction, but a man who has developed an addiction. To see that he didn't do this to spite you. Rather, it stemmed from a foundation of immature life management skills — manifest through emotional immaturity, selfishness, immediate gratification, etc. As you pursue this understanding, you are asked to set aside any pressure you are putting on yourself to make decisions as to the future of the relationship. You are asked, whether you intend to end the relationship or not, to support his efforts towards a healthy recovery (what that is will be explained in the workshop) because of the potential impact that his recovery could have on your children, your friendship, his role within his family, his career, etc.
Beginning the Workshop
The workshop you are about to begin will not remove the pain you are feeling, nor will it lessen the consequences that you have been forced to endure. In fact, as you begin to thoroughly examine your partner's selfish, destructive acts, you will likely experience an increase in that pain and be forced to deal with the reality that the consequences are much deeper that you had ever imagined. As more discoveries come to light, as more lies become known, as more secrets are revealed — and they almost always do — the web of pain and consequence will only grow, keeping you on an emotional roller-coaster for much longer than is necessary.
Hopefully though, with the insights presented in this workshop and with the opportunity to examine the mind of a sexual addict in a manner that few ever can, you will develop the ability to distance yourself from your partner's addiction and pull yourself free from its grasp. That is not to say — that is NEVER to say — that your partner's actions have resulted from some uncontrollable force/disease (i.e. addiction) that has rendered him/her incapable of controlling their actions. As you shall see from the model presented within this workshop, people engaging in such compulsive behavior do so consciously. They are fully responsible for their actions — no matter how irrational or self-destructive they may seem. But addiction is a pattern where intense emotions strongly influence decision-making. It involves making decisions based on immediate emotional gratification — without consideration to either the consequences of those actions or the values associated with that decision. Without intellectual consideration, that is. As you will discover, intellectual consideration is often given to such matters prior to the act, but is quickly overwhelmed by the emotional intensity being derived. But all of this is irrelevant until you develop a healthy context in which to place these understandings. And so, give yourself some time to learn. Time to take inventory of exactly what it is you are facing. And remember, ultimately, this workshop is not about your partner. It is not even about your partner's addiction. It is about you and the effects that that addiction has had on your life. It is about your ability to develop a solid foundation for breaking free from another's addiction/recovery cycle. It is about regaining control over your life.
How to Begin
There are two primary tools that you will want to use, and three additional tools you may use if you would like.
The two essential tools are the Partner's Healing Workshop and the Partner's Forum. The workshop provides you with the insights you will need to fully understand the scope of what you are facing and how to emerge from this crisis with your values even stronger than ever. It includes exercises which are geared towards expanding your personal application of the material, building essential tools that you will need to regain control and stability, and challenging you to master your own perceptions and emotions, etc.
The Partner's Forum is divided into two areas: the Partner's Support Forum and the Partner's Lesson Responses Forum. In the lesson responses forum, you will create your own personal healing thread and use it to share your work and to receive occasional feedback from our volunteer coaching team. The support forum is for those seeking ongoing feedback and support from members of the community, on a wide variety of personal issues involving the discovery, consequences, management and separation from a partner's/ex-partner's sex/love addiction. Questions, experiences, insights and progress reports are welcome. This forum is for active workshop participants only. To keep this community healthy, please have a personal purpose for everything you post.
Supplemental tools :
The Healing Checklist
The free healing checklist provides a comprehensive list of the insights and actions that you will need to complete to put you on a healthy path to reclaiming your life.
The Healing Manager
The free healing manager provides you with a convenient, confidential storage facility to maintain/manage your healing tools.
Partner's Personal Coaching (optional)
While this workshop was written as a self-help tool, many find the personal guidance of partner's coaching to be of tremendous value in helping them to more efficiently understand and apply the concepts of the workshop to their lives. Here, you have the option of working directly with an experienced and certified coach throughout the workshop — including an ongoing, in-depth assessment of your partner's addiction and recovery. For more information, visit the Getting Started section of the Partners drop down menu which can be accessed via the Recovery Nation home page.