My Spouse Has A Sex Addiction, Now What?
You were in the passenger side of the vehicle when the driver crashed into a tree. The crash wasn’t your fault, it was the drivers; you were just along for the ride. The ambulance comes and takes the passenger to the hospital for help but leaves you alone and bleeding in the wreckage.
Of course, this doesn’t happen. So why does it happen when your spouse has an addiction? You get him or her help, they get plugged into a program with support surrounding them while you are left sitting in the wake of the destruction. At times you’re even blamed, labeled codependent, not providing him with enough sex. You don’t give a heroin addict more heroin to help the addiction go away, in the same way you don’t give sex to make the sex addiction go away. Even well-meaning people can attempt to explain it away but none of it helps. Because how do you overcome the devastating question of “why am I not enough?” You are enough.
“We often think thoughts like these because we believe that somehow if it is about us, then we can ﬁx it. Thoughts like these trick us into believing we have more control than we do over other people, and ultimately lead us to feel bad about ourselves.” – Dr. Kevin Skinner
The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity has defined sexual addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.”
Sex addiction has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the addict’s compulsive behavior. You are enough. Sex addiction is far more common than most people think and shows itself in various ways such as porn, sexting, prostitutes, affairs with acquaintances, strangers or friends. Maybe you’re not sure if your partner is addicted to sex, maybe it was a one-time thing, maybe it’s lasted years. No matter the duration, you feel this wreck is one you may never recover from. You don’t just walk away from this type of betrayal with a limp. The flood of powerful emotions coupled with the chaos of the discovered treachery has caused injury in which you fear there is no bandage big enough for.
What do I do next?
Along with a barrage of emotions there are an equal number of questions. What do I do with the life I thought I knew, the spouse I thought I knew, even the God I thought I knew? What does this mean for my relationship, my children, my family? How can I know what’s real? Do I leave? Who should I tell? Can trust ever be restored?
When you’re amid the whirlwind of trauma knowing what to do next is very difficult. The following are some suggestions to begin with.
1. Begin building your support team, you will need to decide who to tell and who not to tell. Some don’t want anyone to know which is understandable given the vulnerability around the issue, however, increased isolation will only make things harder. Some will want to let everyone know which can sometimes backfire. Tell safe people who will honor your journey, and your decisions, and who will not blame you (because none of this is your fault in any way). Add to your support team a trauma-informed helping professional who understands how to guide you through the healing of betrayal trauma.
2. Re-establish safety in your home. You get to determine what is and isn’t acceptable in your home. What do you need to feel safe in your space right now? Your therapist can help you build safety boundaries which are necessary no matter if you decide to stay or leave the relationship. If you are, or believe you will be, in physical danger and you don’t have a therapist yet or your therapist isn’t available at that time then call a domestic violence shelter to speak with someone who can help you with a plan of safety. Of course, if in immediate danger please call 911.
3. Stop and breathe. When you are on high alert you can easily become startled, triggered, and confused. You might still be in the fight/flight/freeze trauma response which says to your body that you are in mortal danger. It often feels very much that way, like you’re about to die or you’re in an out of body experience. At this point your mind and body are not communicating well to each other. There is power in reconnecting your mind and body so that you are in the present and you no longer feel like you are in a surreal fog. Breathing sounds like an oversimplified option for such an enormous circumstance, however, it is one of the most proven and effective solutions to calm ourselves. Breathing and grounding are highly effective in reducing panic and flooding of emotions.
Betrayal trauma recovery requires re-establishing your safety; body, mind and soul. Whether you just found out or it’s been years since finding out, let me help you navigate through the chaos and undeniable pain of betrayal. I have advanced training in the Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model that guides you safely through the steps needed to heal from betrayal trauma. Healing and restoration are possible.