See Understanding Betrayal Trauma: Trauma Triggers for Partners of Sex Addicts for further discussion of betrayal trauma.
As a wife or partner of a sex addict or intimacy anorexic, you can expect to spend a significant chunk of your recovery time on the emotional rollercoaster. Doubt and fear are only a few of the feelings you will be visiting. You will probably become familiar with shock, anger, despair, shame, powerlessness, grief and every other emotion in between. Like the chorus of one of those ‘somebody done somebody wrong’ songs, the feelings will repeat time and again.
Trauma triggers and the emotional rollercoaster are particularly troublesome in the first few weeks and months following discovery of your mate’s sex or porn addiction, after learning about additional betrayals, or discovery of intimacy anorexia. Your sense of emotional safety is likely to be absent or shakey at best. Recognize that you are vulnerable, that your stress cup is already overflowing and it won’t take much to put you into a mini emotional meltdown.
§ To the degree possible, avoid setting yourself up to be in triggering situations where you might not be able to emotionally protect yourself. If you find yourself in a triggering situation, try to limit your exposure to prevent being flooded by pain.
§ Set boundaries around which conversations you will participate in and which ones are best avoided.
§ Preplan a means of escape for triggering environments (e.g., your own transportation or access to transportation, establish a time-out or a dead stop boundary for triggering conversations, etc.).
§ Identify, build and then regularly use a support network.
§ Accept that your support network for dealing with triggers may be entirely different from the support system you use for other issues. Look for others who have some understanding of sex addiction betrayal and will not judge you for what you choose to do or not do, but will gently hold you accountable for taking care of yourself in times of crisis.
§ Anticipate predictable and unpredictable trigger events and preplan who you will reach out to for help and connection in those moments.
§ Know that painful feelings will be lessened or relieved when you own them, talk about them with someone who can validated them, or in some cases engage in problem-solving. Trying to ignore them, divert them, stuff, or numb them may provide a momentary respite but will actually heighten your pain in the long run.
Dr. Janice Caudill is the founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery. MCR offers individual, couples, group therapy and multi-day intensives for partners of sex addicts and wounded hearts struggling with sex addiction, infidelity, love addiction or love avoidance, intimacy anorexia, or relational trauma in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Richardson, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and surrounding areas.
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