1. Know that you are not alone.
There are a lot of members to the partners of sex addicts club, and the club is growing fast. Professionals who specialize in treating sexual addiction consider it to be virtually epidemic. There are a lot of partners out there on the same rollercoaster you are.
2. Educate yourself about sexual addiction.
We know more about treating sexual addiction than ever before. Understanding this will help you recognize that there is hope. There are numerous resources such as books, DVDs, and internet websites available for educating yourself about sexual addiction. I caution you, however, from putting too much of your energy into reading materials that are directed at your spouse. There is a fine line between arming yourself with knowledge and feeding an obsession. Monitor the impact and draw the line when reading about his addiction fuels instead of eases your pain.
3. Educate yourself about partners’ healing.
There are also a growing number of educational resources directed at recognizing and reducing your pain. Be willing to use them. This is not the kind of issue that you can or should share with just anybody. You need those, “OMG I’m not the only one …. Other women feel the same way I do …. Other women are going through the same thing I am” experiences. To some degree, you can get a vicarious sense of validation from books, DVDs, or healthy online support groups.
Be aware, however, that reading other women’s stories can also put questions and fears in your head that might not be there otherwise. Give yourself permission to pace yourself and read selectively when it is wise to do so. Avoid resource binges that may actually activate your rollercoaster. Think of the healing process as more akin to a marathon than a sprint; learning to pace yourself will be a more important factor in whether you make it to the finish line than how fast you go. In fact, if you try to go out too fast in a recovery marathon you’ll sabotage your chances of crossing the finish line.
4. Test drive recovery strategies.
Books, DVDs, or websites designed for partners’ healing can be incredibly validating of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Consider this information an investment in your own healing. Don’t just absorb the information. Most of these resources will include strategies for getting through the early rollercoaster days and for improving the quality of your healing as you move forward in this process. Be willing to test drive the strategies, figure out which ones are helpful, and then use them!
Remember to evaluate those strategies based not just on what is helpful in the short run but what is also helpful in the long run. When using long haul reasoning, you may find that employing a strategy less rather than more may prove more helpful. As with the partners’ resources, less but more consistently may be the most effective long haul use for some strategies.
5. Seek community resources.
Many communities have supportive, healing communities for partners of sex addicts. COSA and S-Anon are Twelve Step support groups for partners. Many churches also offer faith-based support groups for partners. Although face to face groups are generally preferable, those of you who do not have access to face to face groups or who find that your rollercoaster is activated by the intensity that sometimes occur in these groups, there are both faith-based and secular online support groups that offer the benefits of convenience and greater anonymity.
I encourage you to keep hunting until you find healthy resources. You need to find a safe environment where you can express your anger without judgement (or get in touch with it if you are an anger stuffer). However, as tempting as it may be in the wake of betrayal, don’t mistake man-bashing as a healthy anger management recovery activity. Man-bashing is like a decadent dessert. It feels delicious in the moment but only adds to the weight of your problems in the long run.
See upcoming Part 3 for Partners of Sex Addicts: The Emotional Rollercoaster & the10 Pillars of Emotional First Aid
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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