by Katie Sanford, LPCC, CCPS-C
Valentine’s Day is here and it may be a painful reminder of the relationship you once had, thought you had, or wish you had. On a holiday that celebrates love and romance, many partner’s of sex addicts are overwhelmed with unpleasant emotions. On Valentine’s Day or any other day, do you have moments when you can’t stop crying? Maybe your chest is so tight it is difficult to get a deep breath. Is your mind racing and won’t stop? Do you feel like you are losing it? Maybe you’re ruminating over something that happened. Maybe you feel numb. Are you are having trouble leaving your house or taking care of your responsibilities? If so, when you are overwhelmed with emotions a technique called “grounding” may be very helpful to you.
Grounding connects you to the external world and helps you regain control of your feelings, thoughts, and physiological responses. It is a technique that helps you focus on the present moment, not the past, not the future, and not whatever you are thinking or feeling. Grounding can provide a much needed break for people who are going through pain related to a partner’s sex addiction.
Simply put, grounding is noticing and focusing on physical things in the world around you. It is easy and can be done anywhere, at any time, and without anyone even noticing that you are doing it. A simple way to use grounding, that many of my clients have found helpful, is picking a color and looking around you to count all the things you see that are that color. The longer you look, the more you find, and the less you are overwhelmed with whatever emotions you are feeling. It actually works!
There are also many other ways to do grounding. Let’s say, you are riding in a car. You could count the houses you go past or count the blue cars you see. Another way you can use grounding is to take note of what you physically feel on your body. What is physically supporting you (your legs on a chair, your back on a couch)? Can you feel your feet on the floor? Can you feel you shoes around your feet? Can you feel your socks/pants/shirt touching your skin? How many soft objects are around you? What do you hear around you? The longer you listen, the more sounds you will notice.
It helps to practice grounding when you are calm, so you are ready to use it when you are overwhelmed by emotions. Most of my client have told me that they didn’t think grounding would actually work, but then they were pleasantly surprised when it did. I hope that this technique will help you in your journey towards healing.
by Dairek Morgan, LMFT, CSAT
The moment has finally come where your wife/girlfriend/partner followed up enough on her suspicions, pulled on that loose thread long enough, and now your whole life is unraveling. Those fears you have been keeping at bay, the denial that your behaviors won’t really have an impact, have come flooding back in. She knows.
Chances are you’re probably reading this article right now at her “request” (that’s a nice way of putting it). She’s enraged. She’s unglued. She’s maybe let you see her pain and anguish, and if that vulnerability has come through, her tears have just slayed. The panic is setting in, the realization you may have just blown up everything you’ve ever really cared about. And now, at long last, your denial that you have a problem and you need help has been exposed. So, here you are.
I know you’re hurting too. I know you’re scared. I imagine you feel pretty helpless right now. There is help. The intent of this article is to help illuminate the path before you and provide you with some immediate resources to begin the healing journey.
Most men who come into my office soon after “D Day” are here to try and save their relationship. Maybe a piece of you is glad you got busted and want to get some much needed help, but the crisis at the moment is all about how you save your marriage. Here’s a few things you need to know:
DON’T CONTINUE TO LIE: Most partners report that the “slow-drip disclosures” are the most painful part of the entire process. For many women the torturous experience of being re-traumatized each time they think they’ve heard it all/the worst, only to discover that there’s more information, is what ultimately breaks their resolve and leads to separation and divorce. I get that it’s scary and the fear says, “If she knew everything she would for sure leave.” Well, she may. But at this point the only hope you have of repairing your relationship is the truth.
BE KIND IN YOUR HONESTY: Most partners are going to ask for every gory detail. There’s a difference between sharing truthfully, and painting a picture for her that she can never unsee. If you are, in fact, being fully honest and she’s still insistent on more details, remind her that you want to have a full disclosure in a safe/least traumatizing way for her, asking her if she would be willing to wait to discuss further in therapy.
THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT: Most men who enter into recovery from sex-addiction report that it is approximately a 3-5 year journey toward stabilization. Most couples report at least a year (if not two) before things begin to feel more secure. I recently heard a couple report that it took them 11 years to work through the trauma. It is likely this behavior took years/decades to develop, it will take some time to deconstruct.
FIND A GOOD THERAPY TEAM: The recommended course of action is for each of you to have a personal therapist and at some point later down the road, a couple’s therapist. Repair is going to cost finances, time and the investment of your heart. Yes, that’s expensive and a big pill to swallow, I get it. Therapy is cheaper than divorce. When it comes to finding a therapist, it’s very important to “go with your gut” and find a good fit. Not all therapists are created equal, and, as in any relationship, sometimes people click and sometimes they don’t. It will be very important that you find a CSAT (certified sexual addiction therapist) or someone else trained in dealing specifically with sexually compulsive behavior, and recommended that your partner find someone within the field as well.
ANTICIPATE AND TOLERATE THE UNKNOWN: There are a lot of variables at play right now. It’s common for a partner to experience a great deal of ambivalence about your relationship after discovering this type of betrayal. Slow down, know this is going to be a rough road, and commit to working hard to change yourself first. You will best serve her, your relationship, and yourself if you adopt the serenity prayer, “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Our team at Banyan Therapy is here to help. Please contact us to learn more about our treatment team and to set up an appointment.
Dairek Morgan has been a vital part of our team for 2 years, and is now in private practice. You can find out more about his practice at: www.dairekmorgantherapy.com
by Dan Drake, MFT, LPCC, CCPS, CSAT-S, Founder & Clinical Director
If you have recently discovered your partner’s secret sexual activities you may have thought or said something very similar to this, “He’s the one with the addiction, so why do I need therapy?” You may (very understandably) be feeling angry at the insinuation that you need support in addition to the support your addicted partner is receiving. If he caused the problem, why do YOU need therapy?
We know you may have a mixture of feelings when starting this process of addressing the impact of sex addiction in your relationship. It may feel insulting to you that therapists are encouraging you to get help, as if somehow you are part of the problem. We want you to know that we absolutely know that you didn’t do anything to cause your addicted partner to act out sexually. There’s nothing you did that caused your partner to act out sexually. And YES, your partner is the one with the addiction, and DOES require support to heal from this.
Of course not everyone requires therapy to heal from sex addiction, and not every partner of a sex addict needs to see a therapist. Some are able to heal through the support of their friends, family, or faith community. Yet there are a lot of women and men that do need the support of a specialized treatment team to heal from the traumatic impact of sexual betrayal.
Let’s use an illustration that is commonly given to explain why you may also need support. Let’s say you’re driving home from the store one night and out of nowhere you are rear-ended by a drunk driver. Your car careens as a result of the collision, and your body contorts and sustains injuries. In shock from what just occurred, a bystander quickly calls 911, who dispatches the police and paramedics to the scene. Police and paramedics arrive at the scene, and you are speed to the hospital to address the injuries you have sustained. Following an accident like this, you may require surgery to repair injuries or set bones. You may require further chiropractic support to address the collision, or even therapy to address the trauma of the collision.
When you read that illustration, can you see any parallels with your situation? Like the person driving the car, you were devastated through the disclosure / discovery of your partner’s sexual secrets similar to getting rear-ended in a car crash. You didn’t cause this crash and there’s nothing you could’ve done to prevent it. Yet, just like in this illustration, you very well may require further work to heal from the mental, emotional, physical, relational, sexual, and/or spiritual injuries you sustained as a result of discovery / disclosure. While it wasn’t your fault, you may still have those wounds that need to be addressed to help you to heal. I know it’s not fair, and I honestly wish there were another way around this. Yet healing from betrayal trauma often requires the support of specialists trained in helping women and men impacted by sex addiction.
I want you to know that we’re here to help. We want to support you in your process of healing from this crash. If there’s any way at all that we can help, please let us know.
by Eric Anderson, LMFT, CSAT, Intensives Director & Therapist
Addiction is a progressive illness. The more time someone is active in his or her addiction the more their behavior escalates both in terms of the intensive and risk as well as the time involved. Many clients have been involved in their addiction for many decades. When this happens the patterns in someone’s life become so deeply rooted that the addiction is impossible to break on its own. The neuro-pathways that have developed the brain have become so well worn that basic measures like once a week therapy or occasional involvement in a 12-step program is not enough. The habits are simply too strong. It is at this point an intensive program is needed.
Typically a therapist will be able to tell if a client’s addiction has escalated to this point when they are unable to follow through on things like assigned work as part of their therapy, increased levels of depression or anxiety causing the addictive behavior to escalate, or a heightened level of chaos in work and relationships as a consequence of their addictive behavior.
Underlying all of addiction is both struggles with emotional regulation and trauma. The core of addiction is about trying to escape the uncomfortable feelings of shame, depression, anxiety, or fear caused by various life experiences such as trauma, religious dogma, loss or insecurities. When someone’s not able to achieve or maintain consistent sobriety, when they are having difficulty managing stressors of life like job, relationship, or family, it would make sense that an increased level of services would also be warranted.
Here’s a metaphor I like to use.
Think of a field of very tall grass. It’s overgrown up to your shoulders and hard to see which way to go. In one area you notice a pathway where the grass has been trampled down many times to where the path is easy to go down. This path leads to chaos and destruction and this is the path of your addiction. You have been down it many times and the grass has become so well worn it’s become normal to go down that path that it is almost automatic. But over time you go down that path it becomes more well worn and trampled on that the grass doesn’t have a chance to grow back.
In addiction treatment we work to make new pathways that lead to a place that is not destructive but life giving. This involves blazing a new trail and going down a path that is going to be out of your comfort zone. However, the more you go down this new path the more the grass gets trampled down on that pathway making it easier to go down in the future. Conversely the more time you spend away from the old pathway, the more the grass will start to grow back and making it less and less tempting to go back.
An intensive program provides the structure needed to make sure you don’t go down the pathway that leads to destruction so that pathway will have a chance to heal and we do the hard work with you of blazing a new healthier path as we build in the needed tools and resources to create lasting recovery.
When addiction has been raging in someone’s life for a long time it is difficult change to make but with the help of a team trained in making the necessary changes you can reverse these negative patterns in your life.
If you think an intensive program is needed to help you move forward in your recovery, please check out Banyan Therapy Group’s various Intensive Programs. All programs are designed to help you break free of addictive patterns and get your life back on track.
by a Partner
First, full disclosure, I’m a Partner of a Sex Addict in recovery. I can’t promise you that I have great advice. I can only share the road I’ve walked. I always fear my spouse’s relapse so the New Year is met with a lot of fear for me.
New Years for me has been triggering. It’s supposed to be about new goals and expectations. YET when I was in in the thick of things, I just wanted to ask, “Is brushing your teeth daily an ok goal?” I’m so tired. I took a shower. Does that count? I’m so sad. My world has been turned upside down with discovery.
Sex Addiction creates REAL betrayal trauma. It’s nothing you made up. You’re not being unreasonable. It’s rocked you to your core. It IS abuse. You have the right to be disorientated. You have the right to be depressed. You have the right to question your relationship.
BUT, you also have the right to take your life back. There are endless books and resources for Sex Addicts and their recovery, yet Partners for the most part are left high and dry. We are in recovery too. NOT that we did anything wrong. I didn’t. You didn’t. But, we are recovering from the shit storm our Sexually Addicted Partner produced. It’s not your fault an earthquake happened, but unfortunately, you are still left to pick up the pieces. Sex Addiction Trauma is not fair. No one deserves to live through it, but here you are. So, what do you do?
Can you set goals for this New Year that will bring you peace?
I think you can. It’s just not conventional, but Sex Addiction is not conventional so sometimes you have to get creative.
Here’s what I did one year to find hope….
I found REAL support…
I know this part sucks. Why do you have to pay for therapy when he’s the asshole who screwed up? Well, because you need support. BUT, real support. You are NOT sick. You are NOT to blame. You need safe support that can help you. I can’t endorse every therapist at Banyan Therapy Group (because I haven’t met them all), but they are worth looking into because they endorse a Partner Trauma Model. Trust your gut. You’ll know. The biggest thing is to make sure your therapist understands that you have endured severe trauma. YES, it was severe.
Along with a therapist, a good strong friend support network is key. This part is hard. It can be hard to find safe people that can hold this information. A therapist can help you navigate this. I found 5 really close friends that I can trust with anything. It took time. But, I found them.
I identified my deal breakers…
It took me a while to learn that I could say that’s not ok for me. So, a great thing for a New Year’s Resolution is to identify your deal breakers. I was honest with myself and allowed myself to say NO is ok. I can hate certain behaviors. I’m not responsible for my Sexually Addicted Partner’s shame. I’m unique and can say that this hurts me deeply. You chose this relationship which means you chose all of me. Your therapist and friend group can help you create a deal breaker list. It will take time, but give yourself all the space you need.
I set boundaries…
With support from my therapist and friends, I finally drew a line in the sand and committed to the fact that I deserved more. I deserved respect. I deserved love. I deserved honesty.
SO, What about OTHER goals for this year…
You do need to set some hard recovery goals, but you also need to set some serious self-care goals. If you need a day to take break from the chores of life, do it. If you need to sleep all day, do it. If you need to stop beating yourself up for what you “should” be doing, do it. Please take care of you.
I insist that you schedule at least one self-care moment a week. I would like you to have more, but one is a good start.
I encourage you to make a list of things that make you happy. Write it out. Look at it weekly. Just pick one thing to do. My list includes:
Also, being caught in Sex Addiction Trauma is NOT the end of your life. Even during seasons of grief, you can accomplish whatever you want. I just encourage you to be kind with yourself. You’ve been through a lot, but you ARE NOT DAMAGED. You are strong and a fighter. You wouldn’t be reading about recovery if you weren’t.
Being in a relationship with a Sex Addict is scary
It’s normal to be scared. It’s normal to feel off balanced. What DO YOU WANT for 2018? Be gentle with yourself. When dealing with trauma (and yes, discovery is trauma, I don’t care if it’s been a few years ago, it’s still trauma), goals may look different, and that’s ok.
If you are fighting to figure out your relationship, I applaud you, that’s not easy. I know that first hand. It can actually be horrible at times.
Maybe for this year, you can simply commit to taking care of you? Take a step back each week and take care of you. You don’t have to hold the world up on your shoulders. Perfect beautiful you deserves love, support and care.
By Banyan Therapy Group
New Year’s resolutions can feel so very cliche. We all make them, but then forget them by February 1st. What’s the point? Why do we continue to carry on this silly tradition? Well, goals CAN be powerful if set in a manner that supports rather than dominates and calls unneeded attention to our failures.
Often times New Year’s goals are lofty and hard to reach. You set a big goal like — I will step up my recovery. What does that actually mean? I believe there are two parts to a personal goal. There’s the big picture blue sky idea, and then there are the nuts and bolts that will get you there. Both are equally important.
Wanting to advance in recovery is an incredible worthwhile goal, but how are you going to do it? And how will you manage times when you fall short?
I believe the big picture goal is like a rudder on a ship. You have a destination that you hope to reach. Maybe it’s reaching full sobriety. Maybe it’s repairing with your partner. You can set your rudder to hit your destination, but how do you ensure that you stay the course? At the end of 2018, will you be closer to your destination than you are now? AND, the hope is for closer. Perfection is not attainable so that’s why simply making a laundry list of to-dos will not get you there. It’s human to fail. It’s how we handle failure that really matters.
When making a resolution, take some time to think where you’d like to be at the end of 2018. Make some big picture goals such as:
Those are all great goals, but they’re very broad. It’s good to know your final destination. That’s where you are wanting to arrive, but how do you get there? What do those goals actually mean to you on a day-to-day basis?
I want to regain trust with my Partner
Recovery is about recovering your life. It’s not just about not acting out so wanting to repair with your Partner is an amazing goal! But, how do you do it?
“SMART” resolutions can help you build tangible support goals to help you get to your big picture destination. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-related. If you want to rebuild trust with your partner, tangible goals could be:
If you’re not sure what to put on your list, ask your Partner or talk with a friend, sponsor or therapist. But these support goals should be very specific and measurable. This will help keep your rudder headed for your big picture destination.
The thing to remember with SMART goals is that things will NEVER be perfect. You WILL miss a meeting. You’ll forget to bring home the flowers. You will mess up. Life may even throw you a curveball like a job set-back or a death in the family. What do you do then? What if you DO fall short of your SMART goals? How do you create a safety net for yourself? Make sure to make contingency plans for if and when you need to adjust your goals.
Set-Up Monthly Personal Check-Ins
How can you ensure that you’ll be closer to your big picture destination by the end of 2018? You need to check in with yourself AT LEAST once a month. Put it on the calendar. Put a reminder on your phone. This IS crucial. You need to evaluate monthly if you are still on course to your big picture destination. Maybe you had a terrible month, and all the SMART goals went out the window. That’s ok. You can RECOVER. But, you need to be honest and admit that you are floating off course. You need to make a plan on how to correct your course. This could look like:
I know that last one is a hard pill to swallow, but if you are in relationship, you don’t live in a vacuum so your failures will impact your Partner and other relationships. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring your relationships back to a safe place. You just have to be aware that every action will create a reaction. The reality is your Partner probably has some deal-breaker items. But even if you break those promises, it doesn’t mean you need to throw your recovery out of the window. Ultimately, recovery is about giving you back your life so you can thrive in intimate relationships. In many cases, the hope is to rebuild, but sometimes that’s not possible, but you can still move forward in health. Actions speak louder than empty promises, and you never know how your commitment to recovery will impact someone. Keep going.
How Do You Handle the Shame of Failing?
You realize you’re human, and you will fail. You understand that you haven’t hit rock bottom until you’re dead. You fight for your big picture destination. You set it for a reason. It meant something to you. Fight for it. Learn from your mistakes, and you reset your rudder for your big picture destination. Fight.
by Dan Drake, LMFT, LPCC, CCPS-S, CSAT-S
Remember when the holidays were a time filled with family, wonderful fragrances, and holiday cheer? In the wake of the discovery of sex addiction, we often hear how triggering special events such as holidays can be. The pictures and memories of beautiful times gone by are replaced with hurt, anger, and betrayal. This is incredibly painful, and adds to the destructive impact of sex addiction on relationships and on families. If you’re a betrayed partner, you’re not alone in sharing the pain of shattered memories of this holiday season. We hear from a lot of men and women who sift through the tattered remains of memories of holiday seasons. This is especially difficult when we’re inundated during this season with images, commercials, and movies of lovers and families coming together, of families thriving through love. I want you to know that you’re not alone in the pain you’re feeling during this time. Many women and men who are the betrayed partners feel similarly.
If you’re an addict or someone who has strayed from the relationship, seeing your partner triggered at this time might be confusing for you. I often hear how difficult this time can be for YOU, seeing how angry, sullen, or triggered your partner can become. It can be really painful for you to see her in pain and maybe for you to understand why she’s triggered in the first place. You need to know that this is normal – it’s a part of her grief process. By acting out sexually outside your relationship through whatever means you have, you’ve altered your partner’s view not only of the present but also of the PAST. Who was the man or women that your partner was with? If your acting out coincided with the holidays, your partner’s memories of those holidays will now be tainted. Even if your acting out didn’t coincide with the holidays, the relationship and the memories that your partner thought she had come crashing down during discovery or disclosure. So know that you can do a lot to either help her or hurt her further during this time.
I won’t sugar coat things by saying that this year will be amazing for you, but I DO want to share a few ways that can help you get through this in the best possible way:
Most of all, my heart is with you. If you’re reading this, I’m so sorry that you have to experience the pain of sex addiction in your relationship. But I hold hope for you – We see women and men every day not just surviving through difficult seasons in their life but healing and growing. It may feel unattainable, but we see every day relationships that are re-forged through pain into something stronger. By walking through this pain together, you can rebuild your relationship into something more intimate than ever. I’ll hold you in my heart this holiday season. May it be as good as it can possibly be, and may it be a new chance for renewal. You can do this.
by Dan Drake, LMFT, LPCC, CCPS-S, CSAT-S
I’m working with a couple of colleagues on a new resource for partners and addicts on therapeutic disclosure. We’re excited about what we think can be a valuable resource in preparing for disclosures.
We’d like to make it as helpful a guide as possible, so we NEED YOUR HELP! If you have gone through a formal disclosure, whether receiving the disclosure or giving the disclosure, we would love your feedback. Your responses will give us valuable information and also will help give support to others who will be going through this process in the future.
Please help us by filling out the following surveys:
For partners, or those who have received the disclosure, click HERE for your survey
For addicts, or those who have given the disclosure, click HERE for your survey
Thanks in advance for the help!
by Dan Drake, LMFT, LPCC, CCPS-S, CSAT-S
The book I co-authored with Wendy Conquest is officially live. You can find it here on Amazon! Thanks to everyone who supported us as we were working on this project.
We hope it will help addicts, partners, and couples gain better understanding as they work on healing from the impacts of sex addiction on their lives and in their relationships.
by Dan Drake, LMFT, LPCC, CCPS-S, CSAT-S
I’m often asked, “How do I get my [sexually addicted partner] to get it?!”
This hugely important question by partners brings us to the “E” word: Empathy . . . Empathy is such an important issue to talk about, yet such a painful one. A partner’s world shatters before her/him after discovering their partner’s sexual secrets, secrets that may have spanned decades. This betrayal trauma is so painful, and causes an enormous rift in a relationship. Healing this rift takes plenty of patience and a commitment to recovery from the sexually addicted partner. Healing also takes a commitment to openness, honesty, and empathy in the relationship.
Unfortunately, so many sex addicts have narcissistic tendencies (after all, sexual acting out in the relationship is an inherently selfish act). Narcissism and empathy, as you can imagine, don’t go together very well. It’s like going to a foreign country where you’ve learned the basics of the language but aren’t fluent. You can learn the “words” but it’ll be clear very soon to a native speaker that you really don’t get the language. All too often, sex addicts can learn “formulas” of things to say but these phrases quickly ring hollow to many partners, as they really want their partners to FEEL the pain that they are experiencing.
Developing empathy CAN be done, but it does take time. It will take some patience on the part of the partner, as this is a new language being developed by the addict. I do want to say first that it is NOT the partner’s job to teach empathy to their addicted spouse/partner. It is the addict’s job to learn these skills with the help of his/her therapist, sponsor, and recovery team. Relationships starved of empathy are painful and traumatic, so it’s imperative that addicts begin learning these skills ASAP in the recovery process if they want to bring restoration to their relationships.
So what are some ways that addicts can start to learn the new language of empathy?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of empathy-building tools, but it’s a way to help addicts start developing the new language of empathy. Again, this will take time and patience, but with dedication an addict CAN learn the new language of empathy if they are committed to learning it. If you have other tools or suggestions, please let me know so I can add to this list.