by Dan Drake, LMFT, LPCC, CCPS-S, CSAT-S
Anna Fels wrote a piece on betrayal in the NY Times a few weeks ago. I’ve been too busy to write about it, but since I had a few minutes today I wanted to share it here. Here’s a link to her article: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/opinion/sunday/great-betrayals.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
What I found really enlightening about the piece was that she was writing about the impact of betrayal upon relationships. In working with sex addicts, their partners, and families, betrayal is a word that always surfaces. It’s incredibly damaging to find out about one’s partner’s hidden sexual behaviors. The impact can be traumatizing on the partner and on the relationship. I had to pause and reflect after reading Fels’s piece on betrayal. She writes about betrayal in general: financial, sexual, and other types. She states that it is the secrecy, lies, and manipulation that carry the most damage to a partner and to a relationship. This echoes very strongly what I hear from partners all the time: As painful and traumatic as the sexual behaviors are, there is another layer of damage simply in the betrayal through secrecy and deceit.
As professionals and those in recovery, we need to be mindful of this betrayal. The impact of this betrayal is SIGNIFICANT upon a relationship. For sex addicts, maintaining sexual sobriety is vitally important. Yet we must also recognize and address the deeper relational wounds that arise out of holding secrets. Mending back together the shattered shards of reality takes time, patience, and sensitivity. We need to honor this process, as it is unique for each partner and relationship.
I think that as addicts are better able to understand this additional component they will more easily move towards empathy and partners will be more readily validated in their healing journey. I hear variations on what Fels describes in her piece, but I am curious if this lines up with your experience. Let me know how you experience the impact of betrayal.