At times, it is wise for the addict and spouse to participate in individual therapy. This could be to address individually the struggles of the current situation and to explore thoughts and feelings that could be hurtful to share with the partner.
In individual therapy, the person can freely express feelings such as anger, devastation, hopelessness, grief and ambivalence. These private sessions are also helpful to explore past traumas from your individual life history that contribute to the current pain. Sometimes, individual therapy allows you to explore your options, including the pros and cons of staying in the marriage or leaving it.
In Couples Sexual Recovery therapy, I ask that the addict to adhere to the “5 Commandments of Recovery.” These are:
1. Morning prayer.
If you do not have a strong connection with or belief in God, you can still acknowledge daily the need for a Higher Power help conquer your addiction.
2. Daily reading of recovery literature.
You must educate yourself on what you are dealing with. My list of is a good place to start. Take it one at a time. There’s a lot to absorb.
3. Group participation.
Being involved in a weekly support group will be a grueling process for the addict and the partner, but to expect to recover alone would be unwise. There are recovery groups for intimacy anorexics and sex addicts, and groups that combine the two.
4. Phone calls.
Calling group members is often the hardest of the 5 commandments. It requires you to confront the shame you’ve been carrying and reach out to others who carry a similar burden of pain and addiction. It’s the beginning of developing healthy relationships with other men based on the truth of who you are, not the image you’ve projected.
As you get to know one another, you can expect to be challenged in the behaviors that need to change. As you heal, you will also be asked to hold others accountable.
5. Evening prayer.
At the end of the day, you will express gratitude for a day of recovery or give an account of relapses. Prayer both morning and night is an act of acknowledging that you need help beyond your own to heal. It is a reaching out to God, activating and acknowledging His assistance.
It is also a step towards building or continuing a very real, intimate relationship with your Creator. The first sign of relapse is failing to keep any of these “5 Commandments.”
THE 3 DAILIES
Part of your recovery as a couple will involve participating in the 3 Dailies, which are:
- Share two appreciations and praises about your spouse with your spouse.
- Share two feelings with your spouse.
- Pray aloud with your spouse.
Typically, it is the addict’s job to initiate the 3 Dailies for the first 60 to 90 days. Why? So the addict can overcome the passive role in the relationship and replace that behavior with one of pursuing your partner’s heart. Your spouse may be so deeply wounded at first that he/she won’t be able to receive your dailies.
Regardless, it is your job to initiate. If your partner doesn’t want to hear your 3 Dailies, then you will write them down for him/her to keep. Eventually, the goal is that both of you will initiate and participate together in these actions.
As a Certified Gottman Therapist, I am thrilled and fascinated whenever the Gottman and AASAT treatment models overlap. Dr. John Gottman’s methods teach couples to share daily appreciations and affections, and to turn towards one another. These behaviors, he says, are especially critical to repairing and rebuilding a damaged relationship.
Some couples try to cobble together a treatment plan of their own – skipping over important pieces, often the most difficult parts, of recovery. In my experience, many couples eventually accept the tough recommendations given at the start, trust the process that’s been proven in my 20 years of working with the addict population, and join the thousands who are actively in recovery and successfully rebuilding their marriages.
Other couples, unfortunately, over a matter of months of trying to follow their own “treatment” plan, become discouraged by the lack of change, progress and healing. These couples discontinue therapy and are unable to obtain the peace and happiness they desire.
If you are not yet ready for private theray or feel it may not be appropriate for your situation, but would like to improve your relationship with your signficant other, I recommend my couples weekend workshop: The Art and Science of Love, created by the Gottman Institute.