PARTNERS OF ADDICTS: WHY RECOVERY IS NEEDED
Many partners of addicts ask: "I'm not the one who betrayed and broke our covenant. I'm not the one who screwed up and broke promises. Why should I have to be in recovery?" Why? Because YOU are worth it! You are worth recovering. Much of who you are, were, and all that you hoped and dreamed for may feel lost, damaged or destroyed. All of this is worth recovering and restoring. Allow a place in your heart for this idea to be planted. God made you an amazing person with vast potential and you may not feel that way lately. It’s time to reclaim that sense of worth that belongs to you.
As the partner of a person with a sexual addiction or Intimacy Anorexia, to feel imposed upon by the recovery process is understandable and something you will need to work through in order to heal. Whether you are just now discovering the problem or you’ve been aware of it for years or decades – with or without a name for it – you are likely to be experiencing a whole host of feelings, including sorrow, anger, despair, pride, fear, abandoned, isolated.
The list could fill pages. In the midst of these feelings, allow for the possibility of hope. Not that you necessarily FEEL hopeful right now. However, you do have some hope. If you were completely devoid of hope, you wouldn’t be here now, reading this page. You would have left already. That glimmer of hope may be linked to your marriage, your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, yourself, God’s Word and Plan, your faith or the future. Whatever your reason for hope, hold on to it.
WHAT DO I NEED TO RECOVER OR HEAL FROM?
Every partner is unique in his or her experience, losses, wounds and need for healing. In being married to an addict, many partners experience the loss of self, hopes and dreams. The devastation, betrayal and pain can be all-encompassing and commonly manifests as:
- addictions (alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications)
- sexual disorders
- eating disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorders
- avoidance or control issues
- low self-esteem
- dissociation disorders,
- intimacy anorexia,
- unhealthy dependence
PARTNER THERAPY HELPS YOU TO HEAL FROM THESE TYPES OF SYMPTOMS:
Many partners of sex addicts also develop other unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to cope with the pain of their relationship. These behaviors include:
- controlling others
- excessive spending
- focusing too much on the children
- excessive mothering of the children or the addict
- focusing too much on friends rather than the relationship
- extreme and sudden discharging of anger
- internet or emotional affairs
- sexual affairs
- over-entertaining and socializing
- shaming others
- excessive volunteering
- excessive exercising
While some items on this list seem good, they are unhealthy when taken to excess, especially when used to avoid being intimately connected to your spouse. If you are experiencing any of the issues on these lists, I recommend you seek therapeutic services.
WHERE DO I START?
The “5 Commandments of Recovery”.
This applies as much to spouses as to addicts.
- Pray in the morning.
- Read recovery material every day.
- Attend weekly group meetings.
- Call group members.
- Pray in the evening.
Joining a support group requires you confront the shame you’ve been carrying for so many years, much of which is not yours to carry, and reach out to other women who carry a similar burden of pain. Only these women who have walked a similar path are able to understand with compassion.
Many partners have spent a lifetime covering up for their addicted spouse. By attending group and making calls to other women, you are breaking the hold of that unhealthy behavior. And if you are sincere about your own recovery, these are the only women who will be able to gently, with compassion, hold you accountable for the changes you need to make
The 3 Dailies.
Part of your recovery as a couple will involve participating in the 3 Dailies:
- Share two appreciations/praises with your spouse.
- Share two feelings with your spouse
- Pray aloud with your spouse.
If your spouse is in recovery, he or she will initiate the 3 Dailies for the first 60 to 90 days. That means the addict starts it, but you reciprocate. Eventually, the goal is that both of you will initiate and participate together in these actions.
Should I participate in individual therapy? Not all, but many women find individual therapy helpful in working through the feelings of anger, betrayal, and grief and hurt that accompany living with the fallout of their spouse’s addiction. To say your soul or heart feels shattered, crushed and obliterated is an understatement. Healing is hard work. There is much to be expressed and experienced, purged and reclaimed. Such a journey would be unwise to try to do with your spouse or even another loved one. A therapist trained in the dynamics of sexual addiction and intimacy anorexia can effectively walk with you through this part of your healing journey. Should I seek couples or marriage therapy?
The marriage is its own entity and needs its own healing, separate from individual healing. Learning to interact with your spouse in new ways around all levels of intimacy is vital to the recovery of your marriage. Old patterns will need to be replaced with new, more effective patterns. Ironically, while your addicted spouse is the source of much of your pain, he or she is key to your own healing and the healing of the marriage. You will need a skilled marriage therapist who is educated in the dynamics of sexual addiction and intimacy anorexia for your greatest benefit.
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.