Questions from Partners
What should I do first if I suspect my partner is a sex addict?
The first step is to admit there is a serious problem with your partner and the relationship. Refuse to remain in denial. Take action to learn about sexual addiction and co-addiction and to get help for yourself. Begin by telling a safe person the truth about what’s going on in your family.
What do I tell my family and friends? My addict refuses to let me talk to anyone and insists it’s nobody’s business.
It’s not unusual for addicts to insist that their spouses keep the secret. He or she may use threats or control to keep you quiet. The truth is that you have a right to talk about what’s going on in your life. Your spouse’s addiction affects you, too. You can tell your story about what’s going on with you – the pain, the fear, the shame, the confusion. You don’t owe any loyalty to your spouse’s sinful behaviors.
If you fear your spouse may become violent or harm you in some significant way, it’s crucial that you develop a safety plan. Learn about the resources in your area. Make arrangements with a trusted person for help in an emergency. Ask for legal advice, if necessary.
What do I tell my children?
Professionals in the field generally agree that children, both minors and adults, have a need and right to know (to varying degrees) about a parent’s addiction. Even young children are very much aware of what’s going on in a family, despite how well you may have tried to hide it. Talking honestly about the family situation can be a relief for children.
You should consider your children’s ages, maturity, and personality when discussing sensitive information. The primary thing to consider is your motive for telling your children: Is it to promote honesty and healing within the family, or is to seek support for yourself, get your children to take side, or manipulate the children into comforting you? None of those are healthy reasons for talking with your children about the situation.
It is vitally important that you reassure children that any problems in the family are not their fault and are not their responsibility to solve. Be clear that you will take care of them and get the family whatever help is needed.
We’ll thoroughly address the topic of disclosure to family at the Healing for Spouses workshop.
Are my children safe if my partner is sexually addicted? Will he/she sexually abuse the children?
Living in a home where sexual addiction is present is clearly an unhealthy environment for children for a variety of reasons. However, don’t automatically assume that a sex addict is at risk of sexually abusing children. Sexual addiction and pedophilia (being sexually attracted to children) are two different things. Most sex addicts are not inappropriate with children. Unless you have some specific reason to suspect otherwise (such as finding child-oriented pornography), your children aren’t at risk of sexual abuse by an addicted parent.
It’s always wise, however, to be aware of others’ interactions with your children and to have healthy conversations about concepts like safe touch and personal privacy.
Questions from Couples
How do we heal as a couple?
When faced with the devastation of sexual addiction, a couple may feel there’s no hope for their relationship. The good news is that the crisis of sexual betrayal can be the window into the kind of relationship both spouses have always wanted – a relationship of genuine intimacy. A coupleship in the truest sense of the one flesh union that God intends for marriage.
This kind of renewal, however, takes the same dedication to healing as a couple that’s required for individual recovery. A recovering sex addict and co-addict sometimes think that their individual work will automatically improve their relationship. In some ways, that’s true. It definitely helps the relationship when the addict is being faithful and the co-addict is addressing his or her own codependent behaviors.
Individual healing, though, doesn’t automatically translate into a healthy coupleship. Each couple has its own couple’s dance – a predictable pattern of interaction that’s been developed over the years. Maybe one spouse distances and the other pursues. Perhaps one mate over-functions and the other mate is irresponsible. Often both partners unconsciously project family of origin or other wounds onto the spouse, so that their relationship is complicated by additional baggage that was brought into the marriage. These patterns must be identified, understood, resolved and forgiven.
Rebuilding trust is a key task of couple’s recovery. The addict is responsible for re-earning trust that’s been broken, which is a process of demonstrating change over time. The co-addict must ultimately be willing to re-extend trust, which often is harder. Couples who are years down the road of recovery say that trust can be rebuilt to the point that it’s no longer an issue.
This healing process usually begins when both spouses come to understand each other’s woundedness. This understanding generates compassion and de-personalizes some of the pain the spouse has caused.
Effective couple’s recovery includes getting connected with other recovering couples. Just as the addict and co-addict need their individual support groups, the coupleship requires the same kind of help. A couple benefits from a sponsoring couple to mentor their journey.
The Healing for Couples Workshop provides a huge entry into couple’s recovery. It creates a foundation of compassion and structure that can carry a couple through the hard early months of healing.
Why do we keep having the same old fights? We’re destroying each other with our hurtful patterns.
Couples often feel powerless as the dysfunctions of their relationship continue, no matter how hard the spouses try to stop. One key answer to breaking this cycle is to change the patterns of unhealthy family systems, which each spouse brings into the marriage. Realize that you and your mate are probably doing the best job you can as a marriage partner. And your parents did, too. Recognize that you didn’t have the modeling, the instruction, or the unconditional love and nurturing you deserved as you were growing up. You lack the tools to have a healthy relationship, especially one struggling with the trauma of addiction. When you identify the ways you get triggered and how it affects your marriage, you can begin to change your behavior.
We’ve tried couples counseling and it didn’t work. Why will a workshop be different?
A variety of factors could have contributed to the failure of earlier counseling. One or both partners may not have been completely honest with the counselor. (Many active addicts won’t disclose their acting out, even to a therapist.) Maybe one or the other spouse was stuck in blame and unwilling to accept personal responsibility for his or her contribution to the relationship problems. Or perhaps you didn’t get the right kind of help.
Unfortunately, many counselors – including Christian counselors – aren’t trained in treating sexual addiction or in helping the marriages touched by this disease. If the “help” you got before didn’t go deeper than the behavioral issues, it’s no surprise it wasn’t helpful. Addicted couples must explore the “whys” behind their behavior patterns – the baggage each brings into the relationship.
We also find that too often couples jump into marriage counseling without working on themselves as individuals. We find this approach rarely works, and it’s why we require each spouse to attend his or her own individual workshop before coming to the couples workshop.
I don’t think I can ever trust my spouse again. I’m still so hurt and angry. How can a workshop help me get past this pain?
Nearly every couple wonders if – and when – the agony will ease. Trust is the number one issue with most couples. A Healing for Couples workshop is a safe place to express your hurt, fear, and your desire for healing. You’ll be coached to communicate and listen at a deeper level. The example of the leaders offers encouragement and hope, as well as a practical model for interacting differently.
I’m interesting in attending a couples workshop, but my spouse isn’t. What should I do?
First, discuss the possibility with your mate again. Find a time when things are calm and invite your spouse to a conversation about improving your marriage. Begin by sharing some positive things about your relationship. Assure your mate you’re interested in understanding him or her better and learning how to interact in a healthier way. Emphasize you’re willing to do your part in addressing any issues, and take responsibility for any lapses you’ve had since your own workshop. Share again how strongly you want to attend a Couples workshop and explain how it can be feasible in terms of arranging childcare, finances, etc.
If your spouse is still unwilling to consider coming to a couples intensive, ask why and really listen to the answer. Then take your own inventory first. Are you consistently working your own recovery program? Are you walking your talk? If not, commit to making the individual changes you need to make, and ask if your spouse is willing to attend the next workshop if you demonstrate progress.
Remember, you’re powerless over someone else’s choices. Keep doing what you’re supposed to do and leave the outcome to God. His timing is perfect, even when we doubt it. Don’t let your mate’s refusal keep you from working your own program.