Couples in recovery from sex addiction are in a unique situation.
It requires patience, hard work and commitment to the healing process. A couple’s recovery as a team also depends on each partner’s individual recovery. While it is assumed that the addict will follow a program of recovery, it can often come as a surprise to the partner that his or her own recovery is of paramount importance.
It is up to the individual to decide whether to stay in or leave the relationship — nobody can make that choice for them.
As a therapist working with sex addiction, it is my task to help partners learn to live in the present moment, as well as access their own inner wisdom for answers about what the best choice is for them. I let them know that their main tasks are to learn to focus on themselves, stop obsessing on the addict’s behaviors, and practice self-care.
In the early stages of recovery, partners often find it hard to believe what the addict says. That is why it is important to believe the addict’s actions. When addicts hit bottom, usually following their partner’s discovery of their behaviors, they can experience profound feelings of shame and remorse regarding their acting-out behaviors.
It is common during this time for the addict to make claims that he or she will “do anything” to preserve the relationship.
But when faced with the daunting task of entering intensive programs, and attending 12-step meetings and therapy, addicts sometimes hold on to denial rather than do what is necessary to obtain and maintain sexual sobriety. This can be very disheartening for the addict’s partner. Developing and holding strong boundaries requires the addict to actively engage in the recovery process. It is necessary for both the addict and for the partner’s continued self-care.
Addicts both need to work on changing dysfunctional patterns and acknowledge that the partner is not at fault. Realizing that both the addict and the partner require their own recovery and actively seeking that recovery is crucial.
Trusting again after being caught in the web of betrayal of sex addiction can seem impossible. However, with time and building trust through consistency, it is possible to gain a healthy relationship.
It is important to remember that this process will take time, hard work, accountability and ultimately, forgiveness. Risking vulnerability and collective grieving as a couple, as well as nurturing one another and respecting boundaries can be the foundations of this new relationship in recovery.