Partners of sex addicts, spouses of sex addicts, or any significant other who is close with the patient will also need support when they discover the secret life of their mate. The pain of broken trust is massive. The relationship is exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, financial ruin and social embarrassment. Support is needed to make sense of the crazy-making reality of being repeatedly lied to about the foundation of a relationship.
The person I love is a sex addict.
Sadly everyday there are thousands of people in this country who have to acknowledge one of the following statements as being true for themselves:
- My husband is a sex addict.
- My boyfriend is a sex addict.
- My wife is a sex addict.
- My girlfriend is a sex addict.
If you have recently discovered that this is also your reality, it can be very upsetting. Getting support for living with sex addiction is good for your mental health. Partners of sex addicts normally find themselves reeling once they discover their significant other has been hiding compulsive sexual behaviors. Common secretive behaviors include:
- compulsive masturbation
- pornography addiction
- anonymous sex
- hiring prostitutes
- numerous affairs
Being the spouse or partner of a sex addict is a painful position to be in as you try to figure out how you’re going to survive all the feelings that come up. The feelings many partners report are:
I don’t understand this – I have so many questions.
Feeling confused is normal when you discover that the person you love is a sex addict. The confusion of sexual addiction is usually accompanied with all sorts of questions. How could he do this to me? What is sex addiction? Does this mean they’re crazy? Am I crazy? What should we do?
In the midst of all these questions, partners of sex addicts may start to feel alone and isolated. If you have children, you may feel the added pressure of having to figure out what is the best thing to do for your children and family. Unfortunately, partners of sex addicts often find themselves feeling like invisible casualties because so much attention is directed at protecting the family and getting treatment for the sex addict. If you are wondering what you are going to do, consider this: all the experts agree, getting support for partners, spouses, and family members of sex addicts is the first step.
Trauma-Based Treatment for Spouses and Partners of Sex Addicts
Discovering your partner’s infidelity is devastating. Whether you find out accidentally, your partner discloses to you, or you go in search of evidence to support your suspicions, the result is traumatizing. Your entire world as you know is changing. Nothing is as it seems, and you’re left feeling betrayed, angry and confused. How do you go on with life? What do you do to pick up the pieces and begin to feel whole again?
Spouse and partner treatment at the Bevill and Associates is designed to gently help you through the gradual process of healing. Whether or not your partner is in treatment for sex addiction, you can begin the process of healing very painful wounds caused by your partner’s problematic sexual behavior.
Caring, Compassionate Treatment
At Bevill and Associates, we’re well-equipped to assist in a partner’s healing process and have created a treatment program designed to attend to your very personal needs. Each partner’s situation is somewhat different, requiring a personalized treatment plan. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment approach for partners of sex addicts.
More than anything else, you need to know that you’re in a safe and secure environment, a place where you can feel free to discuss the deeply troubling feelings you’ve been experiencing as a result of your partner or spouse’s sexual behavior. Our compassionate, highly skilled therapists ensure that all aspects of treatment take place in a nurturing, safe, confidential environment.
Treatment from a Trauma-Based Perspective
We approach partner treatment from a trauma-based perspective. The symptoms you experience as a result of your partner’s problematic sexual behavior are very similar to the symptoms experienced by those who have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
With PTSD, a person’s nervous system goes into a hyper-arousal state in response to a life-threatening event. The body shifts into “fight, flight or freeze” mode in order to ready itself for danger and support life-defending action. Symptoms associated with PTSD include hypervigilance (checking behavior), emotional reactivity, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance, nightmares, and intrusive or obsessive thoughts.
Even though your partner may not have physically threatened you, and your life may not have actually been in danger, your “life as you knew it” has been threatened. It may feel like you don’t even recognize your partner, your relationship or your life. You may have questions about what is real regarding other aspects of your partner’s behavior, like questioning if your partner was dishonest with money, his or her job, or about his or her sexual orientation.
What’s Involved in Spouse and Partner Treatment?
Comprehensive Assessment. The first step is to mitigate crises and attend to your immediate safety. In a private, individual therapy setting we’ll take your full psycho-social-sexual history in order to make an appropriate clinical assessment. We want to ensure that you’re able to tell your story in a place that is safe and nonjudgmental, and that we are attending to any compounding factors such as clinical depression or anxiety that may elevate your symptoms.
Trauma-Informed Care. Recognizing that you have undergone a traumatic experience, partner treatment at Bevill and Associates has been carefully designed to address the PTSD-like symptoms, helping you re-regulate your nervous system and redirect unhelpful thought patterns. We assist you in the healing process through evidence-based interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy, Trauma Resiliency Model, Somatic Experiencing, and mindfulness interventions. The exercises you are taught can be repeated at home or whenever you need them.
Boundary-Setting. An important part of partner treatment is helping you to set boundaries that can lead to the creation of your best life and relationships. These boundaries can help you re-establish a sense of safety and clarity for yourself in your life outside treatment.
Process Groups. We offer therapist-facilitated process groups where you can receive the support of others whose partners have been acting out sexually. When you share your story with others who have had similar experiences and are also involved in the healing process, you learn that you are not alone; and you aren’t “crazy” or making things up. Your intuition or radar about what your partner was doing was probably spot on. Sharing your story with others who understand, and receiving their support and validation is an important step in developing shame resiliency.
In spouse and partner therapy groups, we offer psychoeducation about the addiction process, healthy communication, setting boundaries, and intimacy development, and create opportunities to get immediate feedback from the group on what has worked for them, all facilitated by a licensed therapist. We practice grounding and breathing to re-regulate nervous system response, as well as other cognitive and emotional coping skills to develop vulnerability and trust. We process grief and loss, and learn to manage feelings of shame and isolation that are often experienced by the wounded partner.
Shame Resilience. We utilize The Daring Way™, the work of Dr. Brené Brown to address shame, vulnerability and intimacy, and eventually the rebuilding of trust (assuming your partner maintains sobriety).
Self-Help Support. Participation in 12-step groups such as S-Anon and COSA is also highly recommended. In general, 12-step groups are a good way to process your grief and empower yourself to take responsibility for your own behavior.
The Healing Can Begin Now
Following the discovery or disclosure that your partner has been acting out sexually, it’s a normal reaction to feel grief, shame, confusion, anger, devastation and a variety of other extreme emotions, but you don’t have to stay stuck there. Bevill and Associates is here to help you take life-affirming steps toward your own recovery. Our resources can empower you and set you on a path to feeling whole again.
To find out more about partner treatment, call us today at 205-610-9319