Realistic Self Care When Dealing With A Partner’s Porn/Sex Addiction

There’s a prevalent idea out there about what self-care looks like, but it’s not realistic. Here’s why self-care is at the center of relationship counseling.

 

Have you ever found yourself standing in the middle of an especially stressful day, wondering when was the last time you did anything for you? The concept of self-care is one I circle back to a lot when I work with the partners of addicts. Yet, regardless of how many times a woman reads about this concept either on this blog, or on another, she still feels uneasy about putting herself first.

 

Pop culture has begun taking a close look at self-care as a concept, and while awareness is always a good thing, I’m not convinced that the media can offer a realistic depiction of what it looks like. You have probably seen self-care rituals described as “cutesy” or self-indulgent experiences such as shopping, eating in expensive restaurants, spa treatments, staying home from work when you’re not sick, or having a mimosa brunch.

 

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these rituals, and you are certainly entitled to each and every one, but they do not get into the meat of what self-care really is. This is why, even though the term “self-care” has become a buzzword recently, many women still call me having absolutely no idea how to seek it out for themselves.

 

Self-care looks very different than we have been led to believe. Seeking out self-care in the wrong way can be just as damaging as not seeking it out at all. You are a real woman, facing down real problems, and you need real self-care.

 

Remember: You’re Going Through The Stages of Grief

 

Imagine this: a friend of yours calls you in tears to let you know about the unexpected death of a family member. This person has been completely blindsided, and is reaching out for support. Which of the following do you think would be the most helpful response?

 

  1. Offer to book your friend a massage with your favorite therapist.
  2. Remain stoic, and ask if this sudden death will interfere with your plans to meet up this weekend.
  3. Immediately rush to your friend’s home, and make yourself available as emotional support. Without being asked, clean her home for her, so she can concentrate on making arrangements and receiving guests.

 

Option one seems a bit vapid and out of touch, option two seems callous and selfish, and option three probably feels like the least you could do for someone who means so much to your life. It’s clear that you recognize how to care for others — but why is it so hard to figure out how to care for yourself?

 

It’s because, just like this hypothetical friend, you are also going through the stages of grief. You may not have experienced the death of a loved one, but you have experienced a complete upheaval of your life, your relationship, and your family.

 

The problem is, while human society has many customs and rituals in place to deal with death and the grieving process that accompanies it, we do not have a similar framework for relationship-based trauma. Nobody comes rushing to your home with a casserole when they find out your husband has been unfaithful. There are no cards to send someone whose partner has a crippling addiction to pornography.

 

And because we have this awkwardness surrounding the issue, people don’t reach out. They don’t understand. The unspoken message is “deal with this on your own,” and far too many women do just that.

Your Emotions Can Manifest in Damaging Ways If You’re Not Practicing Self Care

 

Circling back to the analogy of the grieving friend, imagine if the sudden death of her loved one was greeted with the same awkwardness and discomfort you were shown when you discovered the deeply troubling problems in your relationship. Imagine if she were given no time off from work. Imagine if no one ever called, messaged, or sent a card. Imagine if there was incredible societal pressure on her to never mention what happened.

 

How do you think she would be holding up under those conditions?

 

Do you think she would continue to be an effective parent? Would her career stay exactly on track? Would her friendships grow and thrive in the midst of all that deafening silence? Of course not. It seems cruel and ridiculous to expect that level of resilience in someone who just experienced a traumatic event.

 

And yet, that is exactly what we expect the partners of addicts to do sometimes.

 

Because you are not presented with outlets for your grief, and because you do not know how to properly care for yourself in the wake of this trauma, you may find yourself engaging in self-destructive behavior. Perhaps you are compulsively shopping or watching TV or drinking, perhaps you are suddenly prone to angry outbursts, perhaps you find it nearly impossible to get out of bed and face the day, so you just don’t.

 

Anger, depression, fear, self-loathing, and doubt are strong negative emotions, and they will consume you if they are left unchecked. Don’t let that happen.

 

So, What Does Effective Self Care Look Like Now?

 

The answer to this question is personal, and it will look very different for each individual. In fact, one of my main jobs as a counselor is to help you sift through these complex emotions, and to find yourself in the middle of them. I want you to come back to a place where you can focus on you, because you matter.

 

My goal is to sit with you, and to find out what it is you need. What is missing from your life? How can we help you fill this void?

 

This is the reality of self-care. It is having a quiet and safe space in which to focus on yourself, to vocalize the needs which aren’t being met, and to come up with a concrete plan to meet them. So many women miss out on this step completely, because there is a notion out there that only addicts need counseling. Not true. Their partners need counseling just as urgently.

 

If you feel like your emotional needs are being largely ignored by your family, your friends, your coworkers, and society at large, you are not alone. Please pick up the phone and get in touch with us, so we can begin getting you back to a place where you can focus on you.

 

Make this year the year of real, and meaningful self-care, beginning right now.

 

2 thoughts on “Realistic Self Care When Dealing With A Partner’s Porn/Sex Addiction

  1. Tammy

    I am currently in counseling. Since my separation from my husband of 22 yrs, 11 weeks ago for rage and porn addiction, my counselor has really focused on my codependency. My husbands disclosure was 2 weeks ago, and I have fallen apart. I need to know what the cost would be to develop a self care plan through your counselors?

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