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When a sex or porn addictions first comes to light in a relationship, everything feels chaotic. Perhaps your partner was caught in their sexual compulsive behavior and is reluctant to admit any wrongdoing. Perhaps they confessed their behavior when either guilt or self-doubt became too unbearable. Either way, your relationship has been shattered, and you are going to need lots of help picking up the pieces.
In the immediate aftermath of this shock, many partners of sex addicts scramble to find some sort of support network. This could be friends, family, or even self-help books. But sooner or later, many couples begin to understand that sex addiction therapy will need to play a role in their healing.
However, couples who have been (or at least thought they were) fine up until the terrible moment of discovery, probably don't have any experience with relationship therapy, let alone relationship therapy aimed specifically at sex addictions. In other words, you may have no idea what to expect.
What will relationship therapy accomplish? What will your relationship look like after working on it? How will this affect you and your partner? These are all questions that many people have before choosing to embark on these deeply personal journeys.
So, let's speak frankly about what you're in for when you begin couples therapy for sex or porn addictions.
Every couple that takes on this kind of therapy does so because something in their life has gone wrong. They never had to face this type of problem in their relationship. Or, more to the point, they never recognized that there was a problem in the first place — not one that they could pinpoint and give a name to.
You've already been blindsided by the truth of your partner's sexual compulsive behavior, but you're not out of the woods just yet. The revelation that there's been an addiction issue may have only been the tip of the iceberg.
When partners of sex addicts and their partners speak in therapy sessions, you will be using a language that you have not used with each other before. You will each bare your souls in new ways, and the information that is disclosed might not line up with the person you thought you knew.
This in and of itself is another huge adjustment for couples to go through. Yes, you learn how to speak to one another constructively through therapy, but in doing so, you also learn that the person you thought you were speaking to may not be there anymore.
When one person in a partnership recommends therapy, they are usually doing so with the idea that therapy makes things better.
It definitely does. But not right away.
In fact, you may want to prepare yourself for the idea that this will get a lot harder before it gets any easier. This is because therapy doesn't give you a way around your problems, it forces you to face them head-on and walk straight at them. That's hard.
You, as partners of sex addicts, may show up to your therapy sessions thinking that this will be a way for you to rake your partner over the coals for what they have done to you. This will be your chance to lay 100% of the blame completely at their feet, and your partner will clearly see the error of their ways, and strive to become better.
However, in fact, you may find your partner initially trying to blame you for their sex and porn addictions.
Now as I always say, you did not cause their addiction and it is not your responsibility to cure it. This remains 100% true. However, your partner may bring up some behaviors or incidents where they themselves felt betrayed or wronged by you, and even though you are entirely focused on their addiction, you will have to take a step back and address these other issues too.
These different perceptions of your relationship can be very difficult to handle, but if they're not brought out into the open in a therapeutic setting, they'll never get resolved.
Which brings us to the next point.
There is this idea out there in popular culture that therapy is something you do to "save your relationship." If both parties truly love each other, are truly willing to work on negative behaviors, and remain committed to one another for the right reasons, it can absolutely happen.
However, as I've mentioned before, therapy can be quite painful. Some relationships can be irrevocably broken. Some partnerships can be unhealthy or even dangerous.
In these cases, therapy can become a tool to help you end a toxic relationship. Some partners of sex addicts have a very hard time leaving relationships, even if they are extremely harmful. Other times, it takes the openness and honesty of therapy to realize what you actually want for yourself, and whether or not it's compatible with what your partner wants. Indeed, the best outcome of your therapy may not be that your relationship comes out stronger, but that you do.
One of the most fundamental questions I can ask as a counselor is "what is your commitment here?" Why are you in this relationship in the first place? Why is he? What intentions do you have coming here today?
You might walk through the door with 10,000 questions on your mind and feel frustrated having only addressed two or three of them in your initial session.
Yet, backing up and starting at the beginning is so important. As I've explained, couples therapy for sex addiction will not be a quick fix, and when you first show up, you've got your work cut out for you.
However, no matter how rocky your first few sessions are, no matter how betrayed or embarrassed you feel, and whether or not your goal is to save the relationship, you will still benefit from figuring all of this out with a professional. Trying to go it alone can put you into even more vulnerable situations. It can quickly spiral out of control and become toxic. That is not doing you any favors.
So, is couple's therapy sometimes clumsy and difficult? Yes.
Can it be embarrassing, frustrating, and upsetting? Yes.
Should you still do it? Yes!
Reach out to us at Neulia Compulsion Solutions to learn more and get started.
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I started dating a man a few months ago and I would have labeled him with a giant A for your all around Average guy. He had made a few crude remarks which I immediatly said I don't appreciate and he had been nothing but respectful since. I'm a sexual assault victim advocate and know how to set my boundaries for acceptable behavior. Well he still managed to drop a bomb on me when he called and told me the reason he and his wife of 28 years divorced was because he is a sex addict. At first he blamed her drinking but then said she forced him into therapy where he realized he had a sex addiction. I don't want an addict in my life and I certainly don't want to take on another persons issues here. But he honestly seems like a nice guy who tells me this is in his past, that he prays about it every day, and he genuinely cares about me and wants a relationship. I know alcoholics can never drink again, but what does a sex addict do or not do? What can I do to be a supportive but not enabling partner is this situation? I'm trying to decide if I want to stay or run from this relationship before we go any further.
Emily, One thing you could do would be to get a hold of our book, "A Couple's Guide to Sexual Addiction" (amazon.com or Barnes and Noble stores) and read it together. That way you could see (firsthand) how wounded he was and is....and work through it. I'd also welcome a call from him or you both with questions as to how to handle addiction in relationship. Let me know.
Best, George (Director)