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This is the second blog in a series on resilience. In the first installment, I spoke about the importance of self-care and why it's such a difficult concept for many partners of sex addicts to comprehend. What I'd like to talk about now is what happens after you learn to prioritize your own needs. How do you continue to progress towards a more resilient life?
The moment a woman discovers that her partner has been unfaithful, or has been sneaking around behind her back to feed his addiction, she often immediately blames herself. Even though this is a knee-jerk emotional reaction, in doing this, she has also unwittingly given up both her power and her identity.
This complete abandonment of your own needs and personal integrity doesn't really happen in an instant though. Often, the moment of discovery happens after a long and worrisome process. It might begin when you realize the two of you aren't having sex anymore. Many women also notice a generalized lack of affection in a relationship. These moments are when the cracks in your resilience begin.
It's natural to wonder if your partner is getting his needs met elsewhere. The problem is that partners of sex addicts can sometimes take ownership of these problems (his problems) and internalize the guilt that comes with them. In a million little ways, women can wind up paying the price of their partner's addiction.
When women come to me absolutely believing that their partner's addiction is their fault and that steps taken to correct his behavior are theirs to take, one of my jobs as a therapist is to help women turn this thinking around. Instead of putting the weight of someone else's actions on yourself, what if you prioritized your own self-worth? What if you regained some power?
If you've read any of my other blogs, you've surely heard me say this phrase many times: “You didn't cause his addiction, so you can't fix it.” That's a simple enough sentence, but in practice, it falls on deaf ears much of the time. Women who are partners of sex addicts must be taught to believe it.
At this stage in treatment, I am constantly checking in to make sure she is continuing to prioritize self-care. This is new behavior for her and we must clear this stumbling block if she’s going to regain her sense of personal power.
We don't realize how often we use tools in our day-to-day lives. Try living, for example, without something as commonplace as silverware. It would completely change the way you structure your day, right? The same thing goes for emotional tools. If you are trying to live your life without employing the tools you have at your disposal, you are giving yourself an unnecessarily hard time.
The first tool that I help women rediscover is the ability to trust one’s self. Long periods of living with a partner’s addictive behavior can leave women feeling like they don't have permission to make firm decisions because they're so used to relying on their partner or relying on the relationship itself.
Now that her relationship has fractured, she has become convinced that she is helpless and that she doesn’t matter as a person. This is flawed thinking and it all stems from an unwillingness to trust herself. We can begin to correct this mindset with a self-care regimen. By making small decisions to put herself first and by seeing the positive results it brings to her life, she can begin to trust herself again, little by little.
The second tool I help partners of sex addicts find is the ability to change their minds. One of the best things a woman can do for herself mentally is to begin looking at her life in new and different ways. Rather than seeing herself as either “in a relationship” (and therefore worth something), or “not in a relationship” (and therefore worthless), we take steps to help her understand herself as an individual.
Something as simple as going for a walk alone might allow a woman to experience herself in an entirely new way. She can be alone with her thoughts and alone with her actions, without having to filter them through a relationship. She can begin to understand and even befriend herself.
We are always here at Nuelia Compulsion Solutions to help. There are many women going through the same struggles as you right now and we have helped many of them turn their lives around for the better. Learning to trust yourself as an independent and powerful person can seem terrifying at first, which is why we have formulated a process to help guide you through it naturally and gently.
The wisdom that comes when a woman starts caring for herself is profound, and that wisdom is going to see her through. There is life after betrayal, and it can be beautiful.
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