Has my entire marriage been a lie? Am I to blame? Is there any hope for my marriage? Is divorce my best option? These are just a few of the questions that will run through your mind after discovering a partner’s sexual betrayal and sex addiction. You will experience a roller coaster of emotions.
You want to, first, encourage the betraying-spouse to take care of himself or herself while you seek support. Next, don’t make any permanent or rash decisions while the feelings are raw and fresh. Finally, realize that divorce does not have to be the answer, if both individuals in are willing to follow an intentional path toward healing the relationship.
Let’s take a look at these intentional, choices that can make healing a reality, in a relationship overwhelmed by sexual addiction.
- Both partners are willing to do their own work: Though there may come a time down the road for each individual to go to counseling together, it is very important for each person to be committed to a plan that will help them individually. The betraying partner may not be in a place to consider working on the marriage. Rather than forcing that the issue, work your own plan to deal with the grieving, the pain, the anger, and the actual betrayal. Focus on who you are, first, before concerning yourself with your role in the relationship, and how it has/will change. At the same time, the partner that has done the betraying needs to have a very clear and specific plan for himself or herself, individually. If this step does not take place, it will prove to be very challenging. Each partner needs to be committed to their individual healing.
- Steps to stop the sexual addictive behaviors: Once a betrayed-spouse knows about the sexually addictive choices and behaviors his/her partner has engaged in, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay engaged in the relationship. Major steps to end the behavior(s) need to be taken. This does not make him/her the dictator, but it is fair for the betrayed-spouse to set boundaries which state that, in order to stay together, the addictive behavior(s) must stop. This can look different for each couple, from having check-in meetings, to creating an actual written agreement. Again, this goes back to the betraying-partner’s willingness to face their sexual addiction, take accountability, get counseling, and engage in an openness of sharing that will foster and rebuild trust. This will have a dual benefit to the relationship. The hurt partner will see an effort in their spouse to take care of him or herself and also begin to honor the relationship. The partner facing the battle with sexual addiction will finally get some freedom from the shame they have been living with, and begin to find a new approach to life.
- Be willing to give each other space and respect each other’s healing process and timeline: Too often, when the betraying-spouse unloads on their partner, they feel a sense of relief; A weight has been lifted from living in lies. At the same time, their partner is realizing a terrible truth about the marriage in a way he/she never dreamed would happen. Now is NOT the time to press an agenda, other than agreeing to each take steps toward healing, and respecting that each person will progress at their own pace. By working on an individual path, each partner will be focusing their energy on him/herself, while, at the same time, honoring the work the other is doing. Each partner will have time to adjust to the changes that are now taking place in his/her own life.
Where divorce does not have to be discussed at this point, it will, more than likely, cross each partners’ mind. Before this decision is made, or things are said that will be difficult to overcome, take some time to work through each of these steps. Again, if there is going to be hope, and eventually healing, each partner will have to be committed to first focusing on themselves and then, when each is at a safe place and most likely with the guidance of a therapist, they can begin to take steps to restore their relationship.
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