It is devastating for a partner to find out that the person they love is battling sex addiction by losing themselves in pornography or, even worse, engaging in multiple affairs. The partner is questioning whether they even want to be in the relationship, let alone rebuild trust. However, if both are willing to do the hard work by taking a look at what each individual needs to labor through and agree to a transparent and consistent plan, trust can be rebuilt and eventually restored.
So what does it take to make restoring trust possible? Here are a few important factors that can help the couple on their journey toward healing:
Understand the difference in forgiveness and trust.
Remember, forgiveness is for the person that has been hurt, not the offender! This releases them from holding the offense over the other person and gives them the chance to start healing. Too often, the sex addict feels that forgiveness equals trust and that can cause frustration for both individuals involved. Trust has to be rebuilt and restored over time where forgiveness is a choice when the time is right. Forgiveness can be a great step but it is only that, a step. If this principle can clearly be grasped, especially by the one battling sex addiction, it can go a long way in alleviating pressure from an already tense situation.
Stop ALL lies…big or small!
No matter if lies are big or what some consider, white lies, they are extremely damaging to a relationship. Lies always come back to harm the relationship because they are either found out or they are kept hidden and it creates a senses of shame and guilt that will show itself in frustration, resentment, and often, anger. With all that being said, ALL lies MUST stop! First of all, this will raise your standard of integrity for yourself that will give you confidence in who you are as an individual. Secondly, it will remove a covering of deception that will allow for open, real communication. Will it always be easy to be completely honest? No, it will be very challenging at times, but the first time you compromise or rationalize, it will lead you right back down the road that brought all the devastation. This step alone will do amazing things for each individual and the relationship because it creates freedom!
Be an open book and have accountability.
Being open creates safety, creates vulnerability, and creates an environment of openness that each partner desires. Sure, you can talk about having your privacy and setting boundaries and those are important, however, there are areas such as the Internet, social networks, personal email, texting, etc. that should be readily shared and open, especially when there has been betrayal. This is not for one partner to always be “checking up” on the other or to control the other, it is about not having ANYTHING hidden that could break trust or open the door for the appearance of deception. Remember, the idea is to build trust and it will take specific steps that may not always feel good in the moment but will reap a HUGE reward in the long run!
The behaviors of sex addiction did not happen overnight and the acting out usually took place over years of time. With that being said, it is vitally important that partners are committed to their own program of healing and work that shows consistency, vulnerability, honesty and accountability over time. Because one or both goes through counseling, is in a group or goes to an intensive does not mean that everything is “fixed” and back to normal. The hurt partner is still trying to figure out what was real in the relationship and what was a lie. This is the perfect time to not put pressure on them but to show the commitment to every day being consistent in boundaries, in times of honest communication and to your own hard work. Once the wounded partner sees consistent change in attitude, actions and choices over a significant amount of time and in many different situations, trust will begin to grow in a new way!
Give each other the time and space each need to grieve, to vent, to begin their healing and to work through very challenging and impactful hurts. By being supportive and patient, it truly demonstrates that you are committed to the relationship through both the good and challenging times. It brings a softer, less threatening approach that creates willingness to engage.
Make no mistake; rebuilding and restoring trust is a process that will take time, energy and a willingness to make changes that are best for the relationship so that there are no secrets, no deception and no surprises! Even though it will take a lot of hard work, the return on investment will pay dividends for the rest of your life and create a bond you have both desired and deserved. Trust CAN be restored and rebuilt but it will take both being extremely intentional about their choices and dedication!
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