By Georgia Fourlas, LMSW, LISAC, CSAT-C
There have been a number of high profile cases of sexual misbehaviors lately in the media. Each case has been accompanied by a barrage of interviews in the media with experts who discuss sexual addiction, excuse making, compulsive lying, bad behavior, legal actions, and a variety of other issues.
In the wake of these events, everyone wants to try to understand why individuals would act out in ways that could not only damage their own reputations, but also damage their families and risk the loss of their marriages. Help is often suggested or offered to those who have been “outed” as having engaged in sexually compulsive, sexually inappropriate, and deceptive behaviors— and it is critical that they get that help. But, where does that leave spouses and significant others of those with sexual disorders who have been traumatized by their betrayals?
Where’s MY Chip?
“Where is my f@$%ing chip???” This is a statement I recently heard while working with a partner of a sex addict. It perfectly captures the anger and desperation often felt by partners of individuals with sexual disorders. This person went on to explain that her sexually addicted partner was in a 12-step recovery program, attending therapy, and recently picked up a chip (a token given at 12-step meetings to honor milestones in recovery) for sexual sobriety. She spoke of the intense pain, debilitating shame and searing anger she experienced while watching the addict being congratulated and hugged.
Meanwhile, the partner sat in the background feeling even further isolated, abandoned, and resentful. All of these emotions fed the anger in this partner and the other partners that were present as they ruminated about the injustice of the betrayal perpetrated by the addict and how the addict, now in recovery, is seemingly, treated like a hero for, in one person’s words: “What? Not being a liar and cheater for a few months? Where is my prize for not being a liar and cheater AT ALL…MY WHOLE LIFE?”
This imbalance can continue well into recovery, as much of the addicted partner’s time and some of the family’s funds get diverted to treatment and recovery activities. Even when the bad behaviors and destructive activities are replaced with recovery behaviors and healthy activities, it still leaves the partner of the addict alone to deal with the fall out. This often leaves the partner with the sense that everything is still all about the addict, and the partner still feels cheated in the relationship.
Healing From Intimate Treason
I heard these expressions of pain and anger in a workshop I facilitate at The Meadows called Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts, which is based on the extraordinary work of Claudia Black. It is one place where a partner of a person with a sexual disorder can get help. The workshop is specifically designed to support and assist the spouses and significant others of individuals with sexual disorders and provides an environment that enables open dialog and honest sharing about all traumatic reactions that partners may be experiencing.
Partners are provided a safe place to take an honest look at their own behaviors. Sometimes, out of anger and in their own traumatic reactions, partners also behave in ways that are outside of their own value systems. This workshop can help partners to begin to make an internal shift from focus on the other person to focus on oneself. In this way, partners are encouraged to embark on a recovery journey that involves self-care and encourages healing. Partners can begin to make decisions for themselves based on what they want in their lives and what is best for them rather than making decisions purely from an emotionally-charged and reactive place of pain that results from betrayal.
A variety of skills are offered to help partners to find ways to regulate their nervous systems and cope with their own feelings about the betrayal. It also helps partner’s deal with the very complex grief and shame that accompanies the discovery of a mate’s sexually compulsive or sexually aversive behavior.
This workshop also offers a chance to give and receive support from others going through similar struggles while encouraging a focus on self when partners begin the difficult decision making process of “What now?” Partners will leave with their own “f@$%ing chip” but will also leave with so much more.
How to Register for the Healing Intimate Treason Workshop
For more details or to enroll, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators are happy to assist you between 6a.m. and 6p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.
The remaining 2015 dates for the Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts workshop are October 5 – 9 and December 14 – 18.