Sex and pornography addictions can be catastrophic in the lives of the addict and the lives of their loved ones. The road to recovery is long and difficult, and spouses and partners may be wondering what they can do to speed their companions along the path. While it’s true that no one can solve the problem for the addict, some courses of action will help assist them and make their journey easier, facilitating healing for all involved.
The first step is getting to know the enemy: the addiction. Recovery for both you and your addict spouse will be easier if you have a solid understanding of what’s actually happening. Pornography and sexual addictions are very different from infidelity, and the problem is much less black-and-white. You’ll want to be familiar with the science of addiction as well as the definitions of terms like hyper-sexuality disorder, dopamine sensitivity, and OCD.
You’ll also want to acquaint yourself with the variety of resources and treatments available. Pornography and sexual addictions are a recognized problem, and many deal with it on a daily basis. Be aware that treatments, depending on the cause and severity, range from 12-step programs to psychotherapy, inpatient treatment, and medications. Your partner has a real problem, and it requires real help. Educate yourself so that you know how to lend assistance and where to get more if you need it.
Don’t Remove Their Responsibility
One of your first instincts will naturally be to begin policing your partner. For an addict to recover, however, they have to be engaged in the process, and that’s less likely to happen if you take control. For instance, an internet filter, while helpful, will be more effective if the addict suggests it. Remember, it is their addiction, so recovery must be their choice. Just as it is not your fault they suffer from an addiction, it’s not your fault if they don’t pursue help and recovery. Instead, focus on your own recovery and setting healthy boundaries.
Setting Boundaries with an Addicted Spouse
Whether you’re dealing with an addict in denial or one that’s steadily recovering with occasional mistakes along the way, it’s important to establish boundaries. Just as you shouldn’t coerce or manipulate your partner into seeking recovery, they should have no power to force you to stay or do anything you find unacceptable.
Establish clearly defined expectations of honesty and make efforts to rebuild and preserve the relationship (both regarding the addiction and otherwise). Once expectations are set, make it clear what actions you will take to protect yourself should offenses or relapses happen.
It’s important to keep in mind that “boundaries” are not the same as “ultimatums.” Telling your partner “Clean up your act, or I’m divorcing you” will likely be seen as a threat and only hinder the healing process.
As Eleanor Brown once said, “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” One of the most important things you can do to help your partner recover is to seek recovery yourself from the trauma caused by their addiction. Pornography and sexual addictions are complicated, and determining fault is not as simple as pointing at the addict, but that doesn’t make your pain any less real or your recovery any less necessary.
Establish Self-Care Habits
Along with the temptation to take control of the addict’s recovery is the temptation to make life perfect for them, to the exclusion of all else. Their addiction almost always began before meeting you and is not due to any lack or deficiency on your part; thus, being the “perfect spouse” will not resolve their issue, even if it was possible.
Instead of sacrificing your own needs to meet theirs, prioritize your own interests so they are at least equal to your partner’s. Take time to do things for yourself, like exercising, writing in a journal, spending time with friends, and so forth. Part of the recovery process is rediscovering yourself, and you’ll need quality time with yourself to do that. So set aside time for yourself and your interests, separate from your partner.
Being married to a sex or pornography addict causes a significant amount of emotional trauma, sometimes called betrayal trauma. Your grief and pain are real, and it requires healing the same way the addiction does. Seek professional help to heal from the pain and to deal with the depression that often follows.
You deserve happiness as much as your spouse does and should value your recovery no less. Healing from these kinds of tragedies is possible, with the right help.
For more information, contact Lifestar Therapy today.