As a betrayed partner or spouse of a sex addict, you may be suffering from trauma, grief, and intense pain for which therapy is advised so that you may begin your own healing process.
The discovery of a partners betrayal is often devastating. You feel like you have been sucker punched in the gut and you can't catch your breath. Whether you have been married one month, one year, 10 years, or 40 years, it is devastating, because the illusion of what you had... has changed forever. You must be asking yourself, what can I believe, and more importantly what can I do to regain a feeling of safety and stability.
Maybe you saw his phone come up with some texts that were totally inappropriate. Maybe you had something come up on your computer that absolutely floored you. Maybe somebody called you and told you that your partner was acting out. You are likely going through a lot of emotional reactions as a result of finding out that your partner has betrayed you. You may be experiencing panic attacks, generalized anxiety, or intense anger. Your heart may be racing, you may be trembling, you may not be able to sleep. When this kind of information is discovered, your central nervous system goes into overload, which then sends all sorts of chemicals to the brain. Then you go into self-protection. Am I going to fight, am I going to flee, not fight, or am I going to freeze and not do anything, because I don't know what to do?
You want to tell the world, you want to tell his family, you want to let everybody know how he has betrayed you, yet there is a part of you that doesn't want to talk about it to others, because you don't want them to hate him or judge you. So, you're protecting him, and you're wanting to expose him at the same time. It is normal to feel this way. This is the dilemma of discovery. You experience so many paradoxes of what to do.
Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS) trained clinicians have worked with thousands of partners of sex addicts and know it is a priority to take good care of yourself and to find a therapist and a support group who can help you through this difficult time, to insure your safety and your sanity.
There is much you can do to navigate through this ordeal. There are great resources. There are plenty of books. There are many programs out there to help you with the discovery of your partners betrayal. I know that you did not contribute to your partners addiction...your feelings are the byproduct of his sexual addiction. This shouldn't be happening to you, you didn't ask for it, you didn't cause it, you can't cure it, and you certainly can't control it, but you feel as if it is controlling you.
You are likely asking yourself, "What do I need to feel safe and comfortable again and who can I talk to that won't judge me or my partner, and will stay neutral and just hold my feelings for me."
As an experienced therapist with specific training in partner betrayal, I will help you sort though your feelings, find your voice, develop good boundaries, keep yourself safe, and work with you to know how and when you are ready to create changes. Maybe that will mean asking for a therapeutic separation, maybe you will ask your partner to work on his recovery from his sex addiction with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), then you may both decide to go to couples therapy, maybe you will go to your trusted religious or spiritual leaders and talk with him or her...I can help you make that next move based on who you are, how you feel, and when you are ready to voice what you need.
What I know is that nobody should be telling you what to do. That needs to come from you, yet right now you may be so flooded with feelings and emotions that you are on overload. You may feel "shell shocked" and in need an expert to help you unravel your feelings. I can help you to acknowledge and process your feelings and to grieve your losses.
I am here to help.
Through sex addiction counseling specifically designed to help you as the betrayed partner of a sex addict, I can help you:
• Perform an honest assessment of the issues in your relationship in order to obtain health and wellness in your relationship and life once again
• Develop skills to help you recognize triggers that your partner may be engaging in addictive behavior so that you may help prevent a relapse from occurring
• Identify maladaptive behaviors and to explore healthier coping strategies
• Restore your feelings of trust in your own abilities
• Explore and prepare for the next steps in your own recovery
This is the time to be gentle and patient with yourself and to be in a supportive environment in which you feel safe and comfortable expressing even the most difficult of emotions.
Partners intense feelings of terror, anxiety, helplessness and hopelessness in coping with their painful situations mirror those of people who have survived violent assaults and other kinds of psychological traumas.
Through education, exploration and self-examination recovery is possible.
Co-Addiction vs Trauma
It was the 12 step model that birthed the widely held view that partners of sex addicts suffer from their own disease, the disease of co-addiction. Many partners do not find the help they need within the 12 step process alone to move beyond their raw traumatic pain.
When the attachment bond has been violated and broken you have a relational trauma wound. When that happens all the warmth, safety, joy and comfort that the relationship formally held can no longer be counted on. The relationship now becomes a source of danger because you have discovered that much of what you believed about the one you love was a lie.
We now know that the body's response to stress and trauma involves hormones and inflammatory chemicals which can foster everything from headaches to heart attacks particularly in chronically traumatic lives. When you suffer from trauma symptoms you will likely find it impossible to control thoughts, feelings and relational interactions as prescribed in codependency and 12 step literature unless you receive help to heal from the trauma.
As an experienced therapist trained in partner betrayal I can help you heal.
Adapted from APSATS Board Member Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, PCC, CSAT, CPPS A Partners Dilemma- Carol The Coach
Concerned about the welfare of others
Lacking healthy boundaries
Eager to care for a loved one
Can’t say no
Chooses to say yes
Obsessed with the addiction
Determined to protect the addict and family
Living in denial
Unwilling to give up on a loved one
Fearful of further loss with no control
Trying to be heard
Susan Zola, LCSW, CCPS, CSAT
Licensed In: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, and Virginia
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology – SUNY Binghamton, 1980
Master of Social Work – Adelphi University School of Social Work, 1982.
Private Practice – "Mind Over Matters," 2006.
LCSW License #078530-1
APSATS The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists
CSAT Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
IITAP The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals
CCPS Certified Clinical Partner Specialist