"The greatest thing we can do is help somebody know they're loved and capable of loving." -Fred Rogers
If there is a universal emotion we see as therapists when infidelity has been exposed, it's anger. The anger is often related to feeling broken-hearted. Trust is also an obvious issue, and is vital to regain. Once an unfaithful partner acts out, the betrayed partner loses their role as confidant. That in itself can be one of the most devastating losses. Hostility is bound to rise up.
If reconciliation is going to happen, the anger has to be addressed. Anger is generally a secondary emotion caused by other deeper feelings ie; resentment and pain, old wounds from childhood and beyond getting triggered, guilt, defensiveness and powerlessness to remedy the problems created, fear, and righteous indignation especially when our anger is justified... just to name a few. Whether angry at ourselves, our partners, and/or the world, it is still possible to work though all of these emotions, the roots of our anger, so that we may still speak the truth in love.
Much work needs to be done to grieve the loss of the relationship you believed you had, to communicate with transparency and compassion, and to restore trust, sanity, and heighten empathy.
The most important thing a betrayed partner needs after a sex addicted partner achieves sobriety is to hear, feel and see, that he GETS how much he hurt you. Some people never got there—they have absolutely no empathy. They may even think that their partners are unreasonable to expect it. Your responses may overwhelm you both, however they are a result of all of the feelings of loss and chaos that accompany the trauma of discovering you have been betrayed by the person you trusted the most.
I find the sex addicted partner's lack of empathy for his betrayed partner kills coupleships that could have recovered from sexual betrayal.
Through couples therapy we maintain hope that it is possible for your partner to gain empathy skills and teach you what it takes for him to get there. If you’re hoping your relationship will recover, this work will be very helpful and will validate for you that any hopes you may have that your partner can understand your pain are normal and healthy.
Many couples grow closer from learning how secrets, shame, fear, and feelings of rejection and abandonment affect their behavior.
In addition, by tracing both of your responses back to your own childhood experiences you may learn how to comfort these feelings in each other and yourselves so you can respond in ways that are healthier and take you both where you want to go in your relationship.
Restoring trust in your relationship is a challenging process in the face of what you have experienced. Many couples have made the decision to do the work and have experienced tremendous post traumatic growth and a new found respect and love for each other and themselves.
I can help you both if we all work together with open, honest, compassionate communication.
Adapted from the teachings of APSATS Board Member Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, PCC, CSAT, CPPS - Carol The Coach
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