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APSATS: Help Your Coupleship by Working the 5 A’s

What is APSATS?

APSATS - "A non-profit organization providing professional training and compassionate support to partners affected by problematic sexual behavior and betrayal trauma."

"APSATS was created to provide the type of treatment partners need in the face of their spouse’s sexual addiction or serial infidelity. APSATS developed a treatment model that depicted “partners of sex addicts” in a new and different way recognizing the trauma they faced as a result of their spouse’s behaviors and betrayal."

"APSATS created the Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model (MPTM), which supports working with the partner and the person with addictive behavior using a new orientation that dramatically shifts the perspective of how partners and addicts are viewed in the coupleship."

Help Your Coupleship By Working The 5 A’s
Couples say to me, what can we do to begin to get to a place where trust has been restored? The answer is simple, you have to participate in empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. In this situation, it really does require that both the sex addict and the partner be able to do that. However, my belief is the addict needs to help the partner achieve this first.

One of the things I really encourage is to remember the 5 A’s.

1. Awareness.

As a sex addict, are you aware of a time when you can show her empathy? You know how people put the “what would Jesus do” bands on and that helps to keep the guiding light? I would ask you to wear a band that says, "How can I empathize with my wife?” When you develop that kind of awareness, she’s going to feel it, she’s going to see it, and she’s going to know it.

2. Acceptance.

Ask yourself, am I willing to risk being vulnerable with my partner and to practice empathy for our coupleship…even if she responds poorly? I’ve seen it time and time again that the addict starts utilizing these tools, and the partner is still so wounded and so angry that she throws up her guard and she says, “I don’t buy it, I don’t believe it, and I’m not going for it.” That of course is very difficult for a sex addict, because he’s already carrying a lot of pain and a lot of shame, and he puts it out there and the partner rejects it, because she’s protecting herself. I’m going to ask you, as a sex addict are you willing to do what it takes to put out what you need to? If you are, that’s called acceptance. You’re going to accept whatever consequences your efforts take. That shows great emotional maturity, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to grow the coupleship up, we’re trying to grow the sex addict up so that he can be the man he’s always wanted to be.

3. Accountability.

Accountability really means, “How can I take full responsibility and find a way to convey that I want to empathize with her?” Even more importantly, what can I do to rebuild that trust so she’s absolutely sure that she can trust me. Accountability might look like polygraph tests. Accountability might look like taking 5 pictures of yourself a day time stamped. Accountability might mean that you leave your phone on so when she calls. she doesn’t have to wait 4 hours for you to call her back. That’s a lot of time for a partner to worry about what is he doing, and why isn’t he answering.

4. Acknowledgement.

What can I say that lets her know that I am fully aware of the damage that I’ve caused? When you acknowledge, every time that you see her triggered, every time you see her look doubtful, when you acknowledge that, I know it can set you up for her opening up and saying, “You’re damn right, you caused this, look at me, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t trust, I can’t think, I can’t talk, I am a mess.” Then an addict might go into more shame, but what I’m going to ask you to do is to acknowledge what she’s feeling and know that you’re the new and improved, you’re working on yourself, your intention is to restore the relationship. Keep that at the forefront of your brain.

5. Action Plan.

It’s so important that you have an action plan so that you’re working your recovery tools. I really believe that means going through some sort of 12-step program, “Celebrate Recovery,” “Sex Addicts Anonymous,” “Sexaholics Anonymous.” Maybe that’s “Recovery Nation” online. I love 12-step work, because it does the internal transformation that I believe you need to be the best person you can be. If you’re doing those 5 things, going to meetings, getting a sponsor, reading the Green Book, the White Book, whatever, doing the 12-step work, and creating a fellowship; you’ve already accomplished 5 of the tools.

If you’re going to a meeting once a month, that isn’t an accomplishment. You’re barely putting in the time to work on yourself. If you’re somebody who has been going to meetings for 3 or 4 years and you haven’t finished your 12-step work, get another sponsor and get going on it, or go to a workshop. You should be doing the 12 steps in the first year of the program. You should start them right away, and you should be finished by then.

You have to create an action plan that reinforces that you are changing, you are becoming the new and improved, and that these changes are here to stay.

I want you to follow the 5 A’s and work them diligently no matter what her response. You owe it to her, you owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the coupleship.

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

Partners Of Sex Addicts: What Are You Going To Do With That Information?

When trust has been broken in a relationship, it is a long, hard road to travel in order for trust to be fully restored. In the meantime, it may be tempting to check up on the person who has not been truthful to you. Maybe you need the validation that they are actually being honest; therefore, you check up on them to ease your fears of further betrayal. Worst-case scenario, you check up on the person who has broken your trust, find something that contradicts what you have been told to be the truth, and now you are also stuck with keeping secrets, unless you have a plan set in place that will keep you accountable for what you were going to do with that information. If you snoop around, and find something, are you leaving? Are you staying? Or does looking only set you up for further hurt, unless you are ready to do something with the information that you now have? It is a traumatizing event to discover that your loved one is not who you thought they were. You may experience intrusive thoughts, staying hyper alert to additional signs of betrayal and your anxiety may be through the roof. Complete transparency from the addicts is a requirement following disclosure. There needs to be access to all bank accounts, email accounts, social media etc. until trust is rebuilt. What if you find your spouse’s recovery workbook lying around? You may be tempted to take a peek at what is inside, as you seek to know the truth. Here is where you need to ask yourself: “What am I going to do with that information?” What if you find information that is disturbing or troubling, or quite not what you had heard “the truth” to be? Now, you are the keeper of secrets unless you are planning to admit to looking. You may start setting truth traps and asking questions to see if he/she will answer them truthfully. Maybe you re-traumatize yourself and feel additional panic attacks brewing, and for what? You only hurt yourself further. A formal disclosure session should be scheduled with your therapist and the addict’s therapist where the truth, facts and details can come out. This way, you will be prepared in advance, you get to ask for what you want to know and you have support throughout the process.

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

A Partner’s Dilemma, "What Supports Are Out There For Me?”

You have just discovered your partner's betrayal and you are devastated. You feel like you have been sucker punched in the gut and you can’t catch your breath. Whether you have been married for 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. APSATS clinicians and coaches have worked with thousands of partners of sex addicts and believe that it is so important to take care of yourself by finding a therapist, coach, or support group who can get you through this incredibly difficult time.

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 husband was acting out. You are likely going through a lot of emotional reactions as a result of finding out that your partner has cheated on 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 all 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 too. 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. It can make you feel like you are going crazy when in reality it is your amygdala going into hyper drive. That is why it is so important to slow your down and seek safety. It’s important for you to do self-care and find supportive people, because you can’t do this by yourself.

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 addiction. But first, you must find the experts in the field.

The first thing you can do is get yourself to a certified partner’s therapist. “APSATS,” which stands for The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists, is an organization that has made it their mission to help you through this crisis. They certify people who have been specifically trained to work with you. They know that you did not contribute to your husband’s 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 it is controlling you.

You are likely asking yourself,” What do I need to feel safe 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

APSATS clinical and certified partner trauma therapists or coaches, help you to develop good boundaries, to develop your voice, to keep yourself safe, and to allow you to know when it’s time to make the next move. Maybe that is a therapeutic separation, maybe your partner moves upstairs and you stay downstairs, maybe you both go to marital counseling or seek your own individual counselor or coach, maybe you go to your pastor and talk with him or her, but we help you to make that next move based on who you are, how you feel and what you need.

What we know is nobody should be telling you what to do. That needs to come from your own sense of self, yet right now you’re so flooded with feelings and emotions that you are on overload. You are “shell shocked” and you need an expert to help you unravel your feelings. APSATS is here to help.

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

Protect Your Brain: You Don’t Need To Know Everything

I would like to be your advisor as to what is in the partner’s best interest. What I know more than anything is that “a partner wants to feel safe in an unsafe situation,” which is Barbara Steffens’ quote from My Sexually Addicted Spouse. And to feel safe typically means you need to know everything about the issues and events that your husband participated in. Wow! That can put the brain on overload. So, I’m going to say although you deserve to know the general truth, it’s not good to put every fact, every image, every bit of data into that brain of yours. I’m here to protect your brain.

Now why is that? Because I am a partner sensitive therapist, and what I know to be true after doing this work for years and years is that it is good for you to know the truth. That’s why after a certain amount of recovery, and for every couple that’s different, it’s time for you to have a disclosure with somebody that knows how to do that, somebody who is going to take your questions as a partner and feed them to the addict, make sure that he or she puts them in a formal disclosure process. After that you will have the information you need.

However, what I know to be true is that a partner oftentimes wants every single minute detail, because it makes you feel like you’ve got some sense of control, when the truth is it’s not good for you. It’s not good for you at all. So, for that reason, as a good therapist, somebody who is out for your best interests; I’m going to ask you why do you need to know that; how does that benefit you? I’m going to be graphic here. You may say, “I want to know if she had anal sex with him.” and I’m going to say, okay I can accept that you want to know if his propensity and his sexual addiction is for anal sex. I get that, but you don’t need to know who initiated that first. You don’t need to know how many times that occurred in a session, in a transaction if you will. What you need to do is know enough details so that you know the total picture of what’s going on. That’s up to you and me to work on and decide. That’s why you need a partner sensitive trauma therapist, somebody who gets the fact that someone else would go, you’re crazy to know all that stuff. But I would say, that’s normal.

The most important thing I want to do is to protect your brain, because one of the things that I know about partners is that no matter what information you want, once you put it in your brain, you never forget, and I don’t want you to have images, thoughts, feelings that you can’t forget. Actually, the addict doesn’t either. He was so out of control. He was so enmeshed in his own illness that he was unaware of the consequences of how that would hurt you if you knew. What he did was despicable, it was deplorable, it was unimaginable, yet that’s the nature of the addiction. It gets worse and worse and worse.

I’m going to ask you, are you protecting your brain? Are you protecting the back of that brain, the amygdala, the fight or flight or freeze part of the brain? The more you have in that amygdala, the more likely you are to participate in behaviors you would never participate in, the more likely you are to wake up in the middle of the night and punch him, the more likely you are in the middle of the day to pack the car and leave. Those are fight, flight, and freeze responses. And once that energy travels to the interior cingulate, that is the emotional area that typically holds rejection, and there is no worse experience in terms of emotion than rejection. Partner betrayal causes a huge amount of rejection, so when you know all the details that make you feel more and more rejected, it’s not good for your brain.

Once the information has left the amygdala it moves to the interior cingulate, which processes rejection and then it goes to the prefrontal cortex, which is your executive functioning. It’s your ability to make decisions. When you are traumatized, your executive functioning goes offline. It will affect your ability to make good decisions, and to comprehend true reality. This leaves most women running on adrenaline, either feeling hypervigilant or super depressed.

That’s why I want to protect that brain, because the brain is something you need to make better decisions. It eventually goes back online, but if you overload it, it will take a lot longer, and I’m here to protect you. You’ve already been betrayed, and you cannot betray yourself by overloading your brain with information you don’t want to know.

So, in retrospect, you don’t want details without having a formal structure to give you the details. It’s called a “formal disclosure,” and to do that, you’ve got to have a trained therapist, somebody who is good at knowing what the structure is. Structure will make it a safer process and you deserve to be safe!

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

Restoration Of Yourself And Your Relationship
How Do I Assess My Progress On This Journey?

Finding out that your spouse has a sexual addiction can shatter your sense of reality because you didn’t have a clue that he could betray you in this way. As you work with a certified partner therapist or coach, you begin to deal with the betrayal and your own sense of reality. You recognize that you were not at fault for his indiscretions whether it be pornography, infidelity, strip clubs, prostitutes or other types of sexual addiction,

As partners get healthier, they start owning their power and when their husband slips or reverts back to old behavior it does not send them back to the feelings of the “discovery,” instead they are able to identify how they feel and what boundaries need to occur. They examine the situation and they don’t revert to back to the default mode of extreme betrayal and powerlessness. Instead they say to the addict “I can’t trust you at all.” They may say “I want you to empathize with how I feel right now after seeing an unknown text come up on your phone.” Partners may assert themselves by saying “You have not spent much time with us in our relationship and I need you to pay more attention to me,” or “I need to be able to share my concerns with you without you huddling in a fetal position because you think I’m criticizing you.”

One of the ways that you know that you are growing personally and with confidence is you recognize your own strengths and you’re able to write them down.

That might look like:
  • I am able to relax and spend time with my girlfriends and not worry about what he’s doing.
  • I’m able to enjoy my children and feel that sense of family.
  • I’m able to communicate with my husband.
  • I’m able to show my anger and feel respect for my actions.
  • I’m able to assert myself and share what my needs are in this relationship.
  • I’m able to exercise and not want to kick the holy bejeebies out of you.
  • I’m able to have an anniversary and feel like we’re working towards something again.
When you do that, when you notice your strengths and you notice what is good in the relationship, you’re on your way to the new normal. You deserve that for yourself. You’ve been in this game; you’ve been fighting for this coupleship. It is absolutely time to relax and feel the joy.

And doesn’t he deserve it? I know, you may still be in that spot where you say to yourself, “I don’t think he deserves anything, he’s hurt me so badly.” But what I absolutely know about your relationship is that there should be positive emotional deposits in that love tank for the relationship to truly get healthier. If he has worked HARD on his recovery and you have seen dramatic changes, it is so important for you to work on the relationship by noticing the progress, not looking for perfection, and by being able to comment on it but to feel secure by it.

Look for a trained therapist and coach who understands trauma; we want the best for you and if you can no longer tolerate the relationship, we will help you access a healthy place even if that means a therapeutic separation or divorce. But with many of our clients, they are able to work through the trauma, they get stronger, and they rebuild their relationship.

It can be a long process. To trust him and to trust yourself is a scary proposition, but it works if both you and your husband want it and work it, so make sure to notice the positives. When you notice the positives in every aspect of your life, in your children’s lives, in your community, at your work, with your spouse; when you look at what’s working as opposed to what isn’t, you’ll be happier, you’ll be healthier, and you’ll create the life you deserve.

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

Don’t Ever Let Them Tell You To Stay On Your Side Of The Street

There’s nothing more infuriating then when you’re doing a lot of reading, you’ve joined a coaching group, you’re seeing an APSATS or CSAT partner trained therapist, and he seems to be sluggish. He may be doing his meetings, but he’s not working his steps. You don’t see him reading the Green Book or the White Book, depending on what 12 step program he’s in. He’s calling his sponsor maybe once or twice a month. Does that mean that I’m doing his inventory? No, I just know that when you work it, it works, so I get that it can be very difficult to watch somebody not work as diligently as you are.

You have every right to say, “if you want to make me feel safe, you have to work harder, because what you did to me created so much trauma that I’ve got to see extreme measures from you. I’ve got to be able to know that you’re kicking this thing, you’re rockin’ it, you have to prove to me that you’re taking good care of both of us. You, because you’re doing your work, and me because you’ve got to keep me safe.”

I get that the old model was you stay on your side of the street, and he’ll work on his. That’s not how we do it anymore, folks. What we know is when you’ve experienced partner betrayal, the addict has to restore the coupleship while he’s working his own program. To do that may mean that he participates in a disclosure. You know that’s what I recommend. Within 6 weeks after discovery, you get that process started, unless there’s something really unusual like he needs to go to treatment, or he’s moved out of the house and he’s not sure what he wants to do. If he cares about you and he wants to work, disclosure is of the utmost importance in a treatment plan. I know he may get some advice from his buddies in the 12-step program where they say, no no no, you wait til the 9th step, you do the amends. You may even choose to not to do it with her because it’s going to kill her, it’s going to hurt. An amends and a disclosure are not the same thing.

One of the things I know to be true is the old model said as long as you’re working on your stuff, partner, you will get healthier and you will be able to then join up once he gets healthy and live happily ever after. Maybe that worked in AA or NA, I even kind of doubt that, but that’s not my specialty so I’m not going to comment, but it does not work with sex addiction. Your husband or wife, whoever the sex addict is, drastically needs skills that show you that he gets how much pain he has caused you.

Those are empathy skills, when he acknowledges, validates, and reassures you. That’s when you have daily check-ins. That’s when he asks you, “how are your triggers?” He doesn’t wait to hear about it; he inquires, he wants to know, he wants to remind you he’s working a program and he’s so sorry about the triggers, but in reality, he knows that he didn’t cause the ones that occurred today. That’s if he didn’t cause the ones that occurred today; I don’t know, but oftentimes what I do know about partners is they’ll just have triggers because they see a certain color or it’s a certain date. There are things going on inside of them that they learn how to manage.

The addict needs to work on the coupleship while he’s doing his work, so if you have an addict who’s in recovery or working on it, I want you to let him read this blog.

If you’re a sex addict reading this, it means that you have to work your butt off to do all three. You have to support her in her work, you gotta do your own, and you have to support the coupleship. Your first and foremost important thing is to keep her safe.

If she asks some crazy things of you, to check your phone, to put a GPS on your car, to have filters, to take polygraph tests, to go through your desk, to search your wallet, let her do that. I get that sometimes you haven’t cleaned up as well as you thought you needed to, so she finds something from your past that is super upsetting and it retriggers her. You have to take that chance, because what you have to be is an open book. You have to practice honesty first and foremost.

You have to understand the consequences of how she reacts. If she’s working with a good therapist, that therapist will help her to manage some of the stuff that perhaps you didn’t immediately provoke. You provoked it in the past, but you didn’t do anything that triggered her in the moment. That therapist will help her, but you have to help her too.

I do have your best interest at heart, and I know you can get through this. I’ve worked with thousands of couples, and the majority of them get healthy and have better relationships than the average couple. When you work recovery, it grows you up into being the better man or woman that you should have been, and that you can be and that you will be. Don’t cheat yourself, work together, and do what you can to make her feel safe.

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

The Recovery Stage Of Your Relationship: Will I Ever Feel Positive About My Spouse Again?

You may be in the stage of your relationship where your spouse is in good recovery and the triggers are less frequent, you’re feeling less activated, you’re functioning better, and you are wondering what to do to keep this momentum going?

You are actually in the restoration phase of your relationship. You now feel safe enough to work on rebuilding the coupleship.

It can feel scary to start to believe in the relationship and wonder what to do next. As the relationship recovers from active sexual addiction and your spouse is working a strong recovery program, your trust can begin to get stronger. To fortify the relationship requires that you start investing in the types of skills you would learn if you were wanting to improve a relationship that hadn’t been fragmented by sexual addiction.

One of the most effective ways of building your relationship with your spouse is to focus on your partner’s positive attributes.

This may require some faith in the process of rebuilding the relationship because you have spent much of the last few months or years protecting yourself from more trauma and heartache.

One of the relationship skills to help you invest in the relationship is to divide a piece of paper into two columns. Under “My Spouse,” write all the changes that you have seen consistently, perhaps not perfectly, but consistently. In this column, you are acknowledging the changes he is making. It is so important to notice those positives.

Those changes might be:
  • He is empathizing with me more
  • He is acknowledging the pain he has caused as he sees my trepidation
  • He is participating actively in the kids’ lives
  • He is putting me first
  • He is listening to me
  • He is communicating more about his feelings
  • He is suggesting that we participate in a marital retreat
It is normal to have trepidation. You thought you knew him before and now it seems that he is working hard to build trust but you find yourself thinking, “If I let my guard down, if I start looking at his positives, he may hurt me again.” It is true, he might hurt you … not in the deceptive way he has done before, but he may let you down. In normal relationships, our partners let us down, male or female, husband or wife, and “we” let our partners down. But if he’s working hard on his recovery and he has been consistent, it is natural to move forward if you’re choosing to stay in the coupleship. You must see consistent progress, and should be able to begin to have hope that things will be better.

In the second column, you will be writing “My Changes.” It is important to notice that you are changing too! There is nothing more heartfelt or heartwarming as when we as clinicians and coaches, see women who are recovering from the trauma. They are not activated 40 times a day, and are not triggered by a smell, by a sound, by a date, by a place, by a television show, by a movie, by a word, or unfortunately unconsciously in their sleep.

Your progress means that you’re feeling triggered less often and your coupleship is going well. You’re having some moments where you just breathe and things feel like the new normal. Things will never feel like they did before but you don’t want them like they felt before because that’s when you were being deceived. You want to have a conscious awareness of what’s going on around you.

Clearly, you have a new radar that will be a part of your life forever. Sometimes that radar will be working overtime, but often it will just point to things that need tweaking.

Spending time finding the positives in your relationship are imperative to building a stronger relationship. If you feel safe and have grieved and mourned your relationship, you may be ready to restore the relationship and this is an excellent assignment to evaluate your progress.

Homework Assignment

Divide a piece of paper into two columns listed My Spouse’s Changes and My Changes. Find some quiet time to focus on the changes that you and your husband have made since discovery.

Create 50 things that are positive about the progress that your spouse has made since the discovery of his sex addiction.

Think about the changes that you have made through this process. How are you a stronger person. How have you grown interpersonally?

In the second column, you will be writing 20 positive things that have changed since you found out about his addiction.

Maybe you have better coping skills, or you know how to use mindfulness when you feel anxious. Perhaps you are helping another woman get through this ordeal. Maybe you have better boundaries and a stronger voice.

Keep this list close so that you can refer back to it when you need extra hope and strength to push past your fears.

(You can also ask your spouse to do the same assignment and see what changes he has noticed in the two of you.)

I work from an APSAT’s lens and believe that your spouse’s self-esteem is restored as he connects with you and rebuilds an authentic relationship that you can trust. This is a great exercise to move the relationship forward.

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

You Need To Take Care Of The Basics, And That’s You!

One of the things that I know is that you are in a crisis state, whether you’ve just discovered that your spouse has been sexually betraying you by cheating or being unfaithful. Perhaps he has been looking at pornography compulsively, participating in activities that don’t match your values. Whether you’re at the beginning of discovery, or you’re in the midst of your healing, the most important thing that you’ve got to remember is you have to take care of you.

Now I know that’s really hard to do when your brain is thinking about him and what he’s doing and what he might not be doing. It is normal to monitor his recovery. You so badly want assurance and reassurance that he will do the right thing. Yet, this kind of situation takes a real toll on your heart, your mind, and your soul. The anecdote for this kind of damage is Intentional Self Care!

I want you to treat yourself like you are your very best friend. When you’re dealing with this kind of stress, you need to put together a safety plan that keeps you in check, that keeps you feeling hopeful, that gets you fit and strong and helps you physicalize the energy that you feel running through your veins every day of your life. You did not sign up for this, you had no idea that this person could betray you in such a way. You feel so confused and you no longer feel like you.

In part, that is because betrayal trauma takes charge of every single cell in your body. It changes the cellular structure of your cells. So, what you’ve got to do is really work diligently on some of the basics.

Eat Regularly

You may not feel like eating, but you need to eat anyway. They call it “gut brain” when your gut becomes the second brain that registers and processes trauma. Many women end up with ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and indigestion, so I want you to eat. If you find yourself doing the opposite and nervously eating, then I want you to look at your diet and tell yourself that you won’t give him the power to make you feel crazy, to make you feel like you need to feed something that you’re not getting emotionally. So eating is a very important component to self-care.

Get Regular Sleep

Look at your sleep patterns because more than likely your sleep is very interrupted. You might be depressed and coping by sleeping. More often than not, I see partners who are overly activated, and they can’t stop the racing thoughts, and they have panic attacks, and as a result they can’t sleep. Get yourself on a sleep schedule. If you have to lie there for hours, I want you to stay still, because it’s so important to train your brain to calm down.

Consider Medication

It may be that you need some pharmaceutical help. I’m not a big proponent of medication, but what I know to be true is that oftentimes a good trauma psychiatrist can help give you some medicines that can calm the body down so that you feel more grounded and resourced and able to handle this problem. So get yourself to a good trauma psychiatrist to help you get the right kind of medications that you’re going to need until you feel more stabilized.

Practice Mindfulness

We really advocate that you do some mindfulness, some yoga, some meditation, some praying; something that also slows the body down long enough for you to really reflect on what your needs are and what you need to do. That is so important, because if you don’t take care of yourself and learn how to slow things down, you’re going to age 10 years in about three months because betrayal trauma causes post-traumatic stress. When you feel post-traumatic stress, you’re emotionally deregulated, you may go into numbing or avoiding, you may go into that fight, flight, or freeze mode that puts you in situations that you would have never imagined.

I want you to know that as a partner trauma specialist, I recognize the trauma and devastation that you are feeling. You may feel the situation is hopeless. But in reality, it can be hopeful. You can feel safe again.

Understand Betrayal Trauma

I’m here to remind you to take care of some of those basic needs. Read some books on trauma or read some books on sexual addiction. The two that I recommend are from the former president of APSATS, Barbara Steffens, called My Sexually Addicted Spouse. Dr. Sheri Keffer, just came out with Intimate Deception, and that book helps people get through the crisis and know that they’re not alone.


I want you to sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and look at your needs; your emotional needs, your spiritual needs, your social needs, your intellectual needs, your physical needs, and then eventually we’ll get to your purposeful needs. When you can meet those needs, you’ll be on the way to feeling whole again and that is Intentional Self Care!

Written by Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW, CCPS, CSAT, PCC
APSATS Board Member

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Carol The Coach | How to Forgive the Sex Addict


Susan Zola, LCSW, CCPS, CSAT

T: 631-332-2213
E: suezola@me.com
Licensed In: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina Out-of-State Independent Social Worker Telehealth Provider, 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
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals
Certified Clinical Partner Specialist

Couples Therapy APSATS

Susan Zola, LCSW, CCPS, CSAT
Licensed In: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina Out-of-State Independent Social Worker Telehealth Provider, Texas, and Virginia

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