Support for Partners of Sex Addicts

There may be no more devastating experience than being the spouse or family member of a sex addict. The shock, confusion, sadness, anger and grief that follows on the revelation of the addicted partner’s behavior is devastating. In an instant, the loved one’s world is turned completely upside down and everything about one’s reality is thrown into turmoil and doubt.

These are some of the questions that the spouse/partner of a sex addict often struggles with:

  • How can I have missed this?
  • How can I have been such a fool?
  • How could he have done this?
  • Who is this person?
  • Is what I now know to be the case the whole truth, or is this just the tip of the iceberg?
  • How will I ever know if he is lying to me again?
  • Should I be monitoring his behavior more completely – reading his journals, checking his email?
  • Do I have the right to make demands of him at this point?
  • Should I stay with this person? Am I crazy to stay with him?
  • Do I have the right to make demands of him at this point?
  • Should I stay with this person? Am I crazy to stay with him?
  • What will others think of me if I do stay with him?
  • What should I say about this to my children?
  • What should I say about this to my family, my friends, and my coworkers?
  • I feel like I am losing my mind. Am I?
  • Am I able to recover from this?
  • Does his behavior say something about me?
  • Would this have happened if I were more attractive, or more sexual, or more supportive of him?
  • Could I have done something to prevent this?
  • Will my life ever seem normal again?
  • How did this happen to me?
  • Do I deserve this in some way?
  • Do I have to settle for this?
  • Is it likely that he will stay sober? How will I deal with this if he does it again?
  • My religion tells me to forgive him, but I cannot or do not want to. Does this mean I am a bad person?
  • Where is God in all of this?
  • Is it alright to get a divorce from him?
  • Is it alright to stay with him?
  • I feel enraged, or terrified, or depressed most of the time. I cannot sleep. What should I do?
  • I want to trust him. I am afraid that I will let my guard down and slip into denial again because the reality is too much to face. How can I keep that from happening?
  • I am so ashamed! Will I ever feel good about myself and about my life again?

 Besides the struggle to understand the situation, there are often difficult and worrisome questions of safety and risk:

  • Are my children at risk?
  • Are my neighbors at risk?
  • Do I need to get a lawyer?
  • How can I protect myself and my children?
  • How can I survive financially if he gets jailed or fired?

The pain and shame experienced by the partner of the sex offender is in most instances even greater.  The stigma, the sense of betrayal, the legal consequences, the financial repercussions, are overwhelming to the offender’s spouse.  And the isolation, the sudden quiet withdrawal of friends and relatives, the anticipated and actual judgment of others, are crippling.

 If you are a partner of a sex addict, fear and shame can prevent you from talking about what happened and to miss out on the support that you need now more than ever. And there are many thousands of women who are in that experience right now – stuck in that shame and hurt and isolation. And, of course, the fear and shame grow in isolation.

An essential part of overcoming that sense of shame and fear is to connect with other human beings. But that is the very thing one cannot seem to do when one is stuck in shame and fear. The healing and recovery process entails connecting with others who are not going to judge you or shame you further.

 I work with my clients to begin the process of connection, either in person or via Skype.  I treat my clients without negative judgment –with total respect for their autonomy.  Although I offer suggestions from years of experience, I do not tell my clients what to do. You will be supported empathically in what you are going through. You will be supported in rebuilding your sense of self and in making empowering decisions for your own wellbeing whether  you decide to stay with the addict/offender or not.

 I will help you to face and deal with the issues.  I view myself as a supportive companion on this journey through very difficult places.  I will provide insight, empathy and support to help you survive this devastating time. I will work with you toward gaining a sense of equilibrium and wellbeing grounded in reality.

 My hope is that you can fully experience your grief, your truths, and your strengths, and that you can integrate all of that into an engaged, meaningful life in the world.

 What can you do today that will help you feel good about yourself again?  You can take a full inventory of yourself and discover that you are so much more than your losses and that you do not need to allow your losses or liabilities to be the definition of who you are. Rather than waiting for someone else to come and take care of you, you look at how you can take good care of yourself. Rather than putting your ultimate trust in others, you learn to trust in yourself. You learn to take responsibility for yourself. That entails not overly depending on anyone else for your sense of wellbeing. You stop waiting for others to provide for you and you take actions to provide for yourself. You recognize the error in judgment that you made by making your wellbeing so dependent on another.  And now you make the decision one day at a time to have the best possible life you can have. What do you have actual control over? If that entails getting a job, you do what you can to get a job. If that entails changing what you say to yourself, you change what you say to yourself. What inner beliefs and expectations are torturing you right now? May you identify those and let go of them. You exercise influence over the spheres of your life over which you have influence. You recognize and go through grief regarding the losses but you do not allow yourself to be destroyed by the losses or defined by them.

 In  many ways, you have been forced to live in the present moment – not choosing to do  so because of some happily chosen spiritual path, but because the past is so painful and the future so filled with terror, that the only possibility for peace, for being Ok, is to stay in the moment, in the body. The Zen moment, to which others aspire to enhance their life, becomes the only moment.  Attempts to escape, through control, through geographical cures, through getting the other to change, meet with repeated failure. The present moment is the only real moment and the only time that offers solace and serenity.

 In the confrontation with the present self, and only in that confrontation, one can discover reality. Although this is true for everyone, not everyone is compelled into the recognition of that.  Getting to that present moment, where things are actually Ok, where we are actually alright, entails the surrender of expectations about how the present moment should be. Grief is part of the process of that. We grieve for what we have lost. We suffer the hurt and embarrassment of having been lied to, of having lost so much. We go through that grief (and we can do that in a skillful fashion if we choose to do so). We identify all of the losses and grieve each one as it comes up and goes through us. Then we look around and survey what we do have: what attributes we have, what supports we have, what truths we do know. And we make a decision to take action to love ourselves well – to take our power back, to seek work, to build relationships when we can, to be there for others when we are able, to make the game of life as it were a smaller game where my focus becomes taking good care of the self.

I will accompany you in taking inventory of your losses. Among those may be:

  • Your trust in your spouse;
  • Your ability to talk freely about what is going on in your life;
  • A lot of your friends;
  • Your sense of financial security;
  • Your ability to look back on the past with happy memories that involved your partner;
  • Your trust in your own perceptions;
  • your trust in God;
  • your hope for a better tomorrow;
  • your ability to predict what is likely to happen tomorrow;
  • your standing in the community;
  • your home;
  • your job;
  • your denial.

You can grieve loudly and silently for what you have lost. You suffer the hurt and embarrassment of having been lied to, of having lost so much. You can go through that grief whenever it surfaces. You make room for that. You grieve each loss as it comes up and goes through you.

 Then, you can take a full inventory of yourself and discover that you are so much more than your losses and your shame, and that you do not need to allow your losses and your shame and another person’s behavior to be the definition of who you are.

 I assist my clients in marshalling the strength and resources to attend to the tasks necessary to healing and freedom including:

  • Establishing a sense of safety and groundedness;
  • Knowing the truth and facing up to reality;
  • Assessing the impact of the addict/offender’s behavior on you;
  • Authentically allowing yourself to experience every emotion you have in relation to the addict’s behavior;
  • Allowing yourself to take an inventory of the losses experienced and to grieve each loss fully;
  • Confronting issues of shame and doubt;
  • Claiming what you know to be true;
  • Connecting with others who are able and willing to help;
  • Prioritizing self-care;
  • Understanding your own true needs, desires and values;
  • Making a decision to take responsibility for meeting those needs and desires and living according to your values;
  • Developing a mature, non-codependent spirituality;
  • Redefining your sense of purpose and meaning in life;
  • Active re-engagement with life.

These may feel like monumental tasks. Indeed, they are. “Without help, it is too much for us.” But there is help available.

 You can survive this. You can discover, as one of my clients said, “I know that I am wounded, AND I know that I have great strength or else I would not have been able to survive this.”

If you are looking at this website and reading these words, you have the desire and the motivation to survive and to live well again. And you can learn to feel good again.  You can learn not only to survive but to thrive in a very real and grounded way.

 My hope for my clients is that they regain the ability to look around and see what they do have: their attributes, their supports, their truths.  I want you to be able to love yourself well – to take your power back, to seek work, to build relationships when and where you can, to be there for others when you are able, to change the focus of your life away from the behavior of the addict, away from shame, and toward living a life in integrity with what you value and in accord with who you truly are.

Contact Bill Lent

(646) 322-1582