“How will I know when I will be able to trust him again?”
It is one of the spouse’s most commonly-asked questions during a couples’ first counseling session after discovering sexual addiction!
It’s a great question, because at the core of the couples’ issues is the broken bond of trust. Sex-addicted partners:
– Violate their commitment to be honest and faithful.
– Drive a wedge in the relationship that feels like the size of the Grand Canyon.
– Create a sense of hopelessness that leaves the other feeling numb and confused.
Ask any sexually-betrayed partner and they will tell you that while the infidelity itself is like a punch in the gut, worse still are dishonesty and lying. While they hate the betrayal, they detest the lack of integrity displayed in attempting to cover the tracks. At some point, the focus on rebuilding trust is as critical as helping the sex-addicted partner manage the addiction itself.
How can a betrayed partner regain a sense of comfort and confidence that their sex-addicted spouse is safe? Let’s examine four key factors to look for in determining your spouse’s trustworthiness.
1. Commitment to his recovery
This is the one number key – not only for learning to manage a sexual addiction, but also to begin the process of rebuilding a tattered relationship. A sex addict must show dedication to the game plan created to assist him in breaking the bondage of secrecy and betrayal. Some partners dive in and go beyond what is asked of them in recovery. Some barely scratch the surface in doing the work required. When this is the case, it is extremely disheartening to the wounded spouse.
If your spouse is following a treatment regimen and sharing his progress with you, then have hope for better days ahead.
2. He doesn’t shut you down when you vent.
One of the first things I will tell a husband who has abused sex is that his wife has a barrel of rocks… and she will be throwing them his way for the next twelve to twenty-four months. The ability for a woman to properly grieve the betrayal of the relationship is critical in order for there to be a chance for her to move forward in it.
Some men struggle when their grieving wives are throwing rocks. They become defensive and attempt to shut down the conversation. This is a serious mistake. When a woman is not given an opportunity to grieve, she will continue to sit on those emotions and learn how to express them in other ways, like passive aggression.
You can start to sense your spouse is getting better when they stand firm and allow you to vent about your pain and anger. This demonstrates an understanding of the extent of your anguish, and a commitment to helping you get to a better emotional place.
3. He starts to develop and engage in healthy communities.
Clinical studies have demonstrated time and time again that engaging in healthy community is a critical key to recovering from a sex addiction. It is also the biggest pushback we receive from our sex-addicted clients. Intense shame and embarrassment would make it easier to get them to agree to walk a tightrope over the Grand Canyon than attend a recovery group meeting.
As the wounded spouse, if you see your husband is attending a support group, working with a sponsor, and engaging in a men’s group, you should feel confident that he is learning how to step outside of his negative comfort zone. Establishing authentic relationships with others will help him maintain accountability, which is a major win for you and your relationship.
4. He demonstrates the ability to emotionally attach with you.
A man struggling with a sexual addiction is confused about intimacy. Somewhere along the line, he confused emotional intimacy for physical intimacy. He has an easier time connecting physically, and his emphasis is on sexual relations.
When you find your spouse able to identify and express emotion, or showing signs of openness and vulnerability, you know he is on the right track of recovery. A sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder, and the course of treatment is designed to broaden the addict’s view of healthy intimacy to include an emotional connection.
An addict who is committed to recovery, supports his wife’s grieving, engages in healthy community and begins to identify and express deeper emotions is an individual who is on the right path for recovery. That is something you can put your trust in.