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Getting out of the doghouse and into an intimate healing relationship Helping couples get past the initial stage of shock, blame and trauma that accompanies.

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Presentation on theme: "Getting out of the doghouse and into an intimate healing relationship Helping couples get past the initial stage of shock, blame and trauma that accompanies."— Presentation transcript:

1 Getting out of the doghouse and into an intimate healing relationship Helping couples get past the initial stage of shock, blame and trauma that accompanies discovery and disclosure Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S Founding Director - The Sexual Recovery Institute Director of Clinical Development - The Ranch Input and support from: Karina Green MS - Treatment Specialist SRI

2 Our Couple Joe- 37 professional caucasian male. Married 8 years, 2 children ages 19 months and 5 years, has professional degree. Laura- A 34 year old semi-retired professional and full time mother. She attends a spouses support group and is in individual counseling since ‘the event’ Situation: Over past 8-months she has uncovered increasing levels of deception regarding Internet porn and contact with prostitutes. To save his marriage Joe voluntarily entered treatment 90 days ago into an Intensive Program (IOP) - followed by individual therapy, group treatment and 12-step involvement. He completed a full disclosure approx 40 days ago.

3 Is this a familiar problem? Observe...

4 What is Empathy? Empathy is the capacity to, through imagination rather than literally, share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being. Empathy is what active addicts lack - and is a ‘late-stage’ developmental treatment task - can it be taught?

5 How has he empathically failed her? He isn’t listening to the subtext of her message only to the surface content He is defensive - and argues his point He does not exhibit insight into the subtext of her upset. He is trying to obtain regain power & control over her feelings for self-stability

6 The Problem The problem is that addicts are used to living in a world where they have control By “giving-in” to going to treatment, meetings, disclosure etc., they in-effect, are giving up this control to their spouse

7 At SRI this is how we view and explain his situation to him...

8 What does it mean to be in the doghouse? 1- To listen and reflect rather than react 2 - To listen with context in mind 3 - To be non-defensive 4 - To be grateful and express humility 5 - To not assume the partner will see your point or understand 6 - To not expect a ‘gold star’ for meeting minimum relationship requirements 7 - To find recovering people to meet healthy needs and not demand them of the spouse

9 So where is the spouse ?

10 We call this the spouses Emotional Roller-coaster

11 What is the Roller- coaster? Hypervigilent about whether or not their needs are being met. Hypersensitive about any perceived or actual lateness, incomplete promises or ‘not feeling’ considered Overly entitled to what they perceive as just and fair (developmentally ages 8-11) Alternately intimate and then withdrawing or punishing Accusatory: making mountains out of molehills Controlling (finances, time, sex etc.) Talking to family members or others about the addict’s behavior: as punishment Loss of perspective regarding their own part in the relationship challenges

12 And what is the engine behind the ‘coaster? Her internal state: Fear of further loss and abandonment Shame and self-hatred, self doubt Anxiety - potential triggering of previous trauma Concerns about parenting, finances, separation Intrusive thoughts and images

13 How long can it take to get off this ride? Nine to eighteen months - post- discovery/disclosure provided there is an active recovery process in place for both.

14 What is the spouse’s diagnosis? NOT Codependent Not Borderline Try Adjustment Disorder with mixed emotional features, much like PTSD - feeling defeated and beaten down, hopeless without the skill- set to negotiate or manage the day-to-day, overwhelmed, angry, unpredictable etc. It can be several months or longer before any enduring mental health diagnosis can be made - if any is present.

15 Boundary problem examples: spouses Expecting the Addict to be 100 % emotionally available now Expecting the addicts’ emotional issues (distancing, crabbiness, narcissism ) to go away right away Not allowing the addict to have a learning curve for better communication, emotional availability, empathy etc. Questioning erections in addict’s sleep and elsewhere Dismissing addict’s needs for solitude, reflection, healthy self care (meetings, therapy groups etc) Demanding to know everything the addict thinks now Demanding the addict to meet all of the spouses needs and as soon as they occur Disregarding the addict’s needs for sleep and safety Over interpreting negative mood states or unavailability as a return of addiction/acting out Physical or Verbal abuse Abdicating relational responsibility and holding the addict solely responsible for the relationship

16 Boundary problem examples: Addicts Expecting understanding and forgiveness (sex) right away (90 days or less) Expecting the spouse to be more understanding, less angry and hurt Expecting the spouse to ‘get over it’ Looking for validation regarding recovery-work, from the spouse Demanding forgiveness/sex in exchange for disclosure, information and/or ‘good behavior’ Continuing to lie, keep secrets, act out etc.

17 This Couple’s Negative Dynamics Pre- Crisis & Disclosure ADDICT Passive Aggressive or Aggressive Demanding Entitled Blaming & Nagging Withholding or Punishing Neglectful & Distancing Devaluing & Critical Sets the pace for Sexual/Romantic Intimacy Intimately Anorexic with Spouse Martyr / Victim SPOUSE Passive Aggressive or Passive Fears Abandonment Readily Capitulates, Disregarding Own Boundaries Makes Excuses for Spouse Approval Seeking In Denial of Own Needs Seeking Intimacy, needful Demanding - whining, nagging

18 This Couple’s Negative Dynamics Post - Crisis & Disclosure SPOUSE Passive Aggressive or Aggressive Demanding Entitled Blaming & Nagging Withholding or Punishing Neglectful & Distancing Devaluing & Critical Sets the pace for Sexual/Romantic Intimacy Intimately Anorexic with Spouse Martyr / Victim ADDICT Passive Aggressive or Passive Fears Abandonment Readily Capitulates Abandoning Own Boundaries Makes Excuses for Spouse Approval Seeking In Denial of own needs Seeking Intimacy, needful Whining, nagging etc

19 How to remain in the doghouse - boo w...

20 How to get out of the doghouse (subtext) The ideal response to conflict has three elements: 1. You fall on your sword - this starts with full disclosure and continues You validate your spouse - past and present 3. You reassure where possible

21 Sounds like this I’m so sorry I was late, that was wrong of me no matter what the reason. - Fall on Sword 2 - You have every right to be upset with me, not only because I am late today but because of what it must bring up for you when I do that. - Validate 3 - I want you to know that while imperfect, I will continue to do the best I can to keep my commitments to you and keep trying to get it right. - Reassure

22 What is the goal here? To teach the addict about empathic responses - dictated or written if needed To offer the addict a new skill-set - currently absent To give the addict an opportunity to receive positive reinforcement from the spouse To de-escalate reactivity for both parties so that growth can occur - get them out of cycle of shame/blame To educate the couple individually and together regarding this process and expected challenges

23 Is there precedent for such a directive counseling stance? Acknowledged forms of Directive Counseling Include: Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy (CBT) Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Crisis Intervention Addiction Counseling Coaching Domestic Violence treatment and more...

24 Countertransference I’m not supposed to tell people what to do - I’m a therapist! I will deny them “their process” Over-identifying with one or the other partner (esp. addict) Feeling pulled to address too many issues too soon or all at once What comes up for you?

25 Questions? Cases or Discussion? You can find Rob and Karina at the SRI booth just following this presentation

26 Getting out of the doghouse and into an intimate healing relationship Helping couples get past the initial stage of shock, blame and trauma that accompanies discovery and disclosure Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S Founding Director - The Sexual Recovery Institute Director of Clinical Development - The Ranch Input and support from: Karina Green MS - Treatment Specialist SRI


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