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Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

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Presentation on theme: "Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts"— Presentation transcript:

1 Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts
Mending a Shattered Heart & Facing Heartbreak Introductions – Ask Audience what they would like to get out of this session Let audience know Tony and I will present tasks and performables, Mari will bring the material to light with a case example

2 Common Questions from Partners
Will this get better? Is there hope? What is disclosure? How do I structure my boundaries? What do I tell the kids? Should I stay or should I go? What are the 12 steps and what can they do for me? Where do I get help? Is my husband a pedophile? Is my husband gay?


4 The course of recovery over time and the parallel path of the partner

5 The Six Stage Model Defined for Partners
Stages are fluid and often overlap No specific time periods for each stage Similar to addict stages

6 Stages of Recovery for the Partner
The Developing Stage (Pre-Discovery) Crisis Shock Grief (Ambivalence) Repair Growth


8 THE DEVELOPING STAGE Prior to learning partners behavior is an addiction Can last months or more commonly years. Partners either knew of the behavior or were completely “in the dark” re: illicit sexual behaviors If a partner knew of behaviors, often would minimize, deny, blame themselves or join in the sexual escapades of the addict

9 The Developing Stage Believe tall tales.
Tolerate, normalize unacceptable behavior from the addict (verbal abuse, dependency, unavailability, mood swings, etc.). Self- doubt (second-guessing, not trusting gut feelings). Seek couples therapy to treat the relationship. Unmanageability.

10 Crisis Stage Façade of addict has been exposed.
Catalytic event that causes partner to confront reality of the addiction Information-seeking at its highest Take action/ making decisions (e.g. sending to treatment, joining a 12-step group, read literature pertaining to sexual addiction, separation, file for divorce, seek information Emotional turmoil

11 Typical Path of Disclosure
Deny everything Disclose what you think you can get away with Disclose a bit more Get confronted as more things come out Disclose all (REPEAT!)

12 Shock Stage Feelings and emotions occur as a result of the initial discovery/disclosure of the addiction Emotional numbness or avoidance Feeling victimized/ traumatized Suspicious Fear about slips, future Feelings of despair Anger (hostility, self-righteousness, blame, criticism) Ruminating/ Distrust Desire accountability/ disclosure from addict

13 Shock Stage Continued Partner
Disclosure of ALL previously concealed behavior is desired Reasons cited: To make sense of the past To validate their suspicions To gain a sense of control To assess their risk of STD exposure To assess their partner’s relationship commitment

14 Grief and Ambivalence Grieving losses. Feelings of depression.
Ambivalence about the relationship. Increased introspection and focus on the self. Less focus on the addicts behavior.

15 Repair Stage Introspection.
Decision-making stage about the relationship. Deeper insight into possible co-dependency issues. Family of origin themes examined and integrated. Prior losses more fully grieved. Increased strength and coping skills. Boundary setting. Emotional stability.

16 Growth Stage Decreased feelings of being victimized by the addiction.
Focus on issues not directly related to the addiction. Awareness of your role in the dysfunction of the relationship increases. Acknowledgement of gifts the addiction has brought to your life.

17 STAGE MIX IN RECOVERY Crisis/Decision Developing Shock Crisis/Decision
Growth Developing Repair Shock Grief Crisis/Decision Developing Repair Grief Shock Growth 3. Fifth Year Crisis/Decision Shock Developing Repair Grief Growth 2. Third Year 1. Early First Year

18 Trauma Survivor or Codependent?

19 Trauma model for partners
Research shows partners experience PTSD symptoms and symptoms of acute stress disorder post disclosure (Steffens and Rennie, 2006) Sexual Trauma Model (Minwalla, Chapter 6 Mending) More practitioners acknowledging partner’s experience as trauma

20 Trauma Model for Partners
“Relational Trauma” triggers a multitude of trauma responses: Emotional Turmoil Fear that manifests as protective behaviors Obsessing about the trauma Avoidance of thinking about or discussing the trauma Intrusive thinking about the addiction or acting out behaviors Sleeplessness/ nightmares

21 The Level of Trauma is influence by…
Amount of deception Length of time of deception Gaslighting/ covert emotional abuse Type of acting out/ offending behavior Exposure to the acting out Public Embarrassment Impact on the children Impact on finances

22 Developing Therapeutic Alliance with the Partner
Validate Trauma Typical “Joining” strategies Allow for narrating of story and pain Emphasize the importance of their own therapeutic process Boundary work Challenge cautiously – do deeper, more introspective work, after initial trauma symptoms have decreased Abandonment, FOO issues, past traumas

23 Traditional Codependency Model
Approximately 50% of partners self-identify as “co-dependent” Many partners will not want to be “labeled”, especially initially. As therapeutic alliance grows may be able to challenge them more Couples nicely with addict’s 12 step work – partner “works their own program”

24 Characteristics of Co-Addiction/ Co-dependency
Denial Preoccupation Enabling Rescuing Taking excessive responsibility Emotional turmoil Efforts to Control Compromise of self Anger Sexual issues

25 Criticisms Trauma Model Codependency Model
Addict is “sick” and partner is “healthy” Does not challenge partner to get out of “victim” stance Does not challenge partner to take responsibility for their own behaviors Codependency Model Developed in Patriarchical Addiction culture Pathologizes family members Traumatizing to partners – when they feel misunderstood

26 Influence on Partner Sexuality
Relational Sexual Difficulties Sexual Aversion Sexual Shame Body Image Issues Sexual Secrets Obligatory Sex Broken Trust to take PSS

27 Support for Partners Therapy Trauma work
Task Centered Therapy Trauma work Group support (facilitated group therapy) Normalizes Decreases Shame Twelve Step Support Spiritual Support Family/ Couples work when appropriate Bibliotherapy

28 Treatment for the Partner


30 Partner Tasks Tony

31 The Seven Tasks for Partners
Cope with the Trauma of Discovery/Disclosure Manage the Crisis Develop a Plan for Support and Self-Care Understand the Nature of Addiction Deal with the Emotional Aftershock Communicate Effectively about the Addiction Create a Recovery Plan

32 Task 1: Cope with the trauma of discovery/ disclosure
Recognize the Trauma Learn About the Toxic Dance of the Staggered Disclosure Toxic Flow: The STEPS of Staggered Disclosure Identify Lies and Misinformation Identify Level of Trauma Recognize the Difference Between Big (Big T) and Small (Small T) Traumas in your Life Recognize Trauma Symptoms Learn to Tell Your Story of What Happened


34 Task 2: Manage the crisis
Establish Safety Create a Safety Shield Set Non-Negotiable Boundaries Set Healthy Emotional Boundaries Set Healthy Physical and Sexual Boundaries Set Healthy Boundaries for People, Places and Things Develop a Communication Plan Stef 13

35 Mari cover safety sheild – through slide 17 - 22

36 Stef


38 Task 3: Develop a plan for support and self care
Establish a Support System Build your Support Network Find a Therapist Learn About Group Therapy Get Involved in a Twelve Step Community Create a Self-Care Plan Find Other Methods of Self-Care Practice a Relaxation Technique Learn to Soothe Tony

39 Task 4: Understand the nature of addiction
Learn key concepts about addiction in general Learn about Sex Addiction Learn about Addiction and the Brain Recognize Current Beliefs About Addiction Understand the Concept of Cross Addiction Understand Criteria for Addictive Illness Learn Risk Factors of Addiction

40 Task 5: Deal with the emotional aftershock
Identify your Emotions Identify your Losses Deal with Grievances Manage your Pain Cope with your Anger Deal with the Shame and Guilt Cope with Feelings of Numbness and Efforts to Distract Deal with Confusion Find Hope Stef




44 Task 6: Communicate effectively about the addiction
Write a Partner Impact Letter Identify Your Communication Style Explore Communication Roles and the Karpman Triangle Create a Communication Toolbox Write a Letter to Sex Addiction Identify Toxic Ineffective Communication Strategies and Coping Behaviors Identify Hot Topics in about Sex Addiction in Your Relationship

45 Tony 36 – 38 Tony goes through impact letter in detail here

46 Mari

47 Task 7: Create a recovery plan
Personal Craziness Index Complete Forgiveness Exercise Complete Forge Ahead Exercise Complete a Sexuality Survey Understand Partner’s Impact on Your Sexuality Create Sexual Affirmations Identify Negative Beliefs About Your Body and Your Sexuality Find Alternative Reactions to Destructive Behaviors Stef


49 Stef – PSS

50 All

51 Thank you!

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