You were in the passenger side of the vehicle when the driver crashed into a tree. The crash wasn’t your fault, it was the drivers; you were just along for the ride. The ambulance comes and takes the passenger to the hospital for help but leaves you alone and bleeding in the wreckage.
Of course, this doesn’t happen. So why does it happen when your spouse has an addiction? You get him or her help, they get plugged into a program with support surrounding them while you are left sitting in the wake of the destruction. At times you’re even blamed, labeled codependent, not providing him with enough sex. You don’t give a heroin addict more heroin to help the addiction go away, in the same way you don’t give sex to make the sex addiction go away. Even well-meaning people can attempt to explain it away but none of it helps. Because how do you overcome the devastating question of “Why am I not enough?”
You ARE enough.
The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity has defined sexual addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.”
Sex addiction is far more common than most people think and shows itself in various ways such as porn, sexting, prostitutes, and affairs with acquaintances or friends. Maybe you’re not sure if your partner is addicted to sex. Maybe it was a one-time thing. Maybe it has lasted years. No matter the duration, you feel this wreck is one you may never recover from. You don’t just walk away from this type of betrayal with a limp. The flood of powerful emotions coupled with the chaos of the discovered treachery has caused injury in which there is no bandage big enough for.
What Do I Do Next?
Along with a barrage of emotions there are an equal number of questions. What do I do with the life I thought I knew, the spouse I thought I knew, even the God I thought I knew? What does this mean for my relationship, my children, and my family? How can I know what’s real? Do I leave? Who should I tell? Can trust ever be restored?
When you’re amid this whirlwind of trauma, knowing what to do next is very difficult. The following are some suggestions to begin with.
Begin building your support team.
You will need to decide who to tell and who not to tell. Some don’t want anyone to know which is understandable given the vulnerability around the issue; however, increased isolation will only make things harder. Some will want to let everyone know which can sometimes backfire. Tell safe people who will honor your journey, and your decisions, and who will not blame you (because none of this is your fault in any way). Although there may be a time for couple’s therapy down the road this is not it. Add to your support team a trauma-informed helping professional who understands how to guide you through the healing of betrayal trauma.
None of this is your fault in any way.
Re-establish safety in your home.
You get to determine what is and isn’t acceptable in your home. What do you need to feel safe in your space right now? Your therapist can help you build safety boundaries. These boundaries are necessary no matter if you decide to stay or leave the relationship. If you are, or believe you will be, in physical danger and you don’t have a therapist yet or your therapist isn’t available at that time, then call a domestic violence shelter (The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1−800−799−7233) to speak with someone who can help you with a plan of safety. Of course, if in immediate danger, please call 911.
Stop and breathe.
When you are on high alert you can easily become startled, triggered, and confused. You might still be in the fight/flight/freeze trauma response which says to your body that you are in mortal danger. It often feels very much that way, like you’re about to die, or you’re in an out of body experience. At this point your mind and body are not communicating well to each other. There is power in reconnecting your mind and body so that you are in the present and you no longer feel like you are in a surreal fog. Breathing sounds like an oversimplified option for such an enormous circumstance, however, it is one of the most proven and effective solutions to calm ourselves. Breathing and grounding are highly effective in reducing panic and flooding of emotions.
Try these 2 exercises:
Square Breathing Exercise
Sit up straight in a chair or lie down, whichever you prefer. Picture a square. Breathe in for 4 seconds as you go up one side of the square, hold your breath for 4 seconds as you go across to the other side of the square. Now breathe out for 4 seconds as you go down the other side of the square and hold for 4 seconds as you go across the bottom, completing the square. Do this for several minutes, preferably up to 5 minutes. As you mind wanders, because it will, just gently bring it back to focus on your breath.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding Exercise
The goal for this exercise is to become aware of your senses. This helps to shift awareness from the traumatic sensations to your present reality of safety. Name 5 things you see around you, name 4 things you feel around you, name 3 things you hear around you, name 2 things you smell around you, and name 1 thing you taste.
Betrayal trauma recovery requires re-establishing your safety; body, mind and soul. Whether you just found out or it’s been years since finding out, let me help you navigate through the chaos and undeniable pain of betrayal. I have advanced training in the Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model that guides you safely through the steps needed to heal betrayal trauma. Healing and restoration are possible. To make an appointment with me, please visit our Contact page.