It is fair to say that December can be a very busy and stressful time of the year. Time can be taken up with office Christmas parties, writing Christmas cards, Christmas present shopping, wearing Christmas jumpers for various events at school or work, buying a Christmas tree, choosing a secret Santa present, attending school nativity plays or carol services as well as buying extra food and drink for family entertaining. The list goes on. And on top of that is the pressure of trying to manage your relationship in front of a family who may not know that as a couple you are dealing with sex addiction in your relationship. This blog will look at two main Christmas hazards that can be difficult for a couple trying to manage sex addiction.
Hazard 1 - The office Christmas party and Christmas social events
The office party and other social gatherings can be a source of stress and arguments for the couple especially if the addicted partners’ acting out behaviour was closely linked to work. There can be a real worry of slips or a relapse in the acting out behaviour. If the couple can spend time planning and communicating their fears, this can help towards preventing a relapse and start to rebuild trust for the partner. Set aside some uninterrupted time to look through your diary for the festive period. Use the following questions as a guide in your planning and decision making may help:
How long has the addicted partner been in recovery?
If it has only been a few weeks since discovery of the sex addiction, then it might be wise to not go to the Christmas party this year, especially if your acting out behaviour was linked to work. Both of you will be feeling very vulnerable and emotions running high and attending the party might not be the best decision for your relationship right now. The addicted partner has not had a chance to embed new behaviours and the partner is not at a place to start trusting as they are still trying to cope with the shock of discovery.
What things need to happen to stay in recovery?
- For the addicted partner
If the addicted partner decides to attend the office party, then plan with your partner where key trigger points could be for both of you. Your partner’s trust needs to be rebuilt, so as the addicted partner, you need to be transparent about the plans for the party. Information and regular communication builds trust. Think through your travel plans. Can you travel with a work colleague that your partner knows and agree what time you will be home? This can help prevent any temptation to act out as the addicted partner will not be on their own. If drinking has been part of your acting out pattern, then agree not to drink. One way of not drinking is offering to drive work colleagues to the party and take them home afterwards. Inform your partner who these work colleagues will be and the time schedule of dropping everyone off.
- For the partner
If the partner decides to attend their office party or another Christmas celebration, then leaving the addicted partner home alone, can be a trigger, especially if the acting out behaviour was looking at porn or searching for sex workers online. Think through what the addicted partner could do while you are out, this could range from going to the gym, inviting a friend around, or playing with the children until bed-time, wrapping Christmas presents, cleaning the house, taking the dog for a walk. Plan out the evening. You could also turn the internet off, or install accountability and blocking software onto tablets, laptops and mobile phones.
Hazard 2 - Christmas Day and other family events
Let’s be honest, being with your family as well as possibly neighbours or friends all under one roof on Christmas Day, can be quite stressful. There is potential for many arguments – just in a ‘normal’ Christmas, let alone when you are dealing with the devastation of sex addiction. Trying to pretend to your family that things are ‘fine’ with you as a couple, may just be too much this year. So, have a think, do you really need everyone and their pets at your home this year? Could you scale down, to just you as a couple (and your children)? If it is not possible to scale down your Christmas, then here are a few tips to help you manage the day.
Think about delegating different tasks for the day, such as someone peel the potatoes, someone set up the table, someone go and walk the dogs, someone organise games etc. Be kind to yourself. Partners can feel particularly tired and emotionally drained from dealing with the discovery of sex addiction, so delegating out the Christmas Day tasks might help ease the burden.
Don’t drink and disclose
Drinking can lower our inhibitions and add fuel to our emotions. By drinking, you run the risk of blurting out to the whole family what your addicted partner has been up to and then regretting that you have said too much. Telling others is an important decision that needs careful consideration. There are 6 key questions to ask yourself before disclosing details of the sex addiction. These are:
- Do I want to disclose because I am feeling angry?
- Do I need to tell them now?
- How will disclosing benefit me?
- Will this person support me (and us as a couple) after I have told them?
- What impact will this news have on them?
- How much information do they really need to know?
If family members are aware of the sex addiction, sit down with your addicted partner, and agree what information can be given out if a family member wants to talk. It could be a simple statement to say, can we put that topic on hold for today? I can come and see you on another day to answer your questions. Hopefully, the person will accept your right to privacy and that the time is not right.
Find a safe space
If you are finding that your emotions are getting the better of you, then allocate a safe space for yourself. This could be your bedroom, the garden shed or the bathroom. Sit down and use some grounding and breathing techniques to calm your emotions, before heading back to the family.
Technology free zone
Inform your family that Christmas is going to be a ‘tech’ free day. All tablets and mobile phones are going into a basket and being hidden. Explain that you want to enjoy Christmas without the distractions of mobile phones. This task can remove one of the triggers for the couple e.g. the addicted partner wanting to escape into their phone and the partner wondering what their partner is looking at.
Hopefully the above information can help you enjoy the festive period as you work on your relationship together at this difficult time.