Sex Addiction : a guide for couples : Navigating your path through recovery

Week 1 of our mini blog series on helping couples navigate through the discovery of sex addiction in their relationship will focus on the task of navigating your individual paths towards recovery.

Discovery of sex addiction and porn addiction

When you discover your partner is a sex addict or a porn addict (the addicted partner), one thing that is certain is that life won’t be the same again.  As the partner you have received a huge shock and for the addict you are facing a wall of shame and fear of what happens now.  So, how can your relationship survive the pain and trauma of sex addiction?

Many couples turn to relationship counselling for support, but before any work can be done to rebuild your relationship, you both need to focus on your own individual journeys of recovery.  That’s not to say that you won’t see a couple counsellor to help you manage the immediate devastation that addiction has on the relationship, but the work of rebuilding trust is more effectively undertaken when both partners have undertaken their own recovery journeys.  This we recommend you do with a specialist sex addiction therapist as well as seek out peer support groups (check out our forum page).

The partner’s recovery

When we receive a shock, our bodies and minds can react in all sorts of ways.  It is very normal for you to feel like you are on a rollercoaster of emotions, one moment you feel numb, the next bursting into tears.  You can feel like you are walking around in a fog and not be able to concentrate.  You will have a hundred questions going around your head about what sex addiction is and why this is happening.  All security you felt in the relationship is gone.  You can no longer trust your partner.

Recovery for the partner of a sex addict meanings learning to SURF.  The acrostic SURF comes from the well-known saying by mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat-Zinn ‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf’.

SURF means:

S – Survive the trauma

U – Understand the cycle of reaction

R – Repair self-identity & self esteem

F – Face the future

Read more on SURF in the book : Sex Addiction – The Partner’s Perspective (Hall 2016)

The addicted partner’s recovery

The truth (or part of the truth) is now ‘out there’.  You are juggling a range of emotions, but the main ones will be fear and shame.  Fear of what happens now and shame that your secret has been discovered.  BUT there is also a huge opportunity for change and healing.  The road to recovery for the addicted partner is one of hope. 

In Paula’s Hall books, she explains that the CHOICE Recovery Model is more than a treatment plan, it’s a roadmap to establish confident recovery and a new way of life.  We recommend that this model is worked through with a trained Laurel Centre therapist.

The CHOICE stages of recovery are:

C – Challenge core beliefs

H – Have a vision

O – Overcome compulsive behaviours

I – Identify positive sexuality

C – Connect with others

E – Establish confident recovery

Read more on the CHOICE Recovery Model in the book:  Understanding and treating sex and pornography addiction (Routledge 2018)

As each of you find individual healing, understanding and resilience, then you will have enough strength to focus on the couple relationship.  Again, we recommend you find a couple counsellor who is trained in sex addiction, so they can help you work out if the relationship is worth saving, or how you can end the relationship well.

Next week : Understanding the importance of disclosure

A ‘therapeutic disclosure’ is completed with a sex addiction therapist with the couple.  This provides a safe, contained place for a full disclosure to occur.  This blog will focus on when, how and why a full disclosure is needed in the couple’s recovery journey.  

The series runs alongside the launch of Paula Hall’s new book “Sex Addiction – a guide for couples” which was released on 28th February 2019.