We believe the most powerful way to live in victory over sex addiction and betrayal trauma is taking a holistic approach to recovery for both partners. That means to seek support which looks at the whole person. Their mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing are all taken into account. A holistic approach focusses on a person's overall wellness and not just the addiction or condition.
How that is accomplished varies, as each story is unique and complex. However, there are fundamental tools (we call them the "non-negotiable's") that every individual can apply in order to set them on a course to living in freedom.
Sex addiction is not a marriage problem, it is a people problem. It is often, if not always, accompanied by other unwanted behaviors we call, "addict mode behaviors." Some of the behaviors look like, but are not limited to: gaslighting (making the partner feel "crazy"), lying, manipulation, controlling, legalistic/condemning, resentment, anger, etc. Sex addicts, just like other forms of addiction, are using the addiction as an abusive coping strategy to escape. It is completely destructive. It is a symptom of deep, underlying, unresolved pain. While this is true, it does not negate the fact that their choice to medicate through unwanted sexual behavior, such as pornography, has extremely harmful and devastating effects on the spouse and children. Sadly, many will put some sort of responsibility on the spouse and assume that they somehow contributed to the addict's choices. But spouses are powerless when it comes to their partner's sex addiction. That means, there is nothing they can do, or not do, to control the outcome. What she can control is her safety, her own recovery and her own healing. (We fully acknowledge that sex addiction does affect both men and women. However, our audience is generally men as being the sex addict and women as being the betrayed spouses, so our verbiage will reflect our mainstream audience.)
Many spouses of sex addicts are left reeling in the aftermath of discovery and experience severe stress and PTSD symptoms. Because of the severe damage the addiction has on the betrayed spouse, we agree with many professionals who specialize in sex addiction that it is a form of domestic abuse. (to read about the different forms of abuse, click here.).
Because of the complexities that accompany sex addiction, we align with professionals who focus on safety and trust being firmly established before marriage therapy is introduced. This is not to assume there are no marriage sessions, as that may be necessary in order to establish clear boundaries so safety can first and foremost be stabilized. Marriage sessions may also be needed for communication and conflict resolution. Ideally, each partner is seeking individual professional counseling sessions on a regular basis, which should be the primary focus. Safety and trust must be firmly established before emotional intimacy can be introduced. We believe in "his" recovery, "her" recovery, and "their" recovery, but it isn't linear. Recovery is messy, and all three can be happening simultaneously.
When stating that "safety" must be established, we are referring to both physical and emotional safety. Sex addicts lie. A lot. Emotional and psychological abuse takes its toll on the spouse, and it is important to create an atmosphere where the betrayed can begin to heal, and not create further chaos, trauma, and abuse.
The sex addict is in recovery to not only cease the unwanted sexual behavior(s), but to dig deeper and explore why those behaviors began in the first place. Over time, his actions should match his words. This means that he is shedding the "addict mode behaviors" that accompany the addiction. This process of maturity and integrity will take many months, if not years.
The betrayed spouse is in recovery to find healing from the trauma, find her voice, learn how to set boundaries, and determine what she needs to establish safety. Once safety is in place, she can begin to explore her needs, trust in her instincts, work towards forgiveness, allow herself space to grieve, explore family of origin, and more.
Once stability is present and safety has been clearly outlined, marriage sessions can be considered, so long as both parties are 100% committed. If one or both parties are not "all in", the ability for the marriage to thrive will be greatly limited.
Regardless of the outcome, we believe God’s Word holds true when it states in 1 Corinthians 7:17 that “God, not your marital status, defines your life (MSG)”. While we all desire our marriages to be restored, this isn’t always the case. But through Jesus and the grace that He offers, every single believer can find hope, regardless of the outcome of their marriage. He wants to restore you, to offer you His living water.