When your life has been shattered by the discovery of betrayal and infidelity, it’s easy to lose hope or think that you will always feel the way you do now. The good news is that this difficult time is just a season — and it will pass.
You have the power to create a better future, whether or not your relationship survives.
For partners of sex addicts and survivors of infidelity, beginning anew can look like:
- nurturing the mindset that life can be happier and more fulfilling than it is today
- starting (or getting back to) a hobby that brings you joy
- committing, or re-committing, to better self-care (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in the New Year
- going outside your comfort zone (taking a risk) either personally or professionally
- continually nurturing a solution-focused (rather than a problem-focused) mindset
- not allowing others to shame you or put you down in any way
- making a commitment to do something for yourself that you’ve been meaning to do or have put off
- requesting trust-building behaviors from your partner
- holding others accountable for offensive behavior or boundary violations
- allowing yourself to dream and plan your future
New beginnings also mean trust-building and repair behaviors by the person responsible for the breach of trust in the relationship.
Here are 5 essential trust-building behaviors necessary to heal and restore relationships damaged by betrayal:
- Participation in Self-Help Activities. These can include psychotherapy (individual, group, or couples), counseling, 12-step meetings, sponsor meetings, reading, prayer, or recovery work.
- Transparency. Being transparent means you freely share what you’re thinking and feeling. Transparency also includes being forthcoming about your activities and who you’re with. In the beginning, transparency can go a long way toward restoring trust and rehabilitating your relationship. A simple exercise in transparency is a weekly couples’ check-in. (Get my free Suggested Recovery Check-In Items for Sex Addicts & Partners here.)
- Reliability. Reliability is simply doing what you said you would do — not perfectly, but the majority of the time.
- Accountability. Being accountable for one’s behavior means acknowledging, apologizing, and making amends when you make a mistake or violate a boundary (if appropriate). Ideally, an amends should be related to the “offense.” For example, for a simple mistake like forgetting an item at the grocery store, an amends would be going to the store to get the forgotten item. When in doubt about how to make an amends, ask your partner what kind of amends would be meaningful to her (or him). Keep in mind that you are not obligated to carry out an amends your partner suggests (since no adult can tell another adult what he/she must do). However, your partner’s requested amends can give you a roadmap toward healing and restoring trust.
- Containment. In the context of rebuilding trust and making amends, containment means not reacting to your partner when she/he talks to you about the pain or triggers she’s experiencing as a result of betrayal or broken promises. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should accept abuse (for example, name-calling, shaming, cursing, or even physical abuse). One of the best things you can do for your partner is to hear her, tell her that you understand why she’s in pain or is triggered, and ask if there is anything you can do now to help. If you feel reactive about the interaction, call a friend, mentor, sponsor, or other supportive person to process any feelings that came up for you. Your non-defensive responses will go a long way toward your partner’s (and the relationship’s) healing.
If you’d like to know the 8 signs that the sex addict in your life has embraced a recovery path (and is becoming more trustworthy) read my post will I ever trust again?
Lastly, as a way to say good-bye to 2015 and open up to the possibility of a better 2016, consider some kind of clearing or cleansing ritual.
Write down qualities (fear or self-doubt, for example) or experiences that you want to let go of, and either burn them or release them in any that is meaningful for your. Other clearing and cleansing rituals include burning sage or taking a bath with sea salt, epsom salts, and/or essential oils.
In addition to a “letting go” ritual, spend some time thinking of qualities or experiences you want to cultivate or have happen for you in the New Year. Write them down and keep them somewhere you’ll see them on a regular basis.
Warm wishes to you for a joyful, healing 2016!
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2015)
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