A few days ago, a partner in my Moving Beyond Betrayal Partner’s Boundaries Course asked me what are the most important things betrayed partners need to do to heal?
What a great question.
While it’s impossible to give a simple, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer, there are very specific actions partners can take, tools they can learn, and capabilities they can cultivate that support—and even speed up—their healing process.
I’ve identified the following 5 essential actions and skills that all partners should incorporate and build into their healing and recovery plan:
In the early days post-discovery or disclosure, you may find that focusing on yourself is extremely difficult. Because your reality has been severely damaged by deception and the impact of betrayal trauma, it’s easy to become preoccupied focusing on your spouse—his past or current behaviors.
As understandable as it is for you to want to create safety by understanding the past and making sure you’re safe in the present, you will feel better, faster, when you focus on taking care of you.
In my article, Self-Care: Your Foundation for Healing, I discuss why it’s so important for you to practice good self-care—especially in the first 12-18 months post-discovery and/or disclosure—and how to do it.
When you practice good self-care, you will gain clarity and have more energy for navigating your healing journey.
One of the best things you can do as a partner is to arm yourself with expert information about sex addiction, and being a survivor of betrayal trauma. Sadly, many partners suffer or experience unnecessary delays simply because they didn’t have good information about addiction, betrayal trauma, or the couples’ trust-building process.
I encourage you to approach your situation the same way you would if you received a medical diagnosis you didn’t know anything about. You would study it, find experts in that field to learn from or consult with, or connect with other people suffering with the same diagnosis, for example.
On the Resources page of my site, you can find a list of helpful books, websites, and other resources.
Individualized Support & Guidance
In addition to information and knowledge, every partner has her unique history and a specific set of concerns and needs.
I urge you to find a therapist or coach who can give you feedback and guidance based on specialized knowledge and training. Look for therapists and coaches who have specialized training in sex addiction and working with partners of sex addicts. The International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals (IITAP), the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), and the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS) are good places to start.
Because of the extreme isolation experienced by betrayed partners, it is crucial for you to find ways to connect with others traveling the same courageous journey. The benefits of connecting are many.
Partners often get an immediate sense of relief just by being in the presence—in person or virtually—of others on the same path. Knowing that you’re not alone, and having your reality and emotions heard and validated are priceless benefits of connecting with a community of support.
Thanks to technology, partners today have many more resources than they did even 5-10 years ago. Options for community include face-to-face or virtual partner groups, 12-step fellowships, online courses, and online communities.
Last—but by no means least on the essentials list—are boundaries.
And the reason I saved boundaries for last is that most partners need a beginning foundation in the first 4 of these essentials before they can engage in effective boundary work.
For example, without self-care it can be difficult to have the clarity necessary to identify what boundaries need to be established, or how to set them. And without good information about sex addiction recovery, it’s nearly impossible to know what kinds of requests you may want to make of the addict for trust-building and relationship restoring behaviors.
Boundary work is powerful. Boundaries creates safety, give you clarity, improve all your relationships, and help you determine whether your relationship with your spouse is salvageable.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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