Read Emotional Restitution [For Addicts] Part 1 here.
The information is adapted from the work of Patrick Carnes, PhD as presented in his workbook, The 90-Day Prep, in the Recovery Start Kit: A 100-day Plan for Addiction Recovery.
Acknowledge Image Management
Addicts spend enormous amounts of energy protecting their addiction, and avoiding being found out.
In Section 5, acknowledge how you may have “spun” certain storylines with family, friends, or co-workers to distract, obscure, or invalidate your partner’s responses to your behavior. For example, did you attempt to make your partner look like she was over-reacting or being unreasonable in some way?
Here the focus is on how you attempted to manage your image to others—and thereby protect your addiction—by making yourself look good while at the same time painting a picture of your partner as confused, crazy, or worse.
Validate Feelings & Boundaries
Partners of sex addicts—understandably—have painful feelings and responses to the discovery and disclosure of sexual betrayal.
In Section 6, acknowledge how your acting out and/or offending behaviors caused her painful feelings, and take responsibility for your part. If your partner took specific actions or created boundaries as a result of what she discovered, tell her that you understand why she took those actions, and that she has a right to protect herself—now and in the future.
Occasionally, partners react abusively (verbally, emotionally, or physically) to the discovery or disclosure of sexual betrayal. If this has happened in your relationship, you can acknowledge that you understand your partner’s intense, painful feelings, but it’s not necessary—nor helpful—to support or validate anyone’s “right” to abusive behavior.
Release Your Partner from Blame
The partner who feels no blame or responsibility for the sex addict’s behaviors and actions is rare.
Most partners take on undue responsibility and blame for many things including the addict’s acting out, his angry—or even abusive—behavior, or the impact of addiction on the relationship or the couple’s children.
In this section of the emotional restitution letter, you take 100% responsibility for the impact of sex addiction on you, your partner, and your family. Your partner may have created boundaries or taken other actions that impacted you and the family—sometimes in ways that may have had a restrictive or negative impact.
Acknowledge to your partner that you understand why she/he needed to create these boundaries, and that the impact of those boundaries are a direct result of your behavior and addiction. Demonstrate your willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of boundaries that may have had a negative impact on your family.
For example, if you can no longer log in to a family computer when your partner is away, and this is occasionally impacting your children’s ability to access information they need online, express your willingness to tell your children (in an age appropriate way) that the reason their mother is now the only person who can give them access to the computer is because you’ve made mistakes and broken agreements with your partner using the computer in the past.
Express Gratitude & Transparency
In the final section of the emotional restitution letter, thank your partner for hearing your letter and acknowledge that it may have been difficult for her/him to be reminded once again of past events and episodes, and the pain they caused.
Acknowledge that your partner may have questions about what she’s heard, either now or in the future, and that you’re ready and willing to answer them. (And as an aside, this one thing—showing sincere willingness to answer questions—is a vital component of the trust-rebuilding process.)
In addition to being available to hear and validate their feelings, encourage your partner to connect with her support system—if needed—to process responses and feelings about what you’ve shared.
Close your letter with just your first name. Don’t ask for forgiveness or say “I hope you can forgive me.”
(Adapted from the Emotional Restitution Exercise in The 90-Day Prep — Recovery Start Kit: A 100-day Plan for Addiction Recovery, by Patrick Carnes, PhD.)
If you’d like to receive blog posts just as soon as they happen, enter your email address now in the Subscribe to Blog via Email form on the right of this page.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity. Submitted comments containing profanity, offensive language, or otherwise objectionable material will not be published.