Thanks for your comments on the blog from my last post, Your Roadmap for Healing!
Linda described so well what many betrayed partners experience as they search for answers at the beginning their journey:
I am so grateful that you are setting forth the map to recovery in black and white. For me, I experienced staggered disclosure for five years, a very painful process that included therapists and even a CSAT that did not plot out the map to recovery. Without this clear map, I was in a paddleboat . . . ” [Read Linda’s whole comment on the blog here.]
The roadmap for healing from betrayal will help you:
- Have a much clearer picture of what you need and want.
- Have a better understanding of your rights.
- Experience fewer, and less intense, betrayal trauma triggers.
- Gain greater freedom from the false, painful belief that the deception and betrayal you have endured was your fault.
- Experience more detachment from the crazy-making fog of addiction and deception. The kind of detachment that automatically gives you more clarity and peace.
- Gain more strength and empowerment to get your needs and wants met regardless of what your unfaithful spouse does — or doesn’t — do.
And in addition to these benefits, there are countless more that you can expect when you have a solid, tested roadmap for healing.
In my work with 100s of betrayed partners over the years, I have observed that there are 5 core components for healing from betrayal that are essential for partners, and I call these 5 core components the Survive & Thrive Blueprint.
Here are the 5 components of the Survive & Thrive Blueprint:
- Specialized information
- Individualized guidance
- A community of support
In this post, we’ll do a deeper dive into the first two these 5 essentials: Self-Care and Specialized Information.
The very foundation and core of your healing is self-care — physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
I positioned self-care as the #1 component of the Survive & Thrive Blueprint because not only is self-care vital to your healing, it will also help you turn your attention back to YOU, and away from over-focusing on, worrying, obsessing about, or otherwise being pre-occupied with what your unfaithful spouse is (or isn’t) doing.
I know how hard this can be.
But it is crucial for you to begin to focus on the areas of your life and well-being that you have power over.
In the early stages of discovery and disclosure, your world is turned upside down, and you are literally disoriented. And when you’re feeling disoriented, you will have trouble concentrating, making decisions, sleeping, thinking clearly, or keeping a regular schedule.
You may have been highly organized and productive pre-discovery, but post-discovery you may have a hard time getting much done. You may struggle to get out of bed.
Feeling disoriented, unmotivated, irrational, unproductive, and just plain ‘out of it’ are all normal for betrayed partners in early discovery and disclosure.
Your routine, your sleeping habits, your nutrition, and regular healthy movement (exercise) will all suffer. If this is happening to you right now, I want you to give yourself the same grace you would offer to a friend or sister who was going through what you’re going through now. This period of time is truly agonizing, and requires a lot of gentleness and grace.
When I teach betrayed partners about self-care, I like to use the PIES model. PIES stands for:
P – Physical/Sexual
I – Intellectual
E – Emotional
S – Spiritual
Using this simple acronym will help you identify and assess your self-care with regard to these 4 categories.
There are many components to physical self care including getting adequate sleep, nutrition, and movement. But there are two specific items that I cover with every single betrayed partner I work with:
- Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Safe sex practices
Even if you don’t believe your unfaithful spouse has had sexual contact with another person, you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections/disease.
Some partners tell me that they don’t see why they should be tested either because their spouse has already been tested, or they don’t believe they should have to go through the embarrassment of a visit to the family physician since they didn’t do anything wrong.
The reality is that regardless of what your spouse has done, you are ultimately responsible for your physical health and well-being.
When it comes to safe sex practices, I’m always concerned when a betrayed partner shares with me that she’s having unprotected sex with her unfaithful spouse after discovery, and before the formal disclosure process. Even if you don’t believe your spouse has been sexual with anyone else, you owe it to yourself to use protection each and every time.
Knowledge is power. I recommend that you read a variety of books about sex addiction and those specifically targeted for partners of sex addicts. There is a short list on the Resources page of my website here.
Healing from chronic sexual betrayal and facing a spouse’s addiction is painful, complex, and challenging. There is specific information and highly specialized treatment protocols for recovering from chronic infidelity or sex addiction, as well as for the restoration of the couples’ relationship. This kind of specialized information is not widely known outside the sex addiction treatment and recovery community.
Sadly, when betrayed partners are not well-informed about addiction, standard addiction treatment, or their rights, healing, progress, and growth are significantly and negatively impacted.
One of the most difficult realities of dealing with the aftermath of discovery is that the person you used to go to for comfort and reassurance has become the person who feels the least trustworthy to you.
The sad truth is that even before discovery, your relationship was not as intimate and close as you may have believed. Addicts who are still acting out or who have just recently sought help are generally not emotionally available to provide much in the way of support, reassurance or empathy.
Over time and with healing, your unfaithful spouse will become more present and emotionally available. But in the beginning you must find other sources of emotional support.
This is where therapy and communities of support become your lifeline as you struggle with feelings of isolation and uncertainty about who you can talk to. In early post-discovery your best source of support is therapy, partner groups, workshops and 12-step communities.
Now, more than ever, you need spiritual support and guidance. If you already belong to a church, synagogue, temple or mosque, I encourage you to attend regularly if your spiritual home is a place of strength, support and comfort to you.
If your spiritual life has been dormant, this is a great time to explore spiritual practices or religious communities you’ve been curious about. If you are agnostic or atheist, notice how these beliefs are impacting and informing your experience at this particular time in your life.
Your greatest source of safety will be gained through your practice of self-care and boundaries.
The second component of the Survive & Thrive Blueprint is specialized information.
When you’re facing an issue as painful and complicated as chronic sexual betrayal, you simply can’t be too informed.
As I mentioned in my first post, there are standard recommendations and treatment protocols for working with betrayed partners, sex addicts, as well as for the restoration of the couples’ relationship. These protocols are not widely known or available outside the sex addiction treatment and recovery community.
These protocols include:
- The Formal Therapeutic Disclosure process where the betrayed partner receives information in a therapeutic setting (therapist’s office) about her unfaithful spouse’s past behaviors and actions — information she needs and deserves.
- The use and importance of polygraph (post-disclosure) in restoring relationships impacted by chronic infidelity or sex addiction.
- An emotional restitution letter prepared by the unfaithful spouse and shared with the betrayed partner. The restitution letter is an opportunity for the unfaithful spouse to offer validation and empathy to the betrayed partner.
- An opportunity for betrayed partners to prepare an impact statement to share with her unfaithful spouse. The impact statement outlines the ways in which betrayal has affected you in all areas of your life including your sexuality, finances, and emotional well-being.
Without this information, a betrayed partner will essentially be in the dark without a flashlight or a roadmap that could lead her to clarity and peace.
There is so much to learn and know, and it can be overwhelming.
You may have already made many attempts to change your situation, to make requests, set boundaries, or create agreements with your spouse with little or no success.
You may be feeling terrified about turning your attention toward yourself — and away from your unfaithful spouse — because of your fears of what he will do or what will happen next.
Or you may be thinking, “this sounds good, but my spouse will never do these things.”
It can be truly daunting to to think about everything that is involved in healing from betrayal and restoring your relationship. But the good news is that there is a roadmap, and it’s a moment-by-moment, day-by-day, month-by-month journey.
It’s not a short or easy journey, but it is doable.
One step at a time.
With knowledge and support, especially around understanding how boundaries work [which I’ll be covering in my next post], you can find out sooner — rather than later — whether your spouse is willing to take the necessary steps toward his recovery and restoring your relationship.
I believe you can do it.
In my next post I’ll be talking about why it’s so important for you, as a betrayed partner, to have at least one or two people in your support circle who are knowledgeable about healing from betrayal who can give you individualized feedback and guidance about your situation.
No two partners are alike, and there are no cookie-cutter answers to many of the questions and issues betrayed partners face.
I’ll also be talking about why a community of support is vital for betrayed partners, and, of course, my favorite topic: boundaries. :-)
Until then, I’d love for you to leave a comment below or post a message on social media (links below).
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2019)
Not sure if this is the category that my question needs to be in, but here goes.
Wondering if a person that has an affair is considered a SA? Most of your material seems to be addressed to that audience. Would all of the same material and advice apply to infidelity in the case of an affair? Would a SA counselor be needed with a supposed one time affair. Would SA 12 step recovery be needed with that too? What about emotional affairs? Would it be treated the same as well? Are they considered SA as well?
Do you recommend SA counseling before an intensive weekend for couples? Is there certain things that should be taken care of first?
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Hi Mary, these are great questions.
One affair (including emotional affairs) does not rise to the level of an addiction, so sex addiction treatment would not be recommended for an unfaithful spouse in that situation. However, much of what you will find on my blog and in my book Moving Beyond Betrayal (especially with regard to how boundaries work), can help a betrayed partner and unfaithful spouse heal and restore their relationship after an affair.
For more general information about recovering from one-time affairs, I recommend Shirley Glass’s book, Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, and Janis Springs’ After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful.
If you are concerned that your spouse may be struggling with sex addiction, I recommend an evaluation with a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. You can find a certified therapist on the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals website here.
If you and your spouse are trying to heal and recover from an affair, I recommend finding someone in your area who has experience helping couples restore their relationship after an affair. Since Certified Sex Addiction Therapists deal with infidelity regularly, you could explore working with one; however, any therapist with experience working with couples after an affair can help you and answer all of your questions.
Take good care.
Thanks so much! That helps as I’ve had people tell me that we need to go to a SA therapist and do a 12 step recovery in that way.
My husband is very resistant to any help or counseling. He is very proud and says he can do this on his own by reading scriptures, going to church and trying to live the gospel. I believe in all of those things, but I don’t see us getting better. He fits the term of intimacy anorexia really well and has some narcissistic traits. I just can’t get him to talk to me about our problem (or any problem in our marriage), or commit to working on a recovery plan without him blowing up. I want him to jump in and be fully immersed in our relationship and in our recovery, but he is so distant emotionally. He is an emotional vault. Someone asked me why I was the one doing all the work to keep our marriage together when he was the one that had the affair. I don’t know? I guess the answer is that I love him and I want to save my marriage. So I have pulled back, but as I do, he pulls back even more. I guess the allure of being in an affair with a woman 20 years younger than him is enough of a drug that he doesn’t care that he casts me off after 43 years of marriage and raising a beautiful family together. Very frustrated.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
You’re welcome Mary!
I am so sorry to hear about what you’re going through. If you haven’t already, please read my recent posts on the roadmap for healing starting with this one: Your Roadmap for Healing. Most of this information applies to your situation, even if your husband is not struggling with sex addiction. Take care.
Oh, Mary. The characteristics you describe sure sound like a sex addict! Your husband could be my husband’s twin. You might just want to get that evaluation from a CSAT as Vicki suggested in her previous comments. My heart and prayers go out to you.
So grateful for all this information, is the next step blog post available yet? This series has been very helpful to me as I’m starting out on my healing journey after 5 years of roller coasters and lack of real intimacy with my husband of 37 years who now admits he is a sex Addict. I’ve made every mistake spouses can make from obsessing to lashing out. Now, I pray for healing and marital intimacy that we both deserve. Bless you for these blogs, they are a lifeline.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
You’re welcome RJ! You can read Part 2 here.
(Registration for the 5-part Survive & Thrive Blueprint Mini-Course series starts Wednesday, August 28.)