On this Father’s Day 2015, I dedicate this post to all the fathers who are also sex addicts, and their partners.
Amends (definition) | reparation or compensation
The best amends is a change of behavior
— 12-step slogan
Sex addicts often feel unworthy of their partner’s respect and love. Many feel unworthy to have their partner in their life at all after everything they’ve put them through.
As understandable as it is to feel guilt and shame about your past sexual behaviors and the deception that went with it, you still have inherent worth. Although it’s unrealistic to expect it from your partner, you are worthy to be acknowledged and honored for the effort you’ve made to change your behavior and repair the damage done to your relationship.
As a sex addict, you may feel as though you will never get out from under the painful feelings of shame and remorse over your past behaviors. If remorse turns into toxic shame, you will struggle to maintain sobriety and may even allow your partner to abuse you.
Your partner has a right to create boundaries for herself and she has a right to leave the relationship, but she doesn’t have a right to abuse you — ever. There is no justification for abuse of anyone, no matter what they’ve done.
The concept of a living amends is a mindset about the amends process that helps addicts gain a sense of progress and forward movement in what sometimes feels like an endless experience of shame, remorse, and regret.
Remorseful words like “I’m sorry,” and an 8th & 9th step amends process (in 12-step recovery) can go a long way toward making things right, but neither of these comes close to a living amends.
What is a living amends? Here are some examples of what it looks like:
- regular engagement in recovery activities (12-step meetings, step work, group or individual therapy, workshops, and fellowship with recovery peers)
- sustained (and sometimes imperfect) sobriety/abstinence from inner circle behaviors
- regular recovery check-ins with your partner
- willingness to hear your partner’s triggers and her feelings about them, without defensiveness
- willingness to engage in trust-building behaviors such as transparency around your phone and computer use or keeping your partner regularly informed of your whereabouts and activities
- willingness to eliminate some activities for a temporary amount of time (for example, business travel, mixed gender social or business activities that don’t include partners, use of phone apps, or use of electronic devices in certain situations)
- overall reduction in defensiveness or presenting yourself as a victim because you are in a repair and rehabilitation “season” in your relationship
- greater level of engagement and participation with home and family activities
As an addict, when you’re engaged in most of these activities — even imperfectly — you are making the best amends possible. By showing up, doing the work, and continuing to do “the next right thing,” you will make more progress toward trust-building and repair than with any amount of words.
Recovery work is redemptive and virtuous. If you’re on the path, I honor you this Father’s Day.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2015)