Most partners have.
When you find out that:
- When you were on vacation a few years ago and your partner said he was going golfing, but he was actually at a massage parlor.
- Your partner frequently left you and/or the family under a false pretense to spend time with an affair partner on important days like holidays, anniversaries, or your child’s birthday.
- You were lied to so frequently that you’re not sure what’s true and what’s not.
- The sex addict has gone to great lengths to hide, obscure, and otherwise prevent you from finding out the truth . . .
You will probably think your whole relationship pre-discovery was a lie.
You may look at photos from vacations or other important events and wonder how you and your partner could look so “normal” while there were so many lies and secrets underneath the smiles and seemingly happy appearances.
Sometimes partners become despondent about the past as if they can’t trust their memories as being “real” any longer.
This is a logical — yet faulty — conclusion.
Unfortunately, when you take the view that your whole relationship pre-discovery or disclosure was a lie, you’ve allowed addiction to determine your reality.
Instead, hold on to and honor your perceptions and memories of past events.
If certain memories with the addict are positive for you, let yourself see them for what they are — happy events at the time that now evoke a confusing mix of pain and joy due to the negative impact of addiction.
Acknowledging both realities — the joy and the pain — is not about minimizing or denying the past. It’s about reclaiming and owning the parts of your relationship history that you authentically enjoyed.
Here are 4 things you can do to reclaim tainted memories from the past:
- Own your positive memories of the relationship as real for you, and resist the urge to let discovery or disclosure destroy memories of the past.
- Remind yourself that it’s not your fault you didn’t know what was happening in the past. Don’t blame yourself for the effects of being deceived as if you should have known.
- Make a decision to leave the responsibility for deception on the addict’s shoulders. When you’re clear that you aren’t the cause of the addiction and that you can’t control or cure it, you’ll be better able to simultaneously protect your positive memories while acknowledging the impact of addiction.
- If there are particular events or situations from the past that are especially troubling for you, make a request or establish a boundary. For example, if the addict took an affair partner to a restaurant where the two of you liked to go together in the past, decide whether you would like to reclaim the restaurant as a special place for only the two of you, or establish a boundary that you are no longer willing to go to this particular restaurant with him. You can also make a request that the addict not go to the restaurant in the future.
Make a list of any memories that are particularly difficult for you and ask yourself whether there is something specific that would help to heal or resolve it.
Once you’ve completed your list, make a commitment to yourself to do what is in your power to do — whether it’s to make a request, set a boundary, or re-engage in a self-care activity (massage, for example) that you’ve let go because it evoked painful thoughts and emotions.
Make a conscious decision not to allow addiction to rob you of any positive experiences — past, present, or future.
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2015)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity.