This post is Part 4 of a 6-week series celebrating the release of my upcoming book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts. Each week I’ll share an excerpt from the manuscript, along with one of the book’s endorsements.
This week’s excerpt is taken from Chapter 4, entitled Boundary Solution Step 1: Knowing and Owning Your Reality.
The following section of Chapter 4 discusses why partners struggle to know their reality.
Why You’ve Struggled to Know Your Reality
If you’ve been in a relationship with an addict for any length of time, your trust in your own reality and intuition is damaged. Addicts will risk almost anything for their addiction including their livelihood, friends, extended family, primary intimate relationship, their relationship with their children, and even their life. Given the power of addiction, it’s no surprise that addicts go to great lengths to hide their behaviors and their secret life.
Sex addicts in particular often avoid talking about anything that could possibly lead to a conversation about sex or their own sexuality in an attempt to protect the addiction. In their primary relationship, addicts may have little or no interest in having sex with their partner or may appear sexually anorexic. If this is the case in your relationship, you will be even less likely to suspect your partner is acting out sexually. Over time, the addict’s deception and double life erodes your trust in your reality and intuition.
I often hear partners berate themselves by saying, “How could I have not known?” or “I was so stupid to have believed his lies.”
If you fall into the trap of blaming yourself for being deceived, remember that the sex addict in your life has made conscious efforts to confuse, omit, or otherwise obscure the truth.
No one wants to believe that one’s partner would be unfaithful or intentionally deceptive. When you got close to finding out about his secret life, he probably distracted, cajoled, lied, or maybe even abused you. When this happens, partners often attempt to incorporate the addict’s lies into their own reality and wind up feeling confused, foolish, or crazy.
Living with active and ongoing deception may have caused you to doubt almost everything you believed you knew or experienced in the relationship prior to discovery.
In early discovery, partners of sex addicts experience a profound and lasting shift in the way they view themselves, their relationship, and even the world. What you understood your reality to be pre-discovery has been shattered. In an attempt to make sense of the new and devastating information you’ve received, you will likely begin to view most—if not all—of your experiences through the lens of sex addiction, deceit, and betrayal. This is a natural and normal response to your situation and an attempt to create some semblance of order and safety.
Every billboard, sexually oriented business, attractive person, “men’s” magazine, and countless other triggers feel like daggers re-injuring an open wound. You will have many questions and worries that come up, even in ordinary daily activities and encounters. Because you don’t yet have all the information about the addict’s behaviors and history, there will be no limit to the questions and concerns you have about him. After all, pre-discovery you never would have thought he could have done the things you now know he did. Thankfully, this period of time where you feel assaulted by so many external triggers doesn’t last forever. But it’s painful nonetheless.
Once your reality has been damaged by deception, and then altered by seeing the world through the sex addiction lens, you may fall into the trap of believing that you can gain a better understanding of the way the sex addict thinks and behaves by trying to view other people and situations through his eyes. It’s understandable to seek a sense of safety or control by understanding the way the addict thinks. However, attempting to see the world through his eyes is ultimately painful, misguided, and more to the point—impossible.
Addictive thinking is fundamentally distorted, contradictory, and illogical.
As tempting as it is to want to “get inside the addict’s head,” you will gain clarity, safety, and serenity by rebuilding trust in your own perceptions rather than focusing on the addict or trying to see the world as he sees it. Luckily, you can restore trust in your own reality and intuition beginning now.
Special Praise for Moving Beyond Betrayal
“In the early days of sex addiction treatment betrayed partners were largely ignored or even blamed and labeled as enablers. Not infrequently, a partner’s painful trauma experience was either minimized or overlooked. Well, no more. Vicki Tidwell Palmer explains in a straightforward, useful way both why and how betrayed partners can set meaningful and empowering boundaries—limits that can aid not only their own healing, but also that of the addict and their relationship. A must read for anyone who has been negatively affected by a loved one’s sexually addictive behavior.”
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
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