You are the partner of a sex addict – wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend. Your spouse is or is not in a recovery program. Either situation is stressful.
You fear relapse. You experience grief and anger. You are trying to put together the pieces of your life. Then the holiday season approaches. Vacation. Time off. Family.
The Norman Rockwell "perfect" holiday is not happening this year. Not that it ever really does but that is another story. You want everything to seem perfect or at least okay for the children if for no one else. Talk about pressure and stress.
What can you do? Here are some tips for holiday and vacation survival:
- Take the time to explore how you feel and what you want during this time. Of course what you really would like is for this all to be just a bad dream that you wake up from and have everything back to "normal" again. But that is not going to happen. So your best option right now is to identify what you can live with and tell it to your sex addicted partner. Write it down. Say it out loud. Talk to a trusted friend to sort it out. Be as specific as you can be.
- Make plans. Who will participate in what events? What if a former acting out partner might be or will be at an event? What do you do if you are triggered? Who goes home with who? Separate cars? How long do you want to be anywhere? What if you change your mind?
- Get support. Do not isolate yourself. Go to therapy, twelve step Co-S groups or other twelve step groups and therapy – support groups. If you can't make it to an in person group, look at the national website of your 12 step group to find online or telephone meetings you can attend. Talk to trusted friends and family.
- Don't take care of everyone else and neglect yourself. Make sure that you make some time that is as relaxing and pleasurable as can be for you. You may not feel this is possible in the midst of the crises that are going on but it is important nevertheless to give yourself a break from stress. Give yourself permission to have a "good enough" holiday or vacation.
- Talk to your sex addict spouse about their self care plans. Ask what they are doing to protect themselves and you from the negative consequences of their problematic behavior. Express concerns that you have. If they are defensive about your questions, encourage them to talk to their therapist, sponsor and 12 step group about this. Being open to sharing this with you is a sign of recovery. Bottom line – their actions affect you and you have input that is important for them to take into account.
- Be especially cautious about letting sentimentality about or manipulation by the sex addict influence your choices at this time. Identify, set and follow through on boundaries you set with your sex addict spouse. Base any decisions you make regarding them on an assessment of where they are at in their recovery process. Are they working a solid recovery program where you see signs of accountability, responsibility and awareness of the effects of his or her actions on you taking place? Or is your sex addict spouse still acting out, lying and not taking your well being into account?
Shari Cohn, LCSW, CSAT is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist providing Sex Therapy, Sex Addiction Therapy and Psychotherapy to the Madison, Wisconsin area for over twenty years.
Shari specializes in helping sex and porn addicts, partners of sex addicts, abuse and trauma survivors, ptsd and sexual problems.
"Reclaiming Sexuality…Reclaiming Your Life…One Step At A Time"
Visit Shari 's website and blog at www.ShariCohn.com
Find Shari on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SexTherapyMadisonWI