Over the past few years when it comes to sex addiction recovery and helping couples, it has been a disturbing revelation to me that many recovery programs and mental health providers are perpetuating the problems of their clients as well as prolonging their client’s healing process.
I do not believe they are doing this intentionally. I believe they genuinely feel they are doing what is helpful for clients in their office or treatment programs.
Therapy models that are trauma focused for women and shamed focused for men keep women stuck as victims and men in perpetual shame.
In this blog, we are going to look at a typical married couple where the husband has had multiple affairs outside the marriage. He is the identified sex addict, and the wife is the victim of his poor choices and secrets. We are seeing a growing number of female sex addicts. In the next 10 years, I predict female sex addicts will equal male sex addicts, but that is for another blog.
When a woman discovers her husband’s infidelity, she needs to be validated that she has been hurt and victimized. She will or may suffer from trauma. The wife must be allowed some time to process through her trauma. Each woman is going to do this differently. However, if she is going to get better, this trauma must be dealt with in therapy. However, many do not understand that trauma is not a permanent condition. Trauma is very treatable. Any model, therapist, or program that reinforces and encourages a woman to stay in, recall, or dwell in her trauma for more than 3 to 6 months is not helping her. This type of paradigm will keep her stuck. A wife who is in such a program will never get better regardless of the number of hours in therapy. She has become the ultimate victim.
A model of trauma keeps women stuck as the victim. The victim believes their husband needs to change. She believes she is recovering from his addiction, not her own anger, codependency, or issues that she brought into the marriage. The victim usually has a heart at war and wants the husband to war back to justify the wife’s warring and her anger. Her anger is a safe place for her. As long as she stays in anger, she does not have to change or let him back into her heart or her life. Therefore, she can never be hurt by him again. She feels as though she is become healthier, because her negative feelings continue to be reinforced. However, in reality, she is becoming increasingly unhealthy and is developing an addiction to being offended or an addiction to her feelings which entrap her.
Women in this model become perpetually stuck in the “why”. “Why did he cheat on me? Why are you a sex addict? Why do you view pornography? Why do you lie? Why don’t you trust me?” These are not the correct questions to be asking, because it keeps the focus off of herself and on her husband. To become healthy, she will have to stop asking “why is he not changing” and start asking “why am I not changing and why am I not getting better?” “What can I do about it regardless of my husband?”
Generally, a recovery model that reinforces trauma for the wife also keeps the husband in a constant state of shame. For the male sex addict, shame is the very food that feeds the addiction and makes it even stronger. Shame perpetuates him to want to act out more, which is the very thing neither of them want. Shame can come from a support group, therapist, or the client himself as well as from his wife.
In the short term, shame will motivate anyone; however, in the long term, it just reinforces not just sex addiction but all addictions.
For men and women, shame has an ugly cousin, and his name is pride. Individuals can also struggle with shame due to their issues of pride and have an inability to seek forgiveness or humble themselves to admit their shortcomings. For this type of shame, you will need to let go of your pride. Then, shame will usually disappear.
Women in a trauma model and men in a shame model are more likely to struggle with reconciliation. Additionally, both are going to struggle with sobriety. At best, healing is going to take more time. These models also perpetuate codependency between the couple.
Don’t be the couple who 5 to 10 years into recovery are just as unhealthy as the couple in their first month of recovery. Move from victim to victor and from shame to freedom. You, your marriage, your spouse, your children, and your future are worthy of better!
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.