31 Insights and Solutions for Wives of Sex Addicts
Since all of the sex addicts I work with are heterosexual males, and virtually all are married, I will be addressing these remarks to their “wives”. The same dynamic would usually apply to other forms of romantic partnership. Many though not all of the items below will also apply if the spouse is chronically unfaithful, but has not declared himself yet to be a “sex addict” so that he can obtain the benefits of 12-step recovery.
It is very important that wives realize that none of these items below should be applied literally and completely in all situations. Adjustments will need to be made given the particulars of each situation, the values/maturities/personalities of the partners, and especially given the stage of recovery that each partner has reached. (See my outlines giving the phases of the addict’s recovery, of the partner’s recovery, and of the recovery of their marriage.) (These are included in the 17 pages I have written as “Wives Resources”; see too the 21 pages I have put together for SA wives on Enabling).
Any ideas or suggestions that seem completely inappropriate and impractical should always be discussed with third parties, preferably ones who are experienced in recovery wisdom or educated in professional research, and who are able to be unbiased and objective about the persons involved. The reason for this is that partners trying to recover from betrayal, infidelity, and trauma generally experience high levels of emotional pain (grief, anger, guilt, shame, insecurity, and loneliness). Therefore their viewpoints are always vulnerable to the denial they may use for pain management (errors and distortions in judgment that come consistently without them even knowing it).
Here are a month's worth of insights and solutions for the wives of unfaithful husbands/sex addicts:
- My husband’s disloyal, dishonest, and addictive behavior: I need to remember I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.
- Dr. Schmidt is open to feedback to and from wives, with husband’s release. Wives are invited for one of his 1st 3 sessions.
- I need to avoid using any of the 12 ways that loved ones tend to enable addicts (see Dr. Schmidt “How Loved Ones Enable”).
- About once a week at a scheduled time, most wives need a 4-circle sobriety and recovery report. See my 2-page outline.
- When I’m receiving reports about his yellow and orange circles (attitudes and slips), I need very few specifics (they’re toxic).
- Until he makes full disclosure and amends in step 9 after about a year, Dr. Schmidt and I won’t show very much trust for his fidelity.
- The first big disclosure should come after step 1 in Dr. Schmidt's office, where he will support me, not my husband.
- The other big disclosure (full disclosure with inventory and amends) comes at step 9, also in Dr. Schmidt’s office.
- A shield of SAFEty helps for disclosure: give myself Support/Soothing, Affirming Assets, Future Focus, Engage Encouragers
- Whether or not he recovers, I want to do so. This way I will not be unequally yoked, either to a good man or a sick man.
- To recover, I am going to need my own counselor, and Dr. Schmidt can help me find one (see "Working with Mr. and Mrs.").
- I can afford to be more kind and open to my husband only to the extent that both of us have been treating me well of late.
- As in any healthy marriage, my role is not to evaluate or discipline my partner, but to love, respect, and understand him.
- Because of my severe loss and trauma, I need to flow gently through the stages of grief and trauma recovery, one at a time.
- A 90-day period of sexual abstinence allows both of us to get our old, bad thoughts about both ourselves out of our minds.
- The touching and affection we share should evolve gradually with our recoveries. See Schmidt's “Should we?” article.
- Checking and investigating are obsessive-compulsive rituals. I step backwards into either hurt and fear or the illusion of control.
- I can't afford to investigate or interrogate my husband – he’ll likely respond with retaliation, apathy, or excusing himself.
- We are as sick as our secrets. I need to tell girlfriends who are positive, private, and well read. See “wives accountability".
- Any plans that we make in the first year of our recoveries are unwise, such as future vacations, divorce or reconciliation.
- I don't need to know our future. The best ways to prepare for divorce, reconciliation, relapse and recovery are all the same!
- Only my husband can make it harder for him to relapse – by trying to make it harder, I can only make it easier for him.
- It doesn't help my husband for me to take personal responsibility for emotional pain that he needs for his healing and growth.
- When either of us is really hurting emotionally, both of us can choose whether to see that pain as a bond or a barrier between us.
- Dr. Schmidt likes to get 5 weekly letter grades on report cards from husband and wife (see his report card outline).
- Grace and truth are contagious and they need each other. I need to give and receive love, respect and understanding to us both.
- I always need to establish and maintain healthy boundaries for my behavior and experience (see Schmidt’s article on this).
- My husband's behavior can certainly make me sick, but only God and I with my girlfriends can make me well.
- The people, principles, practices and prayers of recovery may get my husband over denial of and bondage to his character defects.
- The marriage I thought I had and thought I was entitled to was not even real. I want one better than I have ever imagined.
- We both need to just feel our feelings and talk them out with people who care, so we can believe our beliefs and act them out.
Dr. Paul Schmidt, CSAT (502) 633 2860