Your spouse is a sex addict and has cheated on you — many times — and all your friends and relatives think that the only option is to kick your spouse to the curb ASAP. But if any part of you wants to stay in the marriage, and especially if you have children, it’s worth following a plan of action to see if the relationship can be saved. Wondering how you’ll know? In the fallout of discovering your spouse’s sex addiction, here are some tips to help you make informed, clear-headed decisions about the future.
Therapy. The person who did the cheating must attend individual therapy and follow the clinician’s directives. This may include attending 12-step meetings, couples therapy, group therapy, 12-step meetings, and — depending on the severity of the sexual compulsivity — an inpatient program. You must attend therapy regularly and follow your treatment plan consistently.
Transparency. If you’re the one who cheated, you must give your spouse passwords to all electronic devices so he or she can check and see whether the infidelity has actually stopped. Your spouse must have access to your devices whenever they want. It’s also a good idea to install a tracking device on your phone or car so your spouse can find out if you are where you say you are. Although this may feel invasive, the onus is on you to demonstrate enough trustworthiness so your spouse no longer feels the need to look at your phone or email. If you’re the betrayed spouse, watch that you don’t become obsessed with checking devices. This is a colossal waste of your energy, and becoming The Sheriff will not keep your partner from cheating anyway.
Write down goals. The couple should make a list of what needs to happen in order for them to stay together. The list is not limited to sexual issues; it may include agreements about finances, child-rearing, and couple time. The addict must follow through on all agreements. His guiding principle should be: “a man is only as good as his word.”
The addict must empathize. Part of taking accountability for mistakes is demonstrating remorse by listening to your partner and acknowledging his or her concerns and feelings. Your choices traumatized your spouse, and traumatized people generally have dramatic mood swings while they’re healing. Although infidelity is not an excuse for long-term erratic behavior, it’s to be expected for six months to a year. And here’s a tip: if you want your partner to stop crying and yelling at you, you need to be rigorously honest and do what you say you’re going to do.
The betrayed partner needs to commit to personal growth. Even though you’re not responsible for the betrayal, you are responsible for how you handle it. Most betrayed partners benefit from attending individual therapy and 12-step groups designed for co-addicts, such as S-Anon or CODA. It’s imperative that you develop coping skills to manage your emotional reactivity. Even though you have just cause to be furious at your spouse, you will not help the situation by marinating in anger and hurt. Shift your focus from how you’ve been wronged to what you can do to make your life better. Get honest with yourself: do you have a pattern of choosing unreliable partners? Do you find that you often ignore your intuition? Do you agree to things you don’t want to do because you’re a people-pleaser? Does your happiness depend on someone else’s behavior, especially someone who isn’t reliable? No matter what your spouse does, you must know you will support yourself in case the marriage ends. You want to make decisions coming from a place of strength, not because you feel trapped.
Recovery from sex addiction is less about sex than it is about honesty and accountability in all areas of life. If, after a year, the addict has not demonstrated that he or she can be trusted, the partner has enough evidence to end the marriage. The betrayed should not feel guilt over breaking up the family. Yes, a divorce will hurt your kids, but they will be far more hurt if they see you accept an unacceptable situation.
We understand that you may have questions about the legal side of sex addiction, infidelity, marriage, and understanding your options should you decide to divorce. Our caring, compassionate family law attorneys are here to provide confidential, nonjudgmental help. Please contact us today to schedule your initial confidential consultation.