Last time, Ella Hutchinson raised the issue of whether it is appropriate for partners to express their needs or desires to their addicted husbands early in recovery- given that the standard model of SA treatment does not focus on the couple until later in recovery. This time, Ella will discuss a different approach that is helpful for both the partner AND the addict!
Here is where I take issue with that [treatment focused solely on the addict’s needs early in recovery]. Let’s set aside the partner’s needs for a second. How is telling a wife to sit back and wait the best thing for his recovery? In the example above, and I could give you many more just like it, this woman was becoming more angry instead of moving past her anger, experiencing less motivation to be supportive, and putting herself in a very risky situation with another man.
Imagine if, instead of telling him [the person with the addiction] that he needs to put himself first and his marriage second, a therapist had told this addict the importance of showing his wife patience and empathy during his recovery. Imagine if his sponsor, instead of telling him, “she needs to accept her part in this” had told him that his role right now is to be humble and let her grieve, vent, and heal in whatever way she feels necessary. Imagine if, instead of reading in a newsletter for sex addicts that “if it has been six months and she is still grieving or expressing anger then this has to do with her own past issues and has nothing to do with you”, the newsletter listed ways an addict can support his partner. Some suggestions could be asking her what she needs, listening, not getting defensive, filling her in on how meetings and therapy went (no need for specific details) to help her feel safe, answering all her questions honestly no matter what they are or how many times she asks them.
If therapists, coaches, and others who are helping guide sex addicts in their recovery would work to help them understand how to not only find recovery for themselves, but also for their marriage, I believe we’d see a lot more successful addicts. I hear so many addicts tell me they are afraid her grieving will never end. I tell them it will last a long time, longer than you would like I am sure, but you have so much more power than you think you do when it comes to the healing of your marriage! A sex addict who is not only doing well in recovery for himself, but is also working to maintain patience, empathy, and HUMILITY in his relationship with his partner, will likely see her respond positively to him much more quickly than she would otherwise.
Why do I think that an addict who knows how to treat his wife has a better chance of successful recovery? Well, Patrick Carnes said that a huge predictor in success for addicts is family support. That makes sense. But we’ve been going about it all wrong. Instead of re-traumatizing partners by forcefully telling them they must be loving and supportive and patient, why not teach the addict, the injuring party, how to treat her in a way that will help foster her healing? In turn, I bet we’ll see a lot more wives moving from outbursts of anger and grief to a loving, supportive attitude much more quickly.
Let’s start treating wives like we would treat any other person who has gone through a significant trauma instead of viewing her as an extension of her addicted husband. Let’s teach husband’s how to love their hurting wives. And let’s get rid of the “CO!”