If you have just discovered or admitted that you have a problem with pornography or sexual addiction, you have a long and challenging recovery ahead of you. The support of a spouse can be a tremendously helpful resource during this time, but it is important to remember that your spouse has been badly hurt by your actions (whether you intended that or not, because you probably did not) and has his or her own recovery to face as well. He or she will need your support just as much as you need his or hers as you move forward together. Here are some important things you can do to help your partner heal, demonstrate your good intentions, and help repair your marriage.
- Accept responsibility. Your addiction is a legitimate medical condition, but your spouse needs to know that you are not hiding behind it or using it to excuse your actions. Taking responsibility, both for your actions and for making things right again, will help build your partner’s respect for you and lessen your his or her frustration.
- Seek couples’, family, or marital counseling. As the two of you work to rebuild your relationship, each of you will have thoughts, feelings, and needs to express; having a mediator can help you express and respond to those things in a productive way. A professional counselor or therapist can also help you find strategies for rebuilding trust, regaining respect and affection, and restoring intimacy to your marriage.
- Encourage your partner to seek individual counseling. Just as you may find individual counseling helpful for managing your addiction and dealing with its underlying causes, counseling may help your partner learn not to blame him- or herself, restore his or her self-esteem, learn to express negative feelings calmly and constructively, and understand the boundaries between caution and excessive suspicion. Counseling can be a crucial part of the healing process for family members of addicts, and you should lovingly encourage your partner to seek help.
- Be patient. It can be very difficult to live with someone who is often angry, accusatory, suspicious, sad, hurt, or distant, but these are normal reactions to the kinds of behavior that accompany sex addiction. Your partner has a right to these feelings, and your patience and understanding will help reinforce your sincerity and your love. Listening patiently and offering an apology (even if you have said it before) can accomplish wonders in rebuilding trust, respect, and intimacy. When you are frustrated, angry, or hurt by what your partner says, try to express that calmly and constructively rather than yelling or counter-accusing.
- Provide transparency. Trust is going to be very difficult for your spouse for a long while after discovering your addiction-related sexual behavior. He or she will be deeply hurt and probably terrified of being hurt that way again. Openness on your part- allowing your partner complete access to your call and text logs, your social networking profiles, your email accounts, and your browser history- may be difficult and painful for you, but it will allow your partner to see firsthand that you are behaving honestly. The mere act of giving him or her access will also demonstrate your good intentions to your spouse and show that you feel you have nothing to hide; this will help build trust and respect. Additionally, the accountability that comes with your spouse having access to your phone, browser history, email, and social networking accounts can actually be an incredible tool in helping you hold yourself accountable as you work toward recovery.