Every second 28,258 users are watching pornography on the Internet. And for every person in a relationship that is addicted to pornography, there is a devastated and betrayed partner. If this is you, and you feel powerless to help your partner, here are some things you can do to be supportive through your partner’s addiction recovery.
Scores of people are falling prey to the readily available and easily accessible pornography that floods our media. Understandably, pornography can be a gateway to sex addiction, which can consume and control the thoughts, actions, and eventually the life of its host. I see countless couples and individuals who are either seeking refuge from their own sex addiction or that of their partner. While I advocate for the addict, I also have a very tender place in my heart for the secondary survivor, or the partner of the addict.
First of all, I want you to know that I see you. I imagine you feel like this is somehow your fault, and that you caused your partner to look elsewhere. That you are not pretty/handsome/skinny/successful/etc enough, and shame yourself to fit the perfect mold seen on magazine covers, tv screens or newspapers. You think that if you just sacrifice a little bit more of yourself, your partner will find what he/she is looking for… in you.
The most important thing I hope you get from this blog post is for you to know that this is not your fault. If your partner is an addict, that was his or her choice–not yours. Oftentimes partners feel helpless as they stand on the sidelines watching their partner struggle with addiction; if this is you, I want to give you six specific ways you can help your struggling partner:
- DO YOUR OWN WORK.The best thing you can do to help your partner will be to take care of yourself first. I understand that this sounds counter-intuitive, but only then will you be able to assist your partner as he/she undergoes the healing process to overcome addiction. And when you feel like throwing in the towel, apply what you have learned from my posts on self-care (links included below). Take care of yourself by getting adequate rest, eating well, exercising, and finding an outlet for your stress.
- BE PATIENT. This is a hard one. Addiction recovery takes time. Slips and relapses are part of the process. Be patient. Remember that it is possible for you and your partner to recover and heal!
- BE HONEST. Being dishonest and not openly communicating is what fed your partner’s addiction and brought you hurt. Model the honesty you want from your partner by being honest with him/her with your feelings, fears, struggles, as well as, improvements you see (or hope to see) in him/her.
- WORK AT IT. This goes hand in hand with being patient and honest. Consistently work towards healing. You can support your partner while they are in group and counseling sessions, but remember number one: do your own work. If you are in a healthy, safe, stable emotional place from doing your own work, you will be better prepared to help your partner fight and overcome addiction!
- OWN YOUR FAULTS. Working at it means you must own your part of the equation in order to move forward toward a healthy relationship together with your partner. Although the responsibility for the addiction lays 100% on the addict, the responsibility for your relationship is shared. Accepting the things you need to work on to better the relationship is not saying that you condone or are to blame for the addiction; it says that the relationship with your partner is important to you.
- REFRAIN FROM MUD-SLINGING. Refrain from mud-slinging; it will be so easy to want to tell everyone how you have been wronged and demean your partner. Be careful how you speak of him/her and allow others to come to their own conclusions.
- LOVE…EVEN FROM A DISTANCE. You may not feel comfortable expressing your love, in certain ways, for your partner in the early stages of recovery and that is understandable. I encourage you to find ways that you can show your partner that you do care for them, whether it is through texts, funny memes or youtube videos, buying their favorite snack, a hand on their shoulder or simply by asking them how their day went.
Being on the journey alongside a sex addict is challenging and may alter your perspective on relationships and life. Although your situation may, at times, seem very bleak, please remember that recovery is absolutely possible. There are infinite resources available to help you and your partner, the greatest of which being a licensed, trained therapist to aid you along the way. I personally have counseled many individuals and couples and I want to help you find healing and happiness. Please do not hesitate to contact me today with questions, or please click here now to schedule your first session.
Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.
- Betrayal Trauma Recovery Website
- Bloom Website
- Bold New Mom Podcast: “Episode III: Pornography”
- Cluff Counseling: “Are You are Secondary Survivor?”
- Cluff Counseling: “Choosing the Right Therapist for You”
- Cluff Counseling: “Doing the Things You Enjoy Can Help Your Anxiety”
- Cluff Counseling: “The Key to Slowing Down in a Fast-Paced World”
- Cluff Counseling: “Outdoor Therapy: Nature’s Cure”
- Cluff Counseling: “The New Drug”
- Cluff Counseling: “Self-care: Is it Selfish?”
- Cluff Counseling: “Sleep…It Does a Body Good!”
- Cluff Counseling Reading List
- Covenant Eyes: “6 Ways My Husband Helped Me Heal From Betrayal”
- Fight the New Drug: “How To Approach The Subject Of Porn With Your Partner”
- Fight the New Drug: “Huge Study Shows Men Who Watch Porn Are Probably Unhappier In Their Relationships”
- Fight the New Drug: “The Science Of Betrayal: The Emotional Trauma Of Having A Porn-Addicted Partner”
- Fight the New Drug: “Why Porn Sex & Real Sex Are Two Very Different Things”
- Mind Body Green: “What I Learned From My Husband’s Sex Addiction”
- Porn Harm Research.com: “Sex addiction as a disease”
- Rowboats and Marbles Website
- S.A. Lifeline Foundation Website
- The Science Of Betrayal: The Emotional Trauma Of Having A Porn-Addicted Partner
- Webroot: “Internet pornography by the numbers; a significant threat to society”