Last week I had the honor of witnessing the best couples therapy session of my entire career. This beautiful, fragile couple who has had so much betrayal, devastation, and hurt, sat facing one another, both tearful and raw. The spouse who has the addictions expressed empathy, humility, tenderness, and compassion for the first time towards his partner, who has been through so much and was so tired. I sat quietly most of the session paying witness to this beautiful site as he talked softly to her, validating her pain, asking how he could support her, and listening to her concerns. It was something that as addiction specialists, we hope to witness with all of our couples.
This was HUGE progress for this couple who had been through so much in a little over a year, having dealt with on-going betrayal and heartache during that time. It gave us all hope in their Happily Ever After….
Most couples coming to Namasté Center for Healing are in great distress. Their relationship is on the verge of ending as a result of their own or their partner’s infidelity, sexual preoccupation/addiction, porn addiction, drug or alcohol abuse/dependence, financial betrayal, dysfunctional way of communicating and coping, lack of desire for sex, offensive sexual behavior, or all of the above in one way shape or form.
So often I hear, “Can we be helped?” since people have already tried other therapists or agencies prior to coming to our program, which is most often their final stop (I say final because it is rare that people come to us and leave unless they aren’t ready to do the deep work that our program requires-when there is a will there is always a way). My, as well as my team’s response is most often, “Yes!”
The biggest thing people worry about upon entering our program is if they are going to be able to stay in their relationship/marriage. For the one who is struggling with acting out or acting in, they are terrified of losing their partner. For the partner, they are often ambivalent about whether or not their struggling spouse will ever change, and therefore often question having a future with them. Sometimes the addict is so guarded and defensive that they act arrogant towards the therapeutic process, trying to control our team and our methods, at first claiming zero powerlessness over their addiction and having no remorse or empathy towards their partner. These folks tend to play the blame game with everyone. At other times, we see individuals who don’t really do much but act like they do, putting on a superficial front for everyone (including their partner and the treatment team) in an attempt to keep acting out underground. In time (sometimes with gentle or not so gentle prompting), we see these behaviors and attitudes shift if people are willing to stay in the process.
Treatment is not an easy process, particularly healing a relationship from the ravages of so much hurt, and often, betrayal. But our team, our approach, and our specific program has a reputation for taking people to a whole other level in their healing, deeper than they have ever gone before. We clear out all the pain, shame, lies, and heartache, so that people can live wholeheartedly. What we do works. It inspires me daily; watching the healing happen.
Both parties typically have immense trauma; sometimes from their past, and sometimes from the current circumstance (the former is common for both parties while the latter is often more common for the partner of the one who is struggling with acting in/out).
Many couples come to us thinking their relationship is going to turn out as a “Happily Ever Never” scenario, where they inevitably will get divorced or break up; a hopeless feeling indeed. Which, by the way, if you are set on a “happily ever never” scenario you will likely create it regardless of how amazing our methods and approaches are.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Happily Ever After IS possible, if both people are willing to do the work over the long haul. I underlined the last part because that is the key: Both people must be willing to put in all the effort to make the relationship work longterm.
What does a Happily Ever After look like for individuals who are in the heart of conflict, betrayal, or addiction/aversion in their relationship?
Patience: This is not going to be an easy road, especially if you have immense betrayal, resentment, strife. If you are starting the therapy process or if you’ve been in it for awhile, it is going to be a roller coaster. As I tell my clients: BUCKLE UP. GET READY TO RIDE THE WAVE! In time, again only if both parties are willing to do what it takes to heal, things will smooth out. I have seen it happen.
Trust the Process: If you are in treatment, trust the process that is layed out for you. There is a method that we use because it works. You are going to feel uprooted, rattled, out of control, scared. This is NORMAL. Following all the steps that your therapist lays out for you is key to lasting recovery. If you skip a step, you will feel it.
Give up Control: This is so hard especially if you have been controlling your partner or your spouse for a long time with various methods (manipulation, coercion, lying, punishment). However, control is a delusion; it really is. At the end of the day you can only control you and your part in any situation. So often when clients get scared they start to micromanage their surroundings; including their finances. This is a coping skill since money for so many makes them feel safe. Work on this and other issues in therapy so that internally you can feel safe and don’t micromanage everyone else, whatever the issue is.
Empathy, Respect, Compassion, and Lovingkindness: This applies to the addict towards their partner, with themselves, and for the partner to practice on themselves. I left out asking the partner to practice this on the spouse that has acted out in an addiction or other betrayal because they so often have done this at their own expense; to ask them to do it seems unfair. Treatment entails partners learning to set healthy boundaries not as a punishment but as a form of self care and self and other love. The individual that enters treatment for acting out or acting in behaviors typically lacks all of these (with self and others); therefore, we work with them to practice these in their daily lives. They are a huge part of healing.
Consent: So many relationships that have sexual issues lack true consent both non-sexually or sexually. Consent means yes in all areas of a relationship. Couples need to learn that it is ok to say “no” and to process what this looks like in their relationship including how to say “no” in a way that honors oneself and respects their relationship. This is a huge component of having a “Happily Ever After.”
Your relationship doesn’t have to end in “Happily Ever Never”. It is possible to have a “Happily Ever After” even with painful betrayals. It takes a lot of work along with patience, giving up control, practicing empathy, respect, compassion, lovingkindness, and consent (among other things), but it is absolutely possible if you both want to make your relationship work.
We mirror each other in relationship; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful all of which often come from our pasts. So what a great opportunity to master the wound here and now in your relationship, dear ones?
Remember, you are so worth healing.
Make today a great one.
**My Workbook Mastering the Trauma Wound: A Mindful Approach to Healing Trauma and Creating Healthier Relationships is now published (yay!) and will be available on Amazon.com in the next couple of days! Check it out!!**
Picture: by grainsofearth.com
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UPCOMING/ON-GOING GROUPS, CLASSES, WORKSHOPS:
Free Meditation 101 class with Candice, Fridays, 5:30-6:15 P.M. RSVP: CANDICE@NAMASTEADVICE.COM or just come!
This week I will teach folks how to practice breathing that calms you, stimulates both sides of the brain, and helps with addiction.
Participate in Namasté’s fall Community Health Cleanse! I have done this for the past year now and it helps tremendously if you are tired, feel sluggish, need clarity, or a fresh start with your health. Get ready for the holiday season by doing a guided cleanse with our Functional Medicine Practitioner, Cari Junge. Guided cleanses help with feeling more energized, releasing toxins in the body, and kick starting health. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on cleanse start date!
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