This Blog is written by our Trauma/Partner specialist, Annie Jacobs, LAMHC, EMDR Trained
**In order to make content clear, I will refer to the person acting out sexually as the Addict, and the partners of the person sexually acting out as the Partner.**
Take a moment to reflect on the following statements often made by the partner of an addict:
“I feel like I’m a crazy person."
"I’m acting like a crazy person!”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“I just want to feel normal again, like how I felt before I knew everything.”
“I feel like I’m floating through life, like I’m not even in my body.”
I have heard these statements numerous times by many partners who have experienced intimate partner betrayal. The painful reality of discovering the addict’s sexually acting out, whether that is with porn, sex, compulsive masturbation, visiting massage parlors, or hiring prostitutes, is devastating. It is difficult to describe in words how painful it really is. It may feel like your whole life has been turned upside down and you have been living a lie for years.
How can you tell if you are traumatized by the addict’s behavior? Do you recognize the signs and symptoms of how it has affected you? Some signs and symptoms may be obvious, such as struggling to sleep or loss of appetite. Other signs and symptoms may go unnoticed. In the workbook Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addictsby Stephanie Carnes, PhD, Maria A Lee, LMFT, and the late Anthony D. Rodriguez, LCSW, the first chapter helps you understand how traumatizing it can be and helps you identify the different ways it has affected you by exploring emotional, physical, and spiritual symptoms.
Emotional symptoms you may be experiencing, but not limited to, are:
- Feeling numb
- Avoiding thinking about the betrayal
- Withdrawing from people in your life
Physical symptoms you may be experiencing, but not limited to, are:
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to work
Spiritual symptoms you may be experiencing, but not limited to, are:
- Anger with God
- Blaming God
- Doubt in God
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of low self-worth not related to trauma
- Feeling unworthy in relation to God
(For a more extensive list, please see Facing Heartbreak, Chapter 1, pages 20-22)
For those who identify with one or more of these symptoms it is normal to feel that way. One of the most validating things I let Partners know is any sign or symptoms they may be experiencing is normal for the situation they are in. Please hear me when I say you are not crazy.
It is normal to go through a rollercoaster of emotions in a single week/day/hour/minute when dealing with the discovery of the sexually acting out addict.
Some days you may feel hopeful that everything will be okay and you can get through this. Other days you may find you do not have any motivation to get out of bed, you feel numb, or like you are just going through the daily motions of life. Other times you may experiences extreme bouts of anger, rage, and disbelief that this is what your life has become. You may try to think of every possible thing you can do to “fix” the relationship, while other days you dream of leaving by breaking up or divorcing the addict.
“This doesn’t feel normal.”
“Will I ever get through this?”
“I don’t know how to manage the anxiety/depression/emotions. It’s too overwhelming to think about.”
The emotional roller coaster of intimate partner betrayal absolutely does not feel normal. Your world you once lived in is now completely turned upside down by the bomb of discovery and now you find yourself trying to make sense of the destruction that lies before you. It feels completely overwhelming and debilitating.
Be kind and gentle with yourself. Reach out for support from a trusted friend or family member. Find your own personal therapist familiar with porn/sex addiction and intimate partner betrayal. With support from trusted friends, family members, and your personal therapist you can get through this! You do not have to go through this alone!
“I feel like I can’t tell anyone about this because I no one understands what I’m going through and what this feels like.”
“I’m afraid to tell anyone because I don’t want them to tell me to leave or think I’m stupid for staying in the relationship.”
You may find it difficult to confide in a friend or family member, which is why it is so important in finding a therapist familiar with your situation who is an expert in partner betrayal. Group therapy is an amazing way to connect with other partners who are going through very similar situations as you. It is a place to share your story, your thoughts and concerns, and your frustrations in a healthy supportive way. Group therapy, combined with individual therapy, is a great way to help you feel supportive through this difficult process and start healing deep trauma wounds.
Remember: You are loved and worthy. You do not have to go through the emotional roller coaster alone. We are here for you!
For partners reading this, I am starting a partner group for women healing from intimate betrayal. Group starts Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 from 6-7:30 p.m. RSVP: 801-272-3500. Flier link:https://www.smore.com/m46ze
Annie Jacobs, LACMHC
Namasté Trauma and Partner Specialist