Last week we offered a “sex addiction 101” for friends and family. This week, I’ll be expanding on the issue of friend/family support of the couple and the addict.
A Word about Children
Before I begin, however, I just want to acknowledge that children (especially of the addict) will often undergo their own form of betrayal trauma. If this is where you are at, please consider seeking out some support, to help you through this time. Unfortunately, there are currently very few resources for children… and that’s something I’d like to see rectified in the years to come.
For now, understand that intense emotional pain, confusion (including feeling torn between your parents), grief and even trauma symptoms are commonly reported by teen and adult children of sex addicts—particularly on discovery of the addiction/infidelity.
If you are a friend/family member of the children of a sex addict, please remember that they also may be in need of support.
If you are a family member/friend looking to support the couple on a healing journey from infidelity, porn addiction or sex addiction, please bear in mind:
- Sex addiction (porn addiction/infidelity) and lying go hand in hand
- Sex addiction and abusive behaviors go hand in hand
- Sex addicts (prior to healing) often believe, and tell others, they are the victim in the relationship and that their behavior is justified (this is called “addictive thinking”)
- Friends and family add to the betrayer’s addictive thinking, and the betrayed partner’s trauma, when they excuse the betrayer’s actions, blame the partner or invalidate her pain
- It’s virtually impossible to heal from either sex addiction or betrayal trauma in isolation
- Families and friends have a tremendous power to help with the healing
These points have been witnessed time and again by professionals in the sex addiction, and other counseling fields. If you would like more information about sex addiction or betrayal trauma, consider checking out some of the beyond betrayal resources and the BTR glossary of terms
Many of the common mistakes friends/families make can be avoided by paying attention to the above. Some of those common mistakes are:
- Disbelieving the bad news of the addiction/infidelity (sometimes happens even when when he himself is admitting his problem).
- Believing him (the addict—who has motivation to lie and has used lying as a coping mechanism for a long time) and not her (who has little reason to lie).
- Repeating confidences the wife has made (without her permission, and which could result in her being abused).
- Keeping confidences the husband has made—that are harmful to him and to their relationship.
- Ignoring the evidence of your eyes. If you catch him doing something counter-productive to good recovery, talk to him/them about it.
- Putting all the emphasis on his recovery and ignoring her (and the children's) healing.
- Not encouraging him/her/them to seek support – or not seeking it for yourself when needed.
- Assuming that the wife can/should "fix him" by giving him more sex (sex the way he wants it, etc.) praying more, etc.
Lundy Bancroft, who has spent decades counseling abusive men (most of whom he admits also have a porn and/or sex addiction), says to friends and family in his book, Why Does He Do That?:
“You are on the front line. You have a better chance of turning around an abuser’s attitude than everyone else—the abused woman, a therapist, an abuser program, the courts—put together. You are the hardest ones to discredit. He dismisses the others on the list with a wave of his hand, because they are ‘crazy’ or ‘liars’ or ‘hysterical’ or ‘anti-male.’ But when his loved ones criticize him, he is likely to experience some uncertainty for the first time.”
I believe the same applies to the man who is reluctant to give up his addiction and/or the poisonous behavior patterns surrounding them.
So how exactly do you, the friend or family member, go about helping him change his attitude? That's what we'll be looking at next week.
In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. friends.