Last week I shared the first part of a letter to clergy composed by Adam Moore, a counselor who has worked many years in the field of sex addiction. Today, I give you the rest of that letter, and encourage you to feel free to share both parts with your church (or any church) if they are looking to support couples in this situation.
Deal with the addiction before trying to help the marriage
Too many people believe that the sexual addiction is simply a result of a struggling marriage. Please understand that his addiction almost universally pre-dated the marriage. Asking a wife to be emotionally, spiritually, or physically vulnerable with a man who has been lying to her and betraying her trust will cause harm to her and to the marriage. Before the couple can rebuild the relationship, he has to work to rebuild her trust in him by starting and continuing real recovery from his addiction.
It is also very important that you know that I have never once seen a man who was heavily involved in pornography or other sexual behaviors who simply stopped doing it without serious work on his part. The passage of time and a sincere desire are not substitutes for real work. A man who is addicted, but in recovery, will be able to explain to you in great detail the pain and challenges and labor of his recovery. If he cannot describe to you exactly what he has done to heal and change, he has not done the work and is not in recovery. If he has only desired changed and prayed for help, he has not done his part yet.
Let go of responsibility for recovery
Even as a therapist, I have to know that his addiction recovery is not my responsibility. If you feel that you have to solve his addiction and “save” the marriage, you will quickly be in over your head. If you are the only person who knows what is going on in the marriage, the couple will feel isolated from so many other resources that are available to them. Your role is important in both the husband’s and wife’s spiritual development. But you won’t be able to be a therapist, sponsor, support group, and educator. It is too much for one person to manage. Use the resources that are available to you, such as 12-step recovery groups, quali ed counselors, and the written materials of the Church and other quali ed sources of help.
Expand the concept of accountability
It’s easy to focus only on accountability for the pornography use or other sexual acting-out behaviors. Please expand your expectations of accountability with the husband. His wife’s experience will be, by far, the best indicator of how well his recovery is going. Ask her as many questions as you ask him.
Questions to Ask Him
- What are your daily recovery routines?
- Which of the 12 steps of recovery are you currently working on?
- Do you have a recovery sponsor and how often are you in contact?
- What changes have you made to protect yourself from relapse?
- What are you doing to help your wife work toward trusting you again?
Questions to Ask Her
- Do you notice any differences in your husband’s behavior that help you feel safe?
- How does your husband treat you on a daily basis?
- What makes you the most afraid about your husband’s addiction?
- How are you doing in healing from your trauma?
- What is your husband not telling me that I need to know?
Thanks again, Adam Moore, for allowing me to repost this letter, originally shared by Karen Trifiletti with the APSATS community.
As we wind up this series on helping the church understand their role in helping partners (and couples) heal from sex addiction, I'd like to share a thought by the woman who wrote "the book" on trauma treatment, Judith Herman. In Trauma and Recovery, Judith writes:
“The response of the community has a powerful influence on the ultimate resolution of the trauma. Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the community depends, first, upon public acknowledgment of the traumatic event and, second, upon some form of community action. Once it is publicly recognized that a person has been harmed, the community must take action to assign responsibility for the harm and to repair the injury. These two responses—recognition and restitution—are necessary to rebuild the survivor’s sense of order and justice.”
Justice is the issue I’ve been wrestling with a lot in the past month (in blog posts and in this interview with BTR). What I'm beginning to realize is that there's no grace where there’s no justice. It's kind of sad that this woman who, to my knowledge, doesn't have a faith-walk shows more insight on how to help the hurting than his own church frequently does.
Thankfully, it's never to late for us to learn.