For the last month and a bit we've been deconstructing the lies and misconceptions going around in Christian circles about how to "help" the wife of a sex addict. I want to take a couple weeks now to acknowledge those who ARE helping God's people learn how to truly stand up for and support us — you and I, and women (and sometimes men) like us.
The following is a letter written by Dr. Adam M. Moore, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Utah. He saw the need for those offering pastoral care to couples where there is porn/sex addiction to be better informed about how to support them. Many thanks to Dr. Moore for allowing me to repost this letter as a blog over the next two weeks.
Dear... (pastor, minister, bishop, etc.)
You are going to have many married men in your office who are struggling with pornography and other sexual behaviors. You have a great desire to help those men, especially when they become addicted to sexual behaviors. May I provide some insight I have gained from working for many years as a therapist with these men and their wives. I believe this will help you do much good as you seek to help people heal.
It’s easy to focus all of your energy on helping the husband, because his needs are obvious. However, next to that man is a woman who is struggling immensely. She also has healing needs, and she has a story to tell. In fact, her story will tell you more about her husband’s addiction than his story will tell you.I promise. Following are seven keys to helping people heal from the e ects of pornography and sexual addiction.
Listen to the wife’s story and trust what she is saying
Addicts are usually skilled at creating a beautiful and believable façade for others. He will come across as stable, honest, and accountable in your office. Before you accept what he is telling you about himself, listen to his wife’s experience. She will tell you whether his story is accurate. She lives with him every day. In all the years I have been a therapist, I do not recall ever working with a wife whose story about her husband’s addiction was inaccurate. Trust her story and her instincts. If she feels something is o or wrong, you can trust that it is.
The husband may come, confessing to you that he has sinned. He may be contrite and want to change. However, almost universally, what he tells you early on is only a small portion of what he has actually done. If his wife shares with you that more is going on, or that she suspects more is going on, please trust her.
Involve the wife at every level of the process
Please do not have meetings with the husband alone. His wife already feels blocked out of most areas of her husband’s life. You may not realize this, but when you meet with the husband without his wife present, it gives the husband the incorrect idea that there are some things that are appropriate to keep secret from his wife. Please also know the health of the marriage is dependent upon the husband fully disclosing everything to his wife. If he keep any secrets from her, the marriage will never fully heal.
Allow the wife to forgive in her own way and time
Forgiveness is the right and responsibility of the person who has been hurt. I promise you that demanding, requiring, or even requesting that a wife forgive her husband so the couple can “move on” will do much more harm than good.
Become educated about trauma
Many wives of pornography and sex addicts are experiencing trauma. This is not only because she feels betrayed by his sexual behaviors, but also because of the lies he has told her. An addicted husband will to make his wife feel that his relapses into pornography are her fault. This type of behavior can make a wife feel “crazy” or like she is losing her mind. Learn about causes and symptoms of trauma to understand what his wife is experiencing. She will be very grateful to you for your empathy.
There's more wisdom to come next week. If you have the ear of a Christian organisation that could benefit from this information, please feel free to use what's written here, crediting: Adam M. Moore, Ph.D. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist adammmoore.com :: utahvalleycounseling.com
Thank you as well to Karen Trifiletti of APSATS for sharing this letter with the APSATS listserv group.