by Dan Drake, certified sex addiction therapist, clinical partner specialist. Please note this article has been published along with more information on surviving the holidays in this book.
Last week Dan shared the results from the first part of his survey of new and veteran Partners of Sex Addicts (PSAs). Questions included what was most difficult for you the first Christmas holiday season and what helped you make it through that first one. Today we see the answers to questions about subsequent holiday seasons and words of encouragement the survey respondents wanted to share with other PSAs.
If you have gone through more than one holiday season post-discovery / disclosure of sexual betrayal how have subsequent years been different from that first year? Please describe any changes over the year(s).
- The holidays are no longer as meaningful for me. I dread them more than looking forward to them.
- The 2nd year was so much better. We could be together for the holidays even though we were still separated.
- I really couldn't deal with the gift thing at first: my husband betrayed me while buying me a birthday gift and I didn't want any gifts from him (or to give him any). Over the years my husband has made amends in various ways including some very creative "do it myself" gifts. He never shops online now.
- Every year has gotten better and better.
- Increasingly difficult since there were staggered disclosure and many more discoveries
- Emotionally it got easier each year. The thing we battle now is complacency. Keeping up the new traditions and staying intentional when we're fatigued due to outside forces,
such as work, illnesses etc.
- It's been 27 years. I still can cry over the loss AND I now reflect with deep gratitude for all the growth I have experienced. All the wonderful people I've met that I never would have known. I would never chose this experience and I now spend these holiday and disclosure anniversaries as opportunities to be grateful for the woman I have become as a result of reaching deep inside and not only bouncing back, but bouncing UP.
What do you know now that you wished you knew earlier in healing from betrayal trauma?
- I wish I had known that the betrayal was not about me and nothing I could have done would have prevented it.
- Love yourself 1st!
- It won't always hurt this bad. It won't always be this exhausting.
- That I’m worthy of the World.
- It is okay not to spend time with my spouses' family if I can't handle it.
- I don't know that I wish I knew anymore than what I knew initially. It takes a great deal of time to process the enormity of the relationship betrayal which requires time & for myself being separated from my addicted spouse.
- Wish that I had a comprehensive therapeutic disclosure—-which I strongly recommend to any partner....have a lie detector exam as major piece
- How to communicate my needs clearly and how to opt out of gaslighting.
- That even almost 30 years later, it still hurts sometimes. That was a surprise. I have realized this is part of being human and loving. If you really love someone, you always hold them in your heart and feel the loss when they are no longer there. I wish the resources that are available today had been available when my ex and I were going through this. Maybe my marriage would have survived. Maybe my children wouldn't have been so devastated.
What words of encouragement would you like to give to other partners as they enter the holiday season this year?
- Be kind to yourself. Don't press yourself to make a prefect holiday. Consider letting go of some activities or traditions that you participated in previously.
- Life is fluid so things change. Embrace the changes as times for growth.
- The God who this season is about is always faithful, always giving, always compassionate. Letting go of the hype and focusing on his love for me (in every season) probably saved my life and sanity.
- Please take care of you, first. Self care is absolutely key - take a bath, go for a walk, lie in the grass, meditate, write in your journal. You WILL get through this!
- Be aware of your own heart and take care of it.
- Embrace other peoples' support, go to events if possible, & be transparent.
- This is an incredibly painful experience—relationship betrayal trauma is real and you are not alone.
- You're not alone. There are communities of women thinking of you, praying for you and who have been there.
- Surround yourself with beauty and those who love you and accept you where you are. Grieve when you need to grieve AND keep before you a promise you are claiming for your life. Give yourself the Christmas present of creating a life you really, Really, REALLY love. Then, take a baby step towards that and watch it unfold. If you are a woman of faith, know that our God never leaves you or forsakes you, even though you may feel like you're not sure where God is in the midst of all the pain.
Thank you so much Dan for sharing the results of this survey. A very blessed Christmas to all of you.