This week we continue looking at the questions women sent in to be answered by veteran therapists in the sex addiction/partner trauma field, Richard Blankenship (president of IACSAS) and Barbara Steffens (president of Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists, i.e. APSATS).
Today, Richard answers questions around helping our young adult children.
Dating a Porn User
Question: Our daughter’s fiancé has confessed to us that he has used porn in the (recent) past. What should we do?
Richard: "This is certainly a tough thing to hear from the man who is about to marry your daughter. I would recommend that this issue be directly addressed in any premarital counseling they are doing. It's important that they both go into marriage with their eyes wide open. I would also suggest that your daughter talk with partners who have experienced the journey. I would validate your daughter's experience and emotions.
For her fiancé, I would want to know what steps he is taking to manage his struggle with pornography. Is he new to the journey? Does he have long term sobriety? What steps will he take on an ongoing basis to protect himself and your daughter?
Both your daughter and her fiancé need to educate themselves about the impact of pornography on marriages and families. I recommend Stop Sex Addiction by Milton Magness as a good place to start. Books like Your Sexually Addicted Spouse (Barbara Steffens) and Spouses of Sex Addicts: Hope for the Journey (Richard Blankenship, or Beyond Betrayal by Lisa Taylor can provide great information.
Healing for Children of SAs
Question: How can we best heal young adult children from the knowledge of their father's sex addiction. Related to this, how do we discuss an underlying personality or character disorder? Lastly, is anyone interested in developing some sort of protocol for this, what have we learned so far?
Richard: This is a tough conversation, but an essential one. Young adult children need to be aware of their father’s sex addiction as these struggles often run in families. They may have been exposed to his addiction and not been able to talk about it. Offer your children resources such as professional counseling and support networks that can help them process their experiences.
Some addicts have traits of narcissistic personality disorder. Character traits of lying, selfishness, and deception will alter the relationship with adult children. Depending on what the personality/character disorder is, your children will need to learn to set boundaries with their father. Children generally desire to work on the relationship with their father, after they are informed of his sex addiction.
Trauma in Children
What we know is that children can be just as traumatized as partners when it comes to the discovery of sex addiction in the family. Validating their experience and allowing them a safe time and place to heal is vitally important. They can be expected to be shocked, hurt, devastated, and angry. Yet they probably love their father and will feel very conflicted. The father will need to be patient and humble as the children navigate a very emotional journey.