Healing Relationship Betrayal
Relationship healing from betrayal and other forms of infidelity takes specific steps to restore and heal the marriage. As a relationship counselor, I can help you and your partner find healing from betrayal and from sexual addiction infidelity. Here are some steps:
This includes health risks, health hazards that are being attended to by a doctor as needed, and issues that help clarify to the partner what she/he is having to deal with. What was done, the extent of the behaviors and the time-frames are included.
- A Full Clarification of Responsibility
This is usually done in letter form. This includes a series of statements that clarify specific acting out behaviors, patterns of deception and associated thinking errors. A key focus involves the acknowledgement of where the responsibility for these behaviors lie, with the sexually acting out party.
- A Response Letter from the Partner of the Sexually Acting out Person
This involves the partner sharing the impact for her/him of the choices and behaviors that the sexually acting out party has made. This includes the grief dynamics of feelings of a sense of loss, hurt, betrayal, anger, unfairness, questions, doubts – past/present/future and the impact on daily life. Emphasis is placed on the choices and behaviors of the sexually acting out party and is not an attack on the person. Attacks can negatively impact the potential for re-bonding and can support the shame dynamics that drive the acting out cycle for the sexually acting out person.
- A Statement of Empathy
This is also done in letter form. The sexually acting out person makes as strong an attempt as possible to help his/her partner understand that they have some sense of the level pain, difficulty and dysfunction that their behavior has caused for their partner.
The impacted partner has expressed as fully possible the extent of the impact of the behavior of their acting out partner, and the acting out person has responded with empathic appreciation of the impact for their partner. The couple then focuses on learning from what has been addressed and supports the harmed partner in letting go of the offenses, recognizing that a debt has been incurred against them that can never truly be repaid. This allows both of them the freedom and empowerment to move forward pro-actively to join as partners to co-create a meaningful reconciliation and genuine intimacy.
The following are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind while proceeding with this phase of the process:
- Any work that is prepared in this area is not intended to excuse the behavior. It can be helpful to keep the focus on explaining the behavior to provide understanding and clarity.
- A behavior that is compulsive or addictive is neither stopped by willpower, nor is primarily an issue of morality alone. An individual who is operating in a compulsive or a problematic sexual manner has no more the ability to “just stop it” than a compulsive eater, a compulsive substance abuser, or a compulsive worker. This is a reinforced pattern that often has been used to “medicate” when other psychological, abuse or trauma issues have not been addressed appropriately. Regardless of the level of recovery, it is imperative to understand that this is a process. Given the same set of triggers, stressors, and high-risk environments, the individual who has acted out will undoubtedly act out in that manner again. This behavior is often rooted in shame. The behavior often becomes a reinforced pattern that seems to take on a life of its own. Whether dealing with an unresolved issue and a desire to medicate, or responding to a trigger that has been deeply patterned, the behavior will undoubtedly be repeated without an understanding of the cycle and the early intervention steps needed to interrupt the pattern. It is important for the person in recovery to understand his/her cycle and how to intervene in that process. It is equally important for the partner to recognize these steps in order to be able to support him/her when they intervene early in the cycle, and learn how to challenge appropriately when interventions are not being initiated.
- Breaking secrets is an extremely difficult area for the sexually acting out person. For many of these individuals, a primary core fear is abandonment. There is fear that if they tell all of their behavior, there is little doubt that they will be abandoned by their partner. As long as their psychological safety is based on someone not abandoning them, they will remain a captive to secrecy, allowing little external input. They will remain shame based and at high risk to re-commit the behavior. Therefore, the relationship healing process needs to be undergirded by a commitment first to personal recovery and resiliency.
The above model for Disclosure, Clarification of Responsibility, Empathy and Forgiveness is a modification of the original work done by Dr. Bill Lennon, Bellevue Community Services, Bellevue, W A.