Cheating is CHEATING and pain is PAIN.
Whether it’s a single act of infidelity or some manifestation of sex addiction, BETRAYAL HURTS! If you are the wounded spouse then most likely you are experiencing a pain that would be extremely hard to put into words; a torture you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. Well, that is because it’s no ordinary wound – its RELATIONAL TRAUMA!!
The wound you have experienced runs much deeper than the ordinary bumps, bruises, and occasional scrapes most couples endure and quickly heal from (with proper care) throughout the life of their relationship. Your wound is more like a deep cut that has severed an artery and you’re bleeding out; and to add insult to injury, you look up from your life-changing wound only to see your beloved holding the knife.
If this is resonating with you and you are seeking professional help, then your mind is in the right place. I hope you do, because, after all, the wound of infidelity doesn’t always mean the death of the relationship. I have worked with many couples who have been impacted by this type of relational trauma. I have watched them do the necessary work in recovery in order to build a healthy and satisfying relationship. THERE IS HOPE!!
In the midst of your pain and the strong sense of urgency you feel, you may be tempted to choose the first counselor you come across with availability. This is understandable because you want the pain to stop. However, if I may, could I offer you important information to consider as you search for the therapist that’s the “right fit” for you and your relationship?
It is important look for a therapist that specializes or has experience in working with this kind of relational trauma. However, one question you may want to consider is, “Should we do affair recovery or sex addiction recovery?” I’m not going to bore you with nitty-gritty details of the differences between a sex addict and an adulterer, but I do want to offer you some insight in effort to help point you in the right direction. To begin, it’s important to remember that all sex addicts cheat (to some degree) but not all cheaters are sex addicts. So, if your relationship has been impacted by infidelity and you’re wondering which recovery path to take – affair recovery or sex addiction recovery – here are some things to consider in determining your counselor and/or therapeutic direction:
“This ain’t our first rodeo!”
If infidelity has become a pattern in your relationship, whether you have been aware of this pattern or just discovering it, then you may be experiencing something more than an affair. Sex addiction does not always take the same form. Sometimes it can be subtle and very deceptive in how it manifests.
“It’s only porn.”
In our culture today, with technology and information literally at our fingertips, porn is often (but not always) part of a sex addict’s life. However, because of how our culture has normalized pornography – “All guys do it” or “Even girls look at porn now” – couples dealing with sex addiction (not just an affair) often overlook the influence or porn on their sexual relationship.
“A prostitute! Are you kidding me?!”
If someone is willing to secretly seek out and pay for a prostitute, then something more than affair might be at play. However, sexually compulsive people often will find more affordable ways to act out sexually with anonymous people through various hook-up sites or apps. Thus, if this behavior is characteristic of the infidelity in your relationship, then this possibly could be sex addiction.
“He/She does have an addictive personality.”
Many people who identify with an “addictive personality” are often characterized as being impulsive or compulsive with certain behaviors or substances. This does not mean they are addicts, but addictions do commonly occur alongside each other. Thus, if the cheating partner is also compulsive in other ways (e.g., drinking, marijuana, working, eating, spending, etc.) including sexuality, then, again, they may need to be assessed for sex addiction.
“Am I crazy?”
If you are the wounded partner in this situation and you have often found yourself wondering if you’re the crazy one, then you may be experiencing a very common phenomenon with sexually addicted partners called “GASLIGHTING.” Simply stated, gaslighting is a term used to describe “crazy-making” behaviors. In other words, the addict is very good at making their spouse or partner feel like they are the crazy one. This is one way they work to keep the addiction alive and functioning.
If you are wondering if you have experienced something that appears to be “more than an affair,” then I’d encourage you to take the following steps:
- Take the SAST. The SAST can be found on the website recoveryzone.com. This screening test is designed for the acting out partner to help determine the possibility of the presence of a sexual addiction.
- Talk to your therapist. If you are currently in counseling, then visit with your therapist about your concerns in effort to gain insight, direction, and resources.
- Contact a CSAT. CSAT’s (certified sex addiction therapist) are highly trained professional therapists that are equipped to diagnose and treat individuals and couples impacted by sex addiction and/or sexually compulsive behavior. Visit the CSAT directory to see if there is one in your area.
- Make an appointment. Consider meeting with a CSAT for two or three sessions so the therapist can properly assess your situation in effort to provide you with the direction you should take in recovery – affair recovery or sex addiction recovery.
- Take care of yourself. Getting the ball rolling often doesn’t happen as fast as you’d like. Thus, it is important that you start utilizing self-care methods or developing self-care habits to help calm your nerves and ease the pain of this experience, for example: exercise, yoga, breathing techniques, prayer, and meditation (caution: if you are having suicidal or homicidal thoughts, please contact a crisis hotline-1-800-273-TALK, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room to be assessed).
I hope you find these steps helpful. In your efforts to stop the pain and gain healing and understand, please don’t make “doing nothing” an option. Blessings to you as you take your recovery journey.
Please take some time to watch my colleague, Carrie Kyger, and I discuss the differences in affair recovery and sex addiction recovery.