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Archive for March, 2015

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pathological-relationships/201210/not-all-abusers-are-created-equal

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From the APSATS Blog

Dan Drake means well. I met him at the very first APSATS training in Dallas. I’d scrimped and saved to attend the $875 training, plus airfare, plus hotel, believing that I would learn new ways to help partners, while also being part of a revolution in partner treatment. (I always mention the money, because it still pisses me off that I wasted it.) Unfortunately, politics being what they are, I found APSATS pretty disappointing. I’m not sure you can accomplish much for partners when, as always, sex addicts are part of the leadership. But here I’ve gone way off topic. I wanted to comment on Dan’s recent APSATS blog post, to illustrate how even well-meaning sex-addicted therapists can’t seem to get it right. He links to a Ted talk on lying, endorsing it as beneficial to partners. It’s a short blog entry, condensed–kind of like a Shrinky Dink, a big ugly plastic picture shrunk down to a small ugly plastic picture. He begins by stating a universal truth: Sex addicts lie. Then he gives us reasons they lie–to conceal their behaviors, to keep partners in the dark. He suggests that the first person they learn to deceive is themselves, which I question even before he contradicts himself by telling us that lying is a coping mechanism they develop in childhood, because “Lying helped them to survive in a world or in a family that wasn’t safe for them to fully be themselves.” Sex addiction therapists always feel the need to explain why these grown men lie. We did a lot of things as children until we learned better. We wet our pants and picked our noses. We stole crayons. We carried dirty raggedy old blankets or teddy bears in order to feel safe. I know countless men and women who were abused or neglected as children, who also had to find ways to survive–and yet they never lied and lived secret lives or squandered their children’s college funds on hookers. Every day, I talk to kind-hearted, decent survivors who never defrauded anyone, never betrayed anyone in such egregious ways. CSATs cannot ever talk about the abusive behaviors of the addicts without qualifying or making excuses. That might cost them clients. Next, he recommends the video–with its awesome lesson on the linguistic patterns of liars–for partners who are trying to rebuild trust. I interpret this as: ‘Here’s a way to catch the sex addict when he lies. I mean, he’s gonna lie.’ If lying is one of the many ways SA’s abuse spouses, and the generally accepted attitude is that they’re going to continue doing it until they have a certain amount of recovery…and if the kinds of things they lie about put partners at risk for sexually-transmitted diseases, financial devastation, and emotional trauma…then WHY WHY WHY don’t they tell partners the same thing they would tell any woman whose husband abuses her in ways that leave physical scars: He is dangerous; get yourself and your children away from him. But instead we get, “…here are some ways you can look at language to better rebuild trust in the truth.” I think instructing the partner of a sex addict about how to spot lies is akin to teaching the victim of domestic violence how to dodge a punch. Better to help her find her way to safety.

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Robert Weiss is one of the most prolific writers about sex addiction, with four books, articles and blogs in a variety of psych and pop culture magazines. He also has treatment programs in a number of facilities, etc. etc. In short, he is a leader in the Sex Addiction Recovery Industrial Complex (SARIC).

Let’s examine the way he approaches the topic of sex addicts dating. I came across The Do’s and Don’ts of Healthy Dating for Recovering Sex Addicts via a link on another of his articles on dating, this one on Psych Central.

Let’s look at a couple of his “Do’s” for SA’s:

“Do date a lot. Let yourself be casual about the process and meet as many potential partners as you can.” I’m curious to know how far along in recovery an SA should be before he can be “casual” about anything. I would think that dating for a recovering sex addict should be a very thoughtful, careful process, with an emphasis on truly connecting with a woman first, before considering a physical relationship. I wonder, also, how far into the dating process Weiss would recommend the SA be before he reveals to a woman that he’s a sex addict–one date? Three dates? Ever? After all, recovery requires “rigorous honesty,” and I’ve always assumed that includes no lies of omission.

The third “Do” is sadly hilarious:

Do try different ways of meeting potential dates. If you have never met someone online or attended a dating club– try it out. Let yourself go into a bar to meet someone, give it a shot. You never know where that someone might be just waiting to find you.

I’d like to meet the SA who has NEVER met someone online. That’s where they live. I find the term “dating club” funny, too, when I think about Craigslist Personals (Isn’t it the ultimate dating club?), sex clubs, and such grand online meet-ups on Yahoo, etc. (Did you know there’s a Yahoo Strap-On Group?) And bars? Someone is always waiting to find an SA in those places, but a normal woman who’s looking for a suitable mate–she ain’t waiting for this.

My advice to a sex addict who is far enough along in recovery (meaning he has no lingering narcissistic behaviors, he actually has the capacity for empathy, he has dealt with FOO issues, and he has been medicated for anything like Bipolar or ADD) to consider dating would be to engage in healthy activities he enjoys, explore who he really is, and give himself the opportunity to meet a woman who shares his interests and values. (I realize that last word is a tough one.) I believe he should also tell anyone he dates that he’s a recovering sex addict–no later than the third date. Give her time to process that information before THINKING about getting physical.

The first “Don’t” for recovering SA dating, according to Weiss is,

Don’t date a someone if they don’t turn you on physically. If he or she isn’t at least a 7 on your scale of 10, throw them back in the pool. No matter how good they look on paper you need feel turned-on by them.

The offensive, sexist, objectifying language: rating prospects on a scale of 1-10, “throw them back in the pool”…is shocking. Besides, is that scale based on the porn stars, pop icons, and “professional girls” they’ve lusted after or hired, or the women who live in the ordinary world? Furthermore, he suggests going to bars to meet people but warns not to go alone, because while you might “get laid, you won’t get loved.”

Worse yet, he recommends, “Let it stay hot between you for a while before bedding down,” after which he says not to discuss monogamy for at least 60 days. It has always been my understanding that the only sex a recovering sex addict should have is intimate, monogamous sex.

Weiss is not modeling for his clients healthy language and thought. Maybe this kind of advice would work for the general population (still offensive, in my book), but sex addicts have a lot of trouble with fantasy, intrigue, rituals, objectification, attachment–well, the list goes on and on–and the Weiss “guide to dating” disregards all of that.

I’m sure it makes him popular with sex addicts, however.

 

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The Center for Healthy Sex has a presentation (a booklet, it says) for partners called Helping You Heal. Of course I can’t post the whole thing, so here’s a link that opens it in a new window, where you can read it yourself. The piece opens with a bang–its intro paragraph, which ends:

…this booklet may answer some of the many questions that you have about what sex addiction is, how you and your partner can get help, and what traumas and experiences might have gotten you here in the first place.

(No, I’m pretty sure it was the fact that he was hiring hookers and meeting strangers from Craigslist for NSA sex.) First comes the acknowledgement that the partner is in pain, confused, hurt, and angry. She is in a vulnerable state, seeking help. What better time to plant the idea that her own past traumas and experiences landed her in this wasteland? It shifts the focus off his abuse and onto her history. She is somehow complicit already. This idea is reiterated later on, where it is asked, How Does My Addicted Partner’s Problem Relate to Me? The answer:

Partners are not responsible or to blame in any way for the addict’s behavior. However, unresolved issues and trauma can unwittingly contribute to the dysfunctional dynamics of the relationship.

We are then told that the partner often ‘lives in denial,’ because the addict’s behavior is ‘too painful to acknowledge.’ (OR the partner had no clue, never suspected her husband was capable of anything close to this treachery.) Further down, we get:

all pieces of a system contribute to the operation of that system. This means that both partners have participated in the coupleship dynamic. This in no way excuses the hurtful choices addicts have made in service of their addiction. Rather, this points the way towards engaging in your own journey of personal recovery.

Would anyone dare to suggest that the wife who has been beaten by her husband participated in the coupleship dynamic? Would they say he “made hurtful choices” in service to his rage? Would anyone advise her to stay with him as she engages in her personal journey?

And part of that journey includes couple’s therapy as an “important intervention to work through the crisis and towards a plan for the future.”

Now, I’ll move down to the section where we find “Should I Separate from my Partner?” It begins, “As a general guideline, any major decision like divorce is best postponed until the feelings have been processed and the addict has some sober time.” Here it is, the usual suggestion to stay put, paired with the magical assumption that the SA will accrue some “sober time.”  It goes on to say that a short-term  “therapeutic separation” can be useful, and that the couple should talk about it and agree on a time frame. But even this should not happen until after the formal disclosure session.

In the section that asks the question, Why do I feel physical pain, the partner is warned:

Be careful about further traumatizing yourself when you start to go through email accounts, cell phone records, or consider calling his/her affair partner. It’s unlikely that these behaviors will give you the relief, peace, or explanations you’re seeking.

Yes, it’s doubtful that the information a partner might find while checking out his profile on Adult Friend Finder or the credit card charges for “escorts” will bring peace or relief, but it can certainly come in handy during a divorce. (I think this is the part where they should be advising her to make copies and document everything.)

I’ll skip over all the stuff about attending 12-step groups and about having sex again with the SA and go right to Rebuilding Trust. There’s a lot about how the SA lies and tells half truths, because “if he’s not in recovery, his thinking is most likely informed by the addiction.” I’ll venture that his thinking is informed thus regardless. How, then, can the partner possibly hope to trust him again? The answer: “…trust can gradually be rebuilt through a process of healing, which can include a formal disclosure.” There’s a protocol, you know, and “you will be asked to attend several individual ‘prep’ sessions both before and after the disclosure” (Cha-ching). It seems like an awful lot of trouble, not to mention a drain on the family’s resources, to get a grown man to fess up.

After doing the recommended formal disclosure and 12-step meetings and individual counseling and couple’s counseling–this grueling process of rebuilding trust, you’d think you could count on good results. Alas, “Slips are a part of recovery and generally considered a ‘stumble’… There is no such thing as a perfect sobriety or recovery.” Relapses are more severe and “require that the addict put more effort into their recovery.” Partners just need to make sure they have good boundaries (the therapist can help with this too!). Note also, “Like a slip, it is important that you and your partner communicate and are clear about what the action plan is for addressing the relapse.”

By the time the man has put his partner through this much hell, then has slipped and relapsed, do they truly believe that any type of communication with him is going to make a difference?

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I’ve been all over the internet, checking up on what the sex addiction recovery industry is doing and saying, and I’ve seen the slow shift over to giving lip service to partner trauma and the Trauma Model of treatment. What they fail to do, and what is essential to the health and safety of partners, is call the behaviors of sex addicts “abuse” and the addicts “abusers.” It is still an addict-centered approach that they offer, and it requires the partner’s cooperation. It calls for her to sign up for the very real possibility of further abuse. I’m baffled by this. No one would tell the spouse of a wife-beater to stay and help him learn to manage his rage.

And why stay? Because the recovery statistics are so great? (What statistics?) Because she’s almost guaranteed happiness if she stays? Living with a sex addict is a hell of fear and abuse. It’s a continuous pummeling of your self esteem. It’s the worst kind of loneliness. Leaving’s not easy. It is a difficult, torturous process with a long road to healing. But staying is an even longer, more treacherous road, with the likelihood of ending up in a ditch.

One cheerleader for the coupleship, the ol’ ‘stay-and-work-it-out,’ is Alexandra Katehakis. Katehakis is the Clinical Director at The Center for Healthy Sex. Besides her pretty prolific article writing, she is the author of a couple of books for recovering sex addicts. In the first, Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot Healthy Sex While in Recovery from Sex Addiction, we find a pretty manipulative passage to my point:

Many partners of addicts have told me they feel bad about themselves for staying in the relationship because of the betrayal they’ve experienced. They imagine that the people who know their past judge them to be stupid for staying with the person who’s caused them so much pain. I often counter this thinking, explaining that leaving may seem quick and easy because they can pretend they’re okay and the problem has disappeared. However, if you leave your relationship, you’ll be stuck with your pain and sorrow without the person you loved to help you sort it out. Why is this true? Because even though it feels as if your pain comes from your partner, it’s actually coming from inside you.

We all know how easy leaving is, right? That simple task of dismantling your entire life–a home and family, of explaining to your kids why they’ll be splitting time with Mommy and Daddy and why Mommy is probably going to be poor. It’s a breeze. But we also know how much help that “person you loved” would be with “sorting it out.” Sex addicts are notoriously helpful. Oh, and it doesn’t feel as if he caused the pain; he actually caused it–the same way he’d have caused it if he punched her in the face, the same way a rapist causes pain to his victim.

The second book is called Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Erotic Intelligence, and it’s chock-full of sparkly gems such as:

There are marvelous sea creatures whose existences can be viewed only within the deep blue sea, and similarly we all have dear secrets that can be spoken only in the habitat of the heart.

And this:

Observe the rhythm of passers-by on the street, at work, everywhere. Summon loving acceptance and let their tempos move you emotionally and corporeally. Try to assimilate new ideas by trying out the rhythms of those you encounter.

I pull from the second book just for shits and giggles. These were actually written for sex addicts– people who find it difficult to pass any attractive person on the street without objectifying them and storing their images for “alone time.” Rhythms, yes. Dear secrets indeed.

Well, I haven’t even gotten to what I really wanted to talk about, the power point for partners from Alexandra’s Center for Healthy Sex. Why don’t you take a look at it on your own.

I’ll tackle it tomorrow.

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