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Archive for April, 2015

I want to talk about this Patrick Carnes video, which represents every foul against partners in the Sex Addiction Recovery Industrial Complex. Watch it only when you have time for a shower after. This is the man–himself a sex addict–who developed the treatment protocol for sex addicts AND partners. Anyone who has lived with a sexual compulsive long enough will recognize the smugness and blame shifting common to SA’s. It was Carnes who lazily applied the tenets of Alanon to partners, which is like sending someone whose car was totaled to the car wash. It’s all about pretending it can all be fixed with 12 Steps.

The very first thing he says in the video is that “involving family members in therapy upped the recovery rates.” That might be the only true thing the man has ever said. It is wives and partners who drive the recovery. Did your SA come to you and confess on his on? Did he wake up one day and realize, ‘Wow I’m a scumbag. I’ve been abusing my wife for years. I’m not the husband/father/man I want to be. I need to tell the truth and get some help.’ Or did you “discover” the truth on your own, by finding a text message, or a credit card charge, or seeing something pop up on the computer? Most of the partners I talk to say their SA was busted, and that even after discovery, he continued to lie and gaslight.

The partners are usually the ones who find the therapists, order the books, and set the recovery plan in motion. They do this while they’re still in shock, because their lives and their children’s lives are at stake. The SA goes along with it because he has a lot to lose: money, reputation, a respectable life to prop his secret one up on. If the partner leaves or kicks him out, if he loses everything immediately, he will not even pretend to be in recovery. The Sex Addiction Industry depends on US.

So there Carnes is, condescending, patronizing, saying that we’re “pretty mad” and have to “learn so much,” blameshifting by saying we often “have a history of going for emotions,” as if that were a bad thing. As if feeling our pain makes us lesser. What should we be doing instead, numbing it by jacking off…making an appointment with a “tantric massage therapist”…surfing Craigslist personals?

As Dr. Omar Minwalla has written so honestly and eloquently:

Victims need recognition of the patterns of harm and abuse they experience and have endured, which goes way beyond the Pollyanna descriptions of “hurt and betrayal” caused by specific sexual acting out behaviors. Furthermore, female victims are violated further by being labeled “co-sex addicts” routinely by professionals and “educated that they have a disease of self-perpetration” rather than being afforded therapeutic intervention for abuse and assessment and treatment for consequent acute and complex trauma (C-PTSD).

Carnes has never admitted this, for to do so would implicate himself in the abuse.

T

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I’ve come across a few articles by sex addiction/partner therapists that discuss the need for partners to let themselves be vulnerable to their sex addicted spouses. A good example of this prescription can be found on Dr. Janice Caudill’s blog, here: http://www.drjanicecaudill.com/blog/partners-of-sex-addicts-infidelity-survivors-are-you-stuck-in-a-victim-stance.html

Besides being a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT), Caudill is also a Certified Clinical Partner Specialist (CCPS via APSATS).  More often than not, her posts are addict-centric and she still uses the term codependent in regard to partners. In this particular post, she states that during recovery, partners vacillate between a one-up position and a one-down:

Although some partners of sex addicts live in one of those extremes, most do some version of fluctuating, transitioning sometimes rapidly, from one-down to one-up with dizzying speed. Recovering couples often appear to be wrestling to see who can obtain and hold onto whichever location is most coveted at that moment.

It may be true that the position changes constantly, but it’s not a manipulation on the part of partners; it’s safety-seeking behavior.  I’d bet that most of us actually try to stay in the one-up, but we’re either too exhausted or the SA is too overbearing. I believe that, in most cases (with the rare exception being the addict who comes forward voluntarily and seeks treatment on his own, without being busted), there is no safe place for partners within the relationship, but if a partner chooses to stay and gamble on his recovery, the safe-est place to stay is one-up. If the SA is serious about recovery from both the addiction and the perpetration of abuse, he should gladly take the one-down. If there were ever a case to be made for “Trust should be earned,” dealing with an SA would be it.

Caudill says, “Healing for each person as well as the relationship will involve restoring the capacity to intentionally move onto equal relational footing with their spouse.” I wonder how she came to that conclusion–that healing for each person…will require restoring equal footing. I don’t think my individual healing requires that. In fact, my healing requires my fully understanding and accepting the fact that we will never be on equal footing, because he doesn’t share my values, sense of morality, and regard for other people. He is an abuser.

Caudill goes on:

Partners will have difficulty assuming the vulnerable even-ground position because quite often that is where she thought she was when she was blindsided by betrayal – or perhaps more accurately, that is where she thought her spouse was when he blindsided her. Now, even-ground doesn’t seem emotionally safe, and may even be a trigger. How ironic that her healing requires restoring the capacity to assume a position that may feel the least safe. Lack of trust in her ability to accurately detect the danger in her own relationship complicates true willingness to move to even-ground. Yet this is exactly what healing will require of her.

Now, even-ground doesn’t seem emotionally safe. It doesn’t seem safe because it’s not. Again, where does she get this?! Show me some research. This is such a huge problem for me–that they actually encourage partners to move into unsafe territory. It’s not a lack of trust in me that makes me seek the one-up position; it’s a lack of trust in him, a valid lack of trust he caused.

Next, we get the standard admission that these men can be expected to continue the lying and faking:  “The early phases of recovery are often characterized by episodes of avoiding, withholding, faking, or sabotaging vulnerable connection with the partner.” Well, that’s hardly incentive for moving into “equal.”

Linda Hatch, also a CSAT, addresses this issue in her PsychCentral blog, The Impact of Sex Addiction, in the post called Sex Addicts Should Get out of the Doghouse: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2014/04/sex-addicts-should-get-out-of-the-dog-house. We have the usual acknowledgment that the partner experiences PTSD symptoms and that the recovery is long and difficult:

Addicts may begin to feel great relief and improvement in a much shorter time. The recovering addict may find him or herself in the awkward position of feeling good about life but unable to feel OK in the eyes of their spouse. The addict may be committed to being trustworthy and honest, caring and loyal, and yet still be called upon to prove him or herself and make amends for the past. The addict may have left the past behind but for the partner the past still colors how they see the recovering addict.

It almost makes you feel sorry for the SA, doesn’t it? Keep in mind, Hatch herself is an admitted (“recovered”) sex addict, which colors how she sees the recovering addict.

If I were to rewrite that paragraph from a partner perspective, it would be expanded some and go like this:

Addicts may feel a sense of relief after discovery. It’s no easy task to carry out multiple sexual affairs, casual hook-ups, constant porn and Craigslist surfing, booking prostitutes, hiding money, and gaslighting your spouse for years, even decades, while being a church deacon, boy scout leader, soccer coach, and soup kitchen volunteer. Once the jig is up and the professionals have rallied around him to assure him he can recover and to assure the partner that the relationship can be “better than ever,” he can breathe a little.

The partner may find herself in the awkward position of feeling as if her entire world has exploded, as if there is no solid ground beneath her, as if every milestone and memory has been stained or destroyed, and as if she has no idea who the man she’s been living and sleeping with–having and raising her children with–really is. The addict may appear to have left his own sordid past behind, but since the partner can’t really know her own story, much less the whole truth of his, she doesn’t even know what’s being left behind. 

Hatch goes on to talk about transparency, how the addict is obliged to give his partner access to all of his accounts for a period of time in order to win back his partner’s trust:

Being in the dog house, or undergoing a period of being on trial in this way serves a purpose. It is a way of saying “I’m sorry and I really get it.” And sometimes it works in just that way. The relationship is rebuilt on a different footing; one that is more equal and more intimate.

Pay attention to that word sometimes, and note the goal is equal footing. She discusses the fact that he will need to gain some emotional maturity and learn to express his own needs, etc. She explains that these guys have a long history of not showing up as themselves (You think?), and then she drops a serious truth bomb, about what happens when the addict doesn’t see the results he wants:

Meanwhile, the dog house behavior will begin to get old for the addict. Unless the addict has been working on taking emotional risks, speaking his truth, and asking for what he needs, he will begin to show signs of wear and tear. The over-compliance will get old and the addict may feel like withdrawing and finding passive aggressive ways to get his needs met. He may even be tempted to go back to acting out as an escape.

Hear that? Be nice, or he might act out. What’s most awesome, though, is the way she ends the post: “But the more both partners are aware of the necessity of developing the addict’s ability to relate in emotionally mature ways the better it will be.” Here, once more, the partner is in the double bind, being called on to engage in that thing she’s been labeled as and warned against: the codependent behavior of sharing responsibility for his development and emotions.

Furthermore, what Hatch refers to as “being in the doghouse,” I see as necessary ongoing transparency. If a wife/partner chooses to stay with a sex addict and support his recovery, she needs complete access to all accounts. Once someone has proven he has the capacity to carry out a separate, secret life, and to protect that life by lying, gas lighting, blame shifting, and other ways of abusing her, his partner should never dismiss or deny that the capacity exists. He doesn’t lose that ability just because he’s “sober.”

The addict should remain accountable and transparent indefinitely. It’s a separate issue altogether than his ability to communicate his needs. Yes, let him learn to ask for what he needs; let his therapist help him learn to relate like an adult. Let him learn to say no, or to state his preferences for food or movies, or to ask for time alone. Help him understand that his spouse is not his mother and that he is not a child or a teenager who can lie and sneak around and do “drugs” as an act of rebellion. Help him resolve his childish sense of entitlement. And help him accept that, even as his recovery is a lifelong process, so must his accountability and transparency be lifelong as well.

So, to pull together my responses to both of these articles, I do not believe the partner’s healing requires her to make herself vulnerable to the addict. I think that vulnerability can be lethal. But I might agree that the marriage requires such equal footing, because in my own experience and from what I’ve heard from every partner I’ve ever spoken with, the addict will not tolerate one-down for long. The personality-disordered just can’t do it.

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