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It’s too easy, really, getting my material from Linda Hatch. I don’t know if she’s clueless or venomous, but everything she writes is ill-conceived from a partner standpoint. It would be laughable if it didn’t cause such harm. I guess I’ll never cease to be amazed by the recovering sex addict CSATs out there who continue to write and say things that are damaging to partners. But again, most of them are sex addicts themselves, so why am I ever surprised?

A recent posting of Hatch’s, 5 Ways Sex Addiction Recovery Can Get Derailed, prompted some partner advocates to respond, but she wouldn’t allow most of our comments. She even removed one of her own after being checked for lashing out in typical SA fashion. She could have let the comment stand and apologized for it, but better to pretend it never happened. Like a certain group of people we know, she seems very concerned with image management.

The article starts out with an overview of discovery–the kinds of vile behaviors SA’s are famous for getting busted for, along with a description of how things usually happen next: “upheaval” of the relationship, finding help for the addict, his various means of attempting recovery–individual therapy, couples therapy, inpatient intensives, outpatient intensives…Cha-ching.

After that comes this passage, divulging the hard and likely truth of relapse, while minimizing how profoundly wrong and disturbing it is:

At some point the addict felt that he or she had seen the light and was able to refrain from the compulsive behavior for a period of months or years. Then seemingly out of the blue, the addict starts secretly acting out again. Often it is the same old behavior but sometimes it includes different behaviors as well. Both partners are dismayed and the trauma begins all over again. Something didn’t quite work, but what?

So much is wrong with that paragraph, where to begin? At what point, for instance, did he “see the light,” and what, exactly is the light? Did he see it when he realized the amount of money he stood to lose in a divorce? Was “the light” the idea of his friends finding out he likes to wear leather panties and meet men in the Home Depot parking lot? Or was it the possibility of his boss being directed to his computer history at work, where all the donkey love and ass porn links still sit in the cookies?  OK, he sees whatever his particular light is at whatever his particular point is and tries to be a good boy for a while. OR, more probably after decades of increasingly disturbing activities, he hides it better.

“Then seemingly out of the blue,” he starts visiting Wawa Asian Spa on the sly. Oh, and he might even add some new extracurriculars–like “not just petting” the family dog. (I am not making this stuff up; women tell me things.) It’s like Tinkersex floated out of the sky, waved her magic dildo, and he was under a spell. Gah, both partners are dismayed. I’m dismayed when my dog eats my glasses. When I find out that, after everything he’s already put me through, my husband has been faking recovery and exposing me to genital warts or worse, I’m not that word.

“Something didn’t quite work, but what?” Hmmm, let me see. The SEX ADDICT didn’t work! Because he  never really wanted to in the first place. But no, says Hatch, who proceeds to give him five sad excuses.

He’ll get it right next time.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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.

 

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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