Help Your Coupleship by Working the 5 A’s

Couples say to me, what can we do to begin to get to a place where trust has been restored? The answer is simple, you have to participate in empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. In this situation, it really does require that both the sex addict and the partner be able to do that. However, my belief is the addict needs to help the partner achieve this first.

One of the things I really encourage is to remember the 5 A’s.

1. Awareness.

As a sex addict, are you aware of a time when you can show her empathy? You know how people put the “what would Jesus do” bands on and that helps to keep the guiding light? I would ask you to wear a band that says, "how can I empathize with my wife?” When you develop that kind of awareness, she’s going to feel it, she’s going to see it, and she’s going to know it.

2. Acceptance.

Ask yourself, am I willing to risk being vulnerable with my partner and to practice empathy for our coupleship…even if she responds poorly? I’ve seen it time and time again that the addict starts utilizing these tools, and the partner is still so wounded and so angry that she throws up her guard and she says, “I don’t buy it, I don’t believe it, and I’m not going for it.” That of course is very difficult for a sex addict, because he’s already carrying a lot of pain and a lot of shame, and he puts it out there and the partner rejects it, because she’s protecting herself. I’m going to ask you, as a sex addict are you willing to do what it takes to put out what you need to? If you are, that’s called acceptance. You’re going to accept whatever consequences your efforts take. That shows great emotional maturity, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to grow the coupleship up, we’re trying to grow the sex addict up so that he can be the man he’s always wanted to be.

3. Accountability.

Accountability really means, “How can I take full responsibility and find a way to convey that I want to empathize with her?”  Even more importantly, what can I do to rebuild that trust so she’s absolutely sure that she can trust me. Accountability might look like polygraph tests. Accountability might look like taking 5 pictures of yourself a day time stamped. Accountability might mean that you leave your phone on so when she calls. she doesn’t have to wait 4 hours for you to call her back. That’s a lot of time for a partner to worry about what is he doing, why isn’t he answering.

4. Acknowledgement.

What can I say that lets her know that I am fully aware of the damage that I’ve caused? When you acknowledge, every time that you see her triggered, every time you see her look doubtful, when you acknowledge that, I know it can set you up for her opening up and saying, “you’re damn right, you caused this, look at me, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t trust, I can’t think, I can’t talk, I am a mess.” Then an addict might go into more shame, but what I’m going to ask you to do is to acknowledge what she’s feeling and know that you’re the new and improved, you’re working on yourself, your intention is to restore the relationship. Keep that at the forefront of your brain.

5. Action Plan.

It’s so important that you have an action plan so that you’re working your recovery tools. I really believe that means going through some sort of 12 step program, “Celebrate Recovery,” “Sex Addicts Anonymous,” “Sexaholics Anonymous.” Maybe that’s “Recovery Nation” online. I love 12 step work, because it does the internal transformation that I believe you need to be the best person you can be. If you’re doing those 5 things, going to meetings, getting a sponsor, reading the Green Book, the White Book, whatever, doing the 12-step work and creating a fellowship; you’ve already accomplished 5 of the tools.

If you’re going to a meeting once a month, that isn’t an accomplishment. You’re barely putting in the time to work on yourself. If you’re somebody who has been going to meetings for 3 or 4 years and you haven’t finished your 12-step work, get another sponsor and get going on it, or go to a workshop. You should be doing the 12 steps in the first year of the program. You should start them right away, and you should be finished by then.

You have to create an action plan that reinforces that you are changing, you are becoming the new and improved, and that these changes are here to stay.

I want you to follow the 5 A’s and work them diligently no matter what her response. You owe it to her, you owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the coupleship.