The Recovery Stage of Your Relationship
Will I Ever Feel Positive about My Spouse Again?
You may be in the stage of your relationship where your spouse is in good recovery and the triggers are less frequent, you’re feeling less activated, you’re functioning better, and you are wondering what to do to keep this momentum going?
You are actually in the restoration phase of your relationship. You now feel safe enough to work on rebuilding the coupleship.
It can feel scary to start to believe in the relationship and wonder what to do next. As the relationship recovers from active sexual addiction and your spouse is working a strong recovery program, your trust can begin to get stronger. To fortify the relationship requires that you start investing in the types of skills you would learn if you were wanting to improve a relationship that hadn’t been fragmented by sexual addiction.
One of the most effective ways of building your relationship with your spouse is to focus on your partner’s positive attributes
This may require some faith in the process of rebuilding the relationship because you have spent much of the last few months or years protecting yourself from more trauma and heartache.
One of the relationship skills to help you invest in the relationship is to divide a piece of paper into two columns. Under “My Spouse,” write all the changes that you have seen consistently, perhaps not perfectly, but consistently. In this column, you are acknowledging the changes he is making. It is so important to notice those positives.
Those changes might be:
It is normal to have trepidation. You thought you knew him before and now it seems that he is working hard to build trust but you find yourself thinking, “If I let my guard down, if I start looking at his positives, he may hurt me again.” It is true, he might hurt you … not in the deceptive way he has done before, but he may let you down. In normal relationships, our partners let us down, male or female, husband or wife, and “we” let our partners down. But if he’s working hard on his recovery and he has been consistent, it is natural to move forward if you’re choosing to stay in the coupleship. You must see consistent progress, and should be able to begin to have hope that things will be better.
In the second column, you will be writing “My Changes.” It is important to notice that you are changing too! There is nothing more heartfelt or heartwarming as when we as clinicians and coaches, see women who are recovering from the trauma. They are not activated 40 times a day, and are not triggered by a smell, by a sound, by a date, by a place, by a television show, by a movie, by a word, or unfortunately unconsciously in their sleep.
Your progress means that you’re feeling triggered less often and your coupleship is going well. You’re having some moments where you just breathe and things feel like the new normal. Things will never feel like they did before but you don’t want them like they felt before because that’s when you were being deceived. You want to have a conscious awareness of what’s going on around you.
Clearly, you have a new radar that will be a part of your life forever. Sometimes that radar will be working overtime, but often it will just point to things that need tweaking.
Spending time finding the positives in your relationship are imperative to building a stronger relationship. If you feel safe and have grieved and mourned your relationship, you may be ready to restore the relationship and this is an excellent assignment to evaluate your progress.
Divide a piece of paper into two columns listed My Spouse’s Changes and My Changes. Find some quiet time to focus on the changes that you and your husband have made since discovery.
Create 50 things that are positive about the progress that your spouse has made since the discovery of his sex addiction.
Think about the changes that you have made through this process. How are you a stronger person. How have you grown interpersonally?
In the second column, you will be writing 20 positive things that have changed since you found out about his addiction.
Maybe you have better coping skills, or you know how to use mindfulness when you feel anxious. Perhaps you are helping another woman get through this ordeal. Maybe you have better boundaries and a stronger voice.
Keep this list close so that you can refer back to it when you need extra hope and strength to push past your fears.
(You can also ask your spouse to do the same assignment and see what changes he has noticed in the two of you.)
I work from an APSAT’s lens and believe that your spouse’s self-esteem is restored as he connects with you and rebuilds an authentic relationship that you can trust. This is a great exercise to move the relationship forward.