“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
- Alice Walker
Perhaps you and your partner find yourselves having the same repetitive, dead-end conversations that leave you feeling unheard, angry, and alone. Or you’ve just discovered the person with whom you thought you were having a monogamous relationship has been leading a double life.
In either case, you feel scared because your vision of your future now seems like it may not happen. You may find yourself wondering: Who is this person I thought I knew? Will we ever feel close again? Can trust be repaired?
Before you can resolve conflict, you need to understand the reasons it keeps happening. The attachments people formed as children with their family members become blueprints for adult relationships. Did you have a parent who was distant, unreliable, or scary? Was there a sibling that took up all the space? If you and/or your partner experienced attachment ruptures during childhood, you may be re-enacting them in your current relationship. You may struggle with:
- Anxiety as you wait for the next fight or problem
- Craving closeness or needing space
- Ruminating about the ways your partner has wronged you
- Feeling invalidated
- “Lawyering up” to defend your position to your partner
- Ultimatums and threats to divorce
Being stuck on the hamster wheel of conflict can make you feel ashamed, overwhelmed, and worried for your future. While couples therapy can’t guarantee that you can fix your relationship, it can show you how your past is impacting the present, and give you strategies to resolve conflict so you and your partner can finally be a team.
You need support so you can repair ruptures and feel close again.
Attachment Repair Is Possible
Sessions with an attachment-informed couples therapist can give you tools to manage emotions and communicate in a way that invites collaboration, not drama. If you decide to work with me, I will help you and your partner:
- Understand your adult attachment styles
- Learn how to modify insecure attachment patterns
- Gain techniques to regulate your nervous system
- Implement effective communication strategies
- Move from rupture to repair during conflict
While it’s not required, an agreement to suspend discussions of splitting up for a mutually agreed-upon period of time can allow you to focus on learning new skills in order to make an informed decision.
Intimate Partner Betrayal
You just discovered that your partner or spouse, with whom you believed you were having a monogamous relationship, has been leading a double life. They may have been having affairs, visiting prostitutes, getting lap-dances from strippers, and carrying on cyber-sex liaisons. Maybe they did this while they were also having sex with you. Or maybe they rejected you sexually while turning elsewhere for sexual validation.
Maybe you had no idea. Maybe you suspected. Maybe you even confronted your partner, who gas-lighted you by denying the truth. It’s excruciating to imagine the person you love having sex with other people. But even more painful is the betrayal you feel:
Who is this person you thought you knew? Is anything they say true? And can you ever trust them again?
Should You Stay Or Go?
You probably have conflicting feelings about staying in your relationship. You’re furious at your partner, you’re not sure the marriage can be saved, and your friends are telling you should kick him (or her) to the curb. On the other hand, you still love your partner. You love the life you’ve had and you don’t want to break up your family. Maybe you’re also afraid to be on your own.
Finding out your partner has cheated on you is traumatic. You may even experience PTSD symptoms, such as:
- Sleep disturbance
- Difficulty eating
- Hypervigilance (compulsively searching for more evidence of sexual acting-out)
- Doubting your reality
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Emotional outbursts
- Inability to concentrate
You’re not going crazy. These symptoms are totally normal, given the trauma you’ve experienced. But because you’re understandably struggling emotionally, you’re probably not in the right frame of mind to make a decision that will impact you and your family forever.
You need support so you can make conscious, not reactive, decisions.
Healing Is Possible
Treatment with a therapist trained in working with partners of sexual compulsives can give you tools to heal your trauma. If you choose to work with me, I will support and guide you so you can work through your intimate partner betrayal and decide what’s best for you and your children, if you have them. Specifically, I will help you:
- Learn about sexual compulsivity
- Learn about attachment trauma
- Refer you to 12-step programs designed for partners
- Distinguish when your partner is being accountable and when he (or she) is not
- Practice mindfulness techniques so you become aware of your mood states
- Acquire coping skills to utilize when triggered, instead of reacting impulsively
- Set boundaries with your partner (without turning into The Sheriff)
- Set boundaries with yourself (spending hours playing Detective or ruminating over what happened will just re-traumatize you)
- Explore your own trauma history and how this has played out in your relationship
- Make a treatment plan that will ideally include couples therapy and individual therapy for your partner
- Prepare for a disclosure with your partner and your partner’s therapist
- Figure out what to say to your children (if they know about the infidelities and/or marital conflict is obvious)
- Identify things that need to happen in order for you to stay in the relationship
- Identify professional and personal goals that you will work towards regardless of your relationship status
I can’t tell you if you should stay or go. Neither should your friends or family. What I can do is support and empower you so that you can make the decision that is right for you.
I’m here when you’re ready.