You managed to keep your clandestine affairs under wraps. And you believed that you could always protect your spouse or family from finding out about your indiscretions. Then you got caught. It happens.
Now you’ve got several options to consider.
You can walk away from the relationship and openly have what you kept secret for so long. For some, this is the right thing to do. Your sexual and lifestyle preferences need to come out of the closet for good. You’re doing yourself and your partner a favor by no longer pretending to be someone you are not.
Or you can continue with the same dynamic at home. The weird tension, the double life, the mind games, and the wishful thinking that the elephant in the room will just go away.
Mastering a new attitude to win your partner back
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you want to win her back. This article will give you a sense of what you’ll need to do over the next year. I’ll warn you that this is a major turnaround project. Please be clear that this is what you really want before you invest the necessary time and money.
The good news is that most couples who decide to stay together are able to do so. With hard work, they emerge from the ashes and go on to have a stronger relationship than they dreamed was possible.
The bad news is that the workload isn’t equal. You’ll have to do a lot more personal stretching than your partner.
It’s not about being punished or judged. The heart of the problem is that your actions didn’t include her informed consent. You excluded her.
To win her back you need to focus on inclusion. Inclusion means mastering a new attitude. It requires that you learn new strategies and tactics. And it includes accepting a new experience of yourself.
Clearing up any past traumas that drive your addiction
Your identity will change as you win her back. This results from three factors: sobriety, a trusting partnership, and clearing up any past traumas that drive your addiction.
If you’re ready, here’s what you need to know
- Attitude renewal
- Reach out
- Trust building
- Tune up
1. Attitude renewal
Discovered sex addiction is like a coin. It has a flip side. Partners have opposing attitudes because they’re reacting from two opposite experiences. Your job is to understand and manage these differing attitudes. This is the single most important key to winning her back.
The paradox is that the betrayed partner needs to talk about what happened, and the sex addict does not.
If you don’t get this, your reconciliation will be weak. Your home and bedroom will become toxic with a growing bitterness, slow-burning resentment, and an emotional and sexual Ice Age.
Problems arise when your conflicting needs are misunderstood and neglected. If ignored, her need to talk will come across as nagging, non-stop questioning, a roller coaster of freeze-outs followed by flaming wrath, constant suspicion, and trying to control your every move.
This is a perfect recipe for doomed love.
What you need to know is that all of this hostility is driven by one thing: her broken trust in you.
Follow the instructions here to help her feel the deep levels of trust that she rightfully deserves. Done right, your cold conflicts will blossom into the sexy warmth of affection, and both of you can share a heartfelt year of healing.
In dealing with your shame, embarrassment, and guilt, you might be tempted to shut her down when she wants to talk about it, reasoning that talking only makes it worse.
While your intentions are good, your approach is called stonewalling, and it’s another recipe for disaster.
If you want to dismantle the wall between you and then use those rocks to build a sweet bridge of lasting passion, the first step is for you to adopt an attitude shift.
You must be willing to exchange:
- hubris for humility
- deceit for decency
- control for caring
- detachment for desire
While this shift in attitude sounds simple, maintaining it is work. Stay on track until you get results!
2. Reach out
There are five “reach outs” you’ll need to make. The first three are therapy, counseling, and more therapy.
You’ll each need a sex addiction counselor for individual therapy, plus a third one for you as a couple.
Why? Your journey will be far easier and faster. These neutral third parties can coach your relationship past the emotional swamp that’s in front of you, and call you both on your stuff. Give it a good year to see real change and significant progress.
Support groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous are also vital.
You need positive energy right now, and groups supply it. You can listen to others who’ve been right where you are and talk about your experiences without judgment. Start shopping for your group at saa-recovery.org
The fifth reach out is to your partner.
It’s on you to show that you cherish her. I call this a Reach Out of Care and Kindness (ROCK). Yes, you have to R-O-C-K your relationship.
This means creating regular friendly moments. You’re not discussing problems, or your remorse, or her anger. Keep it light and nonverbal. A brief shoulder massage, making her coffee, a weekly flower. Anything easy that leaves you both feeling a bit more connected.
If you don’t know what to do, ask her what she would like.
All healthy relationships are grounded in trust.
In all adult relationships trust is earned, or conditional. Unearned or unconditional trust is only given in childhood and is a parent-child dynamic. Because our emotional coding got laid down in childhood, we often unconsciously assume that the same rules apply to primary adult love relationships.
We believe that our partners should unconditionally trust us. Wrong!
Your job is to keep building trust in ways that counterbalance your previous deeds.
Trust building includes abstaining from acting on your addiction but is so much more than that. It just doesn’t work to say, “Darling, I promise I’m over my addiction, so you can trust me again.” You have to take action. If your addiction lasted for years, be prepared to allow at least a year of trust-building in order to begin to establish that you are now trustworthy.
There are five ways to build trust. You’ll need to use all five at every opportunity until they become habits. Notice if these feel awkward and pointless, or if you find yourself feeling angry or reacting with sarcasm when you read them.
These are common reactions, but unhelpful. Stay with it. They’ll get easier and you will get results.
A psychological Tuneup is a deep dive into the core wounds that addiction has always covered up.
Core wounds are hurtful, enraging things that were done to you, usually in childhood.
You’ve probably never connected your early years to your addiction, but the past usually plays a strong role in the development of sex addiction. You need to understand that connection because doing so will make staying sober far, far easier.
When you heal those old emotional wounds, you’re less driven by impulses and are more clear and calm.
You also do this because your partner needs to know that you are psychologically grounded. She cannot and should not trust you unless you have completed a psychological Tune up. This requires working with a skilled professional.
I recommend therapists who are cross-trained in sex addiction, Relational Life Therapy (see terryreal.com), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (see mdria.site-ym.com).
There you have it, the proven roadmap to get your partnership to a better place.
Your upcoming groups and therapy will reflect a similar message, with some variations from what I’ve said. Give yourself time. You shouldn’t expect to be great with these skills for a while. You just have to be willing to A-C-E it.
- Attitude – have an open attitude to learning about your couple’s journey.
- Consistent – be consistent in order to get the results you want.
- Experiment – with what you learn. Discover what works best and practice, practice, practice.
I truly wish you both every success and happiness.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by Valerie Keim