By Heidi Monuteaux, MA, LMHC, CSAT Candidate
Learning about your partner’s sexual betrayal is devastating. This experience can leave you feeling like you are on an emotional rollercoaster. One of the first questions you will find yourself asking is, “What does the journey toward healing look like?”
The 2017 Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference, Saturday, April 29, will unpack the six identifiable stages of recovery for women affected by sexual betrayal (as defined by the research of Dr. Stefanie Carnes). These stages can take months or years for you to move through. Each woman’s journey will be unique to her own circumstances and dependent upon her willingness and ability to seek out proper help, social support and resources.
- Developing or Pre-Discovery
In this first stage you may find yourself completely unaware of the sexual behavior. On the other hand, you may be suspicious that something isn’t adding up but you aren’t necessarily sure what that might be. Typically, this is the stage where the partner feels the impact in a number of areas in the couple’s life (such as finances, parenting, intimacy issues, etc.). When you address the concerns, your partner may choose to deny it, second guess it, or blame it on you.
- Crisis/Decision/Information Gathering
This stage involves the exposure of your partner’s sexual behaviors. The betrayal is exposed either by disclosure or through discovery. Either way, the information is painful and causes emotional turmoil within the relationship. You may find yourself trying to control or manipulate your partner in hopes to keep the pain of betrayal at bay. In this stage it would be helpful to read literature on sexual betrayal, join a 12 step or support group and seek therapy from a counselor who specializes in treating sex addiction.
In the Shock Stage it is very normal to experience painful emotions including:
Having others validate and process your story is essential to this stage. So it is absolutely critical for you to get support from your therapist and other partners.
- Grief and Ambivalence
This fourth stage is all about introspection and focusing on yourself in order to grieve your losses. You may experience ambivalence about your relationship and wonder if you should stay or if you should go. You can manage this painful stage by practicing good boundaries, focusing on recovery work and healthy self-care.
In this stage, you will experience deeper insight, increased inner strength and healthy coping skills. You will be fully invested in your own recovery. Your boundaries as well as the hard work of grieving your losses will give you a sense emotional stability. If you choose to stay in the relationship it is because your partner is following a good recovery program.
The Growth Stage will bring decreased feelings of victimization and increased feelings of resiliency. Oddly enough, in this stage you will find yourself acknowledging the gifts your recovery has brought to your life.
From the first moments of pre-discovery to continuing through resiliency and growth, the Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference is a powerful and unique opportunity for encouragement and support for women impacted by sexual betrayal – whether from a partner’s pornography addiction or other infidelity. The one-day conference is, Saturday, April 29 at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, WA.