Partners of Sex Addicts (SA) or those who have Problematic Sexual Behaviors, have had their trust demolished by the one who was supposed to be closest to them. In order for the addict to ‘get away’ with their behaviors, often for a period of years or decades, they lie and hide in order to protect themselves.
Let’s take a minute to look at what a commitment should look like, whether in a marriage or a long term relationship.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, commitment is a promise to do or give something, a promise to be loyal to someone or something. Some synonyms are fidelity, constancy, dedication, devotedness, faithfulness, steadfastness, truth.
If we are to have a committed relationship with anyone, we expect loyalty, fidelity, dedication, faithfulness and truth at the minimum. When lies are prevalent, those things don’t exist. When someone is choosing to protect themselves at all costs, it’s not possible to have a true commitment. I would go so far as to say that the opposite would be true….it would be false, inconsistent and even treacherous.
Proverbs 11:6 says, “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.”
Jeremiah 3:11, “And the Lord said to me, ‘Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.’”
Lies. Hiding. Secrets. All of these destroy trust that should be at the center of every good relationship. God actually calls those who are unfaithful, treacherous. The meaning of that word in Webster’s is, “guilty of betrayal or deception.” You can see that being lied to throughout an intimate relationship is indeed treacherous.
So how do you know you can trust the addict again?
Watch ACTIONS, not WORDS.
Let me say that again. Watch actions. NOT words.
What does that look like?
If you already read my blog on Boundaries (if not read it here), I gave the example of a man in recovery taking his device to the bathroom when it was disclosed that this is where his porn watching activity took place. As you confront him with your lack of feeling safe in this action, how he responds to you matters most. If he’s full of excuses, justifications, blames you, etc, you will clearly know that regardless of what he says, true recovery isn’t taking place. He’s just going through the motions.
However, if he responds with an apology, expresses how he knows that he is not rebuilding trust and safety as a result of his decision, this is a great place to start. But you can not hang your hat on it. Not yet anyway. Those are words.
Actions are what tell us that those words actually mean something to you. So not only listen to what is said, but watch the result of the words.
Does he stop taking his device in the bathroom?
Does he not only stop, but does he give it to you while he’s in the bathroom, or put it in a public place while in there?
Does he contact his accountability partner for help in overcoming this habit (you might not know if he does this)?
And even a step further….
Does he give you all of his passwords to his devices and stop erasing history so that you can see what he does if you are inclined to do so?
And then….how long does this last? Does he do all of the above for a time, like as a checklist, simply to pacify you until the ‘heat’ dies down, or is this a real concerted effort and change…heart and action?
You may not know right away. And that’s okay. It’s almost a guarantee that he may slip up. HOW he responds to that slip will tell you a lot about the state of his recovery. What you want to see is humility. Genuine humility. That looks like no more excuses. Taking FULL responsibility for his actions. Not blaming you for not trusting him yet. Not demanding trust from you. It also means that he will begin to empathize with you on how you felt when he did continue to take his device to the bathroom. If you’re mad, he’ll take it because he knows that his actions brought a lack of trust to the relationship and you need time to work through it…however long that takes.
When you see that genuine humility consistently displayed, you are in a good place to begin to trust him again.
Remember that you do not need to trust just because he tells you to, he abides by the ‘rules’ for a short time, or because he says that he is now trustworthy. You get to take whatever amount of time you need to feel safe and see that he has become trustworthy. The burden of proof is on him.
Please know that this is a process, and not one that is quick. Give yourself the time that you need, do not rush it thinking that it’s expected. This is your journey. No one else is in your shoes. Take the time you need in order to feel that you can safely trust your partner again. And then know that trust won’t be linear….you may struggle again. And that’s okay too.
Next time we will look at what trusting in a new intimate relationship could look like.
How are you feeling about trusting again?
What is your biggest struggle?