She had been married to the man she loved for a few years when she found the hidden stash of stolen photographs. Photographs of herself and her friends were found along with pornographic DVD’s. She stood there shaking, confused and afraid. At that moment, she lost the innocence of what she believed was true about her marriage and her husband. In this moment, it all changed. It is a moment that she will never forget. She instantly lost her feelings of safety. She was no longer feeling emotionally safe in her home or in her relationship with her spouse. She wouldn’t feel emotionally safe for many more years to come.
She confronted her husband who admitted to sometimes “fantasizing,” but assured her that was in the past and not something that he was engaged in any longer. She still didn’t feel safe with her husband and asked him to sleep in a separate bedroom. At this time, she didn’t feel like she knew who her husband was or what he was capable of. They went to seek counseling from a licensed professional. She remembers feeling hopeful, yet anxious.
The therapist told her that is was not good for the marriage to sleep separately and that they needed to be sleeping in the same bedroom ASAP. She obliged and wanted to do whatever the therapist suggested in order to try to save her marriage, yet she was in so much pain. She was so afraid.
Fast forward another few years where more lies and broken promises had taken place. She was desperate to believe her husband’s promises. Sometimes she questioned her own feelings of complete despair. She felt that something was still not right; he continued to lie and deny. She wanted to believe him and in the future of their family. Eventually, she stopped listening to her intuition. She hid her pain and pasted a fake smile on her face. Eventually, the promises were broken again and the continuous lies confirmed. She went with her husband to therapist number 2.
The therapist was eager to work with the husband and the husband’s diagnosis was formally confirmed as pornography addiction aka sex addiction. She was told by the therapist to go read a book about sexual intimacy. There were no referrals, no guidance, no support suggested or offered to her. After reading the book that the therapist suggested, she thought that is was her fault that her husband acted out. She believed that if only she was capable enough, her husband would not be doing these things. She felt like she was defective, “dis-eased”, and not capable of making good choices for herself. She was afraid and had no support. She didn’t know it then, but years later, she had to face the treatment induced trauma that she had faced.
Treatment induced trauma can stem from a variety of ineffective treatment modalities utilized by a therapist. For years, partners of sex addicts were unfairly treated due to the failure to recognize her trauma, pain and grief. The partner was told that she was codependent and that she needed to work on her own “dis-ease”. There was no acknowledgement of her suffering, her anxiety due to all the lies she had been told , her fear as she may have been exposed to STD’s or the effects on her children. Therapist 1 who told the partner in the earlier example that she must sleep next to her husband is basically telling a partner of a sex addict that she does not have the right to set boundaries and should disregard the fact that she is not feeling emotionally safe. She trusted the therapist and was told not to advocate for herself, nor to protect herself. Therapist 2 who offered the only suggestion of reading a book about sexual intimacy added to the fuel of how defective she felt. That is what treatment induced trauma is. It took her many more years to recover due to the additional and faulty assessments and assumptions. What she needed was support, understanding, empathy and coping skills to work through the pain and shock that she was experiencing. There are so many stories of treatment induced trauma from partners of sex addicts, and it should not be that way. To find a certified clinical partner specialist in your area, please visit: http://www.partnertraumaspecialists.org/find-a-specialist/
Ingela Edwards, MS, LPC, NCC, SRT, CCPS specializes in helping individuals and couples heal from sex addiction, infidelity, intimacy anorexia, and intimacy deprivation. Ingela Edwards Counseling serves the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and Sherman area.
Ingela Edwards, LPC, NCC, SRT, CCPS is an individual and marriage therapist