Author Topic: Relationship recovery takes time - lots of time  (Read 1489 times)

stillme

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Relationship recovery takes time - lots of time
« on: November 30, 2016, 08:28:47 AM »
I have said this plenty of times since I came back to this forum, but I am not going to stop because I think it is important for many of us to accept. The vast majority of relationships that recover from someone having a porn and/or sex addiction takes three to five years for that relationship recovery. That is it, 3-5 years for trust to be rebuilt, the relationship to be healed, and a healthy and strong relationship to emerge. Not six months, not twelve months, not eighteen months. It is going to take a VERY long time. One of the reasons is because with addiction, patterns have to be changed and maintained. Your spouse is going to have to do the right thing - all day, every day for years in order for that to become his default.

You can click on any partners profile, read their posts, and see the ebb and flow. Why? Because we are in relationships with recovering addicts. Let's stop trying to minimize just how powerful addiction is. Addiction re-wires the brain, and it takes not only commitment and effort, but also time for those brains to get back to a state that is healthy and whole. While we can all be happy and rejoice and applaud the 'good days', our significant others are going to have to be able to sustain that 'good behavior' for significant periods of time for the relationship to truly heal - if we are going for a healthy relationship. Stopping porn and PMO and acting out was only the first step. For my husband, it was the easiest step. The next step is replacing those negative behaviors with positive/appropriate behaviors. Like many, my husband would PMO as a stress reliever, it was his way of blowing off steam or escaping from conflict. Now he has to develop an entirely new set of skills for dealing with life's challenges. That takes time, you don't do it 'right' for a week and then you are engrained in your new behavior. No, you have to make the right decision over and over and over again for months and even years at a time for that to become your default.

Healthy communication skills take a LONG time to develop. You have to practice them consistently, for years, for that to become your default.

Part of relationship healing is rebuilding trust. Again, that takes YEARS. Most of us dealt with a situation in which we didn't have 'disclosure' with our significant other confessing, we had 'discovery' - where our detective skills revealed most of the truth. One of the hardest truths was that our significant other was even capable of leading almost a double life. How do you just up and trust someone that was that much of a deceiver after just a couple months of honest behavior? No, it does't work like that. They have to show themselves trustworthy, consistently, for years before it would even make sense to trust them at just their word alone.

It takes time for recovering addicts to even learn what all of their triggers are. Only after they have identified their triggers can they move on to manage those triggers. Again, that is hard on the relationship. For my husband and I - some of his triggers were things we actually enjoyed. We used to like getting couple's massages. Guess what? Massages are a trigger for him - no more couples massages. The place where we went on our honeymoon had a nude beach. We had planned for years to return for our 15th anniversary. Guess what - no way is that going to happen. Even though it is over a year away, be both recognize it is unrealistic to think he would be able to handle a nude beach by the time that anniversary rolls around. That hurts. I was really looking forward to going back, I cried when I realized we weren't going to return then and maybe never. To think that having to give up so much is going to be healed in a few months is unrealistic.

There may be some miracle level recoveries of people and their relationships. But, I am posting this because I think a lot of partners are getting frustrated because they think their relationship is not healing at a rate that is good. NORMAL, sustained, healthy recovery is three to five years. Everyday you may be getting better, even with all the setbacks, but this is going to be a very long journey toward healing. That three to five years is if your partner is in ACTIVE recovery. It isn't 3-5 years because your partner slacked, it isn't 3-5 years because you didn't get counseling. Working with counselors, having a partner that is doing the hard work, and you working on your own recover - you are still looking at 3 - 5 years.

Look, I have had my own moments when I thought my husband and I were on the fast track because things were going 'so well', they key element that NO ONE can rush is consistency. Their good work, their strong communication skills, their being honest as default, their being trustworthy, you being open, you being vulnerable, you trusting their words and deeds without thinking there is another motive, you both successfully managing triggers, developing new memories that crowd out the memories of the betrayal, all that takes consistency and consistency takes time. Consistency is not 90 day of abstinence - it means a year or more of doing it mostly right the vast majority of the time.

Recovery takes time because recovery takes sustained consistency. And that comes from doing the hard work to even establish what you are both trying to be consistent with. While I wish we all could be superstars in our healing and see our relationships recovered quickly - I think it important to be realistic. For the VAST majority of us, it is going to be in that 3-5 year range. It takes a very long time to pick up and put back together all the pieces that were shattered due to porn/sex addiction.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2016, 08:34:27 AM by stillme »

cuppatea

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Re: Relationship recovery takes time - lots of time
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2016, 01:41:27 PM »
I feel we have only just now put our foot on the first rung of the recovery ladder, until yesterday we weren't even on there, sometimes there would be an attempt to start climbing and then it would fail. I recognise there is a lot of work to do, for both of us, individually and together. I notice even my own recovery has ups and downs outside of what is happening in the relationship.
Hubby has at time down like you say Emerald blue, almost like I'll stop and then ignore everything else and that should fix everything. He's had/is having a lot of trouble even understanding the fallout from his behaviour, it's taking him time to really absorb the situation and we can really start recovery well until he gets all this stuff and that is going to take time and lots of it. Still I will take any positives as they come, and then likely vent about the down moments on here lol.

stillme

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Re: Relationship recovery takes time - lots of time
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2016, 05:55:22 AM »
I can absolutely second was EB answered cuppatea. What I am seeing is an interesting dynamic in the real balancing act that my husband must play. At first, he was terrible at it. He is only now getting 'better'. That balancing act is that porn addiction is filled with shame, guilt, and low self esteem. As men get out of the porn fog and are no longer controlled by the computer - they can begin to feel euphoric. As the conquer the acting out elements of their addiction, they feel great. Meanwhile, they are living with someone who is devastated by their behavior and betrayal. It has been no fun watching the person who betrayed me, neglected me, rejected me, lied to me, deceived me, spent money from our household for porn, etc. - walk around now feeling like a better man. This is the catch-22 of recovery. They generally have to get rid of the shame before they can truly start to recover. The problem occurs because they often times get rid of the shame and start to bolster their self-esteem well before they have properly addressed the hurt and the harm they caused to their partner. When my husband came home one day talking about he was going to embrace happiness and "hoped" I would do the same and no longer focus on the past - I wanted to throw him through a window! What the hell did he mean he was ready to 'embrace happiness'? Thankfully he dumped that old counselor who told him that was a good idea and got a new one that understands how disrespectful it is to tell someone you betrayed that you are moving on to a life of joy and goodness that you 'deserve' rather the person you hurt is healed or not. Honestly, the only reason we have had progress is my husband now works with a counselor that is trained in the trauma model of partners of porn/sex addicts. We have separate counselors, but they are able to meet with us together if needed (they did that for our disclosure meeting).

It took my husband a LONG time to truly understand just how hurt I was due to his betrayal of me and our marriage and really, our family as a whole. Because I am pretty good at keeping it all together on the surface, he severely under estimated my pain. Having to recount the ways in which he betrayed me in his disclosure was really when it came to the surface of just how much wrong he had done. It showed him why his words of how much he loved me rang hollow when there were literally years of neglect. What really brought him crashing down was that our relationship got so distant that I would be writing him emails to try to talk to him about the relationship. In old emails compared to the timeline of him getting deep into porn - it tore him in half. Around every leap further into porn I would have written him saying I was sure what was going on, but we really needed to talk about things. I would tell him that something was feeling very off. It wouldn't just be me nagging him about the relationship, sometimes I would be telling him that it seemed like his passion for life was gone, his happiness eroding. While he thought porn was making him the happiest man on the planet, I was sitting there sounding the alarm that something was going on that was really taking away the man that he was. I had no clue it was porn. These emails started right at the beginning of his leap into porn on a grand scale - six years ago. He couldn't believe I had been encouraging him to get help for so long, even though I had no clue what he was actually up to. I was so dialed in to him that in my heart and soul I knew the moment he became an addict, the moments when he delved into new fetishes, and the moment he acted out at a massage parlor. I knew them because I saw the changes in him. He thought he was finding his happy place, and I saw him dying inside. The flip side of that was while I was so dialed in to him, he was completely detached from me. This was why my messages to him went unheeded. Empty words of, "Oh, I love you so much. I need to pay more attention to you." or anything else he felt I needed to hear to get me off his back. To him it all felt like some nagging wife that was trying to take away his new toy. He was so far gone that even when he went and got a blow job at a massage parlor, he didn't really think he had done anything 'wrong' and only thought he was hiding it because I would be mad (and take away his happy new toys).

So, again, that puts us in two very different places in our recovery. One of the harder things for my husband right now is that the more he gets re-connected to me, the more he gets dialed in to me, the more he sees my pain. The more he has to accept that my pain didn't start on d-day. My pain didn't start the day I discovered his porn use. My pain started the first time he started rejected me for sex, the first time he stopped being close to me, the first time he stopped talking, the first signs of not just our marital relationship, but our friendship dying on the vine. D-day only allowed me to call my pain by name, but I was feeling the rejection, the loneliness, the frustration all along. My husband has to balance his healing with understanding my pain. One of the hardest things for him to do is stand there and see the depths of my pain that he caused. When he saw those old emails and saw that if he had just responded six years ago - well before he found webcams, well before he even knew there were really massage parlors with happy endings, well before he would ever look at things that went so far outside of his moral compass it was unreal. A few sessions of personal counseling and marital counseling would have been enough to get us back on track. Unfortunately now, we are both looking at long term counseling (extremely expensive), years of trying to rebuild trust, trying to re-learn intimacy, and morning all those years that we will never, ever get back.

We have three kids. Porn didn't just detach my husband from me, it detached him from the children as well. He didn't feel it, he didn't sense it. He is a 'hand's on' father and thought he was doing a lot. And he was, he was 'doing', but he wasn't really 'present' in the moment. He missed out on so many developmental milestones, he missed out on being there through some tough experiences they went through, he missed out on truly guiding them through some of their more formative years. He was so checked out that he was looking at porn on family vacations. He was rushing them to bed so he could jack off to porn. He made excuses to leave me in charge of some important events they had to deal with so that he would have the house to himself for marathon porn sessions. He doesn't get a 'do over' for those moments. They are gone and they are never coming back. So, while shame is detrimental to his recovery, he does have to deal with the guilt. Of course he wants to ignore those aspects. Of course he wants to push those years of neglect out of his mind. Of course he wants us all to forget and forgive and move on.

This is one of the reasons recovery takes so long. Because for true relationship recovery - you have to deal with all of it. Everything that happened. You can just call is 'porn addiction' - you have to pull it apart and deal and heal each and every piece. When we say we broke in a million pieces, that isn't as extreme an example. Every session, every click, every video was a new hurt to the relationship. It takes time to heal all those wounds.