Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Resurrecting Sex After Betrayal Trauma

With Her husband Kyle three years into solid recovery from his sexual addiction, Bridgette wanted to let down her guard in the bedroom. Logically she knew their relationship was on the firmest ground ever. But when he wanted to explore, experiment, or expand their sexual repertoire, she suddenly felt very threatened. 

Irreconcilable Sexual Differences?

Kyle's desire for more seemed like a personal indictment of her sexual style. Was he was failing to appreciate what they shared together, which was already wonderful to her? It had already been a difficult and complicated road getting this far, and if their sex life wasn't enough for him yet... would it ever be? 

Whenever they focused on this topic Bridgette had the sinking feeling that perhaps Kyle was lapsing back into lust, that his old addiction was rearing it's ugly head again. Ugh. At times she felt deflated and defeated by it all. 

How Treatment Can Help

We used a therapy technique called Lifespan Integration to explore the mindset she went into when sex became a difficult issue nowadays. Not surprisingly, it ended up being the very mindset that was set in motion by the trauma of discovering seven years ago that the man with whom she'd always felt safest had betrayed her trust by masturbating to online porn. 

Using the guided imagery of Lifespan Integration, she put herself back into that scene seven years ago when her daughter was playing on the laptop and a smutty image popped up. Then Bridgette envisioned bringing her present-day self into that scene to comfort her younger self. Most important of all, we proved to her younger self that time had passed since then by showing her one or two events per year over the course of those seven years. Going through this timeline just takes a few minutes, and we repeat the process six or seven times during a single Lifespan Integration session. 

A Solid Foundation for Healing

It may sound odd to say it this way, but quite often our "younger self" doesn't even know that time has gone on since the trauma. A part of our brain is responding to life as though time has been standing still since that moment, and the trauma is still happening.

Of course, therapy could only facilitate healing for Bridgette because she had developed a deeper attachment to Kyle and a surer sense of trust in him. He hadn't been perfect, but they'd traveled the recovery journey side-by-side and had developed an emotional intimacy in the process that set the stage for more meaningful sex together. All their studying; work in Sexaholics Anonymous, S-Anon, and other support groups; and counseling both individually and as a couple had really paid off.

The Results for Bridgette and Kyle So Far

When I saw Bridgette last week, it had been two months since our Lifespan Integration session. She no longer viewed Kyle's adventurousness as disapproval. "He's not down on what we have, just eager to keep building this wonderful sexual connection we share."

Bridgette added, "When I changed the way I thought about his motivation, my emotions followed effortlessly. They haven't flipped back even though it's been awhile." 

Bridgette also reminded me of another process that had been key for her. She'd been frustrated and impatient at times with the "part" of her that kept freaking out about sex even though Kyle had proven his trustworthiness over the years. 

However, as she gave voice to that suspicious, scared part, "I was able to see that part of me as a vigilant soldier who'd done so much to bring me to this safe place. She just wasn't up to date on how safe I really am now! Honoring her intentions and all she's done helped me move past the paralyzing fear and see the situation more clearly.

It's inspiring to see couples like Bridgette and Kyle heal. They climb together out of the hole of addiction, but they don't stop there. They do what it takes to raise their relationship to entirely new heights. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Need a Tech Cleanse?

Here's a post I did for my latest visit with Brooke Walker on KSL Studio 5. I thought I'd share it here because we can all use a detox from screen time...

When does Social Media Savvy Cross the Line into Obsession?

Cathy remembers the moment she woke up to the downside of her Instagram immersion. It was at her nine year-old daughter, Megan’s, soccer game. When everyone else cheered, Cathy looked up from her phone to see Megan pump her arms in a victory V. “As Megan caught my eye, I gave her a thumbs up. It would be my little secret that I missed her goal because I’d gotten sucked in by that notification ping.”
It’s fun to catch up with friends, unwind and relax. We can even use social media to further our career.
But we’ve all found ourselves wasting time on social media. We know that bitter aftertaste that comes after a binge.

Some Benefits of Scaling Back

• Family balance. We invite other family members to limit their own screen time if we walk the walk.
• Better posture. Avoid the documented dangers of text neck.
• Better sleep. Too much screen time interferes with both our ability fall asleep and to drop into the most restful stages of sleep.
• Less anxiety. Immersion in technology ratchets up our stress.
• More happiness and satisfaction. We get a break from all the comparing and longing for what we don’t have.
• Better love life. If a TV in the bedroom cuts couples’ lovemaking in half, as one Italian study found, then what’s bound to happen when it’s not just one big screen but some little screens getting in the way as well?

Instead of Your Usual Tech Fix…

1. Breathe. Take two or three nice full breaths. Try doing it right before check your phone throughout an entire day. It helps stretch out the space between the urge and the response.
2. Feel. You might just feel the awkwardness that comes with breaking any habit. If your habit is super-entrenched you might feel some withdrawal symptoms. Settle into your boredom. Allow yourself to feel anxious.
3. Move. Take a walk. Your body and brain will thank you, instead of still feeling antsy the way they so often do after a tech fix.
4. Connect. Before there was live chatting, there were real life chats; enjoy more of those. Hug someone, give a foot rub, ask for a back scratch.
5. Express. Don’t give in to the urgency, give it voice. Let the Instagram junkie in you rant about why she needs to look so often and how great it feels to get those likes. Get the urgency out of your system by talking to yourself as you take a walk or writing out your yearnings and hankerings.

Take the Challenge–Do a 15-day Tech Cleanse!

Most people do better with a cleanse than a complete fast. Especially for moms, it’s hard to drop completely off the face of the Electronic universe.
If you’re going to do it, don’t just try a little harder to use your phone a little less. Your screen time will quickly balloon back up. Instead, tell friends and family you’ll going to take a break by cutting WAY back for a couple of weeks, and then do it. Better yet, challenge others to do it with you.
You might keep track of your time on your phone with an app like Moment and have a contest with your kids to see who can use electronics the least.
If, somehow, you manage to survive, we’d love to hear back from you in a couple of weeks about how it went and what you discovered. Studio 5 is considering running a follow up segment, so your input would be greatly appreciated!