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. 

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