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Common "Dynamic Pitfalls" In Recovery

When recovering from sexual addiction and betrayal trauma, it can be really hard to remember you're o
Common "Dynamic Pitfalls" In Recovery
By Savannah Esposito • Issue #20 • View online
When recovering from sexual addiction and betrayal trauma, it can be really hard to remember you’re on the same team, working toward the same goals - being healthy individuals and having a healthy connected and loving marriage.

Pitfall Dynamic #1: I Don't Have The Problem, They Do
In recovery, the truth is, there are three recoveries.
  • The Addict’s
  • The Betrayed’s
  • The Marital’s
This is a dynamic so many couples fall into.
“She has the problem, porn is nothing, she just needs to let it go!”
“Are you kidding me?! He is the one who has an addiction! What do I have to work on?”
If either of those statements sound familiar, you’re in this pitfall.
The truth is, everyone needs recovery and help to get healthy and level up.
You guys are going to need a recovery team (which I’ll be addressing in Recovery: Behind The Scenes on how to figure out what you need for your unique journey!).
How Do We Get Out Of This Dynamic?
Understand that you each have your work to do here.
You will each need support, guidance, and community as you go through this journey.
As they say, it takes two to tango… and that’s true here. If each of you commit to doing the personal work (while integrating the foundations of marital recovery) then you guys will be better off than 90% of the other couples who dig their heels in and stay in denial.
Pitfall Dynamic #2: Role Reversal
This one I see with my clients all the time, and it was a pitfall Jak and I went through as well.
This is where the addict sits on the sides lines while the betrayed moves heaven and earth to get them into recovery.
Do Not Do This.
Being in this dynamic literally sets you up to fail.
Because the person who has the addiction, the one who betrayed and cheated and created trauma for the other person is the one who should be moving heaven and earth…. not the other way around.
When the betrayed partner takes lead, it leads to resentment, because the betrayed is thinking, “I am with an addict who cheated on me and they aren’t even caring what they did to me! I am doing all the work, where are they?”

How Do We Get Out Of This Pitfall?
This is going to be hard, I warn you. It’s something I work with my clients on very deeply and it can take weeks to change this pattern because it’s so engrained.
Step One: Betrayed, please, take the back seat and let your partner drive this!
This is what we call The Domino Effect at The Mod.
The addict has to drive this car or the entire thing will collapse.
Once the addict takes lead, the betrayed can begin to recover, and then the marriage can begin to recover.
You might be thinking, “But if I step back, nothing will get done! Nothing will change!”
Okay, if that is the worry, my question to you, “Do you have boundaries & consequences set up? If not, start there! Here’s an article to get you familiar and below is a video I did on Boundaries!”
The Modern Mr. and Mrs. - The Importance of Boundaries and Consequences | Facebook
Step Two: Watch
Yes, as the betrayed sit back, do your own journaling, go see your own recovery team, and just watch what your partner does.
You will see within a week whether they are committed to their own sobriety… and whether they are committed to you and the family.
This will be hard…. it was extremely hard to sit back and watch Jak do nothing….absolutely nothing.
But, once I saw it, things changed with boundaries and consequences, and Jak took lead after that knowing if he didn’t our marriage was going to be over.
Honestly, take out your recovery journal (if you don’t have one, now is the time to buy one!) and keep a list of all the things you are seeing daily.

Step 3: Take Action
Now that you have a sense of their commitment to recovery, it’s time to game plan. What needs to change? New boundaries? New consequences? Are you done with this? Do you need better help?
Once you see the truth of your situation the doors for recovery open and you get to explore where you want to go from there.
Pitfall Dynamic #3: I Have To Be Safe First
This one is a common one, especially if your partner is not only struggling with sexual addiction, but also Intimacy Anorexia as well.
The Silent and Invisible Marriage Killer: Intimacy Anorexia
If they are struggling with Intimacy Anorexia, please go get Dr. Doug Weiss’s program on Intimacy Anorexia and Married & Alone as well as his book Emotional Fitness! Those will set you up for success with the IA side of things!
But, back to sexual addiction and betrayal trauma…
There is a dynamic of “needing to be safe first” which is a false approach. If you have a relationship with anyone in this world you are never 100% safe, because you cannot control another person and their reactions and actions.
Being connected to any other human being is accepting that there is uncertainty.
With that said, the addict does need some sense that when they get honest they won’t be verbally abused and steamrolled.
Yes, they are sharing painful realities.
Yes, you are hurting as a betrayed.
You have every right to your feelings.
At The Mod, I always tell my clients, “All feelings are valid, but not all feelings are facts.”
In fact, I tell my clients to tack that up on the wall for the next time a tough conversation occurs. They can look at it and remind themselves to validate the feelings and then later address facts.
However, how you choose to react is your responsibility and your choice.
Yes there is a part that is trauma reaction (hence why getting a really good betrayal trauma therapist is a must!), but at some point you can’t say 5 years down the line the verbal abuse is a trauma reaction. At that point it’s a choice. I know, not a fun truth, but it’s a truth you must face if you want the marriage to survive.

For the one struggling with addiction,
She is going to want a level of safety before letting her guard down… and that is 100% valid and needed.
That is very important to respect. You’ve been hiding this secret for 1,5,10, 15, 20, 25 years, and you’ve crushed her entire world.
Respect the pain she is in.
However, if you’ve been doing everything and committing and you’ve shown true remorse consistently, and she still is rebuffing all efforts to reconcile, then there needs to be a conversation had.
Does she want to be in this marriage?
If not, it’s time to think about parting ways so neither of you are abusing one another in any form.
Just because you had an addiction, doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It doesn’t mean you get to be abused because of your choices.
Each of you has the responsability to commit to your own recoveries, so you can succeed in marital recovery.
How Do We Get Out Of This Pitfall?
By each respecting each other’s limits, and knowing when avoidance is happening.
Is there a level of safety present?
Are you both committing to individual work?
Are you both attempting to lay the foundations to a marriage recovery?
If so, it’s time to engage the process instead of avoiding it.
Pitfall Dynamic #4: Submission
“I promise, I am going to stop watching porn,” he says.
“Okay, sounds good,” she says hesitantly.
Sound familiar? You’re not challenging them on their word and submitting out of fear.
You might fear that they have no intention of quitting, you may fear that they are just trying to get you off their back, or that their problem is much worse than you ever dreamed of.
Fear will stop you from taking action… if you let it!
Below is a quote I think perfectly fits this:
Fear Means Two Things:
Forget Everything And Run
Face Everything And Rise
The Choice Is Yours
That quote is so true, it’s going to take courage to enact change. Until you’re sick of the status quo and ready to change, things will stay stagnant.
How Do We Get Out Of This Pitfall?
By choosing to overcome the fears.
You can journal, reach out to a friend, have someone hold you accountable to getting a therapist.
There are many ways that you can overcome fear. You have to know yourself well enough to know what strategies work for you.
So... Now What Do We Do?
You’ve learned.
Chloe, my co-coach at The Mod, loves to say, “Once you know better, do better.”
I think she is really on point.
Once you are aware there is an issue, you can’t deny you don’t know it.
You can’t pretend there isn’t a problem.
Well, you can pretend and deny but that won’t get you anywhere.
What you can do now is create an action plan.
The choice is yours, obviously.
Recovery Opportunity: Some Questions To Journal On...
  • When was your Discovery/Disclosure Day? (No, not a formal theraputic disclosure - which I’ll be getting more into in Recovery:Behind The Scences. I’m talking about when the addict says, “I have a problem”)
  • How long have I/we been waiting to get into recovery?
  • Do I/we have a recovery team?
  • How has it been trying to recover on my own/alone?
  • What are the biggest struggles I am facing right now?
  • What can’t I seem to get past?
  • Am I/Is my partner committed to recovery (both individual and marital?)
  • What evidence (yes, hard evidence) have I seen to say I/my partner am/are committed?
  • What evidence have I seen to say I/my partner am/are not committed?
  • What needs to change for me to get the results I want?
  • Am I willing to do what needs to be done?
Q&A Submission!
Got burning recovery questions? Submit your Q&A to and you’ll be getting the answers in the next Recovery Letter from Recovery: Behind The Scenes when you become a member!
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