by Ella Hutchinson
Over the past month I have given a few presentations at conferences for other therapists on the topic of Sex Addiction in marriage. It is such a neglected topic and has gotten me thinking. When pornography addiction or sex addiction is discovered, overwhelmingly couples are encouraged to focus on their own treatment and the marriage is often ignored. Meanwhile the couple continues to live together (usually) and must interact on a daily basis. They are usually sharing household responsibilities and childrearing. A tornado has torn through their home and they are being encouraged to each pick up the pieces alone.
The Bible tells us that “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). It also says “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
God clearly puts the marriage above the individual. Yet couples whose marriage has been invaded by sexual sin are too often being advised to focus only on the individual. Why are professionals giving this recommendation and why is it so harmful to ignore the marriage in recovery from sexual addiction?
The Wrong Approach to Sexual Addiction Counseling
It is a popular notion amongst many counselors that when a couple is having problems they stem from the baggage each individual brought into the marriage, and once that is treated, then the marriage can be worked on much more easily. There is certainly a lot of truth to the fact that marriage is significantly impacted by the issues we bring into it. When a counselor sits in front of a couple struggling with the damage sex addiction has done to their relationship, she or he sees two very wounded individuals. These people can appear out of control in every sense of the word.
It may seem easier to separate them and treat them separately until they are in a better place. Sometimes this is the best course of action, such as when the addict is not willing to get into treatment or the wife does not want to stay in the marriage. But what so many counselors are failing to recognize is that the marriage doesn’t stop while each partner is getting individual help!
I have seen too many couples grow apart as they get individual help. I have had more couples than I can count come to me after months or years of counseling individually and they have virtually no marriage left. Studies have shown that the best indicator of success in recovery from sexual addiction is family support. Further, the best indicator of healing within the marriage for the partner of a sex addict is support from her spouse.
The Right Approach to Sexual Addiction Counseling
My philosophy is: teach the addict who is the injuring party how to empathize with and patiently support his wife, and then in time she will almost always be able to follow his lead and offer him the same support (assuming he is no longer acting out). This is not an easy feat, but when done correctly, it works!
Couples, don’t be afraid to insist on getting help for your marriage, in addition to the recovery work you are doing for yourselves. Don’t give up until you find someone who agrees that your marriage should be a priority. A three day couple’s intensive can be a great way to get a jump start to recovery for your marriage. Learn more by clicking here.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eivindw
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Ella Hutchinson, a Licensed Professional Counselor and CertifiedClinical Sexual Addiction Specialist, works with her husband, Jeff, helping couples whose marriages have been invaded by sexual addiction. Jeff and Ella’s marriage is a testament to God’s ability to heal when both parties are willing to do the work it takes.