1. Physical self-care is probably the most overlooked aspect of early recovery for women. Trauma is mostly experienced in the body. The body is designed to protect us from danger. If an individual experiences a serious threat to their safety (emotional or physical), their body will become tense, flooded with adrenaline, and have difficulty calming down. To ignore the body is to ignore one of the greatest resources for healing. I have found that women who make physical self-care a priority heal much faster from the impact of their husband’s secretive behaviors. Many women find that getting more sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, meditating, stretching, soaking in warm water, and slowing down to nurture their physical body can help them shift out of survival mode so they can think clearly.
2. Spiritual grounding provides feelings of peace, hope, and reassurance in the face of so much uncertainty. Meditation, prayer, seeking comfort and counsel from words of ancient and modern prophets, and counseling with church leaders allows women access to power and strength beyond their own. Seeking a priesthood blessing from a home teacher, family member, or church leader is another powerful source of comfort and strength for many partners. Some women feel forsaken by God when they’ve been betrayed by those closest to them. Spiritual healing is essential, even if it takes time. Some women find it hard to attend church and spend time with others when they feel so low and vulnerable. If this is difficult, remember that being around others can be healing even if you don’t reach out and share. Also, it can help to spend time where spiritual feelings are easier to access, such as visiting peaceful locations in nature or listening to uplifting music.
3. Emotional expression is critical throughout all stages of recovery, but especially in the early stages. Many women find it helpful to write their feelings in a new journal that they have the option of throwing away at a later date. Emotions can be so strong early in this process that some women worry about putting raw feelings in their regular journal. It’s important to have the freedom to express feelings in a healthy, non-aggressive way. Recognize that no feeling is inappropriate. Feelings come and go like the waves of sea, so it’s important to give them full expression and movement. Holding on to any strong emotion with the hope that it will disappear only keeps it stuck. Talking with others can also help, which is explained in the next item.
4. Connecting to others who can help is also difficult to do, but offers tremendous benefits. It’s not recommended that a woman who learns about her husband’s behavior broadcast her pain to just anyone who will listen. Instead, it’s important to identify a few key individuals who: 1) will keep confidences, 2) can provide a safe place to talk, 3) won’t negatively judge her or her husband, and 4) can offer some support and direction. It can be beneficial for the long-term stability of the relationship for a woman to inform her husband that she will be speaking to specific individuals about her struggles. Helpful individuals often include ecclesiastical leaders, therapists, parents or siblings, 12-Step support groups, therapy groups, and close friends.
5. Simplifying life is certainly a goal for most people, but this is an excellent reason to begin. This is the ideal opportunity to begin saying “no” to extra commitments, evaluating the schedule, and looking for things to cut out. Dealing with the trauma of betrayal is so physically and emotionally exhausting that everything that used to feel easy will suddenly feel impossible. It’s important to keep a simple structure in place so there is order and predictability in life. However, a frenzied pace only functions as a distraction and eventually catches up in the form of more hopelessness, feelings of failure, and powerlessness. Helping others can create a sense of purpose as well. It is better to slow down and prioritize those things that will bring the greatest peace, joy, and comfort.
6. Education is critical in the early stages of recovery. There are many good resources available to help women understand the scope of the problem. I maintain a readings list for partners available on my resources page of http://www.LifeSTARstgeorge.com. Education can help validate common feelings and clear up misconceptions about addiction and recovery. One of the best resources available to partners is the book “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse” by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means.
Healing from the effects of a husband’s pornography addiction is best compared to grief, loss, and bereavement. The discovery of a partner’s secret sexual behavior can cause a woman’s life (as she knew it) to flash before her eyes. Recovering from this loss is a process of understanding the shock and anger, processing the sadness of what was lost, and moving toward acceptance of the new life. The new life may or may not include a husband who is committed to long-term recovery. Regardless of that outcome, it’s still critical for women to do the long-term work of healing from the impact of secret pornography use.
This material is taken from the article The Effect of Pornography on the Spouse of an Addict by Geoff Steurer, MS, LMFT