Journey to Healing and Joy

Men Aren't Just Hairy Women

MrsDoubtFire

Okay, I’m dying to know what went through your mind when you read that title. My brain didn’t quite know what to do with it when a client said it and attributed it to a Tony Robin's video during a recent support group session. Now I can’t get it out of my head! Nor can I stop thinking about another thing a group member said that day. At the end of this article, I would love to hear what you think about what she said. Here’s how it all started.

We were doing chapter seven in the group workbook. That’s a chapter women usually choose to skip because it’s about men’s brains and sex addiction, and most women are sick of reading about the guys’ side of things once they really get anchored in their own healing process. But this particular group wanted to process it, so we did. And that’s how we got on the topic of men and hairy women.

Among other things, chapter seven highlights some key differences between the way men and women think. Most of us don’t like these differences, but in most cases, they come with the territory, so we don’t get to vote. Let's talk about one of those differences because gaining understanding helps us understand how a truly good man can end up acting out sexually. The reality is that men’s brains are like waffles, whereas a woman’s brain is more like a plate of spaghetti. To many of you, that’s nothing new, but let’s tweeze it apart and talk about it for a few minutes.  
               
Men tend to compartmentalize the areas of their lives

What does that mean, really? It means men don’t think like we do. For a woman, virtually everything in her life is interconnected. Making a change in one area will in some way effect other areas. If she goes back to work, managing the kid’s schedules will get a lot harder. If she has an affair, she will hurt her husband and possibly lose her marriage. It’s a no-brainer, right? Wrong; not if you are a guy, or so men tell me. Men often keep the compartments of their lives separate emotionally. Like the tiny squares on a waffle, each area has little dams around it, so if he’s busy in one square, it won’t damage another. A few years ago I asked my brother, Steve, about that.

Steve’s not a sex addict. If anything, he errs on the side of loyalty. But he is a guy, so he was the perfect one to help me get it as we cooked dinner together one evening.

“Sis,” he said, “men were created with brains that compartmentalize because they were also created to be protectors. What do you think would happen if a man had to go off to war to protect his family and country and he couldn’t compartmentalize as he walked away from his family? How could he shoot another human being if he couldn’t compartmentalize?”

Hmmm; I had to ponder that for a minute. And so did the women in my support group as we talked about this difference together.

“It’s hard to accept,” one woman said. “I didn’t know that. I can read it, but the waffle compartmentalizing thing evades me. I just don’t get it!”

“But my husband doesn’t understand the way my brain works either,” said another. He doesn’t get that everything is connected.”

I remember another woman’s painful processing after learning her husband had acted out again. When he tried to explain that it had nothing to do with her, she wailed, “How could he say that? I’m his wife. It has everything to do with me!” 

Recovery is a learning and growing process, for both sides

As we continued to process chapter seven in that recent session, a group member asked: “How do you hold that truth and still leave your mind and heart open to a relationship with your husband?” It was then that I shared another thing my brother, Steve, said that night we had the waffle conversation in his kitchen.

“That doesn’t mean men don’t need to work and grow in their understanding of their wife’s thinking patterns and learn to meet her needs,” he said. So according to Steve, men can learn and grow…they need to learn and grow in their understanding of their wife’s needs. 

Which leads me back to my group and chapter seven, because it was something one of the women said that day that still has me scratching my head. She posed this question: “If we expect them to understand how we think, isn’t it only fair that we learn to understand them?” In all honestly, no one has ever asked me that question before. And as she asked it, I became aware I had never asked it of myself. We (including me) want and expect our husbands to work to understand the way we think and work to meet our needs, but is it a two-way street? Could healing as a couple after betrayal come easier if both partners worked to understand the other’s brains and thinking patterns?

What do you think? Is that asking too much from a broken heart?

How Do I Choose?!!

 

Woman

Back in 1990 when I realized I wasn't the only woman who caught my husband's eye, it was a desert for those of us who needed help. Very, very little had been written about betrayal trauma, and the label “sex addiction” hadn’t yet been coined in the therapeutic community. Help was almost nonexistent.

Fast forward to 2018. The good news is that by comparison, the betrayal trauma landscape is now flourishing with people who want to help. I’ve longed for this day as I’ve listened to thousands of heartbreaking stories since I stumbled into the sex addiction world 28 years ago. Millions of women—and yes, some men—desperately need that help as awareness of the addiction grows. That’s the good news.

But the bad news is that now it's much harder to answer the question, Which therapist, coach, Biblical counselor, group, or process is right for me? Generally, answering that question involves paying money to get help, and for most of us, money has to be spent wisely. That means making a good choice is critical. Twice yesterday I encountered this confusion in two different women’s lives. Woman #1 is currently shopping for the right group, while woman #2 is already in a support group and is very confused about where to go for couple’s help because she keeps getting conflicting advice.  In both cases, money is limited, and they must choose wisely.

Let's talk about Woman #1.

Woman #1 lives in a part of the United States where it is still difficult to find local resources. She’s tried, as have others, and they don't seem to be there. So now she is shopping for telephone resources as an alternate path to healing. And I loved her honesty about her approach. Near the end of our free, one-hour phone call she said, “I’m talking to four different resources as I shop for healing. You are the first one I’ve talked to. I have appointments with the other three, and if I want to work with you, I will let you know in a week!” Don’t you just love honesty when you encounter it? Oh, that sex addicts found it that easy to speak the truth.

So how can Woman #1 (or you) determine the best way to heal? These four principles will help:

  • Get a professional evaluation of your trauma and mental health
  • Find a program that includes a path and a process that results in at least initial healing
  • Choose a proven path
  • Understand that recovery is a lifelong process

Get a professional evaluation of your trauma symptoms and mental health

Whether we like it or not, betrayal trauma, especially long-term betrayal trauma, does a number on our physical and emotional health. So being assessed for trauma and PTSD, along with depression and anxiety if you’re having a difficult time, is important. Only therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to evaluate mental health. Biblical counselors, coaches and lay facilitators don't have that degree of training.

And only a psychiatrist can write prescription, if his diagnosis warrants it. And very, very few psychiatrists actually provide counseling. They are medical doctors and in general they focus on dispensing medication to help their patients cope. And usually, once the med is working and you are stable, they will only need to see you once every three months until you are ready to wean off the med. They can assess you and help you get stable with medication, but you are likely going to need to find additional help to do the much-needed work of healing. It is important to be evaluated if you are struggling emotionally, especially if you have children still in the home.

Find a program that Includes a path and a process that results in at least initial healing

When I first began helping other women who had experienced betrayal trauma, I learned the hard way that women don’t heal from betrayal trauma and PTSD simply by talking about it. Yes, sharing our stories and what happens in our lives each week is an important part of healing, but we need more. We need actual stepping stones that will take us where we need to go. A path that, if we show up, do the work between sessions, and share openly in group each week, will carry us forward in our healing. I compare it to the moving conveyor belts in airports. You can step onto one and even if you don’t walk, you will end up in a different spot than where we started. And if you do walk on the belt, your progress doubles in speed. It's that "forward motion by participation" that you need to look for as you choose your path to healing. It will include a workbook you can examine and assess for yourself. As you do, look for a path and a process you can follow that will produce the healing you so desperately need.

Choose a Proven Path

If you can find others who have begun to heal, ask them what enabled them to work through their pain and begin to move on, either with their partner, or without him. Online communities and private Facebook groups for partners of sex addicts are proliferating, and they provide a good place to ask questions. So if you can find one, ask there. You are looking for a path that has worked for others; a path that has been proven to work.

Understand the various kinds of groups

Also, be aware of the various kinds of groups and how they differ. There are:

  • 12 step groups for partners of sex addicts, which are free. In general, all but ISA (Infidelity Survivors Anonymous) will view you as codependent and as a part of the problem. These groups are a great way to make connections and gain support. And they are a great way to refocus on yourself, rather than the addict, and to do as much personal work when you are ready to do it. However, they are no match for PTSD, depression, anxiety, or mental health issues. And for most of us, they aren't enough for betrayal trauma. But they are wonderful as a way to continue to grow and connect, once initial healing is accomplished.
  • There are therapist-led groups, which vary in price from moderate to expensive, but they provide a form of group counseling, because the therapist is drawing on her training. These can be pricey and generally there aren't a lot of such groups available. But I'm guessing in the years ahead, more and more therapists will choose to provide resources for betrayal trauma and the numbers will increase.
  • There are church-based support groups, which are usually free and may or may not have a workbook to work through. These groups vary from group to group. I've had clients who love their Celebrate Recovery (CR) church-based group, and others who reported that the group wasn’t sufficient for this particular kind of pain. However, after you've accomplished initial healing, CR can meet a need, if there is one available to you.
  • There are coach and therapist led support groups, which usually have a price tag. If you are considering working with a coach or therapist who facilitates groups for partners of sex addicts, I suggest you make an appointment and ask specific questions so you can assess the coach or therapist and group content before you pay the group fee.

Be aware healing (and growing) is an ongoing process for us too

When we wake up and realize we’ve stumbled into some form of emotional betrayal in our most intimate relationship, many of us think, This is his issue, not mine. I don’t need to do anything!  But we soon learn that approach won't heal our broken heart and shattered dreams. And it won't heal our marriages. Even after doing the work to gain our initial healing, most of us learn that being married to someone who is "working a recovery program" is a whole new way of life. He's gone more to his own 12 step meetings, and if we are lucky, we can see and hear him changing before our eyes. So to grow and keep up with our partners, most of us find we need to keep growing too. That’s why we offer entry-level healing through our Journey to Healing & Joy Support groups, and additional level-2 groups for specific needs. Healing and growing is a lifetime journey that helps us become all we can be, with or without a man.

 

Tags: Sexual Addiction betrayal trauma,

IMG 4679

Perhaps your kids are older & in their teen or adult years. Perhaps they are younger but you find yourself still anxious about their future, what path they will take, & if you’re really getting this parenting thing right. Maybe you’ve done everything listed in the previous newsletters to educate, protect, be a safe place, & prepare your kids for independence…& then some. Or maybe you thought you did good at one point only to look back & wonder where you fell short or what you did wrong. Perhaps you’re that guilt-ridden parent that is plagued by the “what-ifs” & “could’ve, should’ve, would’ves”. Or maybe you’re even a young parent like myself who can tend to think, “Oh, not MY child…I’m raising them RIGHT.” (ßTo which an older, wiser parent of grown children might say with a quiet knowing, “…Just you wait.”). Maybe you’re caring for & concerned with your grandchildren. No matter what camp you find you land in, one thing we each must do is recognize the world our children (& grandchildren) are inheriting.

Read more: Kids Safety Series (Week 6 of 6): Recognize the World They Are Inheriting

Trauma Symptoms and You

TraumaSymptoms

 

When I found out about my then husband’s sex addiction, it wasn’t because I was looking for it.  I found out when the police came knocking on my door and told me he had been arrested at the airport as he was heading back from a business trip.  That started my journey into a very dark time of trauma, flashbacks, deep grief and loss.  

Just like you, I lost my own sense of self-worth, identity and grounding.  We lost so much that year.  In fact it was about 3-4 years after  that experience that I connected to Marsha Means.  She had heard about my journey through a dear friend of mine. Marsha called me and asked me to share my story with her.  I did with great anxiety and pain.  For those of you that have talked to Marsha, you know her tenderness to our pain.

Read more: Trauma Symptoms and You

KSW5

How will I know when my child is ready to take on more independence and responsibility? How will I know they are ready to take on a task with confidence & success? Should I give more internet freedom? If so, when? Like many things, because each child, family, & set of dynamics vary from one household to the next, the answer to all of these is, “It depends.”

As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in “helicopter parent” mode at times. We love our children & desire to spare them the grief we have seen in others or have experienced for ourselves. We’ve touched on how to Educate, Protect, & Be a Safe Place in previous newsletters in this series. The next step requires all of them working together as we prepare our child for independence. Truth is, as much as we may want to, we won’t always be there to shield, protect, & educate. Our kids are growing up whether we like it or not. They will begin making their own adult decisions, good or bad. The time we have to impress on them the hard-earned wisdom we’ve gained is ticking away. We don’t want to be overburdensome & see our efforts backfire as children who may feel suffocated rebel the first chance they get. We also don’t want to give them too much freedom too soon & go on about the rest of our life, only to realize little Johnny got into a LOT more trouble than we imagined could be possible. Where is the balance?

Read more: Kids Safety Series (Week 5 of 6): Prepare for Independence