Addiction usually involves some level of deceit, lies, and secrecy. Partners of sex addicts often feel a deep sense of betrayal. You may hear your spouse say to you, “I don’t know how I can ever trust you again.”
Early into your recovery, you may begin to change internally. Your desire to act out sexually may decline and your sense of success may be increase. You start to find hope again. In this more optimistic frame of mind, it can be incredibly difficult to have your spouse say, “You may feel different, but I have no idea how to know whether you really are going to change. I’m afraid you’ll just go back to the way you were before.”
You may ask yourself, “Will my wife ever trust me again?”
Years of experience indicates that yes, trust can be rebuilt. However, you have to be aware of a few things to help you work through the process…
It will always take longer than you want
This is true of all areas of recovery. There is no “fast track” to change. All good change takes time. As she is healing and learning to trust again, your best approach is one of patience. Impatience with slow processes is a characteristic of addiction. Learning to accept a slower pace will help you in your recovery and give her a chance to heal at her own pace.
Spouse’s recovery processes are on different timetables
Your recovery and her recovery will rarely be perfectly parallel. At times she may feel things are dragging along while you are simply trying to hang on. There may be other times when your recovery is rock solid and moving at a good pace, while you struggle to patiently wait for her to get past a roadblock in her own recovery. You will need as much patience for her recovery process as she needs for yours.
Trust is rebuilt with effort and time
Trust does not automatically come with the passage of time. Assume this fact in recovery: she can only believe what she sees. This is especially true in early recovery. No matter what is happening internally for you, your recovery needs to be visible enough to her that she can trust what changes she is seeing in your behavior. If you behave like a trustworthy person, she can start to believe that you are worthy of trust again. Persistence in doing trustworthy behaviors over time will help her to heal.
A little dishonesty does a lot of damage
Early in recovery, you will have a defining moment – a choice point. You will slip into old habits and patterns. You may relapse, or have a slip in your recovery. The denial of the addiction will sound something like this, “It was only one time. It wasn’t that big of a deal. We’ve made so much progress together. If I tell her what I did, I will damage what we have worked so hard to rebuild. I am doing her a favor by not telling her about this slip.”
Do not believe this lie. Either she will find out, or your need to get out of your shame will drive you to tell her the truth eventually. You have to trust that the damage caused by being dishonest and hiding is almost universally more damaging to trust than whatever addiction behavior you engaged in. Recovering from slips can be challenging. Recovering from being dishonest and going back into hiding is much more difficult.