“Cory, it’s been six months since our intensive. When is my wife going to stop being angry with me and …(don’t say it)… get over it? We haven’t had …(don’t say it)…sex either, and I am having blue balls! I have been working hard in my recovery, and I just completed my third step. I am pursuing her. I am going to group. I have 6 months of sobriety. I am seeing you for therapy and setting the bar for my own recovery.
These are common words I hear from many of our male sex addicts, who are legitimately working hard at their program, staying sober as evidenced with regular polygraph tests, making calls, being sponsored and sponsoring others. They have stopped being the zero and have begun to be the hero.
Here are 5 common mistakes I see men make in the early part of their recovery.
- They are impatient. In a culture of immediate gratification (and addiction is all about immediate gratification), many sex addicts have never lived outside of some type of addiction – for example, without medicating. So living life without numbing is a whole new experience. A day feels like a month, and a month feels like a year. Be patient. Just because time has slowed down for you, living for the first time without your pacifier and becoming a man, it hasn’t slowed down for your partner, which is understandably difficult “This too shall pass.”
- They have no concept of empathy. Empathy is the ability to be present and walk with your partner who is in pain. Now, this doesn’t mean you will feel their pain. It just means sitting with them while they experience the stages of grief after your full disclosure. Before recovery, life has always been about the addict. They do not know how to enter the life and perspective of others. They do not know how to love the things their partner loves. They do not know how to be quiet and validate their partner’s pain without becoming defensive.
- They do not understand the manure pile they unloaded on their partner. After full disclosure, the sex addict has dumped their pile of secrets and lies that they have accumulated for decades – all in one massive overwhelming heap on top of their partner in a period of minutes or hours. The addict may experience a cathartic release and freedom while their partner is fighting for their life, trying get to the surface before they suffocate to death.
- They do not understand how differently men and women see lying. Lying can be a straight out lie or half-truths. “She did not ask me that exact question.” A question such as, “Have you had contact with the other women?” When in reality, he didn’t contact her, but she had contacted him. Finally, lying can also be a lie by omission of significant specific information. Men compartmentalize their lying in moments of time over a timeline of 20 years of marriage, focusing on the larger gaps of time between the “tiny moments” where he did lie. Women see lying on the same timeline, as you are a liar from when the day you lied 20 years ago to the day of full disclosure.
- They do not know how to be a model of change to their partner. After explaining the above errors of thinking, I usually respond in the follow way: “Wow, so you have been in recovery for 6 months and you are on your third step. You are doing a really good job. You are sober and passed your 6-month polygraph. Now,…how old are you?” He responds, “45 years old” I inquire, “How much patience and love has God or your higher power shown you before you got out of your addiction?” He replies, “30 years” I ask, “And you’re complaining about 6 months?” “If we are still in this place in 30 years, which if you continue to do the work you will not be, I might listen to your complaints. Until then, I want you to model the patience and love God has shown you… to your amazing wife!”
Man up, men! Be patient. Show empathy. Get in the manure pile with your wife. Understand lying from her perspective. Model the same amount of unconditional love over a long period of time that God has modeled to you! As you do this, you will move from selfishness…to significance and quicker restoration in your marriage. Remember, recovery from sex addiction, porn, infidelity, or an affair is a 3 to 5 year process. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.