The Honeymoon Stage of Recovery
You're finally addressing the real problem. You have a goal together after what feels like an eternity of distance in the relationship. Hope starts to blossom. Maybe. Just maybe.
Then, he lies about something trivial.
You dig through your therapy notes to find the list of boundaries and consequences you agreed upon during a session. Created soon after you had found out about the infidelity, the protective consequence is sleeping in separate rooms.
But it was SO meaningless. I don't want to get in a huge fight over something that has nothing to do with sex addiction. I'm just going to let it go.
Then, you continue on in recovery. You let your daily workbook for group become an occasional event. I'll just get to it when I can. Come to think of it, when was the last time you saw you husband doing his workbook? Oh, well! Things are SO much better.
You cannot believe how much the two of you are talking. Sure, it gets a little tense if you bring up being worried about how often he misses group, but you want to make sure you are not trying to control him or shaming him. The peace that has pervaded your relationship isn't worth giving up.
You don't know when it happened, but the paranoia has returned with a vengeance. You sneak a peak at his phone and drop hints about how his tardiness hurts your feelings.
Then the inevitable happens: Relapse. Except, how can it be a relapse if significant recovery hasn't even existed? All of this has taken place in just a few months, and now you find yourself back on the roller coaster of trauma wondering where it all went wrong.
The honeymoon is over, and you aren't sure you are can handle this anymore. You gave it your all only to be right back where you started.
Your husband's next step is critical for his recovery and your relationship, and so is yours. He can double down on his recovery, add another meeting to his week, start making daily calls to groups members, and start making amends to you. He can get you a joint session with your therapist and make a plan to move forward. Or, he can quit saying how hard he tried.
It just didn't work. I tried. I'm a lost cause. He tells himself it's no use.
You are saying much the same. My boundaries didn't keep me safe! How could I have been so stupid to have trusted him after all he's done to me? This is pointless!
You feel like you have two choices: live with him and the infidelity for the rest of your life OR kick him out and try to get on with living.
Choices always seem so black and white after a betrayal.
The truth is, you can make so many different but good choices at this moment. You can double down on your recovery (which can include updated boundaries and consequences you work on with your coach or therapist). You can start making calls to your own support group members on a daily basis. You can step up your exercise routine or slow life down to make time for snuggles on the couch with your kids every evening before bed.
And you can watch. Watch and observe for an amount of time you think best (getting some great input and accountability from your support system) to see the direction your husband chooses. When the time is up, you are healthier no matter what your husband has chosen, and you have a good idea of his commitment to recovery.
It's then you can decide how to proceed in the relationship, from a place of support, armed with the information you need and the boundaries that will help you continue in your healing regardless.
And what is the next stage you enter?
The honeymoon is over. Peace becomes not the absence of conflict but the presence of continued forward motion in recovery. Old, unhealthy systems are being torn down - tense discussion by tense discussion. Lines are drawn in the sand, upheld, and then mutual trust and true respect emerges. You mean what you say and say what you mean. No one is manipulating through a false pretense of submission, rage, or coded language.
Reality looks nothing like the honeymoon, and yet it is SO MUCH BETTER. There is no fog of naivete, no ill-placed trust, no pretending to be someone you aren't.
It's real. It's the place where truth lives and authentic lasting peace reigns regardless of outcome. It's where we finally place God in the driver's seat and surrender to the new life He wants to create for us.
And it's my prayer for you. Make sure to reach out to me if you need someone to walk alongside you on your journey. You CAN heal, and I would love to be a part of that process with you.