Written by Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW, CSAT
OK, you’ve admitted that you’re an addict. You’ve apologized to your significant other, and you’ve entered a process of addiction recovery. But your partner is still incredibly emotional and pissed off. You feel like maybe he or she should calm down and cut you a bit of slack. And you have a point. But that’s just not going to happen.
What Your Partner Feels
Your addiction has traumatized your partner. Your partner feels betrayed by your choice to put your addiction ahead of your relationship. Your partner likely struggles to trust anything you say. It’s possible that your behavior injured your partner so much that he or she experiences stress and anxiety symptoms characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such symptoms typically include (but aren’t limited to) flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, hypervigilance, and powerful mood swings (including flashes of extreme anger, insecurity and/or fear).
Have you noticed any of this behavior in your significant other? If you have, don’t push blame onto him or her. Your spouse/partner is just responding normally to the pain and hurt that you have caused. It is your fault, when it comes down to it. His or her rage, fear, pleading, tears, vindictiveness, and other forms of emotional volatility—no matter how excessive they seem to you—are perfectly normal and expected reactions in this set of circumstances.
Regardless of how your spouse/partner has reacted since learning about your cheating, you’ve probably convinced yourself that your actions weren’t that bad. Or that you don’t deserve all the grief that he or she heaps onto you. Your partner, however, almost certainly feels otherwise. So, while you’re feeling resentful and impatient, wondering why he or she won’t let this go so you can both move on, your partner is likely suffering – deeply. And if you truly love and care about your partner, you need to find a way to empathize with them. Provide support instead of feeling rankled by his or her endless anger, demands, questions, withdrawal, and threats.
It’s a Long Recovery
For your significant other, there’s no immediate forgiveness when it comes to your addiction. He or she won’t easily move past the fact that you put your addiction ahead of your relationship. So, for the time being, you should expect your partner to be emotional and to struggle with trust. You need to accept that he or she will be riding an emotional roller coaster until you’ve established sobriety and renewed trust. This process of re-earning trust can take many long months.
It won’t help you or your relationship if you whine about your spouse/partner being crazy or a nasty person. In this case, your partner is neither of those things. Even if you really, really dislike the way your partner is acting (and you will), and even if your partner’s behavior seems very, very dramatic to you (and it might), you need to accept that your partner is responding in an understandable, healthy way to the pain, loss, and hurt that you’ve caused him or her to feel.
So What Now?
You can come learn more about the steps of renewing trust with your spouse/partner at my In The Rooms recovery meeting: “Sex, Love and Recovery,” which I host every Friday night at 9pm EST. Come by to learn how you can patiently recover your relationship!