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!

Author

Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW is Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity LLC, a unified group of online and real-world communities helping people to heal from intimacy disorders like compulsive sexual behavior and related drug abuse. As Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Rob led the development and implementation of Seeking Integrity’s residential treatment programming and serves as an integral part of the treatment team. He is the author of ten books on sexuality, technology, and intimate relationships, including Sex Addiction 101, Out of the Doghouse, and Prodependence. His Sex, Love, and Addiction Podcast is currently in the Top 10 of US Addiction-Health Podcasts. Dr. Rob hosts a no-cost weekly Sex and Intimacy Q&A on Seeking Integrity’s self-help website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com (@SexandHealing). The Sex and Relationship Healing website provides free information for addicts, partners of addicts, and therapists dealing with sex addiction, porn addiction, and substance abuse issues. Dr. Rob can be contacted via Seeking Integrity.com and SexandRelationshipHealing.com. All his writing is available on Amazon, while he can also be found on Twitter (@RobWeissMSW), on LinkedIn (Robert Weiss LCSW), and on Facebook (Rob Weiss MSW).

2 Comments

  1. Thomas Bennett Knowlton, JR Reply

    https://www.intherooms.com/home/iloverecovery/addiction/why-your-spouse-partner-is-angry/

    Right…I forgot…addicts have no rights.

    This kind of mindset of “I can be hurtful and vindictive to you for as long as I want and I get a free pass” is also a form of abuse. I notice that these articles never talk about how the victims can ( and do ) take advantage of this and let themselves spew the most evil and vile ranting and tantrums and we just have to “take it”. Oh, but that’s not abuse. It’s normal. Uh…yeah….

    I think there are healthy ways to go about this … and if a victim were to ever read this article and continue behaving in ways that otherwise would be totally abusive and inappropriate…then they are doing it knowingly and not “just” from a place of deep pain. They have now become the abusers.

    • serenitynow Reply

      Thomas Bennett Knowlton Jr., where do I start?

      First off, I’ve read your arrest report, and pedophilia is not sex addiction. It’s pedophilia. And in (allegedly) sending nudes to a child, you destroyed not only the trust and safety of that young person and your community, but that of your spouse. In fact, your spouse may likely feel that their reputation is tarnished by association; and in your case, it probably has been.

      As the partner of a sex addict (with adults only, per therapeutic disclosure and polygraph), I have often worried that my own reputation would be impacted should information about the actions of my spouse get out. This is a terrifying thought. What’s more, it’s enraging to know that my spouse chose to betray me, our family, and the people with whom they cheated.

      I have no problem telling my spouse how disgusted, hurt, angry, defiled, etc. their actions have (rightfully) made me feel. I’m sure my spouse doesn’t like to hear this, but if they didn’t care about how their choices would affect me, then why should they expect otherwise from me?

      My spouse has shown incredible contrition, and has indeed gone to great lengths to get honest, get healthy, and make amends with everyone impacted by their choices and actions. This includes listening to my anger and grief process, and then apologizing to me in a deep and meaningful way. Every. Single. Time. And their commitment to do all of this has helped to restore some of the safety that was obliterated by their destructive choices.

      Here’s the rub, Thom: if you’re so victimized by the way your spouse is reacting to your betrayal(s), and if their actions are so wrong, abusive even, as you allege, you can leave. If the hurt they have caused you is so awful, then separate and live your own life, and let them live theirs, instead of deflecting blame onto the person you shattered when you chose to break your vows (and the law (allegedly)).

      You are not the victim because you had a choice all along. You knew the score and could, at any time, leave of your own free will. Unless you’d told your spouse in detail every time you were engaging in sexual behavior outside of your partnership, then you were robbing them of the ability to make an informed decision about whether they were willing to stay or go. You were keeping that person in the relationship under false pretenses.

      Until you’re able to recognize that the feelings of anger in your spouse are the direct result of your choices, and you’re willing to learn exceptional stress tolerance (in addition to the many other reparative actions associated with intimate partner betrayal), there likely won’t be much healing within your marriage, nor within yourself.

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