Couples often come into therapy for ‘communication problems’. As a therapist for the last decade, I have found that this means many things – depression, anxiety, affairs, pornography use, among other issues. Outside of Utah County, pornography use seems to be more acceptable, or at least, less talked about as an issue. Is use in other locations less, or merely seen differently? When I speak with couples, this is something that is very painful and difficult to understand and overcome. There is a tremendous amount of shame associated with use. As we work in counseling to overcome the addictive cycle, the spouse who is using has to learn to attach to their partner instead pornography. This attachment is key to recovery and future success in a relationship. John Bowlby, an early psychologist, helped define attachment theory over his career. He found that they attachment between a child and a parent is crucial to the child’s development. Likewise, the attachment between partners is also crucial. When couples are able to create a safe base or a safe haven, as Susan Johnson references in her Emotionally Focused Therapy work, they are able to be genuine and transparent with each other. They are able to show their imperfections to each other and be vulnerable and exposed because they know their spouse will accept and love them. This process is crucial to working with couples counseling for pornography use.
My spouse cheated on me – what do I do now? If you are asking this question you are probably going through a gauntlet of emotions, thoughts and questions. Many couples come to my office seeking help to make sense of and hopefully heal from infidelity. There is a process that most couples go through – common experiences that I can share here. Usually, during the process of the disclosure (or discovery) of an affair, the spouse who was cheated on feels something many have called ‘betrayal trauma.’ I often share with couples in this situation a metaphor. Imagine, I tell her, that you are driving in a truck in a convoy through a war zone. Out of nowhere a rocket blasts your truck after being shot from a nearby building. It throws you out of the truck and into the dirt. After almost being killed in this situation, many would develop PTSD – or acute trauma. They would come home from the war zone and start the process of healing – perhaps with family or friends or trained professionals. They would talk about how unsafe it was in the war zone and how they almost died there. They would start to rebuild their sense of safety where they stood at that point – which is back in their home neighborhood, safe and sound. With infidelity, the trauma a spouse feels looks different. Imagine, I tell her again, that you have just been thrown from your truck after that rocket levels it. After picking yourself up, you then go to the building that the rocket was shot out of, climb the stairs to the top floor and find the person who shot it. You find this person and tell them, “I’m glad I found you. I need a hug from you. That was scary and I almost died – I’m glad you didn’t kill me.” The very person who almost killed them is the very person they go to for safety and reassurance and healing. This is what it is like to be the spouse of someone who is unfaithful. Going through this process is difficult and confusing. Betrayal trauma is something that needs to be understood and specifically addressed in order to heal.