Resentment is often regarded as a negative emotion to be avoided, much like jealousy. However, as a partner of a sex addict, resentment is a huge part of what you are feeling. There is honesty in resentment. The feeling is very real and something to be faced head on in order to progress.
Think of it this way: you connected with a person on some level because you felt they were right for you. You began building a relationship, a life with this person, only to find out that your partner was harboring a secret. Everything you built together was on a foundation of deception, hiding, and shame. Of course you are going to feel resentment about that!
While it is definitely healthy to allow yourself to feel your feelings, resentment is a bit trickier than some. Today, in our continuing Women’s Wisdom series, I want to talk about the role resentment will play in your recovery as a partner of a sex or porn addict.
Here’s What Resentment Looks Like
On the surface, resentment is a simple matter of being upset with someone for the pain their selfish actions have caused you. When we resent someone, the focus can quickly shift from “He did this to me,” to “What is it about me that made him do this?”
In essence, resentment can very quickly turn into self-blame which is unproductive and an inaccurate view of what happened. As I always tell my clients: a sex addict has a problem. You didn’t cause this problem and you can’t cure it. It is not your burden to bear, because it isn’t your fault.
Yet, when left to sit for too long, resentment does become an unfocused and self-defeating force in your life. Anyone would feel betrayed and resentful after what happened, but when that emotion begins eating away at your life, clouding your every thought, and informing your every action, it is harming you much more than it is helping you process your situation.
What Role Does Resentment Play in Your Healing?
It is important that you come to a place where you acknowledge that something terrible happened to you, and it was not, in any way, your fault. In this process, resentment is a perfectly natural emotion to feel.
Beyond that point however, resentment begins stall out your recovery. This is why I say that resentment is part of the healing process, but only a part. It is okay to experience negative emotions – the things you’re feeling are very valid – but when they begin taking over, that’s when we have a problem that needs to be addressed.
A sense of crushing resentment is a very good indicator that it’s time to seek out professional help. What you need in that moment is a safe space where you can begin coming to terms with the fact that your partner has a mental health problem, and that it’s impacting your mental health in turn. You need a place to breathe, collect yourself, and understand that resentment is not helping you heal.
Why Women’s Recovery Is Sometimes Difficult
When a man with a sex or porn addiction seeks out professional help, there is a clear problem (sex addiction) and a clear goal (recovery). When the partners of sex addicts seek out help, the problem is much more amorphous and difficult to quantify. The problem of betrayal is clear enough, but the goal may be different for every person. Perhaps you do want to heal the relationship, work together to mend old wounds and progress past this issue, but in other cases, you may come to the conclusion that the relationship is unsafe or unhealthy.
Your goal in counseling may change part way through, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you seek out a professional with whom to work through the many questions you will have.
Further complicating matters is the impression that the partners of addicts do not need professional help at all. There’s a notion out there that once the addict is in therapy or rehab, that’s that. Problem solved, right? He’s getting help, so you should be happy.
But then that happiness doesn’t come, and then where are we?
While it is very good that your partner is getting help, don’t forget that you need it too.