Usually married couples facing infidelity or sex addiction find out the hard way that:
None of us want to experience pain, so perhaps you try to ignore the problem.
For many it just feels overwhelming and they don't know where to start.
It is a VERY isolating and lonely experience to be facing a broken marriage or a potential divorce and not know who you can turn to.
To put it bluntly: your best thinking got you here. Or your spouse's best thinking. And the tough thing is that you don't know what you don't know. What if you have a blindspot that you're not aware of?
I say this with kindness and respect, but if you could figure it out on your own, you probably wouldn't be reading this.
Ask yourself, is the health of your marriage something you want to gamble with and avoid getting help around?
You go to the doctor when you get sick, why wouldn't you get help when your marriage is sick?
It is slow: it typically takes 3-5 years.
This slowness increases the likelihood of more betrayal and needless struggles because of not getting adequate support quickly enough. This is unacceptable.
It is expensive: this ads up to $18,000 - $58,000 in couples counseling costs (at weekly sessions ranging in cost from $120-$225/hour). But this does not include the cost of individual counseling, which could be another $10,000-$100,000 depending on if one or both are going to individual counseling and how long they attend.
This doesn't count the indirect costs of the pain you are experiencing. Think about it. If you are like most people, you spend money when you're in pain, and not in a responsible way. Many couples who actually dare to take a look and calculate the indirect costs end up realizing it is in the tens to even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Or have you tried to see a therapist only to find that they don't get back to you and you can't even get in?
Or perhaps you have done counseling only to discvoer that the therapist didn't specialize in the area of sexual betrayal and addiction. When you need surgery, you want a surgeon who specializes in what you need to have surgery on. You don't see a general practitioner to get the surgery done.
Don't trust your biggest marital problem to a general practitioner therapist, let alone one who doesn't specialize in working with couples, or one who doesn't specialize in sexual betrayal and addiction.
Another common dynamic is that you may have an individual therapist and a couples therapist. Then the challenge becomes integrated care.
Are the multiple therapists on the same page? Are they meeting weekly? Do they have the same theoretical framework, background, and training? Are they even both Christians?
If the answer is no to any of these questions, you can be receiving different conflicting perspectives that makes things more confusing, not more clear.
We should know about the difficulties of couples counseling, we've been helping couples for a combined 3 decades as couples therapists. Our insight into the slowness in the counseling process, the lack of integrated care, and the lack of great alternatives is what led us to create the Overcome Program.
We didn't see the kind of help that people need available so we decided to create our own program of integrated care that focuses on helping you overcome your greatest marital challenges.
This could be a 12 Step group such as SA or SAA, or a faith-based recovery group such Celebrate Recovery.
It's understandable why people might try this approach. They are typically free, and sometimes offered by their church. They can actually help.
However, many people we talk to find surprising challenges with recovery groups. Here are just a few.
1. It is difficult to identify the right group for you. There are many different types of groups. Here are a few: SA, SAA, AA, Al-Anon, SAA-PP, CR, Pure Desire, Samson Society, CODA, SLAA. Each group has it's own culture, it's own perspectives (often conflicting with other groups), and it's own process. It can be quite difficult and be an arduos process to identify which group will work for each partner.
2. Recovery groups are often being led by unqualified people who haven't experienced deep transformation themselves...they can be currently still struggling and stuck themselves while trying to actually LEAD others!
While noble and I'm sure they have great intentions and it may be better than nothing, a well-meaning heart doesn't mean they actually have the skills and wisdom to help.
3. Recovery groups can be overly rigid. Let's say the leader actually has experienced healing in their own life. Many of these 'sponsors' or 'lay leaders' in these groups learn what worked for them and then rubber stamp this as a solution for everyone else.
But each individual and each marriage is unique. There are general principles to help people overcome their struggles, but deep transformation is not a one-sized-fits-all process.
If you disagree or differ in an area that they hold dear, then sadly you can be shunned, disrespected, or kicked out of the group...the exact opposite of what a transformational community should do.
4. Typically only one partner finds support in a recovery group, not both. The most common scenario is that the husband eventually finds a helpful recovery group, but the wife doesn't. The lack of mutual support presents a real challenge in both in integrated, connected, timely support for both the husband and wife.
5. It can be chaotic, confusing, and slow to find helpful mentoring. Our experience in seeing many different types of recovery groups personally and via our clients' experience is that it typically takes months for people to find a good, qualified, helpful sponsor or leader who can actually help and is committed and involved. Do you have that kind of time when your life and your marriage needs help now?
6. Most recovery groups are linear, 'packaged' processes. They follow a book or a workbook in a structured way because they are designed to provide general support to the masses. This can of course work, but as a linear process, what if you need help in week 3 of your journey but it isn't covered until week 18 or week 38 in the workbook or the process?
We still recommend local recovery groups when they make sense, but we have seen that couples do best when they have integrated care that is in addition to a recovery group and can help the couple navigate the process of identifying and choosing the right group for them.
You deserve the best support you can find.
Do you find you are unable to talk about what matters most?
Even if you have tried over and over, be honest with yourself, is what you have tried, actually working?
Or does it lead to more anger, conflict, and shutting down?
Does trying to talk about things actually make things worse?
Or are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of even talking about this struggle? Are you having the conversation in your head but actually have no clue how to talk to your spouse?