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Make It Stop!! Josh Duggar and Ashley Madison – Will “It” Ever Go Away?

"One's first step in wisdom is to question everything – and one's last is to come to terms with everything."

– Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


For the spouse betrayed by Sexual Addiction, reminders can seem everywhere. These reminders are called triggers. Triggers to  “offensive stimulus” feel like they might not ever go away.  In the recent days of the Ashley Madison Data Breach and Josh Duggar’s sexual secrets revealed, spouses report in my office asking if the reminders of their own life’s betrayals might ever stop.  

Recently clients have said in my office:

·      “Can I ever go out to dinner again and not be reminded of what is going on in my life?” 

·      “Do I have to hear people talking about the news non-stop?”

·      “Movies and television shows make me so angry.  I didn’t realize how commonplace this was until I am agitated every time I see a reminder of what has impacted my life!!”

When a spouse discovers things that were held secret by their spouse, they literally are in a traumatized state.  When something reminds them of the trauma experienced in their relationship, e.g. a movie scene of an affair, this reminder trigger pulls their minds back to the trauma as if they are experiencing the trauma all over again.  The phenomenon is similar to war veterans experiencing PTSD when they come home from battle and hear a car backfire.  The backfiring car reminds the veteran of gunfire experienced on the battle field. 

When a spouse discovers that their life is not all they thought it was to be, thoughts move to fear and safety concerns.  In this fear and in trying to make sense of things, spouses literally question:

·      “Am I safe?” 

·      “How do I know if I am safe?”

Spouses impacted by sex addiction often knew there was something wrong but given that it was so hidden, they thought they were going crazy or something was wrong with them.  Even more than post-traumatic stress, spouses experience what is known as Betrayal Trauma.  Betrayal Trauma cuts even deeper.  If you think about the person on the battlefield who is hurt by the enemy, they didn’t know the offending party before the attack and don’t have a relationship with them after the attack.  In the marriage impacted by Sex Addiction, the offending party not only knew them but they entrusted this person to care for them and “have their back” so to speak.  This fact deepens the effects of the trauma experienced and the fears about a sense of safety in the relationship and overall in one’s life.

Spouses report after discovery:

·      Their life is not as they know it.

·      They feel like there is no one they can talk to about what is going on in their life.

What’s a person to do that realizes their life was not all they thought it to be?  What should you do if you are experiencing post traumatic stress?

No one should go it alone!  There is safety in numbers.  Find people to run with who have experienced similar betrayal.  Individual therapy, marital therapy, family therapy, therapy groups, and support groups can be very helpful.  Finding a therapist that specializes in Trauma or Sex Addiction (Certified Sex Addiction Therapists – CSAT’s) can be extremely helpful.  Support groups like S-Anon, COSA, or Al-Anon can be very helpful.  A trauma resolution technique called EMDR, which was founded to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress, can be an effective consideration.  Relationship Recovery Center has therapists that are specifically trained to help individual, couples, and families heal in these ways.


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