The Line-Upon-Line Relapse Prevention Intervention For Couples

How am I supposed to handle it when my husband (/boyfriend) has a “lost battle”?
I have agonized over hearing many wives ask this question.  They have agonized in search of an answer to the question.  They are criticized by some for being insufficiently supportive or cold hearted.  Others criticize them for being too forgiving and/or “letting him get away with it”.  I have made a strong effort to make sure what I write today will be equally beneficial to both men and women.  I hope you will find it useful.
Unfortunately, it is the hope of many sex addicts that their mis-behaviors are a personal issue and have no effect on their wives.   Some hope that their wife will not, “take it personally.”  I have heard some men say, “It has nothing to do with you.  Don’t worry about it.”  It would be nice, but this is not reality.  I won’t take time to talk about the effects of sexual misbehavior by men on women in detail here, but as you may have heard somewhere, “Thou shalt have no sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse.”  Viewing pornography and/or masturbating are having a sexual experience with someone other than your spouse, even if that someone is you by yourself.
I want men to succeed.  I want men to find the joy and relief of being liberated from sexual addiction.  I have found that men with sexual addictions want get rid of the problem even more than the women they are married to do want to get rid of it..  The advice I give today will be beneficial to both the husband and the wife.  Following through on the following ideas will be painful for both the husband and the wife, but, unfortunately, few medical interventions are not painful.  So, here we go….
There are a few goals we want to accomplish after a husband experiences a “lost battle”:
  • We want the wife to feel like something is being implemented that will help her feel safer if she chooses to stay in the relationship.  I do not have a problem with a woman showing the pain of anger and sadness when she learns of her husband’s mis-behaviors, but I ask her to do all she can to maintain her dignity as she expresses her anger and sadness (2 important emotions in the grieving process).
  • We want the husband to know in advance what the consequences will be so he doesn’t live his life with an ominous fear.  “How will she react this time if I am not able to win a battle?”
  • We need to send a message to the ‘addict’ part of the man’s brain, without destroying him.  This is a tough one, because good interventions often work similar to the way chemotherapy works – while it is our intention to go straight to the problem, sometimes the healthy parts of the brain get banged around a little bit along the way.  Sorry about this, but “no pain, no gain” :-/
  • We want the intervention to be as simple as possible.
  • We want to allow for the human side of the life experience – making mistakes – to not be an automatic move toward divorce.  We want the man who is having “lost battles” to have time to learn how to win his battles, but at the same time we want the woman to feel some degree of safety.
  • We want both the husband and the wife to have some time to re-solidify their relationships with God.
    • She needs to shift a little more of her weight onto Christ as her foundation.  She has heard enough horror stories (many of them true) that a man can really go off the deep end no matter how good he has been in the past.  She needs to do a little preparation, just in case.
    • He needs to turn to Christ instead of to his wife in order to climb out of the hole.  A wife was never intended to be a Savior, but a Helpmeet.  Each time a man has a “lost battle” he needs ever increasing amounts of support and training from a God who actually knows how to meet these needs.  It is not fair to burden any woman with the responsibility of saving a man from an addiction.
 So, here is how it works:
The
Line-Upon-Line
Relapse Prevention Intervention
For Couples
Whenever the husband has a “lost battle” (a sexual experience that does not involve his wife), I recommend the couple do the following.
  • The first time there is a “lost battle”, the husband spends 1 night NOT sleeping in the same bed as his wife.  (For boyfriend/girlfriend relationships you implement 1 full day of no contact.)  Instead, he sleeps at a safe distance from his wife.  This could be on the floor next to the bed or in a different house or somewhere in-between.  It depends on how far away the woman needs him to be in order for her to feel safe.  Ideally, this separation is implemented humbly by the husband; she chooses the distance.
  • The second time, the husband spends 2 nights NOT sleeping in the same bed as his wife.  (For boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, this is 2 full days.)  (Same rules as above.)
  • The third time, 3 nights….
  • Etc., etc., etc.
  • While she is alone, she sinks her roots deeper into her relationship with her Father in Heaven.  She taps into the Atonement to help her heal from the damage caused by his accident. She prepares herself for the possibility of her husband getting worse.  She is aware of her natural desire to hope he wins and returns to her and her children.  In Boy Scouts we called this, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
  • While he is alone, he calls upon the power of God to empower him to win such battles in the future.  He does research and studies what went wrong and trains to make sure he will never lose a battle like that ever again.  He finishes his repentance process so that when he returns to his wife, she will have an easier time forgiving him.
  • When they return to each other’s presence, she will be tentative; she will not know if he is rededicating himself to her and the marriage, or if he is still far away.  Many men with addictions approach her with a tentative attitude, this causes confusion for both.  Because he is the one who “left” her, because he wants to be the Patriarch, he needs to be the one who initiates the re-merger of the relationship.  He needs to announce to her his commitment and desires before he asks to hear hers.
  • Sometimes the woman responds warmly quickly.  Sometimes she needs to adjust, but almost every woman I have worked with will be forgiving if the man will take responsibility for his mis-behaviors and do the work it takes to repent.
  • No matter how much time goes by between lost battles, the couple should still implement the next # of days apart in the sequence.  This helps both, because both know in advance the consequences.  The addict part of the brain has a hard time taking over when there is a concrete consequence in place.
  • If the couple gets to 3 days apart, it is time to get the Bishop involved.
  • If the couple gets up to 7 days, both the husband and the wife need to see a professional healer and trainer.  (At this point, it is time for the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship to consider the possibility that he is not ready to enter a serious relationship.  I would recommend they take a break until he can get at least 12-perfect weeks in a row.  If it were my daughter, I would suggest she start dating others while she hopes he will win the race for her hand.  Sad, but necessary.)
  • If the situation gets to the point where they are spending 30 days apart, it may be time for the woman to consider letting the marriage come to an end.  This is sad, but there does come a time.
As you can see, the more “lost battles” the man has, the more time the two spend apart.  The more time they spend apart, the more time the woman has to prepare for life without him.  Another lost battle means the man is insufficiently trained and empowered to win.  Logically, this means he needs more time than he had last time to prepare.  It just makes sense to give him one more day than last time to acquire the extra resources to win for the rest of his life.  When apart if the man loves his wife his love will grow in intensity.  His pain of being apart will grow, hopefully to the point where he will never forget how much it hurts to be without her. 
I have seen many couples implement this intervention system, and I find it to be quite powerful and effective.  I am sad that for both it is very painful during the intervention, but I promise you, if done correctly, it will greatly strengthen the relationship.  Love for God and love for each other increases.  Relapses decrease.  She feels less pain and more security.  He feels more confidence and self-worth.
Let me know if you have any questions.

About Maurice W. Harker, LPC

Director of Life Changing Services, Director of Sons of Helaman, Facilitator of the WORTH group, Consultant for the Daughters of Light program.