By Floyd Godfrey, LPC, CSAT candidate
I have worked with over 1,100 sexual addicts in the past fifteen years. I have also worked with most of their spouses. Something that continually walks into my office with these couples is the inability to attune to one another.
The ability to “attune” in a relationship is taught to us as children. However, this normal developmental ability is often disrupted. Sometimes addicts can trace back into their childhood the many difficulties they’ve had learning to emotionally connect - to his own parents, to coaches, to teachers, to mentors, to church leaders, to scoutmasters, or others. Sometimes the sexual addiction itself has created a major disruption in attachment with his spouse. Additionally, many partners can trace back into their own childhood some difficulties in attachment, or also the major disruption in attachment that was generated as a result of his behavior. His addiction generally creates trauma and disruption on a major scale.
Learning how to “attune” to one another in the marriage relationship will be an integral part for healing attachment disruption. In our sexual addiction program in Mesa Arizona we suggest four important guidelines that help in developing the skill of attunement. Try them out and see if it doesn’t indeed help you to engage more completely and attune to your partner.
1. Learn to listen without responding. It will throw off your attunement when you are thinking ahead about what you will say next. Or perhaps you are planning your rebuttal. Wait. Listen. Don’t talk while your partner is talking. Bit your tongue. Sit on your hands. Do anything it takes to learn to listen without responding.
2. Learn to use “I” statements. Avoid general terms. Bring it home and talk about yourself. I feel… I am experiencing… I need… I want to ask for… When you can learn to use “I” statements you will always be more focused on your own recovery work. Keeps it clean.
3. Learn to reflect back before you respond. This simply means to restate what you think you heard. Make sure you have the right information. When emotions are high you may misinterpret what is being communicated. Reflect back the content and ask if it’s correct. Don’t proceed without having a clear image of what’s being said.
4. Learn to ask permission before responding. Sometimes a partner just wants to be heard and doesn’t want or need your response. This goes for both husband and wife. A simple request for permission might sound like this: “Would it be okay if I responded?” If your partner says no then you must respect this – don’t respond.
Addicts will struggle with attunement. It takes time and practice. Try these simply suggestions and it will go smoother. If you’d like a free 15- minute consultation with a counselor who specializes in counseling services for sexual addiction in Mesa Arizona, then please call us. We’re happy to speak with you. (480) 668-8301.