HealingRecoveryTools 4 minutes to read

You are nearly 12 months into your healing process. You have endured the grueling phase of unpacking shame and gut gnawing self-awareness. You have gained the strength and endurance that only adversity brings. You have an understanding that there is plenty of training left to do, and races to run, but the finish line in this first relay race is in sight.

Then, rounding the corner with the baton firmly in your hand, you reach out to pass it off to your spouse only to drop it. You just relapsed.

You can hear the collective groan of disappointment from your spouse and all those who are watching from the stands as the triumphant moment turns into a humiliating time of regret, disbelief, anger, shame…and well, more shame; which is likely rooted in a deep sense of failure. 

You find yourself saying, “But I’ve come so far. Why now?” Maybe you feel like you have been disqualified and all the hard work was for nothing. It can certainly feel this way. 

You have not been disqualified. Yes, it is a setback, but the race isn’t over. So what do we do next? 

Pick Up the Baton

Resist the urge to run away from the situation. Don’t blame the weather, the track conditions, or your spouse for the fumble. Move toward your teammate and together, make the choice to not quit.

Assess the Exchange Zone

There are many things to consider here, but first and foremost is to remember that you are on the same team, moving toward the same goal. 

Let’s talk about where we dropped the baton. Chances are, you didn’t drop it where you thought you did. Relapse begins 2-4 weeks prior to acting out. Oftentimes, the signs are there if you know where to look. Here are a few.

Check your FASTER Scale. Have you been in Exhausted? That’s one step away from Relapse. When you’ve depleted yourself, you’re susceptible to triggers that you could normally overcome or process in a healthy way. Or, have you said you are in Forgetting Priorities or Restoration? If you go straight from there to Relapse, this is an indication you’re in some sort of denial or willingly unaware. Health is guided by our commitment to pursue reality at all costs!

What does your Three Circles Exercise actually say? We would all like to fill it out once, check off the box, call it good, and move on to the next thing. But this exercise can dramatically direct the course of our healing. Chances are, you’ve been ignoring your Outer Circle or it’s filled with the word “Don’t” rather than “Do.” Listen to this fantastic podcast about how to make the most of your Outer Circle. 

Isolation: it’s the biggest factor driving your addiction. Do not confuse talking with or meeting with other people as being equal to community. It’s a part of it, but isolation is only broken through transparent, honest, and vulnerable interactions. Check out this podcast with one of Pure Desire’s clinicians, Robert Vander Meer; it explains why we make phone calls with other group members and what it means to be all these things!

Estimate the Cost of Continuing

Acknowledge that what you are experiencing is a setback, but it doesn’t mean your healing has to stop! The cost to move forward can feel especially high and you’ll have to take responsibility for it with those who have been affected by it. Be prepared to go to your group and be willing to honestly dissect the reasons behind this relapse. 

Engage with your spouse in difficult conversations without being defensive or justifying your actions. Be willing to take the next right step despite how hard it seems. 

Finish Strong

Do this for yourself, not for anyone else. This may sound self-centered, but it’s one of the most loving things you can do. When you pursue your own health, the payoff spills over to everyone. When you do this for someone else, you risk resentment, anger, and isolation. Doing this is not selfish; you are the driver of your own healing and this is important to remember. 

Listen for the Cheers

You are NOT alone. Despite your spouse’s anger, shock, frustration, and grief, the human spirit is longing for connection. Relapse will, at best, test this connection and oftentimes break connection for a time. By continuing to fight for your relationship, you are becoming trusted. Recovery is a direction, not a destination.  

Remember, your small group is cheering you on. This is precisely why these groups are, in part, effective. The longing in us all is to be fully known and still fully accepted and fully loved. Your trials, warts, bad moods, and even relapses are a part of you. Give your group the opportunity to speak to every part of you. Become transparent and vulnerable and let them be a part of your comeback!

Healing your marriage from the effects of sexual brokenness isn’t considered an official sport but it should be. The mental toughness can not be underscored. You have what it takes and Pure Desire is here to coach and prepare you for the endurance races ahead. We’ve been there, we get it, and we want to help you succeed.


The views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not reflect an official position of Pure Desire Ministries, except where expressly stated.

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Dan Howie

Dan is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). He has been involved with Pure Desire since 2007. Dan has a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Oregon State University and is known for asking great questions that promote self-discovery. More than anything else, Dan loves encouraging others in their healing journey.

1 Comment

  1. [email protected]

    I have a really big problem with the “allowance” of relapse. If our husbands relapse, we could get a STD and die of it. Being continually cheated on is abuse, emotional AND physical, plain and simple.

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