Working with Betrayed Partners with Michelle Mays

Michelle Mays joins the podcast to talk about how the model of working with partners of addicts, her own story of partner betrayal and how it fueled her to make a positive impact in the field, her complex betrayal trauma model, and how partners that have been cheated on finding their way to healing themselves and find peace again.   Michelle runs PartnerHope site and has an amazing treatment center of her own, the Center for Relational Recovery.   TAKEAWAYS: [1:25] Michelle Mays received her Masters in Counseling in 2001 in Seattle, Washington where she then opened a private practice. In 2005 she crossed the country and moved back to Northern Virginia where she opened a private practice in Leesburg. One of Michelle’s passions is to educate and train other counselors to become excellent providers of care and healing for clients. In 2011 Michelle founded the Center for Relational Recovery, a counseling and training center focused on providing leading-edge treatment to sex addicts, partners of sex addicts, trauma survivors, and those struggling with relationship issues. [2:45] Michelle herself was in a relationship with someone that was a sex addict, so she had her own journey dealing with the hurt and struggle of getting help. She found that many people didn’t understand addiction treatment, and they minimized her confusion, pain, anger and distress. [8:23] When betrayed partners come in reeling from the pain of infidelity, they are in the middle of an unfolding trauma. Michelle realizes that it is a very visceral response, and it’s important for the therapist to realize they are seeing people in the middle of a crisis. [11:23] It’s important for therapists to notice their own stress levels and deal with them appropriately rather than trying to lessen someone’s pain due to their own internal feelings of overwhelm to a strong and emotional reaction. [13:13] Grief counselors know that people are blaming themselves and feeling a lot of remorse. Rob’s experience is that partners coming in who have just been betrayed also are experiencing grief, and therefore remorse. [14:51] Michelle has developed a model for working with complex betrayal trauma, which looks at three different components that bleed together. Attachment trauma affects the way your attachment system has been impacted by the betrayal, and how the healthy bond has been disrupted and impacted. When things are traumatic in the relationship, it deregulates the partner rather than providing a sense of safety. Emotional and psychological trauma which are the result of being lied to and being manipulated in your perception of reality. This creates doubt and is most definitely a form of abuse. Rob says the intention of the cheater is not to hurt their partner, in fact, they are not thinking about the other partner's emotions at all. They are trying to cover their own tracks, without much thought to anyone else’s feelings.   Sexual trauma ranges across the board and affects many facets of the partner’s identity and sexual confidence. [27:23] The betrayed partners must fully understand the depth of the betrayal, so they can know all the information, feel the pain and move on. Michelle says it takes at least a year for the betrayed partner to begin to feel like themselves again in the relationship. [27:48] When partners do detective work, they may find bits and pieces that hurt them more. It takes the other partner to sit down and tell them everything so they can get a full idea of what’s happening. [30:01] The more Michelle looks at research on attachment, the more she understands why such a high number of partners stay together after a betrayal. [30:30] On her website for betrayed partners, Partner Hope, Michelle has written about the shame that betrayed partners feel when deciding to stay. Our cultural story about leaving and never looking back is very different from the reality of what is happening. [33:11] At the Center for Relational Recovery, Michelle and her team treat the addict, partner and the relationship all at one time.   RESOURCES Sex and Relationship Healing @RobWeissMSW Sex Addiction 101 Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency Partner Hope Center for Relational Recovery michellemays@relationalrecovery.com   QUOTES: “There’s this idea that if your partner cheats on you and you’re female, you have either done something or not done something. This causes partners to internalize and feel an enormous amount of shame.” “When you have a partner coming in to your office, there is no post for them, they are usually mid-trauma.” “When people pair up in long-term relationships, they actually become one biological unit. You truly become an organism together.” “Most addicts and cheaters are caught in a dilemma because they have competing attachments, their partner and the cheating or affair partner.” “If you can’t bear to be sexual with your partner, there is something seriously wrong.” “Detective work and sleuthing is a way to have control over an out of control situation.”

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