The “S” Angle
So what exactly is The “S” Angle, anyway? It’s my attempt to delicately reference the world of compulsive sexual behavior—issues that include problematic and/or addictive use of lust, sex, pornography, masturbation, cybersex, phone sex, prostitution, emotional affairs, physical infidelity and more.
By one interpretation, The “S” Angle references the person who actively engages in these behaviors . By a related interpretation, The “S” Angle” also seeks to address these issues from their equal-and-opposite perspective. Within my practice, I speak to the clients who identify “S” issues within their own lives AND those who discover “S” issues in their intimate partners or other loved ones.
Here’s the truth that I cannot ignore: Very few human beings make it through life unaffected by “S” issues. (If you’re one of them, I’m deeply happy for you, and I’d love to hear more!) For the rest of us, we tend to keep “that stuff” to ourselves, isolating from even our closest friends and family. We aren’t always sure how to handle these situations, but we tend to acquire TONS of emotional baggage about sex and relationships. I know how heavy those burdens of shame and secrecy can get, and I know how quickly they morph into a soul-sick way of life.
As someone who cares, I wish that I could prevent the pain of “S” issues altogether. I obviously can’t do that. But as a helping professional, I strive to do the next best thing: I work with clients to help them see their situation clearly, sort through their emotions, pick up the pieces and figure out what happens next.
If any of this strikes a personal chord, I invite you to be brave! Perhaps it’s time to risk being vulnerable, to share about your own brush-ups with sexual compulsivity—for the sake of your own serenity, dignity and emotional wellbeing. My proverbial door is always open, and I’m willing to discuss “that stuff” with you at any point. I’ve worked with countless men, women and couples (even adult children) facing “S” issues, so your reality won’t shock me. In fact, your story is likely more common than you realize.
In closing, I’ll leave you with three thoughts about The “S” Angle: (1) If you’re in “that spot,” you are NOT alone! You’re actually in the company of many others—some of the most beautiful, intelligent, spiritual and successful human beings you’ll ever meet. (2) No matter what you’re facing, your feelings are important. Your emotional needs are valid, and your experience is legitimate. (3) The concept of “healing” is NOT an empty promise—it’s actually a very possible, very practical and very attainable reality.
In the interest of self-disclosure, I relate to The “S” Angle with firsthand experience. I’ve encountered “S” issues in both of my significant relationships: once in my first marriage (the one that ended abruptly after I discovered my husband’s hidden sexual life), then once again in my second marriage (the relationship I passionately fought to support and survive for more than a decade).
What do I hope to accomplish by telling you my own “S” Angle story? Bottom line, I’m committed to honor the ways “S” issues have affected my life as a woman, and to authentically reflect the ways those experiences inform and influence my work as a partners coach.
My “S” Angle story started with the disintegration of my first marriage, circa 2002. I know this sounds melodramatic, but I honestly thought I might die from the pain of that rejection. As a young woman of faith, divorce was my worst nightmare, something that I honestly never saw coming. As one might expect, I experienced deep feelings of betrayal, abandonment and personal loss. But what caught me off guard—what I didn’t anticipate, even as I began to accept the inevitability of our divorce itself—was the traumatic process of slowly uncovering my husband’s hidden sexual life. Those “drip-drip” discoveries compounded my original wave of shock and grief, introducing me to a reality I struggled to comprehend.
Fast-forward a few years. Emerging from that experience, I received “a second chance” at life and love. I engaged my next serious romance older and wiser, with different needs and expectations. I chose a man I believed wouldn’t leave me, seemingly committed to emotional intimacy, and someone who would fight like hell for me and our relationship—which I believe he did at various points. We knew that our marriage wouldn’t be easy, so we both committed that when things got tough, we would pursue whatever support we needed to make it work. Before long, I realized that “S” issues were once again threatening to implode my most intimate relationship—and even though these new behaviors were notably different than the ones I’d discovered in my first marriage, I found myself tweaked into a keenly familiar emotional dynamic, one I now recognize as complex trauma (C-PTSD). This time around, I was grateful to have a husband who humbly acknowledged his personal “S” issues, willing to seek solutions to a problem that had haunted him for decades. Together, he and I reached out for help, desperate to avoid the breakdown of our beautiful-but-struggling romance.
The powerful part of this story—and the reason I consider it a legitimate part of my coaching website—is the fact that my husband and I DID find help, both independently and together. We connected with a network of knowledgeable professionals (therapists, coaches, educators, authors, clinicians) and non-professional support communities. These people quickly recognized our self-defeating behaviors and intimacy-killing disorders, a long list that included sex addiction, emotional trauma, family-of-origin issues, codependence, fear, anger and clinical depression. Our support team never labeled us or put us in a box. They didn’t dictate our decisions, or tell us what we “ought to” do. Instead, they gave us tools to repair our relationship and heal ourselves. Those resources gave us a concrete foundation for healing and recovery, both separately and together. In short, they gave our relationship a true, fighting chance.
The “S” Angle is my primary niche coaching specialty. Hands down, it’s the most challenging (and rewarding) work I do, and it’s the topic that most closely integrates my personal experience with my professional expertise. In addition to learning from experts in both healthy human sexuality AND problematic sexual behavior, I’ve been educated and certified by The Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists since 2015, incorporating APSATS’ Multidimensional Partners Trauma Model (MPTM) into my work with ALL parties impacted by sexual betrayal.
Within this niche specialty, “S” Angle coaching features many of the same concepts and goals involved in basic life coaching. (You can read more about my coaching philosophy and protocols here and here.)
When I coach clients around their “S” Angle experiences, my job is to champion ALL my clients in meeting their own unique needs, goals and priorities, whatever those may be. Like it or not, this is never a “one size fits all” proposition. Sometimes, a client may be seeking my support to navigate divorce from a sexually addicted spouse. Other times, a client may wants tools and resources to remain (safely) within an intimate relationship. As a trauma-informed practitioner, it is NEVER my job to make that decision on behalf of any client, and I will NEVER disrespect or disregard my client’s decision, no matter what that decision might be.
When I’m working with “S” Angle clients, I do engage a unique set of skills and specialty training, one that addresses the very personal (and sometimes very complicated) world of sexual and relational betrayal. Most importantly, I’m emphatically trained to practice a trauma-informed and partner-sensitive approach to coaching individuals and couples through this profoundly inimitable experience.
So, what does that look like when working with clients navigating through the aftermath an “S” Angle discovery? Here are a few important examples:
- I will never blame my clients for their loved ones’ sexual behavior, nor will I ever hold my clients responsible for healing their intimate partners.
- I will never excuse or enable behavior (sexual or relational) that is harmful to others.
- I will never label you, your loved ones, or your behaviors without your active participation and permission; by contrast, I WILL offer my help to explore and determine which categorizations most appropriately characterize you and your situation.
- I will never label my clients as codependent, co-addicted, or co-enabling.
- I will never expect my clients to sacrifice their own wellbeing to facilitate their partners’ recovery; by contrast, I will seek to help you consider ways that healing can be a mutual beneficial (versus solitary) experience.
- I will invite you to hold yourself accountable for wrongs you’ve perpetrated against yourself and others.
- I will encourage you to make both initial and perpetual amends to those you’ve wounded, either intentionally or inadvertently.
- I will respect my clients as human beings who love other human beings—often in a mixture of both healthy and unhealthy ways—not as someone who is dysfunctional, pathological or problematic based upon the behaviors of their intimate partners.
- I will support my clients in one of three capacities: (a) as human beings who’ve been caught in the crossfire of their loved ones’ problematic sexual and relational behavior, (b) as human beings who perpetrate problematic sexual and relational behavior against their loved ones, and/or (c) human beings who demonstrate complex combination of roles within their most intimate relationships.
- I will suggest healthy resources to help my clients understand all forms of sexual, relational and existential trauma—including (but not limited to) abandonment, abuse, addiction, betrayal, deception, divorce, infidelity and more—for the primary (essential) purpose of processing how those things impact YOU as an individual, then for a secondary (elective) purpose of understanding how those things impact your significant others.
- I will help my clients discern what “healthy choices” look like for them, both as individuals and as partners, within this “new normal.”
- When it comes to healing the relational trauma induced by various “S” Angle experiences, I will ensure my clients are referred to higher levels of therapeutic care when needed.
When I coach “S” Angle clients, there are a few themes that surface even more commonly and consistently than in general life coaching. These clients often seek and require focused care and consideration, specifically for support in these relevant areas:
- to clarify their internal and relationship realities;
- to discern between known facts and unknown factors;
- to protect themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and financially;
- to identify their own needs, then take healthy action to get those needs met;
- to strengthen their own voices within their relationships;
- to explore, understand, establish and enforce healthy boundaries, both internal (personal) and external (interpersonal)
- to reconnect with their own intuition, honor their gut instincts, and trust in themselves;
- to explore what is “normal” and “healthy” when when it comes to human sexuality, with special focus on the complexities and processes of recovery from problematic sexual behavior;
- to define for themselves what acceptance, forgiveness and healing actually mean, both individually and relationally;
- to reenvision their future lives, with or without their partners, in the aftermath of their “S” Angle experiences;
- to practice abundant, legitimate and absolutely NECESSARY amounts of self care!!!
Private Peer-Support via Social Media
Relational trauma can result in profound social transition and/or isolation. Due to that fact, many survivors turn to social media for connection, validation and supportive interaction—often resulting in relationships between “strangers” who ultimately feel more like “sisters.” To that end, it’s been my honor to create and moderate two free peer-support groups via Facebook, empowering woman around the world to meet others who share similar experiences. Within these spaces, communications are ONLY visible to other group members, protected from exposure to family, friends and other social media contacts. All group members are required to submit an online Participation Agreement, acknowledging their voluntary commitment to self-responsibility, confidentiality and non-judgment toward others.
At present, I moderate two different peer-support groups via Facebook:
- THE “S” ANGLE | For any woman facing the impact of a loved one’s “S” issues—infidelity, pornography, secrets and/or sex addiction—regardless of relationship status (dating, engaged, married, separated, divorced, in-transition, etc). To join this private group, please click here
- ALONE IN THE AFTERMATH | For any woman who is divorced, divorcing and/or separated in the aftermath of sexual betrayal—those whose relationships do NOT survive the trauma of “S” Angle discovery and recovery. To join this private group, please click here
- HEALING TALKS BACK | My general business page, highlighting content relevant to trauma-informed coaching, consultation and supervision. This page also features my commentary on various social issues from a trauma-informed perspective AND provides information about my upcoming media interviews, speaking engagements and support group offerings. To view or follow this public page, click here
- THE “S” ANGLE | My niche-specific business page, highlighting content relevant to recovery from “S” issues—infidelity, pornography, secrets and/or sex addiction. To view or follow this public page, click here