Here is my dilemma. My current and evolving story is about betrayal and subsequent trauma. Blue Eyes’s story is about addiction. His story has been about addiction all along. We have both been hurt. But I did not perpetrate hurt on anyone. My marriage was not struggling. Although my husband did work, at lot, he was not distant. He was not angry or resentful. I was happy and content. We had not grown apart. We did not argue. We weren’t having money problems. He wasn’t feeling neglected. I wasn’t feeling neglected. We both adore our little family. We grew a successful business together. We love each other. We have always been passionate, and nurturing and kind. That is the only story I knew, for 30 years. Before dday I could not imagine any reason why I would ever leave my husband. I couldn’t fathom any reason he would want to betray me. I had no idea what sex addiction was.
All my trauma responses since dday are direct consequences of my husband’s sex addiction behaviors, the betrayal he perpetrated on me and our relationship, and continued disclosures and lying as a result of his sex addiction. Exactly a year ago, I received trauma therapy at an institute in Los Angeles.
Below is an excerpt from an article written by a leader in the field of sex addiction-induced trauma:
Partners actually often experience clinically significant sex addiction-induced trauma (SAI-Trauma), which is the specific type of trauma and traumatic symptom clusters that result from the direct impact of the sex addiction and the associated chronic patterns of sexual acting out, relational perpetration, emotional abuse, deception, betrayal, psychological manipulation and compartmentalization. The clinical complexities and the degree and extent of psychological destabilization, ego fragmentation, relational and social ruptures and post-traumatic symptoms seen among partners are profound.
Sex addiction-induced trauma is particularly acute around discoveries (finding out about sexual acting out, deception and relational violations), disclosures (being told about sexual acting out, deception and relational violations) and around the continued traumatic incidents that result from the presence of sexual addiction in an intimate relationship and family system.
Partners often present with a set of symptoms that match symptoms similar to rape trauma syndrome (RTS) and complex post-traumatic-stress disorder (C-PTSD), including psycho-biological alterations, re-experiencing of the trauma, social and emotional constriction, constant triggering and reactivity, significant anxiety, emotional arousal and hyper-vigilance. Sex addiction-induced trauma is a highly specific type of trauma that involves nuanced symptoms that can include fear and panic of potential disease and contamination, fear of child safety and potential of child molestation, social isolation, embarrassment and shame and intense relational rupture and attachment injuries.(Partners of Sex Addicts Need Treatment for Trauma)
I knew nothing about this kind of trauma until I was treated for it. I lived in agony for four months before I was treated and many days I still live in agony. I had no idea this type of C-PTSD existed. I do not use this diagnosis as an excuse for not being able to control my emotions. It merely helps me understand what happened to me and how I need to go about healing myself and keeping myself safe. It helps me to know that there are people out there that understand what I am going through and they don’t accuse me of turning a blind eye, or ignoring the obvious, or being an inattentive wife or any other such bullshit. They were there to treat me and my brokenness. There are very few resources for the wife of a sex addict unless you want to admit that you are somehow culpable, which has never made sense to me personally. There are lots of websites on which women vent their concerns about their husband’s addiction and many women are there to tell you there is no such thing as recovery. Well, at this point, I can only focus on my own husband, and my own marriage. The institute was there to help me gain back some of the strength that was stolen from me when a horrible woman called my mobile phone and because of a sick sexual relationship she had had with my husband, she felt it was her right to say my name, and my son’s name, out loud, to me, and act like she somehow belonged in my husband’s life, and then my husband proceeded to spill his guts about his secret, dirty, disgusting, and destructive life… a secret life that spanned our entire 30 year relationship. The pain from dday and subsequent days and disclosures does not go away overnight. There was nothing gentle, or safe, or kind, or healthy about the way this trespass on my life transpired. I want to be able to say I will just will myself to happiness and healing, but I know that is not how this process plays out.
Both before and after my LA trauma therapy, I have had issues with both individual and couple’s counseling. At this point, I seem to be quite the failure at therapy actually and I have been trying to figure out why. The LA therapist grounded me, she helped me feel whole after the trauma. She helped me realize how I grew to be who I am and how strong I am. How I can survive and move on without my husband if I need to. I’m pretty sure I know why I have been unsuccessful with other therapy. I am a self confident, self reliant person who lives in my own reality. I am extremely resilient. During my life I have taken care of a mentally ill sister and I have experienced grief, namely death, and I have experienced pleasure and pain and all the emotions we go through in life. I have coped. In the past, my healing experience has generally been fast and furious. I am highly emotional and empathetic, but I understand that things happen in life…. people die, people suffer illnesses, it’s the natural process of things. Being betrayed by the one you love most, repeatedly, that is not natural. I have never dealt with anything like this and since I never thought it would or could happen, I was blindsided.
I never expected that the person I love most in the world would repeatedly and systematically betray me. On the best of days, now, I can understand that my husband has an addiction, and I can understand how that addiction controlled much of his behavior and therefore he was able to block me and my feelings out of his addictive lifestyle, as long as he came back home to me and our life together and I never found out, I can see how he managed it. On my worst days, I can still understand that my husband has an addiction, but I cannot understand how he hurt, lied to, betrayed, and ignored the needs of his family. I cannot understand how he could put our lives in danger. I still have bad days not because I don’t take care of myself. I still have bad days not because I don’t do fun things that make me happy and fulfill my creative needs. I still have bad days not because I don’t know how to heal. I still have bad days not because I don’t go to enough therapy… I still have bad days because it is incredibly difficult to be in a relationship with a recovering sex addict. It is not as simple as saying, hey honey, I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking, I’ll never do it again, let’s live happily ever after, okay? Obviously I am being facetious and even that scenario is incredibly difficult to bounce back from, but this sex addiction thing, it’s for life. It is difficult enough to trust a partner who has betrayed you, but how about one that has been seriously broken and addicted since he was a pre-adolescent?
I can be there for people, but I cannot truly help or heal them. Only they can do that for themselves. My sister taught me this. No matter how happy I am, no matter how many material things I purchase for her, no matter how much of me and my time I give her, she is the only one that can heal herself. I cannot give her my health and happiness. The same is true for my husband. But I have to live with my husband every day. I have to watch him live inside his head and know just how messed up that head really is. I no longer get to walk away from the mess, from the sickness, like I can with my sister. I stay and watch and wait for Blue Eyes to “go there” and it is painful. So, as we go off to therapy, he does individually, and then we do together, I have a chip on my shoulder. I didn’t do anything wrong… I want to be happy, I want to be healthy, I want to move forward, but there is something there in my subconscious, something whispering in my ear telling me it’s not safe. He’s not doing the work. He talks a good talk, and I want to believe… PEOPLE, I WANT TO BELIEVE HIM, but I don’t. It is easier to pretend than to heal from addiction. I have seen it before. I know how this story goes.
Blue Eyes has taken to reciting the first three lines of the Serenity Prayer when he is in an uncomfortable place, apparently it’s an AA thing.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I’m not sure I can really put the why into words, but sometimes the Serenity Prayer fucking pisses me off. I think it feels to me like more excuses, all that accepting things I cannot change and whatnot. Let’s just focus on recovery, shall we…
If I had my way, Blue Eyes would recite something more on the lines of:
I know I cannot alter the past, or right the wrongs
But I can make the necessary changes in my life to be the man I want to be
I can leave fear, and anger, and resentment behind
and treat my family with the love, respect, integrity, and honesty they deserve.
God help me be the man I pretended to be.
I know I can’t change him. I believe the reason the therapists come down so hard on me is because the whole antiquated sex addiction system is focused on the addict, and his recovery, and I am obstinate. I will not just roll over and accept whatever the system throws at me. I will not take responsibility for things I have not done and I will not wait around forever for Blue Eyes to figure out recovery. My trauma and my subconscious are not allowing me to accept the fact that my husband hasn’t changed. Just because he is not acting out sexually does not mean he is recovering. Addiction is so much bigger than that.
When The Shrink talked about sex addiction recovery being like a large mountain Blue Eyes must climb one step at a time, I understood what he was saying and I told him so. But what I said to him back then still holds true, he needs to be taking the steps to make any progress. I feel like I am looking at a man who is sitting at the bottom of the mountain and he is surrounded by gear, and a team of guides, but he is letting fear stop him from making the necessary steps to climb the mountain he must climb to save his life.
Blue Eyes has finally given himself a deadline for completion of his 4th step. He calls it the make or break step. Not sure what that means, but I hope completing it equates to progress I can feel in my bones because that little voice in my head is really nagging at me today, and it is incredibly difficult to ignore.