After writing my last post, two things happened. First, my husband wrote an entry on his own blog talking about misery and that he is an addict and recovery is hard, and a choice, and that he is powerless and when he acknowledges his powerlessness, he is better able to see his way out of the darkness, or something like that. He is much more abstruse than I. My immediate reaction was that he was venting. He was frustrated and tired and wanted to off-load his bad feelings regarding my feelings towards last week’s conversation. It’s his blog, he can do as he wishes. The thing is though, this whole powerless thing is, the FIRST STEP. The way I look at it, they WERE powerless to the addiction before they got help. Now, now they should NOT be powerless to the addiction. He has knowledge, awareness, tools, and consequences staring him back in the face. He was always making choices, but now, now, 3 1/2 years in and with more than three years of rigorous therapy, an intensive multi-day seminar on his addiction given by an expert in the field, and months and months and months of twelve step work, he should be able to take some of that power back. Being kind to ourselves is one thing. Letting ourselves off the hook for continued bad behavior is another.
The next thing that happened is Maggie, a reader, recovering wife of a sex addict, posted an insightful comment. Her comment is useful and thought provoking to me, and I hope it is to other spouses as well. I have included it here in its entirety.
Kat, I am sorry you are going through this. I don’t have words of wisdom or advice, but please know that I care. I am 18 months post D-Day, have been through trauma therapy and have attended two support groups for 18 mos. Although, everyone’s story is unique, I have noticed some commonalities. Here are my observations:
1. The long-standing members in my two support groups are all women who are currently married to an SA who is in recovery. Some marriages are 35 years or more and most have been through counseling. The longest sobriety is 16 years, but there are several who have SAs with 13 years sobriety. My groups each meet once a week and typically have 7-8 women present.
2. In all cases, the acting-out behavior preceded the relationship, or began very early in the relationship. In most cases, it preceded the relationship. In most cases the behavior went on for years, even decades before the wife found out. All considered that they had good relationships and happy marriages prior to D-day.
3. The long-standing members in my groups are mostly fifty or older. We have young women attend once, maybe twice, then tell us they are divorcing. Their thinking seems to be that they were unlucky and they’ll do better next time. Possibly the length of the marriage contributes to whether a wife stays, i.e. more of an investment at stake.
4. All of the women in my groups have asked their partners if they would like to have an “open relationship” where both parties are free to date, have sex with others, etc. All the women say their SA partner was adamantly opposed.
5. This leads to what I’ve learned next- The acting out behavior seems to be fueled by secrecy, and covered up by lies. The SAs are accomplished liars who lie by omission, twisting facts, spinning info, etc. Their lies are generally believable. They tend not to tell “whoppers.”
5. The wives’ biggest complaint is the lack of intimacy in their relationships. I would say there is more sadness about that than the acting out.
6. SAs tend to be very delusional. One common delusion is that they tend to believe they look much younger than they are or are still sexy no matter how old. Thus SAs in their 60s or 70s believe because a young woman in her 20s or 30s is polite to them, she’s interested in them sexually. No joke.This comes up often.
7. Those who have stayed with partners for the long haul have learned to detach. They focus on what is good in the relationship and focus even more heavily on themselves. Most have separated their finances.
8. All the wives have learned to trust their instincts and intuition. If something doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t true. All have learned to “speak their truth” and let it go. For example, saying to the SA husband, “You seem preoccupied and distant,” as opposed to observing this behavior and saying nothing, or starting a fight about “what are they thinking about.”
9. No one in either group had a voluntary disclosure of the acting out behavior. All “discovered” it in some traumatic D-day fashion such as a phone call, a text, etc.
My relationship with my husband is 33 1/2 years long, 28 years married. His addiction and behavior definitely preceded me. It escalated over time. I knew nothing about sex addiction, nor the supposed “signs.” I was 50 when I got the call from the other woman. In other words, my husband was outed.
I absolutely 100% believed I had a good, loving, happy marriage and that my husband would never cheat on me. Some of that was true.
I have been counseled by younger women to leave my husband. I have asked my husband if he would prefer an open marriage and he is adamant against it. First because he could not imagine me having sex with anyone else (oh the irony), and second because he knows he would be giving over to his addiction and our relationship would crumble.
My husband does believe that if a woman is nice to him, that she “wants him.” He doesn’t always admit it, but I know the addict in him believes it. AND, unfortunately there are a lot of women whose self esteem is built on the attention of men.
Regarding intimacy, this is a tough one. How to define it all, non-sexual intimacy, sexual intimacy, connection, communication. This is an area for us where I believe more and better communication leads to more intimacy, both sexual and non-sexual. Much of the time we communicate better now than before d-day. I took our intimacy for granted before and didn’t question our sexual intimacy. Now, I question it sometimes. We both desire both non-sexual and sexual intimacy… that is a good thing. There are times, however, when Blue Eyes gets hung up on sexual rituals, and I know this is part of his addiction. We’re working on it.
I guess, in this case, it is a bit validating that me, my husband, our marriage, coincides with nearly each and every point Maggie has made above. Why validating? Because I am not the problem, our marriage was not the problem, my husband’s addiction was nurtured long before I met him, and sex addiction has a definition, and a pattern, and a recovery path, and hope for a fulfilling long term partnership. In my little world, my husband’s recovery path needs to be diligently followed, no excuses, and open communication is a must, but I know I only have control over me.