betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About Gaslighting; Knowing the Signs, and How to Stop It

If you have been cheated on and haven’t heard the terms “gaslighting” or “crazy-making” you are probably still very confused about some of your addict’s behaviors.  In 1938 there was a stage play, and later, a movie called “Gaslight.  The premise of both was a husband who systematically convinced his wife that she was insane by destabilizing her by de-legitimizing her memories and beliefs.  He rearranged furniture, reinvented conversations, and turned down the gas lights. When she would question what was happening around her he would deny all of it in the attempt to make her believe she was losing her mind.  Addicts, narcissist, and sociopaths all behave in the same way.  This is why the term is now to describe the behavior of addicts, manipulation, and other psychotic disorders.  Gaslighting is a real thing and it maybe happening in your relationship, especially if your husband has been found cheating on you. Chances are that you already know it has happened to you or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.

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What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a powerful manipulation tactic used by one person in a relationship to  control the other person by making them question their reality or truth.  You might say that you would never fall for anything so sinister, and that is easy to say, however, gaslighting happens so subtlely and slowly that the damage is often already complete long before you are ever aware that you have been manipulated.

Gaslighting is a common practice for politicians, religious and business leaders, bullies, and even the media.  We can almost tolerate it in these people, we can even roll our eyes at it, but when it comes from our significant other, that is a whole other story! Gaslighting is used by the powerful against the weak to lower their self-esteem and independence, to keep them in their place, and from fighting back.  If the gaslighter is successful, their victim will be left powerless, confused, and unable to defend herself. You will truly feel that you have lost your mind! The whole point of gaslighting is to keep you from learning the truth about your husbands addiction and betrayal.

In a relationship where one spouse is cheating on the other one, gaslighting is just one of many methods employed by the cheater to cover his tracks. Gaslighting can happen in the relationship for years without detection, before, during, and after the cheating has been discovered.

How Do You Know If You Have Been Gaslighted?

There are 10 manipulation techniques used in gaslighting to successfully make you think that you are the one who is crazy so that he can continue to cheat on you without your knowledge, keep you in the dark once the affair(s) has been discovered, and continue to abuse you going forward:

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The Lies That Come in Every Shape, Color, and Size

Everyone experiences little white lies.  You know, the kind where you tell someone they don’t look bad in a dress when they really do, just to spare their feelings. That is not what I am talking about here.  Gaslighters intentionally lie and they do it without guilt or remorse.  They are able to lie to you straight to your face when they KNOW what they are saying is a bold-faced lie and that you do not believe it. These lies are designed to set a precedent for future lying.  It reminded me a lot of how Satan lies, a little truth mixed with a lie, just enough to make it believable.  A gaslighter will throw in just enough truth to make it plausible, but everyone in the room knows it’s a lie; you know it, he knows it, and he knows you know it.  Once this happens its a game changer.  From this point on you are not sure if anything else he says to you is the truth.  The purpose of this lie is to keep you off-balance, from now on, you will question everything, wonder why it’s happening, and not trust yourself, or him. Its a terrible feeling to not trust the one person who you should trust the most!

My ex-husband diabolically told me he was cheating again, just days after I had realized that I had actually begun to trust him again after his “first” affair. It took me 5 years to trust him again, and then one day he says to me, out of the clear blue sky, “You think I am cheating on you again, don’t you? You will NEVER trust me again, ever! I am tired of having to live this way, always wondering if you will ever trust me again!” I had said nothing for him to bring this up! I was immediately put between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand I was forced to defend my honor by telling him that I did truly trust him, on the other hand he was daring me to ask him if he was cheating again so he could berate me.  I didn’t know what to say. So I said nothing.  And from this point on I was put on edge.  Later, I was to find out that he was, in fact, having another affair, and he had been doing so for at least a year! The lie was that he was calling me out as the one who had trust issues and he was daring me to confront him. The truth was that he WAS cheating again! Rather than just being honest and confessing, he decided he would call my loyalty to him into question! This is so wrong on so many levels!

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Everyone Else is the Liar

Anyone who disagrees with the gaslighter is an automatic liar.  Nobody is telling the truth…ever. And once a person has been deemed a liar anything that comes out of their mouth from then on out is a lie. This tactic is employed to isolate you from knowing the truth.  If he can convince you that everyone else is lying then you will rely on him to be the sole source of all truth. This effectively works to keep you from seeking help from people who are in a position to really help you. All of a sudden your family is a lying to you, or out to get him, or manipulating you.  You can’t believe what your Bishop is telling you, how could you listen to your therapist, your best friend has always hated him, how can you possibly believe all these liars in your life? Over time, the victim with start to believe the lies and this is dangerous for everyone, especially to herself.  It’s best to get away while you still have your wits about you. More about that later.

Once he convinces you to dismiss all the liars in your life it leaves the gaslighter with complete control over you.  Don’t fall for it! I had this happen to me so often it is difficult to come up with just one example, but this one stand out:

I had made an appointment for us to go to LifeStar.  He had agreed to go with me to get help to save our marriage.  Once we were there, he said he never agreed to go and then he did everything to discredit everyone in the clinic.  The therapists where crazy, the program wasn’t good enough, no excuse was too far-fetched make them, or me, seem crazy for making him go there.  He even convinced the therapists and members of his group that he did not have an addiction, or so he thought. The bottom line was that we were all liars and we were all ganging up on him and accusing him of being an addict when he really wasn’t one.  We were all the evil meanies! He was innocent and nobody believed him.

The only way to protect yourself from the lying is to keep good records of everything.  Don’t keep records to prove to him that he is a liar, keep the records to prove to yourself that he is a liar. He won’t believe the proof anyway.

Denial is Not a River in Egypt!

You probably have noticed that addicts are equally adept at denial as they are at lying. They will say or do something, and then turn around and flat-out deny that they ever said or did something.  And you are not immune from this bait and switch contortion.  They will also deny that you ever said or did something that you darn well know you said or did! Even when faced with concrete evidence they will find one fault or chink in the armor to discredit the whole thing.

What was the most frustrating thing for me is the denial my ex-husband had for my own motives.  I told him at every step along the way of a painful, 4-year process, that if he would get himself into recovery, come up with a plan to provide me with safety so I could trust he would not cheat on me again, and if he would get into a 12-steps program with a sponsor, and meet with his Bishop every week, that I would move back in with him.  I also told him after I filed for a divorce that if he would do these things I would be willing to stop the divorce and work on putting our marriage back together.  The last time I told him this was the day before the divorce papers were sent to the judge. I even told him after the divorce was final that if he would get his act together and do these things I would re-marry him. But he denies ALL of it!  According to him, I NEVER said those things!  Even in the presence of emails and texts to the contrary, I never said any such thing, according to him. He even went so far as to tell me that if I had said that to him that he would have done what I asked.  (Projecting all the fault and blame for it back on to me.) I even spent 9 months of his first year of marriage to his wifestress trying to convince him that I did, in fact, tell him those things!  It was a humiliation that I will not forget anytime soon.  In the end, nothing will convince him, short of being struck down by God, that I ever said I wanted him to come back.

The problem with all the denial is that as it progresses your brain is already hardwired to recognize and record patterns of behavior.  Over time, you will start to question if you are the one at fault because it has now becoming a pattern.  You will start to tell yoursef that maybe you misunderstood, forgot, mis-heard, or are just losing it. The irony is that the lies that you knew were so wrong, begin replace your own reality through the persistent and relentless denial. Couple this with what happens in the brain when betrayal trauma is present and you have the perfect storm for being caught in this manipulation with NO WAY to escape on your own.  The more I read about the gaslighting and narcissistic abuse, present in porn and sex addiction, the more I am grateful that I had the wherewithal to come out of it alive. I was truly watched over and protected in spite of my own denial from believing he could be capable of doing this to me.

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Their Walk and Their Talk Don’t Match

When your partner is an addict their walk and talk will never match.  They will say one thing and do something completely different.  As a result you will always question their motives and behavior. It keeps you off-balance and wondering what is really true. Once you are in this maze of deceit there is no why out. The more you try to make sense of it, the harder you try, the deeper into the maze you go, and the more lost you become.  They will keep telling you they want you back, and they love you, or will do anything to put your family back together, but until those words are backed up with matching actions, it is always a deadend. Always!

My ex-husband professed undying love to me so many times I lost count.  And each time I would fall for the lies only to be broadsided by another affair partner telling me that my husband was cheating on me.  This happened to me 6 times until a therapist gave me a lifeline, that I will pass on to you:

“Men have two tongues, the one in their mouth and the one on their shoes.  Ignore the one in their mouth and just watch the one on their shoes.”

In other words, don’t listen to a thing he says, only watch what he actually does! If he is serious about recovery he will do the hard work of recovery.  If he loves you he will provide you with safety, if  he really loves you he will stop cheating on you, he will stop lying to you, and he will stop gaslighting you. It really is just that simple!  This simplicity is what finally led me to file for a divorce – his talk did not match his walk. The bottom line is this, I could not make him give me what I needed and I had a responsibility to stop betraying myself, even it he wouldn’t stop betraying me.

Protect yourself from the inconsistencies by having clear, concise, and immoveable boundaries. Figure out what you need from him to make this better and ask for it.  The scary thing about boundaries is that you have to be prepared to follow through with the consequences.  So be clear about what you want and how to ask for it.  You will find out really fast if he truly loves you enough to give you what you need or if he is just hoping you will fall for his lip service.

They Attack You Personally

When a gasligher doesn’t get what he wants, when he is losing his grip on you, he will attack anything and everything that makes you…well… you.  He will attack your very identity.  He makes fun of your family, your personality, your goals, your talents, your parenting style, or anything else that is at your core being, that gives your life meaning and purpose. Little by little he will break you down by discounting anything that gives you a sense of  belonging and worth.

This is to insure that you become more and more unsure of yourself as a human being and look only to him for your self-esteem.  You are left without dignity, confidence, or even self-preservation. My ex-husband was a master at this.  He talked down to me in the most condescending and sarcastic tones, and encouraged other family members to talk to me this way as well.  He made fun of my gifts and talents to my face, while praising them in public, which was even more confusing.  I was told I was too sensitive or too passionate.  He put me down for my accomplishments and was jealous of my successes. If I ever called him out on it, his response was to tell me he was just joking and he ridiculed me for not being able to take a joke.  It was insidious.  I lived with this one for most of my marriage and he had me convinced that everyone talked to their spouse like this.  No they don’t!  It was abusive, and I endured it far too long!

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They Are Energy Vampires

Gaslighters will suck the very energy right out of you, like dementors from Harry Potter. They suck your energy through their lies, denial, manipulations, and degrading remarks. Gaslighters give you a one way ticket on the drama train. You can never relax with them because you have to constantly be on your toes, for what will surely be, their next attack.  You may find yourself in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze. This consistent state of high alert is draining on your mind and body.  It causes you to have adrenaline and cortisol overload and will eventually deplete you of all of your energy resources.  This constant state of overload will eventually cause you to develop depression, anxiety,  panic attacks, or worse. I developed adrenal fatigue because I endured this treatment for nearly 4 years straight.  I am only beginning to recover from it now.  This state of high alert is also one cause of betrayal trauma and PTSD in victims of infidelity.  It is the biggest reason to seek professional help. And if what I have already told you is not enough reasons, this should convince you.

Once you are in this state of mind it is super easy to be brainwashed by your gaslighter. You are just too tired and too drained to fight it anymore. He now has the upper hand on you and the relationship. You are tired and drained to the point that anything he does or says will set you off.  You will lash out and he will use this against you as living proof for himself, and you, that you are the crazy one! After all you are the one who is exploding every time he talks to you! At this point you will have finally been broken and beat down to the degree that you question everything in your life. It is at this point that suicidal thoughts start making sense to you.

The only way to get yourself back is to seek professional help.  Do it now!  Don’t wait!  Trust me, you will not be able to navigate the riptide of addiction, narcissistic abuse, and gaslighting without professional help from someone who if familiar with these specific issues. Please take this seriously, it is a very serious matter.  It is the life and death kind of serious. Like a real riptide, it will pull you under and drown the life right out of you.

“I am Not the Villain”

One of the hallmarks for gaslighters is they are very skilled at convincing you that they are not the Villain. Everyone and everything else around them is to blame. Blame is just something they refuse to take – for any of it!  Their excuses are full of “ifs” and “maybes.” It was the bosses fault or their calling at church was too stressful. They are too overwhelmed with life. Something bad happened in their childhood that turned them into a cheater.  And while some of this maybe true, nobody held a gun to their head and forced them to cheat on you! If they had problems they could have talked it over with you, or gone to see a therapist, or talked to their Bishop, or a friend.  There are any number of possibilities that could have happened before they crossed the line into the arms of another woman. The bottom line is they CHOSE to cheat!  And in the case of my ex-husband, he made that choice dozens of times. Once can be counted as a mistake, anything after that is a choice.  Making the choice to cheat, makes him the villain, by anyone’s standards!

The best thing you can do when he plays the “I am not the Villain in this picture” card is to be clear about what is right, and what is wrong.  Have a few statements that you know are true and just repeat them, to yourself, and him, over and over.  Don’t argue with him, it is pointless.  But be clear in your own mind about the truth and the facts. Again, keep good records.  Keep a journal (It is admissible in court too).

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“You are the One Who is Confused, Not Me”

For gaslighters confusion is the magic bullet. By keeping you in a state of confusion they will leave your reality pelted full of holes. They are stunningly gifted at convincing you that the grass is blue and the sky is green.  Everything you say, do, or remember will be called into question as being false.  Their ability to rewrite history is quite remarkable.  You might be impressed if it didn’t call everything you know into question and make you feel insane!  You didn’t say it, he didn’t say it, it didn’t happen the way you remember it, or even happen at all.  You poor pitiful thing, you are just confused.  Again, this is a tactic to keep you off-balance so that you will question everything, including yourself.  After you endure this kind of treatment over weeks, months, or even years, you will start to doubt your own mind and will stop trusting your own intuition and instincts.  Your reality gets altered to the point that you honestly believe that you must be the one who is confused.

“This is Your Problem, Not Mine”

Ah, projecting. Projecting is something that gaslighters are experts on. It’s all your fault.  You are the one with the problem, not them.  Each time you need to discuss their cheating they quickly turn it around so that suddenly you are discussing your faults, shortcomings, and flaws, not his cheating. You will be so busy defending yourself that you will have forgotten what the original discussion was ever about. You will be caught up in so much drama that you will be too exhausted to investigate what he is really doing. You may even be accused of cheating yourself! Projection is easy to spot.  He will tell you something that is so absurd that you are appalled that he even said it.  This is your cue to look at all his ridiculousness for what it really is, a confession of his own misdeeds.

This happened to me shortly after I separated from my ex-husband.  He outlandishly accused me of cheating on him!  As if! I had so many things projected on to me that it would make your head spin, so I will spare you all the ways and means he projected onto me.  Let’s just say that my ex-husband will tell anyone and everyone who will listen to him that our being divorced was my doing.  He wanted our marriage to work, but our being divorced was my fault, I filed the papers so I must have wanted to divorce him all along.  He wanted our marriage to work!  It took me two years to untangle this one with my therapist.  To this day I still have doubts that filing for a divorce was my only choice!  I only filed after I attempted suicide from all antics mention above, and elsewhere in this blog.  But even saving my life wasn’t a good enough reason to file for a divorce in his mind. Nevermind that he had cheated on me with dozens of women! (31 to be exact, that I know of! That number is all in my head too, even though I have proof of every single one of them!) I am the one who gave up on our marriage and him…whatever helps him sleep at night.

Do you see why you need a therapist?  Some of this stuff is so mindnumbingly ridiculous that you will need an expert to sort it all out.  This is truly crazy-making at it’s finest! Trust me, it will cause you to feel every bit as crazy as it sounds!

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Trading Places; The Victim Becomes the Villain

The poor picked on little cheater! He is just a misunderstood addict that is being mistreated by his horrible shrew of a wife! This is a story, or some version of it, he will tell to anyone who will listen.  The stuff he told his whores about me would singe your eyebrows!  He was the one who was mistreated and victimized by a cruel and uncaring wife.  Bah! I don’t buy what he is selling for one second and neither do the people who know the truth. He had an ideal life and he threw it all away for a fantasy.

This was, and still is, a hard one for me to swallow.  I had been the one cheated on, but suddenly I am the perpetrator in this story he made up in his head, because his version certainly doesn’t exist in reality.  As crazy as it seems, you will learn that the addict is very capable of making themselves out to be the victim.  I saw it over and over in my own relationship with my ex-husband.  I see it play out in the lives of hundreds of other women who have also been cheated on. What is even harder to swallow is how easily he could convince others he was the one who had been wronged.  Most of his family and a far too large number of our friends, his whores, and current wifestress, believed, somehow, that this was all my fault.  It is galling! It is screwing with your mind at its finest! If you are in the middle of this, then you know exactly what I am talking about. It is horrifying in its own right to be cheated on, but then to have him turn around and blame it all on you is more than any wife should ever have to bear. What this boils down to is that the addict is not capable of taking any responsibility for their actions. So you are the bad guy in their eyes and have wrong them.  It’s the only thing they can tell themselves in order to live with what they have done to so many people they should have protected.

Unfortunently, there is nothing you can do about his making you look bad to his friends and family that won’t make you look as crazy as you feel.  All you can do is to live your life with dignity and integrity while you wait for the karma bus to broadside everyone he has bamboozled. My only solace is to know God knows everything that really happened.  Eventually, the truth will come out, it always does, even if it takes until judgment day.

What Do You Do About It?

So what is the point of gaslighting?  Why do men do such a mean and insidious thing to their wives that they supposedly love?  It is simple: to protect the lie of their betrayal.  An addict will go to great lengths to protect themselves from the truth – they are addicted to sex and porn.  This truth is so disturbing to them that they will even willingly destroy the one thing they loved the most, their wife, children, and family, to protect themselves from seeing what they have really become.  Given the choices, to gaslight or get help for their problem, gaslighting has somehow become the more preferrable option in their mind.  And this, ladies, is at the heart of the evil that is pornography and sex addiction.

If you are unable to get him to come clean with the truth, then it is time to consider some serious options.  Separation is a must!  If you are not safe, and you are NOT safe if you are being gaslighted, you need to separate yourself from this form of abuse until he is ready to face the truth. Your relationship is over at this point anyway if he cannot be truthful with you.  Period. Go to stay with a friend or family member for a while until you can sort out what is happening and get your head clear.

You should get yourself into therapy with someone who is acquainted with betrayal trauma.  You will need a therapist to help you navigate this intense form of manipulation and abuse. See a therapist at least a few months before having any contact with your spouse.  Go no contact during this time.  I did not do this and I was further damaged because of it.  I honestly thought I could talk some sense into him. You can’t.  All that will happen is that you will be further traumatized. Your number one priority at this point is you.  YOU are ALL you can change. YOU are ALL you can save.  He has to do his own saving.  So give up any ideas that you will be able to save him! You can’t! You need time and space to figure out what is happening and how you will respond to this crazy-making. You can’t do that with him around.

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You should also tell people you trust what is happening to you so that you will have support and someone who can give you reality checks.  You will need them.  One thing that was hardest for me then, and even now, was that I could not wrap my brain around the idea that this man I had loved for so many years could treat me like this.  He was in a position of trust and he abused it to the point of trying to drive me mad rather than tell me the truth. You need people around you to validate that it really is a bad as it seems and that this is really happening to you.  I just couldn’t believe this was happening until other people started telling me that it was as bad as I thought it was.

This issue of sex addiction is loaded with shame.  He has already done a great job of shaming you if you are being gaslighted.  But you need to get past the shame and tell your story to the people who have earned your trust.  The more you bring this into the light and out of the darkness the better off you will be. Addiction thrives in secrecy. Refuse to keep his secrets.  He lost the right to anonymity and your protection when he cheated on you.  Why would you continue to protect someone who is doing you so much harm? Tell you story as often as you can.  It will lose its power over you and give you some control back over your own life.  Plus one thing gaslighters like to do is to publicly humiliate you and discredit you.  They can’t do that if you get out in front of the narrative first.

Get educated.  Read up on pornography and sex addiction.  You need to know what you are dealing with, and chances are that you have no idea what has happened to him, or you.  Start reading everything you can get your hands on.  The resource on this blog are a great place to start! This issue is very complicated and there is so much that you will not know or understand.  You do not know what you do not know at this point. Knowledge is power so arm yourself with the truth so you are better equipped to deal with the crap storm you find yourself in.  Nothing in your life experiences will have prepared you for what is ahead and the learning curve will be steep, but the sooner you get started, the better off you will be.

Join a support group, in person or online.  You will be amazed at how much your story is just like everyone else’s story!  I was shocked that my ex-husband was not even original in his behaviors. Cheaters are NOT creative. It is like there is some sort of  Guide for Cheaters 101 that we don’t know about. They all do and say the same shitty crap to their wives that my ex-husband said and did to me.  That is how it is so easy to know he really hasn’t changed at all!  He is still doing the same dumb shit he did 4 years ago! It’s not hard to spot the lies, deceit, and denial when you know it’s what everyone who has ever cheated has done, and is doing, to their wives as well. I belong to 3 support groups on Facebook and one in person group.  Between them, I interact with literally thousands of women who are at some stage of going through this.  (If you want to know what groups they are send me an email and I will tell you which ones to join.  He reads my blog so I don’t want him to infiltrate my safe places.) All of the stories and experiences vary in specific details, but the resulting behaviors are all the same! It is amazing, and shocking at the same time. You need to know that you are not alone.  I wouldn’t wish this sisterhood on my worst enemy, but it is good to know you are not alone when going through something so horrific.  There are women out there who do understand, too many of them, in my opinion.

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My last word on this subject is, that if you are experiencing any of these things, you are in danger. I wish someone would have told me earlier about this, I could have saved myself a lot of damage, time, energy, heartache, and money.  But like I said, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Don’t discount what I am telling you either.  You may think that your husband is different, he would never do this to you.  Don’t believe it for one minute as long as you are experiencing any of the above.  Right now, he is not the man you married.  It’s time you stopped acting like he is, at least until the gaslighting stops.

If you are reading this then you are strong enough to protect yourself.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

 

 

dating, Uncategorized

Having “The Talk”

Now that I am “dating” again, I have concerns and worries that I will get involved with someone else who is also an addict. It’s a very valid concern considering the breadth and depth of the problem of pornography and sex addiction.  After all, just about every man has been exposed to pornography. My therapist said that it is likely anyone you date will have been exposed, to one degree or another. The question we have to ask ourselves  is, “to what degree?” It could be anything from a one time exposure as a child, or all the way to a full-blown addiction, or anything in between. So how do you know how bad is too bad?  What is acceptable to you?  What is not? How can you keep yourself from getting involved with someone with a problem again? These are all very good questions and they deserve your serious attention BEFORE you get so involved with someone who just causes you more trauma before you have to break it off with them.  I would suggest sitting down and writing up some good boundaries for yourself. Think about what you can and cannot live with and set those boundaries – in advance.  Don’t wait until you fall in love to decide. The time to protect yourself from making the same mistake again is now. If you don’t know how to set boundaries this read this article.

When Do You Ask?

So when do you ask the man you are dating about his porn use?  Gosh!  Why do we even have to ask?  You’re right, we shouldn’t have to ask.  It shouldn’t even be a problem!  But the odds are not good for finding a man who hasn’t had to deal with this issue.  It’s wide-spread and pervasive.  Chances are that any man you date is going to have to come clean to you about his porn use.  Even in the church the statistics are not good!  I have heard as many as 50% of all Melchizedek Priesthood holders have been involved with pornography at sometime in their lives.  The statistics outside of the church are staggering – as many as 90%! It not good ladies! Even if you think the guy you are dating is awesome and he “would never do that,” you still must ask!  Ask for your own peace of mind.  Ask because you have to protect yourselves. Ask! It is doing your due diligence and he isn’t going to volunteer it, not unless he is in serious recovery.  It is foolish for any woman to believe that she should not ask her man about this issue. it just is.  Don’t stick your head in the sand, it won’t help you!

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It is up to you to do the asking, unfortunately.  The guy I was dating actually told me up front, which I thought was fantastic!  It set my mind at ease and made me feel that, at least, he was willing to be honest with me.  But I did not probe further.  I should have.  He told me he had a problem and talked to his Bishop about it, he had chosen to turn his back on it and never do it again.  And that was that.  But the longer our relationship went on, the more I had “that nagging feeling in my gut” that I should know more.

With this experience under my belt I have a suggestion about when to ask and what to ask.  When the relationship progresses to the point that you are discussing more serious issues.  If you are in the ‘define the relationship” status, that is the time to ask, if not before.  In my case, I had been very up front about my PTSD, trauma, and abuse.  He knew from the beginning that I needed certain things from him to feel safe.  So the fact that you are asking your man about his porn use should not be a big surprise to him if he knows anything about you at all.

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Being able to ask, and ask clearly, is all about setting up good boundaries for yourself.  I alway told my Ex that I wasn’t asking him to do something that I would not ask of anyone!  I did not realize how true that was, until now.  Any man who is in a relationship with me is going to have to provide me with copious amounts of connection and safety.  The safety will have to include basic addiction recovery behaviors, probably whether he has or had an addiction or not! You might say, “But that’s not fair!”  No, it’s not fair.  But what happened to me is not fair.  Nothing about betrayal trauma is fair! But any man who would choose to love me knows this, so he would do it anyway, because he loves me and wants me to feel safe and secure in my relationship with him. And he will do it as soon as humanly possible. Expediency is paramount when dealing with trauma.  Women need to see action, not words, not promises. Action. My Ex should have done this, if he had, we would still be married now and our family would still be together.  Choices have consequences.

The Questions

There are 5 questions you need to ask the man you are dating:

  • Has he ever been exposed to pornography or sex online? Any man who is being honest will answer this question in the affirmative.  I would be suspicious of anyone who says they have never been exposed.
  • When was the first time you were exposed? Is this an ongoing problem or something that just began?
  • When was the last time you view pornography and to what degree? You will need to know how he views pornography; is it in chatrooms, with other people participating, texting, does he masturbate while viewing, etc. In otherwords, how pervasive was his use?
  • How often has he viewed or participated since his first exposure to his last? You will also what to know how long he goes without viewing in between.
  • What has he been doing to overcome this problem?  This is the most important question if he has been using porn.  So important that I will cover it in the next section.

Addiction Recovery is outlined in the book “What Do I Do about Him Me?” by Rhyll Crowshaw, Road Map #3

What Is He Doing About It Now?

Having a porn or sex addiction is not the biggest determination for having or restoring trust in a relationship. What he is now doing about it, is!  I heard a therapist at a convention say, that he would trust a man in solid recovery more than a man without an addiction because the man in recovery knows himself!  I agree!  If a man is in solid recovery he has learned to set boundaries for himself, he knows his limits, he is self disciplined, and he is humble enough to be responsible and accountable to himself, to his family, and to God. This is all about personal responsibility and accountability!  It’s about building trust.

So to any man who would want to date me, you should be doing the following, without being asked:

  • Meeting with your Church Leaders regularly.
  • Attending a 12-step program and have an accountability partner or sponsor, maybe for the rest of his life.
  • See a personal counselor who specialized in addiction for 3-5 years.
  • Getting educated about addiction, betrayal trauma, and recovery. In other words, learning needs to be a life long pursuit.

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These should be the minimum.  But, ladies, we want men who are willing to go the second and third mile by also:

  • Becoming involved in helping others recover
  • Attending a recovery program like Men of Moroni
  • Setting up blocks on all your devices
  • He has boundaries, strong ones
  • Is accountable and responsible in his relationships
  • Is humble and willing to do the work
  • Provides emotional, physical, and spiritual safety
  • Does whatever it takes to restore trust

c11ea4c0819b647a2cca9c81e6d57510.jpgI promise you that you will know where a man’s heart is by how willing he is to be accountable and do the hard work of recovery.  And if he won’t do the work, well, he just didn’t want you that badly, now did he? You will survive the truth better than you will survive a lie. This isn’t about being demanding, this is about knowing your own worth.  You are worthy of a man who has control over his own mind and body and respects himself enough to do the hard work of recovery. I have to work my own recovery, probably for the rest of my life because of what happened to me, why would I want to be with anyone who refused to do anything less?

A Word to Bishops and Church Leaders:

Bishops, please – please – please, do your job! Ask the hard questions!  It is not a light thing you are doing when you interview a man who comes to you to confess a pornography problem. Lives hang in the balance!  Families hang in the balance!  You need to ask enough probing questions to get to the bottom of the problem.  Too many families are being broken up over the devastation of porn use and sex addiction by married men.  The wives and children of these men deserve for you to care about them and protect them enough to determine the level of addiction these men are experiencing. These men are experts at deception, often they will not volunteer information unless asked a direct question.  You must be direct! Kind, yes! But direct! If someone comes to you to confess an addiction shouldn’t you at least ask if this problem has been on going, and in some cases, for decades?  If so, then you need to be referring them for professional counseling and 12-steps and then following up with them to make sure they are working on recovery.

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It’s not enough anymore to ask when is the last time you view porn!  You have to look at the habits of these men over time.  Often these men only take it as seriously as you do.  Many will say, ” Well, I talked to my Bishop and he didn’t think I needed to do anything more.” What a disservice you are doing to innocent wives and children! Don’t you know you are being used as an excuse by these men to not get help? I am begging you, as someone who lost the love of my life and my eternal family over this issue – ask the hard questions! Take this seriously! Please.

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

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addiction, repentance, Uncategorized

A Man in Recovery

My ex-husband keeps trying to bully me into believing he is in recovery. But he isn’t.  It is clear to everyone, except him. What he doesn’t understand is it is not up to me to believe him or not to believe him.  Truth is truth. People who are much smarter than I am have developed programs that work and provide the most effective way to overcome this public health crisis. When he is actually in recovery his actions will be unmistakable.  They will be undeniable because he will act differently. He will speak differently.  And he will look differently. It will show in his countenance.

“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” Alma 5:14

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A man who wants to recover from a sex addiction has to be prepared for the long haul.  Recovery is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  And running in a marathon takes training.  It means running everyday and training everyday, pushing through the pain, and to keep going even when you feel like giving up.  It is work.  It is long-term.  And most importantly, it is a LIFESTYLE change.  It is like being diagnosed with diabetes or cancer. There are just some things you cannot do anymore, because to do them is dangerous to your health.  If you are a diabetic you have to change your diet.  If you have lung cancer you have to stop smoking.  If you don’t do these things then you will die.  If you are a sex addict it is the same thing,  you have to make changes to get your life back and become whole again.  It is a process and it takes time.

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How much time?

You may be surprised to know it takes 3 – 5 years of concerted recovery work to be able to say that you have overcome pornography. Five Years. And that is only if he is ALL IN from the beginning. Not only that, but after you have achieved sobriety and recovery, you must MAINTAIN recovery for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!  You can never go back to doing the things the way you did them before the addiction.  You must be ever vigilant and aware of your actions.

In the first year of recovery a man will constantly insist that he is in recovery.  He will try to convince everyone that it’s not a big deal and he has it under control.  He does this because he is really still having trouble maintaining consistent sobriety.  He isn’t convinced he can do it, so he works hard to make you believe he is.  I am sure it’s painful to keep having slips and relapses.  But he still doesn’t want to face that he is really an addict, but his personal behavior shows him he cannot control himself,  fact he cannot continue to deny. He is angry. He fights recovery.  He believes himself to be an exception to the rules or addiction recovery. He thinks he doesn’t have to do all the recovery steps.  He may think he doesn’t need 12-Steps or Counseling.  He may tell you that he can get over this by just talking to his Bishop.  The reality is that his ability to overcome the addiction is directly related to his willingness to do ALL the parts of addiction recovery.  My ex-husband is one of these men and because of it, he has been stuck in this space of stagnation for two years and he doesn’t even realize it.  He is stuck in denial to the point that he has become so unsafe to his family that we cannot even be around him.  It is very sad. We want to be around him, but we just can’t until he comes to himself and realizes what he does to us. We have to come to accept that he may never change.

What are the steps of addiction recovery?  SALifeline has done an excellent job of laying those out.  If your man isn’t doing one or more of these, he will have a tougher time at recovering.

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A Man Not in Recovery

  • Is self-absorbed.
  • Is prideful.
  • Is unaccountable.
  • Is hard-hearted.
  • Is dishonest.

All of these feelings and attitudes lead to feelings of victim, withdrawal, manipulation, resentment, lies, lust, acting out, anger, fear, shame, fantasy, and loneliness…this is a good description of the behavior our family has experienced from our addict.

It’s a vicious cycle that just keeps spinning and spinning until he in a hole so deep he doesn’t know where to even go.

Recovery

A Man in Recovery

  • He is connected with the God of his understanding.
  • He practices self-care.
  • He is honest about needs and emotions.
  • He is connected with God and others.
  • He has set healthy boundaries.

In addition to this he will work ALL 4 key components of real recovery:

  1. Education – he educates himself of the harmful effects of addiction and how to overcome it
  2. Spiritual Guidance – he is doing spiritual work and meeting with his church leaders regularly
  3. Qualified Therapy – he is willingly seeing a therapist who is experienced in sex addiction
  4. Working the 12 Steps with a Sponsor – he goes to these meetings and is accountable to his sponsor

Here are the cycles of addiction and trauma in an infographic and how addiction and trauma impact a marriage and family.

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A year after fighting, even the idea of, having an addiction, the addict will usually move into acceptance of the addiction.  This is the point where he is getting serious about recovery.  He will buy into what he needs to do as outlined above and he will start working on recovery diligently.  This is a rough year because he will be doing the work, but he doesn’t yet have it down to the point it becomes a part of him, so slips and relapses still happen, but he has the tools to work through them.  This is the critical point that determines if he will continue on, or give up. This is the turning point because it take 2 years of constant sobriety for the brain to begin to heal from the effects of the addiction.  So the addict will only make good choices during this time if he is being guided by a church leader, a sponsor, and a support group.  NOT his wife!  He cannot and should not expect his wife to help him during this time.  She is experiencing her own trauma and working her own recovery. If anything, he should be helping her by providing safety, accountability, honesty, and transparency, to her.

If an addict can make it through the first 2-years, which are very rough for him, and everyone around him, he will move into year three.  This is where the real change will happen.  This is where you will notice the real changes in his behavior.  He has become accountable, transparent, empathetic, and safe.  But this is not the end.

It takes two more years of serious recovery work to see the most growth in the addict.  This is where he will see the changes he is making in his life finally stick to him; to become a part of him. This is where he actually becomes the person he is meant to be.

“Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-6

The road to recovery must start with a willing heart.  The addict must accept he is an addict, and then work with all his heart, might, mind and strength to overcome his addiction.  It is possible and doable, but it isn’t easy. You MUST do the WORK to reap the reward!

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For the traumatized spouse it is hard to know what recovery looks like unless someone shows you. My ex-husband points out how he is in recovery anytime he has contact with me! He isn’t.  If he was in real recovery, he wouldnt need to point it out, it would be evident in his behavior. You will not likely see real recovery in your spouse at the beginning of this journey, no matter what he tells you. He will have to “wake up” to his addiction first!  He will tell you he is in recovery, even when he isn’t, mostly because he doesn’t even know what real recovery looks like either. (That is where addiction education comes in.) The disconnect between his words and his actions will be confusing.  Most wives want to believe their husbands, but it will not be wise to believe what he says, until you see the above actions take place. So now you know, this is what a man in recovery will look like.  If your man’s behavior doesn’t look like this then you can know he is NOT in recovery.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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addiction, betrayal, Uncategorized

So Much Hurt!

Someday All that Hurt Will Meet Justice  – I Want to Be There When it Happens

As I have talked to, and read the stories of other women who are going through the same thing I am, I am struck by the commonality of hurt we all share. So much hurt is being experienced by so many. It’s the SAME HURT! What is stunning is that none of it should have happened to any of us. Men were given a sacred trust:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”

God cannot be happy with the way His sons are abusing his daughters in this way. He makes his position very clear in scripture.  Marriage isn’t something you just walk away from because you just don’t take it seriously anymore. Love is a choice.

3 Nephi 12:

27 Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;

28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.

29 Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;

30 For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.”

I am shocked by how our stories are woven with a thread that is the same. The sameness is mind numbing. It has gotten to the point that I can predict with nearly 100% accuracy what is coming when I hear a new story. For example:

I recently had a friend tell me her husband just up and told her out of the blue that he wanted a divorce. And he blamed her for it. That is the commonality: blame. Men can’t handle their own crap. So they blame it on their wives. I told her he had been cheating on her. She didn’t think so. It turns out, she found out a week later, that he was having affairs.

Now I understand how counselors and professionals can predict porn and sex addiction behaviors with complete accuracy. It makes sense  to me now how these men also develop narcissism. Addiction takes over the pre-frontal cortex of the brain and eat it up like swiss cheese.  The pre-frontal cortex is the place of reason, the seat of humanity and humility, this is the place human connection happens, and this is the part of the brain that controls basic virtues like honesty and love. They have lost their humanity. Their hearts have turned cold. They become sub-human. Self consumed. Doing or saying anything to justify their disgusting behavior. They all act the same because they all suffer from the same disease. The symptoms are identical. After a while, if you are observant, you can predict it with ease. It’s easy because they literally all do the same damn thing! As long as they persist in their addiction there is NOTHING anyone can do.  They cannot control themselves unless they make the choice to seek recovery.

These men think they can cheat with impunity. They think they are immune from accountability. All they need to do is to blame their wives for their own failures to be good husbands and fathers. They get off Scott free, so to speak!   These low life’s succeed in convincing countless numbers of women that their infidelity is their  wife’s fault. These trusting women believe these lies because if the person they loved and trusted the most is saying it, then it must be true!  I was no different. God is not so easily deceived and he isn’t amused by the way they turn the tables on his daughters.

Book of Mormon prophet, Jacob, spoke about it with plainness. So much so that even a narcissistic sex addict can understand:

Jacob 2:

9 Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.

10 But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God.

These men who try to rationalize their behaviors are in for a rude awakening when the Father of us all makes his final judgment. I fear those excuses, the blaming and rationalization, will all melt under the fire of His all-seeing eye! Nothing they can say or do then will save them. Heaven knows I tried to save my ex from what he is going to get. God gave me to him to counsel with him. To help him make good choices. To be his helpmeet. If he couldn’t listen to the counsel God gave him through me, he isn’t likely to listen to the same counsel from Him directly.

Jacob 2:

14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.

15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!

Sounds pretty plain to me! But maybe I am wrong on this? My narcissistic sex addicted ex husband certainly thinks so! I think God disagrees with him. I find it the height of narcissism to think that you know more than God. But what do I know?

Jacob 2:

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.

32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.

35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

I try not to be vengeful. “Vengeance is mine, thus saith the Lord.” But I can say it won’t make me sad to see him suffer the same thing he inflicted on me and our children and grandchildren. I suspect being forced to watch the replay of exactly what he did to us will be more than enough punishment. I really feel that what I want more than anything is to watch his face as he finally has that “Oh crap! What did I do?” moment. I want to watch him when he sees the depth of his lies and denial finally come to the surface. That will be a very bittersweet moment for me.

This moment of self actualization is the only thing that will finally allow me to heal, to have total peace. It is one thing to be wronged. Deeply betrayed. But it is quite another for the one who wronged you to then turn and blame you for their bad behavior. I know that a just God will not allow that to be the case forever. Someday the piper will be paid. I just ask that I can watch. I don’t even want to say anything. At that point I won’t need to. I just want to watch it. And then turn and walk away for the last time. I think I deserve that kind of closure.

And I am not the only one.

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Stay Sweet, Be Strong!

addiction, betrayal, Uncategorized

Narcissism & Sex Addiction: Twins of Pain

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

Timothy 3:2-5

My ex-husband was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder shortly after I discovered his “first” affair over 9 years ago.  The more I read up on it, the more despondent I became.  I couldn’t see him taking this seriously at all.  It turns out he didn’t. Medication and therapy were short-lived.  He pushed them off as being unnecessary, too expensive, and he was in complete control of himself. Being a narcissist, alone, ensured that he will not believe he had a problem to begin with, or if he could be convinced that he did have a problem, eventually, he would believe he was aweome enough  to overcome it on its own.  Timageshat is exactly what happened.

The reason we divorced is because he would not, could not, admit he had a problem.  I had let it slide the first time, this time I could not.  He would have to admit to his problem or lose me. But like the fabled Narcissus, he would rather be in love with his image of himself than find true love in a real woman.

What is Narcissism?

Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.

This is where the alliance between narcissism and sex addiction become difficult to understand.  Each condition carries so many of the same symptoms and characteristics that it becomes difficult to know which disorder to treat first.  recent studies show that treating the sex addiction piece first greatly reduces the symptoms of NPD.

The Research On Narcissism And Sex Addiction

In a recent study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, a team of researchers set out to uncover whether there is a link between sex addiction and narcissism in both male and female sex addicts.

The research team was able to quantify the level of narcissism using three metrics:

  • The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI)
  • Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI)
  • Index of Sexual Narcissism (ISN)

The study revealed that subjects who had watched internet pornography at any point in their lives showed higher instances of narcissistic personality traits. But, more importantly, both male and female subjects who watched internet pornography daily were more likely than every other group to have a narcissistic personality. Also, the more porn they watched, the more narcissistic they were likely to be. Read more here.

Narcissism and sex addiction are fellow travelers because they feed on each other. Both draw on the addict’s core beliefs about being unlovable, unworthy and alone. Narcissistic over-entitlement allows the addict to feel justified in his or her sexually addictive behavior and avoid the shame that would otherwise surround the behavior, and sex addiction leads the addict into a progressively more isolated and self-centered life in which his or her narcissism reigns supreme. Sex addicts do not meet their emotional needs in real relationships but rather in the fantasy laden encounters of their addiction. The acting out sex addict is the consummate narcissist who controls the whole show and thus stays safe.” ~ Linda Hatch PhD

Almost everyone on the planet has at least a little bit of self-love. That’s the element that gives people confidence and magnetism, and it’s the sort of personality attribute that can make a person seem attractive or even powerful. But humility is also an important part of the psyche of a healthy adult, as it allows people to respect others and balance the needs of the self against the needs of society as a whole. When that balance is upset and people love themselves more than their neighbors, narcissism could be at play, and that could lead to addiction.

It is not surprise that the narcissist and the sex addict share a lot of the same traits.

Treating The Narcissistic Sex Addict

Narcissistic sex addicts are perhaps the hardest to treat. They use grandiosity and a façade of self-confidence to present as though they are indestructible, but this could not be further from the truth. Narcissism is a defense mechanism of the psyche; it protects what is, in truth, a fragile ego and a very low sense of self-worth. Most narcissists grew up with inadequate caregiving—emotional or physical abuse, or inconsistent care or neglect—and carry these wounds with them into adulthood. Their strong need for validation likely comes from the a lack of a coherent bond with mother or father (or other guardians). A strong sense of entitlement may also exist in individuals who were consistently provided for materially, rather than emotionally. The resultant emotional deficits may manifest as sexual addiction, but as hard as narcissism is to treat, it is not impossible. Those clinicians who have the most success approach their clients with compassion, non-judgment and honesty, and those sex addicts who express narcissistic traits who have the greatest degree of success are those willing to acknowledge their problem and to ask for help. Read More Here.

As is true for every addict, recovery requires that they undertake a fearless inventory of how their behaviors have affected others. Only then does recovery begin and their relationships begin to thrive. It is not an exaggeration that many narcissistic sex addicts need to be admitted to a treatment facility to be able to get a handle on their issues enough to heal.

For those living with the recovering, narcissistic addict, it is important that you recognize the damage the relationship has caused you and establish the you that was lost in the process through your own recovery. It is important that both spouses seek help.  This is too big to overcome alone and if your husband will not seek help, you will especially need the additional support.

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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