For anyone who has ever been betrayed by a porn/sex addict, it should come as no surprise to learn that this isn’t my first foray into the mind-bending denial of an addict. Once this becomes a part of your life it comes back again and again unless the addict gets serious about making lifelong changes. The first time (that I am aware of) was 10 years ago, while my husband was the Bishop of our LDS Ward. It was just as terrible then as it is now. Believe me. I didn’t think I could handle it then anymore than I feel I can do it now. It’s a lot like welcoming a death eater to live in your house. All the happiness gets sucked out. Nobody in their right mind would welcome a death eater into their home, even for a few minutes. It sucks all the happiness out. Literally.
It was remarkably different this time. Because I was different. I guess when you have a close encounter with a death eater it changes you. Forever.
Even back then, he did everything he could to wiggle out of committing to any real recovery. He complained about being on medication for anxiety, and OCD. He fussed endlessly about the cost of therapy. He said he didn’t have an addiction. He didn’t get anything out of 12-steps and it was boring. He convinced me it would never happen again. His explainations (excuses) were relentless. He wore me down. He also convinced the Stake Priesthood leaders that he “just made a mistake.” So his church discipline amounted to a slap on the wrist. I argued with them to the point that I could tell I was about to cross that line. I might be the one disciplined if I didn’t just be quiet and take their decision to do nothing about my husband’s “mistake” without another complaint. I was told this was for the best and would save our family from embarrassment. I strongly disagreed. Years later when this happened again, I learned a disciplinary counsel should have been called automatically because he was the Bishop. I was livid.
I still hold these men somewhat accountable for what happened to our family after that. Had they held my husband accountable back then, we might have been spared what we are going through now. Most notability, his insistence that he doesn’t have an addiction.
Had he been properly disciplined and held accountable back then, when I saw true remorse in him, he might have stayed in recovery. As it was, he had zero incentive to continue to recover after the crisis of the initial shame and guilt had past. He was left to his own devices. And we were left to the mercy of his “word” that this would never happen again.
Deep down I knew differently.
So I did what I always do when faced with a problem I know nothing about. I did research. Lots of it, until I became a subject matter expert on sex and porn addiction. I had to know what I was dealing with. Knowledge is power. I knew that if this awfulness ever came back into our home I would need to know what to do to protect myself and our family. So I studied and I worked on my own recovery and let him figure out his (which amounted to nothing of real significance.) After a few months everything seemed to go back to normal. Overtime, he even convinced me that I had “over reacted.” He said it was an isolated incident and it would never happen again.
I believed him. Because I wanted to believe him.
Even though all the studies, research, and books I read, screamed at me to be careful, it takes hard work to overcome an addiction. I threw caution to the wind! After all, he is a good man. Right? He is entitled to make a mistake and repent from it, right? The problem is that I believed we were the exception because he convinced me that all those stats didn’t apply to us. That is never good.
Looking back, I willfully and stupidly ignored the red flags; His insistence that he didn’t have an addiction, his refusal to stay in counseling, and choosing to not stay on medication were the biggest red flags. I should have set the boundaries that he continue in recovery if he wanted to continue living in the same space with me. But I didn’t. He was stubborn and insistent he could handle this in his own way. So I let him. That was what I was learning about not being an enabler – let him figure it out for himself. He had to choose recovery and do it on his own terms. To make matters worse, was that I was dealing with my own trauma and I didn’t know it. Back then women were enablers not victims themselves. I didn’t know I had the right to feel safe and secure in what he was doing to show me he could be trusted again. You don’t know what you don’t know.
While I could think of little else, He did very little to rebuild trust. He dealt with it by ignoring it. He chose the white-knuckle method of recovery, which is to just decide to never do it again. It would go away. End of story. So I went along with it, knowing that when I least expected it, it would all come crashing down around me again.
Boy did it!
Five years later, my life would change forever. Not in a good way. I guess Mr. Whiteknuckles got tired of holding on. Just when I had just started to believe he was right. Just when I started to believe he had it all under control. At the exact moment I was letting out a sigh of relief, I took a sucker punch to the gut. It knocked all the wind out of me!
In that moment, while I struggled just to keep living, I knew I could never do this again. Ever. Something had to change. The first time, we did it his way. This time I was in a much better position to know what I needed from him to restore and repair our relationship and how to articulate those needs to him. Or so I thought.
Have you ever seen a two year old throw a fit because they don’t get their way? If you give into the child’s demands in that moment then you lose all credibility as a parent for future battles. They learn quickly that if they scream at you loudly enough, embarrass you with tantrums in public, and tell the whole world they hate you that they can shame you into giving into their irrational demands. We’ve all seen it right? My girls were queens of the temper tantrums. But no matter how much they yelled, it was my job to teach them that they cannot behave that way. Right?
You can’t reason with a two-year old. They need boundaries. Guidance.
I believe this is kind of what happened with my husband. He got away with doing things his way the first time, back up by unwitting church leaders. So much so, that the second time he upped the tantrum level to unbearable to get me to give in to him again. I really believe that the tantrums addicts can throw are similar in scope and nature to a two year old. It is quite daunting to see a grown man be so irrational!
What he doesn’t get, and probably never will, is that if he wants me back there must be changes, seen and unseen. I could give him a pass. Once. I can’t do it again. Not because I won’t. I can’t. I can’t go through this again. Ever.
The difference was that this time, I KNEW what had to be done. It couldn’t be ignored again. Not this time! I KNEW I deserved to be treated with respect. This time I KNEW he needed to WORK to rebuild trust. Provide safety. Work to reconnect with me. This time I deserved more than just taking his word for it. I had done my recovery work the first time. This time I KNEW he was an addict and I cannot be talked out if that fact. The evidence was overwhelming and undeniable. I know better this time. Remember what I said about “knowledge is power?”
Getting into recovery for your own trauma gives you the power and knowledge to know what you should and should not have endure. You learn how to protect youself from furture attacks and what to do when they happen. Knowing what to do gives you a level of protection you cannot have if you choose to remain willfully ignorant.
Because I know how an addict behaves; what they do, say and think, it helps me see through the lies and deception to discern what is really happening.
We all know that kids try to get away with lying about something they did that was wrong. And because we were kids ourselves and tried to get away with the same thing, we see through it. We understand, by our own experience, what a lie looks like and how to recognize it. It’s the same thing with an addict. If you refuse to get yourself educated about what addiction looks like and how to overcome it, well, you don’t know what you don’t know. That is a level of ignorance that only hurts you.
For example: my husband’s tantrum is that he is NOT an addict. Quite frankly, I don’t care what you call it. The label makes zero difference. It’s the behavior that is disturbing. His behavior is classic addict behavior. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say for the sake of argument that he is not an addict. His continuing betrayals, caused me to be traumatized by his behavior. Betrayal truama is caused by BETRAYAL. It matters very little how the poison of betrayal was delivered. What matters is how to repair it. And the reparations for one affair or 50 are exactly the same! The same recovery for a marriage damaged by betrayal is the same as the recovery for a marriage damaged by sex addiction. Restoring safety, connection and trust are exactly the SAME!
So when he is stubbornly insisting that he doesn’t have an addiction and thinks he doesn’t have to do recovery to fix our relationship, I have the understanding and wisdom to know better. He just wants me to give him another pass.
This time I can’t.
IMHO women who keep giving into the temper tantrums of the addict are making it harder and harder for him to take her seriously! So set your boundaries ladies! You deserve better! You deserve to have a husband who believes you are worth it to give you his best self and his best efforts!
Don’t settle. Remember –
fool me once shame in you, fool me twice, shame on me.