With growing regularity, we receive emails from the wives of LDS porn and sex addicts expressing their pain and frustration. What can they do, they ask, to get their husband into recovery? Several LDS women have blogs and websites in which they share their experience, strength and hope as wives of Mormon men with a sex and pornography addiction.
Here is what one of them, Jane Jones, has to say:
The last thing I wanted when I started seeking support as I coped with my husband’s pornography addiction was for someone to slap a label on me and tell me that I needed to change, too.
Co-dependence sounds dysfunctional for sure, but once I finally read a definition, I knew it described me.
“Codependency is manifest through enabling, rescuing, controlling, persecuting, and suffering behaviors in order to cope with painful feelings such as fear and anger. One form of codependency is obsessively focusing on the behaviors of others and allowing their choices to negatively impact our quality of life.”
I was particularly good at the persecuting, controlling and suffering. Oh, and obsessively focusing on the behaviors of my husband. In anticipation of each relapse I would make suggestions about what my husband should or shouldn’t be doing. I lived in fear that he would slip or his addiction would progress, that the shame would continue, that I would be hurt and disappointed again. Inevitably relapses came, and in the aftermath I would bombard him with guilt, shame, and relentless piercing questions. I would point out all the things he hadn’t been doing that he should have, and opine that if he had done it my way he wouldn’t have slipped.
It turns out that I was addicted to his addiction, making it was Andrew calls “co-addiction.” I thought about it constantly, I suffered, I feared the future. I wouldn’t resist my urges to check in on him constantly or manipulate situations to protect him from temptation. One night I could tell a relapse was imminent; all the signs were present. I determined that I wouldn’t sleep that night, I would stand guard to keep him safe from himself. But it didn’t work. I fell asleep and he acted out.
The next morning I finally realized that I could no longer live this way. I came to understand that:
1. I could not sacrifice my well being in an attempt to control him.
I was tired of being miserable. I was tired of living in fear. I was literally exhausted. I was tired of his problem being my problem. In trying to own something that wasn’t mine, I gave up so much of my own happiness, freedom, and independence. I wasn’t living my own life, I was living his. And I was done.
2. I cannot control him. I am not responsible for his choices.
When I try to take control, I set myself up for failure because when none of my desperate methods prevent him from relapsing, the disappointment is more severe. I take blame for his choice when the blame is not mine. But because I tried to make it my responsibility, I felt like it was my fault that he gave in.
I finally realized that my happiness is not dependent on anyone else’s behavior.
I DO have control over one thing, and although I may not be able to change my circumstances I can change my response to them. The idea that we can control our thoughts and attitudes is not a new idea. It isn’t easy, but it IS possible. Telling myself that I could only be happy if my husband abandoned his addiction was a lie. It was a lie from Satan to keep me miserable. And the lies don’t stop coming just because my husband has periods of sobriety. Even if he were to never look at pornography again I would have to learn to cope with the lies from Satan.
“He hurt you.” “You shouldn’t forgive him.” “You shouldn’t ever trust again.” “He is not worthy of you.” “It is so embarrassing what he has done.” “There is no hope for your relationship.”
These lies seem to always keep coming back, so for me the trick was learning to dismiss them immediately. Whether or not my husband is recovering, I can still choose happiness. I am so relieved to be feeling joy again, to be enjoying the life I am choosing for myself. For me that includes being supportive and encouraging of my husband on his journey. But I have my own journey, too. And despite the hurt and disappointment that I may still face in the future, I’m going to be okay.
You can read Jane’s blog at http://hisstrugglemystruggle.blogspot.com/.