What Is Co-Addiction, What Does It Have to Do with Pornography, And Why Should LDS Women Care?

Like a pilot and co-pilot, addicts and co-addicts often work in tandem to keep chaos in the air.

Addicts and co-addicts often work together like pilot and co-pilot–to the detriment of both.

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.

Period.

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/.

Comments

What Is Co-Addiction, What Does It Have to Do with Pornography, And Why Should LDS Women Care? — 9 Comments

  1. Okay, I am pretty sure I understand the whole codependency thing (alright, maybe just in my head and not my heart). Here is my problem: how can I just choose to be happy while this person who is not truely seeking help is still my roommate? Living in the same house, taking care of our kids, using our computer . . . See, I can find a way to be happy for myself, but with him still here I can’t be happy in my marriage which makes me just plain not happy. I want to be supportive and encouraging, I really do. It’s just that I’ve been lied to so many times that I’m running out of encouragement. I mean, some people don’t recover and I don’t think God wants me to live in a miserable marriage for the rest of my life. I don’t want to get divorced but living with an addict and letting them “work” on their addiction when nothing really seems to be progressing, well, how can I have “my own pesonal journey, too?” I’m supposed to be in this with my husband and he’s not really participating. It seems like it would make sense to just give up and move on with your life. I guess I just don’t get how I can just CHOOSE to be happy like this. Sorry, I hope any of that made sense. Any advice?

    • D: I don’t think anyone who’s dealing with addiction either as an addict or spouse can just choose to be happy and that’s all there is to it. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re not proposing “power of positive thinking” solutions. What we’re saying is that there are ways you can protect yourself from the mental, emotional and spiritual boulders that your husband and his addiction keep dropping on you. Addiction is like a big giant octopus with tentacles everywhere. It reaches out, grabs and then mentally and emotionally strangles anybody and everybody it can find. This includes addict, spouse, kids, parents, co-workers and friends. Addiction is toxic and it leaves destruction in its wake. Most addicts don’t understand is that the damage they do to others is not necessarily sexual, but it is always mental and emotional damage.

      One of the important things you can do for yourself is to connect with other women who are dealing with the same issues, but who have found solutions to regaining their own sanity regardless of what the husband is doing. If you’ve read much of the website, you know that we strongly recommend S-Anon for LDS women. They have great literature, great meetings and fabulous people who can help you figure out what to do.

      I agree with you that Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to live in a miserable marriage for the rest of your life. There are some things you cannot control, like lighting a fire under your husband. There are other things you definitely can control like finding other women (with strong recovery experience) to help you understand your options. I hope this offers you a little help and hope.

  2. I think I’m a co dependent? I divorced my husband who was a porn addict and then broke off an engagement to another porn addict. But I don’t think I can ever trust again. I go long periods without dating and when i try to date again. I can’t trust and I really don’t want to be with a porn addict. I don’t want to control anyone. i just don’t want to have to be with one. Because It hurts me and I cant get over it. If I bring it up when i do try to date I either get lied to or accused of wanting to control someone by believing they shouldn’t lust other women. Am I wrong? Am I impractical? Is it controlling not wanting my spouse to lust after others? It it unreasonable to expect that of any man at all? From what I’ve learned it must be. I’ve tried to come to terms with it so I can be happy and get married. But I just don’t believe in the as long as you don’t touch thing. I live as to only have sexual arousal or desire for the one I love. Is this not possible for men? Is it different if they lust others but aren’t addicted to it? I’ve only been with addicts so I don’t know? But it seems hurtful either way. Is it my problem that i find it hurtful? Is that what needs to change? If so I find it hard to want to invest my heart with anyone and am much happier when I am not trying to date at all. Because when i want to be loved by someone, I don’t like the idea of them desiring other women. I guess I’m just insecure. I wish I could be like some of those women that know their husbands love them even though he is drooling over some hot babe. But I’m not and don’t know how to become that way. Any advice on how to find a man worth marrying without feeling like an insecure controlling co dependent paranoid freak for even speaking of what I need to feel loved and happy with a man? I don’t need perfection. Money looks charm heck even intelligence I’d be willing to go without. So long as he has a good heart and that heart is kept pure out of love for me. If not I think I may be happier alone. But that make me ind of sad. If sex is not a need but everyone needs to be loved? Then why are we expected to give up feeling loved or cared about because men need to lust every BODY they see? If anything I feel like these men who are asking us to give them our hearts and souls our very lives. Are the ones controlling us. When in exchange we get lies and or cruel heartbreak. Someone needs to be responsible for the commitments made. I know it isn’t me that is the one asking for one? How about you? Did any of you ask your husband to be to marry you? Now if men were honest and up front when they propose. “Will you marry me. devote your heart and life to solely me and all even though my mind is obsessed with all the women I really want and will be using to reach orgasm?” If I say I do and then proceed to try to change him. Well then I see how I’d be wrong. So really the question is what are these men even thinking asking for that sort of commitment to begin with? I won’t get married again with out a pre nup clearly stating what price will be paid for my time and troubles for each day i give up until I find out what he hasn’t really been giving and has been getting elsewhere. Because trust me it is not that easy to invest that many years to a man just to end up with nothing because he’s been off in la la lust land and he feels bonded to and secure there. I know I’m bitter but It is not co dependent to want to raise your children and keep a roof over their head and have the family that you’ve invested your whole life in. Just because the father figure refuses to keep his end of the vow. In fact I’m sick of hearing of it put like it’s just some addiction. Ya to drugs or alcohol it would be hard and something to have to work through. But this is not a drug. This is addicted to lusting other women. WOMEN! What exactly does that make us? Yes it does make us not worthy of their love because they desire others to share the most intimate aspect of that love. NO sex is not love. It is the most sacred aspect of or expression of that Love between the TWO of you. Dang right it hurts that they could even think about wanting to do that with someone outside of your marriage. Let alone are addicted to the idea to a point of climax. That’s Bullshit! It sucks the womanhood right out of me. It has caused me suffering for longer than i can remember. It makes me feel worthless and hopeless. And it’s porn. The porn is what is worthless! I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Alone to hurt and afraid to even be able to date without getting physically ill. Just for wanting to be loved. There is no way to come to terms with it. I don’t know if I will ever trust a man again or should. but i deserve to heal so I have got to have faith. I trust God and he says to love one another as he has loved us. And As he suffered and died on the cross he forgave and lived again. SO if i can forgive for what feels like the crucifying of my soul. I hope to feel it live in me again. It’s so hard. But God knows and understands. i guess that’s why the actual wording he uses is pornea as the only grounds for divorce. They changed it to immorality but that is exactly what porn and lust is. So you have to forgive for the sake of your own soul. And weather one stays in the marriage or not for whatever reason. There are many reason to do so when providing for children is involved. But the heart must separate from one who will not care for it or it will destroy the soul as well.Love enough to forgive and love as a fellow man. But the love of heart and soul to other heart and soul? That love goes to the core of who we are and our connection with God himself. That is the sacred place where sex is to be an expression of that love. it has to be kept pure. It’s the only place on earth where two souls can become one and also one with God. It has to be for spirits to be able to enter this realm. It’s sacred exactly the way God created it to be. If not kept that way it opens one up not to the light and life,. But to darkness and the forces of evil and death. And this is the hell God speaks of. I think we can all attest to that. We can love and prey for the men. it is the evil we are against. Satan is very clever. Only he knew a way to destroy good women’s souls who he could get to no other way then the love in their hearts. He gets the men he destroys the family. I just recalled a proclamation about this very thing. We must forgive to keep love in our hearts. Or Satan has won. Although i know this? I try and try and find I go back once again to the same anger and judgment much like it’s porn 😉 So I try again and allow others the chance to do so as well. Thanking God for his grace to do so.

    • Here i am again . comment from It Wasn”t Me hits SO VERY CLOSE I would love to hear any answer for her . This is exactly where I sit as i seriously contemplate divorce . Looking ahead I can see a life exactly as she got after the divorce . Right now I feel mostly contempt for most men and hate on bad days . Sad , so sad . This was not me a few years ago AT ALL!!! To think there are no men who can be truly free to live committed in their hearts to look only on their wife with desire or intimacy is so depressing . And how in the world can anyone be happy while living with that constant threat of another woman in my husbands head and I am not allowed to know about it ?? REALLY ?! Happy ?? No way , absolutely no way . Not if I am to give myself fully and joyfully to him in all aspects of our relationship . I can be roommates , the cook , the maid , the nanny , ….but not intimate and stay happy . No way , not for me . So where does this leave me ? I see these options : stay in the marriage and become as rotten as he is and cheat on him and use his money ( same thing in my mind ; using is using ) , divorce only to most likely have another man do the same thing , stay and remain quietly sad my whole life with him , probably end up very physically sick from unending sadness , go on anti-depressants strong enough to drug a horse , hmm I am running out . Anybody have a better option ?

  3. I first learned about codependency from the book Codependant No More. I like the book Codependent no more. It taught me some very interesting concepts that I really liked. It helped me be more aware of myself.

    But I do NOT believe in labeling someone as a “Codependent” or Co-addict 🙂 Although I do believe some people definitely CAN be a “Codependent”, but I think the label rarely applies to the spouse of a sex addict.

    Instantly labeling a spouse of a sex addict “codependent” the moment she finds out, can run the risk of indirectly putting inappropriate blame & shame on the spouse, and can in turn indirectly cause the spouse to tolerate and enable the addict, which puts themselves in further danger.

    I know what its like to do lots of codependent things. I’m an addict in Recovery, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. I was a pro at being codependent with my ex husband who was also a sex addict. But with my current husband, the codependent model just felt wrong.

    I got into long term Recovery, I went to countless hours of therapy, I got healthy, and I married my husband who I thought was temple worthy. Before marrying him I screened him in depth (im a ninja with questions 😉 ), and I had my psychologist screen him. 2 yrs in, I found out he was a pornography addict. It felt like I got “hit by a drunk driver” out of nowhere. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t do anything to cause it. It was traumatizing and I just desperately needed to feel safe again.

    I was experiencing an actual form of PTSD called Betrayal trauma.

    My life was continually shattered over and over by my husband and it is an extremely traumatizing experience, what’s real, what’s not real? What’s up, what’s down?

    Me thinking and wondering about my husband was just a desperate attempt to find SAFETY. I was trying to assess threats before they happened so that I could find a way to be safe and not be hit with, yet another, shattering surprise.

    As wives of sex/porn addicts, we deserve and have a right to know the type of relationship we are in. We DESERVE to know what kind of danger our addict husbands put us and our children in by viewing pornography, masturbating, or having any contact with other women.–“Keeping someone in a relationship under false pretenses represents exploitation”

    There was nothing wrong with me, my behaviors weren’t “wrong” , they were normal behaviors of trauma. Like a reflex. If someone throws a ball in my face, my body is going to flinch.  If someone cuts me, I’m going to bleed and feel pain. If my husband continuously lies to me and makes me feel crazy, I’m going to do anything to make myself feel safe….Im going to frantically hold onto the lifesaver, kicking and screaming and choking on water.

    Yes , I did a few things that were codependent, but I am NOT a codependent person, my behavior was the natural byproduct of PTSD/Betrayal Trauma.

    Healing from trauma is about knowledge, love, and acceptance. Its a process. It takes time. Everyone is different. I believe the the most effective healing comes from loving and accepting wherever we are at, VS. telling ourselves (and risk shaming ourselves) “I shouldn’t do this” “I shouldn’t do that”, “I need to do better” etc.

    Think of it this way——–If a woman got hit by a drunk driver, out of no fault of her own, and ended up in the hospital with tons of broken bones, cuts and bruises……would it be wrong of her to be in pain? Or to feel angry? Or to be scared? No, its just the NORMAL effects of trauma and pain, right? Its a natural process the body goes through.

    Could the woman “should” herself better? Would telling herself ——– “I shouldn’t be in pain. I shouldn’t have been driving. I should have paid more attention. I need to be a better driver. I should be all better by now. It shouldn’t take this long for bones to heal. I should have known he was drunk and was gonna hit me. I shouldn’t feel this angry and scared. I shouldn’t think about what the drunk driver is doing. I shouldn’t think about him hitting other people either. I shouldn’t hate that drunk driver, I need to love and trust him. The thought of driving shouldn’t scare me” ——– would any of these thoughts HELP her to heal faster and keep her safe? No, probably not, because those types of thoughts usually bring shame.

    Shame is toxic for the body and can actually make healing SLOWER and more painful.

    Knowledge, love and acceptance of ourselves, no matter where we are at or how we feel, are keys to healing. BOUNDARIES are the key to our SAFETY. 

    And considering statistically 70% of wives of sex/porn addicts suffer from PTSD Betrayal Trauma, instead of preaching codependency, I believe its so more helpful and effective to preach about Betrayal Trauma and having safety Boundaries. I know we can’t control our husbands, but we CAN control what dangers/ behaviors we allow and tolerate in our homes.

    How to Set Boundaries (I posted additional resources & links at the bottom)
    http://makemyburdenlight.blogspot.com/2014/12/how-to-set-boundaries.html?m=1

    Rhylls article on Codependency vs. Trauma.
    http://rhyllrecovery.com/codependency-and-trauma/

    To Filter Internet or Not :
    http://makemyburdenlight.blogspot.com/2014/11/to-filter-or-not-part-2-is-computer.html?m=1

    • Oh thank you for explaining this so perfectly ! It is very validating to my feelings . Because of the trauma and mostly the unending lies I question myself so much it has hindered even a therapist understanding the true me I once was , and still am somewhere deep down . For certain it enables the addict in his behavior to cause this confusion as well . Thus it returns to a lose , lose situation for us both . As I continue to educate myself I hear ” your obsessing ” in my head if I follow the co-dependent models taught , or I hear “” see, his addiction is NOT about you . ” if I am growing and becoming stronger . If I am in recovery I am functioning and have a little more peace ( not yet joy ) , largely when I ignore the voice saying I am co-dependent . Thank you for validation , it creates strength for many .

    • Thank you for this comment! I feel so guilty in how I have handled my husband’s addiction for 11 years. I think if all the things I could have done different or better. I feel guilty that I have hurt him with words and actions. A couple of days ago I set some pretty strong boundaries with him that included divorce. I feel so guilty because I know he isn’t doing anything with recovery. So I know my boundaries will lead to divorce. How funny that I am blaming myself and not the fact that he refuses to work in recovery! Instead of feeling guilty I need to focus on protecting myself despite what may happen in the future. I make boundaries to protect myself. My husband’s choices are his own and I need not feel guilty for them.

  4. The lines “” ALLOWING their choices to negatively impact our quality of life . ” and the , ” my happiness is NOT dependent on anyone else”s behavior. ” , these are unbelievable to me . It seems insane to think that a husband and fathers passivity , horrible examples , reckless spending , racking up thousands and thousands of dollars in debt , bringing possible diseases , manipulative reel me in to use me , then throw me out ( distance ) , flirt and objectify and lie to me ….THEN tell me to work at trusting because to all the outside world he is working and oh so free from all forms of lust …..When therapists , counselors , family , children , psychologists, DO NOT GET the masterminding of emotional abuse by labeling the true victim a co-dependent they are not helping or giving solutions , they make it worse . The ones who see the bleeding emotions and cry with you in the TRAUMA , they are beginning the healing . Creating an emotionally weak person is his goal . When brave soldiers are starved , beaten , told lies and THEN manipulated for mind control ; are they co-dependent as well ? Yes , it is sarcastic sounding , and very much an accurate comparison . There is far more here and it is long , long overdue that someone put an end to this re-traumatizing label . Going to other wives is not always the cure all either , the state their spouse is in is largely controls how they are feeling and that is just the facts . So talk to one and their husband is mostly pursuing recovery and basically open with them and you will see light . Talk to one who is living with lies , betrayal , confusion , and you will NOT hear happiness , no way . Talk to one who is pursuing divorce or currently seperated and you will hear a different kind of peace , talk to one who is divorced long ago and happily re-married you will hear joy . Sorry , that is what I have seen , heard , witnessed and experienced . Just MY opinion , but oh well . My story may change and my feelings will change with it . I am made to be affected by my husband , God wired me that way .