I'm a wife dealing with her husband's addiction to pornography. I hope to be a resource for wives (and family members) dealing with similar struggles. Please join in the conversation and leave comments--even if you are here for curiosity's sake and are just learning about this kind of struggle! You can read my story here and the 4 things I think every addict's wife should know here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is everything a lie?

The message in this post was hard for me to put in words, and I'm still not satisfied with it, but I pray that you will understand what I am trying to say.

I've heard this sentiment expressed by many women: once they find out about their husband's addiction and lies, they feel like their entire relationship was built on lies. That everything was fake. That he never loved her. That she was stupid to have ever believed in him. That it was all a lie.

It's not true.

I can say this, because I have come to know this. I know what it's like to wonder if your husband is lying to you about everything. I do not claim to know what it is like to have my husband cheat on me, but I do know what it is like to have him lie to my face and to look back and wonder how many times he lied to me. So, please, open your heart for a minute to what I am about to say.

My husband's addiction does not invalidate everything else about our relationship.

He married me because he loved me. Has he made some bad decisions since then? Sure. Does that mean he didn't actually love me when he married me? No, it does not.

We have laughed together millions of times since we have been together. Has he looked at pornography behind my back and lied about it? Yes. Does that mean he faked all the laughs he shared with me? No, it does not.

People make mistakes. They make bad decisions. They even fall out of love. But that does not mean that everything that came before or the life they led with you was fake or a lie? No, it does not. Am I excusing their lying and cheating? No. Not at all. But please remember that the lying and cheating does not automatically mean that everything else about your relationship was a lie.

In fact, many times an addict is afraid to tell their loved ones about the addiction for fear of abandonment. Think about that for a little while. They are afraid to tell you for fear that they will lose you. They know what they are doing is wrong, but that doesn't mean they want to lose you. I know it is selfish and flawed thinking on their part, but it means that their feelings for you were real even as they were making bad decisions.

It is your decision whether you stay with this person or not (and often a very difficult decision at that), but whether you end up staying together or going your separate ways, please PLEASE do not convince yourself that everything in your life was a lie.

I am grateful to have gained this perspective now. I hope that if my husband and I ever separate in the future, I can look back on the good times we had and know that they were good times. His joy was real. My joy was real. Our love for our kids was real. Let good memories be good memories. Separate them from the addiction and the lies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

on letting go: need your advice


Last night at our women's support group meeting (which I highly recommend you all attend--see if you have one in your area), we talked about being powerless against our loved ones' addictions. Interestingly, this had been on my mind all week without knowing the upcoming topic of our group meeting.

Only it's not even the pornography that I'm worried about right now. (Note: I am still worried about it and briefly thought my husband was lying to me last night, but it's not my main concern at the moment.) You see, I have been pushing my husband for as long as we have been together. He has commented at times that he probably needed me here pushing him beyond his borders in order to accomplish more than he might have otherwise. But I'm coming to resent it now.

It all started when we were dating. Perhaps I should have seen the signs (of both my and his weaknesses). He didn't have car insurance, and although I kept reminding him, he kept not signing up. So one day I looked up an insurance agency and made an appointment for him and went with him to get it done. I felt such relief.

Then there was the pornography issue. I felt like I was having conversations with myself. I was looking up information online. Trying to find solutions. Asking him to go to group meetings. Reminding him that he should talk to the bishop. Pushing, pushing, pushing. He is doing really well right now, but I still feel the need to push. Last time we relaxed in our efforts, it all came back.

Then there was school. I guess I had assumed that he would really step it up and go gung-ho on school when we got married. You know, once he had the pressure of providing for a family. But that didn't really happen. He didn't grow up in an education-focused family and he never stepped up and took it on himself to push hard for his education. So I pushed him. I made sure he remembered to sign up for classes on the right day. I constantly asked him about his graduation requirements. I was so relieved when he finally finished. Push, push push.

Then there was the job search. By then we had a child and I was pregnant with a second, and he had been laid off from his full-time job a year before his college graduation. I thought for sure having a child would kick him into gear and he would put all his effort into doing well in school and getting a good job. Granted, we're in a terrible economy and jobs are hard to come by (and competition is fierce), but it still didn't happen as I had imagined. I pushed and pushed (and still push). In my mind there is an obvious list of things you should do to increase your chances of finding a position, getting in the door for an interview, acing the interview, and then doing everything else in your power to get the position. And when I don't see him doing these things, I push and I push and I push. I'm not so concerned with the lack of job offers. I'm concerned with the quality of effort being put into the search.

I'm tired. I'm tired of pushing. I'm tired of feeling like I have to manage his life.

And I'm scared to death that if I completely let go of that control, it will never happen. And I know this is something I need to work out in my own mind. As someone who has a history of working hard (and on my own) to get what I want, it's hard for me let go.

I know that what he accomplishes in this life directly affects me, because we are married and we have children. I do not expect him to be rich. In fact, I don't have any desire to be rich. I'd like to stay home with my kids at least part time. I'd like to save up for retirement. I'd like to save up for my kids' education. And I'd like our marriage to survive. No, not just survive. THRIVE.

So I feel like giving up control and letting my husband take the reins on his own is accepting that these things may never happen.

How do you do that? How do you let go? How do you trust in the Lord's will and accept that you can't control everything?

Especially when that means potentially giving up what you want?

I want so badly to have faith in my husband. I want to think, "Well if I would just back off and stop pushing him, it will give him a chance to step up and show what he's capable of." I want to badly to believe that that will happen. And maybe it will. But I'm scared to let go and take that chance.

(Not to mention it SUCKS to come to the realization that you're a control freak and probably making your husband feel terrible and worthless and incapable in the process.)

How do you do it?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I don't owe you anything


Tonight was a struggle for me. I've been thinking a lot about the women who fought this battle for years only to have it get worse and end in divorce. I'll be honest--this scares me. I'm realistic enough to know that we could end up in the same boat if things take a turn for the worse. While we seem to be doing really well right now, it still is quite sobering to remember this possibility.

While I tried to fight it, these thoughts crept into my mind and put me in quite the somber mood.

At one point in the evening, my husband was joking around about something and said, "Well, you know you owe me." I was quiet for a minute and said, "I don't owe you anything." And for a few minutes, I meant it. I owe him? It should be the other way around. I have endured a lot because of his actions. I've supported him. I've pushed him through school. I've worked full time to support our family. I've written and re-written countless resumes and cover letters for him. I've grown kids inside me and my body is forever changed as a result. I've forgiven him time and time again for seeking sexual pleasure in porn and for lying to me. I gave myself to him and only him and have never lied to him.

So, yes, I meant it when I said, "I don't owe you anything."

I felt this anger inside me, and it was ugly. It lingers in me hours later, and it's still ugly.

I know my husband is a good person. I know he loves me. He does way more to contribute at home and with our kids than most men I know. He always tells me how attractive and kind I am. He hugs me. He wants to support our family so I can stay home and is working hard to find the right opportunity. He is consciously working to change his attitude and be a happier and more dedicated person. Through those ugly thoughts I convince myself that I am the only one contributing in this relationship, and that I owe him nothing and he owes me everything. In reality, that's no the case. He contributes as much as I do. We just contribute in different ways.

Neither of us owes the other anything. I know he was joking, but it struck a very sensitive chord in me. Just another thing I need to work through in order to leave the resentment behind.

Do you have these same kinds of thoughts?

first group meeting

Last night I attended my first women's support group meeting. It is run by our church and is for women who need to heal from addiction (either from their own or from the effects of a loved one's addiction). We haven't had a group like this in our area before, so it is a pilot group. On the way there it felt so strange. How in the world was I on my way to this meeting? I never thought I'd be someone who would need to go to such a meeting. I was worried I was going to be the only one to show up. Or maybe one of a few.

There were 20 women there. Twenty.

It was amazing. Just being in a room with so many strong women was hard to describe. We all had different stories. Some shared, some didn't. Many of us cried. I was worried that it would be heart wrenching and difficult to take in since I feel like my husband and I are doing quite well right now. But the most amazing thing was that no matter what the circumstances of each woman who shared, I found myself nodding with tears in my eyes, because I understood. The words coming out of their mouths could have come out of mine. We understood each other. I no longer thought about how I became someone who "needed to go to such a meeting." I felt like a regular person. I beautiful strong woman who is living her life just like everyone else. And happy to be there.

I am looking forward to going back next week, and I am looking forward to working through my own healing and growth.
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Friday, February 3, 2012

What I've Learned: Part 6

I've learned that we often use our marriages and spouses as scapegoats. And this doesn't just apply to people who are dealing with pornography addictions. I mean in general. When things aren't right in our lives, it's often a natural tendency to start focusing on all the things that are wrong with our marriages and our spouses.

I've thought a lot about why this is, and I think it boils down to this: we chose our partner and we chose to get married. We had control over that. So it's a little too easy to look at those choices in hard times and wonder if maybe we made the wrong choice. Blame the marriage. Blame the spouse. Second guess our decision to marry that person. Wonder what our lives would have been. Wonder what our lives might be if we were no longer together...

The grass over on the other side seems to get brighter and brighter as our trials pile up. And the marriage and partner standing right in front of us pales in comparison. And the criticism gets easier and easier. Especially when we feel like our spouse isn't living up to his/her side of the bargain. "I didn't sign up for this." How many times has that phrase crossed your mind (or your lips)?

On a similar note, we treat the pornography as the scapegoat, too. While we didn't choose this necessarily, it's an easy target. We tend to blame everything on it. "If the pornography problem weren't a part of our lives, then X, Y, and Z wouldn't be issues in our marriage." Lately I've been trying to concentrate less on the pornography and more on the X, Y, and Z. Tackling it all from the opposite direction. Strengthen our marriage from the bottom up and use that strength to battle the pornography problem. Not the other way around.

I know this is hard to do since we see the pornography as the only problem. In my marriage, I think it's communication, honesty, self-doubt, selfishness, and not seeing eye to eye (or rather just not understanding what the other person needs) that are underlying problems as well. And those things aren't pointed at my husband. We both have our weaknesses. Sure, I can blame my trust issues on his lack of honesty regarding the pornography, but just throwing around blame isn't doing any good unless we are also concentrating on why he doesn't feel comfortable coming to me and being honest with me. Pornography has not ruined the communication in our marriage. It has actually strengthened it as we've gone out of our comfort zones and worked together on this. Pornography is one of the problems in our marriage, but not necessarily the source of all our problems. My focus now is on what we can do to strengthen our relationship regardless of the pornography. I am convinced that will lead us in the right direction.

I understand that there are plenty of husbands out there who have a long way to go with the pornography addiction. Who don't think they have a problem. Who can't see that their actions affect their wives. Who aren't willing to put in the effort to overcome the temptation. Who blame their wives. Who blame everything but themselves. Yes. There is a long road ahead. If you have decided to stay in your marriage, then it is up to you and your husband to stop blaming your marriage or the pornography or each other and start strengthening your marriage. Maybe make an agreement to only talk about the pornography problem once a week and spend the rest of the week concentrating on serving each other, spending time together, serving others together, going on dates. Strengthening our marriages from the bottom up.

What do we do if our husbands aren't willing to put in any effort in any aspect of our marriages? I'm not sure. I wish I had an answer, but I don't. How long do you work on a marriage by yourself with no reciprocation? I don't know. I guess that's something each of us has to decide on our own. If any of you have insight on this, please do share.