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.

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?


  1. Maybe I'll write you an entire email about this. LOL. :) I will just say, it doesn't count as letting go if you are assuming that once you do, he WILL step up. Truly letting go means saying to your husband and to God "It's okay. I'm going to turn this over to you and Him. And NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS I'LL BE OKAY." It's what Danny & Mara are all about. No matter how dismal things look, we can still be happy.

  2. Ok...as a several month lurker, you have finally drawn me to comment with this one:) I think you mean something different than "letting go". It sounds more like you are wanting to learn to trust that he will do what is needed without your "parenting". If its letting go, then I agree with Jane. If, however, its trust you want...its going to take work. For my husband and I (with the help of a therapist:) we came up with a plan. He needs to demonstrate he is trustworthy by first telling me what he is going to do(whethers its pay the bills or play time with the kids...or not engage in inappropriate behaviors). Then he has to do it, and finally return and report. Each step is important. The first step teaches me that he is thinking and observing what needs attention. The doing, of course, solves the problem. And the last step is super important to me , because I am not always aware of the thibgs he has accomplished. It has helped us so much!!!

  3. Oh Mac! I felt this very way in my marriage for a very long time! Except I didn't realize just how much I was 'pushing' him until I was long out of it. He said that because he was so unhappy in our marriage and regretted marrying me (especially the first year) he went to his dad and told him his feelings. His dad said "Make your wife happy... that's all". My ex took that literally. Everything I said, he did. We never argued- hardly ever. It seemed that we agreed and had the same ideas about everything. WRONG! He went with all my ideas... everything was always my way... I was perfectly happy in our life whilst he was secretly hiding feelings of resent and anger because he was unhappy and being 'bossed around' (and dealing with and addiction too). School, moving, family planning, remodeling plans, jobs, etc... it was all to please me....

    I would have to ask over and over for things to get done... it drove him NUTS. The more I'd harp on him, the more resentful and less willing he'd become. It turned into a vicious cycle that I had no clue about because he NEVER told me.

    I think I was always so afraid that if I did let go and trust him, I would be disappointed... and so, I just kept pushing. I've had a few intense sessions with Maurice about this very topic... in fact, it was about mowing the lawn... I left his office livid because I did not agree with what he said. Since then I've thought a lot about it and I like what he said "If the lawn isn't mowed and I've asked a million times, either do it myself or hire someone to come do it. Easy as that."

    I've been a task master... I thought I was doing it for the 'greater good' of our life. My intentions were good- I just wanted what was best for us. It bit me in the ass... HARD!

    Not sure where I'm going with this... I have no answer to your question.... I just think it's hard because your husband might not be the kind of man to step up... but maybe he will? I like both Jane's and Ambers advice on this...

    I'm so sorry you are feeling this way. Your husbands addiction does not help. I think pornography leads to complacency and laziness... which is hard for us women who want to live in what Maurice calls a 'Celestial World'. You know, when our houses are spotless inside, our yards look like the temple grounds, we are living that perfect family-home life. It's not realistic but we want it... and men who are addicted to viewing pornography are dealing with so many other issues, so all that 'Celestial' stuff we want/expect is put on the back burner.

    I'm not sure this is a way for everyone to live by, but my boyfriend lives his life with what he says "No expectations at all- that way he'll be pleasantly surprised when something good does happen"

    He was in a relationship similar to being with a sex addict, except his wife had a SEVERE eating disorder... which eventually led to her leaving. So he understands hurt and betrayal and living with an addict. So sad.

    I'm don't have any answers, just that I feel this... it hits so close to home.

    Hang in there!


  4. I feel this way about my husband a lot, but I try and let him take control and I'm finding that sometimes he really surprises me.

  5. I think sitting down with him and discussing what you expect from him and what he expects from you may be a good option. There are certain things that I expect my husband to do. One really silly thing is to take out the garbage. I hate taking it out and want him to take it out without asking. After four years! We finally figured out a solution. I put it on the doorstep before he comes home from work and he throws it out before he comes in for the day. Tell him exactly what you expect and want. Not all of these things are going to be possible or happen but at least he will know and can make that decision. When things don't happen the way you want them re evaluate. Good marriages definitely take constant effort is what I am learning. Best of luck!

  6. Wow, what great comments! I'm so glad I came back to read them. J- thanks for sharing what Maurice taught you. And Amber- I can't wait to put into practice the plan you and your husband have. What a great tool for building trust.

    I guess those therapists know their stuff, eh?

    P.S. Lurkers- you should comment more. What other great wisdom are you with-holding from us. :)

  7. Thank you, everyone! I love reading your comments!

    Jane--That was exactly what I needed to hear. I need to let go for the sake of letting go, not with the expectation that it will suddenly make my husband an overachiever.

    Amber--Welcome! You're welcome to lurk or comment as you'd like, but I certainly appreciate your comment and wouldn't mind if you chimed in more. ;) I like those steps. It seems that he's great with the day-to-day stuff like helping out around the home and playing with the kids (I am incredibly blessed in that sense). It's just the job hunt and the addiction that are driving me crazy right now. But I've been enjoying not "parenting" him lately. I'm so much happier.

    J--That just makes me so sad. Whenever someone is told to just make others happy without taking time to really concentrate on their own problems and areas for growth, they end up resenting it (and it sounds like that was your husband's case as well). I think that can happen to all of us in our jobs, with our kids, with our husbands. Communication and taking care of ourselves as well is so important, isn't it? I'm so glad you shared this. And it is a good reminder that we often aren't aware of the way we are making our husbands feel, especially when we're just concentrating on how their actions are ruining our lives.

    Rachel--You inspire me! Even just in the last couple of weeks I am loving letting my husband take control. It's a huge burden off my shoulders (that I didn't even know I was carrying).

    Wife A--I'm actually pretty good about discussing what I expect from my husband. I think I need to solicit more of what he expects of me. :) I did read somewhere that marriage relationships are much stronger when each the partners sit down and discuss who is in charge of what (and what tasks are to be shared).

  8. Hey Mac - these are some great comments and some excellent insights.

    I thought maybe I'd add some of my own. I have recognized that I had some similar thought patterns in my first marriage as you described. Whether is was encouraging pushing my wife to go to church, get a job, get a new job if you dislike your work environment so much, do this, do that, don't sleep in,...blah blah blah.

    The worst part is I always thought I was doing it in a kind and encouraging manner (and it's possible that a different person would have seen it that way too, because I was very kind about it), but the reality is it didn't help her, at all. Here I was, thinking I was helping and encouraging and getting her to realize the potential I truly saw in her, but due to how she already felt about herself, all she heard was "I'm not good enough", "he wishes he married someone else"...etc. In my opinion, this led her to start acting in ways that confirmed her inner reality, which led to actions that ultimately broke the marriage.

    Here's the deal though...when I finally realized just how low she felt (even though I thought I was building her up, both in between and as a result of my "pushing"), I finally saw that even though I might have been encouraged by similar words, she was not. I resolved to let all of that go. Every ounce of it. From then on when she openly admitted to me destructive behavior, I told her "That's okay, I'm not worried about you. I know you've got it in you to figure this out. I believe in you. You'll know what to do" etc.

    The marriage didn't survive (our paths became way too different), but our friendship increased 10 fold over the next year, during and after our divorce. She began to be uplifted by my conversations, she trusted me whole heartedly, she told me fears and doubts she hadn't mentioned in all of the 4 years of our marriage, because she came to understand I'd hear them without judgment anymore, that I accepted her as she was, and the only way I "pushed" her was with love (not manipulation, frustration, anger, bitterness, or self interest).

    Instead of nagging, I helped build confidence. And if my confidence building sessions didn't result in any actual changes of destructive behavior...I just said "that's okay, you'll figure it out, I'm not worried about you, I know great things are ahead for you, and they'll happen when you are ready."

    To sum it up, it's like what you said in reply to Jane - Let go for the sake of letting go! Build someone's confidence for the sake of building and nurturing. Love for the sake of loving. The pursuit of those virtues are their very own reward (and only increase the likelihood that something will change, but even if it doesn't, you'll be okay!)

    Much love!

    1. Thanks, Danny. I've been much more sensitive to the fact that pushing my husband often just makes him feel worse about things that already have him down. I have also seen in the past couple of weeks how having confidence in him and letting him take charge of his life has made us both happier. It's a good place to be. I'm still working on it, and will be for a while! Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm sure everyone here can relate to your experiences on one level or another.

  9. Just a quick book recommendation: any of Harriet Lerner's books, and Dance of Connection specifically. She talks about "overfunctioning" (your nagging) and "underfunctioning" (his feet dragging) and how the two roles can create a bit of a downward spiral. It was a revelation to me when I first read it, and I've been so much happier since I've stopped overfunctioning. Let others own their own responsibilities, and you focus on your own. I agree with what Jane said about really getting okay with whatever happens as a result. Typically, the underfunctioner will step up (even if it may not be as quickly and effectively at first as you probably wanted). Good luck with making this change, it's hard but rewarding. - (another) Amber

  10. Hello Amber! Oh, reading. I just never ever read. People have recommended books that I'm sure would be helpful, but where do you find the time? I will add these to my list of "read someday" books. I like those terms (overfunctioning and underfunctioning). They really do create a downward spiral. One of the best pieces of advice I have read (don't even remember where!) is when a marriage counselor asked a wife if her husband had done his own dishes and managed his finances and taken out the trash before she was a part of his life. She said that of course he had. So the counselor suggested that she trust in his abilities to do adult things and not constantly hound him about it. When I get frustrated with my husband, I have to remind myself that if I weren't a part of his life, he'd have to get these things done on his own, and he would. He's capable. I'm not doing him any favors by managing his life and making him feel like he's not capable.

  11. I'm so glad I was skimming through your blog today, 'cause I SO could've written your original post, and I LOVED everyone's comments! Thanks! :-)