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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Does your husband hate talking about it?

Sonny Rollins by Jimmy Katz  (Source)

Of course they hate talking about it. Do you like owning up to something stupid you did and then having someone bring it up over and over? Of course not.

BUT the communication needs to be there. Heck, the key to ANYTHING being healthy in a relationship is communication. (Honesty being an integral part of communication.) Wouldn't you agree?

I know I have mentioned this before, but I want to put it out there again for anyone who missed it.

I think a SUPER easy tip for improving communication about pornography addiction is designating a time and place to discuss it each week.

Here is how it works at my house.

Together we designated 8pm on Sunday evenings (after the kids were in bed) to talk about things. The understanding was that we would talk about the following things:

  • How his week went in terms of the addiction (temptation, urges, slips, etc.). 
  • How he is doing emotionally (in general in life).
  • How I am doing emotionally (in terms of my healing as well as in general in life).
And these are the things that have made it so successful:
  • He is in charge of starting the conversation and he knows it. Because he knows it is his responsibility, he has only forgotten once in the past few months since we started.
  • I go into the conversation with an open, loving, and non-judgmental mind. No animosity allowed. It needs to be a safe place for both of us. Expect the worst to come out, be prepared (and committed!) to be okay with it and react in a kind way, and then be pleasantly surprised if it's nothing but good news.
  • Both people share how they are doing emotionally in general. It's a good time to really check in with each other. (It was in one of these conversations that I admitted that my testimony of our religion was seriously wavering. It doesn't all have to be about pornography. There is so much more to life that needs to be discussed between husband and wife.)
  • I tried not to bring it up the rest of the week. A wonderful friend of mine pointed out that we tend to stew over things in our minds and then bring them up to our unsuspecting spouses. It seems normal since we were "talking" about it in our own minds first, but to our spouse it comes from left field. My husband's personality is not one that switches gears at the drop of a hat. He needs to be mentally prepared for a conversation. He needs to be in the midset. Expecting him to suddenly be able to talk about it when two seconds earlier you were asking him to pass you the salt is putting a lot of pressure on him. For the first few weeks, try not to bring it up during the week. Once he becomes more comfortable discussing the addiction and his emotions during your weekly chats, he will naturally become more comfortable discussing it at other times.
  • Keep it relatively short. After a month or two my husband admitted that I always draw these conversations out longer than he wants. I remind him that I have to push the envelope a little until he's truly comfortable talking about it, but I also admit that I don't want to make him dread these conversations. Don't make them last all night.
This has really improved our communication in our marriage in general. Really. If your husband thinks having designated talk time sounds strange, ask him to come read this blog post. Talking about it once a week in a "safe" conversation will be SO much of a relief if he's constantly on edge that you're going to bring it up and "beat a dead horse," as Faithfully Jaded's husband called it.

Dear Men: Trust me. Your life will get better if you learn to talk about it. And I don't just mean your addiction will get better. I mean your every day interactions with your wife will get better. Learn to talk about it for the sake of your own happiness.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What I've Learned: Part 7

Sorry I've been completely MIA, friends. I have a new job and am quickly realizing how much time I had on my hands at my old job! It has been much more difficult to blog and respond to email, but I want you all to know that I'm still here.

So on with the "What I've Learned" series. I'm convinced these posts will go on for a very long time since this is a life-long learning process. Isn't that just life in general? I think it is.

I have learned that healing takes work. Actual work. Carving out time during the day to work through our 12-step workbooks from our Support Groups. (Haven't been to a loved-ones-of-addicts support group yet? Let me know and I'll help you look up one in your area or send you a PDF of the manual. Trust me. You need them. Even if your loved one's addiction is "mild." And they aren't scary. Really. They aren't. And it won't matter if you run in to someone you know. Remember? If they are there, they are going through the same thing.)

So how do I know that healing takes daily work?

Because I haven't been doing it.

You were expecting me to say that I know because I've been there and worked hard every day and healed, weren't you? I'm sorry to say that just isn't the case. I go to Group once a week. I pray with my husband. We have weekly talks about his progress (and my progress). But I do not do my "homework" outside the support group meetings. I only open the manual once a week during the group meeting.

The other day one of my group members shared the parable of the two monks.  The story goes that two monks were walking and came to a river that they needed to cross. A woman was also at the river and needed help crossing. The problem, you see, was that the monks had sworn an oath not to touch women. Regardless, the elder monk picked up the woman and carried her across. All the way back to the monastery, the younger monk seethed at the fact that the elder had broken his oath. When he couldn't hold it in any longer, he confronted the elder monk, who responded, "Yes. I picked her up and carried her across. Then I put her down. You, my friend, are still carrying her around." (You can find a list of variations on the parable here.)

This parable really touched my heart. You see, my husband has been doing very well with his recovery. But each time he shares this with me in our weekly chats, I can't even bring myself to be happy for him. Instead I say something like, "I wish I could believe you, and I want to, but I still have trust issues."

Do I actually think he has gone 7 months without a problem? Yeah. I do. Things have been very different this time around on many different levels. I'm proud of him.

Do I think it's okay to hold back a tiny bit and not trust him 100%? Yeah. I do. I'm okay with the fact that it will take a long time for my trust to come back fully.

However, what really hit me about this parable is that I'm not helping him or celebrating his progress in any way, because I am clinging to the fact that it will take a long time for me to heal, but I'm not doing anything to work toward my own healing! I am still carrying around the woman that he is trying so hard to put down. And I'm throwing it in his face every week that I'm still carrying her around because he picked her up in the first place.

Sure, healing may take a long time, but healing will never take place if I don't put my own work into it.

If I want to put the "woman" down, I need to do the work. I need to take some quiet time to myself every day to really work through my steps.

How about you? Do you work on your steps outside of your group meeting?