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.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Consequences


I know you are all wondering how in the world I shrugged off this last "discovery." You'll have to wait a couple more days since I want to share something else first, but let me assure you that I am not pretending in the least. I am fine. I am happy. And, if you really want to know, we have been happy, we have been having fun together (and we have great sex twice since I dug up the truth on Wednesday). "HOW IN THE WORLD?" you ask? Stick around and I'll tell you in a couple of days.

In the meantime, I want to talk about consequences.


On Wednesday, I found out that my husband (dubbed Mr. Mac by some good friends) was once again, hmmm, how shall I put it? Lying to me? (Ugh. Those words are so ugly. But the truth is the truth.)

The night before Mr. Mac's lies were uncovered yet again, we briefly spoke about consequences. We didn't, however, set any that night. Of course.

You see, our biggest problem at this point is him being afraid (unwilling?) to tell my when he slips back into looking at pornography. So having some sort of pre-determined punishment is not going to encourage him to come to me in honesty. He already dreads my reaction. Additional punishment is not going to encourage honesty.

Instead, we talked the other night about implementing a consequence for lying. That made more sense to both of us.

When Mr. Mac got home from work on Wednesday, we talked about consequences. I've talked to girls about various consequences they have implemented, and I brought them up to my husband. (Please note that these consequences are very effective for many of the woman who use them--all create a safe place and help them heal and deal with things. You'll notice that I didn't choose any of them, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be right for you.)

  • Sleeping on the couch: Some couples decide that the husbands will sleep on the couch for a pre-determined number of nights. This creates a safe place for many women. You see, going to bed brings up anxieties about groping husbands and sex and associations with porn. That's a rough association for many women. I haven't felt this kind of anxiety in a long time, and my husband actually enjoys sleeping on the couch, so this choice didn't make any sense to us.
  • No sex: Some couples decide that there will be no sex or sexual advances for a pre-determined number of days. This also creates a safe place for women who are struggling with associations of sex with porn use. It encourages the strengthening of emotional relationships. If you can't have sex, you have to show affection in other ways. Safe place, non-sexual affection. I have craved this many times in the past, but right now in my life, it's not what I need. Besides--we have always been once-a-week-sexers, so this consequence wouldn't even make much difference for the first few weeks. (That and I've been wanting sex more, so I'm totally being selfish in which consequence I choose.)
  • Moving out: Some couples decide that the husband should find another place to stay for a pre-determined number of nights. This is obviously more extreme than the others, but it is something I would not hesitate to implement if it felt right. Once again, it creates a safe place for the woman, giving her time to heal and not feel pressured to show or accept emotional or physical advances. I didn't feel the need to have him move out, so this was off the table.
Where does that leave us? I asked Mr. Mac for suggestions. If you follow my blog, you know that I believe strongly in having the husband make many of the decisions in his recovery process. I planned to have a strong say in what was decided (since I am the one being lied to), but I wanted him to be the one coming up with the suggestions.

He thought for a few seconds and the first thing he said was, "No TV for two weeks." It was at this point that I started to cry. The crying caught me completely off guard.

You see, I have issues with the TV. Throughout our entire marriage I have gone through many periods of feeling like I was being replaced with the TV. He watches for hours each night. I go to bed by myself most nights, because he isn't tired, has shows to catch up on, and stays up watching TV. As soon as the kids are in bed, the TV goes on. There isn't much Mac time unless I want to sit on the couch and watch with him. This is hard for me. It always has been. He knows it.

So to have him suggest that the consequence of lying to me is to lose TV privileges for two weeks was quite significant. It was probably the most endearing thing he could have offered to me: his time.

The verdict is in: no TV or internet at home for one week this time. Next time it will be two weeks. Perhaps the next it will be three. I'm not sure he could have come up with anything better.

Have you and your husband determined consequences for relapses or lying? I'd love to hear what they are.




16 comments:

  1. That is AWESOME Mac!
    There's been a few times my husband has come up with something all on his own and I've had the same reaction. When he started recovery this time and approached me out of the blue and said he thought we should completely take sex off the table for 12 weeks so he can get everything sorted out in his head, and realize once and for all there is not a 'need' for sex, I seriously started to cry. (This was the single biggest thing I could've imagined him coming up with.) My husband also works with wood as a hobby, and he went out one day and turned a wood ring on his lathe, came in and carved his sobriety date on it and told me was wearing it every day as a reminder, and if he relapsed, he'd have to break it and make a new one. Again, I was SO impressed he came up with something so personal and real to him! Congrats on the progress being made in your home :-)!!

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    1. I think it is SO much more meaningful for them when they come up with it themselves. I love the ring idea. Something that really means something to him. And to have your husband be the one to bring up that it's not about the "need" for sex is so impressive! I hope it's going well.

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  2. This is so great. I'm so impressed with thinking outside the box of the "standard" boundaries.

    I struggle the word "consequence" in this context. I feel like it implies punishment, and I don't think it's my place to "punish" Pete. My job is is three things:

    1. NOT protect him from natural consequences.
    2. Give myself space/time etc to cope.
    3. Form a plan for how I/we will respond after disclosure.

    I feel like what you're saying here is

    "The natural consequence of Mr. Mac lying to me is a loss of trust. The best way we could come up with to aid in restoring that trust was by increasing the amount of time we spend together, not in front of the tv."

    Does that make sense? Instead of a contrived consequence, it's a focus on the solution. I feel like lately some women initiate compensatory punishments, like "Fine. If you get that, I get THIS." Which from the addicts perspective says "It's okay if I do this, all I have to do is make it up to her afterward." For example "If you look at porn, I get a massage."

    I think what I admire so much is that you didn't throw out some arbitrary "consequences" that aren't going to help either of you in healing or recovery. You came up with something that was meaningful to you and your emotional well-being.

    It's such a work in progress though. Pete and I decided that he doesn't need to sleep on the couch after a slip anymore. I'm past the point of being so angry that I can't bear to be in the same room as him. That worked well for awhile, I used to be so hurt I didn't want him in the bed with me. But these things are constantly evolving.

    Anyway, hope what I just said made sense.

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    1. i totally get what you're saying. But for me, "consequence" does equal "punishment." But it's not me punishing him. He came up with it himself. He set the standard. You see, losing my trust in him hasn't really mattered that much. Sure, it hurts him to think of it, but it hasn't changed his behavior.

      I thought about this all morning after reading your comment, and then it clicked when I was talking to my 2-year-old. (I don't mean to compare my husband to a 2-year-old, because that can sound really belittling and my husband isn't dumb, but you'll see the point.) My 2-year-old was opening and closing our sliding glass door. I said, "Sweetie, don't close the door. Leave it open" (i.e. please stop). He didn't stop. I said, "You're going to smash your fingers. Stop closing the door" (i.e. what you're doing is going to hurt you). He didn't stop. I said, "Stop closing the door. You're going to smash your brother's fingers" (i.e. your actions are really going to hurt someone you love). He didn't stop. I yelled, "STOP CLOSING THE DOOR! LEAVE IT OPEN!" (i.e. blowing up and yelling at them). He didn't stop. I finally said, "Do you want to go to time out? No? Then stop closing the door" (i.e. tangible consequence he understands). He immediately walked away from the door.

      Sometimes abstract consequences/punishments are hard for them to grasp. He can see me cry. He can hear me say that I don't trust him. I can set boundaries. He can break them. As lame as it may sound, I think he needs a tangible "punishment" that he determines. I think a wonderful side effect of him not watching TV will be strengthening his relationship with me. But the no TV things really has less to do with me and more to do with him. It's a sacrifice he has to make if he's dishonest. For me, it's more like "You do that, you have to give up this." That way it's not actually connected to me in any way. His "punishment" doesn't involve me. But I reap the benefits on the side... :)

      I know these are two different ways of looking at things, but this is just the way it's working for us.

      Does that make sense? I love seeing how we all look at it and how we all address it. It just emphasizes to me that we're all so different but that we're all slowly figuring out what works for us! I love it. (And I love you!)

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  3. I like that the consequence involves time. because addictions are so much about how time is spent by the addict. I was thinking though what a bout DVR? my husband would prob record every thing he wanted to watch. And at the end of the week he would just spend more time in front of the TV catching up. (Wow I'm a downer, sorry) Or on the brighter side it may help break his TV habit some. (:

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    1. Very good observation. My husband watches almost everything on demand and on Netflix and Hulu, so it's all there any time he wants it. It's the same as DVR. He could easily spend hours and hours and hours next week catching up on things, but that's out of my control. This week I'm working on turning off the computer and blogs in the evening so that I'm not a hypocrite. Taking advantage of the time. Granted, he just plays games on his phone all evening instead. But perhaps that might open his eyes even more to the fact that he needs to learn to be comfortable without electronics. Without distractions. Living in the present. Having to interact with people.

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  4. This is a beautiful post. So powerful. Thank you for getting me thinking about consequences/boundaries again. I really need to have this conversation with my husband.

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    1. I was dreading it, because I didn't like the consequences others had set up. They just didn't work for me. But letting him come up with is made all the difference.

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    2. S...i was totally thinking of you when I read macs magnificent post! When mr scabs said "boundaries speak louder than words", I realized how impactful they are.

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    3. April, It was funny too - the timing of this post & Mr. Scabs answering my questions. It was like someone knew I needed a reminder to face the music & help me & my hubby by reminding me that these conversations need to take place & I need to figure out the whole boundaries thing.

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  5. That is so wonderful. I love when I see little glimpses like this that let me know my husband really is trying. When the real him comes out. When I remember why I wanted to marry him to begin with.

    I am right there with you as far as not knowing how to enforce a boundary that feels just like a punishment. My husband lied to me just the other day about something so stupid, it makes me call into question everything else about how I thought he was doing with his addiction. I don't want to "punish" him for acting out or having impure thoughts. That wouldn't do anything to bring us closer or help our marriage. But having a consequence for lying, that is a wonderful idea.

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  6. Hi Bec! I was talking to a couple of women last weekend about exactly that--that I didn't want to set consequences for his actions because I knew it would just impede the honesty that much more. That's when they suggested a consequence for lying, and a light bulb went on in my head. That made sense. I'll let you know how it goes. So sorry to hear about your circumstances. Just know that you have a support group here. Have you attended any women's support groups in your area?

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    1. I totally get this. J set up his own consequence with crushing the ring if he looked at porn, but all of the boundaries I've set are about lying, 'cause that's what's most important to me.

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    2. The damn lies!! Beautifully crafted post mac and such a powerful subject. I didnt know it when I was doing it but this had the most powerful effect on mr scabs.

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  7. I don't want to put a damper on all of you, but I have been through a lot of these struggles over many years. I have been lied to from the get-go. Yes, it hurts like crazy and you want to bawl and curl up and die, etc, etc, etc. There are so many emotions and so much hurt, but really? Consequences? These are grown adults. I know they are making poor choices, but seriously, treating them like a child(even if they come up with the "consequence" or "punishment") isn't going to help them make better decisions. Yes, they need to learn how to be an adult, but I know from experience there are better alternatives.

    My spouse refused any sort of counseling, pretty much any type of help at all. In fact, he didn't see what the problem was for many years. It didn't matter what angle I tried to play, he just didn't see it. He sees it now, but not because I've treated him like a child. He still needs to earn back my trust and it's really hard, but this is a lifelong battle for both of us. He has his agency. Just like you and I do. He has to make that choice on his own. When you try to control their behavior you are completely co-dependent. You are making your life revolve around his problem(which I know all to well it does anyway), but I know you see the good in him too and I'm not questioning that. I just think "consequences" or "punishment" even for lying for an adult enforced by the one he loves doesn't help. I really think if you asked a professional about this they would tell you it's wrong. It's destructive to his self-esteem...as is his addiction. He has guilt and sorrow even if he doesn't show it and doesn't even understand it. Adding this from the one who loves him the most makes him delve deeper into that sorrow and can even make the need for the behavior worse. Stepping into pornography and addictive behaviors is a coping mechanism.

    Maybe the best approach is to help him feel loved and cared for. Work on your spiritual relationship, your relationship as a couple. I know this seems hard, but I promise it can be done. This is a lifelong battle that won't end without a lot of hard work and lots and lots of love.

    I wish you all the best of luck with your endeavors to help your loved ones head down the right path!

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  8. I found this article on this topic.
    http://rhyllrecovery.com/q-what-if-i-set-a-boundary-for-safety-and-i-feel-as-though-he-has-lied-and-broke-the-boundary/

    Boundaries are for safety. I set boundaries around my needs and wishes, and then let people my husband choose for himself.

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