Author Topic: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?  (Read 179 times)

aquarius25

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where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« on: December 06, 2018, 12:04:50 PM »
So we have this neighbor. Over the course of our friendship (my husband and I with him and his wife) we have started a bible study and prayer group and have connected. My husband shared about his porn addiction. My neighbor admitted he had the same struggle. He was 4 months clean, which is great! Then a few weeks later he slipped up again. My husband offered to be an accountability partners and he said that would be great but every time my husband reached out to check in he would say things like "yeah man, it's going fine". No real specifics. After some time had passed it became a topic that never really came up at all. His wife pretends like everything is fine but anytime the topic did come up, I could see the hurt and discomfort in her eyes. It really broke my heat, being the wife of a PA myself. I try to be encouraging and positive. I have a journal and I just write about my day. If it came up in conversation that day I usually write in my journal about it because I am noting my thoughts, feelings, and triggers regarding the situation. As I was reflecting on the last 1 1/2 years I noticed a pattern. He would slip up but have only encouraging words. Like I slipped up and PMO'd today but I am going to get back on the saddle again. I will not let this get me down, and so forth. I have always considered this good and I would always be in agreement but there doesn't seem to be a behavior change to follow the words. At some point the words just feel like words and I find myself more hesitant to be in agreement when there isn't action behind it.

Seeing this pattern me wondering where is the line between positive encouragement and enabling. His wife is still hurting and every time there is a slip up the trust gets eroded more and more. I have been curious about this and have been reading a ton of the journals on here and making notes as far as progress and slip ups and language and I am noticing a trend. When someone who slips up and only says positive things but doesn't really notate, analyze and take sock of the triggers that got them there and make a plan to try and set them up for success then they seem to have a much higher likely hood of relapse. Those that are very diligent about journaling, learning, digging into root causes and so forth seem to be more successful. I am not saying to shame yourself and I am not saying that positivity is bad but without action backing it up it seems to not be very helpful.

Of course this is just what I have been noticing, I could be way off base. I want to be encouraging to my neighbor but I also am not interested in saying words to only make him feel better if he isn't really ready to put in the hard work of consistency and change in daily behavior. Where is the line? Thoughts from others who are currently experiencing this same struggle?

Sorry for the long wordy post, lol.

Edit_undo

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2018, 11:23:21 PM »
It’s a fine line for sure. I understand that you don’t want to interrogate the guy because that might drive him away from talking with you at all. Do you or your husband ask specific questions about his recovery? Like after he says everything is going fine do you ask about any different mindset or realizations or triggers he’s experienced lately? Sometimes people don’t like to volunteer information or he’s already uncomfortable talking about so tries to gloss everything over to end the conversation.  Or maybe he isn’t ready to quit. I’m sure you do a great job trying to help him, especially after going through this yourselves. But being ready to quit makes a huge difference. Using myself as an example, for a long time I kinda tried to quit MO. Even before using porn I just knew lusting after women and MO to pics (catalogues, whatever) wasn’t something I should be doing. I couldn’t even guilt or shame myself enough to stop by morals or my faith. I knew I should quit it but I didn’t want to and lots of times gave up trying. This year, I wanted to quit. Things got screwed up (pied anyone?) and I had to make a change. That was the final straw.  I would say that the journals you read with in depth analysis of slips and dedicated daily logs are people that really want to change at any cost. No offense intended to anyone else. Going back to the point about asking specific questions, maybe the serial relapsers need more guidance in analyzing where they went wrong and an experienced rebooter could guide them towards the trigger or combination of events that caused the stumble.
Sorry. Super wordy too.

I guess summed up: it’s a fine line knowing how much to press him on specifics before he shuts down communications on the topic, my impression is he either doesn’t want to quit or doesn’t know how to make meaningful changes. I applaud you and your husband for making this connection and discipling your neighbours. Definitely keep supporting his wife. You know better than most what this feels like and can at least be a sympathetic outlet for her, even if he isn’t making any progress.

Gracie

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2018, 07:06:52 AM »
Perhaps the wife needs truly taken under your wing.  I know I helped someone and I am pretty forthright.  When she heard my brokeness at finding out and then my path it encouraged her.  I spoke of a wife's right to have a whole sex life and committment from her husband.   I explained that by choosing porn my husband did not include me in choice or choosing how our intimacy should be. 

Most men seem to be focused on the physical result of a body on porn.  They seem to be reluctant to discuss the very real psychological trauma to them through the change in their relationships.   And that is the piece, when it becomes the focus that brings long lasting healing. Read Saving my Soul's recovery . 


bob

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2018, 08:03:19 AM »
I have a tendency to say that it is time to back away. Your husband is the accountability partner. That relationship should be private between the two of them. You might ask your husband, "hows it going?" but I would not ask the friend anything. If he brings it up, OK. Otherwise, I would stay away from that discussion. Even if he brings it up, I wouldn't bring it up at another time. I would only discuss it when he wants to discuss it.

Being a male here on RN, I feel honored to be able to discuss issues with other female friends. That is the joy of the anonymity of the internet. It gives me the opportunity to ask females, questions I would never ask a woman face to face. Some of these things are just too private. I have a female therapist and she is great. But I would never ask her personally about sexual acts or how she feels about her relationship. Its just not professional. However, here at RN I have been able to do just that. I have learned a great deal on the opinions on sexual preferences and attitudes. I have come to believe they are all normal for each individual person.

But, I would cringe if a female friend wanted to check on my progress regarding my compulsive/addictive sexual behavior. Even if we had discussed it at one time, I would not want to have her bring it up. Especially if I had fallen back into pmo.

He sounds like he isn't ready to quit but even if he is, the recovery isn't something that he wants to discuss with a female friend. No matter how open he may have been during the initial debate. I know I wouldn't want to discuss it with the wife of my accountability partner.

Be a friend to the wife. Be supportive an open to her but leave him alone. Don't ignore him. Continue to love and care for both of them but don't bring up this situation again. That is a tremendous amount of pressure on him.

I am trying to say this in the most loving and caring way. I know you want the best for both of them but please back off. Try as we might, we can't fix people.

Please forgive me if this sounds harsh. It is my opinion as a humble male with this particular problem.

Peace
« Last Edit: December 07, 2018, 08:56:13 AM by bob »

aquarius25

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2018, 12:19:35 PM »
All comments are great. Also I want to say that I don't initiate the conversation because I totally agree with Bob it is a private matter. He usually brings it up in a short and casual sort of way. My husband had actually asked me if I had heard anything because apparently he would only bring it up during prayer.  That is how it usually goes. He bring up that he slipped, and my husband will say something like how is it going with that, or what was going on in life before the slip up? It is a totally awkward conversation, lol. Then he says his positive things, we all agree and say that's the right attitude and then the conversation moves on. I completely agree with the nature of an accountability partner except from the communication it did really sound like he actually wanted one. My husband has said he reached out without receiving any response. I just think this young man isn't really interested in quitting but more brings it up when his wife is around and we are in a group so that it doesn't look like he isn't trying or caring. I think he hasn't hit his rock bottom and it breaks my heart because I can see his wife hurting. I am just trying to learn from the situation, not just for him but for others. If there is a pattern that I can see and if that can help someone else in their recovery then awesome. But  at the end of the day the choice is his. I just hope he can figure it out because his wife and baby need him to be present.

bob

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2018, 05:43:30 PM »
I understand completely.

I traveled a great distance a couple weeks back because I had a friend that said he was in the same boat as me. But after I arrived to talk, I realized that he didn't want to change. He just thought I needed the support.

They have to... we have to want to change.

Peace to you all

DoneAtLast

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2018, 08:27:31 PM »
I think there are two discussions going on here...

One is privacy, but also the "how much do we share" question.  I didn't share my PMO problems with anyone offline except my confessors, and one consultation with a therapist (it was cost prohibitive).  While they bring it up, they may not be sharing too much.  Remember that porn addiction can often have roots in something extraordinarily private... prior sexual abuse, insecurities, weird fetishes/tastes, depression, whatever.  He might be comfortable with revealing back to a certain layer, but not all.  Sometimes it is helpful to offer advice that they can take and apply to themselves without prompting them to share more than they want.  I do that on the board sometimes... instead of just asking about weird fetishes/escalation, I'll just present what I know and my own experience and let it sit out there.  People can share if they want, but I generally don't ask.  Sometimes you just need to suggest that something is a real phenomenon to let them piece it together in their heads, like the connection to sexual abuse.  Heck, even on these boards we say things like P and M instead of porn and masturbation because it can be hard to type it out.  How much harder to say it!  He could have some real nitty gritty stuff that he just doesn't want to talk about.

The second is whether he is actually trying to quit, or just talking about trying to keep his wife and friends happy.  On this point, I'd say this: each relapse should bring some new lesson.  It may be an incredibly small lesson, but each relapse should teach something.  If it is just "oh well, better luck next time" especially if there is a vacation between attempts, then it doesn't do any good.  You say as much yourself.  I first learned about nofap in 2011, and didn't make real progress until 2016, finally quitting in 2017.  I didn't really figure out how to do it until 2016, but I still wanted to quit and was "trying" before that.  I just didn't have the tools in my toolbox.  Part of it was that I was focused on "streaks" and was so discouraged with "resetting" that I never gained anything from my efforts.  It is possible he just is in one of those ruts and doesn't know how to get out, or lacks the emotional energy.  To say you're enabling him would be to say you're offering him a comfort zone where he can keep up his porn habit, albeit not in full throttle, and pretend everything is okay.  That might be the case, but that seems like an extreme assumption... if he had zero desire to quit I don't see why he would have brought it up to begin with.

It might help him to hear (honestly from your husband) what you told us about learning from the mistakes.  He might be ashamed of constantly relapsing.  That can be the hard part of an accountability partner... one gets tired of saying the same thing over and over.  I had that problem in confession very often... I felt like a broken record, and absolutely hated saying the same thing over and over.  Even though neither you or your husband will recoil or scold him, the shame in him will make him think you will.  From his perspective, he has something he's very embarrassed about, some friends willing to help him, and he might feel like a ripe turd for relapsing so much, hence the need to constantly put a positive spin on it.

aquarius25

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2018, 07:47:12 PM »
I really appreciate all of the response. I have encouraged my husband to reach out to him. I don't need to know details, lol! His wife reached out to me yesterday and brought the topic up on her own. I was supported to be teaching her how to crochet and I think she had used that as an excuse for us to get together. I was just honest. I had my husbands permission to share everything, as they already know some of it anyway. We are both to a point where we are fine talking about it with others. I just told her my experience and where I am at with it and said if she ever needed anything I am here. She is hurting and I don't really know what to say because it is clear he feels conviction but not enough to want to quit. My heart breaks for both of them because I can see how they both are hurting. It is really difficult. We are neighbors and I reassured her that we are friends as well. Just a tough situation. I hope my husband can reach him because his family is hurting.

DoneAtLast

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2018, 09:11:23 PM »
Yeah, I hear you.  I think part of your frustration might be that once we've quit (or helped someone quit) time compresses in our heads, and the months/years that it took to finally quit seem a lot shorter than it really was, and we get a bit impatient.  Knowing how good it is on the other side is big, too... I doubt either of them, no matter how much they hurt, really know how good it will feel to leave it behind them.  I just don't think anyone knows on day one what they're up against when they decide to quit.  With time and prayer I'm sure his conviction will grow over time, and he'll have a good spouse and friends to turn to as his motivation increases.

bob

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Re: where is the line between being encouraging and enabling?
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2018, 12:55:52 PM »
once we've quit (or helped someone quit) time compresses in our heads, and the months/years that it took to finally quit seem a lot shorter than it really was, and we get a bit impatient.

Wiser words were not spoken. As i hear the optimism of newbies I cringe a little. Not becuase they shouldn't be optimistic but that i know the long hard road ahead of them.

Heck, my road still continues.

Peace