Author Topic: Things I have Learned as a Partner of a Recovering Addict  (Read 2357 times)

stillme

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Things I have Learned as a Partner of a Recovering Addict
« on: June 19, 2017, 04:49:30 AM »
Since I am passed the year mark of d-day and being the partner of a recovering porn addict, here are some things that I have personally learned on this journey when it comes to me, my relationship, and the impact of porn addiction and porn addiction recovery on my family:

1. Trust your gut. There are a few reasons why trusting your gut is advised. The most important is that it allows you to validate their own feelings, ideals, and experiences. Even if you are wrong about how you interpret your gut feeling (for example, I knew something was 'wrong', but I didn't know it was porn addiction, I thought it was something else), your inner voice should be acknowledged. That inner voice serves as your body's own 'personal protection system', a subconscious early warning system that something that is damaging to 'you' is near enough to sound an alarm. Respect that voice.

2. A love martyr is not an honorable role to pursue. Love at any costs, supporting someone else even at the cost of your own dignity, pride, and self-esteem, is not a sign that you know how to love bigger, better, or more deeply than others. Love without appropriate reciprocity is a set-up for an emotionally, psychologically, and otherwise abusive relationship. When you deny your own needs in an effort to love someone else, you run the risk of both individuals being torn down. Because loving someone strong while they are not required to have the same commitment to you breeds narcissism in those individuals.

3. Make yourself the first priority. As is said on airplanes, "in case of an emergency, secure your own mask first". I can say with pretty much 100% certainty, my husband and I would have been better on, much earlier on, had I focused on my own needs exclusively first. The back and forth of caring about how he was doing, then how I was doing, then back to him, created what felt like a psychological frenzy - it began to make me feel crazy.

4. The person who breaks it is the person who should be primarily responsible for fixing it. That 'it' goes from anything from the marriage relationship to kitchen windows. Only babies and toddlers need someone else to clean up their messes. My trying to 'fix' the marriage relationship when I wasn't the one who broke it infantilized my husband for way too many months. It allowed him to become selfish when that should have been the opposite of what he was doing. It wasn't until I threw up my hands and said, "Nope, life it easier as a divorced couple, I am done." that he began to step up and work with the concentrated effort required. It was also significantly more helpful to him, because he had to on his own address those issues that would hinder the relationship if not dealt with. It also helped him to stop feeling so out of control.

5. There is always an underlying issue accompanying addiction. If that underlying issue that left the person vulnerable to addiction is not addressed as part of recovery, there is no recovery. As pointed out in an article I linked here recently - abstinence is not recovery. The hard work is dealing with the underlying issue.

6. People treat you how you let them treat you.

7. Trust actions, not words. Judge people by their actions. Judge progress by the actions you see. Acknowledge when you see things that don't look like recovery.

8. Love and marriage/relationship are two different things. Being willing to leave an unhealthy relationship does not mean you don't love the other person. Someone being desperate to stay in the relationship doesn't mean they love you.

9. You must peel apart and deal with all the aspects of behavior that accompanied the addiction. Again, this is in line with abstinence is not recovery. Just because someone no longer watches porn doesn't mean they have stopped lying. Just because they no longer PMO doesn't mean they are not selfish.

10. Listen to the experiences of those that have been there/done that instead of believing your partner will be the magical unicorn with a miraculous recovery. Listening to people, especially those that ended up being betrayed again or finding out their spouse was lying about recovery were some of the most helpful. It was because I was able to look at my situation and look at my husband in more realistic terms. I was also able to  help him in a 'scared straight' sort of way, by showing him that he was acting like a narcissistic addict. He got to make a big decision and that was to do the real work, the hard work, the intensive work, and do things he never thought he would have to - like severely limiting his interactions with his parents due to the shitty baggage carried from growing up with narcissistic parents. Being able to sit back and call things what they were extraordinarily helpful. Love bombing, image management, hyper bonding - those things can 'feel' like something they aren't when not examined through a realistic lens. The way must husband could become part of that "5% success rate" was to do things that WEREN'T typically done by recovering addicts. Listening to the real experiences of others also allows me to have appropriate expectations and protections (including legal protections for the benefit of my kids). Other partners who ended up getting betrayed again in the end didn't stay because they were weak minded. They stayed because their spouse showed all the 'signs' of recovery. Addictive personalities can be very, very persuasive and many even fool licensed psychologists and therapists. Again, look at actions, not words. Don't trust, verify. Call out the 'little things' early and often. Be a skeptic. Don't compromise on what you need for health, happiness, and wholeness. There are partners that stayed that didn't learn the entire, horrible truth (there was never a real recovery) for five, ten, and even twenty years. When you stay, get the best relationship. Have a life that will have been 'worth it' if you find out you are in the 95% category later on and not the 5% of unicorns.

11. If you have children, protect them from falling into the trap of generationally harmful behavior. My husband was vulnerable to addiction because he had a very dysfunctional upbringing that he honestly thought was normal. His family looks amazing on the outside. However, they are filled with lies, betrayal, abuse, etc. We have been married almost 14 years and I am still finding out things that happened that make my head spin. Bring EVERYTHING to light for your kids. When you see those dysfunctional behaviors trying to rise up in them, deal with them immediately. Deal with the gently, but firmly. One thing we have had to deal with recently with our kids is lying by omission. We deal with every single solitary issue that they picked up by living with a father that was a porn addict for five years of their formative years. I love my kids too much to let them walk one step down this road if I can help it. We practice openness and honesty and that life is much easier when you admit you faults and that it is better to deal with issues and fix then than to hide them and act out in secret.

I may add to this list as I think about things. But, that is what I have learned thus far in my journey.

Emerald Blue

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Re: Things I have Learned as a Partner of a Recovering Addict
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2017, 06:07:35 AM »
Stillme, thanks for this great post. You've had to face some very challenging realities in the past year and you have shown remarkable fortitude whilst maintaining stability for the kids. I have enormous respect and admiration for your strength and clear mindedness.

Quote
You must peel apart and deal with all the aspects of behavior that accompanied the addiction. Again, this is in line with abstinence is not recovery. Just because someone no longer watches porn doesn't mean they have stopped lying. Just because they no longer PMO doesn't mean they are not selfish.

My partner's upbringing was very difficult because of what was happening within his family. What was going on in that family was off the scale. He'd had a lifelong vulnerability to depression and episodes of extreme anxiety. In many ways, having to put on a false front was a skill he had to learn at a young age just to be able to function in the real world beyond the family. Unfortunately this made him vulnerable to porn addiction, although it could just have been any addiction. After d day, after quitting porn, so much of this stuff came up to the surface. Of course, it doesn't mean he's not immune to relapsing. His brain still has those hardwired pathways and his natural inclination is to lie/disguise/omit. Not out of wilful badness but because that's what that family did to conceal it's true circumstances.

Thanks for sharing your insights. X
His porn addiction: you didn't cause it - you can't control it - you can't cure it

stillme

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Re: Things I have Learned as a Partner of a Recovering Addict
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2017, 07:28:15 AM »
Stillme, thanks for this great post. You've had to face some very challenging realities in the past year and you have shown remarkable fortitude whilst maintaining stability for the kids. I have enormous respect and admiration for your strength and clear mindedness.

Quote
You must peel apart and deal with all the aspects of behavior that accompanied the addiction. Again, this is in line with abstinence is not recovery. Just because someone no longer watches porn doesn't mean they have stopped lying. Just because they no longer PMO doesn't mean they are not selfish.

My partner's upbringing was very difficult because of what was happening within his family. What was going on in that family was off the scale. He'd had a lifelong vulnerability to depression and episodes of extreme anxiety. In many ways, having to put on a false front was a skill he had to learn at a young age just to be able to function in the real world beyond the family. Unfortunately this made him vulnerable to porn addiction, although it could just have been any addiction. After d day, after quitting porn, so much of this stuff came up to the surface. Of course, it doesn't mean he's not immune to relapsing. His brain still has those hardwired pathways and his natural inclination is to lie/disguise/omit. Not out of wilful badness but because that's what that family did to conceal it's true circumstances.

Thanks for sharing your insights. X

Thanks EB. That is very similar to my husband's issue. He idealized his parents and their marriage, because he was led heavily by them to believe it was 'normal'. Things that would make one's head spin (like not reporting an individual that molested his sister because it would bring unwanted attention to the family). He had to imagine manage and suppress a number of things. It wasn't until he was in counseling that it came to the surface that he himself was molested by a cousin at five years old. He had been led to believe it wasn't a big deal. His father's alcoholism was tolerated as acceptable. He and his family would even get in the car with him and allow him to drive drunk until I put a stop to it when we were engaged. That was a clue to the level of dysfunction that I didn't act on when I should have; I mean - what adults willingly get into a car with someone who is visibly drunk - especially when my husband and mother-in-law had not had a drop to drink. They (and I) were all completely sober! Three sober adults and you willingly give the keys to a drunk driver?

As the onion has gotten peeled back, things have been incredibly hard. Mainly because my husband has still at times, even recently, just wanted to go back to old habits of suppression rather than dealing with the situation head on. On some levels, I can understand - dealing with deep, tragic things that happened far in the past can be painful. I cannot imagine what it is like for someone like him to have to deal with emotions that he grew up being forced to suppress. But, that is truly the only way to completely shut the door to the vulnerability of addiction. He is finally to the point where the pain of not dealing with those things is larger than the pain of dealing with them. Because I was willing to walk away to ensure my children grow up for the rest of their years in a healthy household meant I would leave the relationship rather than allow another generation to believe that dysfunction and ignoring reality were honorable and appropriate character traits. The pain of losing his current family is finally larger than the pain of dealing with the dysfunction of his past and even the current dysfunction of his parents.

But, that healing would never have taken place if I would have been willing to compromise for the sake of staying married. I had to recognize there were things worse than divorce and having kids grow up being co-parented by divorced people is better than growing up in a home that says dysfunction is good and adults not being willing to fix what was broken.

AnonymousAnnaXO

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Re: Things I have Learned as a Partner of a Recovering Addict
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2017, 10:31:11 AM »
Your posts are always so insightful. Really, you have come so far, and learned so much, and I am usually excited to see that you post things because I read them and can learn something I didn't really understand before, or at least see things clearly.

My partner had a rough childhood. I've met both his parents many times throughout our relationship. I remember when I first met Cody and he said how wonderful his mom was, practically putting her on a pedestal. I met her and I was not impressed and suddenly saw something that Cody hadn't admitted to himself yet, that his mother abandoned him and his family when they were kids and that she was still very selfish. His father was great, though I think unprepared to deal with certain aspects of the kids growing up on his own. Cody has made improvements because he has addressed the root issues (his parent's divorce, his feelings about his mother, etc.). It always pains me to realize how many of the addicts on here had bad childhood or very rough family situations (whether it be divorce, image management, lying, secrets, etc.). Cody was living in a fantasy world since he was 10 or 12 so he could, as a kid, protect himself from the harsh reality of his parents divorce, his mother's addictions (cocaine, alcohol, cigarettes), and how he had to be the middleman between his parents in the beginning of them living separately. Cody doesn't have the issue of lying since D-day, but rather his issue is repression or suppression of emotions when they are happening, and only lately with EFT has he been able to connect to his emotions. It's sad to think a kid had to learn to protect themselves from all the emotional pain that Anything negative gets repressed. I think Cody is also at the point where not dealing with these issues is worse than dealing with them. I mean last week in therapy he told me he cried when he talked about his mother (which if we do that together on occasion it will happen) so I know how painful it must be to go through all this, but I am so proud he is addressing this. It's been one hell of a tough journey this past year, but things are looking up for our relationship and for Cody. I hope he keeps making progress with all these painful issues.
"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" - sir Walter Scott

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Emerald Blue

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Re: Things I have Learned as a Partner of a Recovering Addict
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2017, 05:37:39 AM »
Stillme, my husband never saw a properly functioning marriage between his parents. I knew the details of his upbringing and I always knew his childhood and adolescence were very difficult, but I didn't really think of the role modelling he had for an adult relationship. For many years our relationship was very happy but what he couldn't seem to manage were the challenges of adult life. When life events happen, as they inevitably do, that's when he probably started retreating into porn and going to strip bars, and that's going back before being connected to the internet. It was only after d day that I realised he'd never saw any meaningful communication and dialog between his  parents. One was in a state of extreme psychological distress because of mental health issues and the other one put up a wall of silence. Eventually the situation became very extreme but because of the stigma surrounding psychiatric illness they were all more or less trained to put on a false front and never talk about anything.

I don't know when my husband effectively disconnected from the relationship but there was a definite shift within a year of getting online. At the time I put it down to some sort of 'midlife crisis' and tried to be the supportive wife but that all sort of blew up in my face because the more concern I showed and the more I made it clear that I was "there for him", the more intolerant and resentful he behaved towards me. I had never known him to behave that way. I was becoming very distressed and if I cried, he'd shout at me for crying. I was in a state of shock and disbelief at what he was becoming. I don't know if this was anything to do with him becoming more obsessed with porn because I'd discovered evidence several times and nothing changed. I knew that his relationship with porn wasn't "normal". It was more like an obsessive-compulsive behaviour. I think once he'd crossed that line of disregarding me and becoming intolerant of my feelings, it's not been possible to go back.

Here's an example of how fucked up it was. We had both gone through a significant loss, this was maybe 5 years into his porn addiction. I was left to grieve alone. I cried for about 2 weeks. Yet he just carried on, with no sign of emotional reaction. No expression of his loss and no recognition of my pain. I remember at the time wondering why he wasn't affected very much and why he offered no comfort. I felt very much on my own. After that, his porn addiction progresses and our sexual relationship eventually ended, and the emotional distance between us grew. However, not long after d day, he was reminded of what we'd gone through about 10 years before and that somehow brought it all to the surface for him. 10 years of repressed emotion and unresolved grief. And I was there to listen.

It upsets me to look back and remember how he just left me to grieve. He said about porn, there's no people involved, no risks, nothing. Like all the messy bits of life and relationships don't happen in porn. And that was his escape. That was his go-to coping strategy and the distance he put between us was palpable. Saying it's an "addiction" and there's this brain/reward feedback loop is all very well and it's true, but the detachment it can create is so damaging to a relationship. When someone is supposed to be there for you at a time of genuine need and they're not, how do you re establish the connection that should be there? You see, all that secrecy and deceiving, having a compartmentalised other self, it destroys the ability to connect. Leaving me alone to deal with a very difficult situation and his non-response was probably a symptom of the consequences of porn addiction and its very telling that his emotions remained frozen until after d day.
His porn addiction: you didn't cause it - you can't control it - you can't cure it

stillme

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Re: Things I have Learned as a Partner of a Recovering Addict
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2017, 01:41:59 PM »
Thanks for the kinds words, Anna. It is absolutely amazing going through this journey. Not so much 'fun', but enlightening.

EB, our husband's sound very similar. What my husband has finally come to terms with is that in order for the relationship to continue, we have to deal with all the 'stuff', and a lot of that 'stuff' are the times when I needed him as a husband and he wasn't there. Originally, he wanted to cover everything over as simply the porn addiction, but that wasn't enough. I needed for him to acknowledge each of those times and deal with them, feel them, since I had to live through them myself. Also, acts of absolute selfishness needed to be dealt with, and for the larger ones, dealing with them one at a time. It wasn't enough to apologize for being selfish, he needed to acknowledge the specific things he did. It is almost as if through his porn use he had completely re-written life events and scenarios.

He is finally coming to terms with just how much of a freaking jerk he had been for five years of our marriage. That he wasn't just using porn, he was emotionally unattached, incredibly selfish, and not acting at all as a loving husband and even being neglectful as a father. He needs to deal with those things. He doesn't like the feeling, but is finally committing to really doing it. We were having a conversation yesterday about some things he did on a holiday we took and said, "Yeah, that guy was a jerk and a fool and I need to bury him." He had not acknowledged just how bad he was.

We will see if he is able to keep up with the the process of untangling. He has cut his parents off for the most part, so that should help. Time will tell and I am taking things slowly.