Know Who You Are
No, I’m not talking about navel-gazing on the couch for days on end, or retreats in far-away places to find your purpose in life. For wives and partners of men called sex addicts there is no luxury of time, no opportunity for pleasant mental recreation, no magical change of scenery, and very little margin for error. You need to know who you are. Because that is exactly what is at stake in this mess. It’s at stake in who you ask for help, and in what decisions you make about this relationship. Yes, there’s always more to lose (as if you haven’t lost enough already, I know!) But you can be a good steward of yourself by remembering who you are and holding on for dear life.
So, who are you?
Look, I do understand that you believe there are more important things to talk about—like how to get him the best help, how to support his recovery, how to protect and save your relationship. And I understand that the whole treatment industry skews their approach to feed those instincts. But if you don’t know who you are and aren’t promised to honor that, other priorities will run up one side of you and down the other like a set of railroad tracks. The result will be your ongoing disappearance into the black hole of un-researched models, undocumented results stats, and financial loss. The black hole counts on you following your instincts to save him and your relationship first, and not stopping to take stock of who you are, why that is precious, and how the very best of you is at risk at every step of this nightmare.
So, humor me. Who are you? And by asking that, I want you to go deep into your core, where the truest things that guide and govern your life reside. Those are your core values; things like respect, generosity, accumulation of wealth, honesty, reasoning, patience, trust, hard work, self-worth, winning, kindness, pleasing people, independence, second chances, integrity, being in control, courtesy, eco-friendly, inclusion, power, faith, creativity, community well-being, fairness, investing in others, being important, personal agency, etc. Notice that there is a wide variety in that list of examples, including some you would never choose. Do you know what your core values are right now?
Maybe there’s a whole bunch that come to mind. Just start jotting them down. And remember—core values are not aspirational. They are not about who you would like to be some day, they are about who you really are right now. You build your life around them. And the people who know you well should be able to name some of them, too! Your life reveals them in the dailyness of living, in your relationships, in times of crisis, and in decision-making. So, when you look at those aspects of your life—what values are revealed? Then:
Choose five that seem the strongest ones in your life. Jot them down.
Then try them on and make sure you’ve got a reasonable fit. Say them out loud. Put them in a sentence you could use to introduce yourself, to yourself.
Now consider this idea: what if core values are not just about how you engage life, but are also about how you engage yourself? In other words, core values are authentic if you use them in your relationship with yourself, not just outside relationships..
Finally, take another look at your list. What are the values you need from yourself right now. In this current challenge you face, how could you give them to yourself? How can you clearly express your core values by giving them to yourself, and requiring those values from others in their treatment of you? Jot your thoughts down.
The thing about getting help is that it’s hard to find anyone who cares who you are. Some will listen to the story of your mess, but never look to know who you are, who you thought you were, or have concern about what from your life is at stake in this decision or that consideration. Sometimes it’s even hard to find someone who cares how much of yourself has already gone down the toilet in what you’ve learned so far about your husband or boyfriend’s secret life. Who you are is surely the most important aspect of your being in this world, yet it’s no simple task to find someone who is actually working from that home base of priority and assumption. Is this a place where your core values need to speak up? This crisis is not just about what he deserves. It’s about what you deserve too.
Very few of my clients are “first-timers” in the quest for professional help. Most have been through varieties of high profile service providers. These outfits often have big names, stables of counselors and coaches, lots of money underneath them, the “right” credentials, slick websites and big claims about themselves and what they know about your problem. Most have adopted the “trauma” word around partner care, and some even use the “abuse” word. Still, something goes wrong in the translation and women sense something is missing in their care. And I can tell you what it is: a sacred reverence for who you are and for the place in this world that only you can take.
I understand I may need to break that down.
You will find a lot of religious outfits heavily involved in the sex addiction treatment industrial complex. In fact, strange alliances form between very theologically conservative religious groups and treatment practitioners who espouse and represent non-conformist models of “acceptable” relationships and sexual activities. So what would they have in common? Most often the misogyny in the treatment model is the meeting ground for collaborations. It’s how they think wives and partners should be treated, and how the priority list is configured that unites these groups. None of them wants to name what those wives and partners endure as abuse, and none of them will allow wives and partners to be a priority in care. The men called sex addicts are first in line, and the marriage or partnership is second. Women get their visibility in the world based on conforming to that priority list and devoting their lives to protecting it at all costs.
That means the sacred reverence for your life is not an assumption. It’s an outcome you must earn by saying and doing and being “on script.”
Needless to say, that’s not my approach. I insist from the beginning that your sacred worth is where we begin, not what we achieve once you conform to the goals of misogyny no matter how they are tarted up for church. But it’s hard to start there for most women. And that’s why most women arrive at my door after they’ve spent way too much time and too much money trying to let go of the core values that are meant to protect, guide, and enrich their lives. In some cases, they have lost some of those values and must recover them again. In every case, I remind them that they have what they need within them to heal and recover, we just need to remember it and give it to them again.
That’s not the kind of work you can do under the tyranny of his program, his practitioners’ agenda, and a priority not set by the legitimate needs of your sacred life. And most of these practitioners wouldn’t even know where to begin, anyways. But they’ll keep control as long as you forget who you are.
Don’t forget. Remember every precious detail of your soul’s grace, your mind’s knowledge, your body’s wisdom, and your heart’s treasure. Remember it. Speak it. Get in their face with it. It’s why you are here on this earth. Don’t let it be ignored. It’s your gift to this world. Don’t lay it down now. Use it. Let it lead you. Let it teach others who you expect, deserve, require, need.
In my very first video on Myths about Wives and Partners of Sex Addicts, I talked about a great truth of our situation. (watch free video here: https://youtu.be/GV5y4W82Bbo) We did not choose an abusive husband or boyfriend. A covert abuser chose us precisely because we were not duplicitous, unreliable, uncaring, dishonest, unhelpful, disloyal, or untrusting. (I’m sure the list goes on!) He needed someone like us to make himself (who was all of these things) more believable to others. He needed someone like us who was predictably good, and who would pick up the slack without much complaint as he used up time, energy, and money on his secret life. It’s critical for you to be a wise steward of all the great things you are that express your core values.
He knows who you are. Do you?
When we get involved in recovery programs without grounding ourselves in the truth of who we are, we are at risk for harm done by models that just don’t care who we are.
Find someone to help you who knows who he/she is, and who knows the first task is to find out who you are, and explore how best to engage that in healing and rebuilding.
If you want to talk more about who you think you are and how those strengths can be deployed for your safety, remembering and grieving, and reconnecting to the many facets of your life, use that discounted trial session and see how it feels. If you have questions first, contact me: Diane@yourstoryissafehere.com
p.s. Thank you for reading my blog, and for letting me know it helps you find your way. You can subscribe here: https://www.yourstoryissafehere.com/blog-updates-signup