But I'm Different
Yes you are—wonderfully different from anyone else in the whole world. No one can take your place. It will belong always and only to you. For no one can bring to the world quite the same combination of abilities, gifts, perspective, character and personality that you do. You are different.
Being different also means that your trauma symptoms might not be the same as someone else’s. Or, the symptom that bothers you the most isn’t the one that bothers someone else the most. Your symptoms might not be as intense, last as long, or be triggered by the same stimulus as someone else’s. Similarly, the coping tool that works the best for me, might not be the best one for you. You are different.
Your experience of discovery and trauma is also influenced by your age, the longevity of the relationship, the specific sexual and sexualized activities that he’s being doing, the diseases you may now have as a result and their impact on your life, your ability to support yourself financially, whether you have children or not, and if you do, how old they are. Your geographic, linguistic and social isolation is another influence, as well as whether you have a support system that may include family, friends, co-workers, or whether you have a faith community, spiritual practice or religious tradition. You are different.
You may also have other traumas in your life (past and present) that influence how this new trauma impacts you. Some women have serious health issues in play that have compromised their capacity to absorb or manage additional trauma. Others may have past traumas associated with violence, accidents, abuse, loss or disaster that make them more vulnerable to symptomology in this new experience of trauma. You are different.
The kind of therapeutic support you get also impacts your trauma symptoms. In fact, Dr. Omar Minwalla includes “treatment-induced trauma” as one of his “Thirteen Dimensions of Sex Addiction-Induced Trauma (SAIT). You can read Dr. Minawalla’s full article here: heinstituteforsexualhealth.com/thirteen-dimensions-of-sex-addiction-induced-trauma-sait-among-partners-and-spouses-impacted-by-sex-addiction/. Some women have arrived at my doorstep with little will to continue living because of what they endured from a treatment practitioner. Others put up with the therapeutic abuse in the desperate hope that it will help their husband or boyfriend, but then leave when they see no change whatsoever, or even find he gets worse! Still others research the model and quickly conclude it’s not worth the money, time, or effort. You are different.
I could go on and on about how and why you are different—wonderfully so and also in every way that this experience affects you negatively. In fact, what connects us most readily is how tediously predictable our husbands and boyfriends are. They aren’t all that different. There are types, but not that many of them. Often when I talk to women about their husband or boyfriend in a specific situation—they stop me, incredulous at what I describe and ask “Were you in the room? How do you know that?”
How did all these men, created to be as different as we all are, end up so hard to tell apart?
Every choice they make to move away from the core values of their marriage vows, words of commitment, or cohabitation promises is a choice that takes them away from creativity, imagination, freedom and individuality. They shrink their own spirits so much that they end up as someone whose words and actions are easily and accurately described and anticipated by a 62 year old retired minister in Calgary, Alberta who has never met them. How pathetic is that? Really?
But you—you are different. And I know that for some of you that means you believe you can succeed where others failed. Some may think their support, their participation in recovery, their love will be the difference. He will change. I understand that feeling. I understand that sense that this work must be the work you were meant to do.
But it’s not your work. It’s his. And therein lies the problem. Everything that makes you different doesn’t make him different. I’m going to say that again. Everything that makes you different doesn’t make him different.
Now this has been some straight talk. You might not like me much right now. But let me affirm that I believe your husband or boyfriend deserves to be whole and deserves a treatment program that can actually help him be more, not less in this world. We just don’t have one yet. And the quicker women stop lining the pockets of the treatment industry as it is now, the sooner we might get one that will make the difference, in these men we have loved.
Meanwhile, you are different. And what makes you different is the key to how you will integrate this experience into your life and decide what that means. If you want to talk with someone who will honour that difference and help you use it to heal and participate fully in life again—your story is safe here.