Four Myths about Wives and Partners + One More

Some of my blog readers have known me for quite a while. Others have just stumbled upon my site. Still others have been pointed in my direction by Lili Bee who does similar work from her site www.posarc.com  Thank you very much to all who check in each week to see what’s on my mind, and also for signing up for blog updates. It may sound like no big deal, but you encourage me to keep writing and talking about how we can keep from losing ourselves in the black hole of his secret life and flawed treatment programs.

My first foray into providing information and support started a number of years ago. I developed a series that tackled some unhelpful myths about wives and partners of men called sex addicts. There are now four videos in that series and they are FREE. You can find them linked on this website in the resource section if you haven’t seen them yet on my YouTube channel,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GV5y4W82Bbo&list=PLUtWqNWADzheUOW5r3XVARsaHVbnR-9Iq  or through my school “Still-Learning” on Teachable.com   https://still-learning.teachable.com/   

I chose the video topics based on what clients were telling about their experiences, as well as on my own experience. I developed and presented my material, knowing that it was kind of radical compared to the stuff that was out there that purposefully ignored the real issues at stake and the offences undertaken against women. I was nervous, but determined. My partner, Marc, did videography and editing so a big thank you to him. It was a home grown operation and was really my first foray into naming and addressing the obstacles we face as we try to climb out of this nightmare. It’s been gratifying to see them travel around on the internet and be used by others (sisterhoodofsupport.com was the first to use them) to reach traumatized women around the world. The response to these videos encouraged me to keep going.

Sometimes it’s good to walk down memory lane, and take your readers with you. Because it’s about more than reminiscing. It’s about making the point that wives and partners really can recover, and really do recover when they invest in their own healing and make it a top priority.  I know how it can feel like you will never get any better. After my dday I often had speech terror when I tried to talk about what had happened to me and what I was dealing with. My lips would move and no words came out. I was also overwhelmed by fear that it immobilized me so that sometimes I couldn’t leave the house or drive the car. I also was terrified that something even worse was going to happen if anyone found out about my story and my marriage. I was often overtaken by emotional ambushes of grief and despair, and for a long time I was like a animal following one path from my bedroom/bathroom to the kitchen and back, never going into any other room. The notion that I would one day be creating and presenting free internet videos in which I showed my face, talked about this whole experience, and then added my name and contact information, definitely was not on the radar! And I certainly never imagined the difference they would make for women like me.

So this brings me to the myth about which I haven’t done a video yet. And that myth is the one that says wives and partners of men called sex addicts will do anything and put up with anything in order to save their marriage.

No. Actually, we won’t.

We may give our husband or boyfriends a second chance.

We may invest time and energy to research what is called sex addiction and treatment effectiveness

We may participate in his recovery program.

We may financially support his recovery program.

We may assume more family and household responsibility while he’s in a recovery program.

But for some women, those things may be impossible. And for some women who do undertake these efforts or others like them, there are limits to their ongoing investments.

Regardless of what we do or don’t do, more and more women are realizing that the marriage they are trying to save was never there in the first place. We married liars, many of whom used lying as a coping tool for their own childhood traumas. They said whatever they needed to say to us to create a fake life to hide their secret one. That realization comes to most women like trauma’s second wind, and unleashes another level of grief and damage.

It’s one thing to discover your husband or boyfriend’s secret life. It’s another to realize the one he had with you was always the fake life.

It’s worth pointing out that even in the midst of our own devastation we don’t necessarily stop caring about them anymore. But sometimes we care differently. We care, knowing that whatever is wrong with these guys, it’s way past the pay grade of most therapists, and that 12-step groups act more like petri dishes for skills development in blameshifting, gaslighting, lying, and spiritual bullying. But most of all, we realize that it’s not a marriage in the ways that it must be in order for us to continue participating in it. We may care about them, but we see they are people whose core values are incompatible with our own. We would never have married them if they hadn’t lied about who they really were. And when we look ahead into the future, and consider how the aging process will diminish his ability to self-regulate, as he becomes more self-absorbed, as his filters start to slip along with his memory, or as early onset or dementia begins, the golden years begin to look like a horror movie in which we will have to endure more of his abuse or finally get out after wasting yet more of our lives on our abuser.

It’s unfortunate that many religious and social traditions assume that the marriage or relationship is more important than the women’s right to be safe from overt and covert abuse. It's disgusting to me how easily these groups encourage and pressure women to squander their own precious lives in these abusive relationships and put themselves in harm's way. It’s even more unfortunate and disgusting that large numbers of treatment centers, practitioners, and programs share this assumption—even to the point of shaming women who seek to be safe and unharmed in their recovery, withholding information critical to the woman’s safety and critical for  the woman’s informed decision-making, and forbidding discussion or formulation of a plan for leaving. Actually it’s not just “unfortunate and disgusting”. In my opinion it’s moral and professional negligence.

The myth that women want to sacrifice their dignity, health, happiness, self-respect, safety, and integrity in order to stay married (or stay in a relationship) is hard to dispel because patriarchy has a stake in it being true. it maintains control of women in ways that harm them. In the meantime, I persist in the belief that a woman’s life is worth more than that, and that woman want their lives to be treated as if they are worth more than that.

If you find yourself having to break through myths about you that others want to preserve, please contact me. Your story is safe here.

With you

Diane.

 

 

Diane Strickland