How To Start Taking Your Life Seriously

I hated it. I hated everything about it—what it meant, how it was done, why I was doing it, who had to know, even how much of my time it took. Oh, I knew all the reasons why it was important. But somehow this cut the wound deeper. And nine years ago, it was given no priority in the treatment model, its resources or practitioners. In fact, it was pretty much the last thing they wanted you to do—literally the last thing on the list if it even made the list. So, I just kept putting it off.

When I finally was tested for STD’s/STI’s, I truly felt like something died in me towards my (then) husband. It was the confirmation of the feelings I wrote about in one of my earliest blogs when I described how I expected he would kill me. He had killed something for sure. But it wasn’t me. He killed any lingering hope that he ascribed value to my life at all, except as it was useful to him. More than when I moved to the guest room, more than when we separated, more than when we sold our house and had our own places—I knew in the moment I sat alone in the doctor’s examination room in a torn and crunched up paper gown with the lab requisition in my hand that I was on my own and had always been on my own in this marriage.

As it turned out, I was one of the lucky ones. My STD/STI tests were clean. My body was intact. No lesions. No warts. No dying ovaries. No infections. No rashes. No viruses. No discharges. No prescriptions. I was one of the lucky ones.

For many women the testing experience is no big deal. For others, like me, it was an ugly rite of passage in facing the truth of my so-called marriage. But when it was over, I felt like I had put myself back into my body and flipped the switch back on. I was real again. My life was real again--horrifying real and violated at the core level of physical safety with no sex addiction treatment professional that thought that little detail was important. I was furious.

After feeling invisible in the treatment model and being immobilized by post-traumatic stress, these tests were like two hands giving my shoulders a shake and calling me back to a sense of my own life as real. I was no longer invisible to myself. I was a person with a body that had been put at risk without my knowing it, so that I could do nothing to protect myself. And no one in the prevailing treatment model cared about that fact at all. This was the experience that galvanized my understanding of what these men did to us, and then the treatment model did to us, as abuse. I was finished trying to help him get better while I was still asked to take all the risks. I was through playing recovery games with his ridiculous program in its thinly-veiled cloak of misogyny. And the first thing I wanted to do was help women stay alive and healthy.

For years after that, only a handful of voices made  STD/STI testing a top priority for wives and partners. I was one of them.

Think about that for a minute. Just a few of us were brave enough to call what these men did to us abuse, and we were the only ones publicly advocating for your health and your life. Is it different now?

I was looking at one of the new partner care coaching outfits that has sprung up since then. Their site started out sounding like they were going to make us a priority. Lots of big talk about trauma. They even used the word abuse. But they still did not connect the dots between the physical risks these men take with women’s lives without the women knowing and the drastic outcomes of those risks realized, with the category of physical abuse. I’ll bet you wonder why that is.

Everyone knows that when you have abuse named and identified this way, the response protocol means the priority is for the safety of the women and any minor children. That means you don’t try to save marriages on the backs of abused women. You save the women and the children, first. And there’s really not a lot of money in that. There never has been. So, this new batch of shiny certified partner “whatevers” call it betrayal trauma. There’s a lot of betrayal trauma talk out there right now—trying to make the trauma stay constrained to the category of emotional pain and instability. Along the way, they may even tell you to get tested, but the results aren’t allowed to be physical abuse outcomes.

In other words, they keep you OUT OF YOUR BODY. Just as being tested put me back into my body and broke the hold of invisibility and immobilization in which I was caught, these practitioners will not allow the physical abuse to be named that way or responded to appropriately.

One of hardest things I experienced in my work coming alongside wives and partners of men called sex addicts was hearing their stories of discovering they were afflicted with disease that left them barren, physically scarred, facing a life ahead as a carrier of disease themselves, handling ugly, obvious, and painful outbreaks, dealing with HIV, miscarriages, babies born with disease, or living through pregnancy filled with anxiety about such an outcome, unable to risk nursing their own child, and other horrors.

These were real facts from real lives, and all due to men called sex addicts taking risks with their wives’ or partners’ lives, without consent and without giving them any chance  to protect themselves or their unborn children. It was physical abuse and violence so reprehensible that the sex addiction treatment industry and its practitioners wouldn’t even mention it. As I write about it, the names of faces of these women are with me. They will be always be with me. They are one of the reasons I won’t stop doing this work.

And the most important thing for you to hear today is that they were women just like you and just like me. None of them imagined needing to be tested and none of them imagined testing positive. But most of all, none of them imagined that her husband or boyfriend wouldn’t even think twice about risking her health or her life. Or, that after his secret life was discovered, he would continue to lie about what risks he had taken, so that even then she might imagine she was safe when he knew she wasn’t.

Statistics about STD’s/STI’s in the United States were just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing dramatic increases in three STD’s in particular:

  • Gonorrhea increased by 67 percent to 555,608 cases
  • Syphilis increased by 76 percent to 30,644 case
  • Chlamydia increased by 22 percent to 1.7 million cases

Look again at those increases. It was the release of these statistics that prompted me to write on this topic. I’m not exaggerating that this is becoming a crisis concern for wives and partners. This is not the time to delay testing. It must be the top priority in wife or partner care. I was wrong to wait to be tested. I took a risk with my own life that I should not have taken. Please don’t follow my example. Please. Let your decision to get tested be your first powerful act of self-compassion.

In addition to practitioners who only talk about betrayal trauma, be aware that some also will tell you that if he’s been tested and come up clean, you don’t need to be. That’s just wrong. He may have infected you but recovered from the same infection himself so that it doesn’t show up on his test. I have a client who suffered this additional injustice. Any kind of sex addiction treatment practitioner who does not make your testing a first priority and does not name the outcomes as evidence of physical threat made against you, or as physical harm done to you is not someone to trust with your life. They STILL aren’t taking your life seriously. The question is, will you?

I hated it. I hated everything about it. But it put me back into my body and provided an absolute clarity about the threat of physical abuse to which I had been subjected for years without my knowing, and the outcome of physical abuse I could have shown in court had my tests had worse results. There’s a reason why more and more jurisdictions allow litigation around the transferring of STD’s/STI’s by one person to another without their knowledge. The courts are beginning to take your life seriously. The question of how seriously your practitioner is taking your life is a real one.

Your life is made of heart, mind, body, and spirit. Every single one of those things is threatened by being in a relationship with a man called a sex addict. You deserve help that recognizes the experience of abuse threatened or realized in every one of them, and that has the courage to say what it is and support you as you decide what it’s going to mean in your life. I take my life seriously. I take your life seriously. Give it a try. Get tested now.

Don’t be shy about trying a trial session if you need to talk about how to take your life seriously. Your story is safe here. Contact me: Diane@yourstoryissafehere.com

 

With you,

Diane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane Strickland