Recovery Down So Low You Can't Get Under It

Another week has passed. And it’s been another week of wives and partners broken, enraged, diseased, and frantic to learn what their best options are and find some relief from his abuse—abuse now amplified by the treatment model and its practitioners.

Some weeks I want to scream. But instead I’m going to tackle yet another topic on the buffet table of recovery bullshit. This week’s blog is about the imaginary “reasonable expectations and accountability” bar that you will spend your time and energy creating so that he and his team can beat you upside the head with it any time you bring it into the conversation. The first pieces of the imaginary bar are your boundaries. 

You spent days doing a workbook (yet another thing to buy) to outline “your boundaries” because apparently he had no other way of knowing that putting his penis in other people’s bodies or showing it about in public or private viewing opportunities were “no-no’s” in your relationship.  

Then, after you’ve spent too much time and money talking about what should be obvious, his penis “accidentally” ends up places it has no business being anyway. You want to end the experiment about “working this through” but the therapist tells you that you have to expect “slips” and it’s unfair for you to enforce this boundary without compromise. You ask her what kind of a boundary isn’t really a boundary, and where is that part of the instructions in the workbook? She insists you are just trying to shame him. You get the feeling that the boundary workbook was just to keep you busy and invested, since your boundaries don’t actually count any more than your marriage vows did.

The therapist points out that at least he told you about this “slip.” You try to correct her and explain that you actually found all the texts exchanged before and after the “slip.” She  then accuses you of violating his privacy in order to “pain-shop”, and says that in her professional opinion this whole episode is something you needed to create and he couldn’t be expected to know you were setting him up to fail so you could use your boundary work to abuse him.

What is this world of “make it up as you go along” thinking?

This recovery program and its supervisors seem to belong to the same world as he does—the world of “make it up as you go along” and “blame everything on her.” There’s no way in to find a place of sane discussion and common reference points. You wonder where the bar is for reasonable expectations in recovery, and on what it is based if not your boundaries and the presumed goal of his recovery from compulsive-abusive sexual and sexualized activities.

Well, apparently it’s all very fluid. The therapist looks pityingly at your colonial ideas as she explains your expectations for his behaviour may no longer match his sexual identity and desires. That’s something you have to negotiate now as he works through his issues. Your boundaries now represent a very limited understanding of human sexuality that has become shaming for him. Meanwhile, having been sexually abandoned by him for a long time after years of him shutting down any sexual exploration or intimacy between you, you are beginning to notice that his sexuality is STILL the only sexuality that matters in this relationship. So, the only way to measure progress for you is if he can keep your boundaries, and now, apparently those really don’t matter. They are already quaint artifacts of your oh so pedestrian core values. They are just so…yesterday!

Meanwhile he’s been quite quiet, clearly content to have the conflict about what he’s doing with his penis these days centered between you and the therapist, who is defending his right to violate your boundaries and accusing you of setting him up to fail at the same time. He couldn’t have dreamed for a better outcome. Apparently, any attempt to have basic expectations around his conduct is going to be unacceptable. This is working out perfectly.  He stays quiet.

How did the bar get down so low you can’t get under it?

You wanted someone with whom you would build a whole life—making a home, raising a family, pursuing meaningful work, having simple joys together, sharing a few adventures along the way, working together through thick and thin, and deepening your love and commitment through each challenge and every achievement. It was never about getting rich or famous for you. It was always about that extraordinary gift of an ordinary life partnership brokered by mutual support and respect, passion, loyalty, kindness, honesty, humour, and love. 

But apparently this was too much to ask of the man who said he loved you and wanted to build a life with you. Okay. Hard things happen. But it was also too much to ask for him to say, “Look I don’t love you anymore”, or “This isn’t what I want out of life after all”, or “We need to separate while I sort my feelings out.” That would take integrity. These guys don’t do integrity. They do “manipulate, use, humiliate, and harm”—different kettle of fish altogether and not much to do with his penis at all.

The bar for human decency is much lower for these guys. While they expect the moon from wives and partners in terms of character defined by high value personal qualities that serve their wants and needs, the bar to which they aspire themselves is so low you are likely to trip over it.

And it’s not over yet. He has a whole gang of thugs tuned up to whack you over the head with that bar the moment you try to enforce any standard of accountability of any kind. He will come home from his circle jerk meeting with scripts to serve up to you that have been served up to almost every wife and partner I know. These scripts basically tell you to shut up and get used to getting nothing—including truth and basic courtesy. You don’t deserve anything and you aren’t going to get anything but more abuse.

At the same time, you are supposed to order up a parade for any period of time that he manages to keep his penis in his pants (and apparently his word on it is something you can take to the bank.) Yep, that’s supposed to be you, down in the dirt where the bar now rests, trying to find something you can pin on his chest because he just put a poopoo in the toilet---oh wait, sorry, that’s toilet training. It’s easy to get the two things confused. But it does make the point about how this treatment model infantilizes these men in the way they deal with both their “achievements” and their “slips.” Adulting is not a part of recovery.

Yes, it’s been quite a week.

So here’s the thing.

The problem is not confusion about your boundaries, your core values, or what you marriage vows or relationship commitment means. He knows what these things are. It’s why he picked you. You made him more believable, and he learned to mimic them from your authentic incarnation of those things in your life.

The problem is that your boundaries, your core values, your marriage vows or relationship commitments are not meant to function as any constraints on his life—ever. Not before. Not after. Not ever. Because they are not his boundaries or his core values. And your vows or commitments are meant to bind you, not him. This is exactly how the recovery industry continues to use them. They are the resources needed to keep you invested, busy, and bound. And as a final insult to injury, they will be used to present him as needing more than you can possibly imagine in the expression of human sexuality. He will simply be a more highly evolved and open person than you could ever be. And you should consider yourself lucky he will still have you, and entertain the possibility of his penis gifting your life with its surpassing greatness.

Misogyny is as ridiculous as that. As all that. It is preposterous in its arrogance and violently destructive in its injustice to the sacred value of your life—including the wondrous gift of your sexuality that so terrifies him in its comfort with intimacy and its commitment to him even with knowing all the limits, frailties and quirks of his own incarnation. You never scoffed at his appearance, at the size of his penis, or his clumsy “love-making” (and I can report that my experience with hundreds of clients tells me you had a lot of material you never used against him.) You loved him as he was, and with that love could have created a sexual life of passion, joy, humour, and intimacy as you learned together what was possible between you. It wasn’t just a low bar already, it was that there was no bar. You didn’t need a bar of reasonable expectation. There was a whole universe of grace in your love and your promises.

But he simply wasn’t up to it. Not up to your freedom, your passion, your mutuality, your joy, or your love. He was NEVER up to it. But he put on a good con, and the truth of his inwardly deformed being was simply unimaginable in content, scope and destructive purpose.

And now all that has changed. You know who he is and who he is not. He doesn’t have the character within himself to live in the freedom and sanctity of your love. He can’t handle love like yours. To him, it is a power that must be challenged, beaten into submission and used to hurt you. And the treatment practitioners don’t even have a working vocabulary to talk about what you bring, never mind honor it as the sacred gift that it is. Instead, you are reduced to creating boundaries for a human being so deeply damaged and so far passed the pay grade of the practitioner that he will never be able to succeed at responsible adulting in a relationship of positive mutuality. And to hide that truth your investment will again and always become the problem to work around and the reason for his failure.

The bar is down so low you can’t get under it.

If this is the relationship you really want, I suggest you get a shovel. You’re going to need it.

Another week has passed. My whole life is praying that you will begin to imagine your options and make your decisions based on the capacity, wonder and value of your life, not on how teeny tiny these people can chop up your greatness into manageable pieces to run through their soul grinder.

If you want something more than that for your life, your love, your promises,

Take a breath.

Get up off your knees.

Shoulders back and head up high.

Let go of the bar.

Oh, hell, just throw it away as far as you can.

Take hold of your life as if everything depended upon it.

Because it does.

In your love and your promises lives a whole universe of grace.

Do not hand it over to people who don’t even know what it is.

Start there.

Start with who sticks around when you honor your life as sacred.

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With you,


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