Intimate Partner Abuse: How Does It Impact You?
Intimate Partner Abuse by men called sex addicts is a taboo topic for the treatment industry and religious-based recovery programs and practitioners. Your response to last week’s blog, however, tells me it’s a topic long overdue for attention. Thank you for your feedback and additional items for the list.
Today I’m talking about the impact and consequences from the abuse we have endured. It’s not a pretty list, either, so please take care of yourself as you read it. Pace yourself. Use mindfulness coping strategies, tapping, and self-soothing strategies along the way. And if your symptoms need urgent attention seek professional help or call a crisis helpline for women.
Intimate Partner Abuse: How Does it Impact You?
Spending time and energy trying to anticipate and avoid things that will annoy him
Accepting more parenting and household responsibility to reduce his stress load
Sleep is difficult, disturbed, rare
Deep heartbreak that leaves you unable to participate fully in life
Acquiring ticks and nervous habits when he is present and about which he acts disgusted
Walking on eggshells around him (and sometimes his family)
Additional stress aggravates existing health issues or triggers dormant ones
A sense of a foreshortened future—that means if you are able to think about the future at all, you will not be able to see yourself in it
Enduring the ignorance, non-support and insults of his treatment group for the sake of his possible recovery
Additional stress creates new health issues (gut problems, breast health, headaches, arthritis, grinding/clenching teeth, elevated cortisol, thyroid problems, shingles, eczema, problems swallowing, inflammation problems, hives, acne, weight loss/gain, etc)
Loneliness in the relationship
Can’t seem to get anything done
Unable to manage emotions in public settings for daily errands and tasks.
Some of the strengths you could always count on in yourself are diminished or gone altogether
Losing dependable strengths creates a crisis of identity and generates fear, grief, and shame
Blaming and berating yourself for his behaviors
Little understanding from others who say things like “get over it”, “everyone does porn”, etc.
Cognitive dissonance about the man you loved, and who he actually is
Feeling unattractive and undesirable
Having to create effective questions for polygraph testing or not being allowed to submit questions for his polygraph both cause terrible anxieties and trauma
Depression and despair
Crisis of faith
Handwriting changes that may be so extreme that you don’t recognize your own writing
Freezing response to pressure or stress
Missing bill payments and other personal administrative lapses
Withdrawal from social circle and friendships
Losing keys, cards, phones, wallets, etc.
Spending time, effort and money trying to “fix yourself” when there’s nothing you can do to stop his abuse of you
Exhausted from taking on more household and family duties while he “recovers”
Can’t read as much, or at all, or as quickly as you used to
Stop participating in hobbies and other interests
Can’t concentrate as much as you used to, for as long as you used to
Having to find a way to re-enter work force after decades away raising children
Losing your sense of direction and can’t remember how to get places you know
Out of character and reactive outbursts towards your abuser when he baits you
Numbing, unable to feel your own emotions or respond emotionally to events and people.
Unable to moderate emotional responses and reactions in proportion to the situation
Panic attacks, during the day and/or while sleeping.
Angry because you have to be the adult in the relationship
Feeling stupid about being fooled by him
Beginnings of, or full-on agoraphobia
Poor work performance reviews
Hyperviligant—especially scared of sudden noises or movements
Thoughts of self-harm or suicidality
Thinking about death
Contraction of STD’s or STI’s from your man called a sex addict may leave you feeling ashamed, stupid, or “tainted”
Spurts of defending yourself that generate accusations of you being abusive and irrational
Losing or having to leave your job
Angry because you are expected to be the sheriff and parent to your life partner
Isolation created by trying to avoid rejection at work, faith community, family, friends, neighbours
Vertigo and dizzy spells
Regularly overcome with bouts of deep grief and crying
Angry because you can’t trust anything he says anymore
Dealing with STI’s/STD’s testing and treatment, and the life-long impact of these diseases and infections
Dealing with STI/STD threat to unborn and nursing children, and the life-long impact of these diseases and impact
Feeling like you are crazy because he pretends nothing’s wrong
Crippling financial anxiety
Being caught in an endless spiral of trying to understand his cruelty to you
When you get up the nerve to name his abuse and the impact on you, he and his practitioners accused you of shaming him and silence you
An almost unbearable grief
Feelings of complete emptiness
Obsessive-compulsive behaviors that focus on control (checking and re-checking, etc.)
Compulsive behaviors that focus on numbing your feelings
Constantly second-guessing yourself because he and his treatment group say you over-react
Neglecting personal care and/or hygiene
Over time, realizing the cumulative physical harm as your health deteriorates from absorbing the years/decades of covert abuse
Angry because he is coddled and indulged while you are criticized or ignored
Spending time, money and energy looking for professional support for your relationship problems while he diminishes your concerns and dismisses your ideas
Trying harder to be a “good” wife
While you are sincerely looking for “solutions” for your “relationship” problem, he empties accounts, hides money, incurs joint debt, and protects his financial interests—a second con
Seeking help from spiritual leaders and being told it’s your fault, or that you must forgive him
Risk confiding in friends and family with varying responses—some supportive and some not
Unable to trust others, not just him
Losing the respect of those he has been manipulating in his proactive damage control efforts
Denying facts, ignoring revealed truth, and operating in a bubble as if nothing’s wrong
Feeling invisible in your life and in the world
As you learn more about the sex addiction treatment industry you realize it is full of male practitioners who are also sex addicts, was created by one, has no credible results to claim, and that you are in more danger, not less
Feeling debased because of the sexual things you agreed to do in an effort to please him
Losing track of conversations and seeming to zone out sometimes in the middle of them
Using religion to deny facts and avoid truth
Adult children blame you, will not tolerate engaging the truth of your experience, take his side and then pretend they are trying to be “Switzerland”
Adult children create rules for you to obey to ensure you are never upset around them, seek their support in any way, or challenge their perspective with the facts, and often use seeing the grandchildren as the leverage for your obedience
Contraction of certain STD’s/STI’s will be permanent afflictions and you maybe be required by law (as well as your core values) to inform future sexual partners of your disease or infection, thereby limiting your chances to go on from this relationship to have an adult relationship should you meet someone for whom you care.
Adult children blame you for your marriage problems
You have to defend yourself against abusive therapists
Having to defend yourself from children, friends, family, faith communities, etc who accuse you of being “unforgiving”
Self-worth dissipates into nothing
Feeling pressure to keep his secret, and internalizing that stress while increasing isolation.
Needing to take prescription drugs like sleep-aids, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds just to keep going
Needing other drugs to manage the other health issues that arise (anti-inflammatories, thyroid meds, pain killers, chemo, etc)
Inability to regain a sense of security and manage cumulative PTSD symptoms because of the staggered disclosure reality reinforced by the treatment group expectation that you will believe and accept the disclosure as complete—-which it never is.
As with last week’s list, feel free to let me know what I’ve missed. Then consider:
An Important Question: How many checked items on each of the two lists (last week’s and this week’s) should make the sex addiction treatment industry ensure your safety and healing as their top priority?
The Most Important Question: How many checked items on each of the two lists (last week’s and this week’s) does it take for YOU to make yourself your priority for care, advocacy and protection?
None of this is easy for us. There’s nothing wonderful about grappling with the facts and truth of the relationship in which you are struggling to thrive and, sometimes, to survive. Maybe it’s time to share these checked lists with your therapist and ask when the abuse and its impact on you is considered a priority, instead of being unnamed and hidden under the fog of something called his sex addiction.
Does what’s wrong with him really matter more, if this is what he is doing to you?
For the record, I have never seen lists like this one (or last week’s) anywhere. Why do you think that is? They took very little time to put together from my work with clients. Our experience has been heavily redacted or silenced all together. I am proud to be the first one I know to list this information and post it to the internet.
As the lists travel to other sites and forums, people attempt to change the subject, suggest the lists are not in reference to men called sex addicts, and declare that men called sex addicts can change (offering no evidence for that because there isn’t any). Some people will say anything to turn the attention elsewhere. Please pay attention to how people try to get you to think about something else.
Still for the record, all the items on both lists came from wives and partners of men diagnosed and being treated for sex addiction by the sex addiction treatment industry. The lists reveal a crisis of intimate partner abuse that is brushed under the rug. Men called sex addicts are destroying women’s lives. Shame on anyone so cowardly as to feed lies to women so they will stay for more of it. This issue is the key issue that the treatment industry will not address.
Now, misogynists are a dime a dozen, and there’s no surprise to find treatment practitioners comfortable in that role since so many of them are sex addicts themselves. But what really makes me ill is that people within my faith tradition are promoting negligent care for wives and partners as a faithful Christian response. This is a repeat of our earliest struggles in intimate partner abuse when women beaten bloody were urged to return to their abusers, submit and make it work while he “tried” to stop. It’s time to stop pretending that luring women into false beliefs about likely outcomes and urging them to stay in abusive relationships with men called sex addicts is anything different than this evil from our past. Women do not have to remain with their abuser in order for the abuser to change. Why is she taking all the risks? The answer is: because he’s not going to treatment if he loses control of her. If she leaves, he stops “treatment”. The industry knows it. We know it. He knows it. Abuse is always about control. The sex addiction treatment industry will use any means it can get away with to ensure the participation of the wife or partner so that their priority client keeps paying.
I believe these two lists should and can change the conversation. At the least it will make clear who takes intimate partner abuse seriously, and who doesn’t.
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