TAKE TWO....Part One: In My Opinion
Sometimes I just try to say too much in one post. It doesn’t work well. So, I took down last Sunday’s post and I’m trying again. I just had to try again after a timely message from yet another woman whose life has been torn apart by discovering her husband’s secret life of sexual and sexualized activities conducted over decades. Devastated by PTSD, she was then traumatized by going to “SA couple’s counseling” (which I have warned women against doing). Her children are struggling with PTS symptoms as well. She doesn’t know where to turn for help so that she and her children will not be harmed further. I wish these stories were rare. They are not. So, I’m trying again.
Here, then, is a start on “my point of view” of what wives and partners are facing in their relationships with men called sex addicts. First, these men are more correctly called compulsive-abusive sexual relational disordered men, or CASRD men (rhymes with “hazard”). This description name was created by Dr. Omar Minwalla and I believe it is the correct name. That being clear, I want to talk more about a belief I first posted on a public forum over nine years ago, when no one else seemed to be saying it:
1. I believe what wives and partners experience from CASRD men is covert abuse and sometimes also overt abuse. From the Russian roulette they play with our health (denying our personal agency to refuse health risks, take precautions, mitigate the results, or get ourselves treated in time to prevent permanent harm), through the strategic plotting for betrayals, punishments and humiliation, to the blameshifiting, gaslighting, lying, anger, expressions of contempt, personal criticism, emotional and sexual abandonment, and on through retraumatizing staggered disclosures, financial dishonesty, and using religious beliefs, treatment programs, groups and practitioners as weapons of their arrogance and punishment—and more, it’s all abuse. Covert or overt, it’s all abuse. These men are abusers, and abusers are all about control.
If you thought abuse was only about being beaten or shoved, then maybe it’s time to catch on on the working understandings of domestic abuse. You can check out that information here https://www.calgarywomensshelter.com/index.php/about/our-approach
After reading the introductory page, you can click on the two PDF documents at the bottom of the page to learn more. You may also have a women’s shelter in your area or region that has similar definitions and documents to help you understand your experience. I have lived in four provinces in Canada, and this linked material is the best description I have ever found. I am particularly glad that they identify a priority for honoring the resistance of women in overt and covert abusive relationships. In my work with clients I try to listen for those resistance stories so that I can give them back to women as signs that even without support or resources they did try to assert their personal agency and freedom, and stand up for their own dignity.
Women have a hard time leaving abusive relationships. They usually make about 7 attempts to leave before they do leave. I believe it’s even more complicated in our situation. Those complications may include but are not limited to:
Compulsive-abusive sexual relational disordered men (in my experience) usually choose strong, competent, responsible, intelligent and reliable women, driven by positive core values like loyalty and commitment. Those women cannot believe they have ended up in an abusive relationship. Some will take a long time before connecting all those dots, and some will look for any other option altogether so they can avoid the abuse conclusion at all costs. For some women it is a matter of pride to believe they are not abuse victims. This can complicate their response. As I see it, “You can pay now or you can pay later—but if you pay later it always costs you more.” Let’s be more concerned about protecting our dignity and safety than our pride.
PTSD that results from the discovery of his secret life that often spans decades, as well as from the abusive behaviors endured while he protected that life, may compromise how wives and partners process information. It may also limit their ability to engage what a can now be an additionally traumatizing analysis and conclusion about their life. This can complicate how we perceive our experiences.
Religious and other cultural priorities for protecting him and staying married may be powerful influences on wives and partners, and complicate a choice to attend to their own needs and well-being. Because of these pressures and no emerging support for something different, they may opt to overlook the abuse and “hope for better.”
The lack of public and professional validation, naming, or understanding of what wives and partners endure from these men contributes to women’s self-doubt, second-guessing, diminishing and fighting the truth of their own abuse. It is hard to find someone who can help a woman understand what he is doing to her, and his use of manipulative techniques reinforce her self-doubt. Finding help is complicated.
·The lack of therapeutic leadership and support to act for our safety as the top priority above all other factors, including saving the relationship and/or protecting him also leaves us unsupported. Without the concern of treatment professionals for the harm we have already endured and the many risks ahead, we again doubt our lived experience and begin to feel invisible. Seeing ourselves as a legitimate priority for care is complicated by these dynamics.
The treatment industry includes compulsive-abusive sexual relational disordered men in positions of leadership as treatment creators, various kinds of practitioners, program directors, spiritual spokespeople, writers, and public figures. They may not want to be identified as abusers, and therefore have a conflict of interest in attending to the lived experience of abuse that women have to tell. This can complicate the likelihood of receiving correct responsive care.
There is a demonstrated history in the treatment industry for negatively labelling and characterizing wives and partners in their treatment theories, models, and practices without due care for her experience of abuse and the trauma endured. For decades they’ve been called co-sex addicts, co-addicts, and codependents, and characterized in ways that have generated disrespect and contempt for wives and partners. So, they aren’t starting on a level playing field. They actually have to defeat that entrenched belief system (that also satisfies cultural misogyny) before we can hope to be seen as we really are with an experience that should impact the overall approach. Overcoming is complicated.
Credentialing training bodies have not (to the best of my knowledge) required its professional cohort to retrain in the face of actual and publishable research that showed nearly 70% of wives and partners were properly diagnosed with PTSD, as opposed to any of the blameshifting and gaslighting labels listed in the above bullet point. By not requiring this retraining and by not formally denouncing previous industry errors in theory, model and practice, wives and partners can still endure therapeutic trauma when they seek help from treatment industry practitioners, programs and resources preferring to use the incorrect labelling, or using it because they do not stay up to date themselves. This complicates being able to receive correct trauma care.
There is no clearly articulated definition or standard for “recovery” or “healing” for compulsive-abusive sexual relational disordered men that is available for reference. It is my understanding that these men largely set those definitions for themselves, with or without the input of treatment practitioners (who may also be compulsive-abusive sexual relational disordered men who call themselves “recovered”.) The wife or partner is to “stay on her side of the street.” This means her experience of him is not necessarily even a factor in what recovery means or how it is assessed or validated, which is why wives and partners may be stunned at “recovery” announcements that come while they are still in a living hell with these men. The abuse tactics he is using on her do not appear to have the same attention for treatment as his penis activities. Recovery goals are complicated by crucial differences and no clear reference points.
“Penis sobriety” does not mean that all the other abuses are also diminished or eliminated. In my own case, they even escalated. Others have told me the same. It seems someone has to pay for a CASRD man’s penis sobriety, and we are the convenient targets. Leaving an abuser can be complicated by declarations of sobriety and escalating covert abuse.
Here are a few questions you can ponder about this point of view:
Who else in your life has ever treated you with as much cruelty and disrespect as this man?
If a man was treating my daughter this way, would I tell her to lock in for another year of it and to spend everything to get him better—even without reliable data on recovery statistics?
What do you think women who are abused should do?
How are the physical risks he took with your health and the physical toll this whole experience is taking on your health being recorded and addressed?
What are the worst abuses that you have endured? (you can list emotional, financial, social, psychological, spiritual, physical)
How much attention has been given to those abuses in treatment?
Do you think wives and partners of CASRD men should be subjected to treatment by other CASRD men who are now a part of the treatment industry?
What do you think it would mean for your needs and experience to be a priority in treatment?
What has been the most frustrating part of this experience for you?
Have you tried to bring those things forward for discussion or resolution, and to what end?
How have your trauma symptoms been treated?
How have your practical needs for support been addressed?
Has anyone ever suggested you were a codependent/co-addict/co-sex addict?
After reading the descriptions of overt and covert abuse in the information link at the beginning of this post, are you feeling like you have some experience with this kind of abuse?
What does it mean for you to have to consider yourself as a victim of domestic abuse?
If you are resisting that language and assessment, what do you think is going on instead of abuse?
In the years I’ve been involved in this cause for wives and partners, I find that some folks may want to ally with me on some things. But on the issue of abuse and the correct response to it—they hedge. I believe this has to do with misogyny and its social pattern of patriarchy. More on that next week!
Others I collaborate with have ideas that resonate with mine, too. We are working on a model of treatment for wives and partners of CASRD men that makes them a priority, not a prop for his “recovery.” We are getting there, slowly and surely—without sponsors, without financial backers, without religious backers, without conflicts of interest to protect. I hope I will live to see it. Some weeks it’s just hard to stay at it. At times like that, it’s good to laugh with others who also see what’s going on through their lens of comic relief. Copy this URL below into your browser and click. Enjoy Tracey Ullman with her take on just one crazy slice of it all. It’s good to laugh at least as much as we cry, and remember that other people can see what’s wrong, too!
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