Living Differently into These Hard Truths
After four weeks of examining how men call sex addicts harm their wives, partners, children and step-children, we need to hit the pause button, catch our breath and see what we’ve learned. So, in today’s blog I’m going to talk about how we live with the truths that we have found the courage to speak, face, hear, and validate.
Before I do that, I want to honor that remarkable courage! Your persistence in reading the blog and validating the hard stories shared over the last four weeks bears witness to your commitment to the value of your lives and your children’s lives. Please don’t lose sight of that! Keep it in front of you at all times. Say it out loud. Talk about it to yourself and to your children. Validate and affirm over and over again. The power of his fake life to make you all doubt yourselves and feel less than “enough” must be undermined by the power of your real lives as a loving wife/partner and loving children/stepchildren.
I also want to honour my anonymous guest blogger and her two daughters for their courage to write down what happened to them and how their lives have been impacted by their father’s secret life and his so-called “recovery” years. And I honour your stories you sent me in response to these blogs—stories of loyalty and love, abuse and devastation. We are standing up for ourselves—women and children! We are standing up for the truth of his abuse and harm done. We are telling the stories that crippled our lives for years and may leave us permanently vulnerable and diminished by trauma. But in the telling of those stories and the bearing witness to them on this blog we can begin to take our healing and our children’s healing into our own hands. We can ask for actual trauma assessment, coping tools and treatment from a true clinical traumatologist grounded in tri-phasic process. And if the model, program or practitioner can’t or won’t offer it, we don’t give them our money.
Each of us has to determine how we can carry this information forward. What we can’t do right now, we may be able to do a few months from now if we focus on our healing and strength. So don’t expect too much from yourself. Just have a look at the list of possible actions as a guide to thinking differently about this situation. Use the power you have as the authentic parent to offer guidance and support. Pace yourself. Use mindfulness breathing as you go along to resettle and ground yourself. Here, then, are some ideas to consider:
Some of us may have to go back to children further along now in age and broach subjects we hoped we wouldn’t have to discuss at all, or again.
We may need to seek a clinical traumatologist who works with children and youth and find out how our children really are doing.
We may need to learn to script our interactions with adult children.
We will need to be mothers in the best way we know to be. Whatever happened to our relationship with our husband or boyfriend, everything that passed between our children and us was authentic. They may need reassurance about that. You may need to put that plainly for them so they can hang on to it.
Let’s put ourselves in our children’s shoes and realize how much of their formation as human beings will have a shadow cast over it by learning about their father’s secret life. They may wonder, like us, if they matter at all. Knowing three great things about each child to share with them may be really important (no matter how old they are).
Help them claim their authentic presence in family life by remembering out loud some of the wonderful things they did for you, or fun you had with them, or special moments shared.
Children’s fundamental security that family is safe, home is safe, the world is safe may be jeopardized. Create rituals and traditions using coping tools to help structure their lives with common expectation, presence and participation.
Our children may also need help learning scripts to respond to family or church people, schoolmates or neighbours who make remarks that show his conduct has hurt their status or reputation, or those make demands of them to “get over it”, “forgive him”, or play along with the “happy family façade.” Tell them what they can say if someone makes them uncomfortable.
Use techniques like the “daily weather report” to find out how everyone is feeling. In the daily weather report, participants use terms like cloudy, sunny, raining, storming, tornado, windy, warm, overcast etc to describe their feelings. It gets a conversation going about feelings in an easy way.
Be alert to any questions or remarks children make that could indicate they are blaming themselves for their father’s secret life. Thoughts that they were not good enough, their love wasn’t adequate, or they didn’t behave well enough to earn his love and loyalty may be settling in. If you suspect this, your children need qualified trauma care.
If children feel they need to explore blaming you, gently and firmly tell them that your conduct is not at fault, your love is not at fault, and your commitment is not at fault. This problem originates in who he is, not who you are, or who his children are.
If children suggest you and they need to forgive daddy, you can teach that we do that first by treating ourselves the way we deserve, and by respecting that it is his desire for a secret life and his priority to protect that, that is hurting the family, not a lack of forgiveness.
You may need to lower academic expectations for your children while they manage this trauma. Help them to know you recognize that and will support them while they find even ground again.
Do not expect your children to be your emotional peer support. Find a therapist, adult confidant, religious leader or adult family member to listen to your feelings and personal concerns. Your children need you to be their mother.
Choirs, theatre, visual arts and crafts, yoga, hiking, swimming, mindfulness practices and some sports are all activities that provide good trauma care to both adults and children. Maybe it’s time to try something new on this list. Can you make an agreement to all try something new, or all try something together?
If you are dealing with hurtful adult children always make your own plans for your birthday and other special occasions so that you are not left hanging. If you get an invitation from them that you want to accept, you may be able to cancel the other easily. Just never count on them coming through for you. That way, when they do, it’s a nice surprise.
Thank carefully about any financial support you have been giving adult children. Pulling it out with no warning is not a good idea, but if you feel mistreated or taken for granted, give them a three months warning, for example, about the end of it and simply tell them that while you were happy to offer that assistance when your circumstances appeared more secure, since you “are on your own now ” or “must plan as if you might be”, or “have to very careful now because of the financial damage his secret life did to your financial security” you will have to redirect your resources. Encourage them to ask their father for it.
Do not be as available as you were in the past to provide child care, pet care, etc. Cutting them off entirely is not the goal, but if they have been unkind to you, you do not owe them unlimited service or availability of any kind. Also, as you manage trauma symptoms and any diseases of adaptation to stress, you probably need to do less for others and more for yourself. Let that be the guide to your scripting of responses to requests.
If adult children want to play the “conscious uncoupling” game by expecting you can come to the same functions as your ex husband or boyfriend without any problem and you know you can’t do it, simply plead illness or another reason that would keep you away.
As I recommended in the second paragraph above, validate and affirm your value and your children’s value continually. Speak of it out loud to yourself and to them. Validate and affirm the worth of your love and their love. Validate and affirm your and their innocence in his deception and betrayal. Be relentless advocates, encouragers, and protectors of your own mind, body, spirit, and hearts, and of the mind, body, spirit and hearts of your children.
It’s time to see the big picture of abuse and harm in your family from your husband or boyfriend’s secret life of sexual and sexualized activities. Your care and your children’s care should not be built around how to support the man who did this to you all. It should be about what you need and what children need to process staggered disclosures, information withheld, life memories shattered, and reality reframed. Your recovery should not reflect the treatment industry’s priority advocacy for the one who did this to all of you. If he can get better, then that’s his work. But his recovery and healing is not a priority over yours or your children’s.
Thank you for your courage every single day to keep living with integrity and love and honesty. Thank you for your absolute commitment to raise children who can be sure of their value as sons and daughters, boys and girls, and also can be sure that their mother’s love for them and her loyalty to their family has never wavered. Thank you. Don’t ever forget that this sacred trust you are keeping with your children deserves the respect, attention, and appropriate qualified care from treatment practitioners.
After the brutal discovery of a husband and a father’s abandonment of your family’s nurture, protection and wellbeing as being more important than his secret life, don’t let your children wonder if you are like him. You are not. Everyone else in the scenario is working so hard to control the articulation of spousal and family abuse, impact assessment and the flow of all that information to suit his best interests. You are not. You are the person you have always presented yourself to be.
Yes, you need full trauma care, but your core values are intact. You know the difference between right and wrong, and you choose to live on the road that pursues what is right. Don’t change now. Don’t pretend it’s okay when it’s not. Don’t pretend it’s enough when it’s not. Don’t pretend you taking responsibility for him will protect your children. Don’t pretend your core values complement his or that yours will not be diminished if you tolerate his. Don’t pretend you and your children don’t need and deserve real trauma assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your children. And when needed, stand up to your children. The real truth about this approach is that if everything your husband or boyfriend/their father or stepfather says about his love and commitment to you all is true, this is exactly what he will want you to be doing. Nothing less. If he really wants you and the children cared for and protected from harm, it’s time for you and the children to stop taking all the risks, time for him him to start picking them up.
P.S. Influencers in the industry are reading this blog (I know this because some write to me.) I also track a flurry of “blog travel” as they scramble to address the issues I and my guest bloggers name here. If you think for one minute they would do that without this blog, you would be wrong. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of original thinking going on there. I don’t think they like me much, but I have a hunch they know I do the hard thinking so they don’t have to. Expect to see a sudden flurry of practitioner site language about “whole family care” in the next year. I have no expectation that they will deliver what we need, but at least it’s on the radar. Your contribution helps me to fund the ongoing technical services I use to keep the site going and bringing our concerns forward. Thank you for understanding and for contributing as you are able. The green donate button is on the bottom of the home page, or you can click here https://secure.squarespace.com/checkout/donate?donatePageId=5c63cb97e2c48346d51cba23&ss_cid=c6810daf-127d-44fa-b5df-efecc45768d5&ss_cvisit=1563714855940&ss_cvr=9141610d-30ee-4bc1-8ba7-e80c2193d3c8%7C1547054687028%7C1563309389949%7C1563714855602%7C70
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