In The Season of Letting Go, These Are Reasons We Don't
As I post this blog, the sky is waking up with the pink, peach, and orange colors of a sun rising for a new day. The fields are pushing off their misty blanket and already the noises of nature are sounding their themes of life beginning, thriving and ending. Trees are turning their leaves now. Some already have begun to let them go. Months of cold barren branches ahead. They will never be the same again, and they do not know how their leaves will grow back, how much taller their trunks will stand, what new branches will form, and what their shape will be. They will be the same tree, but they will look a little different every year. It’s a simple wisdom and some years ago it called me to trust it. And I let go. It was a long winter. Then new life came. I was different but I was still in my life. I trusted what the maples and oaks and elms and locusts and ashes and beeches and hickories showed me about letting go.
But first, I didn’t. Maybe you are like me.
Over the years I’ve heard many reasons why women stay with men called sex addicts, including the ones that kept me in a holding pattern for a few years. I’ve listened to women tell me what they think and feel about leaving. And I’ve listened to what religious leaders, family members, friends, co-workers, therapists and “experts” said to make women stay or make them believe their relationship and family life could and would get better. So, it’s “list” time again on the blog. Have a look at the many reasons listed below of why we stay with men called sex addicts.
Even though there is no reliable data that suggests it’s ever going to get any better, these are the reasons we have for not letting go. How many of these reasons have been a part of your journey with this problem? Which reasons are running things still? Which ones would you like to discuss in more depth? Which ones do you believe should never be reasons to keep you and your children slaves to his “recovery?” Which ones are the hardest for you to face?
I’m staying with my man called a sex addict because:
It will ruin his career if I tell the truth about him
I have nowhere to go
The specialized therapist said he had a disease and I could help him heal
It must be me because everyone thinks he walks on water
I believe he can get better and he wants to change
He never hurts the children
Actually, he never admitted anything and it’s possible I’m imagining it
The counselor told me I didn’t have any boundaries and that if I had boundaries my husband would stop
He will never let me be free of him
I’m not a victim of anyone
I love him
He convinced me to leave my job and be a stay at home mom to further his career so I can’t leave now without any financial security
I’m so ashamed I’ve put up with this for so long and I can’t leave now
At least when I’m with him I know what he’s doing
I’m so stressed I’m like a crazy person and everyone will feel sorry for him and support him
My faith group and leaders say as long as I don’t forgive him things can’t change
I’m a feminist so I’m not an abused woman
The therapist said if I don’t fix what’s wrong with me in this relationship I will just end up in the same situation
This is just a rough patch
He will punish me anyway he can
There is no abuse in my large family and I can’t be the one to start it
I just need to be more understanding of the stress he’s under
Divorcing him would be financial suicide
The therapist said it takes two to ruin a relationship. I need to fix me
The courts won’t protect me or my children
I just need to be more careful and more understanding of his needs
No one will believe me
Everyone has problems. You can’t run away from them
He’s a good provider and the children love him
The counselor said I was too angry no wonder my husband had to defend himself
God hates divorce
But we’re different than other families. We’re worth saving
He will tell lies about me and I will lose everyone
Other women didn’t try hard enough
He always makes up for it with special gifts and an apology so I need to forgive him
My family won’t support me at all. I’m on my own
The counselor says if I just lose weight and look after myself more things will improve
I upset him when he needs support
There’s nothing I can do. I might as well stay and avoid poverty.
My faith is stronger than those who leave
He doesn’t mean to hurt us
My children are not going to have a broken home
He says I’m over-reacting
If I leave I will be out of the social crowd and lifestyle that I love and it’s all I have
The counselor said I was over-reacting and it wasn’t that bad
No one else is going to want me
He can change
The minister asked what I had done to provoke his behavior
My family will disinherit me if I can’t fix this
But he’s such a wonderful father
I don’t have the strength to leave
The therapist said he was abusive, but that it was because of his disease and that with treatment he would stop
Everyone will say it’s my fault and blame me
I need him. I’m nothing without him
He will harm himself or commit suicide
My whole family sides with him
I have way too much invested to just walk away. Sunk costs.
There are still nice times
Of course he doesn’t want me. I don’t want me, either. I have to work on myself
I will never let go of my hope for us
We just have to try harder
It’s too late for me to start over
You have to take the bad with the good
We don’t have time to address each one of these “reasons.” Let’s just deal with them as a whole and recognize that these are all the same reasons why women won’t leave an abuser. In our cases, he abuses women and their children by cultivating and protecting a secret life for himself. In doing so he knowingly puts wife, partner, and children at risk physically, financially, psychologically, socially, spiritually and emotionally. He lies about who he is and what they mean to him. They don’t know. He neither cherishes nor protects the gift and privilege of having a family. While his wife and children are “all in”, he is not. He lives a divided life. Then he and his treatment group expect you to sign up yourself and the children for more—because they know there will be more. They tell you that you have to expect him to take more risks with your security, health and well-being in the world. But they diminish those risks and call them “slips” and “lapses” because you are taking them, not him and not them. More abuse.
When the reasons you and your children are staying with a man called a sex addict are the same reasons women give for staying with their abuser, get real. Your husband or boyfriend is abusing all of you. And it usually takes seven attempts before a woman finally gets away from an abuser who is her life partner. In the case of wives of men called sex addicts, guess who’s making all the money on the first six attempts?
In my opinion, safety for women and children from their abuser is the top priority. Only the fog and privilege of misogyny and patriarchy allow an entire recovery industry and its practitioners to set it aside.
If he’s motivated to change:
Give him two years to immerse himself in his recovery program.
Get a legal separation with custody and support provision.
Live separately so that you and the children are always safe, can heal from his cruelty and betrayal, and avoid the confusion of his program dynamics.
He should set goals for himself that address the risks he has taken with your lives and the harm he has done.
Remove yourselves from the chaos of his moods, “slips”, “lapses”, dangers, and the insecurity of family life it creates.
Go to school. Re-certify. Upgrade. Start working.
Get help from family, faith community or special social programs.
After two years you can see whether his commitment to you and the children and his recovery has created a new life for you to embrace together as a family.
Of course it’s not easy. But it’s only two years and it’s safer for you and your children. It also models for them that adults must take responsibility for their destructive behaviors, that families are not there to absorb the damage inflicted by someone who doesn’t respect the privilege of being in that family, and that people should live into the core values they say they have. You show them that sometimes, like the trees in fall, you have to let go, live out the winter and let new life lead you where it reveals itself in spring.
And finally, if not this, then what is the wisdom you are trusting that will create new life for you and your children? If you aren’t sure, watch the sunrise, go for a long walk and listen to all that is speaking, look at pictures of creation, watch Planet Earth, etc. Seek the wisdom you need.
Please take a good look at my site and the resources available to you. If you would like a conversation with me, there’s a special trial session opportunity to see how that goes. Check out the coaching page to read more about that. Also, look at the list of all the topics we can engage!