Ironically, the most heartbreaking thing about my husband’s addiction is also the reason I have committed to staying in this relationship and offering what support I can: He is a good man.
My husband’s sex addiction has caused him to do some bad things, many of which were- and still are- very painful for me. The man who posted pictures of me on a porn site and carried on a cyber-affair with a former partner, however, is also the man who once drove two hours in the middle of the night just to visit me, the man who has spent hours in the field with my Search & Rescue team looking for a missing child, and the man who is working harder than anyone I have ever met to finish his degree and accomplish his goals. My husband’s core nature has allowed him to do some really incredible things which have made me happy, improved both our lives, and helped some other people along the way. That part of him is the man I love, and I am still here because I believe that part of him can overcome the addiction.
Think about the title of this website for a second. Feed the Right Wolf. That title comes from a popular adage in which a grandfather tells his grandson that within every person are two wolves- a good wolf and an evil wolf- fighting a battle for control. The grandson asks which wolf wins, and the grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”
How do we recognize the right wolf within ourselves and our partners? How do we know which wolf is winning?
If you’re a recovering addict, think about everything else that you are.
- What do you do for a living? Do you like at least some aspect of your work? Are you proud of what you do? Are you proud of providing for your family?
- What are you good at? Maybe you play an instrument, or cook well. Maybe you’re good at math, good with computers, good at working with your hands. Maybe you can tell a great joke or make a really cool paper airplane. What can you do- even something small- that makes others happy, improves their lives, or makes you proud?
- What are your interests and hobbies? If you’re unhappy with how much time you waste looking at porn, think about the things you consider more fun or more worthwhile. Is there a game you enjoy? A TV show, movie, or book that you’re a fan of? A sport or team that you follow? Do you have a hobby? Do you volunteer somewhere?
- What are your goals? These can be long-term goals like finishing a degree, shorter-term goals like getting a new job or promotion or finishing a project, or purely personal goals like getting into better shape or learning something new.
- What makes you laugh, and what makes you cry? The way you respond to the world around you is what makes you human.
- What about the people in your life? Do you love your spouse? Are you a good friend? Are you a good son or daughter, brother or sister, father or mother?
Think about these things, and if you need some perspective, discuss them with a partner or a counselor. The real you is the sum total of all those things, not merely your addiction. Take time to seriously think about the person you’ve just described; that person is the “right wolf” you should be feeding. Focus on that person and on activities that help that person grow, and remind yourself that pornography is not a part of the person you really are or the person you want to be.
If you’re a partner, before you make the decision to stay in the relationship or leave it, think about who your spouse really is.
- Outside of the addiction, is he or she a good partner? Does he or she care for you when you are sick, listen when you’ve had a bad day, support your goals, and celebrate your successes?
- Is your partner a good person? Is he or she loyal to friends, kind to children and animals, and loving and respectful to you, when not in the grip of the addiction?
- Can he or she still make you smile? It may be small things- a goofy face, a funny gesture, a joke, or a small thoughtful act. Even those small things add up into a powerful bond a sign of someone who is still worth loving.
- Is your partner still your friend? If you have a terrible day, is your spouse still the first person you turn to for comfort (and is that comfort available when you ask)? If something great happens, is your spouse still the first person you want to tell? If the answer is yes, that’s worth thinking twice about walking away from.
- Are you proud of anything your partner does? Does your spouse work hard in pursuit of his or her goals? Has he or she made real progress toward those goals, or overcome significant obstacles? Does your spouse care for you and your family?
It is important to remember who your partner is outside of the addiction, and to remember that this person is still there. Remind your spouse of that, and encourage him or her to find and “feed” that part of themselves. Focus on the good person that your partner is despite the addiction, and reach for that person as you move forward together.