It hurts. You feel so alone and betrayed. And you just keep running through the images, the words, the body language over and over in your mind. You caught him watching porn. You found the Craig’s list ads. You saw the texts on his cell phone. And you feel like you could scream, cry, fade away…so many emotions. So much betrayal. So much vulnerability.
Your emotions are necessary. They should not be squashed, denied, repressed. But they cannot be the guiding force at this time. If you want to move forward in a healthy way, experience your emotions. Accept them for what they are. BUT…
What I am about to say is of absolute importance! Take it from a lady who waited 16 years before I found real solutions! HEAR ME,Sister…What you NEED right now are STEPS to take, TOOLS to utilize, PRACTICAL approaches, NOT opinions, or emotionally driven advice of well-meaning friends and family! Granted, some friends and family members might offer concrete advice that is helpful. Some counselors might. But remember that you do not have to give away your power to someone else in this moment. You CAN approach this in a practical way. You can trust that there is a better way than just reacting.
There are wonderful coaches here at Feed the Right Wolf who have been where you are and will not push you or guilt you into a decision. There are wonderful counselors out there that will do the same. But choose carefully. Most of the professional advice I sought from counselors was soothing at best (they offered a listening ear but no real solutions), or destructive (I was scolded by a trained professional on a hotline for “allowing sin in my home” and basically permitting the addiction. No real solution was offered which led to the impression I should just give an ultimatum).
Before I proceed, I want to be clear: Reacting is not something wrong. And it is perfectly fine if you already have!!! I do not judge you nor should anyone else! But moving to specific solutions is a MUST for your emotional healing and your survival!!
Emotions are raw and they are real. But they are not a solution to the problem of porn, sex addiction or infidelity. They are merely indicators that a problem needs to be addressed.
BEFORE I get into practical solutions, let’s identify some of the things I thought were solutions at one time. I want to help you avoid the pitfalls of non-solution “Solutions” that we often fall back on because we simply are at our wits end and do not want to know what to do.
1. Screaming, raging, shaming, name calling, lecturing on morality, physically/emotionally/verbally abusing your partner.
2. Saying nothing to him and retreating into yourself.
3. Obsessively “babysitting” your partner.
4. Telling all of your neighbors, friends, family.
5. Telling no one what is happening.
6. Acting out sexually with others in response.
7. Joining him in his addiction if he is game for it.
8. Trying to be sexier or have more sex with him.
9. Obsessing about the women you know appeal to him or who have slept with him.
10. Praying or hoping it will be resolved without your intervention.
11. Blaming Yourself for the problem.
12. Crying, begging, pleading for him to stop hurting you.
13. Immediately ending the relationship and kicking him out of the house as a way to “set a boundary” or “stand your ground”.
How then should you approach the problem of his addiction? With intentionality. Have a plan and enact it.
Here is a helpful five step approach:
1. Take a deep breath when you are confronted with his addictive behavior or signs that it is happening.
2. Get alone. Meditate. Some great tools for meditation 4can be found at www.headspace.com
3. While meditating, visualize yourself as separate from your emotions. Recognize that despite all of the turmoil that deep inside the core of who you are is a strong, beautiful woman who can find herself once more. Love the wounded part of yourself, but recognize that this too shall pass. Recognize intellectually that your life is so much more than this relationship. So much more than the addiction. That you will take one step forward at a time and SURVIVE.
4. Approach him when you are calm and tell him three things in a calm manner and briefly a) you know about his behavior or suspect it, b) You are not okay with it because it hurts you. Present this to him using “I” statements. “I feel unsafe when you…”, ” I feel lonely when you…”, “I feel like you do not love me when you…”. c) tell him what you want him to do about it instead of what he is currently doing. “I wish you would do…”, give him concrete things you expect to feel safe and loved in the relationship.
5. Realize that the preceding four steps are the initial response. Do not expect this to be resolved overnight or allow other people or emotions to rush you into making a snap decision. Once you address your concerns with him, then you can see what his response is, and make more concrete plans accordingly.
I recommend you seek the help of a professional to walk you through next steps. Seek out individuals who have been there and can help walk you through all of the difficult emotions while offering practical solutions!
Even though you are not the one engaging in addictive behaviors, your response can go a long way towards creating a climate where the addiction can be addressed (if he so chooses) and you can find healing.