If we don’t fully understand detachment, it sounds and feels like a loss of control. And when you’re married to a sex addict, loss of control feels dangerous. So instinctively, we do the opposite and strive to control. And in truth, when your husband is involved in inappropriate sexual behavior, much of your life is out of your control! You can’t count on him to care more about you than his selfish behaviors, and because your lives are so intimately entwined, his addiction creates chaos in your life too. And never knowing when you’ll be hurt again is like living through an unending earthquake. The ground beneath your life and marriage constantly shifts, and nothing remains stable.
Living this way increases your stress, robs your peace, and impacts you at every level of your being. Just as living through an earthquake traumatizes those who endure it, so too does living through this life-quake traumatize its victims. And when we’re trauma victims, we feel disempowered. We feel helpless and powerless to help ourselves. We feel as if we’ve lost our competence: our adult strength—our power—to manage and direct our own lives. And when we’re disempowered emotionally, we lose our ability to re-stabilize our lives, regain balance, and reclaim peace.
But as dangerous as it may sound, learning to detach from the emotional turmoil generated by our husbands and their addiction can restore sanity to our lives. Detachment can empower us to face reality and make decisions about our future. Stepping into our strengths as women helps us reconnect with ourselves and detach. If we can learn to do this, we move from a reactive position to a proactive one.
Reestablish Your Sense of Power & Control in Your Life
Detaching enables us to gain objectivity, face reality, deal with our emotions, and determine the best course of action for our lives. And though it takes a lot of practice, if we hone our ability to detach so we can do it even when we are triggered, we can hang on to peace and empowerment, even in the face of triggering challenges.
But because it’s so hard to do when triggered, I suggest you practice it mentally. Just like professional athletes do mental workouts to hone their skills, we, too, can mentally practice our preferred responses to situations that will trigger us in the future. Work now to train yourself to leave the place or people that are triggering, whisper a prayer, and reach out for support via text or phone.
Detaching requires a quiet, centered strength. Detaching is a something we must do again and again and again, but the more we do it, the better we get. Like physical exercise, the mental and emotional exercise of detaching increases our “mental muscles.” And as those mental muscles grow stronger, we gain empowerment over our emotions and lives, and our brains stop spinning.
I love hearing support group members and former support group members share as they grasp detachment and gain empowerment. This note from a former group warms my heart and makes me smile:
“Marsha, I made a breakthrough in detachment today. I'm still loving and supportive, but I’m doing it with boundaries. And he actually noticed the empowerment it is giving me! I'm still standing firm, but I’m kind. No mushy stuff. Just a safe, warm nurturing environment, with the separateness I need so he can focus on recovery, and I can heal.”
Where are you in your ability to detach? We’re here to help, if you find you need more practice.
 From Betrayal Trauma to Healing & Joy: A Workbook for Partners of Sex Addicts, Marsha Means, MA; © 2020