Although your marriage may feel like a barren desert landscape, the rainbow of God's hope and grace continues to cover it. Yes, there is hope for your marriage. However, it requires a great deal of healing and growth--for both partners. It also requires hard work, and mountains of grace. But if you both want it badly enough, it can be yours. However, one painful reality remains true, even in the presence of God's rainbow: you cannot make your husband want it.
After years of living with this addiction in our own marriages, as well as working with hundreds and hundreds of other couples in similar situations, a functional model has evolved for couples who are experiencing deep pain, a model that works if you both work it. The following diagram provides a visual explanation of the concepts involved in this model:
Couple's Parallel Recovery Tracks
Detachment offers enough "space" to allow us to focus on healing your own self, before focusing strongly on healing our marriage. This requires help, time, focused work, and energy. We will not have enough of these if we are watching our partner out of "the corner of our eye." A period of Detachment provides time for us to do the work of healing our childhood wounds, the pain we’ve experienced since then, and "individuating."
Individuating requires this healing, plus beginning the task of building the adult you into the special person God created you to be. Discovering your gifts, beginning to develop them, and allowing God and others to "mirror" back to you your special value and worth are also a part of the individuating process—the process of truly "growing up."
Co-creating a Healthy Coupleship--particularly when addiction is present--requires two mature, "healed from life’s wounds," self-confident individuals. Detachment is usually a necessary part of recovery and the healing process, because it allows us to refocus our energy on doing our own emotional and psychological work. Only then can we bring our best selves to a relationship with another human being. Only when two healthy individuals come together to share a life can they hope to co-create a third reality: their own healthy coupleship.
Over time, professional addiction studies have shown that it is very difficult to work on the dynamics of the marriage when dealing with an active alcoholic, addict, or a perpetrator of domestic violence. Because addicts and abusers have learned to lie, manipulate, charm, and control other people, it can be hard for a counselor to decipher fact from fiction. Until a sex addict hits bottom, he (or she) will usually continue to use their charm and manipulation to make others believe they are sincere. This includes their marriage counselors, or others who try to help. Most often, addicts who have not yet hit bottom ultimately use those settings to psychologically abuse their partners in yet another way.
Unless they choose to turn from their addiction and its destructive behavior--unless they desperately desire deep, personal change, they won't fully invest themselves in finding freedom from their sexual addiction. Freedom includes changing destructive thought and behavior patterns, and forming healthy, supportive accountability relationships with other men.
But if and when an addict becomes sick of being controlled by the compulsions of his addiction, there is hope. Even then, saving and rebuilding a broken marriage requires learning several new skills. One of the important skills that can help is called "Detachment."
As the diagram above indicates, the addict and his partner must place some emotional distance between themselves by "detaching." The word detachment doesn't mean abandoning, or pulling away in anger. It simply means taking several emotional steps back from the situation and from one another. Detaching creates space for an emotional buffer between the partners. This buffer, or relational cushion, helps you survive the ups and downs of the roller coaster relationship that comes with early addiction recovery. It also helps you unhook from monitoring your husband's every move, which you are powerless to control, anyway. Even if you find a way to control him when he's around you, you are powerless to control him when he's not; nor can you control what goes on in his head. Detaching enables you to refocus your attention on the only things you can control: your own process of grieving, healing, personal change and growth.
Initially, some couples find they are unable to detach without a temporary physical separation. A separation can also serve as a constant reminder to your husband that this time you are serious: you will no longer enable his sexual addiction by tolerating his sexual acting out behavior.
But, many couples do learn how to continue living together while detaching. These couples work hard to remain detached while they pursue their individual healing processes. When enough individual healing has taken place, they can consider moving toward emotional intimacy, again. The following poem explains what we mean by the word detach. It has helped us grasp the essence of detachment. We hope it helps you, as well.
to "let go" does not mean to stop caring;
it means I can't do it for someone else.
to "let go" is not to cut myself off;
it's the realization that I can't control another.
to "let go" is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
to "let go" is to admit powerlessness--which means the outcome
is out of my hands.
to "let go" is not to try to change or blame another;
it's to make the most of myself.
to "let go" is not to "care for," but to "care about."
to "let go" is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
to "let go" is to not be in the middle, arranging all the outcomes, but to
allow others to affect their own destinies.
to "let go" is not to be protective; it's to permit another to face reality.
to "let go" is not to deny, but to accept.
to "let go" is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own
shortcomings and correct them
to "let go" is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day
as it comes, and cherish myself in it
to "let go" is to not regret the past, but to grow and live for the future
to "let go" is to fear less and love more.
by Jim Walter
Letting go, or detaching, is a huge challenge during the early phase of a husband's recovery efforts. We must warn you that if you have cultivated habits of watching his every move, snooping, and otherwise attempting to monitor your husband's behavior as a coping mechanism, as most of us have, living together while trying to detach can be extremely difficult. What we need is time and space to learn new ways of living and thinking, while grieving, healing, and refocusing our energies on changing the only person we can change--ourselves.
Look again at the Couple's Parallel Recovery Tracks diagram. As the arrows indicate, in the early stages of discovery and recovery, a couple needs to re-format the way they think about their relationship, as well as the way they live their relationship. This is a time to mentally and emotionally choose to purposefully redirect their attention to their individual healing and growth. It's a time for each partner to purposefully move through a guided spiritual journey that holds the potential to produce individual healing, and ultimately, the restoration of their union.
At the beginning of recovery, it's as if they have come to a Y in the road, and they must each take a different arm of that Y. From that beginning point, each partner needs to begin to move ahead on his or her individual recovery path. Time has shown that this is the only way a couple crippled by sexual addiction can not simply save a marriage, but create an entirely different kind of marriage.
But, and this is important, in detaching, they are not choosing to abandon their marriage or each other. Their paths need to be parallel, and just far enough apart to allow space for them to learn new patterns of relating. "So," you may be asking, "what do our separate, individual recovery paths look like?" Let us share what is working for us. It is our prayer that it will work for you, as well.
The Sex Addict's Recovery Path
1. The addict must want to change and restore his own integrity and relationships badly enough to do whatever it takes to gain freedom from his addiction. Most addicts will not reach that level of "brokenness" without facing the loss of something they do not want to live without. Usually, that "thing" is you, and your family, if you have one. Even then, many will choose their addiction after half-hearted attempts to change themselves.
2. The addict must be willing to commit to a specific, proven recovery program that includes accountability to other men who are finding freedom from addiction through working a sexual addiction recovery program. More choices are becoming available each year, but for 70+ years, the one recovery program that has consistently brought about the highest recovery rate for addicts and alcoholics is found in the 12 Steps. When one "works" the12 Step "program," with a specific plan of action to follow, and a sponsor or mentor to walk him through that plan, these Steps hold the power to bring about true change. We believe their power lies in the fact that they are a deeply spiritual practice that involves total surrender of our will and lives to God. It also includes confession, recognizing how you have hurt others, making amends for those
hurts, and working hard to change character defects. But, as the partners of addicts, no matter how much we long for our husbands to seek this kind of change, we are powerless to make him do it. We can give
him information about a program, but the rest is between him and God. The following Web sites are good places for a man to begin his search for help and healing. If he wants help, he will ask questions, and if necessary, get leads and follow up on them. He will ultimately find a program in your area--one that truly works...if he works it.
1. www.sa.org - This is the site for the international secular program called Sexaholics Anonymous. It is based on the 12 Step program, and is rigorous. Groups do vary, just as churches vary, so a man may need to visit more than one SA group, attending four to six meetings of each to find the group that offers the
2. www.sexaddict.com - This Web site represents Dr. Doug Weiss's help and work. Dr. Weiss, a Christian psychologist based in Colorado Springs, was a sex addict for years, and now specializes in helping others caught in that trap. His site is full of helpful information and other resources.
3. www.EveryMansBattle.com - This site is sponsored by New Life, and offers help and information, as well as a schedule of upcoming Every Man's Battle seminars which are held regularly across the country, and deal specifically with sexual integrity.
Other resources are available, but these provide a good starting point. I suggest you give him this list during your confrontation and request for action and change. It is best if he does the rest; after all, it must be his recovery or he won't experience true change.
The Wife's Parallel Recovery Track
1. Find help ASAP
If you live in a rural community, finding help can be difficult. But do try to find someone who is knowledgeable about sexual addiction to talk to. You have questions that need answers, and the answers should come from someone with experience dealing with this particular addiction. For more helpful information and ideas on locating help, read the article on this site that is titled "Where Do I Go From Here?" . Also, this site will expand in the weeks and months ahead, and will include interactive areas where you can connect with other partners of addicts.
A variety of resources are becoming increasingly available for wives of sex addicts. New Life Ministries, which is a national Christian organization, sponsors an event called Wives in the Battle approximately every two months all across the country. The information, understanding, and support you receive at this intensive workshop is extremely helpful. For more information, call 1-800-NEW LIFE, or go to their website, www.newlife.com.
If at all possible, take time to prepare for how you will deal with your husband's sexual behavior by educating yourself about your options, and utilizing available resources. Without help and personal knowledge, we grope alone in the darkness that envelops this lonely and painful addiction.
2. Determine what you need in order to continue living with him.
What do you need in order to feel safe with your husband? Do you need for him to take a lie detector test if you are going to sleep in the same bed with him? (Many of us have asked our husbands to do this, and most men who desire change, have willingly done so.)
Do you need a period of sexual abstinence so he can purify his heart and mind of the visual stimulation he has been getting elsewhere? Do you need for him to move out temporarily to break from the old toxic patterns, give you time to heal, and start over fresh in your marriage?
What can you forgive, with God's help? What memories or risks are you able to live with without resentment and nagging?
Do you have children, and if so, what are their needs?
What about money? Can you afford to live alone? Do you have skills that will support you and your children, if they are still at home? Does taking time for some job training need to be part of your plan before you confront so that you can provide for yourself financially, if necessary? We've seen many women struggle with their responsibilities as single mothers, while their addict husbands fight them in court, drag out a divorce process, or refuse financial support until the court orders it.
Only you can answer these and dozens of other questions. Each of our journeys varies so no one else can ever know exactly what you should do. We can learn from each other, however. By reading, asking questions of people who have knowledge and understanding about this addiction, talking to other women who have gone through similar experiences, and searching your own heart and soul, you can begin to find your own answers to these painful but necessary questions.
Even so, we would like to make some recommendations that time and experience have tested. Consider these seriously, and think about adding them to your list of requests and needs when you confront your husband.
a. Seek legal counsel if your husband is out of control financially, and/or you are considering a divorce or legal separation. If you live in a community property state, this is extremely important because as his wife, you will be held responsible for repayment of debt he incurs unless you are legally separated. If you cannot afford an attorney for even one consultation, check with your local crisis help line and ask for the phone numbers of the free legal clinics in your area. It may take a little while for you to get an appointment, but will prove well worth the wait. It may help you avoid making serious financial or legal mistakes.
b. If physical or sexual abuse is taking place in your household, it is very important that you report this to your local child protection services. If we, as mothers, allow our children to be in danger, or allow them to see or hear their father abusing us, we can be held responsible for not protecting our children. Women have even lost custody of their children because they didn't adequately protect them from harm. In addition, living with such behaviors does long-term psychological and developmental damage to the very ones we love and cherish.
3. Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases immediately.
This will be very hard and most likely feel shaming for you, but it is extremely important. Your husband can be a carrier of some STD's without ever experiencing symptoms. So until you are tested, you can't feel secure that your health (and therefore your children's well-being) is not in danger. Even then, HIV can take years to show up on tests. We beg you to consider using protection if you choose to continue sexual activity with your husband before he seriously invests himself in his own recovery program. So, protect yourself from further harm if there is even the remotest possibility that your husband has been sexually active with another woman or man. It happens all the time - even among those in the church.
4. When you are sufficiently prepared, confront your husband about his addiction, and tell him what you need in order to continue living with him.
Most women fear confronting their husbands about their sexual behavior. Many have been taught to submit and pray, and that if they do, God will change their husbands. We all know that God has enough power to accomplish this task, just as He has the power to heal all the cancer victims who are currently suffering on planet Earth. But, for reasons we cannot understand, God doesn't often work this way.
Changing behavior generally requires effort on our part. In addition, as we stated above, most men will not reach the level of brokenness that gaining freedom from sexual addiction requires unless they are faced with losing something they are not willing to live without. That something is usually a man's wife and family. This places a burden on us as partners. We must do our part to bring about the shift needed to jar our husbands into serious desire for recovery and change.
The key to understanding our responsibility to God, our marriages, our children, and ourselves is found in understanding the difference between "waiting on God in faith", and enabling our husband's addiction. Trusting God does not require avoiding personal responsibility. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is your faith that will get you through the days and weeks and months ahead as you seek to follow through on your personal responsibility.
As Dr. James Dobson explains in his book, Love Must Be Tough, and as Matthew 18 in the Bible instructs, we must confront sin when it is present in our lives and homes. Marsha's workbook, Partner's Healing Journey, contains a helpful chapter on confrontation, and is available for purchase in this web site's store. It includes the wording of a sample confrontation that is useful in writing one in your own words. Love Must Be Tough also contains sample verbiage. In addition, an article on confrontation will soon be among the "Helpful Articles" section of this web site.
We encourage you to consider asking for support during your confrontation. If you are working with a good counselor who understands sexual addiction, that person would be a wonderful moral support for you. Often a woman benefits from doing the actual confrontation in her counselor's office. Your pastor may also be someone with the knowledge and understanding and willingness to help with this. Unfortunately, few pastors presently understand sex addiction well enough to stand behind you. However, do check that out with him before asking to do the confrontation in his office.
If your husband responds to your confrontation with genuine willingness to get help, and gives up his use of sexually inappropriate behavior, there is hope for your marriage. But, a couple of cautions from many who have gone before you: in letting go, some addicts slip into a trough of anger and grumpy behavior. If your husband lets go of his addiction, he is suddenly without his "drug" of choice. Scientific research has proven that looking at pornography releases neurotransmitters that give our bodies a little chemical hit, or "high." It is usually very difficult for a man (or woman) to break that powerful hold on their brain chemistry, and most will experience withdrawal and anger as they "give up their drug of choice." If his anger becomes a problem, you may need to ask your husband to move out temporarily.
5. Set your boundaries with your husband.
What do you need to feel safe enough to remain in your marriage? If possible, work through this question before your confrontation. By making your needs for specific changes a part of your confrontation, you are presenting your husband with the reality of your new boundaries - the boundaries you decide you need to feel safe enough to live with a recovering sex addict.
The following boundaries are among those that most women need in order to continue in their marriages.
a. Require that your husband find and work a sexual addiction recovery program, as discussed above. Put a time limit on how long you will give him to become a part of such a group. We suggest you don't drag this out. His search will be much more active if he only has a week to line up the help he needs. If you give him a month, he may not take you as seriously, and may drag the process out. You lose any empowerment you have gained if you allow this to happen. We suggest seven days at the most, recognizing it may take a few tries for him to find a really good group. When Marsha discovered her husband was an alcoholic one day when she came home and found him passed out on the bathroom floor, she said, "Pick up the phone book, call AA, and go to a meeting tonight, or move out." He called AA, found a meeting for the next night, and has been sober from alcohol ever since. (Unfortunately, alcoholism is easier to beat than sex addiction!)
b. Expect him to place boundaries on TV and movie viewing habits. Many men have decided to give up TV completely in order to avoid the temptation it throws their way. Even when they choose only "positive programs," many of the TV commercials create lust problems for most men. If a man is genuine in his desire for freedom from the sexual enslavement he's been living with, he will want to let go of any kind of media that interferes with his longing for freedom. We hope that you don't have to be the one to request such boundaries. Over time we have learned that unless the addict wants to cleanse his life of difficult temptations, these kinds of boundaries will not be genuine, nor will they last. Initially, you may be the one to create a boundary, but unless he soon becomes the one guarding it, you are trying to work his program for him. And, as we've stated several times already, you are absolutely powerless to get him sober and keep him sober; it is not your job to be his "border guard!". Yet we have learned through repetitious stories of pain in many couples' lives that the media--including TV, many movies, videos, and DVD's, as well as many magazines, books, and of course, the Internet, offer a powerful pull on our addict husbands and their ability to stay sexually sober. So remain aware of how he chooses to live this part of his recovery program. You and you alone must decide what you are willing to live with, or live without. There is no "right" way for every couple.
c. Another problem presents itself to men who work at a computer on the job. The reality of our modern world means many men (and women) spend countless hours a day at their computers, often using the Internet to make a living. Sadly, it is his computer and the seclusion with which he can use it, that trips up many a pastor. Many men have leveled with their bosses about their problem with Internet
pornography and requested that their usage be monitored. And, increasingly, companies are automatically taking that action to protect themselves from employees wasting work time on pornography. Although we are focusing on living with a sex addict, we want to caution you that women are not automatically
inoculated against this addiction. So remain aware of your own vulnerabilities, especially as you use email to communicate with other men, both at home and at work. As women, we are amazingly vulnerable to the kindness of what sounds (from a-far) like a tender-hearted, caring man.
d. Some men must travel for their jobs and run into sexual temptations when they are in locations that provide no accountability. Recovering sex addicts who want to take personal responsibility for staying sober, call ahead to the hotel where they will be staying while traveling. They request that their TV be disconnected, and make arrangements to call their mentor every day as an accountability resource. Many addicts also attend S.A., or some other type of accountability meeting, in the city where they are staying. As your husband's desire for sexual purity increases, he will take responsibility for asking his mentor for help him monitor his boundaries. He will happily go to at least one sexual addiction recovery group each week, and learn to live in ways that make it possible for him to remain mentally and physically faithful to you, his life partner.
We've talked at great length about detachment earlier in this article. Read that section again and again as you endeavor to learn to accomplish and live out detachment. Detaching in the midst of the pain and chaos this addiction creates is very, very difficult, and will require that you reinforce your efforts and determination to learn this skill. But stick to your task, and you will find this new skill extremely helpful.
7. Take care of yourself.
Your greatest need right now will probably be for support. None of us is strong enough to do this work alone. Do whatever you need to do to locate a partner's group, or find friends who truly love you and will walk beside you as you learn new ways of living, and work to grieve and heal. You also need a place to talk about what you are going through, and what you are feeling. Your support people will probably play that role for you, but if they don't--or can't--locate a counselor or confidant who understands sex addiction, and
feels safe enough to share your true self with. You also need to have fun, and to purposefully take breaks from the pain you feel.
Part of taking care of yourself is gaining financial security, as we've discussed above. "Taking care of yourself" may also include things that are new and unique to you. Talk to other women grappling with life with a sex addict. Ask God to show you what you need, and to help you find the people and resources to meet those needs.
8. Give yourself permission to take a break from physical intimacy and sexual
Most women want or need a time of sexual abstinence in order to heal emotionally before continuing their sex life, even if their husband's are broken and immediately begin to work a sexual addiction recovery program. Discovering or being forced to face such a painful truth and deal with your reality can create a mountain of trauma for a woman who believed with all her heart that her husband only desired her, and was committed to her and her alone for the rest of her life. For most, anger must be felt before it can be released, and connection can be restored. For others, a broken heart simply takes time to heal. So if you find yourself not wanting to be touched or held, much less be sexually active with the one who has hurt you so deeply, give yourself permission to take a time out to heal. You do not need to feel guilty for the pain you experience, nor do you need to feel guilty for saying "No." Give yourself time to grieve and heal, using a resource that helps move you through that process, such as Marsha's A Partner's Healing Journey Workbook (which can be ordered from our online store.) Whether you use it with your counselor, as part of a support group, or even alone if you have to, it can help move you through a healing process which prepares you for, and launches you into, a future filled with change and personal growth. It can help you become the strong, empowered woman you need to become in order to make the decisions you must make, and carry them out. And somewhere during your healing process, you will feel ready to reconnect with your husband emotionally and physically on an intimate level. And remember, a period of sexual abstinence also gives your husband some time to begin to reprogram his mental landscape. Most sex addicts have used images of other women while having sex with their wives. Breaking such habits and re-ordering their thinking takes time and hard work.
9. When you are both well into your individual recovery journeys, and are learning new ways to interact around this difficult and painful topic, consider beginning joint marriage counseling.
Take another look again at the "Couples Parallel Recovery Tracks" diagram at the beginning of this article. If your marriage has survived, and each of you has been doing the individual recovery work required to learn new ways to live with your reality and remain emotionally and relationally healthy, a time will come when the two of you begin to approach the right hand side of the Couples Parallel Recovery Tracks diagram. Although you will always need to maintain some detachment around your individual roles as you live as a married couple in our sexually charged society, for intimacy to grow, that space must eventually begin to narrow. When you both feel ready, you can begin to bring your separate tracks back together, and put part of your focus on rebuilding your marriage.
"How will I know when it is time?" many women ask. Only your husband (with the help of his mentor or sponsor) can decide when he is ready, but there are some guidelines that can help you know when you have reached a point where you can safely use part of your energy to deal with, and begin to eliminate, the tough issues that remain between you and your husband. These guidelines can also serve as good measurements of your husband's readiness for marital work; as long as you don't use them to monitor his recovery or his program.
a. When you no longer get "hooked" by everything sexual, either alone or in his
presence. If you are like most partners of sex addicts, you are aware that certain women and situations are sexual triggers for your husband. Often, these triggers are almost as much trouble for us and they are for the addicts! Our desperate need to not reexperience the pain we've known so many times before can keep our radar finally tuned to every stimulating wave length in our environment. Many women confess that they manipulate where their husbands will sit in a restaurant, because they don't want him looking at a beautiful young woman they immediately spotted upon entering. Such thoughts and behaviors on our part serve as indicators that we are no longer detached from his addiction. These well-learned habits must stop before you are ready to focus on healing your marriage. Otherwise, the wild ups and downs of the "roller coaster" marriage that goes with sexual addiction will keep you from working as a team to rebuild your relationship. Instead, your counseling sessions will be spent trying to deal with the anger, hurt, and emotional upheaval getting hooked creates.
We will be the first to tell you that not getting hooked is a high level skill. It is very,very hard work. It requires that the essence of detachment has become a part of your very being. We have found that only through your 1) connection with God,2) regular contact with other supportive women who are dealing with the same thing, and 3) a clear understanding and firm belief in your own value as a child of God, as well as your value as a woman, will you have the strength to achieve this accomplishment. But the freedom you gain when you release your partner's addiction to him, his program, and to God is well worth your effort.
b. When you are able to keep from getting angry when you talk about the problems in your marriage. Once again, detachment serves us well as we attempt to discuss and work through our differences of opinions, perspectives, memories, and world views, as well as specific hurts and events that form a painful part of our marital history. To function at this level, we must have reached a place
that empowers us to remain calm, centered, focused, and self-controlled, even while we discuss issues about which we have very strong or hurt feelings. Then and only then can we use our energy in a positive, way to resolve those old wounds, or, when resolution isn't possible, to collaborate with our partner and co-create a third reality that will work for both of us. A book titled Getting to Yes can teach you both the skills required to collaboratively tackle your toughest issues.
c. When he doesn't lie to, or try to manipulate, your marriage counselor. If, upon beginning marriage counseling, you discover that your husband falls back into old patterns of lying or manipulation, this time with the counselor, recognize and calmly, but strongly, state what you believe he is doing. Clearly state that until this habit dies, you cannot participate in joint counseling. To do so is to set yourself up for more emotional and psychological abuse. Some addicts have honed these tools so well that even those of us who are highly skilled at working with sexual addicts get bamboozled by a smooth one from time to time. If this happens to you, make certain you are detached, then calmly draw a boundary during the session, stating that you would love to participate when he is ready to permanently discard those old habits and tools. And then leave the room. You can either wait in the lobby, the car, or if you went to your session separately, leave altogether. Hopefully you will have made your point and within a short amount of time, your husband will apologize and you can try again.
d. When it beomes safe for him to "own" his probable on-going battle with sexual temptation in your presence. Sadly, most addicts, just like most alcoholics, will need to recognize that staying "clean and sober" usually must remain a life long process. Because God created us as sexual beings, sex, like
food, is not something he can just quit doing in order to solve his problem. And we are all certainly aware that there is no escaping almost constant sexual stimulation in our modern world, and it's getting harder every year. Your husband will need to use the skills and tools he gains through his recovery program to successfully keep his mind and heart pure. And, as a woman and a wife, you must soberly and sincerely,
from the bottom of your heart, evaluate whether you can live with this reality and not feel resentment toward him. To stay in relationship with him, only to grow bitter from resentment, does not offer him your gifts of love and forgiveness. Nor does it offer your heart and life to God to use as he sees best. If resentment and bitterness continue to cause you problems, it is only fair to recognize and take the responsibility for the unmanageable pain this addiction has created in your life, and to free your husband from the bondage your resentment and bitterness creates. As you can see, the addict's tasks are many and great, but so are the co-addict's.
10. Give yourself permission to ask him to "court" you.
As you begin to work on your coupleship, view the task at hand not as "getting your old marriage back," but rather as an opportunity to create a new, and completely different kind of relationsihp than you've ever shared with him before. Doing so gives you a chance to start over. Part of starting over can come through your husband courting you, much as he might a new woman he wants to win. Being "courted" by your husband can serve several purposes. We'd like to share two of them here: 1) He can help you fall in love with the new man he's becoming, as well as help you heal, and 2) he can set the stage for something new and different.
You may find you need that kind of effort from him in order to allow yourself to risk trusting him enough to recommit to the relationsihp. And, your heart has been broken, probably repeatedly. Cards, flowers, candlelight, doing things together, beginning to have fun and laugh together again, as well as kisses and passion, can help help your wounded heart heal, and re-ignite your feelings for him. And there's no doubt that starting your relationship over in this way provides a ritual, a transition, a marker. It serves as a bridge between the past and the future; what was and what will be. We'd like to offer an example of one new kind of relationsihp that works for couples who commit to an ongoing recovery process from the pain of sexual addiction, as well as working through the things that still separate you. Perhaps it will serve as an invitation to you to attempt it along with us.
"My prayer for our relationship in the coming year and the years that follow is that our friendship will provide a solid beginning, a foundation. But a beginning of a different kind of marriage where two free souls remain free to be who they are individually, each responsible for their own decisions, directions, mistakes, and corrections, but choose to come home to a healthy, growing, caring, commited love, built on firm, solid respect and friendship."
11. If your marriage does end, do it as "cleanly" as possible, especially if you have children.
While it is important to end your marriage with as much civility as possible, particularly if you have children--young or grown--be fair to yourself as you work out a divorce settlement. Often women fear their husband's reactions, and desperately want out of their painful marriages. And in their fear and hurry, they fail to consider their future financial needs. You have invested your life in the years that you have shared with your husband, and you are entitled to at least half of your monetary and property resources. State laws and individual situations vary, so there is no "one size fits all" rule about this aspect of divorce. If you have young children, and insufficient income to care for your children, you may be entitled to more than half of your joint resources. Again, it is important to seek legal counsel from a recommended attorney.
So, if you must end your marriage because your husband has turned away from it, take time to think through, and work with your attorney, career counselors, and any other helpful resources. Develop a plan for how you will support yourself and your children, if you have them. Unless you were born wealthy, or are a highly paid and easily employed worker, you must now give more thought to monthly budgets, the kid's needs and college funds, health insurance, sick leave, disability plans, and retirement than you did when you shared your life with your husband. Be careful and thorough in your thinking and planning, but don't let fear of the future overwhelm you. With God and your support structure, and a firm belief in your own ability to create a new life for yourself, and your children if you have them, you will survive, and even thrive in the months and years ahead.
So, as you consider your future and your options, remember the rainbow and God's promise of hope. Yet never forget that you can't do your husband's work for him, and you will always remain powerless to make him do it himself. Our unfortunate reality will always be this: God's promise of hope may be for you as you face a future without him.
As you walk into an unknown future, cling to the words of hope and courage God gave us in Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."