Yeah, that's what I wanted to know, too.
When my ex-husband's story was brought out into the open, there was finally a name to define what had been invading my home and taking over my husband for the length of our marriage. Boy, was I relieved.
I could finally blame an addiction for all the frustration, anger and exhaustion I felt over ten years. I could finally blame something else for the constant niggling thought that something was terribly wrong--a thought that pestered my brain for days upon months upon years. With a confirmed diagnosis, I could rest in the knowledge that I couldn't possibly be to blame for the emptiness I had felt for so long.
What I eventually discovered, however, was that I did have a part to play in our co-created dance of a marriage, too. No, I didn't cause his addiction, and I couldn't control it or cure it, but I could certainly contribute to it.
Now, wait a minute!
I contributed to his sex addiction? First of all, I didn't know about it, so how could I share any responsibility? Second, I didn't even know what sex addiction was. I was a committed wife and mother; I attended playgroups, made dinner every night, was responsible with money/time/resources.
How could I have contributed to an addiction I didn't even know existed?
Well, after weeks and months of mind-numbing grief, and hours on my counselor's couch, I began to understand that I had, indeed, enabled my husband's addiction by not listening to my own reality. When any horrible thought about him or our marriage circulated through my head, I'd quickly bat it away like a pesky mosquito. I was afraid to give it any meaningful time and attention and figure out why the horrible thought was so persistent.
So I ignored it, minimized it, rationalized it—until it would go away, because to actually pick it apart and look at it, I was certain that something horrible would be uncovered about me, instead. I was really afraid to discover that maybe I was the deeply damaged one—not him.
I was already angry, irritated, and exhausted by him and the lack of emotional connection in my marriage, but I was also very quick to believe that I had a problem.
But after his diagnosis and lots of reading, talking, and sobbing, I eventually understood that my behaviors merely gave him permission to escape into his fantasies, or rationalize more affairs. It's like the alcoholic who says, “If you had a wife like mine, you'd drink, too.” My behaviors were the excuse he needed to betray me...over and over and over. No, that wasn't rational, but neither are addictions. There is nothing logical about them.
But eventually, I had to stop pointing the finger at only him and figure out why I had chosen a sex addict. And ever so slowly, I learned—and then believed—that I chose one because I needed a healing. Picking him as my mate was driven by unconscious needs that were set up and re-enforced during my upbringing. This is not about blaming my childhood, but about understanding why I made the choices I had, or why I behaved the way I did.
My ability to deny my own feelings of doubt about him and us were cemented decades before I ever met him. I was taught to deny my own reality while believing what others told me was real. And that, my friends, has been the toughest habit to break.
A decade later, as my family continues to deny, scoff at, and reject events that happened in my childhood, it's been damn difficult trying to remain steadfast and certain in my own reality, especially when I have been ignored, called a liar, or told that my counselor brain-washed me.
But that's precisely the point at which I get to stand in my own truth and heal a wee bit more. I can believe my memories; I can believe my truth; I can believe my own reality without the need for others to believe it or validate it. I know what I know.
And so do you.
Believe in yourself, and trust what you know—no matter how many outside influences may be trying to defeat you.
You know that you know what you know...