This past Sunday, I shared the first part of my story on the Surviving His Sex Addiction & Betrayal show. I did this because I often get questions about how long it took me to decide to get divorced. As I shared on Sunday, two and a half years passed between my initial discovery and my willingness/ability to take active steps on my own behalf and to ask for what I needed to feel safe.
Even then, I struggled to ask that my ex go to rehab. His therapist was not recommending it so what gave me the right to ask for it? I know that it seemed so obvious to everyone on the outside but for me…I was still so full of self-doubt and disbelief that I often questioned whether I was making too big a deal out of it and wondered whether my ex’s behavior was really that bad.
Does this sound familiar to you?
I feel like I’ve had a lot of similar conversations with clients lately who are wrestling with asking for what they need to feel safe, which you do by setting and maintaining boundaries. My job as their coach is to find the right balance between patience, allowing them their own sacred journey and naming for them when they are gaslighting themselves.
You read that right. They are gaslighting themselves, which is exactly what I also did anytime I talked myself out of what I really needed to feel safe. Each time that I chose to minimize my own needs and my own best interest for the sake of not wanting to rock the proverbial boat, I was making my own self crazy!
The fact that I’m incredibly empathic (and I’m dead sure that you are, too) also contributed keeping me stuck. Like most sex addicts, my ex had a terrible trauma happen to him a child and he suffered greatly. So, I could logically and empathically understand WHY he had ended up a sex addict. Unhealed, untreated trauma is almost always the answer. Does my ex deserve empathy? 100%. BUT, is he still accountable for his behavior? 100%.
However, in my case, my over-empathizing with my ex and my feeling bad for him became my excuse for, again, not rocking the boat. Here’s the hard truth:
I wasn’t stuck because I was protecting him.
I was stuck because I was protecting me.
Now, I will immediately follow up with that is a perfectly understandable response in terms of what we know about the human brain. We are deeply wired for connection, community and to maintain the status quo. In other words, we are hard-wired NOT to rock the boat.
One of the songs from what I refer to as the Survival Songbook (i.e. the playlist on Spotify comprised of songs on repeat during my time of desolation and divorce) is “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls. The line that put that song on repeat for me was:
“I sailed my ship of safety ‘til I sank it.”
Yep. That is exactly what I did. I stayed in that boat, which wasn’t really ever safe, until it sank and even after multiple, traumatizing discoveries, nine weeks of his going to rehab, disclosures that trickled out for weeks, failed polygraphs and filing for divorce – I still would find myself doubting myself and my decisions.
That little voice of doubt would creep back and asked me whether I was prepared to spend my life alone because no man would want to be with a 47-year old, thrice-divorced, single mom of three boys with PTSD. (Me – not the boys.)
That same voice would try to convince that I may as well stay with my ex because he seemed to be getting better and what if he really was? What if he met and fell in love with another woman who got to enjoy all the results of the hard work that I’d put into his recovery?
Gaslighting. My. Own. Self.
Now, you know that I eventually did leave, divorce and, after spending many months committed to becoming the love of my own life, I did find love again, remarry and am happier than ever before. I truly am.
I also often get asked whether I would choose my current life and love over a version of my previous life where my ex-husband was not a sex addict. This question always makes chuckle a little because of its implicit impossibility but I also relish the opportunity to drive home that I would 100%, wholeheartedly choose the life I have today. However, the reason I would choose that is not just because I found love again…
…but because I found me again.
I choose me and the woman that I have become through this journey, which has ultimately been a journey home to myself and to a deeper, more loving and sustaining relationship with God.
That journey is available for you, too, as is that wholeheartedly, audacious version of yourself that you can’t really see at this moment but your gut tells you is still somewhere deep inside – ready to sink that boat and place one, unsteady foot on a new shore.
You got this, girl and I’ve got your back until you also feel in your bones that you do. If you want to talk about how I can support you during this time and helping you get out and stay out of your emotionally abusive (it is) and toxic marriage, please schedule your free, initial consultation and let’s just see. Okay?
Until next time,