23 February 2012

Why do I stay?

To Anonymous from Step One:

Thank you so much for your comment.  Thank you! I really can not express adequately in words the gratitude I feel for the things you said.  You were so honest, but so kind and encouraging and through your words I could feel a sincere love and concern.

I thought Mac gave a great response to your comment, and I appreciate you asking because sometimes our own perspective seems so clear, that until we ask, we have no idea what it looks like from another perspective.  One of my favorite quotes is "Our view of reality is only a view, not reality itself."  [Francesca Farr.]  I admire YOU for being open-minded and inquisitive. 

Now I'll adress your question because it deserves to be considered. 

It has been absolutely encouraged by both the 12-step program and my counselor to put myself first.  Here is a quote from the manual. 

"Taking care of ourselves is not selfish; it is essential to our well-being and our ability to learn from this life experience.  Applying Step One gives us permission to rest, give needed time and love to children, return to other interests and rejoice in all aspects of our lives."

I will wholeheartedly acknowledge that for some women this means leaving the relationship.  I liked your word "toxic."  There is absolutely a point at which a woman can not feel happiness in the situation or love for her addicted husband.  I judge no woman for leaving, and furthermore she need not justify to the world around her why she chose to do so.

Having said that, I plan to stay, indefinitely, and this is why.

Because this blog is dedicated entirely to dealing with my husband's addiction, it seems as if this issue dominates my life.  I rarely/never take time to discuss Pete's good qualities here, or the wonderful life we enjoy together 85% of the time.  I am not a bragger/boaster either, it is not in my nature to give compliments freely.  But let it be known; Pete is a wonderful man.  He believes in Jesus Christ and desires to follow him. He is ambitious and successful in his career.  He is a gentleman to me and especially lately takes time to let me know I am appreciated.  He is not a perfect father, but he strives to improve and is aware of his short-comings.  He makes me laugh, and he finds ways to execute even my most outrageous plans.  This is only a small part of why I married him and why I remain with him, and says nothing of the memories and life we have built together.  I am quite certain that should I be the one with the addiction, perhaps to pain-killers or over-eating, he would stay by my side. 

Above and beyond that, there are other reasons such as our children.  As you mentioned, the issues that come with divorce are many.  Also, it has been said that divorce is often just an exchange of one set of problems for another set.  All men have faults. 

Lastly, in my heading I mention the promises I made across the altar.  You may or may not be able to relate to this, but when Pete and I were married we made covenants with each other and with God.  They didn't exactly say "Through richer or poorer, sickness or health, etc" but the effect was the same.  I have thought about this many times.  Deep in my soul I believe that God took me seriously when I made those promises, and I am accountable to him.  Do I believe that God expects me to stay should the circumstances become dire? No.  But do I believe that God will reward both my husband and myself eternally if we endure this together? Absolutely. 

But I do not consider myself some saintly martyr who will endlessly suffer for the noble cause of her marriage.  I am not endlessly suffering.  Nor am I perfect, and Pete could probably write a blog about the bad habits/attitudes I have that contribute to frustrations in our relationship. 

In short, I would not stay with my husband if I did not believe I could, or even presently feel happiness with him.  In fact, I do not only feel happiness in spite of my husband, I feel happiness because of my husband. 

God bless you dear reader friend.  I hope this made some sense.


  1. I've been reading (and enjoying) your precious blog for awhile now. Like you, I have been sharing the hard journey of addiction with my husband through 12 years (and counting!) of marriage. It's difficult and discouraging. It's lonely and sometimes detrimental to my self-esteem. It haunts our intimacy and causes resentment at every turn. Yet, through it all, I agree with your thoughts. My husband is *trying*. And to me, that's the key. My list of faults could fill a whole sheet of paper, both sides, and still need more space. I'm trying as well. It's all we can do. The friendship and love we share while raising our children and building and maintaining our lives, makes his weakness seem like only small rough patches on an otherwise pleasant road. Thank you for the time and emotion you put into this blog. In this secrective world, it's good to know I'm not alone.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It's always comforting to be validated by my readers. I appreciate your comments.

  2. It made perfect sense! Thank you so much for taking the time to respond:) I also loved Mac's response...and I honestly can see so much more clearly...your perspective. You have such a way with words...and your blog is one of the only (I link to many on your side bar who suffer with the same thing) that leaves me feeling like you really ponder and seek to do what is RIGHT...not simply what is EASY. Let me explain....

    I say that because....My dear friend who went through something similar used to say..."I just can't start over...it is easier to stay and just endure this than to completely start over after 7 years!!!"

    So she made the choice to stay and be miserable. Her life was more of a "roomate" situation than an eternal happy marriage. She knew that. She accepted it. She always told me it was because of her temple covenants. I was at a loss of what to say to her....but it didn't keep my mind from stressing and pondering and NEEDING answers. I loved her dearly.

    I think I have a continual fear for women in this situation running through my mind now...because she wanted to leave, yet was fearful of the future and the hard work ahead if she did. Because she was my only experience with something like this...I often find myself immediately thinking that EVERYONE wants to leave, just as she did...but they are too scared of the giant uphill climb it must be to do so. I hope that makes sense???

    Your response helped me see that that wasn't so. I loved that Mac's response said...my husband knows that if x, y, z happens...I am gone. I guess I didn't realize (as an outside observer) that these boundaries or conditions exist. It sometimes feels to a reader that....the husband KNOWS what loving and forgiving and FAITH-FILLED women you are...therefore he KNOWS that if he relapses or makes a mistake you will forgive and keep working with him.

    That is why in my original comment I asked if women feel OBLIGATED TO stay. Because I don't know the facts or ins and outs of this addiction and the churches advice on dealing with it...I often just quietly wondered if lots of women of faith feel like their temple covenants are so sacred and important that they cannot be the one who decides to end the marriage. That they must suffer and ENDURE to the end kind of thing. I am so glad to find out that is NOT how you view it at all.

    I too was sealed in the temple to the love of my life...and I would be by his side through anything..so I can relate to that! Women are the most loyal people on earth:):) I guess this particular thing is impossible to wrap your mind around until you face it yourself. I liked the other anonymous commenter...who obviously suffers with her husbands addiction as well. She described what I always think of when I imagine this happening to me... "lonely, detrimental to my self-esteem...haunts our intimacy and causes resentment at every turn".

    I guess every person is unique with a list of individual needs...meaning...that if my spouse brought those things to my life...it would FEEL like a deal breaker.

    I guess that's why I admire you guys so much. You must be very selfless and in tune with the spirit...in order to CHOOSE to focus on the GOOD parts of your spouse and marriage and truly feel like you could heal from such pain.

    Again, I have to thank you. Your words can be related to sooo many different struggles. Although you write about yoru particular trial with yours husbands pornography addiction....I can't believe how much your insight and your amazing perspective can encourage me to be better!!!

    After years of infertility, doubt and tears...I am sitting here 6 months pregnant with twins...and I agree that with FAITH and the LORD as your compass...there is ALWAYS a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how devastating the trial.

    Love, K

    1. First of all- CONGRATULATIONS! I'm so excited for you to be a mother, and glad that for now your burden has been lifted.

      My heart breaks for your friend, and I can see how your concern for her and frustration with her situation has caused you to worry about others. It would take tremendous courage to end a marriage and start a new life, but no up-hill climb could be more miserable than the way she was choosing to live. Ugh.

      One more thing that I can say without a doubt from experience, and you might just have to take my word for it. Does my husband take it for granted that he knows I will forgive and stay with him even if he relapses? No, quite the opposite. I used to feel that I needed to punish him with my tears so he would suffer for the hurt he caused me. But I've discovered, and this is true in ALL relationships, that when we forgive we empower those who have offended us to make it right.

      I don't know if you have seen My Fair Lady, or are familiar with the Pygmalion effect, but when we embue others with confidence they are more capable of living up to their potential. When I demonstrate committment and faith in our marriage, my husband (because he is willing) is inspired to change.

      I could write more, but my own baby is calling!

    2. I loved this! You know, part of the reason I blog is in hopes that people who don't know anything about all this will gain some perspective on it. None of us truly understand a trial we have not gone through. It took 10 months to get pregnant with my first, and while it seemed like eternity, I cannot claim to have "struggled with infertility" in any way. But I can be sensitive to those who are struggling with it. Just in the same way that you are coming here to gain more perspective on our struggles. I LOVE that you are doing that. It makes my heart all warm and fuzzy.

  3. Just to add a different viewpoint here...

    I really like what you wrote Jane and your comments Annon, but I do want to chime in as the 'divorced' woman in this little club (lol).

    I remember when I admitted to my sister the truth of what my husband had done and who exactly he had been sleeping with during our marriage. I remember we sat in the dark car outside of my parents house. I couldn't tell them the truth... and so, I confided in my sister.

    I'll never forget she said "You better pray and KNOW that..." and before she finished her sentence I thought to myself "that divorce is the right answer"....

    I was totally taken back when she actually said " Heavenly Father wants you to STAY with this man..."

    I remember feeling so conflicted. So sick about what was taking place. A few weeks later one of my counselors from group pulled me aside afterwards and said "J, I see you are trying so desperately to want to salvage this marriage... my heart breaks for you... but you DON'T have to live in this... it's OK to leave. It's OK if it's too much to carry."

    With that, I still held onto my marriage for another 5 months almost. We we separated but, I still hoped I could feel differently. I never did.

    That being said I wanted to also include women who do choose divorce in as Annon said "You must be very selfless and in tune with the spirit...in order to CHOOSE to focus on the GOOD parts of your spouse and marriage and truly feel like you could heal from such pain"

    It is never easy to choose to divorce... it wasn't easy to admit what really happened... it wasn't easy to comprehend what he was really doing... it still is a trial for me. I still can't believe it at times. But I still try to believe the good parts of the man I knew and the good times in our marriage. Unfortunately, the bad choices he made and the lies he told outweighed any future for us together.

    The choice to divorce was a slow, grueling process. I have ever felt so close to Heavenly Father as I did then... Looking back, even though I didn't see it then, he was guiding me...

    I made those some covenants at the altar... if it were only porn (and I hate saying that because I'm not trying to minimize it) and not infidelity mixed with financial and STD risks, maybe I could have stayed.... I like to think I could have... because I really did love him... It was just TOO much.

    Sometimes the right choice isn't always staying together. My health and safety came first this time, as well as my sons.

    Thank you for posting this.I really enjoy reading your perspective Jane. It's so honest... it's not forced or unrealistic... it just is... and I like it :)

    Hopefully you don't mind when I come chime in even though we are in such different boats.

    1. I think we all have out limits. My husband knows my limits, because I've told him a billion times. I don't plan to endure "anything" for him and don't think women should put up with everything under the sun. And I think these comments above are a good reminder that sometimes we focus so much on the positive that readers might not see the boundaries (which are obviously different for all of us).

  4. J- I don't mind at all. I have nuttin' but love and admiration for you. I think your situation is the perfect example of the "toxic" situations we've mentioned. I have complete confidence in your choice.

    As I said above, I never judge a woman for leaving, sometimes it IS just too much to bear. A happy marriage must include physical AND emotional safety, and when it's not there, it's just not there.

    I hope you always feel welcome here J, even if we are in different boats we have so much in common and you know more about the single most transformative experience in my life than even my family. In that sense, I need you.

  5. Jane - Again, great post and great comments here...First on your attitude to forgiveness and why it is so important to not "punish" others with our tears and hold it over them. And second on the Pygmalion effect, I have seen that in action so many times.

    One of my favorite quotes from Goethe is “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

    You can't do that out of manipulation, but must act out of sincere love and belief in them, with the patience to see it through even if it takes years or a lifetime.

    To J's point as well, it is also possible to treat someone as they ought to be and could be, and still leave them because it's the right thing to do (because they are determined to behave otherwise). I had to do the same thing J did in my first marriage, while living the same truths Jane described. I treated my ex as kindly as possible, helped her make some of the changes she was ready to make (by believing in her, expressing confidence, forgiving), but moved on when it was clear other behaviors weren't going to change.

    The result was comfort and peace while trying to help a struggling spouse, and comfort and peace while realizing is was time to move on. I think that J said it best when she said "I have never felt so close to HF as I did then" while deciding to leave...and I'll bet Jane could say the same about her decisions to stay. I certainly can say the same about my experience with both sides of that coin.

    1. Thank you Danny. You may recognize ideas here that I have learned from you. I loved what your sister said on her post yesterday- these truths have been around forever but Danny & Mara have a way of helping us to see them and live them. For that I will be eternally grateful.