09 September 2012

D-Nile ain't just a river in Egypt

I've been thinking a lot lately about what you do when your husband isn't acknowledging that there is a problem, or when he's refusing to seek recovery.  This is what I came up with.

1- Educate Yourself.  Knowledge is truly power.  I gained confidence as I learned things about addiction.  Science, facts, experiences that I read about were my weapons, or my shield in battle.  I don't mean battle like knock-down-drag-out shouting wars, but the battle of apathy, reluctance and pride that I was fighting with my husband.  Just as a warning though- Definitely do this in moderation, it's easy to become obsessed and spend excessive time researching.   And spare yourself the details of pornography itself.  It's ugly, and curiosity about it can lead you to places that might haunt you. 

2- Detach.  This is a frequent topic of discussion so I won't go into it much here, but once you've decided that you are not okay with pornography as the third wheel in your relationship with your husband, it will be impossible to not let your relationship be affected.  Maybe say something like this:

"I am not comfortable with your use of pornography.  It makes me feel inadequate, lonely, betrayed, disgusted, afraid and ___________ (insert feeling here).  So long as you choose to participate in pornography you are choosing to have a mediocre relationship with me." 

3. Set Boundaries:  This is another frequent topic so I'll be brief.  A woman in my support group told me that her husband evolved from a pornography addiction to a gambling addiction.  The first thing she did when she found out (well experienced in boundaries)  was march down to the bank and seperate her name from all his accounts.   

4. Don't Enable:   How do you know if you are enabling?  Are you funding it? Are you protecting him from pain?  Are you lying for him? Here is a quote from the Healing Through Christ manual:

"We enable our addicted loved ones when we feel guilty for not helping them or when we interfere
with the natural consequences of their addictive behaviors. These behaviors are misguided ways of demonstrating love and kindness towards our loved ones."

5. Talk About It:  This one is hard.  For some of us, we know that broaching the subject is like inviting a torado to blow through the house, and we spend days trying to clean up the emotional wreckage.  But ignoring an addiction is a form of enabling, and so here are my sub-tips:
             A. Brace Yourself.  It's probably not going to go well.  He will likely get defensive and angry.
             B. It's NOT ABOUT YOU.  Ignore the lies he says.  He will blame-shift, manipulate.  He may not even do it out of anger, he may seem calm, or sarcastic and act like it's funny.  He might make you feel like you're being silly, ridiculous.  He might say you are over-reacting.  Just remember, your feelings are valid.  He is scared/overwhelmed/ashamed/frustrated, but those feelings come from guilt and from addiction, not from you.    
            C.  Don't Engage.  Don't make it a fight.  Be strong and if you need to- walk away.  {I'm SO terrible at this!}  It'll be tempting to defend yourself, but for awhile he will probably be irrational and unreasonable.  When you sense that he is unreachable, let it go. Drop it. Walk away.
            D.  Keep Bringing it Up.  Say what?! I know, now you're thinking, what's the point of bringing it up if he never listens?  It just makes us mad at each other... it just hurts me...

A quote- (Sorry I can't remember the website I got it from):

Sam Waldner emphasizes that typically the person needs to hear a repeated message (with specific observations) from family and friends that they are seeing a problem. While this information will likely not serve as an immediate stimulus to seek help, the repetition of the overall message can help to counter the "powerful and long-maintained" element of denial.


6. Stay Positive in the Meantime: There are reasons you fell in love with this man.  There are also many other things in life to be grateful for.  Try not to be consumed by this issue.  Enjoy the happy moments, look for the silver lining, try to foster happy thoughts.   There IS hope for him, AND you.  

Good luck! And please, share your stories.


  1. The sad thing is - I honestly believe he is okay with mediocre. I pray I am wrong. Neither of us has been consistent in making this relationship a priority. However, I am trying to do that as safely as I can right now while still detaching. And I truly believe part of the reason we personally are experiencing this trial is this could be a tide turner in our communication issues. As long as we are working for the same goals. Right now - not so much, but I do believe it has that potential.

    I like the quote you shared from Mr. Waldner – it makes perfect sense. However, I see a problem with this being a possibility in my relationship. Repeated messages from me over the years have made no difference it seems. And while a few others know of his addiction – no one else that I know of has given him such a message so the element of denial will dissipate. And eventually – in my mind – if that dissipates the addict will usually see the pain they are causing others and themselves and finally seek recovery.

  2. One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with a pornography addicts is the lack of love that he feels towards his spouse. It is an automatic consequence that pornography viewers lose much of their ability to love deeply. Their strong shame and guilt contribute to their rationalizing and denying the extent of the problem and the numerous negative consequences of their addiction.

    I've seen denial stop and destire to change start when an pornography viewer is presented with a clear, objective look at the consequences of their actions, especially to themselves (hard to sympathize with the impact on others when involved in the love-sapping addiction).

    One effective way I've seen it done is presenting the viewer with a book to read on their own. Seems less threatening. There are some solid books out there but I believe the best one is Power Over Pornography, only available on Kindle. Good luck to all of you struggling with a husband's recognition of the extent and seriousness of the problem

    1. Thank you for this input Anon. I'm curious, what is your backround with addiction?

  3. Amazing list! I really enjoyed reading this.

    1. This list was perfect. I feel like I can relate and have been at each of these levels. Some steps are hard to take but soooo worth it. Posting a link to my blog.

  4. Your post title made me laugh. And this is a great list.

    I think caution is warranted, though, in thinking that the repetition (a la that quote) should come through words. I think that can make a spouse crazy and can sometimes make things worse. Not that conversations aren't valuable in their time and place, but I think the best form of consistent, repeated messages will be through action and natural consequences that come when an addict is allowed to feel them. For a spouse, those kinds of messages will come less by focusing on the addiction, but rather by focusing on her own recovery. The more recovery there is for a wife, the more she'll be able to have clarity to draw boundaries and recognizing enabling/collusional patterns and allow natural consequences to speak repeatedly to him.

  5. (And when I say make a spouse crazy, I mean the wife. I've seen so many women express frustration that it doesn't matter what they say. I think this is true. To really realize that addiction cannot be controlled or changed or cured by a spouse is really important...even as education, etc. is critical, it's ultimately not to know how to fix HIM, but to learn to recognize unhealthy patterns caused by addiction and get into recovery so as not to be drawn into the drama of it all.

  6. HopeandHealingadmin, so true. I guess for me personally it just seems there are no "natural consequences" for him. It's like he gets to have his cake & eat it too. But you are so dead on about controlling, changing, or curing him. I have to get my focus back on me & figure out if I can live with someone who has no interest in recovery or if I need to move on.

  7. Nice work attacking a very hard subject. It's like a "battle plan" for those of us in the trenches. :)

  8. Hi ladies- your input is spot on and much needed. This is my first time posting on your blog Jane. I too am in my recovery and what a journey it has been. I spent a lot of time reading over all your posts especially the ones about the 12 step program for spouses of the addicted. Honestly I have many reservations about the program. Don't get me wrong, it has saved my spouse and he is in recovery by attending those wonderful weekly meetings but I just can't get my head wrapped around step 4-8 for the spouses of the addicted. I get step 1-3 but I feel slapped in the face when I get to step 4. I look at my recovery through the eyes of someone who has lost a limb. I feel I am working through the grieving process. I feel that my very human feelings and behaviors should not be couched in language to make me feel I have sinned and need to make amends. I personally feel that Step 4 should be used to identify the faulty thnking, feelings and behaviors brought about upon the discovery of an addicted spouse. Basically come to the awareness that these are symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD doesn't go away over night and women who have freshly discovered their husbands addiction need to go into a mode of self care. Six years ago I was spiritually led to unearth the depth of my husband's addiction. It was probably the most exquisite pain I have ever felt. I was expecting my 7th child at the time and it was a miracle I didn't lose my baby because of the severe suffering that followed. I only survived because of my Savior, and my complete desire of handing it all over to Him. He led me and my husband through this very difficult time, provided angel friends that I could talk openly to, and helped me to come to the understanding on my own that I was powerless to my husband's addiction. I feel that my time to do moral inventory happens in those quiet moments during the sacrament every sunday, in my personal prayer and scripture reading. If something comes up that I need to confess to a bishop, that should be private. I guess I don't like the inference that step 4-8 makes that I have done something wrong and need to repent. I feel that those PTSD symptoms came about because of the spouses addiction and can only be healed by the Savior. I have been afflicted by my husbands addiction and it has damaged my heart and brain. I am not completely healed and seek a healing path. I still have painful days, but not as severe back in those early days following the discovery of the addiction. Choosing to stay in a marriage with an addicted spouse is like cuddling up to a rattle snake. I'm sorry but when a slip happens, I still feel the emotional pain even though I know its the ugly addiction talking. I know I have a long way to go in understanding addiction. Things that have saved me is of course my Savior, followed by weekly Temple attendance, daily prayer/scripture study, reading everything about addiction and recovery, listening to classical music. Interestly, about the music I really feel that the music is helping heal some of those damaged parts of my brain. The Lord truly has provided for me and my family with daily recognizable miracles. I still have my pain days, and sometimes the pain is so strong I momentarily lose my eternal hope for my husband. But the pain is momentarily as long as I hit the floor on my knees and plead "how do I feel love for my spouse, show me what I need to do right now." Sometimes the answer is to be still and let the pain subside. Thanks for letting me share. Its nice to not feel alone in the trench. You are amazing women and I draw strength from your courage to so openly talk about this.

  9. Jane, your blog is great! As a recovering addict, reading about the pain caused by addiction helps to keep me focused on recovery. I can say, and my wife agree's, that we love each other more than ever. No more mediocre! Intimacy on a spiritual level is awesome! It feels like being one with each other and one with God. I think letting go, in other words surrendering to God (not to the addiction), is as important for the spouse of an addict as it is to the addict. You sound like a beautiful person, full of love.