03 October 2013

Emotional Dependence

I still get heart palpitations when Pete and I go to bed at the same time and after I switch off the light I wonder if he is going to say something about that damn elephant.  Last night he did, but it was a good talk.  The kind of talk that I’ve been avoiding for the last few months.  It required me to dig deep, not get defensive, and hear and say difficult things.  

Flashback to the first five months of 2013 when I was being a yo-yo.

Relapse – Detach - Reconnect – Relapse – Detach

Over and over again.  Finally I’d had enough.  Relapses after I’d reconnected hurt worse because there was more on the line.  “I’ve given myself back to you, I’ve been loving and vulnerable and you STILL chose addiction.”  Detachment feels so much safer, the relapses are less painful when I’m not emotionally connected to him.  So after our trip to Hawaii I said “I’m detaching indefinitely.”   

This detachment left Pete feeling totally exposed.  Last night he acknowledged how he had used me to medicate, not just sexually, but emotionally.  In the past when he was lonely or hurting he knew he could come to me and I would validate, comfort and alleviate his feelings.  Essentially I protected him from identifying and working through difficult emotions by offering reassurance and probably even minimizing those feelings.  Ever since I emotionally withdrew, he has been left to feel his feelings more exquisitely, give them names, and work through them, finding healthy ways to cope rather than medicating.  And to be honest, he has done a lousy job of this.  He admitted last night that he feels the reason his relapses became more frequent in the months after I finally did the 180, is because having to really feel increased his need for his drug.  The jury is still out, but it seems like he is finally learning how to feel without self-medicating. 
[And of course part of his medicating in the past was using me as a sexual drug.  I felt for years that he was doing this, but I lacked the confidence and self-worth to be sure it wasn’t my fault our sexual relationship was so confusing.  It has been such a relief for me to hear him admit to that.] 

I think that’s why detaching is so terrifying.  Because when I let him fall on his face, he did.  And I think for awhile he even believed that it was my fault he fell on his face.  But the truth is, his addiction was going to get worse whether I detached or not, because he wasn’t really recovering.  I think it got worse faster, but at least that meant he hit bottom faster.  Unfortunately there are no guarantees that detachment will provide this result.  It could be that Pete fell on his face and liked it there, or at least felt that the pain of the problem wasn’t as bad as the pain of the solution.  The pain of the solution is the pain that comes with owning and facing some pretty deep resentments, memories, hurts and then of course the pain of withdrawal.

And now, it’s another terrifying future for me.  I’m terrified of reconnecting.  I told Pete that after I could see a healthy combination of recovery AND sobriety, that would be when I would feel safe reengaging in our relationship.  Last night we talked about seeing his therapist for help navigating that future and I realized that reconnecting emotionally has me totally freaked out. 
But at least I know that I've done terrifying things before.  And I also know that when the time is right, I'll feel it.  And I can trust myself.  And I can take all the time I need. 


  1. My husband confessed his same-gender pornography addiction in April of this year. We've been married for 9 years, and unbeknownst to me he's had the addiction since before his mission 18 years ago. I've felt so much of the yo-yo-ing in these months, and detachment feels safest, but I can't imagine it is good for our relationship long term. He's maintained sobriety since his confession, but this is all so new that I don't know whether or not to trust that it is long term. He's going to 12-step meetings and meeting with a counselor after a full confession to the Bishop.

    Any way, thanks for writing this blog and making your journey accessible.

    Does your husband still have a blog (the link on the right is dead)? It would be interesting to read his perspective.

  2. Oh I can so relate to this. I was just discussing this fear this week with someone else... I've gotten emotionally unhealthy responses from my hubs for so long that when I get a healthy response I'm like, "whoa, what the heck? now what?" I know how to detach and stay out of his Insanity (usually...) but learning to reattach when he becomes healthy is another skill and lesson altogether. What a sticky, nasty path this is....

    The more healthy responses I get from him, the easier it is and like you said, I have all the time I want. I'm in no rush...

  3. Jane you are wonderful! Thanks for sharing your story. You are a warrior and I'm so glad to be fighting the fight with you.

  4. Wow, so powerful. Seriously, you write in such a way that anyone can relate -- and for people who've been there or are there now, it's that "YES! THAT!" feeling.
    You're right -- you've done hard things, you can do more hard things, and you can most definitely trust yourself!

  5. thank you for sharing this....you can do hard things....

  6. you are so freakin brave. Its true. You are such a good example to me to let go of my fear! I need to detach. And I think my husband would likely fall flat on his face and def. blame me. And that's scary. because then what if i start to believe him. I havent' ever REALLY detatched yet. That concept is realllyyyy hard for me to put in action. Its all so complex. great post

  7. Thank you for sharing your story! I'm about 6 months into my own co-dependent recovery and my husband seems to be engaging in his own recovery from pornography for about the last month. How has physical intimacy looked for you and Pete through this? I really struggle in this area and I've read a million contradictory things about this! Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Josie that's a tough question. Physical intimacy has been just about everything for us. From me trying to do more and more to "help" him to us taking it completely off the table. There are a lot of ideas out there, and I wish I could tell you which one would be exactly right for YOU. But unfortunately it might be more of a trial and error. Try things, see how they make you feel, and then have the courage to set boundaries when you need to. Many people have said that a period of abstinence has helped. Pete and I have done this and it's a great way to feel safety in things that might be triggerfish. For example, holding hands or hugging might feel more comfortable if you know he's not just trying to get some.

      The most important thing I can tell you is not to be afraid of him, or how he will respond to your boundaries. He will NOT die without sex. And what you need is to feel safe, and not to feel used or guilted or pressured. He might never understand your boundaries, but you still get to have them and that's okay. Email me if you have any more questions. hisstrugglemystruggle @ gmail . com