Unfortunately, not all marriages will be saved as a result of the devastating consequences from active sex and love addiction. For many different reason this addiction will often destroy relationship’s and family despite one person’s wholehearted efforts to try to save it. There seems to me to be two large categories for why these attempts at reconciliation fail. The first and foremost reason is the addict’s unwillingness to get well, do the work necessary to stay well while finding compassion and empathy for the people they betrayed. The second main reason as I see it is that the traumatized victim of the betrayal will not look beyond the trauma introspectively and heal to an adequate level with the support of others who have also been betrayed to find peace and forgiveness. That juxtaposition creates a template where the two major emotions in the relationship is contempt and resentment. That is a recipe for disaster.
When the dust finally settles and divorce is inevitable there is still much wreckage to be cleared before one can “just” move on. Recently one of my female clients found herself in the unenviable position of having walk through the pain of a dissolved marriage. She decided to try to put down on paper as inadequate as it is by the shear limitation of language itself the depth of her sadness. This is what she wrote:
A large part of me is still heartbroken over getting divorced, especially in this way. I opened up my heart and spilled my guts to the person who vowed to stay with me, no matter what, only to have him reject me, throw me away, and bail on our marriage, our relationship, our life together and everything we built. It’s incredibly painful, and heart wrenching. My chest is weighted and tight, my hand draws up to clutch it as I write. I feel ripped open, vulnerable, raw. I feel over exposed. The pain permeates to the depth of me, yet emanates from every pore, so much so that I can’t discern if it’s coming or going. It bombards me from the outside like a mighty dragon burning down my castle walls, and wells up from within like a prehistoric sea monster, who from the depths of the ocean, charges to the surface to burst into the daylight and brandish itself to the world. Both terrifying, yet both miraculously freeing.
I’m so sad I never got to read my empathy letter. I’m sad for so much of our relationship, for both him and myself. It hurts that he doesn’t want to see me, and hear me, and find out who I’m becoming. I’m incredibly sad that he’s doomed to repeat these patterns, that he gave up this opportunity to really make positive changes in his life, and face his demons. I’m sad that our marriage was completely salvageable, and he wasn’t willing. It breaks my heart that I have to say goodbye to one of my favorite people, without even being able to tell him how much I loved and valued him, and not even actually being able to say goodbye at all, and wish him well. I’m sad that our closure will be nothing more than the signing of documents through divorce lawyers. I’m sad that now that I’m finally willing and able, I can’t express my sadness, or any other emotion, to him. I’m sad that I don’t even want him back. I’m sad that I chose a guy who would behave this way, triggering all my fucking daddy issues, and pointing out once again the extent of my insanity.
I am sad. There is nothing I can do with the pain but feel it. Slowly, sometimes begrudgingly, I walk through it. Often now, I feel I’ve moved past the points of wanting to numb it, to avoid it, to stuff it down where it can’t be found and pretend it doesn’t exist. Though I recognize those desires when they flare up. And on occasion, the pain is simply exquisite.
I was moved by her words as the tears rolled down her face. My job through it all was to coach her get real, coach her to take action to change, coach her to love herself in an organic way, coach her to stay still and reach out to other women all at the same time and coach her to build a vision of who she wants to be, not as part of a couple but for herself as a woman in recovery. Watching her change and grow is a gift in my life. She paid a high price for this growth opportunity. At the end of the day I’m sad also for I believe this marriage was repairable, if only he would have not taken his ball and gone home, but everyone is autonomous and I respect his right to be wrong.
I always feel honored when someone lets me hold their hand as they walk down the path of recovery. All I ever promise anyone is a choice and a chance. What they do with it is on them. It says in the SLAA Big Book on page 38, the “the success is not to be measured by whether we stay together but by whether we showed up minus addictive distractions”. She did and I am her witness. As I always say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
If you find that this addiction is eroding the quality of your life and would like to find someone to coach you out of the abyss give me a call. Just remember, misery is optional.