I had a new man come in my office this week. I’m only giving the essence of his situation to protect his identity. He’s in his early 40’s, highly educated and successful in his career. He married his college sweetheart and they have three beautiful children under ten. He owns his home in a wonderful neighborhood in Seattle and life should be wonderful. On paper “life is grand!” That’s a quote from the movie Bonnie & Clyde, that epic movie from 1967. Clyde says that line at a last family reunion picnic hours before they are killed in a hail of bullets by law enforcement. I digress.
He is very attractive and verbal with a Robert Redford looks. Yet his shadow side is killing him and ripping his family apart. He just completed a 30 day stay at an in-patient facility for alcoholism. It was during his time away that his wife discovered a long time history of sexual addiction. While he was there all hell broke loose back in his house, whoops! That event led him to my office. I knew about this before he got released. I received a call from his very hurt and pissed off wife. We have talked a few times. My heart goes out to her for the spot life has placed her in. At this moment he is out of the house. I’m glad I’m not a gambling man cause that would be a suckers bet either way. She is talking divorce and lawyers. My job is to try to get everyone to just stay still but that’s really hard. Hurt people, hurt people.
I did manage to get him to breathe. I gave him some hope for his wellness but his marriage is another matter. Toward the end of our visit he said what I’ve heard a thousand times. “After the divorce who would ever want me again”. It’s a classic buy in to Dr. Carnes’ four basic core beliefs:
- I’m basically a worthless person
- No one would love me if they knew me
- I’m never going to get my needs met if I have to depend on anyone else
- Sex is my most important need
It was at that time that I asked him to stand up because this was a visual. I showed him the pictures of 14 married men on my wall. All have a history of blowing up relationships/marriages and they are all currently re-partnered. The reality is that if a man does his work and that’s a big “IF” and “IF” he truly gets well, he can and will meet a healthy women and re-partner. It is a case of “one women’s trash becoming another women’s treasure.”
I currently have two other men who came to me several years ago in long term marriages that eventually ended, who now after a strong swim in the deep end of recovery have found new partners. These new women know 100% of the men’s past and support them in their personal recovery. The trajectory is looking good in both of them finding their “happily ever after.” In both old marriages, it is my opinion that, their first marriage ended not as a result of the betrayal but because each, now, ex-wife decided to not do their own work, which was their choice. Contrary to what many women think, it wasn’t that they had bad luck picking someone to partner with. We are attracted to people that are in a similar emotional and psychological state, there is not much of a difference in the case of addicts. As a coping mechanism, women designate their partners as the sick one, however, these women are sick as their spouses. At the end of the day I believe it was the men’s wellness that ended those marriages not their old addictive behavior. We have seen this pattern before.
We also have many couples whose marriages have been repaired and their families kept intact. For that to happened several things have to go into the equation.
First and foremost the man’s behavior has to stop. If he cannot stop she needs to RUN!
Secondly they need time apart, we call that a “no-contact”, so everyone can put down their guns, knives, sticks and whips remembering that hurt people, hurt people.
Thirdly the wife has to do some introspection work [often time’s recovery but not a must] as to why they married him in the first place and why they stayed for so many years not paying attention to all the clues. I have been told that at the Women’s Sex and Love Addiction Anonymous (S.L.A.A.) Retreat they play a game called “you should have seen the red flag when…”
Forth they both have to be willing to sit and have difficult dialogs and very uncomfortable conversations. It is definitely labor intensive. But the bottom line is, it can work and I can say that none of our repaired marriages have failed since, some dating back over a decade. It works if you work it!
Now back to this couple. I could never really tell and I still can’t who would actually get recovery and who wouldn’t. Since everyone is hurting enough when they walk in my door it would be easy to conclude that they would, but it’s not always the case. As always it is God’s plan not mine.
We, at No More Secrets, have a plan. This is doable. The two overriding emotions in these broken relationships are contempt and resentment. They kill more relationships than anything else, but it doesn’t have to kill this one. As the man was leaving my office I introduced him to another man waiting to come in. This guy has been here for a while and could spot the “deer in the headlight” affect. I let them chat for a while. When the second guy came in he said to me “he seems like a great guy”, to that as I always do I replied: yeah we’re all great guys, just not to be married to”. But change is possible.
If any of this post relates to where life finds you now or have in the past, feel free to contact me. And remember misery is optional.