Most men, my Cheater included, would think what has been done to me and our children is the worst kind of injustice and abuse. An atrocity. Many men would want to “take my Cheater to the woodshed” to teach him a lesson, my own brother is numbered among these men. He often wanted to “teach my Cheater a lesson he would never forget.” Later on, I learned my brother is also an addict with a similar problem of his own. The funny thing is my Cheater and my brother loath each other for the same sins they clearly see in each other, but not in themselves. They are just alike, but they refuse to see it. Each pointing a finger at the other one, trying to convince me that “his problem is worse.”
I know my Cheater has made the same observations in others because, while he was serving as a Bishop, he came across many situations like ours. He would shake his head in disbelief and wonder what could make a man stoop so low. He could not understand how a man could betray his wife and children, and break his covenants like that, and worse, why he would refuse to repair the damage and restore his family after the devasation he caused. He would say that, “being a man required him to at least repair what he had broken.”
Over the years we had various, gut wrenching, discussions over how this friends or that family member could leave the church, destroy their family, and turn their backs on everything they knew to be true. We hugged each other and thanked the Lord that we had one of those kinds of marriages that would not become a sad statistic. Until, one of us let his guard down…
Now he knows, with-not-so-perfect clarity, or so it seems, just how easily it could happen to him, because he was not diligent and careful in keeping his covenants. He knows exactly how his pride could make him forsake everything he ever held dear and walk away from his wife, children, and grandchildren, without even so much as a backwards glance, into the arms of another woman. All the while, blaming me for the choices that led him there.
Even over the course of the final year of trying to save our marriage, I would be shocked and dismayed at my Cheater’s hypocrisy. How he said he would do “anything” to save our family. “Anything” did not include, to stop cheating! It is so easy to see the hypocrisy in another, and so very difficult to see it in yourself. King David had this eye-opening experience about his own hypocricy, when the Prophet Nathan paid him a, much needed, visit:
“And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.
Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.
For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”
It is so easy to see your own sins in another and to be outraged by it! So much more difficult to recognize the same thing in yourself. I often wonder if my Cheater ever sees his own hypocrisy? Does he ever notice that the thing he pitied and condemned in others, is now his own chosen road? Where is his Nathan to set him straight? Who is there to tell him, “Thou art the man!” Does he even realize that he has become “that man?” If so, will he ever do anything to fix it? He is the only one who could answer that, and unforetunetly, he isn’t doing anything so far.
As I mentioned in another post my ex-husband burned our family down. He burned me down. He burned us down. There is literally nothing left of me or our family except ashes. Just when I think there is nothing more he can do to destroy our family any further, he finds another way. There isn’t any end to his nonsense.
Since I went “no contact” with him, he has turned his attentions to torturing our adult children. Our oldest daughter asked him to break up with his girlfriend so he could turn his attention and time to healing the damage he has done to them. It seemed to be a reasonable request to me because it is basically the same request I have been making of him for the past two years; to turn all of his attention and time to me to heal our relationship. This is what a normal person would do. They would gladly do everything they could to heal the breach, especially before “moving on” to ruin some else’s life. Someone who does this to their family needs serious counseling in how to develop healthy relationships. But apparently, he wants to move on now, keep his girlfriend and have his adult children be ok with it, not just be ok, but to give their blessing to his bad choices. (I don’t even want to discuss what kind of idiot woman wants a man who is this messed up?)
His insistence that our children be ok with his decisions was met with a strong boundary for him, “You need to spend your time healing the damage between us before you move on with any other relationship, or we cannot have a relationship with you. Period.” But rather than understand or respect the requested boundary his children gave him, he kept insisting that they do it his way. It’s not unusual for him to want it his way. Most of his responses in the past dozen years or so are very selfish. But this serves as an example of how Addicts do not respect boundaries. They do not respect what their loved ones need. Most of the time they don’t even have a clue how to figure out what their loved ones need! It’s all about them. Wisdom and common sense would dictate that when someone destroys another persons wellbeing, they would want to do whatever was asked of them to repair the damage they have done. This is what healthy people do. And if they are not healthy they would, or should, want to GET HEALTHY! First. Before they do anything else.
I can only speak from my own experiences. It’s what I know. It’s why I write – to share my experiences to, hopefully, help others. The purpose for sharing this situation is not to vilify my ex-husband, but the purpose is for a concrete, instructive situation that both the addict and their family members can understand:
Unhealthy people with unhealthy relationships cannot form new healthy relationships without learning new patterns of behavior that allow the addict to repair and restore the damage they have done. First! There is no “moving on” until the addict chooses to act in healthy and responsible ways. These new patterns are learned in the 12 Steps Program. This should be a basic place for the addict to start to repair relationships.
Choices and accountability matter!
In his present mindset, my ex-husband’s prospects for healing his relationship with his children seems as abysmal as his chances for his healing our relationship. He hasn’t made the choice to do the hard work of real repentance. He hasn’t chosen me. He hasn’t chosen his children. He hasn’t chosen God. Until he makes the right choices he will continue to feel the adverse consequences of his choices.
And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. 2 Nephi 2:5
The consequences for his most resent choices are that his children now want nothing more to do with him until he can make better choices. His children want him to CHOOSE THEM! Just like I wanted him to CHOOSE ME!! For now, he has chosen the girlfriend, not his children. I cannot fathom this choice! Just like I couldn’t fathom his choice to not choose me. Somehow this seems worse to me though – they are his own flesh and blood! What kind of monster does this??? If I were in this same situation, of course I would choose my kids! Of course I would choose my family! I would have chosen our relationship in the first place. But that is me thinking with a non-addict brain. Who the hell knows what he is thinking???
In order to come to this decision to have no contact with him, our adult children met with a counselor to get advice on how to handle this situation. They discussed the disrespect their father has for them by refusing to honor their requests of him. They talked about when is it appropriate to cut off contact and for how long. When does a relationship become so toxic it requires cutting off the relationship? (Google the ‘no contact rule’ it is a thing and it makes a lot of sense!)
What it boils down to is this: Hitting Rock Bottom
Addicts will not change until the pain of what they have lost because of the addiction becomes greater than the “high” they get from the next hit of chemical dependency. In bottomline terms; what does it take for the addict to hit rock bottom? Hitting rock bottom is different for everyone. Some can hit bottom just by being horrified at themselves for what they have done. For others, it will mean losing everything; job, marriage, children, family,community standing, religious excommunication, self-respect, and some go so far to lose even basic freedoms to live in society.
As it turns out, cutting off a relationship with an addict may be one of the best things you can do for them if they will not come to terms with their behavior on their own, because it requires them to face their own demons on their own. The enabling of the addict stops. He has no one to blame but himself. Hopefully, he will be forced to hit bottom faster. As the addict loses more and more of the things that matter most to him this serves as a wake up call. At some point the addict needs to wake up one day and say, “Gee, maybe I am the one with the problem!” Only when this happens will the reality of the addicts behavior begin to set in:
Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds. Jacob 2:35
What will it take for him to see the sheer magnitude of pain his choices has caused his family? Who knows. We can only withdrawal to a safe distance until he figures himself out. Nobody can do it for him. Helpless. That is how we all feel. It is anyone’s guess how far he will have to fall to hit rock bottom. After 3 years of hell, he still isn’t there.
The challenge we face now is to figure out how to rise from the ashes in spite of him. It is clear he doesn’t want to assist in the healing. So it is something we must do for ourselves. This much I know, we had a great family. He walked away from one of the best families a man could ever have. Our children are great! I was a great wife and mother! If anyone can do this, we can. We can and we will succeed in our own healing. We will, like the Phoenix, rise from the ashes of our lives.
Upon completion of its life cycle, the famed firebird builds its funeral pyre. After setting itself alight, it burns until nothing but ash remains. From that ash and flame, the Phoenix Rises!
Note: What do you think ex-husband’s reaction was to his children telling him that he cannot have contact with them for now?
It was blame.
It’s ALWAYS about the blame! He blamed me. (And I am not even around him anymore!) Never mind that our children are all grown adults who can think and act for themselves. But still…It was all my fault. I brainwashed them all against him. I love how he phrases it too; “I see you have decided to follow in ‘Your Mother’s’ footsteps and….” Doesn’t he know how offensive this is to his grown children? He is outright discounting that they have a single brain between them and that one brain that they all share is controlled completely by me! How offensive can he be???
What he should have said is, “Gee, I guess you are really serious about how you feel. I didn’t understand that it meant so much to you that I break off this relationship with Girlfriend. I thought you were kidding, it appears that you are not. So after rethinking things I have decided you are more important to me and I will break up with her, no contact at all for the next 6 months and spend that time just on you guys to try to rebuild our relationship. I won’t even talk to you about her. In six months we can revisit this subject and see where we are at that time. Does that sound ok to you?”
This is just way too healthy a response for him though!
This is just another witness in a long line of examples that denial is alive and well and has found a home in him, a host parasite that sucks all the brains and common sense right out of him! He couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.
His denial disgusts me. I don’t want to feel this way, but there it is.
Last night I was studying my scriptures. And as often happens to me, one reference leads me to another and I ended up on this General Conference Talk from October 2016: Repentance: A Joyful Choice by Dale G. Renlund. I highly recommend it to you for a clear concise explaination of what true repentance looks like. It is one of those moments when you know the Lord is guiding you to a place you needed to go and I definently needed to go to this talk. It was so validating. I need that.
Lately I have been struggling mightily over my Ex-husband’s failure to repent, at least he is not doing it in the way I have been taught to understand that repentance looks like. But everytime I mentioned to him over the past two years that he is not fully repenting, I am met with a constant barrage of accusations of being judgmental, critical, nonsupportive and mean. These kinds of accusations can take a toll on a person after a while, especially when I am already so hurt, wounded, and shattered. His failure to fully repent has left deep wounds in our family that keep getting torn open again and again. He doesn’t understand that if he truly repented it would provide a healing balm over the entire family, especially me.
Instead we get resistance, subborness, and stonewalling. He ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to repent. It feels like he refuses to repent so he can prove he isn’t really an addict, that he just made a few “bad choices.” So he treats his repentance as such. He expects to just say he is sorry and we will all forgive him and that will be that. This mindset, that what he has done is not that bad (minimizing) causes him to be astonished that I would have the nerve to divorce him, because why would anyone divorce a spouse that they love over a few “bad choices?” So he is able to rationalize in his mind that I am really the bad guy. He feels I bailed on him, not the other way around, which is really the case to any other rational human being.
Don’t get me wrong, he IS sorry. But it the “sorrow of the damned,” not “sorrow unto repentance” or “godly sorrow.” There is a huge difference. Just being sorry doesn’t cut it in the case of adultery and infidelity, not by anyone’s standards, and certainly not by the Lord’s standards.
“The word repent connotes “to perceive afterwards” and implies “change.”4 In Swedish, the word is omvänd,which simply means “to turn around.”5 The Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote about the need and the method for change. He noted that repentance involves “being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right,” he said, “but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”6Changing our behavior and returning to the “right road” are part of repentance, but only part. Real repentance also includes a turning of our heart and will to God and a renunciation of sin.7 As explained in Ezekiel, to repent is to “turn from … sin, … do that which is lawful and right; … restore the pledge, … [and] walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity.”8
“Never by simply going on!” This is exactly what my Cheater wants to do! He just wants to go on from here! He refuses to go back to the beginning of he errors and working forward from that point. This is the crux of the pain he has caused and is continuing to cause within his devastated family. He had the audacity to tell my daughter last week, that he is moving on with a different woman, in yet another relationship, because ” HE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY!” My daughter was agasted at his extreme selfishness. Her response; “You took a baseball bat to our family and destroyed everyone, but you deserve to move on and be happy, while everyone else is left broken and bruised?”
Does this sound like real repentance to you? No. Me either.
He will tell anyone who will listen that he is repenting. But he is not. It is not possible to say you are repenting, and at the same time, continuing in sin. If he were truly repenting we would all be able to tell, we would all see it, we would all know it. He would change. His behavior would change, his words would change, his countenance would change. The righteous can clearly judge this mighty change of heart. It is as clear as the daylight from the dark night. Elder Runland continues:
Yet even this is an incomplete description. It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives. When we “perceive afterwards” and “turn around” with the Savior’s help, we can feel hope in His promises and the joy of forgiveness. Without the Redeemer, the inherent hope and joy evaporate, and repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification. But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.
All sorts of lightbulbs went on in my head! My Cheater is just in “Miserable Behavior Modification.” He is trying to do this on his own, without help from anyone, using his own wisdom, and he is failing miserably. He has not made his repentance real because he isn’t following the steps for real repentance laid out by our Savior in the scriptures. With, what my therapist Home Teacher calls, “cheap repentance,” he will NEVER have joy. He can seek for “happiness” all he wants, but he will never find joy! This is the lot of the damned. No joy.
Elder Packer explains:
“The Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.”9
“The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, [the Savior] has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. …
“… The Atonement … can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated.”10
“The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us. As the prophet Lehi explained, after we “are instructed sufficiently” to “know good from evil,”11 we “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.”12In other words, repentance is a choice.”
We must choose to repent. Stunning in its simplicty. Profound in its appliction! This was another place in the talk that struck me. Hard. A few months before I made the decision to divorce my husband I spent days in the temple, praying and seeking for guidance on what I should or needed to do next. I had some very sacred experiences during this time, but one thing stands out above the others. The Lord said to me, very clearly…”Your husband has not chosen you.” As I think back on this now I understand that the Lord was also telling me, “he has not chosen me either.” My Ex did not, and has not chosen US; the Lord, his family and me. He has not chosen any of us. If he would choose all of us, everything for him would change practically overnight. He would be a changed man, with “no more desire to do evil [to his family], but to do good [to his family] continually.” He doesn’t want to do the hard work of repentance, real repentance, so he believes it will be simpler to just walk away. Not so.
Remarkably Elder Rutland list a few things that keep us from choosing to repent. To my astonishment they were the same symptoms of denial! He says:
“We can—and sometimes do—make different choices. Such choices may not seem intrinsically wrong, but they prevent us from becoming truly penitent and thus preclude our pursuit of real repentance.”
For instance, we may choose to blame others. But blaming others, even if justified, allows us to excuse our behavior. By so doing, we shift responsibility for our actions to others. When the responsibility is shifted, we diminish both the need and our ability to act. We turn ourselves into hapless victims rather than agents capable of independent action.13
Another choice that impedes repentance is minimizing our mistakes... It would have been easy to say that there was no reason to repent. But minimizing our mistakes, even if no immediate consequences are apparent, removes the motivation to change. This thinking prevents us from seeing that our mistakes and sins have eternal consequences.
Yet another way is to think that our sins do not matter because God loves us no matter what we do. It is tempting to believe what the deceitful Nehor taught the people of Zarahemla: “That all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.”14 But this seductive idea is false. God does love us. However, what we do matters to Him and to us. He has given clear directives about how we should behave. We call these commandments. His approbation and our eternal life depend on our behavior, including our willingness to humbly seek real repentance.15
Additionally, we forgo real repentance when we choose to separate God from His commandments…We should be wary of discounting sinful behavior by undermining or dismissing God’s authorship of His commandments. Real repentance requires recognizing the Savior’s divinity and the truthfulness of His latter-day work.
My Cheater has used all of these excuses, and others, to shirk his responsibilites to himself, to me and to his family to do the hard work of real repentance. It is interesting that these excuses are also the behaviors of an addict in denial.
“Instead of making excuses, let us choose repentance. Through repentance, we can come to ourselves, like the prodigal in the parable,16 and reflect on the eternal import of our actions. When we understand how our sins can affect our eternal happiness, we not only become truly penitent but we also strive to become better.”
When faced with temptation, we are more likely to ask ourselves, in the words of William Shakespeare:
My Cheater has a new “toy.” That will not bring him lasting joy. True repentance will. Healing the wounds of his family will. Binding up our broken hearts will. But he would rather play with his new toy instead of repairing a family he has spent a lifetime in building. This makes no sense to me.
Elder Runland explains:
“If we have lost sight of eternity for the sake of a toy, we can choose to repent. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have another chance. Metaphorically, we can exchange the toy we so ill-advisedly purchased in the first place and receive again the hope of eternity. As the Savior explained, “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”18
My Cheater still continues to make bad choices, including refusing to do the hard work of real repentance. It’s nice to know, I am not the only one who thinks so.
The one thing keeping an addict from getting into recovery is DENIAL. Denial starts with the declaration, “I don’t have a problem!” This is usually followed by, “You’re the problem!” Or some variation. And then the trauma begins. The more emphatic the denial by the addict, the deeper the trauma to the wife. I can only describe it as “crazymaking,” because that is what it is. The addict will go to great lengths to deny he is an addict and it will literally drive you to distraction if you don’t recognize it and learn how to deal with it. He will twist and tie every piece of “proof” you have of his addiction into knots, doing the most astounding mental and emotional gymnastics you have EVER been privileged to witness, until you will almost believe it yourself. Or you might just give in because the barrage of verbal warfare is relentless. Trying to argue or reason with an addict is futile. It’s a waste of time, energy and breathe. Which is one reason I kept a journal and kept records of all the proof I had of his encounters with other women. I have electronic and hard copies. So whenever I would start to fall prey to his “crazymaking” I could go back and look at the evidence and read my journal and remember what really happened. I’m not the crazy one. He is.
It took me a long time to come to this realization because my Cheater was one of the most reasonable and logical people I knew. It’s quite a role reversal when I am the more reasonable and logical person in the relationship. So it was extremely difficult to wrap my brain around this new warped person standing in front of me. Any encounters with him sent me running for cover in self-defense. I literally felt like I was under gun and mortar fire all.the.time. I could hardly tolerate the constant lies and accusations. He almost had ME convinced that his addiction was MY FAULT and that he was the victim.
I am not the only one to experience this. Soon after I went “no contact” with him, he started doing the same thing with my kids. It’s one thing for him to drag me through the warped and sicko maze of the bizarre “fun house” of his mind, but it is quite another thing to watch him do it to my kids! They are adults so I couldn’t do anything about it except sit by and watch him do the same thing to them that he had done to me. This was and is just one more layer to the trauma he has put our family through.
If you have ever been around an addict then you know exactly what I am talking about. If not, let me take you through a few of the denial tactics, along with some personal examples to show you what each tactic of denial looks like. If you are in a relationship with an addict then you will recognize most, if not all of them. Understanding the role of denial in sex addiction with help you know where you are in your relationship with the addict and what needs to happen next.
Lying – Addicts lie about everything, even stuff they don’t need to lie about. They cannot seem to tell the truth…at all. They will say anything, do anything to protect their secret world from being discovered. The problem is that the lying is pretty obvious because the damage done to the brain by the addiction makes it nearly impossible for them to keep track of all the lies. If your husband spends a great amount of time lying and covering his tracks he is in denial. Honesty is a hallmark of a healthy relationship. If your husband is lying to you then something is wrong.
She said: My ex-husband was frequently “let go” or “changed” jobs unexpectedly. When I would hear him interviewing on the phone, I would catch him telling potential employers numerous lies, small lies, but lies nevertheless. So I would ask him, “why did you lie about…?”
He said: “Well, everyone lies when they are being interviewed, it’s how the game is played.”
Other examples: Often they cannot account for where they have been. Coming home late from work. Suddenly getting lots of calls from “wrong numbers” and not being able to explain them away. Clicking out of apps or computer pages when you walk in the room and then lying about it.
Playing the Victim – This is the one denial tactic that hurt me more than all the others, except for the gaslighting. I had a terrible time understand how he could act like he was the one who was the victim? I didn’t really want the victim role, I have never been fond of using it, but it was insulting that he acted like I was the one who hurt him!
He said: “I just don’t understand why you are not more supportive of me? You left me, I didn’t leave you! So you are the one who just doesn’t love me anymore. If you loved me you would have stayed with me and worked with me.”
She said: Wow! This was a tough pill to swallow when he would blast me with this one, which he did nearly every time we talked. The worst part of this one is that I think he really believes himself when he says it! I moved out to get myself to a safe place because he refused to come clean from the very beginning and he continued to lie and cover up his affairs. If at any point he would have stopped the affairs, gotten into recovery and provide me with safety, I would have moved back in with him and “worked with him,” but he was unable or unwilling to do these bare minimum steps. So I couldn’t come back. It wasn’t ever safe enough to do so, no matter how much I wanted to do it. The truth is that when he started having affairs with other women, he left me first. This seems lost on him.
Other examples: “I just can’t help it.” “You won’t work with me.” “You just don’t love me anymore.” “I will never be able to repent from this because you will never forgive me.” If you were more supportive of me then I could overcome this.”
Entitlement – This is used by the addict when he feels he has the right to behave a certain way. He will somehow feel he is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. Entitlement is often behind the addicts belief that he is SPECIAL, that he doesn’t have an addiction. Those addicts who feel they are entitled believe they are the exception and not the rule.
He said: “After all I have done for you over the years you owe it to me to give me the benefit of the doubt.”
She said: He is not entitled to cash checks in the trust account after infidelity. Trust is something that is earned, he is not entitled to it, and especially not after having online affairs, unchecked, for a year.
Other examples: “I am different, I am not a full-blown addict like the other guys in my group.” “I work hard to support my wife and kids, and I’m productive at my job. I think that I deserve a little reward. I mean it can’t be all work and no play, right? So if I go online for a little while here and there to look at porn, nobody should complain, because I deserve this little escape.”
Blame – Essentially, addicts see themselves at being at the mercy of the words or actions of other people. They are assigning their responsibility for a fault or a wrong doing to others, usually their wife and family members. Often an addict will not accept responsibility for acting out even when he is caught. With the addict, it is usually someone else’s fault. Sometimes the addict will take partial responsibility, but them blame his wife for the rest. This is recognized when the addict says, “Yes, this is my fault, BUT…” There should be no “BUT” when an addict takes real responsibility! The addicts blaming can be devastating to the betrayed wife! It is appalling to have your husband blame you for their wrong choices. This often leaves the wife wondering if there might be some truth to his twisted thinking.
He said: “If you would have stayed with me then I wouldn’t keep cheating on you. You left me all alone so of course I kept cheating. If you had been with me I wouldn’t have any reason to be with other women.”
She said: “So you do not have enough self-control to keep your core principles without me around to make sure you don’t cheat?” This is blaming at it’s finest! With this sort of logic it is totally my fault he was unfaithful! Not! This is a core issue with addicts, they seem to lack agency or accountability. This is another way you can tell if your husband is serious about recovery, HE WILL BE ACCOUNTABLE for his own actions!
Other examples: “My wife is such a nag.” “She constantly criticizes everything I do.” “She’s boring in bed. She never wants to try anything new, and she doesn’t care if I’m enjoying things or not.” The other women I meet on Ashley Madison are totally different. They like me the way I am, and they’re willing to let me do what I want.”
These next three are very similar and are often used by the addict together in the same sentence.
Justification – is when an addict tries to show their actions are right or reasonable. Often you can recognize a justification by the use of the word JUST. “I was just doing…”, “It was just a little….”, “You just don’t understand…”.
He said: “I only acted out sexually with other women a few times online. After that we were just talking. Don’t you understand? I was just talking to them.”
She said: Even if he had not ever acted out online sexually and had only been talking to other women in chatroom, this is still cheating in most women’s eyes. Anytime your husband turns he attention to another women that is time he should have been investing in you! That is cheating you out of your relationship with him! As far as the sexual piece goes, the number of times doesn’t matter to a wife. One time is too many! There is no JUST when we are talking about cheating!
Other examples:“Everyone is doing it.” “We were separated so I just didn’t think it mattered.” “All you do is criticize me.” “I was just flirting, it’s no big deal.”
Minimization – This is trying to reduce the seriousness of the addicts behaviors to the smallest possible amount or degree. To the wife, minimizing her feelings of betrayal signal that her husband is unsafe because he really doesn’t “get it” or understand what he has really done to her. Minimizing is a sure sign that the wife is not safe to trust her husband.
She said: Often I would have the feeling that my Ex was still cheating on me, even when he said he wasn’t. I would confront him with the feeling and he would tell me he wasn’t (lying). Later on, I would find out he was “chatting” with some woman online. When I confronted him with the evidence…
He said: “Yes, I was chatting with so and so online, but it wasn’t anything. We were just talking. I didn’t tell you because I knew you wouldn’t understand. But it was nothing.” If it was really nothing, he wouldn’t have hidden it.
Other examples: “I’m not hurting anyone, and I’m not putting myself in any danger. I mean everyone knows that it’s just a one-time thing and we’re not going to fall in love. And I can tell right away when someone is into drugs or weird stuff, just from what they write or text me, so I don’t get into dicey situations. This just isn’t a big deal.” “This website isn’t that bad, we mostly just hang out in chatrooms and talk. It’s the way I relax at the end of a stressful day. It isn’t any different from you being on Facebook.”
Rationalization – Is making excuses to justify an unwanted behavior. Often a rationalization will appear to be logical and well thought out, but the underlying purpose of it is to avoid the true explanation. They are false and often inconsistent excuses for specific behaviors.
She said: “Why did you just go and make this worse by acting out with women in person?”
He said: “After I was excommunicated I figured it didn’t matter anymore so if I was being accused of cheating I decided I might as well go off and have sex with a real person. I mean, really, how could that be any worse?”
Other examples: “I’m not having affairs like a lot of other people I know. All I’m doing is looking at porn, playing a few virtual reality sex games and occasionally getting off on a webcam. I don’t even know anybody’s real name. So this isn’t cheating. And if my partner thinks it is, that’s his problem, not mine.”
Turning the Tables – Also know as manipulation, is a tactic used by the addict to change the situation or focus so that he has changed positions with his spouse. This often happens when a wife confronts the addict about a specific behavior. The addict will find a way to turn the tables to make it about his wife’s perceived problem so the focus is taken off of his problem.
She said: “I really wish you wouldn’t ignore me, if we are going to repair our relationship then we need to work on improving our connection.”
He said: “Well, if you hadn’t moved out and left me then we would be living in the same house and we could connect everyday! If we are not connecting then it’s probably because you do not live in the same house as me.”
Gaslighting – manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. It is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill anxiety and confusion in their victim’s.
She said: “I just really feel like you are still cheating on me.” I would say this after going through a period of time where he would distance himself from me, not call or text and then completely ignore me. This happened over and over. So I would ask him about what is going on with.
He said: “I can’t believe you don’t trust me, I have given you no reason not to trust me and here you are again, accusing me of things I did not do! How can we ever get back together if you are constantly questioning everything I do? I go to counseling with you. I attended the recovery program with you, like you wanted me to, what more do you want from me? Nothing I do is ever enough for you! You will never forgive me!
Other examples: Read more about gaslighting here, here, and here.
All the above tactics were used on me quite extensively. This is why I had to go NO CONTACT with my Cheater and it will probably stay that way until he comes out of denial on his own. An addict in denial is dangerous to your mental and emotional health. That isn’t an exaggeration either. I ended up being suicidal because my husband was in absolute denial. He even went so far as to claim the mental health professionals working with him said he was not suffering from an addiction, but something else. The problem is that he would never define what that “something else” was. Later, when I talked to his counselors and church leaders about what I was experiencing on the other end of his “problem” they each agreed that his was deep in addiction, and that he had been less than honest with them about the extent of his problems. This is a huge issue with denial because if they cannot be honest with themselves about what they have done then they cannot be honest with their counselors either. In this state there is no moving forward. The addict is stuck. And so is his family. A problem cannot be addressed or fixed if the person with the problem can’t even see that they have a problem! This leaves the family no other choice than to stand by and helplessly watch as their loved one spirals out of control. There is NOTHING anyone can do until the addict hits the bottom. Here is an article you may find useful on the stages of denial.
The longer the addict stays in denial the more grim the chances are of repairing your relationship. My husband’s addiction went on unchecked and untreated, in any significant way, for 3 solid years. That is plenty long for him to have developed a full-blown addiction.
So how do you know if your man is in denial about his sex addiction? As you can see from some of the above examples, usually, it’s pretty easy to tell. This list is a pretty good place to start. Almost everyone can tell except the addict. It is also really easy to tell if they are in recovery or not by the frequency in which they still engage in denial behaviors. If your husband is still lying, minimizing, justifying, blaming, acting the victim or entitled, if he rationalizing, turning the tables on you. or gaslighting you then you can be pretty certain that he is still involved in acting out on his addictive behaviors! Red flags should go up immediately. At this point, an honest and open Q&A should happen between you about your concerns. If he is still in recovery then he will welcome your questions and do his best to answer honestly and work to relieve any of your fears or concerns. Any stonewalling is a red flag that something is going on.
As much as I hate the denial tactics that my Cheater put me through, they were the barometer that I was able to use to determine if he was serious about fighting for me or not. Ultimately, it was the deciding factor in determining to divorce him. He just would not come out of denial. It seems he still won’t.
That’s the bad news. There is some good news. You do have some choices you can make to empower yourself against the “denial effect.” This amounts to the things you must do to work on your own recovery from the trauma caused by the addict.
So what can you do to protect yourself from the “denial effect?” Plenty. This is will be the subject of my next blog post…
Note: Denial is not just engaged in by addicts. In fact, family members are often as deeply in denial as the addict. And because of this they tend to either enable or ignore the addiction and its consequences. This is another blog post that will be forthcoming.
Regardless of whether denial is engaged in by the addict or his/her loved ones, it exacerbates the addict’s desire to escape from life. This is because denial is a complex series of lies, secrets and deceptions that expands and takes on a life of its own as the addiction escalates. And the larger and more complicated this web of deceit becomes, the harder it is to maintain. Over time, the stress of sustaining this façade of normalcy becomes overwhelming. And of course the anxiety and fear this produces nearly always triggers a further desire to “numb out” via the addiction. In this way, the addict’s and/or the family’s system of denial directly feeds the cycle of addiction. This is why it is imperative that the whole family go to counseling, 12-steps and addiction recovery for spouses and families. See my page on Programs for suggestions on where to start.