Can we talk frankly? Just us girls? I am going to tell you what to expect from your husband after you discovery your husband’s addiction or affair, otherwise known as D-day. Why? Because I didn’t get the straight scoop when I was going through this, not from anyone. Not from my Bishop, not from my therapists, not from my family, or my friends. Not from anybody! Nobody wants to sit you down and tell you that your husband is acting like a douche and you should seriously consider leaving.
I get it, this is one of the most gut wrenching, hard, mind bending decisions that you will EVER make in your life! This is the mother of all difficult decisions – to leave a cheating, porn addicted, sex addicted spouse – or stay. The Church is not helpful either, it teaches you from infancy that your family is everything and you should sacrifice everything for your marriage, and rightly so. All true, and I still believe that with all of my heart. But your Bishop is NOT ALLOWED to tell you to leave your husband! It’s something about being held responsible legally.
Heck, if my ex-husband would show up tomorrow with his hat in hand and showed me he was truly sorry and repenting with an “Alma the Younger” kind of attitude, and I could see he was in some hardcore, serious recovery, I would consider taking him back to save our family. I would. I know I would. I think about it everyday. But he is not going to do that, and I know he is not going to do that. He is so happy with his wifestress! So I don’t think
dream about it much anymore. He ran off and cheated got married without a backwards glance towards me, so I got my answer, I meant nothing to him in the end. That is the ultimate example of helplessness, the choice to save my family is completely out of my hands. My family is toast because of my Ex’s choices. But what about yours? How do you know if you should trust your addict? How do you know if you should give him, yet another, chance? How do you know that he will be serious about recovery?
This question has plagued me like no other question in this hailstorm known as porn and sex addiction. I nearly took my own life over this question. I wanted to save my family so badly that I nearly lost my own soul in the attempt to save his, subjecting myself to two whole years of pure torture. So how do you keep from experiencing the same devastatingly shattering heartbreak and not making the same mistakes that I did? Where is the balance between saving yourself from drowning in the depths of despair and saving your marriage and family?
Addicts are just that, addicts, and they cannot be trusted. Not even a little bit, and not for a long, long, long time. And by the time you figure out you should not trust them anymore, you are already behind the eight ball. Your looks are gone, you are older, chances are he has depleted your finances, mortgaged your house, he doesn’t have a job, or he is hiding what little money the two of you had left, and you are stuck with no way out and no way to support yourself and your children. Trust me, I see this play out over and over everyday with every new post on my support group pages. I took me a long time to figure out that my addict was just the same guy as all the other addicts, and the wonderful man I married was long gone, leaving a sad, sorry, shell of a man I never knew behind. The stories are all the same. I want to throw up every time I hear another woman say she stayed and believed him, and he left her with nothing. I seriously read another 10 stories just like this every.single.day. It is nauseating how trusting all these women are, and that includes me too! I get it! I fell for it, the same as you! If I had a dollar for everytime he said he would “do anything to get my family back,” I’d be a wealthy woman. So that is why I want to give you some heart-to-heart advice I wish I had gotten, but never did. You may or may not believe me, but you cannot say I didn’t tell you. What you do after this is totally up to you.
When you discover your husband has a porn/sex addiction or he is cheating on you, now is the time for some serious tough love! Someone told me recently that if your addict still likes you, that you are probably doing something wrong and enabling him. Now is NOT the time to be all understanding and kind, even though every single person in your life will tell you that it is! NO! Do not fall for it! You, YOU… have just been cheated on. What you need are some serious assurances. Do not let him turn himself into the victim by giving you the ‘you need to support me’ routine. Ummm…no! Just no! That is not how this scenario should go. And if you let it go that way, you are just setting yourself (and him) up for more heartbreak. And heartbreak doesn’t even begin to describe how it feels. Imagine your heart being ripped out of your chest and shredded in a meat grinder and then eaten, by your addict. Yeah, it’s gruesome. It’s still doesn’t come close to describing how awful it feels.
So here is the thing. If all of these recovery and addiction clinics work so well, then they are keeping their success records a closely guarded secret. I have yet to find any definitive stats on how well they work, and I have looked. I know they are successful, I have seen some of the success in person and in stories, but to what extent? What is the success rates, in percentages, of people who come into their programs and stay sober, long-term? I would really like to know! So if you know, please tell me, because I am starting to think it’s not that good, given how closely guarded a secret it is. Just guessing here.
Another thing that is worrisome to me is the number of my Sisters in my various support groups who are going on 10, 15, and 20 years with a husband who is still relapsing. I give these wonderful, saintly, longsuffering women all my love and support, but I couldn’t do it! I refuse!!! I gave my addict 9 years and that is 4 years too many. So with hindsight being 20/20 here is what I would do, if I had to go back and do it all over again:
I would give him 1 year to get into solid recovery. That means;
- He is seeing his Bishop weekly
- Going to 12 steps and has a sponsor that he is checking in with daily
- Reading books, articles, and anything he can get his hands on, about addiction, recovery, and betrayal trauma
- Is in an addiction recovery program
- And he is seeing a therapist who is trained in sex addiction
- Lastly, his relapses are getting less, by a lot!
This list is the bare minimum. What is as important as the list, is his attitude. His attitude should be stellar! He should be falling all over himself to make all of it up to you, not the other way around. And if he completes the first year successfully then, you give him another year. If at anytime he flips back into full addiction mode (full relapse), then you need to get the hell out! Run as fast as you can, while you still can. How do you know he has flipped back into full addiction mode? That is simple – lying. If he is lying to you then he is not committed! Period. Transparency is paramount. If he is hiding…anything, he is not serious!
And here is why I think this way:
It takes 5 years to successfully beat a porn sex addiction. Minimum. That is the one statistic that I could find! Yes, you read that right! 5 years! That is a lot of years! Here is how my therapist broke it down for me;
In the first year they are not even sure they have an addiction, but they will go through the motions because you want and need them to. This is where my red flag came up. Mind would not even do this for me! He refused. Said he didn’t have an addiction. If yours says this, it’s game over. You cannot fix a problem that they think does not exist.
The second year is the year they start to see some benefits to living a life of an addict in recovery. They see their life is better, but the “buy in” still isn’t 100% there. The reason for this is because it take 2 years of sobriety for the brain to heal enough to start thinking clearly again! The addiction kills their prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is where reason, logic, empathy, connection are housed All of these traits, and others most be present for addiction recovery. With a brain that looks like swiss cheese, it is impossible for them to recover. And sadly, they won’t get this part of their brain back for at least two years of solid sobrity, and that is if there are no slips…no relapses. This is why they need to get into recovery and stay there, because you will not see any results for at least two-three years! Every slip and relapse, sets the 2-year clock back to zero.
The third year is when their brain finally heals enough to KNOW they were an addict all along. This is the year they finally wake up to their awful situation. If you can survive it until year three, then you have a fighting chance! Keep going, as long as he continues to do his part. This is the year that you can finally start to have hope that your marriage and family can be saved. Most therapist will not tell you this up front, not unless you press them, like I did.
Years 4-5 is when he finally gets it! Whew! He is sold on recovery and he is committed, and you will see it, loud and clear! There is a saying that you can tell when a man is in recovery because he won’t shut up about how great his life is in recovery. Conversely, if a man is not in recovery then you can’t get him to tell you anything about it.
Are you starting to get an idea about what you are in for? 5 years. 5 long, hard, hard, years of crying your eyes out, and that is IF he is committed from the very beginning. If he isn’t committed then you will suffer an additional year, for every year that he continues to slip up and relapse. And in the meantime, your life is also slipping away from you, with no guarantees that it will get any better.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but nobody in your inner circle is going to tell you any of this. They can’t, because they probably don’t know enough about addiction or how your husband will respond. But you know. Deep down inside you know. You know your husband, you know what his committment level is, you also know how determined he is, you will know all of this by how fast he gets into recovery and how hard he works at it to stay there! I can tell you all of this because I lived it, and so has every other addict’s wife. I cannot tell you definitively when to leave him, but I can tell you how you will know when it’s time to leave. Don’t give him decades of your life to fix this problem. He hasn’t earned that right if he isn’t invested in fighting for you. I knew. Deep down inside, I knew from the beginning, he wasn’t going to fight for me. My gut was screaming at me to kick him to the curb. He was never going to fight for me, no matter how much he said he would. In the end, nothing he said matched up to what he did.
What does “fighting for you” look like? Well, two words…SAFETY and TRUST. Safety means that he will make it safe for you to be in his life. He will go out of his way to show you that you can count on his to be where he says he will be, doing what he says he is doing. He will show you his phone when you ask, give you his passwords, delete all of his cheater accounts, he will work his recovery program and make sure you know he is doing what he promised you will do. Over time, as he is providing you safety, it will build up trust again. You will start to feel like you can count on him again, what he does and says will match, this is what it means to have integrity. And, if he is really good at it, he will tell you what you need to know before you ask him. This is what it means when he says he will do ANYTHING to get you back! He literally, will do ANYTHING to provide you with safety and to re-build trust.
On the other hand, if your addict is doing any number of these things, then it is time to seriously make the hard choice to go:
- He won’t stop cheating. After d-day I had at least 6 more d-days as women he was cheating with came forward to tell me he was cheating on them! If you are “finding out” more cheating then he isn’t serious about recovery.
- He won’t stop lying. Even when I would ask him about things he knew I knew, seeing, he would lie. He would even lie about things he didn’t need to lie about like if he was going to church or not. Addiction = lying. Recovery =transparency.
- He has secret phone numbers, apps, or accounts that you did not know about and you discover them much later after d-day. If he hides anything from you that is a huge red flag.
- He won’t give you the money you need to live on. Hiding money or not taking care of you is a red flag that he is planning to exit.
- He won’t take responsibility for his actions. Being in denial about his addiction shows up in a number of manipulation techniques like, blame shifting, lying, crazymaking, gaslighting, turning the tables, or playing the victim. You will know if this is happening because any conversation about him and his addiction will be suddenly shifted to be about you. Active addicts are experts at placing the blame on you.
- He refuses to admit he is an addict. If this is the case – game over. Nobody can fix a problem if they will not even admit there is a problem. If this happens, get an attorney and walk away.
- He won’t take recovery seriously. If he is only half-hearted about recovery then the likelihood that he is still cheating is very high. he should be doing the minimum as outlined above. If he is really serious then he will go above and beyond the minimum.
- He will not provide safety and trust. My Ex wouldn’t even try to do this for me. He did everything BUT…in fact, he took it to the next level by ignoring me, he wouldn’t answer my texts to phone calls for days at a time. Ignoring is a huge red flag, it’s just another form of hiding.
- He refuses to do a full disclosure. An addict should be willing to fully disclose everything he has done to you in the spirit of starting fresh with nothing to hide and no more secrets. If he won’t disclose his actions to you then he isn’t ready to give up his addiction.
Lastly, I know how hard it is to hear these things, but it is harder in the long run not to hear them. Nothing in your life experience up until now will have ever prepared you for going through being cheated on. It just isn’t something people talk about, much less prepare you for. Most of the people you know, your friends, your family, your church family, will not know how to advise you. This will be something that will make you feel hopelessly and totally alone. It will feel like nobody knows what you are going through. For a while you will feel untethered from everything you thought was your life. It will take you some time to get your bearings. This is why it is so important that you start to build yourself a support system as soon as possible. You are going to need all the help you can get. Here is where to get started on building your support system.
The biggest thing you should try to wrap your brain around is that there is nothing you can do about your husband and his addiction, he is going to have to choose to do his own recovery work. All you can do is to take care of you. Focus on taking care of yourself so you will be ready for what comes next in your life. Know this, you are not alone. There are many other women who know and understand what you are going through. Nothing about this is fair. The only control you have now is how you choose to respond to one of the worst injustices that anyone can experience in life. You will have a lot of big decisions to face in the coming months and years. Taking care of you and learning all you can about addiction will be the best way to prepare for how you will respond to the question of to stay or leave.
Stay Sweet, Be Strong!
The Cupcake Warrior