Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Wives of Porn Addicts Wish All Church Leaders Knew

In the midst of dealing with her husband's sexual addiction, Cynthia held onto the hope for recovery and healing. In the process of working and struggling and growing, she's met many other amazing women in the same situation. With their help, she compiled this list of insights that may benefit ecclesiastical leaders and the women they're helping:
  1. We are simply devastated. 
  2. We need to know about our husbands’ actions so that we don’t blame ourselves for whatever feels wrong in our marriages. 
  3. We also need to know of our husbands’ actions to help protect ourselves, our children, and our homes. Keeping someone in a relationship under false pretenses represents exploitation. 
  4. We will not get over it quickly. We would if we could, but it will take time and effort to find our way back to emotional health. 
  5. Our husbands’ lies have harmed us at least as much as the actual betrayal. 
  6. It is hard for us to reach out for support. 
  7. We need support. 
  8. Other women who have been in our shoes can provide vital support. 
  9. Our bishops may be the first people we reach out to after discovering our husbands’ addictions. It may be hard for us to trust Priesthood holders since our husband has held the Priesthood in our home. If we feel invalidated by our bishops, it will be so much harder for us to reach out for further support. 
  10. We may need ongoing support from our bishops. It may be hard for us to ask for this ongoing support. A little bit of reaching out and following up from our bishops may go a long way in helping us not feel overlooked or forgotten. 
  11. We did not cause this and we cannot cure it. 
  12. In most cases we have done nothing to bring this situation into our lives. It feels so unfair that we have no choice but to deal with it. 
  13. We are baffled that we ended up here. We have tried to do all the things that we thought would bring us our happy eternal marriage. This is the last thing we expected. 
  14. We may feel cheated that we ended up here despite doing everything right. 
  15. Our husbands do not act out with pornography and masturbation because we give them too little sex; they will not stop acting out with pornography and masturbation if we give them more sex. 
  16. We are in no position to be asked to give our husbands support. If anything we need their support to come to terms with what they have done. 
  17. The best way for us to support our husbands is to hold them accountable. Being asked to “forgive and forget” too early will hurt us both. 
  18. The best support we can give to our husbands is a healthy wife. We need to do what it takes to find our way back to healthy. 
  19. Despite our best efforts, our marriages may not survive. 
  20. Most addicts lie or minimize when asked about their addictions. Their bishops are not likely to have heard the entire story from our husbands. 
  21. Many of our husbands will continue to act out and to lie to us (and to their bishops) after their initial meetings with their bishops. It may not be appropriate to encourage us to trust them yet because they may not be trustworthy yet. 
  22. Even addicts dedicated to recovery tend to relapse several times before achieving lengthy sobriety. 
  23. We need to set some boundaries with our husbands to protect ourselves from ongoing harm. 
  24. We need to eventually forgive our husbands. We may not be capable of forgiving them as early as we may be asked to do. We will do our best to leave a place in our hearts for forgiveness to come. 
  25. Forgiveness does not mean tolerating harm. 
  26. Our husbands have most likely been trying for years to overcome their addictions by fasting, praying, reading their scriptures and attending the temple. These are vital components in their repentance and in building their spirituality. In most cases our husbands need more help than this to recover from addiction. 
  27. Our husbands are incapable of giving up their addictions if they keep them a secret. 
  28. Trust and forgiveness are not the same thing. We will probably forgive before we trust again. Trust needs to be earned once it has been lost. 
  29. If we are asked to make changes to help our husbands overcome their problems, and they don’t change, then we feel like we didn’t try hard enough or lacked faith. It may increase our shame. Only our husbands are responsible for their own behavior. 
  30. Letting our husbands off the hook too easily may decrease the urgency they feel about getting help. 
  31. We feel really ashamed as well. We feel embarrassed that we married someone with this problem, or that we didn’t see it sooner. 
  32. We may feel that if we were prettier, smarter, or more “something,” they would not have this problem. This is not true. In almost all cases, they were addicted before they ever met us. 
  33. We feel alone. We feel like no one else has this problem. 
  34. Isolation compounds our pain. 
  35. Our husbands have not been good husbands. They have been selfish and lacking in empathy. Addiction results in other bad behaviors that have been harming us. 
  36. We need to know what resources are available to help us. A bishop who is familiar with this problem and what these resources are could go a long way to helping us feel better sooner. 
  37. Our husbands’ actions in no way decrease our own worthiness. 
  38. We may want and need increased access to Priesthood blessings. Our husbands may not be worthy to give those blessings, and even if they are, they might not be the ones we want to ask to give them to us. It may be valuable to have our bishops help us identify who we can ask when we need this particular type of help. 
  39. We value our anonymity. We would appreciate our bishops encouraging discretion in anyone who may realize we are meeting frequently (e.g. executive secretary). 
  40. We want our bishops to not be afraid to admit what they don't know. They can ask us what they can do to help us. 
  41. We would like our bishops to not assume they know everything they need to know on this topic. Be open to good information. 
  42. We have experienced trauma because of our husbands’ betrayals. This trauma is not an indicator that we are not using the Atonement. 
  43. We should not simply replace all negative thoughts with positive ones. That shows denial of the impact this problem has in our lives. In order to heal from these difficult emotions, we need to allow ourselves to feel them. 
  44. We most likely need outside help to recover, just like our husbands do. Good counseling and regular support group meetings can help us tremendously. 
  45. We will not automatically get better when our husbands stop acting out. Our progress may actually lag behind theirs. The history of deception keeps us from being able to trust that we are now safe, even if they say that they have not relapsed in a long time. 
  46. Many marriages that fail from this problem actually fail because of the continued lying more than the continued acting out. 
  47. If our husbands have been caught instead of voluntarily disclosing, they may not actually have any desire to get better, no matter what impression they make. 
  48. We need help regardless of our husbands’ desire for help. 
  49. We may need help remembering that we have worth as individuals, no matter the outcome of our marriages. 
  50. This addiction has caused us to doubt ourselves, our own intuition and the guidance we are receiving from the Lord. We need you to support us as we seek for our own answers from the Spirit and make our own choices going forward.
  51. Extreme emotions are normal in our circumstances. We should not feel ashamed for feeling them.
Many thanks to Cynthia and the other women for sharing these insights. Are there any you would add?