Lessons from the Captain

There’s a scene in the movie “Captain Phillips” wherein the Captain, played by Tom Hanks, is rescued from a horrific situation at sea. As he staggers into the medical bay, it is clear that he is not only traumatized, but exhibiting speech terror. The physician repeatedly re-grounds him in reality by telling him to look at her and breathe, and at the end, she helps him lie down on the exam table and tells him he is safe. The pirate who terrorized the Captain? He’s in handcuffs, and appropriately no one is wringing their hands over how he feels in the aftermath of the hell he created.

No, our trauma isn’t comparable to that of Captain Phillips. Nonetheless, our trauma is enormous and complex and our bodies react in similar fashion because there are only so many ways a body can cry out. Because the one person we trusted to have our backs is the same person that cut us to the core, there is often no one to assure us that we are safe. Sadly, I don’t believe we actually are safe at that point and our bodies know it. Thus we often cry and shake alone in the dark.

Our treatment in the aftermath of D-day is even more critical than we’ve previously imagined. We now know the genes making up our DNA are not always our destiny. Our genes are a framework, and they can be altered by a process called epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the reason it matters what we eat, how we sleep, how we manage stress, and what toxins we put into our bodies. With “clean” lives, free of overwhelming stressors, and a dash of good luck, our genes hum smoothly along, repairing themselves to maintain health. When our environment is threatening, and/or the threat goes on long enough, harmful epigenetic changes can occur and become permanent – all of which makes me think that the unrelenting stress of life with a sexual deviant causes damage far beyond what is currently being recognized.

While there have been no formal studies (yet), it’s not hard to understand why illnesses are reported more frequently by those of us who’ve withstood numerous D-days.  Spend any time with survivors, and you’ll hear tales of bodies in turmoil. You’ll hear of autoimmunity, thyroid and adrenal failures, cancers,  newly developed ADD’s, loss of IQ and problem-solving capabilities, pain, migraines, and more. You’ll hear of CEOs and scientists who, in the aftermath, can’t even decide on a brand of peanut butter.

As if that’s not enough, the link between PTSD and early mortality is well established. While the majority of subjects in nearly all research on this matter were military veterans, the lessons to be learned are sobering and must be considered in the treatment of partners of “sex addicts”. Our lives may literally depend on it.

Like acid poured on glass, our sexually compulsive partners etch us. Sure, we will rise and become a different kind of beautiful, but never the same clear, innocent glass we were before. Our very cells have been changed because they have endured the incomprehensible: the realization that someone we love and trust can intentionally, repeatedly, and cavalierly damage us so profoundly.

If this was murder, it would be classified as first degree which involves elements of deliberate planning, premeditation, and/or malice. Deliberate because our partners make clear-headed decisions. Premeditation because they actually think about their crimes before they act. And malice? Well, I don’t know how you betray someone for decades without it. But we’re only talking about women’s lives here, and most of those women wear rings that enable their partners to commit horrific abuses, walk away unscathed, and launch their charms on a new victim.

When my own D-Day struck, every single cell in my body cried out in pain. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was undergoing massive permanent change, which did not come easily. My hair fell out in clumps. I was unable to eat and lost 20 pounds. I began having migraines. My thoughts were scattered, and if not scattered they were intrusive and compulsive, like a hamster on a wheel. I either slept too much or not at all. I shook. I was in a daze.

My experience is not unusual; in fact, it’s quite typical for those of us whose partners didn’t “have an affair”, but instead lived secret lives involving hundreds of nameless strangers and/or legendary secret porn habits, both of which burn through family money and time like a blast furnace. Affairs are heinous; our partners took heinous to whole new level and threw in side orders of all manners of abuse. 

In this broken state I was thrown into an appalling treatment model that called me a co-addict, turned the inquisition light on me, told me my pathologically lying, abusive husband was now miraculously safe and honest, and compounded my pain. There’s a name for that: treatment induced trauma.  What a trauma survivor needs is safety; what many programs offer is decidedly not safe, particularly if the safety they are concerned with is that of the “sex addict”.

Our trauma is complex, and deserves to be put first in any treatment program. Nothing divulged on D-day is a surprise to the perpetrators, except maybe the level of our anger at their revelations. They knew every single thing they did in secret, often for decades, and they had to know at some level that this day would come. This makes their needs absolutely secondary to ours as we learn of their hideous double lives and struggle to regain our grasp on reality versus the gaslit version they fed us. To wring our hands over our perpetrator and his surprise and hurt at our anger is incomprehensible to me, considering the magnitude of the abuse we withstand in the hell he created.

Can you imagine Captain Phillips being told to face the pirate, hold hands, and work on his trust issues with the very man that nearly killed him? Yet that is exactly what we are asked to do long before we are stabilized, safe, or ready;  and because doing so will surely take us to the promised land of “happier marriage than ever”….  we do it. Let me be clear about one thing – should you be naive enough think our lives were not at risk, you never had your spouse admit to “going bareback” with men he picked up on the streets.

Regardless of our choice to stay or leave a relationship, we deserve treatment that focuses on our healing from trauma and abuse. Anything less is negligence at the very least. When we get appropriate care, we can move forward with the facts necessary to make crucial decisions for our future. Inappropriate addict-centered “therapy”, when it compounds your trauma and fails to recognize deep patterns of abuse, can cost you everything, including your very self, right down to the cellular level.

The care we need isn’t one-size fits all; it is found in the stillness of peace and safety.  Where is your safe place? What do you need so your cells can rest and recover? Where can you focus on your own needs and simply breathe? My safe space was in my locked car, in the locked garage, under the cover of darkness. I might recommend someplace more uplifting, but in my desperation I didn’t realize my car was becoming my safe spot. When I finally found appropriate trauma counsel, it came as great relief that I no longer needed to sit in that dark car in order to feel safe.

I wish you an abundance of safety and peace as you weather this pandemic storm.  You don’t have to do it perfectly, you just have to keep breathing and take care of yourself. It gets better, and it gets better faster if we name the problem. It’s not sex addiction, it’s abuse. And we are not co-anythings, we are trauma survivors.

When Grief isn’t Facebook Friendly

I was a child when my father died without warning. Now, 40 years later, my memories of that time are blurry and ill-defined. There is, however, one part I distinctly remember: the grief of my mother.

Only 46 years old, with failing health, my mother bore the loss of her best friend, soulmate, and lover bravely; our small community rallied to support her as she found her way …… until the one year mark.

At precisely one year, without ceremony or notice, it became offensive for my mother to grieve in any way. In fact, even mentioning my father’s name was suddenly taboo.

And so my sweet mother faded quietly into her private grief. So great was her grief that she left our tiny community and sought a job hundreds of miles away from clucking tongues and judgmental church ladies.

Watching my mother mourn in silence became the most devastating part of my father’s death. Yes, she found a new life. She even found happiness and community. But she was changed, and she carried her grief with her until she died.

Now, years after divorcing a sex addict, I find myself bearing a familiar yet wildly different socially unacceptable grief.

We spouses of sex addicts carry a shameful, misunderstood grief. We save our tears for therapist’s sofas or the darkness when we are alone.

Holidays are brutal reminders of what might have been. Weddings make us cynical. Our children’s birthdays remind us of learning that our husbands had left us alone in hospitals after we bore their babies; not to grab a bite to eat as we thought, but to grab a quick blow job on the corner because the birth had been so hard on them.

We are forever changed; there is no way back to who we once were. We grieve the loss of our safe, peaceful lives, but even more deeply we grieve the loss of our former selves.

We loose our faith, our trust in humanity, our security, our ability to sleep peacefully, our pasts, presents, & futures, our financial security and sometimes, if our abusers are particularly cruel, we even lose our children and our health.

We struggle to make sense of every memory in light of incomprehensible new truths. Did he bring flowers because he had sex with another man at the nudist colony that day? Did he offer to run to the store because he could grab a quickie in the Home Depot parking lot?

Nothing remains unquestioned. 

Just when we are at our most vulnerable, we even lose the ability to relate honestly to our closest friends and family. We carry our burdens alone, understood only by those who have walked our path and survived.

Our grief is not Facebook-friendly. And so we, with gaping holes where our hearts once sat, go about our days quietly, bearing the grief and pretending to be OK. There will be no heart emojis for us. 

 

 

3 Ways A Sociopath Tells You Who They Are

Attention

If it feels wrong, creepy,  bizarre, or unsettling, there is a good reason. It probably is.

 

 

The sociopathic sex addict will tell you who they are. Are you listening?

     1.  Listen for absurd accusations :  

Sociopaths are masters of projection. They assume everyone else is just like them.

For every accusation he hurled at me or anyone else, he had done that very thing or worse.

Every storekeeper was out to screw him. Every neighbor was lying. Every co-worker was gaming the system to get ahead.

And me? I was accused of infidelity, stealing money, never loving him, and more. I was told I was worthless, lazy, crazy and ungrateful. On and on it went.

When I learned of his sex addiction, the twisted manipulations and hypocrisy hit me like cold water. Prior to that moment, however, the years of gaslighting had nearly destroyed my ability to trust myself.

     2.  Listen for the odd truths that sneak out and leave you confused:

My ex’s favorite was “You’re going to leave me someday.”

He knew he was a deceitful selfish man. He knew that I would eventually discover the truth and would, indeed, leave him.

He would say this and I would predictably feel sorry for him, doubt my own ability to show love, and reassure him that I would stay no matter what. What a sick dance.

     3.  Listen for the wide sweeping, bizarre proclamations of grandeur:

When he wasn’t busy telling me what a great guy he was, my ex would very often say to me “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You know, like Jesus. Ewww.

Apparently he had quite unusual definitions of “forsake” and “great guy”.

It always left me unsettled, but I couldn’t put words to it at the time. I should have listened to my inner voice that was screaming, “Hypocrite!!”

The Kavanaugh Hearings – aka Hell Week for Spouses of Sex Addicts

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For spouses of sex addicts, this was a tough week.  There’s been a lot of confusion for me and my fellow warriors who called in tears – unexpectedly triggered by the Kavanaugh hearings.

I’m NOT saying Kavanaugh is a sex addict. That’s never even been alleged. And I’m NOT taking sides. Surprisingly, I can’t…. yet.

This is much deeper than politics to those of us who’ve been entangled with a sex addict.

The problem with sex addicts isn’t just the sex, it’s the abusive patterns of lying, gaslighting, and projection, mixed with whopping doses of feigned righteous anger.

Even after disclosure, intensive therapy, and weekly attendance at Sex Addicts Anon meetings – where our sex addicts often “led” their groups while still screwing whores – we’ve watched them pound tables, cry, and declare their innocence with legendary righteousness.

We’ve seen our sex addicts lie to judges, children, family, and counselors with seething anger because anyone would dare think ill of them.

The entitlement of sex addicts is a wonder to behold. The denial is staggering, upstaged only by their firmly held belief that they are great spouses, fathers, and employees – despite mounds of evidence to the contrary.

Many of us couldn’t get past Kavanaugh’s “righteous anger”.  It was too familiar. It tied our stomach in knots and took us back to divorce courtrooms where we sat across from our once husbands and listened as they dismantled us with lies.

It took us back to counselor’s offices, where our then spouses threw things, yelled, and demanded the counselors stop accusing them and instead fix their “crazy” wives.

And so, we couldn’t quite believe Brett Kavanaugh. We couldn’t get past that righteousness.

On the other hand, we’ve had to live thru our own character assassinations by our sex addicts.  Most of us assumed that once the addicts had confessed and taken steps to “fix” their addiction, they’d forever be honest about it.

It took us completely off guard when we learned how our exes had turned the tables and accused us of the hideous things they’d actually done. For many of us, that projection has been the hardest abuse to stomach in all this mess.

We often struggle with a burning desire to clear our own names of  false accusations. We’ve pounded our pillows, cried, yelled, and felt physically ill when learning of our ex’s continued lies at our expense.

And so, we want to believe Brett Kavanaugh. We, too, have been consumed with the need to be heard and have our reputations restored.

Because we have survived both ends of this argument, it turns out many of us are having a hard time taking sides.

Most of us know who we want to believe, and we don’t always agree on that. But we do agree that it’s been one hell of a week.

 

Palter Much? Decoding the Secret Language of Sex Addicts

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I found it! The word that explains why communicating with my ex was so maddening that it left me deeply confused, often to the point of questioning my own reality.

While Miriam Webster defines PALTER  “to act insincerely or deceitfully”, it turns out to mean a whole lot more.

According to the Harvard Gazette:

“Paltering is when a communicator says truthful things and in the process knowingly leads the listener to a false conclusion. It has the same effect as lying, but it allows the communicator to say truthful things and, some of our studies suggest, feel like they’re not being as deceptive as liars,” said Todd Rogers,  (bolding mine)

BINGO!!

So let’s get this straight. My sex addicted ex lied using the truth so he didn’t have to feel bad about himself! 

Let that soak in. While he protected himself from “feeling bad”, he was building the mother of all bombs that destroyed my family, my past, my present, and my future.

While protecting himself from “feeling bad”, he sacrificed my children and me to years of counseling to rebuild our own self images, trust, and reality. Not to mention a lifetime of whack-a-mole- forgiveness every time we run up against more of his shit.

I knew my ex was sick,  but the deeper I dig, the more I learn just how sick. Every day that passes I gain more clarity and become more thankful I escaped when I did.

At the end, a sex addict’s entire house of cards is built on a twisted foundation: they will say and do just about anything so they don’t feel bad about themselves, while they are doing despicable and often illegal things!

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s delusional at best. And if you’ve lived this firsthand, you know that delusional is just the tip of a deep, dark, ugly iceberg our society lightly refers to as “sex addiction”.

Court Ordered? Ha! Maybe it’s Time to Cut Your Losses When Divorcing a Sex Addict?

The sad truth about divorcing a sex addict/sociopath is this: You may never get what the court orders.

I didn’t believe that. Instead, I battled through 7 years of court to get what was rightfully mine in the first place. It ended up costing me more than I got.

It all ended with a(nother) letter from my ex, which basically stated: Take this pittance that I’ve calculated and go away, ….. or else.

Or else what?  Or else he’d appeal, countersue, and continue to take me to court until we both had nothing left and he became “inactionable”. This from the father of my children.

Easy for him to say. He remarried for money, then inherited enough to last him the rest of his life – none of which could be considered in the divorce. He didn’t have to destroy me; that was just for sport and to claim that he was right.

Divorce is a serious game to personality disordered sex addict. They will fight like a cornered animal when their reputation is on the line. You can continue to meet in court, or you can do it the sex addict’s way at the very beginning.

I foolishly thought my ex, who defied laws of nature, reason, and man throughout our marriage, would suddenly comply with authority.  I was wrong.

It cost me my finances, my health, relationships with friends who could no longer watch my shit show, my sanity (for a time), self-respect, and so much more.

If I could go back…..

I’d leave the second he said “I think I might be a sex addict”. Although I didn’t know it, he had already blown thru hundreds of 2nd chances every time he screwed another whore or blew another man at a nudist colony.

I’d get a court-ordered lie detector test. Witnesses and documentation will matter GREATLY in the years to come, especially if you have children together! Me asking for the test didn’t work. A counselor suggesting the test didn’t work.  Go for the court order!

I’d take whatever I could get, which would essentially be whatever pittance he offered. There is no “winning” or even “negotiating” with a personality disordered man. Given the chance, they’d rather destroy you.

I’d never look back, knowing that I was lucky to get out without ruining myself in the process.

What it cost me to STAY with a sex addict

price-clipart-price-clipart-canstock16268757After 16 years of marriage, I found out my ex was a severe sex addict. I asked him to leave that very night, and he did.

Before you praise my heroic and decisive action, you’ll need to know the rest of the story – the part where I start to look like the typical confused and traumatized spouse of a sex addict.

For 2 years, he lived elsewhere. We had very little contact except for counseling. He even became the leader of his Sex Addicts group. I guess they didn’t know he was still “acting out” – or worse yet, they knew and didn’t care.

So I let him move back home, trusting that he had changed. Boy was I wrong. Trusting a sex addict turns out to be an oxymoron.

The next 4 years were hell. He now had recovery language in addition to his arsenal of bible verses to lob at me.

His self-righteousness increased tenfold. Now he could even proclaim that he was winning the recovery race, as evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t just “get over it”.

Finally, after those 4 “bonus” years of being completely beaten down emotionally while he continued to cheat, I filed for divorce.

The cost of trying to reconcile with a sex addict was more than I could have possibly imagined.

Money: he spent those 4 years hiding money and preparing for the inevitable divorce.

Health:  Living under the enormous stress just about killed me. As is the case with many spouses of sex addicts, I will pay for the rest of my life with compromised health.

My children’s respect: I held them hostage with my indecision. I forced them to spend some of the most precious years of their life in a purgatory that I allowed.

Sanity: It’s one thing to live with a person when you don’t know they are a deviant sex addict. It’s quite another to stay when you have full knowledge of the abuse involved.

Self respect: It’s been a long road to forgiving myself. As my children became adults, they, too, forgave me – but not before we all went thru several years of trauma counseling, emotional distance, and pain.

Time:  This one hurts the most. I’ll never get back those wasted years when I could have been living a peaceful and active life.

I’m happy to say that I now love the life I have. I worked hard for it. I am at peace and am learning to trust again.

I’ll ever be the same as I was before the abuse, but in many ways I’m better.  And that’s enough for me!