Iyanla – Owning vs Acknowledging

I recently watched  Iyanla – Fix My Secret Life as a Gay Pastor . In this 3 part series, Iyanla confronts two men who are living secret sex lives.

Watching Iyanla wrap one of the cheaters in a down comforter and rub his back while he cried was nearly too much for me. It brought back all the nights I lay completely alone in my bed, no arms or comforters wrapped loving around me, crying out to my distant God. The only prayer I could muster on those long nights was “Help me! Please help me!”

But… I stayed tuned, and I’m so glad I did. My Aha! moment came when Iyania confronted the down comforter cheater for acknowledging but not owning his infidelity and double life.

Suddenly I understood why the years following my husband’s disclosure were so utterly confusing, and I had the words to explain to my brain what my heart had known all along.

In the aftermath of discovery, I heard all the “right” acknowledgements, but somehow they rang hollow:

  • I know I hurt you and I’m sorry.
  • I read that you are probably suffering from a lack of self-esteem.
  • I take full responsibility for what I’ve done.
  • I never took off my wedding ring when I cheated.
  • I’m doing so well I’m now a leader in my Sex Addict’s group.
  • Look at how I’m suffering to show you I care.
  • Let’s talk about all the ways you hurt me and contributed to my  sex addiction.

I needed, instead, a man who was broken; not because he hurt , but because he fully comprehended the damage he did to others.

I needed him to admit that his dismal participation in our family was because of his preoccupation with himself.

I needed him to understand that the minute he first cheated, he had left the marriage and rendered me virtually blind.

I needed him thank me for raising children utterly alone, with PTSD he caused, under the most heinous of circumstances, and I needed him to tell the children as much.

I needed to hear “I love you”. Funny, but in all the empty words – and there were many – “I love you” didn’t make an appearance.

Most of all, I needed to hear “I will do whatever it takes, for the rest of my life, to make this up to you.” ……. and he needed to mean it.

Did he try to mend the marriage? I think he did, for a short time, to the best of his limited ability and counsel. I suspect his motivation had more to do with money and reputation than anything else.

Unfortunately, my heart was too shattered to trust and my head knew he would cheat again. Turns out he never really stopped. Sometimes I hate being right.

One Shot at Truth

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” ~ Winston Churchill

From talking to dozens of wives of sex addicts, I’ve come to a conclusion: you are likely to get exactly one shot at truth. Even then, you must remember that this “truth” has likely been decorated like a Christmas tree – all shiny and pretty, but underneath all the glitter, the tree is actually dead.

I remember insignificant details from that day; it was midday -cloudy and cool. He wore a blue plaid shirt and a tan jacket. I sat alone on the sofa. He sat across from me on the leather chair I’d purchased with my tiny inheritance from my mom. I worried that if he cried he would stain the chair with his tears, and it made me mad.

I wanted my dad, who had died when I was young, to hold my hand and look this man in the eye. I felt so very small and alone, and would later come to understand that it had been orchestrated that way – there would be no witnesses to his truth.

And so it began. He read, without emotion, a long list of his deviancies, starting from early childhood and cruising thru to the present. I went numb. My head buzzed and I couldn’t move. I didn’t cry; I just sat there. The depth of the betrayal was beyond anything I could imagine – he’d been playing in an underworld I didn’t even know existed, then coming home to perfect his hypocritical role as “Godly man”.

I asked only one question: “How do you find these people/places/things?” to which he replied “I just have to show up.” Those words chill me to this day. He left quickly, taking with him his notes – and leaving behind a traumatized woman with a broken soul and no trace of his having been there.

I instinctively knew I hadn’t gotten the whole truth, but I mistakenly thought I would get another chance. I thought once he opened up, he would continue to be honest. I  was wrong. I also knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I was married to a very sick man.

You, too, may only get one shot at truth. Here’s what I wish I’d have done:

  • Have a witness, preferably a counselor trained in PTSD and knowledgable about the damage done to spouses of sex addicts. I could never have imagined that he would spill these truths, then later call me a liar for even saying he was a sex addict. I had no idea he could and would, for years, confuse my children by denying even the simplest of truths.
  • Consider a lie detector test. Remember, these men are gifted liars, and you will need the test administered by someone who knows the word games played by sex addicts. They often use the old Bill Clinton “it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” thing.
  • It is his responsibility to tell the children, appropriate to age and with counselor’s help, that he broke the marriage. It’s part of owning what he’s done. If he doesn’t do this in the immediate aftermath of disclosure, don’t expect it ten years later. Ain’t happening. To take this responsibility on yourself is to cast yourself as the whistleblower – and if history has taught us anything, it’s that whistleblowers don’t fare well. I should know, I am one.