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 Post subject: Recovery from neglect
PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:22 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:08 am
Posts: 177
Today I realised the longer term impact of my husband’s neglect on my self confidence and self esteem over the years when he was in his addiction behaviours. I was prompted to write this post after reading online today about a woman whose self esteem was being damaged by her partner’s comments on her weight and appearance, and the response of a man who had lost his wife and regretted his neglect which resulted in his wife changing her body and appearance as a consequence, particularly because she was feeling bad about herself because he wasn’t there for her.

My situation isn’t quite the same. I’ve always been a slim woman and weight and body image were never my preoccupation. When it became obvious that my husband was not interested in having a physical relationship with me I began to see myself as sexless, undesirable and unattractive, and over time those feelings because irrefutable facts in my mind. I believed it was mostly because of my age, even though I was only in my 30s when it began to become apparent his interests were in something other than me. When peri menopause hit, I developed a strange relationship with food, partly influenced by “wellness” culture and mostly out of a sense of having some control over my body. Perhaps I thought I could defy or postpone the menopause because I felt that was going to be the end of all hope my marriage would ever function properly again. I was also depressed and didn’t realise it. It was nothing to do with trying to change my appearance to attract my husband’s attention. I had long given up on that. It was distress behaviour, more of a symptom of emotional dis-ease. I did lose weight but as I’m only slight to begin with I became gaunt and emaciated, and that gave me a reason to loathe myself. I’m still shocked at how far gone I was. I was really in a bad way as far as my mental health was concerned but like many depressed people, I couldn’t recognise it.

Unlike the woman who I referred to, whose partner made disrespectful comments and her weight, my husband gave me nothing. Not even insults. I internalised his indifference as a belief that I was ugly, sexless, old, misshapen, undesirable. My reflection horrified me. I had some degree of body dysmorphia and I was beginning to self harm, even though I had already self harmed by depriving myself of adequate nutrition. That’s why I related so much to the woman who was criticised by her partner because of her weight — the details are different but the underlying issue of “I’ve made a lifelong commitment to a picky man who doesn’t find me up to his standards”.

Later on, in the comments, another woman gave her story of a partner who told her he was no longer attracted to her, but later in life became attracted to her again and made the effort to counter what he’d previously told her, she couldn’t get beyond the mental barrier he had created in her mind and found his words difficult to believe. I think I know exactly how this feels. My husband was expressed his sexuality outside of our relationship, he didn’t pay the slightest attention to me, the compliments stopped, there was absolutely nothing. Today he will say it was the addiction, or that I lost interest (true, but that was after so much rejection and indifference) or that he always did find me attractive even though I looked and looked for the smallest signs and saw none at all. He might as well have said nasty things and at least I would have known where I stood.

My problem is that, like the woman I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the damage is done. I find his words difficult to believe. I find it difficult to believe in myself. My husband thinks throwing out the odd compliment is enough. I’ve been through a lot mentally. Not just his addiction, but the implosion of my own mental and emotional health that arose from this horrible sense of solitary confinement within my marriage. It went on for years. That’s what did the damage. D day had to happen because I was going through a breakdown. That’s what it took for me to tell him what his behaviour was doing to me. I can at least be thankful that he stopped the behaviour, but recovering my self esteem and self worth is a constant daily struggle. As much as it pains me to say it, our relationship is so damaged. The trust is destroyed. He might have stopped acting out but he’s incapable of honest communication and he is forever being defensive. His communication style is so entrenched in addict mode, it’s as if the lying/omissions/minimising is hard wired into his brain every bit as much as the dopamine high of addiction ever was. It’s hard to recover when it’s still just me, still feeling isolated and still seeing my trust being trashed by his lying about the stupidest things. I’m also in permanent ‘not good enough, can never be good enough’ mode and it’s horrible. Just how do I help myself? I’ve chosen to stay but I suppose it’s time to accept that this is how he is. It’s making my recovery a lot harder.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:36 pm 
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Partner's Mentor

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
Posts: 646
Blue, I hear you. And I empathize and understand about your suffering. I think the only answer for us is that we must focus on ourselves and our healing. We really have to see our well being as the priority and the status of our marriage as secondary. Nearly all of my energy goes to my healing and well being. It's liberating. I have handed over my husband to himself. I no longer do the caretaking role I once did.

I could not begin to heal without a highly skilled trauma therapist. I also need to continue to be involved in groups of women who are partners of sex addicts. I need to be with women who understand and can empathize with me. This is very healing. I need to find activities that bring me peace or joy and that having nothing to do with my body of how I look. At my age, I need to focus on the health and well being of my body. I am no longer a young woman, but I can still buy clothes that make me feel good about myself.

We need to not objectify ourselves. We need to see our beauty and worth beyond superficial, culturally constructed, artificial assessments. I have not yet been able to do any of this with my husband. I struggle still with trusting other straight men though gay men continue to be good friends. I have found peace with other women, my pets, children, and the natural world.

We must have compassion for what we went through in our past and compassion for our work to heal and live the rest of our lives focused on our well being.

You deserve a good life, Blue. You deserve to focus all of your energy on you. You deserve to find as much support as you need.

dnell


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:56 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:08 am
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Thanks dnell. I’ll reply properly later on. One thing that struck me as I was drafting my reply was how much more accepting of myself I was when my husband was ‘missing in addiction’, as would be the norm as women grow older. The experience of being in a relationship with someone who has sexually addictive behaviours is so undermining to one’s self worth. It’s been very damaging. I will reply properly once I can get my thoughts in order.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:49 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:08 am
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Dnell, looking back, I think it was the isolation within the marriage that did so much damage. The lack of sexual interest was probably the biggest signifier of that isolation. That’s the way it manifested. He was acting out sexually, so that was where the biggest impact was on our shared relationship. That’s how I internalised my dis-ease, by become asexual.

When I read that post by the widower elsewhere online, he told a story of neglect because of overworking. His wife responded by changing herself in a bid for his attention. Now he feels sadness because she quite literally didn’t eat because of his inattention. The other contributor said that her husband became attracted to her some years after saying he wasn’t attracted to her any more, and how she could never believe anything he said after that. I can relate to both of these stories.

My distress did eventually manifest in disordered eating but my motivation was not to impress my husband any more than an anorexic girl is trying to please her parents by starving away to nothing. It was an advanced symptom of my internal distress. He had given me his verdict by rejecting the physical manifestation that is my body. Without my body I’m not here. And I was quite literally shrinking this body. It’s like the metaphor of not feeling entitled to take up space — in my home, in my husband’s life, in his sexuality. I don’t think I was entitled to own the space of my very existence. It’s been very difficult to come back from that very bleak, lonely place.

My physical recovery from disordered eating and its effects have also coincided with healing my relationship from porn and sex addiction. I have probably made the mistake of relying on my relationship to recover from the eating disorder/body dysmorphia but I now realise that this is something that needs to happen independently of the relationship, just as I realised at one point that healing my sexuality had to happen as part of my personal recovery, more so than within the sexual relationship with my husband. These were the various ways that my husband’s behaviour affected me, and I doubt that I would have had these problems otherwise. That’s why it has been so difficult to detach my personal healing from my husband’s history.

Quote:
At my age, I need to focus on the health and well being of my body.


I agree with this absolutely and this was my way of thinking from about 40 onwards. In comparison, my husband was oblivious to his own ageing until after d day.

Quote:
We need to not objectify ourselves. We need to see our beauty and worth beyond superficial, culturally constructed, artificial assessments. I have not yet been able to do any of this with my husband.


I was looking at some older threads on here and I came across your posts from a few years back and saw that you have experienced something a lot like I’m struggling with here. Our husbands objectified us as asexual, without purpose and therefore without consideration for our feelings, and without realising that their behaviours could have any negative consequences for us. We were also the obstacles getting in the way of their addiction, so we were also objects to be outmanoeuvred. It’s horrible to think our partners saw us in this way.

My husband never criticised my appearance but his indifference spoke volumes. I know now that his behaviour goes back even before his addiction got into full flow, and all the elements were in place by the time I met him. Although I know now that sex addiction is not a reflection on the partner’s desirability, all I knew when his addiction was in full flow was that I had become invisible to him. It’s really difficult to shake that off after experiencing indifference and invisibility for many years. I don’t know about addiction then.

As partners of sex and porn addicts, we have endured a very difficult situation for 10 or 20 or even 30 years. My husband had been acting out for 15 years that I knew of, because of the internet, but it was more like 20-25 years of acting out. We had a totally sexless marriage for about 8 years before d day but before then sex was very infrequent and I had to do all the initiating. I decided at one point that I couldn’t take on that responsibility any more, it was disheartening to beg for leftovers, and so I decided to wait for him to initiate. That time never came until after d day. To live this way, without touch, without emotional intimacy, would devastate anyone’s early life. As an adult, to live this way for many years is still profoundly damaging. We develop negative beliefs about ourselves. It whittles away at our self esteem. We too become fearful of intimacy because it only left us hurt and alone. I have actually wondered if the attachment issues my husband experienced as a child have all been recreated in me. It’s horrible. I guess that’s another story entirely. My only pushback is the knowledge that I wasn’t raised to feel this bad about myself and I feel angry that my life was blighted in this way.


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