Partner's Workshop: Stage Three; Lesson Eleven
Regaining Balance and Stability
By now, the importance of focusing on yourself in the early parts of the healing process should be obvious. Until you regain balance and stability over your own life, your own future...you will remain vulnerable to both the unpredictable behavior of others and the consequences of that behavior. By regaining balance, you allow yourself the opportunity to regain control over the influence that others can have on you. Of course, you can never achieve complete control, but you can gain enough to live an empowered, fulfilling, stable life. One that will not be devastatingly vulnerable to another's addiction. When you are in a long-term, committed relationship, achieving individual control is much easier said than done.
Any time that you are in a relationship with another person, that person's behavior will affect you. That is one of the benefits of being in such a relationship — having the opportunity to share your life with another person. To allow yourself to depend on that person and for they to depend on you. So the goal here is not to isolate yourself from the influence of others but rather, to gain enough balance and stability through the pursuit of your own goals and values that such influences are kept within your control. A perspective that will allow neither the negative behaviors (e.g. affairs, pornography, divorce), nor the positive ones (e.g. "falling in love") to overwhelm your life and/or sacrifice your values.
Defining Your Options
Previously, we laid the foundation for understanding the consequences that your partner's behavior has had on your life. We explored your values and the role that your emotions have played in influencing the way that you perceive life's events. Now, we will add another important piece to your foundation for healing — recognizing your options. With a solid understanding of these four areas — how you have been affected, your values, your emotions and your options — you will have gained the building blocks necessary for beginning your transition from crisis to healing. Not that such a transition will occur instantly, as you will need to develop the skills to use this knowledge, but with these four elements in place the transition will begin.
Defining your options may not apply directly to you at the moment. You might be at a place where you have already made the decision to end the damaged relationship. Or, you may have decided that you are going to work through this crisis with your partner. Either way, this lesson should allow you to commit to the option you have selected with added confidence. Those who are uncertain of their future...those who feel like they are "stuck" in the relationship...those who feel they have been forced into a "wait and see" holding pattern...for you individuals, the remainder of this lesson should help to define what realistic options you have available to you in a safe, objective and private way. It is important that, as you explore these options, you remember that you are not making actual plans for definitive action, but merely exploring options. You are gathering information — nothing more.
A Threat to the Insincere Partner
If there is one area of this workshop where disgruntlement from your partners can be anticipated, it will be here. Why? Because what you are being asked to do is to explore areas of your life that will threaten their control over the situation. By arming yourself with information you need to make informed decisions, you eliminate your partner's role in manipulating the outcome of the crisis. By opening your eyes to a reality that most insincere people in recovery would not want you to see, you will be empowering yourself with the knowledge that you can indeed make it without them. That the only reason that you stay is because you choose to stay — not because you have to stay.
A Welcomed Opportunity From the Committed Partner
For those who have your best interests at heart (and their own), such personal discovery is exactly what they should want you to experience. No healthy relationship is developed from dominance and dependency — it is built upon choice. Each partner chooses to be with the other. And while marriage vows are a meaningful contract for some, reality dictates that the choice to remain committed to a person must be made over and over and over again across the lifetime of that relationship. When opportunity appears: a choice must be made. When crises appear: a choice must be made. When boredom, pain, confusion, conflict, joy, tragedy — or any other life event occurs that might threaten the relationship: a choice must be made. A choice to continue investing in that relationship.
What you are being asked to explore today are the realistic choices that you have available to you in your response to this crisis. You will be asked to explore the option of staying in the relationship; to explore the option of ending the relationship; and to explore everything in between. As you explore these options, it is imperative that you do not engage in such thought with the intention of acting on any one decision immediately (or for those who have already decided, to evaluate whether or not you made the right decision). Explore these options instead with the pure intention of exploring your options...nothing more. Just explore. Why? Because there will come a time when you will need to make decisions, and when that time comes, you will want to base that decision on insight and awareness, rather than an emotional reaction.
Why it is in your partner's best interest as well...
Primarily, this lesson is designed to benefit you, but a secondary benefit involves the emotional assurance that your partner gains from knowing that your decision to stay committed to the relationship will be based on faith, as opposed to dependency. In a healthy relationship, this translates into esteem, motivation and acceptance.
To regain balance, you must regain a perception of control over your life. A difficult task indeed while mired in the addiction of another. One of the most powerful ways of regaining control is to have a clear, realistic notion of what options are available to you.
A. List three or more relationship options that remain available to you.Example:
- Recommit to the relationship; Stand by him in recovery.
- Request a separation. Live apart.
- Request an emotional separation. Live together.
- File for divorce.
- Take a "wait and see" approach to his/her recovery progress before making a decision on the relationship.
B. For each option, consider all of the benefits that that option would produce. List them.
C. What obstacles do you see as being the most problematic for each option listed above? Are these obstacles that can be overcome? How?
1. File for divorce.
Obstacles: financial dependence, child-rearing, potential violence/threat to safety
- Financial dependence: develop a financial plan that will allow me to meet all of my families' basic needs.
- Child-rearing: develop a plan that would provide adequate care for my children while I work
- Potential Violence: contact authorities, file restraining order if needed
D. Select the one option from exercise A that you feel yourself leaning towards (or have already selected). Why do you think this is/might be the best option for you? What would be your second option?
E. What options do you believe are realistically available to your partner? Which do you think he/she would choose?Example:
- He will end our relationship so that he may continue to engage in his sexual behaviors.
- He will actively commit to recovery and develop into the man that he made himself out to be.
- He will remain in the relationship for as long as possible, continuing his sexual behaviors until I make the decision to leave him.
F. Optional (though strongly, strongly recommended for anyone with even the slightest hesitation towards whether they should stay in the relationship or whether they should end it)
Over the next several weeks, take the time to develop an actual plan of action in the case of a possible separation or divorce. Include every possible detail regarding things like: finances, housing, employment, child care, lawyer's fees, property exchanges, etc. Take the time to develop a thorough, well thought out plan that will provide you with some semblance of comfort should the decision be made to end the relationship. The Partner's Coaches have put together a checklist for you to use in helping you to complete this activity. Click on the Healing Checklist to access it.
The goal of this project is not for you to prepare for separation or divorce, but to develop the knowledge that such an option is a viable one. That way, when it comes time for making decisions as to whether or not to remain in the relationship, you will not base those decisions on ignorance or insecurity, but through choice and control. Control over what is in your best interest.
Information is not something to fear; ignorance is. Preparation and diligence — the attributes required to successfully make this plan — are attributes that promote balance and stability within your life. Again, nothing for you to fear...and nothing for your partner to fear, either.