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 Post subject: A 2-pronged question
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:36 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2011 5:52 pm
Posts: 106
It has been a year and a half since my husband's last relapse. We've both been through this program successfully at least once. Among many other great things, I learned the art of healthy detachment. My first question is: how do I now reattach to him in a healthy way? I fought hard during recovery not to become bitter. Now that it's all over, I find that frustration consumes me...which seems a bit unfair to him. But I just can't seem to let myself feel vulnerable with him.
Next question: he's built many good things into his life; but he's still immature in so many areas....like finances, time management etc. This is where the bitterness comes in. I'm just so sick of dealing with it!
Ant insight you have is greatly appreciated.


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 Post subject: Re: A 2-pronged question
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:26 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:08 am
Posts: 108
From my experience — and I can’t speak for everyone — recovery is never really “complete”. Recovery isn’t a linear process and as one issue becomes resolved, there’s invariably another that rises up.

The way I see it is that healthy detachment is for life. It doesn’t mean that you cannot be “attached” (if that’s the right word), and it doesn’t exclude emotional or physical intimacy either. It’s about recreating your own identity and recognising that all intimate relationships need this mix of attachment and autonomy. Chances are, somewhere along the years you lost that autonomy. It happens a lot. It happened to me. It’s probably the flipside of porn/sex addiction. That’s why (re)creating our own identity, sexuality, individuality and autonomy is crucial to our own healing and it’s probably what we lost along the way.

Re-attaching, in my experience (can’t speak for all), is an erratic two steps forward/one step backwards kind of process. You need enough trust (doesn’t necessarily mean 100% trust) in your partner. It feels risky because you are indeed taking a risk, because intimacy requires vulnerability. And that’s tough because we did that before and we were hurt, and now we’re trying to be open and vulnerable with someone who hurt us. You can’t get to that level of intimacy without taking that risk though, and it’s a risk you’ll have to take over and over.

Like your husband, my husband hasn’t quite mastered the art of emotional maturity. No way! He still wants to eat crap and drink too much, no matter what I do or say. I’m not going to stop him because his junk eating takes place outside the home, during the working day mostly. Yet he complains he can’t lose weight — well, go figure! I don’t care so much about his weight but the fat and the salt and the sugar isn’t good for anyone. He keeps harking back to when he was in his 20s but he’s now in his 50s and can’t seem to understand that he isn’t going to be that age again! I wouldn’t be surprised if many sex/porn addicts in their 40s/50s/60s are living in a fantasy world where they’re still 24 or 27 or thereabouts. I actually believe that they are stuck at whatever stage they failed to mature emotionally and develop adult life skills. We can’t force our addicted partners to grow up, it’s something they have to realise they need to learn for themselves. Even then, they will backslide into old ways of thinking. There are certain traits my husband has that I’ve had to (sort of) accept.


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 Post subject: Re: A 2-pronged question
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:44 pm 
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Partner's Mentor

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
Posts: 608
I think Blue gave sage advice. Addiction stunts emotional and life skills development. I agree...my husband got stuck in the emotional management of a little boy and the life skills management of an adolescent. The addiction prevented him from learning new skills. I am really struck by this and it's something that Jon teaches in the lesson: the need to evaluate the consequences of one's behavior. My husband didn't do that for decades. So once they are sober, our partners are faced with the daunting task of learning all the skills for maturity that is expected of them.

My husband is in his 70's and I think he saw himself as an 18-25 year old until he was about 65. Remember the distorted thinking that goes with addiction and an active fantasy life.

It's hard to re-attach. There's no doubt about that. And, now, you get to decide if there is enough in your husband that you want to risk being vulnerable with him. Now comes the hard decision. Do you respect this man? Do you trust him? Do you think he cherishes you? Will he be there for you when you need him? Does he respect you?

Further, do you enjoy your time with him? Do you find him interesting? Do you desire him? Do you respect him?

You may or may not decide to risk being vulnerable again. Or you may negotiate a relationship that is less dependent on trust and openness.

IC and/or MC can be of help.

I think for me, this really is an exercise in thinking about what I want for my life and my future. And, thinking not just about what is "okay", but what I dream for.

dnell


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 Post subject: Re: A 2-pronged question
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:43 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:08 am
Posts: 108
dnell, negotiating (inwardly with oneself) about the parameters of the “post addiction” relationship is a very interesting idea. I think we all reach that stage eventually, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. For me, there came a point when I realised that I’ve made all the discoveries I’m going to make, he’s not going to disclose anything more than the scant information that he has offered, I may not know the whole story, and I’ve learned enough about S/P addiction to know what I’m dealing with. If the acting out has stopped, and I have enough knowledge of what I’m up against, and if I can tolerate the possibility that there may well be parts of his acting out history that I don’t know about (obvious clue: knowing ‘everything’ is rare) — THEN I can re-evaluate the relationship and negotiate WITH MYSELF what I want from it.

What I learned along the way was that the man I thought I knew so well was very adept at keeping part of himself well hidden. I may be in a relationship with the same person. but he’s actually someone different to me now. This ‘new’ person has a past that I have accepted, and that this ‘new’ relationship is going to be a different kind of relationship than the previous one. He’s a different person. I’m a different person. To some extent, I’m in uncharted territory and I have to ask myself what I want from this relationship and what I’m prepared to give to it. Knowing his past, I have to build in some safeguards — because I don’t want to get hurt like that again.

None of this means you can’t make a meaningful connection. You still have to take those risky baby steps back to intimacy if you want intimacy. You have to risk a kind of trust that feels ‘safe’ to you and take it from there. You have to pass through your own difficult barriers to get there. Sex is probably the environment where your own personal issues about the addiction and acting out come to the fore. I can remember how difficult it felt to be seen and touched. Sometimes I felt crippled by feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes I felt ‘dirty’ from having been touched so intimately by someone I felt I hardly knew and didn’t feel safe with. This happened after an unexpected uncovering of his acting out after several months of healing our sexual relationship, so it was a big blow. My trust was blown completely and it took months to get it back again, but even then it had lost a bit more ‘innocence’ and optimism. I think it was some months after this when I (unknowingly) reached the stage where I realised what the score was and renegotiated the parameters of the relationship in my own mind. It wasn’t a one time event, it was a process.

I know this doesn’t sound great but sometimes we don’t get the relationship we were hoping for after d day. But this is a positive thing too! It might seem counterintuitive but it’s far better to ditch the fairytale of “better than ever” that the self help industry sells us because that’s just another version of happy ever after. We’re married to men with a history of sex and/or porn addiction and their brains have been conditioned through years of acting out. They can’t unlearn it, they can’t unsee it. They can’t erase their past and their experiences (and they will remember certain aspects of those experiences as “good”) just as we can’t magic away our painful memories and the trauma that went with it.

Be kind on yourself. You can rebuild a relationship and create a meaningful relationship AT THE SAME TIME AS maintaining your own healthy detachment. I would go far as to say that you can’t have one without the other.


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