What I’ve learned from my sex addicted wife and how I ever married her
About a week ago, I finally raised the white flag. Indeed, I don’t know how to support my wife through her sex addiction (which has uncovered many other layers of emotional dysfunction). Yesterday was the first time that I went to therapy for myself. While I’d like to think that I’m a supportive and listening husband in the moment, when I see her acting out, neglecting motherly responsibilities or breaching trust, I react in ways that don’t help the situation. I’ve finally come to realize that I need my own therapy to deal with the situation, because I just don’t know how to support her through her journey.
Even after realizing that I need therapy, I still resented going. Why did I deserve this? (I think many spouses of addicts struggle with this question). How is it fair that a normal guy got messed up by being married to a sex addict?
A wise rabbi posited that if I didn’t have any of her issues, I wouldn’t have been attracted to her in the first place.
You see, what all the psychology books say is true. The reason people resort to substance and behavior addiction is usually because of emotional issues. Indeed, it turns out that besides for her addiction to erotica & masturbation, she has emotional development issues. She doesn’t know how to have any emotional connection with anyone, and not a deep one with her parents, children or husband. That need for emotional connection has been replaced with fantasy, novels, magazines, games & masturbation.
But hey, if I’m this super-perfect guy, waiting to have a deep emotional relationship with my wife, how did I ever marry her in the first place? Why didn’t I notice the red flags when we were dating? The therapist confirmed what the rabbi said. “It must be that you need to learn how to deeply connect with someone, too, and I’m going to have to teach it to you.”
At first, feeling like a victim, I resisted, convinced that, “I’m the clean, responsible, mature one here that has been picking up slack & putting up with so much for the past seven years.” However, upon deep reflection, I must admit that it’s true.
With all of my wife’s shortcomings, some of them by birth, some from family, and some by choice, she’s being honest. It took almost twenty years and five children for her to finally be honest with herself (she’s been addicted since she was ten), but she’s being super honest now.
It’s high time that I take a leaf from her book and look at my dark side in the mirror. True, I never got into this garbage and have always been involved in chassidishe things. Instead of running to sex, I’ve run to Torah, shlichus & raising a family. And while my wife’s escapes are rendering her dysfunctional & mine don’t hinder performance, it would be such a shame for me to go through life fooling myself.
I’ve seen a clip on Guard Your Eyes about the shackles of marriage. “The reason you shackle yourself to your spouse and commit to not run away is so that you can tell them the truth. Because if you told anyone the truth about yourself and they didn’t run away, it means they weren’t listening!” If I could run away at this point, I probably would. I’m a talented guy and have done well. My friends will never guess that I’m the one writing this essay. But I have 5 kids, a shlichus & a wife that wouldn’t be able to handle the kids without me. Those are the shackles that have forced her to be honest about her problems, and those same shackles, coupled with the inspiration from her honesty have finally brought me to the table. I need to do some soul searching myself and learn how to have a deep relationship.
It’s gonna be a long, painful & expensive journey dealing with my wife’s sex addiction, emotional development issue & my own relationship shallowness. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to being in touch with the entire me (not just the 90% that’s pretty), and having a beautiful marriage to someone that is much more respectable & beautiful than if she never had the problems in the first place.
I imagine marrying someone like myself. Someone that doesn’t have any addictions, is good with the family, money & learning. We may have been able to go through life for 80 years together, raise a family, succeed in our shlichus and money goals and call life “a good run”, without ever truly getting to know each other and ourselves. For some reason, I was paired up with someone that can help me find myself. Hopefully, I’ll also become the person that can help her find herself too.
This is a journey that I’ve resented for quite some time, but it’s a journey that I’m finally coming to terms with. This is a journey that everyone goes through in his or her own way. These painful journeys are the ones that only Hashem can have the wisdom and foresight to plan for us, and the right response is to deal with it, not run away.