Fear that you will relapse. Fear that you will cheat again. Fear that you may lose your job because of a slip at work.
There are more fears than I can list here. They fear being hurt again. But you are supposed to be in control of your recovery, right? Can you be in charge of your own recovery and help your wife feel safe at the same time?
You Might Have Received Some Bad Advice If you are one of those who is taking recovery seriously you have probably received guidance from many individuals: Some of this guidance may have been conflicting. It is important to remember that those who are there to help you through your personal recovery are not often marriage experts and some of their well-meaning marriage advice may hurt more than help. How frustrating it must be to be working so hard and go home to someone who may yell, throw things, blame, and not even trust that you are doing what you say you are doing.
And what are these guys usually told? By putting your recovery first you are doing what is best for her.
She needs to work her program and let you work yours. In the famous words of Dr. And it can feel like such a relief to hear that her rage and withdrawal and mood swings are not your fault.
You are the reason your wife is in pain. But no matter how you look at it, with rare exception, your actions are the primary reason she is feeling what she is feeling now.
I say this not to shame you, but to hopefully help make all this a little easier on you. Your actions put her where she is. Your story is now her story too. She is doubting everything because you gave her reason to. Put yourself in her shoes. Her world has been turned upside down. Does she deserve to be told to butt out and wait for you to be ready to be there for her? But chances are that is what has happened.
Should your individual recovery be a priority? But some will tell you this. Some will tell you that is just too much. What do you think? Are you incapable of being present in your marriage while doing recovery? Maybe not, and your marriage will suffer—or end—if this is the case. Letting Your Wife Into Your Recovery Process So, how do you let your wife in while respecting the anonymity of the group, while being able to feel safe in your counseling sessions without having to worry about having to go back and report everything that was said?
How do you allow her to be involved while not feeling controlled and remaining in charge of your own recovery? In my extensive experience working with wives of sex addicts, here are some of the things they want to know and have a right to know: What happens in 12 step groups?
What is the format? How does it start? How does it end? What kinds of things do people talk about? What happens before and after? Are there any women in the group I am not a fan of this practice?
If so, are they a threat to your sobriety? Do you get ideas about acting out from hearing the other guys? Do you get triggered? How is the group helpful for you? What are the 12 steps? How long are they supposed to take on average? What step are you on? How is it going? Do you have a sponsor? How often do you meet?
What do you talk about? If not, are you looking for one? What is in that book the green book or the white book…? Can I look at it? What do you and your therapist talk about? How often do you go to therapy? Do you talk about me? What has he told you that you need to be doing? Are you doing it? What else are you doing for recovery? What are some tools you have learned to manage triggers? These are just a few examples. Your wife can clue you in to what she needs to know.
Ask her how you can help her feel safer about your recovery. Ask her what you can do to make her feel like she is a part of your recovery. Chances are she will be blown away. She has given you a gift. She is extending an olive branch. Instead of being frustrated that she is not where you would like her to be in her healing process, consider how blessed you are that she is still here at all!
A Sample Conversation The above examples of what wives want and deserve to know can feel daunting. It may feel like she is trying to take charge of your recovery. Hopefully that will help both you and her to have more productive conversations. But first, here is an example of how you can address some of the above questions: Honey, I have realized that you must feel pretty left out of my recovery. I know I am gone so much with meetings and therapy and that must be so hard for you after all you have been through.
I finally found a sponsor, and we will start meeting once a week on Tuesdays for lunch. He will be helping me work through the steps. He said they should take about a year to complete on average, but this can vary from person to person. I am currently on step four and am finding it to be a struggle, but it is important to me so I am not giving up even though sometimes I feel tempted to. Fortunately my sponsor is there to talk to me when I am feeling overwhelmed. Is there anything else you want to know about my recovery?
I know you have dealt with that enough. What Is Okay to Keep Private? Here are some things that are okay and even important to keep private.
When I explain this to wives they are almost always very receptive and understanding about this: First, of course, the identity of those in your group. Be careful about even giving information that could clue her in to someone in the group. She might be in a support group with his wife. The specifics about what you talk about in group. This can be shared if you want, but you should never feel pressured to tell your wife what you shared in group.
If she asks for this information, remember, she is just afraid. If she is struggling with this, suggest discussing it with a therapist. Above all else, be patient with her about these kinds of things. The specifics about what you talk about in therapy. You can tell her you are working on family of origin issues, self-esteem issues, or automatic thoughts, for example, without going into more detail than that.
This is enough information for her to feel safe that you are working through the issues that contributed to your addiction. She wants to know you are doing all you can do to keep from hurting her again.