If you are married, your spouse can help or hinder your recovery, but they can’t make or break it. They can make your recovery easier or harder … but no matter how helpful they are, you still have to do the work yourself. Conversely, no matter how difficult, dysfunctional, or stuck in anger your spouse is, you can still move toward health and recovery … if you really want to.
You can’t move forward in your recovery if you’re holding your spouse responsible for it. Some sexual strugglers think their problem would be solved if only their spouse was more sexually available or responsive. Others think their recovery is on hold because their spouse is angry about their sexual behavior and isn’t supportive enough of the efforts they’re making in recovery.
The list of ways that addicts turn the keys of their recovery over to their spouses is endless … and sad. It’s time to take the keys back, and keep the responsibility for recovery on our own shoulders.
In other posts on this website, we have made the point that the first step in the 12 Steps is to recognize our powerlessness over our addictive behavior … that we can’t control our sexual compulsion without outside help. But let’s be clear: that outside help comes from God first, other recovering strugglers second, and our spouse (if we’re married) a very distant third.
Our spouses are the beneficiaries of our recovery, not the facilitators of it.
Many people struggle not only in recovery, but also in life, because they rely almost exclusively on their spouses for emotional support. Not having other friends that they relate to on a deep level, they are only able to share about emotional things with their spouse. As a result, they become too dependent (codependent) on their spouse’s emotional support. So if their spouse is happy, they are happy. If their spouse is sad or angry, they feel sad or guilty.
Instead of being a person we relate to on an intimate level, our spouse becomes our emotional thermostat. Our emotional “temperature” rises or falls based on what our spouse’s dial reads.
Spouses respond in many various ways to addicts’ sexual struggles. Some are supportive and forgiving … others are extremely sad, angry, and/or judgmental. It might surprise you to realize that in some ways, the angry, sad, or judgmental spouse might be more helpful for an addicts’ recovery than the supportive and forgiving one. A spouse who is understanding and doesn’t express hurt or anger may enable an addict to continue his or her destructive behavior, because the addict doesn’t experience any negative consequences.
The role of your spouse in recovery from addiction is simple: your spouse can support you to look honestly at your behaviors, and encourage you to do the work of recovery. But the work is yours to do.
This post has been an excerpt from our Recovery Journey program- a 90-day, home-study course that assists people in the process of recovery from sexual addiction.