A Reader’s Response to Lonely at the Core and Finally Free To Do Something About It
(Chronicles 07-22 and 07- 29)
Dear Lonely at the Core, and Dear Rachel,
With all due respect, I want to chime in with my take on this very heartbreaking story. With great sadness, I too am in this boat, albeit with some differences. A few months ago, after eight years of marriage, I discovered that my husband has been involved with the filth you have presented (massage parlors, meeting people from Craig’s list, trying to engage total strangers). I was shocked, horrified, disgusted, and as angry as can be.
I could not eat, sleep or drink for a week. Although I had no prior experience with addictions, I somehow came up with the idea that he is addicted to this “stuff.” At the time, my husband thought he was going to get into big trouble at work, and I guess he felt his life was crashing down around him.
Unlike many others, I did not completely isolate myself and promptly told two people – whom I chose with care – letting my husband know in advance. Not that he agreed, but I told him it was not his choice and it was something I needed to do.
Somehow we found “Guard your Eyes” (a network of religious Jews struggling to break free of inappropriate behaviors rooted in lust addiction. [See Family Issues 03-25 and 04-20-2011]) I also had a strong instinct to approach our rav and have my husband tell his story. I believe it was crucial for him to verbalize the wrongs he had done, and to feel a sense of embarrassment in doing so.
I am grateful that my husband did not deny what he had done and did not blame me. Thankfully, neither did I. (This problem had started way before me and if I understand it as an addiction, it is beyond me and my control.)
One very important part of what I want to say is that this problem must be addressed as Sexaholism and/or Sexual Addiction, which needs outside intervention to be conquered. My husband now attends SA meetings (and I go to SANON meetings). As I was told early on, people with this sickness are usually coming from a place of very deep pain, and all the years of addiction certainly doesn’t help.
My husband also said he did not realize that anything he was doing would hurt me or affect our relationship, so long as I didn’t know. As erroneous and unwise as this logic is, he really believed it. The faulty thinking becomes a part of the problem. By deluding their brains and consciences, they allow themselves to justify their actions and inactions; it is their “Addictive Thinking” (see Understanding Self-Deception, by R’ Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.) that allows them to lead such a hypocritical existence.
I can so relate to the message in the words “Lonely to the Core…” As human beings we crave connection and intimacy. Though I had no clue about what was going on, I did know that my husband and I were not “best friends,” that a connection was missing. Even “sick” spouses yearn for intimacy but sabotage their chance of finding true intimacy by immersing themselves in an illusionary existence. And though we “well spouses” may suffer from some level of difficulty with intimacy, it in no way justifies our spouse’s despicable behavior.
In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate the part about sex addiction being at the core of the problem. Often addicts need to hit “rock bottom” before being ready to seek help. For my husband it was the thought of losing his job and being exposed. At times this bottom is reached when a wife establishes her own firm boundaries, adamant in not allowing herself to continue in such an unmanageable situation. These boundaries are not meant as a threat as much as to empower the woman so that she can set up her core values and be true to them.
I am learning that the better way to communicate is to first understand what it is that I want, that I think and that I feel. Communicating with my raw feelings and emotions (of pain, but not necessarily anger) enables me to set my limits.
Try not to destroy your spouse with your words. As difficult as this may sound, he may actually benefit from someone who believes in him and who feels him worthy of being rid of this horrible affliction.
You may say, for example, “I am hurt to my inner core; the behaviors that you have partaken in go against my definition of marriage and I will not allow myself to be in a situation that disregards my core values of marriage, morality, etc. I do appreciate all the good you have done to sustain our family life. I believe that if you get the right kind of help we can address the true root of this problem. But I will nonetheless have to do what is right for me, if you are unwilling to do your part.”
Thank you for allowing me the chance to use my own dreadful experience to possibly help another member of our beloved Klal Yisrael. May we all be zoche to grow towards “true intimacy” with our loved ones and with our loving G-d.
Reaching Out to the Core
Dear Reaching Out,
This column has addressed the topic of sex addiction in the past, but as real as this sickness may be, in our society today it seems we are habitually attaching a name or excuse for every deplorable act perpetrated by humankind. Adults are no longer held responsible for their detestable misdeeds inevitably blamed on “something or someone in his/her past” or an addiction of some sort, which is “out of her/his control.”
What, pray tell, was the thinking before the “addiction” took hold? Should a grown man or woman not be held accountable for his/her conscious choices?
Your husband, you state, felt that as long as you were in the dark about his extramarital activities they wouldn’t hurt you. Unlike you, Lonely at the Core had it out with her husband years ago, yet he deliberately chose to ignore her pleas and her pain, continuing to lavish attention on women outside of their marriage while withholding affection from her.
Moreover, as we have read, all the years of unbearable suffering has left this woman devoid of any feelings for her husband. Though damage to a relationship is often repairable, sometimes the harm done is so devastating as to render the relationship irreparable.
Hopefully, you will continue to make progress. Thank you for taking the time to “reach out…” so that others may learn from your experience.
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