Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Big D, Part 2

The big “D”, Part 2..

In my last post, I began what I felt was an important discussion on divorce.  There's not a single PSA that I've ever come across that hasn't asked herself whether divorce is the best path for her or not.  The other week I spent some time addressing those of you who have made the decision to divorce, and are either in the process of, or on the other side of finalizing the divorce.  Today, I will do my best to give some thought to those of us who are undecided and those of us who care about those going through this process.  Again, for the sake of conversation, the end of any committed, exclusive relationship is encompassed in the term, "divorce". 

For me, there have been three distinct times I've strongly considered divorce.  So today, when I speak about what do we do when we're not sure about divorce - well, it's based a bit more on experience rather than observation.

Again, where do I start?

Just the other day I was reminded of the feeling, "I didn't deserve this."  Not so much because of something I was experiencing, but because of something one of my clients was going through.  As she was sharing, I recalled thinking/feeling, "I saved myself for this guy and THIS is  what I got?  Ch.  What was the point of that?!"  (Disclaimer - this is not how I still feel.  I made that decision for me, and I don't regret it.  At the time, that was how I felt).  

Which brings me to what I consider to be the most important aspect of us figuring out if we want to stay in the relationship or not.  And it has NOTHING to do with our SA.  It's the realization EVERY single one of us must come to, and that is that we DESERVE to be loved WELL.  

So just as I did last week, I'd like to say a few things that will hopefully either validate, encourage, or aid you as you struggle through the craziness that can be trying to decide whether to divorce or stay in the relationship.
  1. You are an amazing woman, worthy of being loved well; worthy of being honored and respected and held in high esteem.  You are worthy of being loved in a way that will give wings to your dreams.
  2. You are strong.  It takes an incredible amount of strength to get up,day after day, and face the collateral damage of Hurricane SA.  Don't be hard on yourself for not being where you think, or others say, you "should" be.  As my mom would say, "Don't should all over yourself."  (Thanks, mom, for that gem!)
  3. You are brave.  It's scary living with uncertainty.  And if being in relationship with a SA is one thing - it's uncertain.  Facing the fear of the unknown and wrestling with making a healthy decision is brave.
  4. This isn't your fault.  Yes, we all have our weaknesses, and God knows we haven't been the picture of perfection when it comes to our relationships.  DOESN'T MATTER.  You could have been the supermodel perfect girlfriend, wife, mother, etc. and your SA still would have been an SA.  Like I said last week, you didn't cause the addiction, you can't control the addiction, and you definitely can't cure it. 
  5. YOU can heal even if the relationship doesn't.  You can find yourself again.  You can have empowerment, and healthy boundaries, and so much more!  
  6. It's not only okay, I maintain it's necessary to demand honesty.  Living in a world of lies creates crazy-making in our lives, and destroys any chance of safety.  Without safety, there can not be true intimacy - we can never let our guard down if we don't feel safe.  
  7. Give yourself permission to take your time.  You don't have to decide what to do right away.  At the same time, in your other hand hold onto the idea that you don't want to stay where you are forever - a decision one way or the other will need to happen at some point.  Otherwise, you're stuck in purgatory.  And that is NOT being loved well!
Now that I've shared those messages, I'd like to propose some tools that may help as you try to sort through the confusion of "should I stay or should I go?".  There are so many different thoughts/beliefs/emotions/small decisions that have to be sorted through to reach this HUGE decision:
  1. Let's begin with a definition.  I said you are worthy of being loved well.  How would you define that?  What would that look like/sound like?  How would you love someone well?  What kind of things would you do for them?  This is very important.  Living without defining this is like shooting and arrow with no target.  You don't know what you're missing if you have no target to aim for. 
  2. Are there any family of origin or religious beliefs that are adding to the confusion?  If so, is there a safe person you can talk to about these conflicting thoughts/beliefs?
  3. I mentioned that living with a SA means living with a certain amount of uncertainty (Isn't this all of life, actually?).  The question that needs to be asked is, HOW MUCH uncertainty are you willing/able to live with?  What are the risks of staying in the relationship?  What risks are you willing to take?  What risks are you NOT willing to take?  It's important that we face these uncertainties and empower ourselves to take a stand on our limits. 
  4. If you have kids, what is the impact on them if you leave?  If you stay?  (Sometimes, staying is more harmful than leaving).
  5. How much more do you have left?  Or phrased another way, how much more can you endure before you've lost so much of yourself, you don't know if you'll be able to find your way back?  We must be honest with ourselves about what we can endure and what we can't.  We must know our limits.
  6. What is/has been the overall trajectory of your SA's recovery?  Is he moving forward, stagnant, moving backward, never began?  We can't expect perfection in recovery/healing, but we can watch the overall trajectory and see if there is some evidence for hope that a solid recovery and healing is possible and sustainable.  
  7. Lastly, what things do you need to do so that you can be independent if it DOES come to divorce?  If you feel trapped, start looking for ways to empower yourself in this area.
In addition to the above questions, here are some other ideas of things that may be helpful:

  1. Support groups.  In these groups you can find not only emotional and practical support - you can find other women in the same place you are; women who can be a tether to sanity - sorting out what's real and healthy from the crazy-making we can sometimes endure.  In these groups (the good ones, at least), we find our voice again - it's a place to test it out and get it heard.  You may want to consider groups like S-Anon or PULSE.  I'm hesitant to recommend any other groups because some groups are NOT a safe place.
  2. Use this decision making time as a time to re-discover yourself.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but indulging in your passions and joy-filling activities are empowering.  The more you get back in touch with yourself, the more you become aware of what you want, the more empowered you become.
  3. If you're feeling like you've been stuck in the same place longer than you'd like, and can't seem to make any progress or changes in your healing and decision making, then maybe consider reaching out to a helping professional.  Again, therapists and life coaches are around FOR THIS REASON.  I, for one, am very, VERY passionate about this!  I recommend going to APSATS to find a helping professional that you can know is safe.  These helping professionals have been trained in the trauma model approach. 
  4. If you're feeling there's enough safety and sustained recovery/sobriety, consider seeking out a marriage therapist to help with the healing of the marriage.  I am a HUGE proponent of EFT therapists.  Or someone trained in the Gottman Therapy.  Both of these methods are focused on healing attachment injuries.  They're amazing.
Remember, as I said last week, no matter what happens, "This is not the end of the story."  “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill. Have hope.  Cling to the promise that there can be beauty and joy and life and love again, no matter what you decide.

And finally, to those of us who care about someone either trying to decide what to do or have decided to end the relationship - here's some tips on how to be a good friend/family member:

  1. BE.  Sometimes, the best thing we can do for someone is just be there with them. No judgement.  No questions.  No advice.  No trying to inform their decision.  Just be with them.  Let them know that WHATEVER they are feeling - it's okay.  Love them, accept them, hold them (if they ask for it).  
  2. Ask, "What can I do?".
  3. BE PATIENT.  This may be the biggest decision they'll ever make/have made.  
  4. Put on your marathon shoes.  IF YOU REALLY WANT TO BE A GOOD FRIEND/RELATIVE, then don't just be there at the beginning, when the initial crisis hits.  Be prepared to walk this journey out with them.  
  5. Be an example.  Live out love and health in front of them.  They need to see what that looks/sounds/feels like.  They need to have hope that it still exists in this world!
  6. If the situation calls for it, be ready/willing to show tough love.  Support they need, enabling they don't.  IF the relationship is harmful to them (I'm not talking about the pain of the journey, I'm talking about some form of abuse), and they are not taking steps to leave for their own safety or the safety of their children - IN LOVE, tell them of your concern.  BUT, I humbly suggest that you don't make this stand without being willing to be a part of the solution - whatever part that may be.
  7. Ask yourself, "What would I want from my friend if this horror happened in my life?" Then go and do it.
  8. This isn't a what to do - this is a statement.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  I would not be where I am, or who I am, without people like you who were willing to be and do these things for me.  You are our life preservers in the raging waters surrounding the sinking ship we found ourselves on.
Sisters, did I miss anything you would like to share?  For those of you who are going through this, what messages would you say to each other?  What resources would you want to give to someone out there who is in the middle of it?  What has helped you/is helping you?

As I wrap up my two week delve into the topic of divorce, I end with the hope that everyone who reads my thoughts, whether divorce is an issue or not, can find something they can glean and use in their lives.  

My parting thoughts after this heavy topic: You are amazing women.  You are worthy of being loved well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Big "D"

The big “D”...

A few weeks ago, I was on my way to starting this post (and then I got sidetracked by that "Sorry not Sorry video). Heavy on my heart were a few PSAs I know who are at various stages of the divorce process.  I realized that I have never directly addressed PSAs and dealing with this heartbreak.  Today, I remedy that.  To those who have had to make the tough choice of ending your marriage (or engagement, or relationship); to those who are in the middle of dealing with the process of divorce; to those who are trying to decide if this is the choice we have to make, and to those who care about them, I offer up the next two posts.  I want to treat this topic with the compassion and thought it deserves, so I'm going to address it in stages, over a couple of posts.

Now I, personally, have not had to make this decision.  I've contemplated it.  I've strongly considered it – weighing the pros/cons and benefits/risks, etc.  AND, it’s not a done deal.  My SA knows that if he ever chooses his addiction again over his recovery, healing, freedom and his family, it’s over.  I, personally, will NOT be in relationship with an addict that is not intentionally working his recovery.  I just can't.  So, “the big D” has not been completely ruled out forever for me.

So when I speak about divorce (for purpose of ease, the ending of any type of committed relationship will be referred to as divorce), I’m sharing from the observations I've made over the years of working with and knowing PSAs who have had to go through the process and make this difficult choice.

Where do I start?

It’s unfair that we even have to face this issue.  All we wanted was someone who would love us and be committed to us; someone who would cherish us and respect us and the commitment we made to each other; a relationship where we could feel safe.   Then the destructive power of sex addiction wreaked havoc in our lives and relationships.  We were faced with the knowledge of our partner's sex addiction - of our partner not being who we thought they were and the relationship not being what we thought it was, either.

I dedicate today's post to those who have already made the decision and are either in the middle of the messiness of divorce or on the other side of the difficult, painful process of ending the relationship:

There are so many different thoughts/beliefs/emotions/small decisions that had to be sorted through to reach this HUGE decision: kids (if there were any), and the impact divorce would have on them; family of origin or religious beliefs about divorce; financial security; loss of friends and family; loss of dreams; loss of relationship; loss of parts of yourself; not to mention the collateral damage of the acting out behaviors our SA was involved in!  Whether it’s been 5 years or 5 months since the decision to divorce was made, there are some things that I’d love to say; either to validate, encourage, or aid you in your healing journey. *Disclaimer: We all are broken; we all bring our own stuff to a relationship.  Sometimes, we don't do all we need to do in order to heal and salvage a relationship that is salvageable.  That is another topic, so for this post, I am going to talk as if all that could be done was done - capisce?

  1. IT'S. NOT. YOUR. FAULT.  Even if (and that's an IF, not a given) you had to work through some enabling behaviors - YOU did NOT cause the addiction.   YOU were not in ANY WAY responsible for controlling your SA's addiction.  YOU could not cure the addiction.  You could have been the perfect woman and your SA still may not have chosen recovery and healing.  This is NOT about you not being good enough or lovable enough (If he loved me more...)
  2. I’m sorry.  I’m sorry your dream of a life with the person you loved was ripped out from under you.  I’m sorry that either the damage that was done was so severe, it could not be healed; or that your SA never did the work that was necessary to recover, be sober and bring safety and trust back into the relationship.  I’m sorry for all the loss you've had to endure.
  3. I’m proud of you.  Yes, you heard me right: I’m proud of you.  It takes an enormous amount of strength to fight through all the pain, loss, confusion, other voices – not to mention our own emotions – and do what truly was the best thing for you (and your children).
  4. Grieving is not only okay, it's necessary.  The loss of the relationship is a death of sorts, and the grieving process is also part of the healing process.  Accepting that it hurts, despite what our SA has done, to say goodbye and allowing ourselves to grieve is what helps us process THROUGH the pain - it's the way of release.  So give yourself permission to grieve as though it hurts like hell, because that's exactly what the ripping apart of divorce is.
  5. As a women in one of my groups has said, "This is not the end of the story."  The end of a chapter in the story, yes, but NOT the end of the story.  I heard a quote recently that ties into this so perfectly.  It's from Winston Churchill – “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  Have hope.  Cling to the promise that there can be beauty and joy and life and love again. This was not the end of the story; this decision did not induce fatality.
  6. Depending on where you're at in your journey, or which chapter you are in your story, you will experience different needs.  Here are some tools that might help meet your needs:
    1. Support groups; which do not necessarily need to focus on PSA topics or addictions.  In these groups you can find not only emotional support, but practical support - like what resources are there to help with finding a lawyer, or childcare, or....  You may want to consider groups like DivorceCare. DivorceCare (DC) is a divorce recovery support group where both women and men can find help and healing for the hurt of separation and divorce. Some DC chapters also offer DivorceCare for Kids - a divorce recovery support group to help children, 5-12 years of age.  Google DC in your local city.  Typically there is often a range of support group options in a large(ish) city. 
    2. Online communities: During her 19 years of marriage, author Elisabeth Klein experienced the challenges of her husband’s addiction and abuse. See  for her story.  Elisabeth offers closed (but moderated) Facebook groups for women who are looking for a safe place to share their experiencesclick here to read more about her groups.
    3. Again, depending on where you are at, you may be ready for your own version of, "Eat, Pray, Love" (Does anybody else wish they could have a girls night to watch this movie right now?).  If you're not familiar with this book/movie, it's about a woman's journey after divorce to find herself again - to get in touch with her passions (eat); find her peace in spirituality (pray); and begin to dream again (love).  Always wanted to take those salsa classes?  Why not now?  Or maybe it's an art class, or kickboxing, or.....   Maybe it's time to focus on inner peace and connect anew with your higher power.  The main character (in the movie) says, "I used to have an appetite for my life and now it's gone." and, "Since I was 15, I've always either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy...I've not given myself two weeks of a breather just to deal with myself."  Sound familiar?  Could it be time to awaken that appetite for life?
    4. IF you're feeling like your season of grieving is lessening, yet you're still feeling stuck, it may be time to "invest in your future".  Helping professionals are around for just this reason.  Consider spending some time with either a therapist or a life coach (depending on your needs).  If you're nervous about reaching out for help this way because you've been "burned" by a "helping" professional before, go to  There you will find both therapists and life coaches that have been trained to work SPECIFICALLY with a trauma awareness/focused approach.  
    5. When you reach the day you find yourself beginning to entertain the possibilities of being in a relationship again, take this time to REALLY do some soul searching.  Have you worked on "your stuff" (We ALL have some stuff - right!)?  Do you know what healthy boundaries are, and will be, in this new relationship?  Do you know what healthy intimacy and sexuality is? Again, if you're in this place, and need help, this is where life coaching can play a huge role.
Sisters, what am I missing?  For those of you who have gone through this, or are going through this, what messages would you say to each other?  What resources would you want to give to someone out there who is in the middle of it?  What has helped you/is helping you?

Next week I'll share my thoughts for those who haven't decided if divorce is the answer or not, and for those of us who have decided to stay, but care about those who needed to move on.  Until then, I hope everyone who reads my thoughts, whether divorce is an issue or not, can find something they can glean and use in their lives.  

My parting thoughts: This is not the end of the story.  There is always hope.  You can have life and joy and love again.