When you find out that your spouse or partner is a Sex Addict a piece of you dies. You lose your sense of reality and equilibrium, your self esteem, your lifestyle, your hope and your trust. It’s as if everything you believed in and everything that existed has suddenly been shattered. The world you thought was real disappears, leaving behind a dark and ugly landscape strewn with lies and deception. The person you love is suddenly a stranger and you no longer feel safe in your own home.
After the shock of discovery you will be thrown into the grieving process whether you like it or not–it will just happen. And, understanding what your body and mind are going through is vital to your healing.
You have probably heard of the five stages of grief. These stages were developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss psychiatrist who did extensive work with people who were dying and, having worked for over a decade in Hospice as an RN I have a great respect Dr. Ross’s work.
The five stages of grieving are:
Now, unless you understand what these words mean, and can apply them to your particular circumstances, they are just words. Let’s take denial.
I have known so many wives who have lived with Sex Addicts for two or three decades and didn’t have a clue about their spouse’s deceitful activities. Dealing with the everyday tasks of child rearing, family issues, job pressures and day to day living, these women have dealt with the realities of life while their Sex Addict spouse carried on their secretive dual existences.
Were they in denial? Yes, but this is a different type of denial–not the denial described in the Stages of Grief. Yes, these women may have seen the signs that something was wrong and may have decided that the distance between them and their spouse was just a part of the ‘settling in’ process of a long term relationship; or they may have seen the warning signs of addiction but chose to ignore them to keep the peace. The scenarios are as varied as there are people their and this type of denial is simply a manner of coping.
The stage of denial described in the grieving process occurs when the reality of Sex Addiction hits us with undeniable clarity such as when your husband gets arrested for soliciting a prostitute or exposing himself in public or when you find the black and white proof like bank statements or motel receipts. This is when that awful, surreal sense of this just can’t be happening hits you.
That is Stage 1–Denial.
I remember when I felt it. I remember slumping down on the chair as I held the bank statements in my hand, seeing thousands of dollars of withdrawals each month, withdrawals on an almost daily basis. For those few moments the world ceased to exist and time stood still.
Fortunately the stage of denial is usually short lived as it is quite intense. But, this is the only stage of grieving that passes swiftly and without our permission–the next stages will come in irregular phases, steps forward and many steps back– and it is pure hell. But once you start on the path of grieving you can be comforted by the knowledge that you are finally on your way toward understanding, healing and peace.
No one can keep his griefs in their prime; they use themselves up. ~ E.M. Cioran