Here are some interesting comments from some of my friends about my last post–thank you everyone for sharing:
Yes, when a sex addict acts out, it is cheating. The only difference between the cheating a non-addict might engage in and the cheating a sex addict engages in is the relationship the cheater has with the cheating. For a non-addict, the cheating may be a symptom of a particularly tough time in his life, marriage problems, etc.–it’s a way to cope with a specific, isolated situation in his /her life. For a sex addict, on the other hand, sex is what he/she uses to cope repeatedly with almost every uncomfortable emotion or situation over a long period of time, often a lifetime.
In that sense, some people might argue that the cheating a non-addict does is worse than the cheating an addict does because it’s nothing personal against his/her spouse–it’s just the way the addict deals with everything and he would cheat on whomever he was with. However, to me, even though it makes me feel better to know that it’s nothing personal, I still feel that cheating is cheating and addicts should be held just as accountable as non-addicts for their behavior–if not, they’ll never stop.
And when I said I take sexual infidelity very personally I got this reply:
I take “not taking it personally” to mean the actions weren’t directed at me and didn’t have anything to do with me. My husband wasn’t cheating because of anything I did or didn’t do. And although it did hurt me deeply, the goal wasn’t to hurt me — it was to fulfill some other need. I was essentially collateral damage for something he was going to do with or without me there. It can hurt to know that he wasn’t thinking of me one way or the other, but it also frees me of feeling responsibility (and any guilt or shame or other emotions associated with that responsibility) for his actions.
And on the original question. For me, a lot of recovery has been about learning to hold onto my feelings and my truth regardless of external validation. Before recovery, if someone didn’t agree with me, it wouldn’t really change how I felt or what I believed on the subject, but it would make me feel angry and crazy, which I hated. If someone did agree with me, it would make me momentarily feel pleased with being validated, but it wouldn’t change the underlying problem of not being sure enough of my own ability to hold to my truth and my feelings not to feel threatened and angry and crazy by someone else’s different perception of the world — and it wouldn’t take away my desire to to “fix” the way that someone else saw the world in order to ease the discomfort brought on by my own lack of faith in myself.
Joann, I understand where you’re coming from. For me, one of the hardest things in my own recovery has been to find that balance between accepting that the addict’s behavior isn’t about me and but still setting boundaries to protect myself from that behavior. Just because someone is an addict doesn’t mean they’re exempt from behaving in ways that society deems acceptable. It explains WHY they feel compelled to do things a person in their right mind wouldn’t even consider doing, but the diagnosis of addiction isn’t a get out of jail free card. It explains why the addict struggles with urges and behaviors that most of us can control or don’t even have a hankering for, but it doesn’t mean that it gives them license to not do everything in their power to put a stop to those behaviors and find new ways of coping with life.
All that said, I take it personally, but I don’t take it personally. I don’t take it personally: The addiction isn’t in response to me–my husband doesn’t do these things to purposely hurt me or as part of some diabolical plan to ruin my life or even because I’m a shitty wife. He does these things because he has an addiction. I do take it personally: I’m in charge of showing others how they may or may not treat me. Therefore, it’s up to me to let my husband know that if he continues acting out, I won’t be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect my boundaries, addiction or not.
and I again challenged the question of boundaries vs. control:
Joann–The general rule of thumb I use–and so many 12-step codies seem to use–is that it’s control if you’re trying to create a certain outcome, and it’s a boundary if you accept whatever outcome might arise. So, for example, if I tell my husband I’ll sleep in a separate bed if I discover any more porn, and the reason I’m saying that is try to make him stop looking at porn, then it’s control. However, if I tell my husband I’ll sleep separately if I find any more porn and I leave it up to him and am okay with whatever he chooses, then it’s a boundary.
I suppose it’s possible, just like there may be people who just like using a lot of drugs and don’t care how their families feel about it and are simply assholes. But to answer this question effectively, I’d have to write a book–and there are already a ton of them out there on this subject. I recommend anything by Dr. Patrick Carnes if you’re interested in how sex addiction works.
Thanks for all the input, I really appreciate it.