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You, Me and Your Addiction for Eternity?

Many of the women that I work with are stuck in very tough position.  I work with women whose husband’s struggle with sexual addiction.  Sometimes an addict will choose to live in his addiction and not fight for recovery or the marriage.  Acting out regularly with pornography, masturbation, and at times adultery.  At the same time expecting his wife to stay by his side and keep the marriage together. He’s stuck because he feels hopelessly dependent on his addiction.  Yet at the same time he wants his wife and family to stay around because he loves them.  This puts his wife in a very tough position, especially if she has a strong testimony of the gospel.   

What is she to do?  Does she hang in there and “endure to the end” because divorce is not the answer, even if he’s not going to change? Or does she divorce him, move on, and be done?   

As a person who works with this daily here’s my two cents.  Every situation is unique and these answers are complicated.  But here are a few things to consider.

Staying with him and not standing up against his addiction is enabling his destructive behavior.  It’s hurting him more than the pain of you leaving.  A person will not change until they are motivated.  Often times a person won’t get motivated until they feel some pain and discomfort.  Taking on the consequences of his addiction doesn’t allow him the opportunity to feel the pain.  It prevents him from learning from his trials and dealing with his consequences.  You taking on the suffering that his addiction is causing is robbing him of an opportunity for growth.  
Heavenly Father does not want his daughter to be abused.  Living in a relationship with a husband who is unwilling to fight for the marriage is nothing short of abuse.  The emotional disconnection that sexual addiction causes is neglect.  Sexual acting out outside of the marriage is emotional abuse.  There is no place for it in a marriage and as children of God we should love ourselves enough to not tolerate it.  

Use his addiction as motivation to look inward.  Get as healthy as you can yourself.  Work on your own issues.  Take accountability for any part that you are playing in destroying the marriage and work on those things.  If you do end up leaving you can feel peace.   You can feel like you have learned and grown from the difficult trial.  You can walk away with your head held high.  You will also be much better off in your next relationship if you can learn from your mistakes.  

Before divorce give him an opportunity to change.  Recovery is absolutely possible!  There is help and resources that can get him on the right track.  Give him this ultimatum.  It’s recovery or I’m gone.  Recovery doesn’t mean that he will never have a slip up.  It doesn’t mean that he’s expected to be perfect.  Recovery behavior is the desire to fight for his soul, and fight for your marriage.   A man in recovery is humble, honest, and willing to do difficult things.  Addicts can make the best husbands if they are willing and humble enough to fight for recovery.

Divorce is not the answer.  However, neither is emotional abuse and co-dependency.   When stuck between the two you need to;  Understand your truths and advocate for yourself.   

Offer him encouragement to fight for recovery and hold the boundary of needing that in your relationship.  And lastly focus on taking care of yourself and getting the help you need so that you too can learn and grow from the experience.  Ultimately do not settle for scraps, as daughters of God you deserve a husband who is willing to fight for your heart and is faithful.   

 About the Author: Brannon Patrick LCSW, specializes in treating pornography/sexual addiction and working with family members and couples. He is the clinical director of LDS Hope And Recovery , and LifeStar of Northeastern Utah. He is the father of two, and husband to the most wonderful Mormon Mommy. You can learn more about Brannon on his personal website 
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