“Cory, you don’t understand. No matter how hard I work in my recovery, it is never good enough for my wife!” These are words I have heard more times than I can count. Sometimes, these words have warrant; however, the majority of the time they do not. Like any story, there are always two sides, and sex addiction treatment is no different. No matter if you or your spouse are recovering from an affair, pornography, escort services, masturbation, or compulsive sexual behaviors, etc., there are generally two very different perspectives when it comes to how much recovery work is really getting accomplished.
First, you need to understand external motivation versus internal motivation. Typically, a guy who speaks these words is a person motivated externally – meaning the more his wife applies pain and pressure, the more recovery work he gets done and the more meetings he will attend. Show me an angry wife, and I will show you a motivated husband in recovery. This guy is doing recovery to save his marriage. He will ask his wife what she wants him to do rather than figuring out what he really needs to do. An internally motivated man will be in recovery for himself whether his marriage survives or not. Long after the pain of disclosure and some time, he will still be working his steps, going to counseling and attending one or several recovery meetings a week – regardless of his wife’s anger.
Second, from a woman’s perspective, she is usually doing the maximum amount of work. She is taking her recovery work seriously even though it may be her husband’s sexual addiction or infidelity that brings them to this point in their life. She is going to individual and couple’s counseling, attending recovery meetings, purchasing workbooks and is well into her step work all while raising the kids, keeping the house clean and the finances in order in addition to being in an enormous amount of emotional pain. Logically, she expects her husband to keep up the same pace with his recovery work and, in some cases, be further along in his recovery work than she is.
Now from his perspective, he thinks he is doing the maximum, but he’s really doing the minimum. He is dealing with his own emotions, along with his wife’s and his children’s…for the first time without medicating himself with his addiction, and it is very overwhelming for him. His secrets are all out, which is freeing; however, his world is nothing like what it used to be. He is now awake, and the world looks and feels totally different. He has to continue to work his full-time job to support the family and make ends meet. He now has to juggle recovery work, meetings, and therapy while also being a father and husband that he has never been and has never been taught to be. He believes he is doing all he can to keep from drowning. He has little time to do recovery work. He shows up to his meetings but has not completed his recovery work for the week. He has neglected to connect with his wife during the week. He believes he is doing everything he can, but really he is doing nothing from the perspective of his wife.
Being emotionally present in his daily responsibilities is what he should have been doing his whole married life; however, he feels he should be rewarded and complimented for this “new” behavior by his wife. This thinking is much like when I worked with inmates returning for new prison numbers. “Cory, when I was out this last time, there was this opportunity where I could have stolen this lady’s purse, but I didn’t!” He would then wait with eager anticipation for me tell him how proud I was of him. Well, news flash – not stealing should be the norm! Not cheating on your wife, not medicating with drugs, sex or alcohol to get through life should be the norm! You don’t get “that-a-boys” for what is a normal expectation.
Finally, once he begins to understand this and once he begins to set the bar for himself and stop asking her what she thinks he should be doing, the sooner his recovery work will be “good enough.”
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.