“I Don’t Need to Change…You Do! I Don’t Need Any D*** Help!”
Rarely do we have a couple come to counseling where both are equally interested or invested in therapy. Most often, the partner of the addict is dragging their spouse in for therapy after much arguing, convincing and, in some cases, manipulation. No matter what addiction your partner struggles with whether it’s drugs, sex, intimacy anorexia, alcohol, food, gambling, gaming, anger, over spending, shopping, or hoarding etc., the theme is usually the same in that the partner, family and friends see the problem when the addict is not interested in changing their life or giving up something that is comforting to them.
CHANGE. Change is very difficult for most anyone – let alone an addict, who even as an adult is in reality the emotional age of a teen or child – whatever age their addiction started. Think about that. You are not crazy when you have said I feel like I am raising a child. In reality, you are raising a child in an adult body. Remember, most addicts will not choose change unless the pain they are in is so painful that the change they fear looks less painful than the pain they currently are in. No one can help someone who does not want help. Believe it or not, not everyone wants to improve their life or get better even though the addiction might destroy their relationship with loved ones or even kill them.
PAIN OR PRIORITY. Generally, people will change for these two reasons: pain or priority. Until an addict is in a great deal of pain, they will not embrace how their addiction is hurting themselves or those around them. The partner is usually in much more pain than the addict. The addict is medicated and numbed up with the addiction and is doing great. You, however, do not experience such relief. I would estimate about 90 percent of our clients come to us out of pain. The remaining 10 percent of addicts will eventually come by making recovery a priority; however, those are usually addicts who have had many years of pain.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE. If your partner is not only an addict but also an intimacy anorexic, you are facing a very difficult climb. Intimacy anorexia is not specific to men only. Women can also struggle with it. As I have mentioned before, there is only one thing more challenging than working with an intimacy anorexic man, and that’s working with an intimacy anorexic woman.
Intimacy anorexia is not a starvation of food, but we use it to mean a starvation of love. Generally, the intimacy anorexic will accuse, blame and criticize their partner. They appear to be very nice and kind outside the marriage and the doors of the home. However, in their home and in their marriage. they are usually very angry and dissatisfied with their partner for the pettiest things. They do not want help and believe you’re the problem. You may have tried counseling, and the counselor has even turned on you to side with your partner, who is an addict and intimacy anorexic. They will sabotage the process and then blame you. However, the therapist may have called your partner out on their problems, but your partner refuses to ever return to visit that therapist, which has been their behavior a number of times to fire those who disagree with them. Generally, an intimacy anorexic will not file for divorce, because they cannot be the “bad guy.” Yet, they refuse to be vulnerable emotionally, sexually or spiritually. Treating you with silence, blame and shame is their greatest weapon. They believe if only you would change their life would be better.
STEP ONE. The first step in recovery states, “You are powerless over your addiction and life has become unmanageable.” Let’s just look at the word powerless. This is not a word our culture understands or embraces much anymore. “Giving up control” might be a better way to explain powerless. Addict or not, you are powerless. You need to realize that “giving up control” over whether your spouse wants help or not is a good thing. This should not make you feel hopeless but hopeful. It should give you freedom knowing you have tried to help them. No one is going to make them do anything. You have no control and are free from the responsibility of their choices.
So what options does a person have when their partner refuses to join them on the road of recovery to heal themselves and the marriage? Here are some things to consider:
- Don’t make ultimatums or threats unless you are willing to follow through with them. So often your partner has heard you say, “If you do ______ one more time, I am leaving”. Years have passed, and yet you have never left. You have trained your partner to believe you do not really mean what you say. Say what you mean AND mean what you say. Do what you say you are going to do.
- Do set boundaries. Boundaries are not to hurt your partner but are to protect you and those you love from getting hurt by the addict’s behavior. Many people who are married to addicts have tried to get the partner to sleep in the other bedroom for an in-house separation or have them leave the home for an out-of-house separation with no success. You have the option to leave the bedroom or the house. If possible and if it’s safe, you can also leave your husband home to take care of the kids, the house, bills, etc., while you check into a hotel and spa on his dime.
- Don’t continue to enable them. Your enabling behavior is not helping them. It only makes them more comfortable, and you’re protecting them from any consequences for their poor choices. Enabling behaviors include, but are not limited to, doing their laundry, cooking for them, putting them to bed after they have passed out, making excuses for them to their boss or family, paying off their debt, co-signing loans, minimizing or justifying their crazy and irrational behaviors to family and friends.
- Do get help for yourself. Believe it or not, you also need recovery in order to recover from your own issues of anger, codependency, and addictions. [Read the Ultimate Victim blog post.] Their addiction only exposes the defects in you that were there long before you ever met them. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink. So, get help for yourself. You are worth the effort to become healthy. Contact a friend, pastor, counselor, or family member who has experience working with addictions. There are support groups, books, blogs, therapists, and websites to help you. Also, if needed, seek legal, financial and career counsel.
- Don’t believe the lies anymore. Here are some common lies I have heard. “You never really loved your partner. If you loved your partner, you would stay. If only you did ______, your partner would change. You are not _____ enough. It’s all your fault. You are loved for what you do. I will not be able to support myself or my children. This is never going to change. There is no hope. I am alone.”
- Do believe the truth. Here are some truths you need to start to embrace. “You do love your partner enough to say “no more. It’s not that you don’t love your partner. It can be too painful, toxic, or enabling to stay. Their addiction is not about you. It’s not your fault. You are loved for who you are. I am going to be the change. I am not alone.” If you believe you can or cannot, you are exactly right!
- Don’t wait any longer. Some of you have been in this place for years or even decades. Stop betraying yourself and lying to yourself. Time is not a healer when behaviors do not change. Honor yourself today and call, email, text someone who can help you take the first step. You are worthy of taking care of yourself and getting better.
- Finally, do pray. Pray God will give you the strength and wisdom to take the first steps. Pray courageously and boldly. Pray God will bring your partner to the end of themselves in whatever manner it takes. Pray God will reveal and show you the truth about your partner’s addiction and secrets. Pray God will give you peace, protection and courage to move forward.
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.