Guest Post: Porn Addict’s Wife says, “Don’t call me codependent.”

by Mrs. X

married coupleI am not a codependent.  What is a codependent?  It is an insulting stereotype, cleverly disguised in psychobabble, tossed at unfortunate women who find themselves married to men with addictions.

The theory works something like this.  Emotionally healthy women marry emotionally healthy men and live happily ever after. Or they stay single.  They certainly don’t marry addicts.  The fact that someone ended up married to an addict, and stayed married to this problematic person even after discovering his issues, implies that this woman must have issues of her own.  We’ll name these lady issues “codependency” and assume that this woman probably has lousy self esteem and blames herself for her husband’s addiction.  Just in case the woman isn’t blaming herself, we’ll tell her that if she doesn’t admit that she is codependent and overcome this nasty defect, she will threaten her husband’s chances of recovery.

I first learned about codependency when I attended a support group for pornography addicts and their spouses.  Male addicts gathered in one room to chat about their triggers and whatnot.  My husband reported that this discussion was helpful to him.  My experience in wife world did not go as well.  I am not sure what I expected from the meeting—maybe tips for helping my spouse through his recovery or empathy for the difficulties associated with marriage to someone with an addiction.  Nope.  The ladies’ session centered on getting us all to realize and admit how codependent we were.  I disagreed with this diagnosis but my disagreement was futile.  After all, I was in the room because my husband was a porn addict (strike one) and I denied being codependent (strike two); everyone knows that a classic symptom of codependency is denial.

I did not return to the support group, but unfortunately, the ideas I learned there were oft repeated by other groups and individuals.  I hate to critique wives of porn addicts because we get too much criticism, but other porn addicts’ wives are particularly likely to author angst-filled articles about how wives are as broken as their addicted husbands.

I am fed up.  I do not claim responsibility for my husband’s addiction.  It began when he was an impulsive teenager who had never even met me; how could it be my fault?  My self esteem thrives—just because my husband likes icky air-brushed pictures of women with fake boobs doesn’t mean that my own body isn’t perfectly attractive in a more realistic kind of way.  I like my body.  I like myself.  And I like my husband, even though I don’t like this particular behavior of his.

I would like to present some alternate theories for why a woman might choose to stay married to a porn addict. Maybe she is loyal and committed to her marriage.  Maybe she loves her husband in spite of his flaws.  Perhaps she is an optimist and hopes that he will recover from his addiction with appropriate treatment.  She might even be a forgiving and tolerant person who can accept her husband with his accompanying problems.  Aren’t some of these reasons plausible and even praiseworthy?

Is it really necessary to attack women with nasty labels like “codependent” when they already have enough on their plates, dealing with an addicted spouse?  Could we please stop stereotyping women this way when we know nothing about them besides one specific behavior exercised by their spouses?

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48 Responses

  1. Addiction is a behavior. Codependency is a behavior.

    Labeling people as addicts and co-dependents is destructive. When dealing with behavioral issues, one needs to learn ways to reinforce positive behavior and discontinue negative behavior – within the dynamic of the relationship and within the individual. Anything else is just unnecessary emotional angst.

    • Diane says:

      I have been labeled all these things. I left the relationship after 8 years because my boyfriends porn/sex addiction was affecting me in a very destructive way. I believe when a person really wants to get well the person themselves will work really hard because that is what they want. Being a person with multiple addictions and I have recovery. But I found that unless two people are really doing recovery it just doesn’t work.

  2. anonforthis says:

    Thank you, thank you for writing this. Been there, Mrs. X.

    Is there room for one more interpretation? Maybe she doesn’t see her husband’s problem as the huge moral failing it’s made out to be by the church (even though her husband does). Maybe she thinks his self-loathing is actually the bigger problem. And maybe she has some body-centered self-esteem issues that have a lot to do with the things her husband likes to look at, but she’s aware that there are all sorts of things in a marriage that partners do to hurt and help each other, and she refuses to refer everything that happens between the two of them back to The Porn Addiction. Maybe she has also helped him find a good therapist who can help him work on his own problems, and she’s letting her husband be responsible for that part of his life.

  3. ZD Eve says:

    I disagreed with this diagnosis but my disagreement was futile. After all, I was in the room because my husband was a porn addict (strike one) and I denied being codependent (strike two); everyone knows that a classic symptom of codependency is denial.

    This is what I find most problematic about psychoanalysis and its many cousins, as they’re often practiced: claims are unfalsifiable. Thanks, Mrs. X, for a refreshing perspective on this issue.

  4. Rachel says:

    You’re codependent, I think, if you do behaviors which passively, or actively, support the addict. Some examples:
    Driving to the liquor store for him to get more alcohol.
    Lying to the police about the violence inflicted on the children by the dependent person. Neglecting paying for things of greater importance because you’re supporting the addict who doesn’t have a job b/c they spend the day drinking–no money going into retirement, college accounts, etc.
    Paying your adult child’s legal fees for his most recent DUI. And even then, maybe you just made a not thought out choice about these examples.
    Codependency is not a diagnosis in the DSM. And the word is applied to everything anymore. People will read Co-Dependent No More and treat it as gospel. It’s very frustrating.
    Another good example of a counseling concept being applied willy-nilly is Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief. Everybody knows those and applies them to everything-a kid moving from elementary school to middle school. No. Those stages were originally meant for the person who was given a terminal diagnosis, and popular culture just ran with the idea b/c it offered a road map for how to cope in order to do it the ‘right’ way.
    Your second to last paragraph is perfect. If you were married to the Devil himself you might leave, but your spouse has lots of really great attributes. People DO change, and that is what the Gospel is all about. My guess is you’re pretty clear you’re not co-dependent. Support groups are often led by lay people who aren’t clinically trained. Seek out professional help and support, preferably someone who isn’t in recovery herself for this issue. 🙂

  5. B says:

    I am so, so, sorry you had this experience. You have enough on your plate without being blamed, labeled, stigmatized, etc. I really can’t believe that they thought that was an appropriate tack to take.

    If you’d be willing and I wouldn’t be being too forward, I’m wondering whether you think that, treated differently, you might like a group or find it helpful?

  6. mraynes says:

    Great post, Mrs. X! I’ve worked with victims of domestic violence for many years and, as you probably know, they are also often strapped with this label. There has been a push in the movement to stop referring to victims as codependent and I think it’s a step in the right direction. Accusing victims of codependency is victim blaming at its very worst. Thank you for sharing your perspective here. Good for you for knowing that your husband’s addiction has nothing to do with you.

  7. alex w. says:

    I wish more people had this mindset. I’ve heard too many times about women who kick their husbands out as soon as they find they look at porn. No questions asked. I’ve heard about marriages falling apart and the reason given was “well he looked at porn, can you blame him?” Like I saw someone else say about being married to a former LDS man (another all-too-common dealbreaker) : you MARRIED the person, didn’t join a club or something. I’m not saying it’s not an ok response for a woman to feel hurt if her husband watches porn, but I don’t think it has to be the deal breaker others make it out to be.

    Good for you for speaking out, Mrs. X!

  8. kelly ann says:

    Thank you for this perspective mrs. X. I totally agree that it does not help to label someone. I actually wonder if we are too quick to label addicts in general in the church. While I don’t want to minimize how some people struggle with true addictions to porn or otherwise, the idea that someone would leave their husband for looking at porn bothers me. I know that the chastity standards in the church are strikingly different from the worlds but it hardly seems fair for someone to be labeled an addict for looking at porn or masturbating from time to time. I had a friends who divorced

    • kelly ann says:

      who labeled her husband an addict, and while the issues strained their marriage, I don’t know that it was really an addiction. But regardless, what I learned was that neither his or her actions were for me to judge. And that ultimately my only responsibility was to be a friend. (Sorry that my comment got cut in half).

    • Cando says:

      While I don’t want to minimize how some people struggle with true addictions to porn or otherwise, the idea that someone would leave their husband for looking at porn bothers me.
      I agree with that, addiction is labeled too easily. My wife was spending 5-9 hrs. Everyday for months on porn. Completely neglecting herself, and largely her children. She is doing much better but… So there is a line and I think lots of people don’t understand what some of us go through with this problem. Some people look at it but some people are in a place that is unimaginable unless you see it first hand.
      I could write a book. I read comments about porn not being addictive…. Well I can vouch otherwise it isn’t for everyone and some people can use it. It is a trap for some.

  9. anon for this says:

    Thank you for this post….it’s nice to know someone else out there, in a situation similar to mine, similarly refuses the Church’s classification of my/our husband/s.

    If I could add to this:
    “I would like to present some alternate theories for why a woman might choose to stay married to a porn addict. Maybe she is loyal and committed to her marriage. Maybe she loves her husband in spite of his flaws. Perhaps she is an optimist and hopes that he will recover from his addiction with appropriate treatment. She might even be a forgiving and tolerant person who can accept her husband with his accompanying problems. Aren’t some of these reasons plausible and even praiseworthy?”
    I’d say “Maybe she realizes she also has imperfections, and is grateful that her husband doesn’t give up on her for them. She might even see all of the overwhelmingly unique and wonderful things about him as motivation to help him overcome the pornography issue.”

    I also attended a wife’s group…..once. I would much rather a place to go and sit and talk about unrelated issues, just knowing that there are others out there, that I’m not the only one. I’d much prefer that to the “well, if you really look at it long enough, you’ll start to see where you might blame yourself, and we’ll help you overcome the self-blaming.”

  10. Diane says:

    I am going to preface this by saying that I am a single woman. That being said, I would resent the status of being co-dependent if certain things were in play, the first being as long as my husband recognized that what he is doing is wrong, and B) he has and is making a honest attempt at getting help for himself.

    I’m not always in the camp that group counseling is best, it can take on a pack mentality with out any real benefits to anyone involved in the most intimate of details.

    Staying or leaving would depend on how other things in my marriage as well as whether or not there are continued breaks of marriage convenant

  11. jks says:

    I have a friend who struggles with being co-dependent. Her husband is controlling and she is codependent. She has difficulties doing something that will make him unhappy (even if it is a normal thing) because she feels responsible for his feelings.
    You sound like you are not codependent, but perhaps you don’t have to diss codependency quite so much. You do not seem like you need to be in a support group for yourself. If a wife were codependent, maybe she does need the support group for codependency.
    I didn’t realize that porn addict’s wives were always labeled as codependent.
    Perhaps we need to clarify what people mean. Also, how bad is the spouse’s addiction. Are we talking about a mild struggle, or are we talking about an addict who can’t keep up his real responsibilities like a job or being a husband or father, being honest, etc. If your husband is able to be a good husband in many ways, and he can handle his own problems, then ok you can stay with him and you aren’t codependent. If everything is falling apart and you can’t take any real action for your own benefit then you might be codependent. If neither spouse can be honest, or neither spouse can follow through with any agreements then there is a serious problem.
    Just feel sorry for the wives who ARE codependent. And be glad you aren’t one.

  12. Kaimi says:

    To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And to some people trained or educated along certain lines, every problem looks like co-dependency.

    This is not to downplay the real role of co-dependency in some people’s lives. But not every situation fits that model. And yes, there is something pernicious in a framing of, “if you admit X, you are X. If you deny X, you are still X, but in denial.”

    It’s like the classic line from the dark-humor war movie: If they run, they are VC (and should be shot). And if they don’t run, they are well-disciplined VC.

  13. Andrea says:

    I finally figured out why I stayed with my husband so long. I was a strong woman married to a domineering man. It didn’t make any sense. The answer: CHURCH. I went to church every week and got a heavy dose of spiritual guidance. We’re taught to be patient, loving, forgiving, long suffering, and kind. You and I are not co-dependent. You say praiseworthy — I say we’re frickin SAINTS!!

    Yep, divorce is a BIG step, especially when there are kids involved. For years I constantly weighed the pro’s and con’s of sticking it out. As you point out, spouses usually have many good qualities. It’s a complex equation, and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with co-dependency.

    In my case, the scales finally tipped in favor of the con’s when it became obvious his bad behavior was being modeled as the norm for my young boys. Sayonara Honey. I still love and care about him, but have been RELEASED from sainthood! Thanks to my higher calling of being a good mother, I can kiss his ass goodbye — guilt free.

    As for you, I wish you luck in your continued sainthood. God knows how much you have sacrificed to help your husband.

  14. Heather says:

    Oh man, I had no idea that the wives of addicts had this to deal with too! Thanks for opening my eyes to what is going on in some circles. So sorry sister.

  15. Corktree says:

    Thank you so much for offering a perspective on something I would never have seen from this angle. I think it is so valuable to be aware of how labels, however well intentioned, can be so destructive and harmful when thrown around without prudence. This is one I wouldn’t have looked at in this way, so I am grateful to be able to use it more judiciously and with better understanding. I also appreciate your list of other reasons to stay. It always seemed from the outside to me like there had to be more positive reasons to remain with the person you chose at one point to spend your life with, and I think those should be focused on more, at least within relationships where one member isn’t harming the other.

  16. anon for this says:

    Where an understanding of co-dependency is important is when a wife/spouse doesn’t realize where they are part of a larger problem of addiction. The wife/spouse or family think – this is all person x’s problem or fault. If they just stopped drinking or abusing drugs, everything would be better with our family.

    But often there are things that the wife/spouse/family can do.

    Alcoholism isn’t something well known in mormon circles, but for many severe stage alcoholics – there is almost always someone propping them up so they can continue to drink. Or they (the alcoholics) are homeless. Because at some stage, they aren’t able to keep a job, pay the bills, stay out of prison.

    And often those people (the support people) are so focused on the behavior of the alcoholic (will they end up in jail again? Will they attempt suicide if I enforce my boundaries?) that they neglect themselves and their obligations.

    Sometimes self-esteem (of the support person) is really low. A person thinks – I won’t ever find anyone else who will love me. I don’t deserve better. Better the devil you know…I can’t abandon my husband, child, wife…

    I have read a lot on co-dependency, and I found it very valuable for me. Of course it doesn’t fit for everyone. I believe co-dependency is when someone places another person’s (adult’s) well-being in front of their own. Where they are not able to enjoy their life because of the choices another person is making. Where they constantly do things for another adult that the adult can do for themselves (and this is tricky).

    Women in the LDS church (and American society) are often taught to be co-dependent. Everyone else’s feelings and needs come first. I saw it in my own mother and in my grandmothers. Even for men, sometimes the church comes first, before everyone else’s needs. Then, there is this insidious resentment and anger – stopping people from enjoying their lives and truly accepting their choices.

    I am not saying that anyone should be required to go to meetings or feel that they are co-dependent. And, many people disagree that there is such thing as porn addiction. When is someone who drinks alcohol in moderation an alcoholic? It’s controversial.

    For me though, whenever I see someone who has just been kicked out of another location for not paying rent because they lost another job because of drinking or substance abuse, or they were just arrested for a DUI again, and I talk with whatever person is there picking up the slack – usually co-dependency is there.

    But just like alcoholism, until the (support) person themselves realize that getting in the way of those natural consequences is co-dependent behavior, no one can be healthy.

    Mrs. X – I wish you luck with this – I can’t say if you are co-dependent or not or should attend those meetings. It doesn’t sound like you are – but what do I know.

    • alex w. says:

      “Women in the LDS church (and American society) are often taught to be co-dependent. Everyone else’s feelings and needs come first.”

      Today’s theme at church seemed to be putting others before yourself, always. (Lest we become too selfish, I guess.) It’s sad to think of it in terms of codependency.

      • same anon for this says:

        It’s interesting, but I have heard people say that they should stay with an addict or alcoholic, otherwise they are being “selfish”. Selfish for wanting to be in a relationship where the other person is fully committed to the relationship? Selfish to want peace and security?

        Now this stuff is complicated – because some sacrifice is necessary in any life or marriage or relationship. But when the support person says “I can’t live like this anymore and I don’t see you getting help” – that’s not being selfish (is it?)

        Is it selfish to say no to callings you can’t do and be true to yourself and your family? Is it selfish to want to go out with one’s spouse alone instead of always going on the ward temple trip? I think that is setting healthy boundaries – taking care of oneself and being willing to honor changes.

      • alex w. says:

        I agree, same anon for this.
        Setting boundaries is the only way to do it. Yes, it’s not good to put yourself first all the time, but it’s also not good to put others first all the time. I don’t think either can be maintained long-term without causing serious problems.
        I think the problem in church culture is that it sounds really great to put others first, but we don’t really mean to put others first all the time…or do we? It’s hard to tell, sometimes.

  17. Shauna says:

    I agree that co-dependency is not an automatic diagnosis. See Marsha Means’ book, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse,

    http://www.awomanshealingjourney.com/helping-resources/books/your-sexually-addicted-spouse.html
    She shows that many of the same symptoms are from Post Traumatic Stress that happens in discovering a partner’s covert behaviors. C0dependency occurs when you are trying to control someone else whereas in Post Traumatic Stress the same external symptoms may occur but the motive is safety. The treatment for codependency and post traumatic stress should also be different. So correct diagnosis is essential for helpful treatment.
    A good online resource is:
    http://www.awomanshealingjourney.com/

    Sometimes the classes help because they put you in touch with other people who are going through the same things.

  18. Michael says:

    Several thoughts in no special order:

    1. Part of the sissyfication of American men includes hiding weakness, irresolution, behind the word ‘addiction.’ I wouldn’t give an ounce of respect to a man who whines “I have an addiction to porn.” Rubbish. Turn off the computer, spineless, and be a man. Your wife and children are watching. If you want a woman to dress as Shirley Temple and yell that you’ve been a bad boy, tell your wife. You might be surprised.

    2. I lost count of the number of assaulted wives who told me (some as they cried and bled), while I arrested their no-account bum husband, that “he didn’t mean it; he’s under pressure at work” or “it’s really my fault; I said something I shouldn’t have said.” Again, rubbish. Your husband is wasting valuable oxygen, ma’am. Put him on the street without a change of underwear or a quarter for the phone, and find a real man.

    3. Some things simply should not be tolerated, excused, explained away. Not if you want to protect yourself and your babies.

    Sorry if this is a bit strong. Sometimes ‘tolerance’ and ‘compassion’ are dirty words.

    • alex w. says:

      re: #1: I don’t think that everyone who watches porn is an addict, but I also accept the possibility of an addiction existing, and it can certainly be as real and as compulsive and destructive as any other addiction (take your pick). To say that they’re just whining is no help at all to someone who really does have a problem (addiction) that they can’t control (as compared to someone who watches porn occasionally or whatever.) I’m not saying they’re not at fault, but “suck it up” or shaming someone is no way to fix the problem.

      Re 2&3: Part of abuse is the mental and emotional side of it, and it’s entirely possible that someone in an abused relationship means it when they say those things and find it impossible to pack up and leave or kick their abuser out, so wondering why they don’t do it and placing some sort of blame on their survival tactics in the abusive situation probably isn’t the most helpful thing. YES, someone who is being abused does not deserve it and should get out of the situation, but it’s just not that simple. It’s not any great stretch of the imagination to think that someone would fear kicking out an abusive partner because it might just make them more angry & violent.

      • Michael says:

        I understand what you are saying, and its difficult to summarize a complicated issue in blog comments. However, shame can be – and used to be – a powerful motivator. There is a tendency now to forgo the necessary courage and resolve to stop doing whatever one may consider a problem, and hide behind ‘addiction.’ Something like, “Well, I have an addiction; a disease. It’s not my fault.” The implication being “I’m excused.”

        “It’s not any great stretch of the imagination to think that someone would fear kicking out an abusive partner because it might just make them more angry & violent.” …… You hit the nail on the head: that’s the common reason given. And you are correct, it isn’t an easy solution. But the solution is always the same – get him out. Delay only worsens the situation. I’ve seen too many children huddled in a corner crying because daddy beat mommy to think ANY excuse for inaction is satisfactory.

    • Andrea says:

      Ahhhh, clarity. So often things are clear as night and day to onlookers, but murky and confusing to the people in the situation. Your comment feels like a breath of fresh air amidst so much talk and analysis. Even if it’s not applicable to Mrs. X’s relationship, it sure fits many others. Why are we all so nice and tolerant? I’ll never know.

    • SilverRain says:

      And yet, I have been judged for doing just that: getting out once I realized what I had been living was abuse. I never had bruises to show off as proof, so it has been suggested many times that I was too quick to judge, that emotional abuse isn’t real, that most people get angry and throw things or lay hands on their spouses in anger.

      And while it might be easy to say that being judged is no big deal, it IS a big deal when it is your friends, your priesthood leaders, your future dating possibilities, or even your family doing the judging. It IS a big deal when you are dealing with all the internal scars of abuse which are so much worse than a few broken arms or bruises.

      I have been through the process of domestic violence survival, and I would NEVER say to a woman, “just get out,” or “you shouldn’t tolerate it if you want to protect your children.” It’s not that cut-and-dry. It is easy to tell others what they should do, but not so easy when you are the one to bear the brunt of the consequences. Getting out has to be a planned, strategic exit as much as possible.

      • Michael says:

        I don’t want to misrepresent myself here. I am fully aware of the emotional challenges spouses go through when considering separation. And I agree that emotional/physical abuse involve a plethora of associated pressures (from friends, family, priesthood – even though they’re not the ones being called worthless, trash, fat, frigid, etc.). So I would never diminish the problems these challenges cause.

        But the solution is always the same: end it. Try as one might, there simply is no excuse for controlling behavior, physical and emotional abuse. (What would be a good excuse to demean or hit a spouse? And remember: when you abuse the mother, you are abusing the children. Kids know.) Whether is is today, next month or 2 years hence, the solution is to end it. Better sooner than later.

        A Bishop who tries to excuse it or explain it away has, in my opinion, lost his authority to give any advice at all. Give him a mop and tell him to go clean the floor; he’s no use elsewhere.

        This is where I believe codependency is most insidious: marshalling the nerve to do what you KNOW you have to do. To face the failure of divorce, criticisms from those who don’t know what’s going on, etc. My difficulties have never been knowing the right thing to do, but always in DOING it.

        I had a wife I adored totally. She hung the moon. An alcoholic. After 4 years of denial and misery, eating Christmas dinner alone while she was passed out, I decided to do what I knew had to be done years earlier. Gave her a choice between me and wine; she chose wine. The point is, I always knew what had to be done, and I delayed action because of hopes and wishes and fears. (The Bishop was gaga over her so I didn’t give a damn what he thought or said.)

        Re. porn: to me this is like saying I need a support group because I watch a lot of ESPN. I mean, come on. A man ‘addicted’ to porn is otherwise reliable? The computer can enslave him, but he is firm enough to resist advances from the babes at work? Such men OUGHT to feel shame. And I’m not talking about an infrequent visit to a porn site, but men who do chronic visits and excuse it with “I’m addicted” are …. well, weak in ways that a real addict (read substance abuse) are not.

        Sorry this is so long.

    • Emmaline says:

      This is actually in response to your “sorry this is so long” reply to SilverRain.

      At least part of the problem is that the only term people in the Church use is “pornography addiction.” The “infrequent visits” you mention may be a man’s compulsive behavior response to a variety of situations that he is, for any number of reasons, ill-equipped to deal with otherwise.

      This “use of pornography as a compulsive behavior rather than an actual addiction per say” type of porn use is more problematic than you seem to be giving it credit for. Just because it doesn’t happen often doesn’t mean it’s something acceptable. But it’s also not something that you need to beat the “just end the marriage already” drum over.

      • Michael says:

        There’s a difference in drinking 1 beer and 10. You are right, of course, it doesn’t make consumption of 1 acceptable; but it does put drinking 10 in a different category. It becomes a different issue.

        I’d not advocate divorce over the former. Men can indeed heed 2 Nephi 1:23 (LDS or not) and arise from the dust. And if they do, bravo – a healthy marriage is likely.

        Physical/emotional abuse is another matter. Graveyards are full of women who gave him another chance. I’ve seen the consequences too many times to believe such men are redeemable.

      • Olive says:

        Abuse is not measured by “how many times” it is done. It is determined by the way you behave while engaging in that behavior, if its negatively affecting your life, and if its against your personal value system. That means you can be alcoholic even if you only drink 1x a year. It also means that it really doesn’t matter if its classified as an “addiction” or a “compulsive behavior”- either way, its negatively affecting your life and something you believe you shouldn’t be doing.

  19. Michael says:

    Just to clarify, the last 2 sentences in #2 were said to battered women.

  20. Jessawhy says:

    My sister just told me a disturbing story about a friend of hers who just got out of a terribly abusive situation with her husband who made his addiction to porn part of her living nightmare. (He called her slave, made her sleep on the floor, lots of other terrible stuff).

    The word “Porn” can mean so many things to so many people that it’s hard to know where someone is on this spectrum. Do they like the way a woman’s body looks? Do they like to see women hurt? There’s a huge difference in my mind. Perhaps we can see the difference between the wives of men in these different situations and perhaps we can see that there is a spectrum.

    Mrs. X, thanks for raising this important topic. Clearly it strikes a chord with our readers.

  21. S-anon advocate says:

    I agree that the title is thrown around too much. But I would say I love S-anon meetings. To be clear I attend S-anon not the church sponsored group.

    The first thing that is said is that “I didn’t cause this and I can’t control it.” I really appreciate that sentiment. I go to the meetings to restore spirituality and sanity to my life. Whatever my husband does is up to him, but it has been nice having a totally non-judgmental group that deals with the same thing I do. For some reason it was also very comforting to me to see most of the ladies were in fantastic shape, looked great, and were incredibly successful in their careers. not a bunch of slobs who could never please their husbands. You might give it another try.

  22. April says:

    I have been married to abusive and controlling men (yes, more than one) and a drug addicted man. I have also worked in addiction recovery and public health with abused women. As far as drug addiction and physical/psychological abuse there is only one answer. Michael was right. Get out. There is no redemption or fixing these men. Ever. Get out the sooner the better. Ending it should happen after incident number one. As for pornography, is the man an otherwise good provider, supportive, caring and loving to wife and children? No weird fetishes……like looking at child pornography or not wanting their wife because she doesn’t look like the porn he is looking at? Is the pornography an occasional thing or a daily thing? The answer to those questions will give you the answer as to whether you should end it.
    The time it takes to end it in cases of abuse will depend on when you have had enough. Unfortunately some take much too long. I took six years too long with the drug addicted physical and psychological abuser. Who also worked in the psychiatric field.

    • April says:

      I noticed that someone else, who shares my name and also works in the public health profession, but doesn’t happen to be me, commented on this post, so I thought I should comment too, just so we don’t have any identity crises. I’ll just say that I agree with the post author completely. You can’t diagnose a woman based on the actions of her husband.

  23. cchrissyy says:

    Mrs X, we could really get along : )

    co-dependancy is a useful way of understanding all the behaviors that some people fall into after living a long time with an addict, either to keep the peace, or to make them better, to check up or spy obsessively, or to take on the responsibility of fixing somebody else’s situation.

    some other people can’t relate to the above at all because they never for a moment imagined the addiction was caused by them, they know it is not theirs to fix, and is not a reflection of their value etc.

    If the 2nd type needs a support group at all, it would be a very different sort of discussion.

  24. Olive says:

    On the flip side, it bothers me when women judge other women for not tolerating porn use by their husbands. If you have dealt with this issue personally, you know that porn addiction isn’t just a morality issue. It causes problems in all areas of the relationship because 1) its a secret and 2) its against someone’s personal value system. That creates shame, guilt, anger, hopelessness…all those things bleed into other areas of your life. There is no way to hide it from your spouse as your behavior and thought process is totally affected by it, and its acted out onto the spouse. Its more about the underlying issues that the porn addiction creates…lies, abandonment, emotionally unavailable, avoidance, no communication…those are the things that slowly degrade your relationship.

    They feel guilty so they withdraw emotionally and physically from their spouses. They lie about big things, and small things until you can’t trust one word from their mouth. They deflect their anger about their habit onto their spouse, turning them into the “bad guy” and vilifying them, magnifying their faults so that they can justify their actions. They stop communicating because the less you engage, the less likely your secret will be found out. They start to compare your natural body to an airbrushed body, they expect you to be turned on 24/7 and ready to go like porn star, they expect you to be pleasured by things that turn them on instead of what actually turns you on (this has been documented by many, many studies…men rate”real” women less attractive after watching porn and are less satisfied with their relationships, sex lives, and spouses). They start viewing women as objects to be used instead of as human beings (this, too, has been documented…objectifying women becomes a habit, it lights up centers of the brain that normally light up when using a tool, not the part that light ups when interacting with another person).

    This goes so far beyond “is watching porn moral?” and “I can’t believe someone would leave their husband over porn”. It can destroy every facet of your relationship just like any other addiction…alcohol, drug use, etc. Would you stay with an alcoholic if their behavior was destroying your family and home and negatively affecting you and your children and your spouse refused to get help? No, and you wouldn’t tell someone else to stay either…its the same with any addiction.

    • Barbara says:

      Olive, that was perfectly said!!! I went from having a completely normal enough marriage, to not understanding who the hell I married and what the hell was going on in our life, marriage, family in general. My husband was raging at me and our kids for seemingly no reason, things in the bedroom were getting weird, and just normal day to day interactions were just off. I never in my life thought it was porn. I did not sit passively by. I confronted him on everything, I questioned everything. I just couldn’t figure it out. His excuses of being tired or stressed from work didn’t fly with me and I told him to knock it off and grow up. When I discovered the porn addiction (hundreds of videos going back just a few weeks) in his browser history on his phone I flipped. I did a whole lot of research in a short amount of time and presented him with my thoughts and conclusions. I would have worked with him and supported him if he would have recognized the facts I was presenting. My final straw was when my mother died, my husband “couldn’t handle his grief” let alone mine so he turned to porn for comfort and literally shut me out and turned his back on me through the entire thing. Honestly went right to sleep right next to me in bed as I sobbed without asking if I was OK, no hug, no support, just ” I’m exhausted. I need to get some sleep”. I cried and sobbed and shook for HOURS

  25. Reductionism says:

    My biggest complaint with our culture is how we have set a very dangerous trap for both the husband and the wife.
    We pathologize a very broad continuum of behavior as if it were all the same. Degree does not matter if you have stepped over the line a little you are just as bad as someone who spends hours and money self-indulging in pornography. Here are two examples:
    1. Man on a business trip goes to a strip club
    2. Man goes to the mail box and instead of immediately returning to the house ogles the lingerie section of the department store adds
    Is this the same thing? This is not a perfect example – but to many of the believing members of the church in our culture it is. Further just as the women who “denies” co-dependency, the man who intellectually knows the difference in the 2 examples above will be scorned potentially by church leaders and therapist, others alike for applying any judgment to the situation. E.g. “I should not have done this but it could have been worse”. To play out the example, what did I do in a similar situation? I went to my spouse in contrition just as if I had gone to the peep show. She in turn though very forgiving is also left terrorized, thinking “have I married a monster who is a slave and can never turn back”?
    Fortunately, I know that I am not alone I personally believe that a large portion of people struggling with this sin like me in example #2. Does it mean that I am not accountable? Does it mean that I don’t repent and work on why I experienced what I did? No. And why is it such a big deal weather any of us struggling with this understand that there is degree in our addiction/compulsion or whatever you want to label it? Because of the damage and victimization that it causes the relationship both spouse and the person with the problem.
    Most importantly though the spouse – without degree there is no nuance only black and white, you either did or you did not sin. Her stress and anxiety continues on every time there is a slip up, regardless of the degree, or how long it has been since he last had a setback.
    On a similar note without degree there is no way to get back to a healthy sexual relationship. The perfect example was the comment above by Michael:
    “If you want a woman to dress as Shirley Temple and yell that you’ve been a bad boy”
    To the healthy couple this is perfectly normal spice that can increase closeness, trust and connection for both. Yet to the current culture, hyper-focused on the epidemic without nuance, would see this as the tip of the iceberg of relapse and cause to go see the bishop. The spouse in the scenario is thinking or saying aloud “you are in sin, honey, what else don’t I know”. They can’t feel safe – the man in effect has now become the “chewed gum”. Ironically, my spouse told me in effect, that if she was in another relationship where pornography was never a problem, something like the above would be exciting and fun.

  26. Picking the correct Alcohol Rehabilitation Center.
    During the end stage, the individual is obsessed with
    drinking. I watched my alcoholic at family functions. This estimated
    cost was 19 times more than the amount collected from taxes on the
    sale of alcohol. New treatment facilities are now opening at an alarming rate.
    Some of these “alternative” programs claim to have success rates as high as 80%, 90% or
    even more, but have performed no follow-up surveys, no
    statistical analysis, have not been willing to allow independent organizations to perform follow-up studies, and cannot provide not even a single page of documentation to support their claims.

    Cleansing. If your loved ones has also become the victim of such
    a torment, the best thing you can do for him her is to get him her
    acknowledged in alcoholism rehab center with this faith that
    dipsomania or some other drug rehab will sure work for them to return to their normal life.

  27. Amber says:

    THANK YOU!!! I am so thankful that I am not the only woman out there that feels the way you do. I am currently going through the same thing right now. Hubby is in his 12 step program of sorts and it has me labelled as co-dependant just because I have my own boundaries of what I find acceptable in a relationship. I got married feeling strong and with my self worth. They have taught my Hubby that I must be in denial and co-dependant.

  28. kris says:

    I dont’ have much to say. I don’t like the label and I disagree with anyone who believes in that muck. It’s degrading to anybody. It’s a way to place blame on the victim/family member instead of blaming the addict because they are now “sick.” my ass. I hate that word. I hate labels now because I have had so many tacked on me. I would rather die than be labeled another problem. Sick of it. How about just saying what the behavior is that you don’t like rather than just labeling it codependency?? That finally leaves out a lot of “well i think codependency is this:” crap because then there wouldn’t be mucky label that needs to be defined. Life sucks. I hope I die soon. Love your article though. Hate some of the nasty things people are saying about others in the comment though. That’s why i hate my life.

  29. Genny says:

    K so I am trying to research the relation between pornography addiction and abuse and I am having difficulties finding many articles that relate the two. Everything I read about the effects of pornography addict husbands have on their wives and domestic violence husbands have on their wives is right in line with each other. Any thoughts on this?

  30. Ms Over It says:

    I appreciate this article, perhaps I grew a set, but I refuse to be labeled a co-dependent too.
    It took me days of reading psychology articles on this topic and my conclusion is this:
    This is “his” problem, and has been his problem, I will not subject myself to his lies, his attempts at blaming me, nor will I allow him to deflect. He made theses choices, continues to lie to “protect me?” I’m not having it.
    His refusal to seek help tells me one thing, he has not accepted accountability for “all” of his actions, he will say what I want to hear until it blows over AGAIN, he claims intimacy will help heal him. Just like a narcissist to make it all about him, and I should get over it?
    I’ll get over it when my last box is loaded and I’m on the road to a new life

  1. November 10, 2011

    […] information in this report gives you very simple strategies that could very well save your marriage.Are you "co-dependent "on your alcoholic spouse? Living with an alcoholic husband or alcoholic wife … giving" person (who has self esteem issues). This way, the alcoholic spouse can continue to drink […]

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