Updated: Apr 10
From the outside looking in, it's not always what it seems.
One would think you’re the luckiest girl alive.
I’d actually been told that. That he was “100% trustworthy, a real man’s man and every guy wants to be just like him”.
But at home, it all looked and felt different.
How can the two coexist? How can everyone else think he’s the cat’s meow, so humble and godly, such a servant, but you know differently? How can your in-laws consistently tell you how fabulous he is and think that he can walk on water and that any time he does something ‘off’ it’s because he had such a horrible childhood?
Gaslighting. It’s the only answer.
And yet, as a partner, you can still fall for it. Anyone around you who sees his fabulousness from the outside and how wonderful he is to you in public, of course they are going to think that. You begin to doubt yourself and even think that you’re crazy for feeling how you do.
Did it really happen that way? Did he really lie THIS time? Those unaccounted for hours, are they really that big of a deal? The forgetfulness, the lack of connection, the lack of interest in who you are….is it that big of a deal? All relationships have problems. No one is perfect. You’re the only one who sees him the way you see him.
Yep. You’re the crazy one.
Remember all the times he said for you to go out with your girlfriends? He made time for you to get away because you needed a break. He pretty much never said no to you when you wanted to get something. He was very accommodating to you. He never 'argued' with you. You’re the one who got upset. You’re the one who raised your voice in frustration. You’re the one who was emotional.
Looking in from the outside, would you believe you?
You’d probably tell you to try harder.
Have sex more.
Give grace more.
Stop trying to find happiness in your relationship. Look for what God is wanting to teach you in this.
Stay, no matter what, because it’s what honors God. After all, he hasn’t cheated on you.
What about all those times he flirts with other women in front of you?
What about all the times you catch him looking at other women…for too long.
What about all the tears you have every time you do have sex because you feel no connection, that you’re just an outlet? Are you really being objectified or does every man space out during intercourse?
It’s those things that get you questioning but as a woman who desires to be a godly wife, you don’t demand. You believe him. You give him the benefit of the doubt, even when you don’t feel it. You have hope every single time he apologizes and seems remorseful. And remember, you have whispers of the church, his family and the 'enemy' in your ear. But you think it’s godly because it sounds right. It sounds biblical. They all want what's best for you, certainly.
So you keep on. You keep on believing yourself to be unforgiving, making much of the small foxes, keeping a record of wrongs. You’re the one doing it wrong. The voices all say so. And they must be right because you have no proof of anything otherwise.
How does all of this effect your marriage?
It’s crazy making.
It’s an ongoing cycle of abuse that you don’t recognize because of your empathy and desire to continually surrender yourself and to be submissive.
Can I tell you that everyone who sets out to abuse does it intentionally? No, I can’t. I never believed that of my ex. I do believe that it comes from a place of wanting to protect oneself more than their partner, sometimes at all costs. And when there are unhealthy family dynamics involved, it is magnified. It’s perpetuated. Because it’s all they know, and of course he could do no wrong. There are always excuses and reasons for his unhealthy and destructive behaviors.
But it’s wrong and it’s abusive. It doesn’t matter where it stems from.
Everyone has a choice to make a different choice.
I think that what can be more traumatizing than the original behaviors is their choice to not heal. To continue to devalue you. To make sure they put you in your place so that they can feel better about themselves. They will often try to destroy you financially because it's all the power they have left over you after you begin to get healthy.
So what do you do when it seems everyone thinks you’re crazy after you’ve gotten out of the cycle?
You remind yourself of what healthy looks like so you recognize unhealthy immediately. Without question.
I’m sure you’ve heard about learning what counterfeit bills look and feel like. You recognize them, not by studying what is fake but by studying what is real.
The same holds true for healthy relationships.
I’m NOT saying that I was a perfect wife or was the healthy one. What I am saying is that I never stopped wanting to grow. I learned the places I needed to grow and heal and dug in. Of course I did things that contributed to our marriage problems.
But hear me again. Those were marriage things that can be worked on through couples counseling.
Addiction isn’t a marriage problem. Let me say that again.
ADDICTION ISN’T A MARRIAGE PROBLEM.
The addict has to make their own choice to do the hard work of recovery. It’s long and it’s hard and it’s not linear. It’s going to take a lot, but the work will be evident.
For extended family that feels like they should get to have a say or want to intrude in your relationship or family, they don’t. It’s none of their business. They aren’t in it. They don’t know what really happened. They don’t get a say. And the unhealthy ones will continue to butt in where they don’t belong. When they do, that again is indicative of the unhealth of the addict.
How will it look when the addict chooses REAL recovery and wants to get healthy?
Actions and words will match.
It looks like the addict learning to hold space for the anger of his partner because he gets that he is the cause of it.
He doesn’t expect her to just get over it.
He knows that trust will take time because he is the one who broke it. Repeatedly. It will not happen overnight.
It means he’s willing to share openly and not hide anymore-he’s made a habit of hiding.
It means he will take responsibility for his actions again and again and again. However long it takes.
As far as those looking in from the outside, he will clear the air. He will take responsibility for what they saw or didn’t, and build up his partner, not tear her down.
He will stand up for her even though she wasn’t perfect because he knows the depth of the damage that HE and his actions have caused.
He will immediately shut down family members who try to butt in to the family…kids, wife, marriage, finances, divorce, etc. If they can’t be objective they need keep to themselves. Assuming gets people in a lot of trouble.
To those who are on the outside looking in.
Be a friend.
Know you may only be hearing one side of the story, especially family.
Support your sibling or child, or friend, but do it in a healthy way, not by putting them on a pedestal as though they have reason for doing what they did, or making the partner out to be the enemy.
And again, if you don’t know all the details, just stay out.
Church…let’s do better in supporting couples in a situation like this. There is training for Pastors/leadership to learn to recognize the addict/partner dynamic. If you don’t want to take it, send the couple to a professional who understands it. Too many have been further traumatized due to lack of knowledge and training.
To the partner who is convinced she’s crazy. You’re not. Please get help. See me, see another APSATS professional. Do your homework on who is trained and skilled to work with Betrayal Trauma.
To the addict. If you want to recover, you can. There’s help. You can see me or if I can’t help there are countless professionals and resources that I can give you. If you choose to not recover, that too will be evident. Maybe not at first, but it will be to your partner. She knows all of your maneuvers. But to a healthy audience, it will also become evident in time.
Either way, partner or addict, just get help. Decide to heal. You will never regret it.
What has been the hardest outside pressure on your marriage?
If his family has been supportive of you, what did they do to show you their support?