In December 2010 my boyfriend realised that he had a porn addiction and that it was affecting our relationship. He immediately started his recovery. We are doing well, day by day, and this blog is part of my recovery.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

is the term co-addict really helpful?

I've been feeling increasingly uncomfortable all week with the way articles talk about co-addiction and how unhelpful it has felt in aiding recovery. I understand that in order to not have got up and walked away from the relationship the moment I knew there was a problem that I must have certain character traits present, but I really feel that a lot of literature out there seems to confuse co-dependency and being the unwitting partner of a porn addict. Admittedly porn addiction is also clearly different to other levels of sex addiction, but anyway that's stuff for another post...

Anyway, it's been really annoying me... I feel like articles are saying to me that I have just as big a problem, I caused this problem for myself, and betrayal was inevitable for me because of my past. Bollocks! I don't believe this to be the case. My self-esteem has definitely been severely damaged by his addiction, but it wasn't at that level to begin with. I was in a very good place in my life and my head when we got together. He was obviously still an addict at that stage but was in one of the most positive mental places he had ever been in his life when we met. We were both single, had been single for a while, were happy, healthy and very pragmatic and realistic about our relationship. We were careful not to rush even though we were in love... were mindful of protecting the relationship long term. When his porn addiction resurfaced 6 months into the relationship it grew over time, made worse by extreme external stressors until it was spiraling out of control. At its worst points I was definitely in a place of trying to control my environment to minimise the damage and save our relationship, but I feel that it was more a response to trauma and self-protection than a syndrome of co-dependency and that damaging term co-addict.

The site that I have found the most supportive, insightful and helpful in the covering almost every aspect of porn addiction and recovery for both my partner and I is
I read over the articles on there often when I'm feeling down or worried about things and it has really helped. Reading all this stuff that was telling me that I was just as sick as he was just made me feel more depressed, it didn't feel right. I kept wondering if those articles were written by men, or perhaps incredibly bitter women because they seemed to be more damaging than helpful in terms of effecting a positive recovery. Yes, I do obviously need to look at myself and my own past just as much as he does, because apart from anything else then we will be on equal footing psychologically long-term... but right now what I need is some support, not someone telling me it was my fault.

I would say that this is just how I feel about my own situation. If this was 10 years ago I would probably say the term co-addict would have been more applicable when I was stumbling through life in a fog of pain from my dysfunctional teenage years, entering into a few pretty unhealthy relationships. I think a lot of us could probably relate to that! But then I worked on myself, really thought about that stuff, got happy with my own company and learned to really like myself and treat myself with respect. The 'me' of 10 years ago is most definitely not the 'me' of now. And the things I loved about my partner when I got together with him was that he really did treat me with respect, I didn't have to be anyone other than who I was. I never got jealous or felt insecure because he made it very clear that I had nothing to worry about. Once the porn addiction resurfaced, all my old insecurities and traumatic coping mechanisms came with it. Then every girl who came across as 'not that safe' (we women know who they are!) sent me into a silent panic, everything felt unstable and confusing, but I coud tell it also felt confusing to him because he genuinely loved me and was looking towards the future and couldn't understand that his old coping mechanism for stress of turning to porn and masturbation was taking him backwards rather than forwards. Both of us were unknowingly reacting to the trauma that he was inflicting on himself. And now we are both healing from it.

One quote I would like to share from a fantastic article which pretty much sums up my feeling on the subject is this:

 Calling the partner of a sex addict 
a “co-addict” is not unlike blaming a rape victim for her assault or a battered woman for her beating. It is blaming the victim, rather than looking 
for ways to support someone who has experienced the unthinkable.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Julia,

    I couldn't agree with you more and we're not the only ones. This is why I think that Patrick Carnes is an idiot. He refuses to accept that there can be any other model for a relationship with a SA than HIS and he's wrong.

    Now, I do have to say that some women are co-addicted in certain situations. Sad to say, I am one of those, for instance and some women are co-dependent meaning in this case, that they minimize, justify, sugar-coat, deny, and lie to themselves in the exact same way that the SA does, in order to preserve the relationship. The partner of the man I was involved with (who I fondly refer to as "predator" is of the latter). Some night when you're bored, get a big bowl of popcorn and you can read all about them, if its not too upsetting to you. If it is... that's okay too. :)

    These two situations are totally different from the woman who is traumatized into feeling badly about herself because her lover/husband/partner is f***ing around behind her back. What woman wouldn't be devastated and feeling completely lost after learning of this? It is crazy making behavior and sure... we can all work on ourselves, but it has absolutely NOTHING to do with HIS addiction!

    So, yes, for a lot of women, the term co-addict or co-dependent, just does not really fit. Still, the addict will choose a woman that generally fits a certain profile. She makes him look good and gives him a certain status. Wives of SAs are often very attractive, well-off, well-connected, etc. He so wants the "normal" life and feels he deserves it-- on some level. There is often a splintering of the personality which when it is first seen, can be very frightening!

    We were duped. Did he intentionally dupe us? I don't think so, except in the most severe cases. The problem is recovery for the SA is not only recovery of the SA, (and any other co-morbid addictions) but also in most cases, the underlying personality disorder that LEAD to the addiction as a symptom. Not all SAs meet the criteria for a full-blown diagnosis of a personality disorder, but I dare-say that all of them at the very least, have traits of narcissism, BPD (under cluster B) and THIS is what is so very difficult to treat!

    Please check out Barbara Steffens' book... "Your Sexually addicted Spouse." She discusses the trauma model for the recovery of partners as opposed to PC's co-addict model.

    All my best,