It's not about them. Radical statement, I know, but in the end, it is the only thing, the only understanding, that will save you. This is not about blaming the victim. When I say it's not about them, it doesn't mean that you are to blame, no, no, no. It has to do with the way things are, in relationship or out of relationship. (And when are we ever out of relationship?)
You cannot change anybody else, ever. You can only change yourself. Sorry if that sounds trite, but it is pretty fundamental, especially if you've ever been or are in recovery.I could say things like, "everything happens for a reason," or some such platitude, but overused admonitions tend to provoke, and sound heartlessly glib to anyone who is suffering in the midst of an abusive relationship.
So instead of airy-fairy new age platitudes that can at times enrage those who might otherwise be feeling helpless and hopeless, I can only say what worked for me. If you look for changes in their behavior, you're looking in the wrong place. Addicts, narcissists manage their family and loved ones, not the addiction, though it may look like it's the other way around. (Opposite thinking works very well in these relationships.) So don't say, "Oh, look, he's going to a meeting." And definitely watch out when you're thinking, "Oh, he's being so kind...that's the one I married, that's the one I love."
Don't call it love. For that matter, it is not love if you want someone to be who you want them to be, and I haven't met an N partner or SA partner, or for that matter, many people yet who didn't understandably want the other to change. Be who you want to be, for yourself, and it will all fall together. When you know what you want, what is important to you, and I hope that sanity is part of that picture, you start to change. And no, I'm not going to say that when you start to change, the N or the SA starts to change. That can happen once in a blue moon, but if it does, or that's what you're hoping for, then you're still looking for the wrong stuff in all the wrong places. When you start to change, when you start living according to your own strengths and values, and not waiting for anybody else to make you happy, you simply start to care less and less about what they're doing or not doing. You start to become free of this story we have all been in. Freedom is a good thing.
I was stuck in a story. It all happened. He was there, and it was wicked, and it hurt like hell. But I let it go. He's gone. What he does or doesn't do no longer, and should have never, defined me. Nor does what he did define me now. And by that I mean, that movie is over. I don't need to see it again. When the curtain comes down, you walk out into the fresh air and go on to the next thing. Living in the past means you miss what is going on around you in the present moment. And some of what is going on here and now is pretty effing amazing.
And one more hopefully helpful thought to keep in mind: When I turned the focus off of him, and onto what I truly wanted in life, what I needed started to show up, as if by some kind of magical decree. I didn't have the money to leave, or the support, or you name it, all the reasons we don't leave when fear rules. But it all started knocking on my door. What I needed just showed up in one weird way after another. You will be amazed.
Trust yourself. Trust the universe. Trust the process. Just begin. That light that you can sometimes barely see at the end of the long dark tunnel? It's there for a reason. Walk towards it, one step at a time. If your mind, your thoughts, or anybody around you is screaming, "But, but, but...but this or but that...!" Don't listen. Keep walking. There is a light. There is a way out. Be for yourself what you always wanted the other one to be for you.
I am not the other bed. I just got lost for awhile. Back in my own bed, just the way I left it. No tyrants here.
Change begins in me. There are those who proclaim, with frightening vehemence and fervor, that their is a battle going on "out there." There is no battle out there. The only struggle is within. The only eternal conflict, the only battle, the only war, is what is going on in our own hearts and souls at any given moment. The war and interpersonal conflict we see in the world is a reflection of that projection. What we fail to deal with internally is projected out there and fought out there. This is why there is war, all the time and everywhere on this planet. It is only because we fail to take responsibility for dealing with our own demons. If I don't deal with it in me, then it must be you, and you, and the whole lot of you--not me.
If you think about it, if we are truly at peace, we cannot possible generate anything but that peace. We cannot. This is what is meant by the Gandhi quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Be is the operative word, the first word. Be--not tell, not try, not hope for, just be, as in I am that, therefore I can be nothing else. If we are trying to convert, to convince, or coerce, than we are not convinced ourselves. This extends to the environment, too. If we honor Mother Nature, truly respect that irascible Feminine within, we cannot possibly harm Her, or leave trash in our wake; we cannot help but nurture and protect the ground we walk on. What we respect within, we honor without.
And appropos of this site, which is about interpersonal drama and conflict, about our primary relationships and the damage done, it is also true, for me, that the relationships I am in, good or bad, are a reflection of how much love and respect I feel for myself. If I am in a relationship that is not loving, then I need to find and express that love for myself. And when I do, I cannot possibly be victimized, nor can I hurt another. It becomes so totally unnatural that it becomes impossible.
There is a line in this song, this video, "We Are The World", that tells the story--"we're saving our own lives." It is not about Haiti, this coming together. No, we sang and listened to this song 25 years ago, and it was about the famine in Africa. There will always be a Haiti in rubble, a starving Africa, and until we rebuild our own lives and feed and nurture ourselves, it will continue to be "out there" in the world. This needn't be a 25 year cycle, or event, this awareness. It could be an everyday, every moment, reverence for life, the life we cherish within, a love for ourselves that we hold up like a mirror, so that everyone we meet, in Haiti and at home, smiles when they see their own face looking back, and feels the same love for themselves. If you downloaded the Hope for Haiti Now CD, you know that it is a collection of love songs, what you might give to someone you loved as a gift. Today, we help fallen brothers and sisters in Haiti, but in the end, this is not about Haiti. It is that We are the world, today, tomorrow, and whatever corner of the world or the bed in which we find ourselves. And "we find ourselves" are the key words here. It is as near as our own hearts, always. See it, feel it. Believe it, you and me.
With that in mind, this is a continuation, a repeat of the original resource page I published when I began this site. I know more now. There are books you can read, movies to watch, and music you can listen to, and sites you can visit that will help you through, and you will need help. Know that you are not alone. These resources have to do with the stage or phase of the journey back to integrity.
When you first discover that what you are living with is sexual addiction, first know that you are not crazy, no matter how bizarre you might have found your recent behavior. It is unsettling to the extreme, your whole world has shifted, the proverbial rug has been rudely pulled out from under you, in your own home, and you are perhaps doing whatever you can to stop the chaos. You have, in a sense, gone down the rabbit hole and fallen into another reality.
To understand what you are dealing with, I would suggest Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, by Patrick Carnes. Don't linger too long there, though because it is not written for the partners of sex addicts, and it could be the beginning of a not-so-useful trend towards being the one, as opposed to the addict, looking for the answers. This is not always the case, but it has often been my experience that the partner has read the book, but the addict has not. Once you know what you are dealing with, and you're freaking out, go toMending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts, edited by Patrick Carnes' daughter, Stephanie Carnes. This is a series of essays written by "experts in the field," and it is immensely helpful and necessarily compassionate.
You might, at this point, come to believe that you have a problem with codependency. Whether that is true or not is up to you to decide, but I can tell you that the only room I could go to in town was a church basement filled with mostly wives of sex addicts, at COSA and S-anon meetings. It is the only place that you can safely talk about what you have experienced. Brace yourself, the rest of the world doesn't understand, and really doesn't want to spend much time doing so. At this juncture, you might want to read Codependent No More, or anything else by Melody Beattie. Codependent or no, her book of daily wisdom, The Language of Letting Go (Hazelden Meditation Series), is still a source I go to this day. Ms. Beattie has a wonderful voice and boundless wisdom. Many of us have found that whatever day we open to, it is as if she is speaking to us, about exactly what we needed to hear on that day, or any other day. I have also read Pia Mellody's Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives, and if you find you want to leave and yet don't and that doesn't make sense, try Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love. I personally was more drawn to Melody Beattie's style. But I know many others who were big Pia Mellody fans and swear by her transformative message.
There is one more book (there are many more, but these are considered essential by those of us who have stood where you stand, or have collapsed, right now) that I wish I had read sooner, but it only came out a few months ago, and that is Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal, by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means. Read this before you decide whether or not you might just be codependent. Trauma, and the behaviors that accompany PTSD look a lot like codependency, or the "codependent crazies." You will have more compassion for yourself, and how you feel and act in regard to your partner's addiction after reading this book.
If you discover or your partner is given the diagnosis of narcissism, or Narcissitic Personalty Disorder (NPD), go directly out and get The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family, by Eleanor Payson. Narcissism is characterized by extreme interpersonal exploitation; there is tyranny, control, and abuse involved most of the time. It helps to see it for what it is. Again, no, you are not crazy. Another must read is Stalking the Soul, by Marie-France Hirigoyen. The title says it all. This is how bad it can, and most often will get. Then go out and watch or stay home and rent the movie Gaslight, an Alfred Hitchcock classic horror story. Though the characters might seem caricatures to the extreme, all the elements are there, what you might be going through, or have been going through and didn't recognize the horror aspect. Maybe you thought you were going crazy?
Another movie that I found transformational was To Kill a Mockingbird. It's about integrity in the midst of pernicious ignorance, the effects of which we know all too well. It's also good for Daddy issues. Atticus is the archetypal father. Adopt him, if you feel the need. And, if you're feeling hopeless, like you'll never get out of the dark hole, or asking, where's God, and why me, try The Miracle Worker. Helen Keller went on to become and extraordinary thinker, writer, and human being, and to quote her, "All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming."
Music is profoundly healing. There are CDs in the sidebar that I have compiled that relate to different phases of going from stuck, as in shoes nailed to the floor, to not quite as sticky now, though I still have the compunction to wash my hands and stand in the shower fairly often. It's not honey/molasses kind of sticky, it's a slimy, goo, muck, kind of stuff that needs water to kill it, like the Wicked Witch of the West. As always, take what you need and leave the rest. Some of the songs are bound to make you feel hopeful, peaceful and resolute, or angry enough, and get you through the hour or the day more than once. Make one yourself. The process of searching for just the right notes and lyrics is healing in and of itself.
I just have to include some of the more recent google searches that led to this site, with comments. "Unhealthy mind betrayal" made me wonder what healthy mind betrayal looks like. "Should I stay with a narcissist" evokes the question, why? Does it feel like love to you? Does it not feel like the opposite of love? "Prayers for a narcissist" can be found here. "Poems on leaving the codependent lifestyle" can be found here, and here. The Leaving soundtrack can be found here. My favorite search entry was "narcissists leaven their stink all over the place until they have to leave."
I hope you find what you're looking for somewhere in these pages. There are many useful forums, links, radio shows, and bloggers listed in the sidebar. Check 'em out! There is a link to my email there, too, feel free to contact me personally.