Originally posted at: https://livingonquicksandblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/i-walk-the-line
I am walking a fine line between vigilance and the road to Crazy Town.
Discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful brings a whole lot of hurt down on your head. Strangely, discovering that he has done this because he has an addiction helps in some ways. You learn that it wasn’t about you. You come to understand that powerful forces were driving the behavior. You realize that a long list of anonymous women is somehow less threatening than one “special” someone in whom he might have invested more emotional currency.
In other ways, though, the addiction makes the situation much worse. For one thing, the probability that he will slip one or more times before achieving total recovery is very high. And that is assuming that he is even serious about recovery. Rob has said that several of the men in his 12 step group have said they are there because their wives made them come and will divorce them if they don’t attend. If I were their wives I would want them to be saying things like “I’m here because I want to heal”. I think real recovery has to be about you and what you want. But these men are in the group and who am I to question their motives.
For Rob’s part he is saying the right things and taking the right actions. He has now “come out” to two sets of friends, and three family members. He is attending his meetings regularly and has suggested a cell phone tracking app so that I know where he is (or at least where his cell phone is – because I am very aware that there is a difference). He is journaling on a semi-regular basis and is considering re-writing his 12 steps to make them more meaningful to him. In short, he appears to be doing the work.
The problem with a sex addiction is that it is, by nature, a secretive and furtive disease. The only way to know if recovery is happening is to look for subtle clues and behaviour changes. Addicts are master manipulators though, and in Rob’s case he has been fooling people for 40+ years. How do I know all of these actions are not part of a snow-job to lull me back into a false sense of security?
And this brings me to the point of this post (ah, I bet you thought I would never get there). I don’t think I am any different from any spouse of a recovering sex addict in wondering how closely I should be watching him.
I have always felt privacy is important. I think it is inherently wrong to go through anyone’s wallets, or text messages or open their mail, track their financial activity or secretly videotape their activities. I have always believed a wife who does these things is a nutbar. Yet in recent weeks I have gone through Rob’s wallet, checked his text messages and checked the search history on his tablet. I check his location through our Life360 app compulsively through the day, then worry myself sick about why he went to a particular location for 6 minutes. I have even had a free consultation with a very nice young private investigator though I have never followed up with him. I have even caught myself lying in bed wondering where the best location would be to install a hidden camera to see what goes on while I am away. There is scarcely an hour that goes by where I don’t worry that something bad is going to happen unless I stay on top of things. A friend I have met in a support group refers to this as monitoring. I’m just not sure how much monitoring is desirable to keep me aware and safe, and how much is crazy, compulsive behaviour.
I am fully aware that no amount of “monitoring” will keep Rob from “acting out” (I hate that phrase but I’m going with it any way). In this age of computers and tablets and cell phones he will always find a way if he wants to re-offend. I know that he can leave his cell phone at his office and go anywhere he wants and I won’t know. Or he might have a different cell phone specifically for this sort of activity. I can get e-mail passwords, but he may well have other accounts of which I am unaware. There are whole technologies designed to help cheaters avoid getting caught. I can’t watch it all. Only Rob can keep Rob from acting out.
At the same time I feel I need to have some sort of awareness of what he is doing. Sad to say, but his word is worth almost nothing at this point. I have heard too many proclamations of innocence over the years to believe what he says. The only evidence of change is what I can see and I can’t see if I don’t look.
I don’t want to be his mother and check up on him all the time. I don’t want to spend my precious golden years skulking around reading his text messages. I don’t want to spend my retirement savings on a private detective. I also don’t want to contract HIV or a venereal disease because I trusted too much or kept my head in the sand. I don’t want to be hurt by another round of betrayal. I am walking a fine line between vigilance and the road to Crazy Town.
And so I waver back and forth. If I snoop I feel sick because I am becoming the kind of woman I abhor. If I don’t snoop I feel like I am being a naive fool. If I snoop I am afraid I will find something and have to confront him about it. If I don’t snoop I feel like I will be taken advantage of. Through it all I am in a state of constant hyper vigilance that is exhausting.
I know that recovery will have occurred when I can honestly say that I can be happy with or without his recovery. Right now I am struggling with how to get there.