I Can Only Change Myself

Donna S.

Facilitator, Women's Support Network for Wives of Husbands Who Struggle with Lust

9 February 2017



I am responsible for my feelings, attitude, behavior, and beliefs. This is about ownership, it is knowing I have a choice to focus on my own behavior, and not be reactive to my husband’s behavior. It allows me to pause and pray, follow the wisdom of my higher power, and to search out my next step.



My name is Donna and I am a grateful recovering codependent, and Jesus is my higher power. I have been one who has walked a healing journey, and now ministers to other women who are finding themselves on a path of uncertainty and confusion. I hope that God will allow me to help you gain wisdom about fears and struggles that the wife will experience as she journeys through the crisis, shock, grief, acceptance, recovery, and restoration stages.


Genesis 2: 18 says “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him.” Our Father created Eve to be a helper. So how does a wife carry out that role as she finds herself navigating her way through the betrayal and shame that has surfaced in the relationship? The reality of the disclosure has destroyed all trust in the relationship with her spouse. Her codependency traits will tempt her to sink into an unhealthy relationship with her addict husband. The devil will want to blind her and cloud her thinking. Just as in the husband’s recovery, she will need to have the discipline to find her own power and strength in Jesus.


In understanding the pain of the betrayal (and it does not matter the origin of it, whether it is from pornography, infidelity, or whatever), that suffering can be devastating, causing confusion and is magnified by her vulnerabilities and low self-esteem. She may want vindication and justice for what has happened to her. Her own will is driving her to retaliate. In Psalm 55: 12-14, David refers to this; “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe was rising against me I could hide. But it is you …my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship…” The pain from a loving companion creates a very deep wound.              

That is why finding safe, knowledgeable people is essential in the early stages after the disclosure. These people will give much needed clarity and direction.


One of the first recovery principals that is taught to a new woman who joins our group is “detachment.” Detaching is a skill that helps us stop reacting to the addict’s behavior—it allows us to “step back,” and gain objectivity, face reality, deal with emotions, and determine our next step. It is not about punishment, isolating, or withdrawal. The 1st step of 12 steps of Codependents is “We admit we are powerless over others and our lives have become unmanageable.” Detachment allows us to make better choices, and to recognize the need for self-care and boundaries.


A few years ago I attended a workshop here that NCCC sponsored. It was about “Spirituality in Therapy,” and the speaker was an addiction counselor named “Bob.” At the end of the workshop there was a question and answer time. An attendee asked Bob, “What advice would you give the spouse and families of an addict?” he slowly thought and said I have “Bob’s Three Rules” that I would tell them: “take care of yourself,” “take care of yourself,” “take care of yourself.” It is imperative that the wives take care of themselves: spiritually, emotionally, and physically.


Let me just add this about self-care—this will go against what most women feel they should do. God created us to be caregivers and nurturers. There is a deep need in our souls to care for those that are vulnerable, distressed, and sick. This will take strength from our higher power Jesus to refocus our needs and the needs of our families. This is a description a young wife of an addict wrote as she started to grasp the concept of detachment. It is from the book “Partner’s Healing Journey” by Marsha Means:



"I see my husband being sucked into a deep, dark pit, desperately grasping at the side with one hand. I cling to his other hand as I frantically try to pull him out. He defiantly believes he can pull himself out, and struggles to free his hand from my grasp. As he struggles, he is pulling me down with him. Detaching is realizing I can do him no good by falling into the pit with him, so I let go, even though I believe he will go deeper. Now, however, I am free to run for help."



Once the concept of detachment is learned we come to understand the need for boundaries. Last spring our women’s group completed the Boundaries course by Drs. Townsend and Cloud. It was so well received and that we hope to do it again. Establishing a recovery program and integrating the importance of practicing healthy boundaries are so helpful in the relationship with the addicted husband. If a person understands how boundaries work in her life as well as with the relationship with the husband, she can increase the ability to care about him, without the temptation of enabling or being over-responsible for his addiction/recovery work.


Once we as wives differentiate between what is our responsibility and what the husband’s responsibility is, that will be a pivotal time in both individuals’ recovery journey. I am responsible for my feelings, attitude, behavior, and beliefs. This is about ownership, it is knowing I have a choice to focus on my own behavior, and not be reactive to my husband’s behavior. It allows me to pause and pray, follow the wisdom of my higher power, and to search out my next step.


Another important step in our healing is self-awareness, or Step 4 of the 12 Steps. “Taking a searching, fearless moral inventory.” For me personally in the beginning of my healing journey it was very easy for me to take Reed’s inventory before my own. As I look back, I understand how Reed had become my “idol.” That is a significant clue of the depth of my codependency. Or the other idol was “myself,” thinking as a victim, always feeling sorry for myself, planning the pity party and inviting all that showed interest. Please know focusing on Reed and myself in this way did not solve my problems nor relieve the pain.


Many view working Step 4 as difficult, but for me it was a great opportunity for me to love myself as Jesus loved me. He knows all about my issues, and now I would be able to face the issues and release them to him. The related scripture of Step 4 speaks to this: “Let us examine our ways and test them, let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40). I was ready; I had tried to do it my way, under my own will… the fatigue, frustration, and pain continued…I had reach the point of surrendering to his will. There is a recovery saying that is “the deeper you go in your healing the more aware you become of God’s abundant grace. This is the essence of Step 4.


An important point that may be different from other groups’ recovery work is that codependency work may be less oriented to service work for others. That is because of what I mentioned earlier about being inclined to care for others and not taking time for self-care. I have a mentor and each time we meet she asks, “What are you doing for yourself?” She holds me accountable regarding this important part of my recovery. I am now aware of balance of being a healthy servant—that serves from a place of high self-esteem (I have acquired this by knowing what God says about me) and not serving from the compulsion of people pleasing or guilt-ridden duty. A good servant has healthy boundaries in serving.


The woman’s healing journey can be like a ship sailing on the ocean—encountering calm as well as destructive storms. This can be explained if one understands the stages of grief. In my nurse’s training it was required to read a book from Helen Kübler-Ross, named “On Death and Dying.” She was a psychiatrist that researched and wrote about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This what we experience—we will struggle intensely as we try to make sense of each stage. There is no way out this—and each of us must travel through these stages. Peace and acceptance will hopefully come, but it is God’s time, not our own. All we can do is take one day at a time.


I must share with you my personal experience; I remained in the stage of anger for a very long time. I came to realize that I had never understood and had knowledge of how this emotion ruled me. Anger is how I coped with events, whether it was from a difficult conflict in a relationship, unmet needs and expectations, or if things did not go my way. Someone would act and I would react in anger. Reed and I facilitate a Forgiveness class and it was in this class that I learned about how my behavior was self-defeating and stealing my peace and joy.


A quote from Albert Einstein that you hear frequently in recovery meetings is: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results”. That describes the reactionary cycle perfectly. One issue that I (as well other women) have to learn about is the difference between healthy anger and unhealthy anger. The misconception is that all anger is bad—and unfortunately many Christians think this is so. Healthy anger is a valuable tool to recognize in our behavior. It’s a warning sign that we need to be alert for obstacles that may need addressed. Now when I get angry I look “within” myself and pray to God; “Lord show me myself.” show me the truth.


Another recovery principal is “letting go,” this is not an easy principal to learn, and I still struggle with it. It is about trusting God, realizing that God is in control, and he is sovereign. A beautiful story that I think epitomizes the principal of “letting go’” is the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son on the altar. God was testing Abraham, and Abraham passed the test, and received greater faith and a deeper understanding of God’s loving nature. If we can do this, the Lord will bless us more than we can imagine. He asks us to let go of character flaws, unrealistic expectations, judgment, excessive caretaking, negativity, and those obstacles and hurdles that stand in the way of our spiritual progress. And as Abraham, sometimes it will be those things that are most precious to us.


In closing, what is my role in a relationship with a spouse who is in bondage to sexual addiction? Melody Beattie in the book “Codependent’s Guide to the Twelve Steps,” says it best:



"My role as a helper is not to do things for the person I am trying to help but to be things; not to control and change his actions but, through understanding and awareness, to change my reactions. I will change my negatives to positives; fear to faith; contempt for what he does to respect for the potential with in him; hostility to understanding; and manipulation or over-protectiveness to release with love; not trying to make him fit a standard of image, but giving him an opportunity to pursue his own destiny, regardless of what his choice may be. I will change my dominance to encouragement; panic to serenity; the inertia of despair to the energy of my own personal growth; and justification to self-understanding. Self-pity blocks effective action. The more I indulge in it, the more I feel that the answers to my problem is a change in others and in society, not in myself. Thus I become a hopeless case."



I can only change myself!!!




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