One of the gifts of Sexaholics Anonymous has been the recovery in my marriage. I have no right to a happy and fulfilling marriage. I am certainly not worthy of this, but I have an amazing Higher Power, Who loves me no matter what - and for some reason, He seems to get a kick out of loving others through me, including my wife. Imagine that!
Following are some things that have and haven’t worked for me in remaining married for over 21 years, and especially when the stuff hit the fan 12 years ago. I have been clean and sober since January 2014, so you can see it hasn’t been a perfect recovery, but SA has greatly changed our marriage in many ways:
- I have worked the dickens out of the Twelve Steps of Sexaholics Anonymous. I’ve had great sponsors who worked my tail off. The key outcome of working the Steps is to achieve a spiritual transformation: committing to a Power greater than myself, Who returns me to sanity and abundance.
- I pray, a lot; more and more every day. It is true: if I put my Higher Power first, everything else works out better.
- My wife and I have seen multiple marriage therapists. I write this in the spirit of the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book,” which encourages us to seek support from others. I won’t discuss specifics of our work with therapists in a meeting, but am happy to share with members who are curious.
- Preparing for my disclosure, in the spirit of Step Nine, was terrifying. I was afraid to share specifics of my harms to my wife. Every fiber of my being cried out to my Higher Power, begging to know if there is another way I could do this. What my Higher Power has said to me is this: “Do not do this Step as a Step One, but as a Step Nine.” I don’t vomit the problem all over my wife; instead I present her with a candid description of the problem, as well as a solution. Once I’ve described the “low points” in enough detail not to whitewash, I answer any and every question she asks. If she wants to know a detail, I tell her the truth. I let her be the judge of what she is willing to hear.
- I explicitly pursue my wife. She experienced mounds of evidence from me that I did not value her or find her attractive, so one of my biggest amends is trying to show her-- today and for the rest of our lives--that I love her, value her, and want her. I have asked her what she likes, swallowing my shame that after years of sleepwalking, I never really knew what she longed for, and it has been my loss. I’d love to hear what learn from others what works, but here are a few things I do:
- I buy her flowers two to four times per month
- I have studied books to learn what she needs and find ways to give that to her.
- I ask her for what I want. One of my biggest surprises was the pain she felt at not knowing what she could do to please me. How painful to learn that hiding myself from her didn’t only isolate me, it also hurt her! With work, I have gotten over my “unworthiness” ideas, and asked her. How vulnerable!
- I pause to think about her during the day. It’s not natural for me as an addict to remember others during the day, so I have to practice this.
- I write a letter or a card to her about once a month.
- I meditate so that when I am listening to a gripe about myself, I can be compassionate by maintaining a bit of a loving distance and thus not getting upset.
- I date her. I ask her out. I make plans and take time for intimacy, and I ask her for it, but graciously accept if she doesn’t want that now. (Then I call members to vent, surrender, get feedback and support, etc.)
- It has not worked out well to work my individual program of recovery “over there” without a parallel program of recovery “with her.” That is, I have at times allowed my program to isolate me from my marriage. It’s not easy to discern, and it IS my program of my recovery. Anonymity IS the spiritual foundation. But at the same time, our problems need to be worked out between us, with us developing OUR solutions and our program to recover US.
I’m sure there’s more. Today, I really love my wife and I want to be married to her. If the marriage fails, I know that God will love me anyway and He will show me joy in other ways. But for today, things are going well, and I’m grateful for the program of Sexaholics Anonymous for showing me how to re-marry my wife, as the better man I am in recovery.