This week we continue our look at the destructive character traits that too often accompany sex addiction. Last week, we took a close look at the lying and the anger. Today, we’ll continue by looking at fear and cowardice.
Just as a reminder, this series is not an “us against them” rant. Rather the purpose is to help us (and possibly even "him") become better armed to stand against the dysfunction/evil in our midst.
That said, the reality is that many wives (myself included) struggle at times with being angry at (and even hating) our husbands because of these character traits, combined with the betrayal. As I discussed in the The Pain series – anger is to be expected and can actually be part of the healing process. However, we don’t want to get stuck there. In time we want to move to anger at the behaviors – not the man.
Last week we looked at the self-protection techniques of lying and hiding. These are just two of the many such techniques that sex addicts employ. The reason they feel they need such an arsenal of weapons? Most sex addicts are fundamentally terrified of conflict, vulnerability and emotional pain.
One of the results is that they often are incredibly afraid of us: the one to whom they should be closest and most vulnerable. Sadly, perfect fear seems to cast out all love. As I wrote in Beyond Betrayal (quoting The Life Model):
“There are two essentially different and incompatible types of bonds [between people]– one based on fear and the other on love. Fear bonds are formed around avoiding negative feelings and pain. Love bonds are formed around desire, joy and seeking to be with people who are important to us. Fear bonds energize people to avoid pain – like rejection, fear, shame, humiliation, abandonment, guilt or even physical abuse. Love bonds motivate people to live in truth, closeness, joy, peace, perseverance, kindness and authentic giving… when the shared bond is fear, anxiety builds as the time approaches to be together.”
It can feel incredibly painful to realize that our husband is fear-bonded to us. I’ve said many times (and heard other women say it in different words): “Why am I so scary to you?” It seems ridiculous, particularly if we have never wounded him like he’s wounded us. This is the case in most instances of betrayal and sexual addiction.
Still, the addict is often an incredibly fearful person. A person who is “excessively afraid of danger or pain” exhibits cowardice.
"Eat and drink," he says to you, but his heart is not with you. – Prov. 23:7
In his attempt to avoid dangerous conflicts (that might even jeopordize his ability to act out) the addict will often be found behaving in very cowardly ways. This includes:
- Lying and hiding
- Avoiding confrontation
- Avoiding people (with whom conflict or hard conversations are necessary)
- Saying, “yes” to everyone (except his wife)
- Passive aggressive behavior
- Shifting the blame to others, particularly his wife
- Manipulating and controlling others by: telling them what they want to hear, playing people off of each other
- Diverting difficult conversations through stonewalling, faulty logic, attacking back, acting highly offended, etc.
One of the more painful, and all-too-common forms of cowardice sex addicts exhibit is using their wife as a shield. By this I mean that the addict continually puts his wife in a position where she has to do the protecting of the family, while he keeps himself safe in the background. Of course, it’s normal that mothers will protect their children. However, many of us — after the rose-colored glasses come off post D-day — come to see that we’ve done ALL (or nearly all) the protecting. This includes protecting:
- When there has been conflict or impending conflict with his family
- When there have been financial crisis (and hard communications had to be made to ask for extensions, etc.)
- When there has been conflict within our community (church, school, neighborhood, etc.)
- When his reputation is in danger (particularly for those in ministry)
Moreover, an addict can become very angry and hateful when his wife refuses to shield him or asks him to take part in the protecting of the family. Sometimes, it feels to me like there is a spiritual component around this. The SA has often put his wife (originally) on a pedestal and said, "I've made you my 'god' – your job is to protect me. If you don't, then I'll hate you, discard you and go looking for another (small "g") 'god'."
Part of the addict’s healing is going to involve getting to the emotional and spiritual root of his fears and beginning to practice more courageous living. Part of our healing is going to be not allowing ourselves to continue to be his shield.
The best way to move beyond fear, is to come to intimately know the safest guy in the universe... and put Him in the driver's seat.