I’ve written both in the Beyond Betrayal book and here on the blog about stinkin’ thinkin’ aka, “addictive thinking”, aka “minimize, rationalize, justify and blame.” We’ve even delved into some specific types of addictive thinking (and the way it plays out) through MJ Denis’ series on gaslighting.
As wives of sex addicts, we all have to learn to stand up to this poison in our relationship. However, I’m very aware that this type of thinking is being encountered outside of the home as well. Sometimes it’s in church. Sometimes a Christian women’s retreat. Sometimes it’s on a website — and in an article that’s supposed to be “helping” wives of sex addicts.
In our last two posts, “The Wife is to Blame,” author Jane Howcroft tackled the lies she encountered in one particular article. She focused on the lie that the wife is responsible for helping the husband not to lust by “satisfying her man” in the bedroom. While that series was running, however, I encountered more so called “help” for women that looked an awful lot like stinkin’ thinkin. I’d like to spend the next couple of weeks tackling some of the other lies I hit.
“There’s No Victim”
One of the larger ministries for sex addicts posted an article this week on how to help your friend who has just told you her husband has a porn addiction. One of their six bullet points of advice was to remember (and presumably) to remind her, that there’s no victim in this situation:
“…the truth is that we’re all hurting. Porn addiction is one way of dealing with a specific hurt that has been within a person for a long, long time. If you label your friend the victim and her husband the criminal, that will not help bring healing.”
A logical fallacy is used here to deny that the partner is the victim of the betrayal. The flawed reasoning runs like this: “if the woman is a victim, then her husband is a criminal. Since her husband is not a criminal, therefore she is not a victim.”
The option not explored here is that the wife can be a victim of the betrayal and her husband could be something other than a criminal. He could be the perpetrator of the offense. He could be the wrongdoer. He could be the offending party. We have other options besides, “he is a criminal” (and perhaps someone needs to tell the author, that some of our husbands have been criminals, i.e. they have committed a crime related to their acting out).
The Problem with Denial
While it might initially feel very comforting to the sex addict to hear that “his wife is not a victim” of his actions – believing this lie is not going to help his recovery… or heal their relationship.
I think every sex addict needs to read Ezekiel 16 and ask himself why does God use the metaphor of habitual marital infidelity here to explain Israel’s “wickedness” (vs. 23, 57). Why doesn’t he say, “Yeah, you broke the covenant with me, but, I know we’re all hurting.” Why instead does he say, “I am filled with fury against you”? (v. 30) and you will “bear the consequences of your lewdness and your detestable practices.” (v. 58)
I received this quote in an email from a counseling colleague earlier this week, and it summarized my concerns with denying we have offended others:
How can I re-assess you until you demonstrate your changed mind? Until then I must keep you trapped in your past, for restitution must come before restoration of trust.”
Where there’s no owning: “I have wronged you,” there is no restitution. Where there’s no restitution, there’s no trust. Where there’s no trust: there’s no relationship.
This past week, Anne Blythe of Betrayal Trauma Recovery and I spoke about the longing for justice that wives frequently experience as part of their healing journey. I’ll be writing more on this in the weeks to come.
For now, know wives, that no matter what the popular website of the moment says, God knows and sees that you have been wronged. He is a God who desires justice for you. And as part of that he wants your husband to— in the words of Ezekiel 16:61— “remember and be ashamed” (i.e. experience guilt/conviction). He wants this, not so your husband is crushed or develops a shame-based identity, but so that he will recognize his sin, see that he has hurt God, you, others and himself… and make restitution where possible. All so that healing may abound.
Next week I’ll look at another recent post on a popular website that tells women to "remember grace" and they need to keep themselves sexually available to their porn addict husband.
Standing up to a society pedalling lies is wearisome work. This week's song is dedicated to the many women called to the battle in this field... including those who have contributed posts to Beyond Betrayal over the years: Barb, Donna, MJ, Amy, Marcella, Carol, Jane — as well as those of you who have bravely jumped in with comments.