Today I want to acknowledge the most common (and natural) fears wives of sex addicts face – fear of future betrayal and fear for our children. Next week I’ll look at the more general and pervasive fears/anxiety that we face on this journey.
Not all fear is bad. Fear is a God-given mechanism to help us avoid danger. Our husband may, or may not represent a physical threat to us and those we love – but he is certainly a threat to our emotional and spiritual safety while acting out (or in).
Experts talk about “attachment injuries” being the most painful emotional wounding a person can encounter. Betrayal completely ruptures our attachment bond with our husband resulting in huge pain.
In fact rupture of the relationship (with the one to whom we made ourselves most vulnerable) leaves us feeling about as safe as a lone sailor lost at sea. A sailor with no navigational devices, that is, in a sudden and violent squall. Fear, terror even, is absolutely normal. This is most particularly the case if our husband has not ceased acting out or has not begun to work on rebuilding trust with us.
Fear for Our Children
Dr. Omar Minwalla says partner trauma “can include fear and panic… of child safety and potential of child molestation…”
The topic of how our children/grandchildren are harmed by our husband’s addiction is so big I devote a chapter to it in Beyond Betrayal (and am considering writing a book on it later this year). Even when our kids are at low risk of being molested, they are at high risk of being damaged in some way (see Grace's story for an example).
The first concern however, is for their physical/sexual safety. If you (like most of us) are having difficulty evaluating your child’s/children’s level of safety there are a couple steps you should consider taking:
- If your husband is seeing a counselor ask him/her about the risk of your husband sexually abusing a child
- Ask your own counselor/coach/support person about this
- Talk to a woman who has in-depth, personal knowledge of this kind of situation (ACOJ ministry will soon be welcoming counselor Marcella Burns, who I would heartily recommend to women).
- Ask God to help heal your intuition and show you what you need to know and give you strength to do what you need to do (whether that’s staying with your husband, or taking the children and leaving). Read more online, or in Beyond Betrayal, about signs that a child has been compromised.
If you see such signs, it’s time to have a frank, but gentle, talk with your children. Make sure, firstly, they have the vocabulary to express any inappropriate contact involving their sexual organs. If they don’t, teach them. If after this, you have an indication from your child that they have been molested (or are being groomed for this), pack up a few things, quickly, and leave.
If you have a support person nearby, ask this person to accompany you (today) as you inform authorities of your suspicions/information. Remember that you must act quickly to get to the authorities or you are jeopardizing your own future with your children.
Turning Fear to our Advantage
Fortunately, it is still a minority of women whose children are in immediate danger of molestation from a sex addict/offender husband. Be aware, however, that the amount of child porn on the net doubled last year (according to Internet Watch Foundation) so we can expect to see the rates rising.
Despite the current low(ish) number of addicts who turn child predator, many of us, have to live with the fear that, as our (grand)children grow, the danger to them will increase (“teen” being the most sought after type of porn on many porn sites). However, we can use our God-given fear/caution to keep a close eye on the situation. This means evaluating:
- Our husband’s recovery from acting out and lusting (does he go into a trance when looking at a teenager/child? Not a good sign.)
- His willingness to live transparently
- His spiritual health
- His ability to connect emotionally with us and others
Beyond wariness, fear can motivate us to establish protective boundaries. Protective boundaries are not about control (no matter what some “support groups” say) – they are about keeping us and our children safe.
As one respondent to the 2014/2015 survey stated:
“It [setting boundaries] has had an immense effect. It created a 'space' for me to be able to live without total panic and fear and anger.”
For more on boundaries, see Beyond Betrayal, and/or read the Boundaries blog series.
If our husband is moving toward wholeness and working to rebuild trust in the relationship, our justifiable fears should gradually recede. However most of us need to pursue healing from our trauma to completely escape fear’s grasp, once it is no longer necessary for safety’s sake.
Over the next two weeks I’ll look more closely at ways to find healing from our trauma – and the ongoing fears it brings into our lives. I also hope to have a video interview available with Coach Katherine of ACOJ on the topic of fear.