PSA coach, Donna Dixon, and I will be the guests on a panel discussing “Body Image in Wives of Sex Addicts” toward the end of the month. The panel is being hosted by Marsha Means and will be made available through her Journey to Healing and Joy website.
As part of the preparation for the discussion we prepared a survey, a couple of weeks ago, which nearly a hundred partners of SAs have now answered. Women have poured out their hearts in that survey, candidly revealing their fears, their hopes, and their struggles.
Not surprisingly, we are seeing that women across the board struggle with body and self-image after they discover that their husband has betrayed them/is a sex addict. In my earlier survey (2014/2015 Wives of SAs) 75% of women reported feeling ugly (stupid, or at fault). Donna and I have both walked our own long journeys through the barren wasteland of low self-esteem – a journey we are emerging from (slowly) in a better state that we have ever been. And this despite the fact that neither of us is getting any younger.
The Look That Began a Journey
The whole discussion brought back memories of the first day I discovered that T (husband number 2) had a pornography addiction. We had just come home from church and I was in the kitchen making lunch. I was in a thoughtful mood remembering something that had impacted me that morning.
T asked me why I looked so sad. I looked at him. ‘Why not,’ I thought. ‘Go ahead and tell him.’
So I told him that in church there was a couple in their early 70’s, friends of my grandmother, holding hands during the worship portion of the service. They’d caught my attention. As I watched I saw him give her a look of love such as I’d never seen between a husband and wife. It was clear he adored her, and she returned the look of love, squeezing his hand.
By his look, I saw that his wife was the queen of this man's world. I read in their locked eyes a story of faith shared, triumph over hardship, and a deep, passionate intimacy.
I explained the look to T as best I could and then added, ‘and what I was thinking was that no one will ever look at me that way.’ I went on to add that I had noticed him looking at our daughter’s Sunday School teacher though.
His Affect on Our Body Image
When our husbands look at others with hunger in their eyes it’s a stunning blow. When they look at us dismissively or disdainfully, or speak about us that way – it’s a mortal wound to our self-image.
Learning to disentangle our self-esteem from him and his problems is a must for wives of sex addicts.
This week as I walked through that memory again in prayer, I got as far as the part where I’d said that no one would ever look at me that way… and I stopped. Though my husband no longer sees me from the twisted perspective he once did, to this day he cannot look at me like that. Shame and other factors hinder him.
Still I paused at the end of the thought, ‘no one will ever look at me that way.’
I turned my head toward the one who helps me carry my cross.
And He was.
I'll Look for You by Jeff Johnson