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How many wrongs make a right?

Last updated on January 31, 2023

Discussion with various FB friends has begun on whether someone should advise a woman to keep working on her marriage following my post yesterday on the ongoing shame I’ve long carried for leaving my marriage(s). Today I am thinking about what WAS helpful and healing in all the “help” I was given.

When my last marriage failed I was going on two decades of personal therapy. I had also been involved in over a decade of 12-step groups, and intense support groups for adults healing from abuse, addiction and severe dysfunction. I’d experienced failed relationships. I’d been divorced by my second husband and I had divorced my first husband. The costs of ending relationships was well known to me.

So when I incredulously began searching for “more help” when I slowly began to face that once again I had invited insanity back into my children’s lives it was astounding to me that I was referred back again and again to my own dysfunction as the key-that-would-unlock-my-husbands-ongoing-addiction!

It’s simple and straightforward to tell a wife of a drug addicted woman to “love from a distance” because anything less is actively enabling his addiction and will endanger her children. But with porn addiction and the accompanying lying, hiding, cycle-of-passive-aggressive-violence it is somehow different??

The day my shame began to shift was when someone very close to our marriage said to me “A person is NOT in recovery who is constantly relapsing.”

If I was abusive—and I was and owned it always—this does not discount another’s abuse of me. This also does not discount the risks and damage and trauma spilling down to the children.

I cannot control another person. Another truth commonly and swiftly handed out to those struggling in a marriage with the follow up of “so, you just make sure your side of the street is clean.”

But when EVERYTHING short of divorce is tried with ESCALATING behaviors—my own and my ex’s….then what??

Co-abuse does not demand sticking it out. It demands the exact opposite.

When the wife is honest about her own behavior, trying and trying and trying to be right and make it right and her partner is still going back to obfuscations, minimizing, hiding and lying — disentangling the system and the scripts involved in the organism that’s fueling the behaviors IS the only treatment that stops the bleeding.

And the counselors, priests, and well-meaning (truly!) onlookers can’t know the depths of the insanity involved.

See there were many truths I chose to ignore too, not just the messages I shared yesterday that were so hurtful. When the priest told me “it is very rare for two very damaged people to heal and stay together” I chose ”but we will be different.” When a counselor told me “if you both work on yourselves with unrelenting determination it could work out….” followed by a long pause… I chose “oh yeah, but he wants this healing as much as I do.” And every time I covered for him and explained away the behavior and focused on being the good wife because I was as much at fault as he was…and said to someone “but he’s trying” as some sort of ONGOING justification…

Just because I should have walked away before we ever got involved. And just because I went crazy when I didn’t….

Two, three, four wrongs don’t make a right.

And no one outside could see this. The closest anyone ever came were our (ironically) 12-step accountability partners.

In the years after I left I remember a deacon in the church told me “well, you aren’t one of those single moms who hated men. You are raising your children differently.” At the time I felt an absolute stomach-churning desire to vomit because on the one hand I was so instantly grateful for the pat on the back by a super-conservative old-school dad and on the other I knew he totally didn’t get the line I was trying to walk AND at the same time I hated myself that I was even trying!!

I’ve been told to be quiet about all of this. I was told not to talk about it while still married and I was told multiple times to “leave the past in the past” now. The problem with that is my past won’t stay in the past until I metabolize it and deconstruct my own patterns. I’m not relitigating my ex’s behaviors as much as how mine entangled with his made our co-addicted, co-abusive behaviors worse.

It’s only been in the years since stepping OUT OF any/all entanglements that I’m finally beginning to see how entangled, manipulated I truly was back then. After I stepped away from my last failed marriage I stepped out of co-dependent/people-pleasing friendships, ended attempting to date new husband-prospects, stepped totally away from my family of origin and have built a completely separate new life. That’s what it took to stop the insanity I contributed.

How can anyone outside of me and my relationships truly know how far away I had to walk from those old relationships to be free???

The grief and loss is real.

The healing is greater.

I am no longer a hurt person hurting others. I am becoming a healing person sharing healing.

And along the way I am discovering the voice I’ve kept silent for way to long.

Fist bump 👊

Elise Photini

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