Many partners berate themselves with internal messages like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I still with him?” If you’ve had thoughts like these, I invite you to give yourself some much-needed self-compassion and grace.
There are so many reasons partners stay—the most common being a long-term investment in the relationship (often decades), a desire to protect children from the consequences of divorce, the addict’s promises to stop his/her behavior, and the hope that he will.
But there comes a time for some partners when they begin to seriously and frequently wonder if it’s time to cut their losses. They don’t want a divorce and they don’t want to leave, but they’re at the end of their rope and they want to know . . .
When is enough enough?
If you rely on what other people tell you, you’ll be confused. Well-meaning but uninformed family or friends will say “forgive and forget.” Others will ask “Why are you still with him?” or “I can’t believe you’re still with him.” None of these are helpful, and the reason they’re not is that they don’t support you in getting to your truth and your reality.
If you’re wondering how you will know when enough is truly enough, here are 6 signs:
You have carefully deliberated over time—not in the heat of the moment or when emotions are running high—and you know, in your gut, that it is time to leave. Although you feel uncertain or nervous about the future, you feel a calm, grounded, resolve.
When you imagine life without the addict, your vision consistently seems more fulfilling, happier, and more promising than life with him/her. One of the ways you can test how it might feel is to ask yourself, “If I were to wake up tomorrow morning and our relationship was over, how would I feel?” Asking a question like this often brings immediate clarity.
You see very little—or no—sign of improvement or recovery in the addict despite engagement in recovery work such as therapy, 12-step meetings, etc. over a period of a year or more. He consistently slips or relapses, frequently responds to questions or requests in a defensive way, and exhibits the mindset that he “has to” engage in trust-building, relationship restoring behaviors—in other words, he sees himself as a victim of recovery.
Lying and deception don’t decrease over time. The reason I say decrease rather than completely disappear is because it takes time for addicts to stop the lying and deception habit that goes hand-in-hand with addiction. For more information about the addict’s path from deception to honesty, and its impact on partners, read my article The “Honesty Problem” in Early Recovery.
You have gathered information and fully researched what it will mean for you, your finances, and your children to leave the relationship, and you feel confident and prepared to move forward. Preparation may involve consulting with an attorney, identifying health insurance options, affordable housing, etc.
You are confident that you’ve done everything you’re willing to do to save your relationship and give the addict an opportunity to change his behavior and repair the damage.
Leaving a relationship is a monumental decision, and one that shouldn’t be made lightly or quickly. If you’re unsure or uncertain, accept that that is where you are for now. There is no need to force a decision—clarity will come. I trust that you will know if and when the time is right for you to leave.
Are you a clinician, counselor, or coach working with partners of sex addicts? My Moving Beyond Betrayal Clinicians & Coaches Online Course starts Spring 2018. For more information, visit here.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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