One week ago, I took myself to a mini retreat across the United States (New York) and read eight (8) books. The nightmares and panic attacks are less frequent now, and I could safely say that I am in a happier state.
When I discovered Dan’s sex addiction, we both googled for help. Although there are lists of books, we didn’t know what we are expecting. Here, I would like to list some of the books I’ve read that may help you along with a few things I’ve learned from each book.
A. Books for the Significant Other of a Sex Addict
1. Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means
- Distinguishes between coaddiction model versus trauma model
- Recognizes that many partners of sex addicts are not coaddicts, codependents or love addicts
- Validates the trauma that partners of sex addicts experience
- Offers ways that partners could heal
- [I read this book 1.5 months after discovery because I was reading Mending a Shattered Heart by Stephanie Carnes first, as it was recommended by Dan's therapist. I recommend that partners read this book first or read it together with Mending a Shattered Heart because it addresses all the feelings that you experience.]
2. Surviving Your Worse Nightmare: A Guide for the Betrayed by Patti Snodgrass
- From a first person perspective, addresses all of the partner’s experiences that you may experience
- She chose to stay because her husband was remorseful and he was committed to working on the relationship
- In order to stay with her husband, the old relationship must be dead.
- Shares all the ways that she coped and healed
- [This is the first book that Dan purchased for me. I didn't read it because after Dan went to see his therapist about his sex addiction, Mending a Shattered Heart was recommended. Also, this book focuses on infidelity not necessarily on sex addiction. However, after reading this book during my self imposed mini retreat, I found this book tremendously helpful as I could relate to her emotions. In addition, learning the way she mourned, recovered and thrived was useful for me.]
3. Mending a Shattered Heart by Stephanie Carnes
- Describes the stages of grief experienced by a partner of a sex addict
- Discusses sex addiction
- Identifies co-addiction
- [Please note that Stephanie Carnes is the wife of Patrick Carnes. This book is more intellectual and will help you understand sex addiction and why your heart is shattered. This book is based on a co-addict model of treatment, meaning you are a co-addict just because you were/are with a sex addict. Some partners are coaddicts or codependents, while others are not, since some do not know about the sex addiction as it thrives in secrecy. And some are not sex addicts themselves.]
4. The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships by Patrick Carnes
- Discusses the concept of trauma bond or “betrayal bond”
- Identifies various types of abuse
- High warmth and high intention = the best in relationship.
- In order for a full relationship to work, (i) the sex addict must go to treatment to address the addiction and in a support program for recovery; (ii) the partner must be in therapy and in a support program for recovery; and (iii) there must be a period of separation so that the partner can experience living independent of the sex addict and can observe how the sex addict lives when the two are separated.
- It takes about one year of recovery for things to be different.
- It is important for partners to monitor your reactivity to others. Focus on yourself, not the sex addict.
- You don’t have to be “nice” to the abuser. You don’t have to hide his secrets.
- [This book was also very helpful to me because of the concept of the betrayal bond. It was important to realize that you must be separated from the sex addict for a period of time in order to heal.]
5. The Intimacy Factor by Pia Mellody and Lawrence S. Freundlich
- Shares why we need to establish boundaries including emotional and physical boundaries
- Indicates the ways we need to work with our inner child and adult selves to get rid of anger and shame
- Establishes that our childhood experiences may affect how much trauma affects us
- [This book was also very helpful to me in understanding boundaries from a deeper perspective and how to let go of anger and shame.]
6. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Starting Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
- Discusses ways that partners could detach from an addict and love themselves
- Everyone seems to be a codependent
- If you are a codependent, it provides solutions for you to get out of the cycle of codependency
- [Whether you are a codependent or not, it helps partners to understand that you must detach yourself from the addict and love yourself first.]
B. Understanding Personality Types
1. Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
- Identifies the 10 subtypes of psychopathy
- Sociopaths have no conscience, lack of remorse
- Conscience is a sense of obligation based an emotional attachment
- A sociopath is as cold as ice, cannot love
- To a sociopath, life is reduced to a contest, a game, for dominance
- A sociopath loves to use the pity play to manipulate people
- Learn how to recognize people without conscience
- Elaborates why having a conscience is better
- Sets forth 13 rules of handling a sociopath
- Do not help a sociopath conceal his identity
2. Red Flags of Love Fraud – 10 Signs You’re Dating a Sociopath by Donna Anderson
- As a wife and survivor of a sociopath, she compiled stories of survivors of sociopaths
- Characteristics of a sociopath
3. Narcissistic Lovers: Hope to Cope, Recover and Move On by Cynthia Zayn and Kevin Dibble
- A narcissist does not have conscience or pity for victims
- A narcissist devalues and discards after the honeymoon period
- Women (or men) are used as a supply to the narcissist for adoration, praise, fear, admiration, etc.
- A narcissist moves quickly into another relationship before or shortly after he ends the last
- Love is the rush he feels by controlling others and their emotions
- A narcissist is attracted to strength and independence
- A narcissist puts his/her friends before you
- A narcissist “splits” himself/herself into a false and true self
- A narcissist expresses rage without discrimination or moderation
4. In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George K. Simon
- Identifies the various tactics that a manipulator uses such as rationalization, minimization, denial, lying, etc.
- Discusses the Slot Machine Syndrome
- It is important to understand a manipulator’s character, what he/she wants and how he/she operates.
- Avoid making threats, just take actions
- Accept only direct responses once you make a direct request
- Set boundaries
- Judge someone’s actions, not intentions
Last year, a friend introduced me to the concept of a “shit starter.” A “shit starter” is someone who stirs conflicts in a couple’s relationship because of envy, jealously, competitiveness, hatred, lack of boundary or just plain old obliviousness. A shit starter could be, but does not have to be, “the other woman.” It could be a friend, a family member, your child. Do you know a shit starter in your life? To me, Karen is a classic shit starter.
Ironically, however, shit starters do not walk the talk – they flirt with your boyfriend while they prohibit their boyfriends from flirting with you. Two years ago in 2010, at Dan’s birthday dinner, we were talking about playing pool and the different things people do to distract the pool player. I mentioned how Dan would shake his butt to distract me. Immediately, Karen instructed her boyfriend publicly in front of everyone – He was not allow to shake his butt whenever he plays pool with me (and Dan). Karen’s friend responded with the topic of training men. Affirmatively, he was trained well, and he did not shake his butt in front of me when we played pool. What a keeper.
But if I were a shit starter, here’s what I would do: I would wear the sexiest yet modest outfit whenever I’d play pool with him and Dan. I would point out that he is the best pool player I’ve ever met, ask him for a few lessons, wear a tank top and a pair of tight jeans. Wait – I did not even need to do that. I would simply tell him that I would travel with him in the evening to listen to a band until 2 or 3 am in the morning every time he invited me. It would be romantic, and I would earn points because I knew specifically that Karen would not do this with her boyfriend. Karen is lucky that I’m not that kind of person. And Dan is lucky that although he was annoyed by the constant invitations from Karen’s boyfriend, I usually decline his invitation when I found them “not in the best interest of the relationship.” And I usually invite Dan and make it open for others to join. There is nothing to hide.
It has been refreshing to read the “Anatomy of an Emotional Cheater.” I could relate to a lot of it. Even in the above example, Dan refused to believe what Karen said: “She’s not that type of person.” Fortunately, Karen instructed her boyfriend not to shake his butt in front of me publicly. He could verify by simply asking Karen’s friend or boyfriend. I find it fascinating how the image of Karen is held to a pedestal. In his mind’s eyes, Karen is perfect. She is not insecure and therefore it would be impossible for her to provide the instruction to her boyfriend. She does not care about money and therefore, she would be with someone whom has a number of roommates. And they would provide to each other something they both crave: attention and sexual banters. If Karen gives Dan a chance, they would be a perfect couple.
During my sabbatical last December, my cousin and I traveled to Slovenia to visit two of my male friends – Alex and Ben (both pseudonyms). We stayed at Ben’s house, and Ben’s girlfriend took us around when Ben worked. In the evening, we would hang out at bars as a group. Ben would tell jokes, and everyone would laugh. However, it was not jokes told at the expense of his girlfriend. It was not jokes related to another female. It was not jokes with any sexual or romantic implications. In fact, Ben’s girlfriend and I became great friends.
There is a difference between jokes and sexual banters. Tolerating a man who seeks this kind of attention or welcomes such attention from another woman, instead of defining healthy boundaries for the friendship, is torture. It is happier to live without, for life is too short and precious.
I want to thank many of you for your support, encouragement, challenges and feedback in the last couple of months. Both of us started blogging after discovery, not knowing what to expect, even though only one blog remains. At the start of recovery, both of us desire to salvage the relationship. However, the road was bumpy with many rocks. Sometimes, the road was unlabeled. Sometimes, it only existed in maps but not in the real world. Sometimes, our tires flattened in the middle of the unknown. As painful and fearful as I was and still am, I am
not regretful thankful of the discovery, this experience, him. We had drove this road before in Costa Rica. We got lost. The road did not exist. We tried again. And again. And again. We had to stop and use our brains and drive on other bumpier, scarier roads in order to get there. But we reached our destination.
The latter part of the year turned out very differently from what I expected. I quit my job to build a company. My love moved in with me to walk on a path of forever. However, two weeks after I quit my job and he moved in, I learned about his “dark side.” Instead of building a company, I faced the challenge of putting myself together. It was hard and painful and scary. I never would have thought that I would fully understand every letter of the word “shattered” in this lifetime. I never would have known that my heart could beat speedy-fast and my nightmares could foreshadow my future. And on top of experiencing unbelievable pain, I walked every day in fear, not that he would sleep with a depressed prostitute or a sex craving anonymous woman, but that this self-proclaimed sociopath would hurt a friend, a stranger, me.
It was a lot easier to face the pain after we were broken up. Perhaps the separation and the lost sight of him eased the fear. And I could focus on marching directly onto pain. Pain is still present in my heart. I felt it today and throughout the last couple of months. Usually it is silent. Thorny. Stabbing. Uncomfortable. Paralyzing. Sad. Angry. Ghastly. Penetrating. Soulless. Sudden. However, I am thankful that putting a huge bandage on the cut involves cleaning the wound, learning a lesson, growing as a human being.
But separating from him also came with a cost. I became his enemy. All of a sudden, I was no longer supportive. Trustworthy. Nice. Loved. Not being able to speak with him also meant that I was to be in the car on the road alone. I was forced to find support. Someone found my experience too depressing – I depressed him. Someone found men to be all dogs and jerks – she was more jaded. Not being able to speak with him also meant that I would have no chance of opening the doors to the truth. The chance of truth prior was 3% but after the doors were shut, the probability that he would provide the truth to me is zero percent. Not being able to speak with him, moreover, meant that our relationship was not only dead, it would be beyond dead, like it-did-not-work-out-because-he-was-an-addict dead. The “us” became objectified, swallowed by his addiction, lost in the civil war against himself.
I would not trade “us” for togetherness with the active addict, however. It was degrading and humiliating when he disrespected me by harmfully flirting with women, looking at women beyond three seconds, dishonoring me in front of his friends, fucking other women, breaking promises, lying to me and deleting evidence. Hence, living without him also meant that I live without disrespect. I am thankful for the absence of such unhealthy, unloving practices in my life. And I told him that we would never be “us” again without couples counseling. I am thankful that I did not discard him because of his sex addiction (despite counsel) but have hope that he would eventually overcome.
And I am thankful for the people and things I came across in my journey. You were wonderful. The information I learned was excellent. And my friends and the people I have met have been amazing. After the break up, I wanted to continue living life even though he was no longer with me. I knew that I could live without him as I chose previously to share my life with him. But I knew that I would miss him. And feel tremendous pain from the betrayal. But I marched on. I wanted to continue to play squash. Thus, I advertised for an activity partner and found one. I marched on. I wanted to get away on short trips. Thus, I met a friend in New York for our mini vacation. I marched on. I wanted to still become a zombie at Run For Your Lives. Thus, I called a friend up and it happened. I marched on. Things were not the same without him and I carried with me the pain from the betrayal – but I knew I must lift my head high and march on.
The time spent in the last couple of months, although difficult, is well spent. The scar is there, and I am applying healing cream everyday. I am still on the road, driving, making turns. Thank you for being on this beautiful road with me, even temporarily. May God bless you as well. With love. X