I once reached out for help from a former missionary wife who had experienced infidelity in her own marriage while on the field. I asked her how I could know if my husband's addiction warranted our return to the US, if that was even a necessary step we needed to consider. We knew so many other missionaries on the field facing that same struggle. Why was our situation any different? She gave me some hard advice that I very much wish I had taken at the time:
"If you are asking that question, it's a serious problem. You need to go back."
This woman now helps women all over the world as a therapist. She knew what she was talking about, but I thought she was overly dramatic. "Surely not," I thought. I recalled the premarital counselor who told us that if pornography was present in the relationship then we should not get married. I had told myself he was over the top, too. The friend who said viewing pornography 3 times a year every year could most certainly mean an addiction was present. "Three times?! That's nothing. There is NO WAY that is true," I told myself internally while nodding to her, a smile pasted on my face.
Denial is a beast of addiction. In the panic that follows being found out, an addict doesn't think clearly and minimizes his behaviors, rationalizing in any way he can so as to not feel the full impact of what they are involved in. If the addiction persists, every attempt will be made to maintain the acting out. Denial allows the addict to rationalize not only his behavior but also the deception.
Unfortunately, we wives fall prey to the deceit of the addict's denial. It's just too much to believe his "bad habit" is actually a destructive force in our lives, many times THE destructive force. Trauma happens when our brains cannot fully grasp an event or series of events, so it makes so much sense why we would have a challenging time accepting our spouse's acting out! Added to that, the gaslighting that we often do not even realize is occurring destroys our intuition, blurring reality, keeping us locked in a spiral of confusion.
As we seek the safety of understanding the new reality forced upon us by the discovery of our husband's acting out, we need others to help us see through the addict's denial and gaslighting in order to fully comprehend what we are facing.
Because if you are asking the question, in all likelihood, it's a serious problem.