Living with an Addict


Addiction comes in many forms.

Typically, when we say “addiction” we think of alcohol, drugs or maybe gambling. But we can have addictions to shopping, eating, not eating, reading, television, gaming, Facebook, checking emails, surfing the internet, magazines, exercise, pornography, sports, scrap-booking or sex. Anything that grabs our attention, pulls us into a place of needing it, and dictates our thoughts or actions has created an addiction. The ‘something’ we feel we must have; we can’t go without, shapes our lives and the lives of those we live with.

For decades I was shaped by the patterns of living with someone addicted to sex.

Over the following weeks, I will share what I learned through my experiences. I hope to help and encourage anyone feeling despair over your circumstances–either because you live with an addict or battle with addiction in some area. Most of us do to some extent at some point of our life. Recognizing patterns and symptoms can alert us to get the help we need. Honestly evaluating our particular situation is the first step in breaking free from the bondage of addiction.

While many patterns relate universally to any addiction (and some by themselves simply show a lack of growth in character or maturity), I’m relating the following patterns primarily with sexual addictions. Someone who is addicted to sex probably:

  1. Needs to be in control. The women in his fantasies do exactly what he wants and enjoy his power; therefore, he expects everyone in his life to submit to his desires. Sex makes him feel powerful and in control. He may use anger or violence to control his family, and may not acknowledge their needs or feelings since he has no control over those areas.
  2. Lacks respect for women. The degradation of women due pornography and prostitution causes the focus of a woman’s value to be on her ability to perform sexually or contribute materially. This can be particularly devastating for women choosing to stay home to raise children. That job consumes her time and energy without financial profit, and can leave her feeling worthless, especially if she can’t fulfill her husband’s sexual fantasies.
  3. Is self-absorbed. In a healthy relationship, each person desires to meet the needs of their spouse whenever possible, but an addict focuses entirely on meeting the desires of self regardless of how valid or pressing others’ situations may be. Family needs may be ignored. Someone addicted to sex can fulfill their needs almost anytime, anywhere because much of the stimulation and satisfaction comes from mental images. This constant, instant gratification makes it nearly impossible to put another person’s needs first.
  4. Uses manipulation. In order to get his way or keep his behavior hidden, the addict will often use whatever means necessary no matter what it costs. He may be kind and understanding one minute, making promises or begging forgiveness, then angry and violent the next. He may use guilt, self-pity or even whining to manipulate his family. In her book, The Dance of Anger, Dr. Harriet Lerner states, “If women are constantly made to feel guilty, they remain ‘in their place’ and are ineffective.”

To be continued…

It may be a grueling process to redefine who you are apart from the impact of these patterns, or to allow yourself to be extricated from a life of addiction, but there is hope.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Galatians 5:1

 
Have you experienced any of these patterns either as an addict or living with one?
 

If you need help or would like prayer, please feel free to comment below or send me a private message at laurabennet14@gmail.com

Look Here, But Don’t Look


 As a young girl, my life situation and society around me portrayed women as objects to be used for pleasure.

Men were expected to stare, flirt, touch, fondle, kiss and hopefully take the object of their lust to bed. “Real” women enjoyed being the object of someone else’s desire and would join in eagerly. If they resisted, it wasn’t because they meant no, it was only that they were teasing as part of a game. A man was supposed to pursue and conquer sexually; the woman should melt in his arms. But as soon as she was conquered, she earned the label “slut,” “easy,” or “loose.”

As Christian women, we were responsible for drawing a line, holding men back and making sure that purity reigned; thus relieving men of any respectful responsibility in the relationship. Then, as Christian wives, we’re to submit our bodies wholeheartedly because they no longer belong to us. What a contradiction in emotion and values for a woman, and often a license for selfish, irresponsible men.

As a girl surrounded by these ideas, I grew up looking for the love I craved in all the wrong ways and places.

If a young girl has an absent father, one who spends most of his time at work or play, is emotionally disengaged, or has abandoned the family altogether, she may start flirting or dressing to show off her body in order to secure the attention and affection she misses. Dressing provocatively has become the norm in our society, so often a girl innocently enjoys the attention it brings without understanding the statement she makes.

I noticed an advertisement for an upcoming show in which the woman, who was wearing an extremely low cut blouse asked the man she was talking to why he was looking at her breasts instead of her eyes. Is that a trick question? It presents a contrary and unfair message for both men and women! “Look here, but don’t look!” As women, we must be cautious what we portray to men.

Now, take the same girl who is desperately seeking a father to love and cherish her, and affirm her importance. If she meets someone seeking to use her sexually, she is in trouble without even being aware of it. Patterns can then be set and repeat themselves in each relationship she has.

In my case, unhealthy childhood patterns led to many unhealthy relationships.

Sexual promiscuity became the norm for my life, and I was afraid that if I didn’t go along with whatever was asked or expected of me, I wouldn’t be loved. I often felt sickened by my circumstances and had a deep sense that it wasn’t as it should be, but I didn’t understand the patterns. I didn’t know how to break free. Marriage seemed to be an answer. My dream for love and acceptance could be lived out in a Christian home with a man who promised to be faithful to me until death. Wasn’t that a guarantee?

The Bible says that deep calls to deep (Psalm 42:7); God’s spirit calls to ours. But also, the beliefs and values we’ve adopted over the years that reside deep within our soul or spirit, call to similar patterns in others. My longing for love and attention called out to men looking to fulfill something broken in themselves. Marriage didn’t change the patterns. It created another kind of trap…

Have you felt trapped in behaviors or patterns you didn’t want to be in? Do you think society’s portrayal of sex is helpful, destructive or neutral?

Love, War and Sex


My husband and I celebrated our third year anniversary this week. We were fortunate to take off for a few days on an adventure of zip lining through the forest near our home (Mt. Hermon Redwood Canopy Tours), then on to Half Moon Bay where we enjoyed good food, window shopping, long conversations, watching airplanes land and a lot of laughing! We also took a book to read together.

I wrote a bit about this book in a post a couple of months ago titled Relationships. The book, Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge is the most helpful guideline we’ve discovered for our marriage. We’re reading through it a second time. That’s how good it is!

One of the challenges of dating online from two different continents was the sporadic, cyber life we inhabited. Writing emails and long Skype chats gave us the benefit of knowing so many details about each other; our emotional roots went deep. But we missed out on daily dating life which could have enlightened us about our dysfunctional ways of relating. Love and War is helping us understand our messed up perspectives, and what to do about them.

Like many couples, we’ve harbored messed up perspectives regarding sex. Negative childhood experiences, societal messages and lack of understanding this awesome God ordained ecstasy all contributed to our twisted perceptions. John and Stasi Eldredge offer some intriguing and fabulous insights about sex, why we end up with warped ideas and what to do about it. We’re learning a lot.

So at one point during our anniversary get away (sorry, no specific details here!), we discussed our intimacy while lying in each other’s arms. Part of the discourse went something like this:

“Honey, I’m thinking that sex can be analogous to two things,” I mused.

“What’s that, darling?”

“Well, I think it can be like a wedding feast. You know, like Chris and Sabina’s wedding (Chris is our son in Poland who just got married in November); hours of eating, dancing, drinking and toasting, fun and spending great time in relational celebration. Making love should be a celebration of intimacy, relationship and good things.”

“I think you’re right. What’s the other analogy?” Brendan asked. He loves analogies.

“Sex can also be like fast food. Quick, without substance or much thought and no intimacy. I mean they both satisfy a need; get the job done, but isn’t a feast better than a Big Mac?”

“Yeah,” he paused to kiss me. “It is.”

We shared another kiss and felt the promise of feasting stir our hunger.

“Brendan?” I murmured.

“Yes, darling?”

“You know I’m going to have to blog about this, right?”

“I reckoned you would,” he chuckled.

The weekend feast surpassed our expectations. Thank you John and Stasi.

 

 

 

 

Are You Kidding?


Baby, I want you. IMG_4059

For those of you who have already frequented internet dating sites, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who are still juggling the idea, consider the value of humorous interactions as one of your pros in the decision making process. You wouldn’t believe how some individuals approach the internet dating scene. I suppose it may be equally ludicrous with people at bars, but I can only confess to my experience online.

Let’s start with the men—and  I use men only as the example of my experience, not to be sexist in any way…perhaps women exist who use similar tactics—who in their initial correspondence use the terms: “Oh baby” (Do I know you?); “I want you” (Like for dinner or…?); “I can’t live without you” (Really? What have you been doing all these years?); and “You are my angel” (Sent straight from heaven I suppose).  What response do these men expect from such nonsense? Do people actually reply to those comments?  And what about messages spelled horrifically with no apparent understanding of any language, let alone English? I mean no disrespect, but if you are someone who has been lured by this type of drivel, please know that you were meant for so much more!

Clearly these men are not “in love” with anyone, they simply desire to get something—like money, sex, or a way into the country!

Predators stalking the innocent!

Nonetheless, the possibility of endless pee-your-pants laughter abounds in these situations. One of my friends encountered a suitor that claimed her as his little goldfish, and then referred to himself as a piranha! Really?? Like a girl would be wooed by that line.

Once I was contacted by a Russian scholar-writer-pastor-missile salesman about whom my friend inquired, “Does he do that door-to-door?” We truly didn’t know how someone goes about selling missiles, but we certainly enjoyed a great laugh!

On christiancafe.com, the site I ended up on for about a year, the options for communicating were varied. If you wanted to show interest without corresponding directly, you could wink at someone by simply clicking a button that would send a short general interest message. You also had the choice of either sending a short form email, or a personal email. Generally, I ignored winks because I supposed that if someone was truly interested in me they would take the time to write something.

But when Brendan winked at me, I had already been drawn to him through his profile. Initially, it was his smile that grabbed me, and the fact that he was widowed with three children gripped my heart (more about that in coming blogs). His responses to the questions posed by the site’s profile page delighted and entertained me, and I was so disappointed when I realized he hadn’t finished answering them! So, just a few days after I had enjoyed reading his captivating responses, his wink caused my heart to skip. Really, Lord? Are you kidding me? Really? He’s so far away! Really?? Oh, my gosh.  Beyond thrilled and shedding joyful tears, I took hours to compose an email in reply because of the deep impression on my heart that he might be the “one.” And it turned out that he was.

Online Dating…An Obsession?


Within days of posting my profile online, all I could think about was whether guys would be interested and if so, when, who and for how long?

I was torn over a guy named, Ed*, liking some things, but not certain about others; and another guy, Ron*, appealed to me with his character and personality, but the chemistry seemed to be missing. At least someone was interested, and I devoured every profile. During this time, I realized two crucial things about myself:

I felt starved for someone, and I didn’t feel worthy of anyone. Hawaii

When I began internet dating, I had been single for five years and with the exception of a man who I occasionally hung out with as a friend (even though I hoped it would progress into something more), and a one-time blind date, I didn’t date.

Cumulatively I had endured twenty-one years of wedded despair (with some rare good times) trying to make marriage work and wondering what was wrong with me that drove my ex-husbands to other women. Perhaps they were looking more for sex than love, but in my broken heart (and possibly theirs) those had been synonymous.

I believed that God meant for marriage to be so much more than required sex and a battle of two wills.

I hoped in the idea that someone out there would some day see my heart, my personality, my hopes and desires, and even my occasional opinionated stubbornness  and love it all as a whole package. I imagined that as a result of that intimate connection, lovemaking would follow within the purposeful boundaries of a solid, ever-growing marriage.

However, instead of what I hoped must be true, I had experienced the “if you love me you will…” Hence, sex equaled love, and my search for “love” left me starved.

I actually longed for companionship, partnership, attention and affection; someone who would love me for me and not just for sex. Men of the past had told me I was beautiful, wonderful, attractive and smart, but after twenty-one years and two divorces, I felt like an unattractive, messed up and discarded failure.

Conquered physically, I had been tossed away.

Unfulfilled and lonely, I desperately clung to the Lord with the daily proclamation “You and me, Jesus.” I so badly wanted that to be enough, and I had grown intimately in love with the Lord. I felt him surround me with love and guidance. Nonetheless, I basked in the admiration and seeming adoration of these internet men.

I just wanted to be special to someone.

Day after day I pined for that singular someone, examining each potential prospect. The compulsion to check my computer for messages overtook my life and turmoil ensued. Was I insecure? Looking for a father figure? In love with being in love? Was this an obsession? I wondered. Would I mistake someone’s physical attraction for genuine love and commitment? The patterns that had ruled my life, still threatened to destroy me.

What were my true motives for seeking a mate?

What are your motives in looking for someone online?
 
*not their real names