Thank you for your kind words and prayers regarding the loss of my beloved dog Gracie. For those who knew her, she was one of a kind. She is greatly missed. But I am also very grateful that I was with her during that last week. I travel so much and was out of town the week before in Nashville. I would have been even more heartbroken if she deteriorated while I was away. We got to be with her and she knew she was loved and safe, even to the end.
But grief is exhausting and I haven’t been myself. Even my brain feels dull and not firing like it usually does. I feel sluggish and my pickleball game is also off. I can’t hit the ball – sometimes I don't even see it as it whizzes right past me.
I’ll be in Dallas this week to take a class and then Thursday fly to speak in North Carolina. Pray for stamina and clarity of thought. I don’t want to forget what I’m supposed to say. I'm doing a 3-hour training for Christian counselors on working with couples in emotionally destructive marriages.
Today's Question: I have recently learned that my Christian husband of 36 years has been visiting strip clubs and massage parlors for years. He also has developed a problem with alcohol. His job requires him to travel and is gone for a few weeks at a time, so this has been easy for him to hide.
I am learning a lot about “covert narcissism” and he definitely has these traits. I am wondering if there is hope for healing and deliverance, or if I need to cut my losses and “run for the hills” as much of the literature advises. He has come clean “with everything” (per his reports) and has even offered to tell others, while I am present, about his behaviors.
I would appreciate any thoughts you might have.
Answer: I’m so sorry that this has happened in your marriage. Betrayal is one of the worst things anyone has to deal with. Discovering that your husband has a whole secret life is devastating and disorientating. You feel like you don't know who he is. You don't trust what he’s told you about anything now that you've discovered he is such a good deceiver and pretender. Your whole marriage feels like it is unraveling.
How did you find out? Did he confess this or did you stumble upon it?
When someone is caught in a chronic addiction pattern as your husband has been in for 36 years, these types of people do display many of the traits of narcissism – covert and overt. There is minimizing, denial, lying, extreme selfishness, and gaslighting. They don't want to be found out so they do whatever it takes to make you doubt yourself and not trust your own perceptions of what is wrong.
It is important that you pay attention to how he handles himself the next few weeks and months. For example, you said he has come clean and offered to tell others. Has he really? Since he is such a good liar and pretender for 36 years how would you know? His word is worthless right now.
What do his actions show? For example, has he changed jobs so that he isn’t traveling and tempted to hide and cheat? Has he found a treatment program for his alcohol and sexual addiction that he is committed to? Has he found an individual therapist to help him work on a full disclosure session with you? Has he given you passwords to his Internet and phone without you having to ask or threaten? Has he put controls on his own devices such as his computer, cell phone, and iPad?
Do his behaviors seem to show genuine repentance for not only what he has done but also how he has hurt you? Or is he scrambling around to make it look better and feel better so that you won’t leave him or implement other consequences?
His addiction problems are the first layers of treatment that must be addressed, but with a secret addiction of 36 years, there are also lots of character issues and habit patterns that are unhealthy that have fed that pattern. Is he owning these things, not only the sexual and alcohol addiction, but the way he has lied to you? How selfish he has been? Or other things he has done?
When someone is truly serious about his or her recovery, a person will do whatever it takes, whatever it costs to get well. Click To Tweet.
Jesus puts it in the extreme when he said, “If your eye-even your good eye causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand–even your stronger hand–causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29,30).
This is a long road ahead of both of you. If your spouse is serious about his recovery and taking the right steps, perhaps giving it time to see his progress is worth doing. Thirty-six years of marriage is a long time and I’m sure you have lots of threads knitting your lives together including grandchildren. These are not easily severed. However, you also have Biblical grounds for divorce if you feel that you are not able to ever trust again. Sometimes the consequences of these kinds of sins are not reversible. That doesn’t mean you have to be cruel. You can have compassion for his struggle without feeling like you need to bear the burden of living with a man you don't know and can’t trust.
I hope you have some good support to discuss this with – pros and cons. Staying married looks hard, but separation and divorce has a whole other set of challenges. Neither path is easy so you will need to listen hard to what God is telling you that your next step should be.
Friend, when you discovered your spouse’s addiction, what were the things that helped you decide what to do next?