I recently found a new site (more info on it when I’ve had time to settle in on it), and it got me thinking…I know, how scary is that? Me thinking. There were so many questions I had about sex addiction after Devin’s disclosure, but I didn’t know who to ask, or even what I needed to know.
I decided that I’m going to do a series of posts called After Disclosure. If anyone would like to suggest a topic, please feel free to post it in the comment section or send me an email and rest assured, you will remain anonymous.
My first topic in the series is compartmentalization. Big word. And it should be because it plays a big part in the addiction. Sometimes, compartmentalization can be a good thing. Like keeping work separate from home. But when it's done to live a secret life...well, not so much.
The definition from The Meadows, a treatment center in Arizona, defines it as:
“When someone has a sexual addiction they "compartmentalize" their feelings and behaviors which means that they categorize the feelings, behaviors and thoughts and try to keep them separate. They may get up in the morning and have breakfast with you and the kids, get ready for work and then have every intention to "be good" and not "act out" that day. The second that you leave... the addict takes over and convinces the person that looking at porn just this one time won't hurt anyone and the addictive cycle begins. Two hours later the addict runs off to work and tries to be the good employee he/she wanted to be. The only way they can tolerate their behavior is to tell themselves that they are still a good spouse, or employee and simultaneously they feel self-hate and shame.”
Then the cycle begins yet again.
For me, it was difficult to wrap my head around the fact that my husband could kiss me goodbye, and then spend hours looking at porn, chatting with women online, or when his addiction really escalated, meet up with someone, and then come home to me as if nothing were amiss.
It was only in hindsight, and with months of recovery under my belt, that I was able to see that that wasn’t quite true. There were red flags. Nothing that screamed, “Hey, Elsie, I’m having online affairs!” Rather, warning signs that our marriage was in deep trouble.
That compartmentalization changed him. He was no longer the happy, go-lucky guy I married just a few short years before. He was distant, angry, and isolated himself from everyone. A dark cloud had settled over our home. I just didn’t know the storm coming was sex addiction.
The only way I was able to finally understand compartmentalization was by comparing his addiction to my own. Otherwise, I was constantly taking his addiction personally. Who could blame me? It was personal. It was hard not to compare myself to the other women, but every time I did, I came away hurt and with less self-esteem than when I started, and when your self-worth is on the floor, you don’t have much further to sink.
So when I began to use my own addiction to empathize with his addiction, it helped me make a bit more sense of everything. It gave me something to grasp on to, even if it was tiny, and it reminded me that he didn’t wake up thinking, “How can I hurt Elsie today?” Because I never woke up thinking, “How can I break my dad’s heart today?”
I never intended to hurt people while I was active in my drug addiction, yet I did just that. I lied. I manipulated. I blame-shifted. I also recovered and made amends to those I hurt along the way. I felt I should give Devin the same chance.
He had to learn that while he had been compartmentalizing for all those years, what he’d really been doing was lying to himself. If he could accept that and make the changes he needed to make, than I could walk beside him while he recovered and I’m so grateful that he did.
Compartmentalization still showed herself a few times after disclosure. She’s a sneaky little thing and was difficult to break free of, but with time and a good recovery, eventually she finally went away.
Do you compartmentalize anything in a healthy way? Like work and home?