A friend of mine going through a similar situation I was in asked me, “why stay?” I hadn’t actually thought deeply about why I ended up staying for so long even after I realized the truth about my husband. Here was my response:
Why Stay…? I asked myself that for 3 years. Even after separating several times, and wanting to get back, I kept asking myself, “what is it that makes me want to stay or go back? What was it in this relationship that I was hoping to get that I couldn’t get elsewhere?”
In the beginning, what I thought I was after was unconditional love. I wanted to “be” unconditionally loving. I wanted unconditional love too, as my family of origin resulted in me struggling with feelings of abandonment, neglect, and lack of feeling “worthy”. I tried to “prove” I could make my marriage work, and that I was such a good wife that he would miraculously change from his “evil ways” and come to me with revelation that I was his true love and would then become my hero, my perfect husband…if I “loved him” enough…then he would love me enough…
I confused “unconditional love” with “unconditional stay”.
I look back and laugh at myself now, because in all honesty, I had never once thought, “I can truly love and accept this man unconditionally, exactly as he is, right now.” My mind was always thinking of who he “could be” and what our future “could look like” if only he would change…
As I got further along in my recovery (12-steps for codependency), and started taking responsibility for my life, feelings, and happiness, I started seeing the benefit of staying in the marriage wasn’t so much that the relationship was turning out in my favor (it was certainly not!), nor hoping he would get sober and become the man of my dreams (definitely never happened), but that *I* was becoming the person of MY dreams. I was starting to see things about myself that I had never wanted to acknowledge. I was healing parts of myself that were neglected for so long. My blurred vision of reality was starting to become clear. By staying in the marriage, I was able to use the triggers as “opportunities”. I call them AFGOs (Another F-ing Growth Opportunity).
When my husband did something that triggered me, I noted it as an AFGO. Pretty soon, I got pretty skilled at dealing with all the AFGOs (being married to an addict, AFGOs are always in plentiful supply!).
My addict husband unknowingly served as the catalyst for me to break through my limitations by destroying the very foundation of my existence, and from those burning embers, I was to rebuild myself. The greatest relationship I had ever had- who knew!?- was with a sex addict, gambling addict, alcoholic. He tore up my precious ego, challenged the ideas I had of myself, and exposed my personal flaws that were keeping me from claiming my true potential… and the whole process hurt like hell…oh it hurt like hell…
Unknowingly, this man took all those ideas and expectations I had about life and pried them from my death gripping hands, forcing me to to become vulnerable. The fight stressed me, shredded me to pieces, and pushed me to my limits…finally fallen to my rock bottom, I had only two choices…Stay down or grow up! I had to grow up.
Still, I stayed. But this time, my choice to stay was no longer about the relationship. It was no longer about getting anything, or of any outcome. It was about taking my AFGO and running with it, to use it to my full advantage. I was determined to overcome this.
Dr. Wayne Dyer says people like this are like turds that won’t flush. We keep flushing but they’re still there! You keep trying and trying and they’re back again. Instead of being upset every time they do or say something, eventually, I realized, I had to learn how to allow their presence without letting it get me into a crazy mess. Once I figured that out, I was able to leave the relationship. He had nothing left to offer and I had nothing left to give.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. To this day, I honor him. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.