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Friday, January 31, 2014

Sticking Around

A number of readers have asked me about staying in relationships with people who are 'negative.'  Most of these folks are people married to addicts who get mouthy while using their substances of choice.  I have a few general principles:

1) If you are being abused, remember this is not God's will for you.  Call the police if you are being physically abused.  If you are being emotionally abused, no one who is sane can tell you to stay.  I emphasize sane.  There are plenty of people in black robes who are crazy, and would very much like to see you remain in an abusive relationship so as not to disturb their idealism or disturbed view of reality.

Your life is not about proving other people's theories about marriage of spiritual suffering.  Just remember that.

2) If you are married to an addict, go to Al-Anon.  No excuses.

3) If you decided all on your own to get married, then it is obvious who you really need to ask in order to get divorced, or at least separated.  No one (in most cases) forced you into getting married, and I am talking about literal shotguns versus guilt or fear or other emotional pressures.  Those still require your cooperation in order to work.  You made the decision to get married, rather than running away.  So, it is your call whether you will stay and be abused.

The Church did not force you to get married, and so do not look for the Church to determine whether you must stay or not.  Yes, the churches have various processes for granting divorces, but unless you are with the Copts, a bit of persistence will get you a ecclesiastical divorce (it seems like the Coptic church frequently refuses to grant divorces, which I don't quite understand in light of the Gospel, but, hey, what do I know... everyone has their hang-ups).

4) If you are getting verbally abused, a big part of the problem is you putting up with it.  Addicts learn to push the margins.  If you are willing to be tough and consistent, you can retrain your addict like a wayward dog.  Yes, I compared an active addict to a dog.  The truth is, I love dogs.  Some part of me feels bad for dogs in making this comparison, but you know what I mean: an active addict can be way meaner and out-of-control than even the meanest street cur.  

Do not be a verbal punching bag.  It does not help your addict's recovery, and it certainly isn't helping you.  Do what you need to do to make it stop (that is legal, folks... legal).

5) Have you contacted Al-Anon yet?

6) Whether you stay or go, you will need a lot of treatment.  The effects of addiction on the non-addicted spouse are just as profound as they are for the addict.  Do not move on to another relationship until you have gotten real professional help and spent a couple of happy years on your own.  Notice I said 'happy.'  This is not a stop-watch event, racing to the finish line as fast as possible so you can hook up with another dysfunctional clod.

You will have to learn to be happy on your own, and break your attraction to addicts.  Spouses of addicts, once divorced, often end up right back with another addict.  It is their 'comfort zone.'  That has to change before you can move on.

7) The Church does not 'advocate' divorce, but it also does not advocate abuse.  In fact, the by-laws of Spiritual Courts do have provisions regarding abuse and even 'drunkenness.'  These are canonical grounds for divorce.  If you need an ecclesiastical divorce, you have the right to see the by-laws of the Spiritual Court hearing your case.  If there is a hold-up, ask the Bishop to provide you a copy.

Second and third marriages are granted by economia, but you really don't need to be thinking about getting re-married when you are in the middle of a mess.  Fix one thing at a time.

8) Always remember: you are not the first person to go through this.  You are not alone, and not unusual.  We have seen it all.  Repeatedly.  Don't be ashamed to ask for help.

In conclusion, the decision is yours to make.  Be careful about who you get your advice from, and remember that you are responsible for your own happiness either way.  If you cannot be happy with the decision that you made, then you need to make another one.

Get advice from as many good people as possible, then weigh all your options.  You may be able to retrain your addict, and just that alone may tip the scales in favor of him/her deciding to seek help.

News flash: being a punching bag is a form of enabling that perpetuates the disease.

Do not sit in your misery.  This is not why God created you.

Now, find an Al-Anon meeting and start working the Steps.

Also, for some of you... stop listening to crazy people.

1 comment:

  1. "You will have to learn to be happy on your own."

    If you haven't already blogged about this, I would love to hear more of your perspective. It took me a long time to realize that this was a lesson I needed to learn, to say nothing of how scary and confusing it sounds.

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