Category Archives: Affair

Do I Have an Addiction?

Do I Have an Addiction?

By Kim Bowen

It can be porn. Or some other form of internet activity. Or food. Or alcohol. Or drugs – legal or illegal.  

It can involve a behavior, such as gambling or video games. Or a relationship, such as an emotional attachment to someone you know isn’t healthy for you to be around.  It can even be an addiction to a device, like your smart phone.

Regardless, every person who is serious about cultivating a thriving marriage needs to ask:  Am I addicted to something – anything – that could damage my marriage?

What is addiction?

Rather than give you the technical definition as defined by the American Psychological Association, I thought I’d describe it in more simple terms.

Most experts accept four indicators of unhealthy addictive behavior, as outlined in the descriptions below by Kay and Milan Yerkovich in their “How We Love” series:

  • Compulsion to use. The behavior becomes less of a choice, almost to the point that if you see it or think about it, you must do it.
  • Continued use despite adverse consequences. You don’t stop the behavior when someone discovers you or it causes problems of some type.
  • Lack of control. You’ve made repeated attempts to stop the behavior and failed.
  • Craving. You experience what seems like an overwhelming desire for the physiological or physical effect of the behavior.

Could you be addicted?

Good question!  How would you answer these questions?

  1. Have you felt compelled to engage in a certain behavior even when you know there will be negative consequences?
  2. Have you spent less time with your spouse, children, or work due to this behavior?
  3. Have you attempted to stop, and yet return again and again to the behavior?
  4. Do you, even as you’re reading this, look forward to the next time you can engage in the behavior?

If you answered yes to these, you have an addiction.

The real question

Now hear this – I don’t actually care how you answered these questions or whether you define yourself as an addict.

What I DO care about is what you do with it – the action you take.

We find in our work with couples that understanding something intellectually doesn’t produce change. In other words, just being aware of an issue doesn’t fix it. Taking action does.

If there is even a hint of something that could slither its way between you and your spouse, I say attack it with everything you’ve got. Your marriage is that important. A strong marriage serves as the foundation and launching pad for every other element of your life. From waking to sleeping, from work to leisure, from your children to your grandchildren – the richness of your marriage affects it all.

So Do Something!

One of the most basic, but critical, things you can do is to start talking about the issue.

Addiction, as with any other problem, only has power in the dark. If you want to attack it, the first thing you must do is flip on the lights and expose it. As I’ve said before, you have a choice: talk about it, or give into it.

We can give you a safe place to talk it out. Whatever the issue is, our counselors and coaches know how to guide you through it in a healthy way. Simply reach out. That is an action you can take right this moment. Do it now, for your marriage.

Call us or schedule an appointment

(972) 441-4432 or Send us a text at (214) 431-5764

Learn More

Are You Lying To Your Spouse?

We face a dilemma in our marriages: Do we lie and keep the peace? Or, do we share honestly and risk conflict?

We’re all tempted to lie. Whether it’s a response to “Do these pants make me look big?” or “Did you remember to pay the gas bill?” or “What were you doing last night?”, we’re just one remark away from a rip in our relationship. Small rips over time add up to huge gashes in the fabric of our marriages, resulting in a lack of authenticity, increasing emotional distance, and eventual complete separation.

''Small rips over time add up to huge gashes in the fabric of our marriages.'' Click To Tweet

Why do we lie?

One of my favorite relationship experts, Dr. Ellyn Bader, outlines four stages of marriage, each of which present unique challenges to honesty:

Stage One: The Honeymoon
Stage Two: Emerging Differences
Stage Three: Seeking Freedom
Stage Four: Together as Two

Dr. Bader says that in each stage we’re challenged to either 1) increase our level of honesty with one another, or 2) increase our level of deception. For instance, in the honeymoon stage, we can choose to honestly address differences as we learn more about each other, or we can keep pretending that everything is perfect. In the freedom stage, we can honestly negotiate how much time we spend together, or we can pursue “freedom unhinged” in which anything goes and we ignore our true desires.

In Bader’s view, at the root of all lies are:

  • The desire to protect ourselves – usually when we want to avoid emotional distress, such as reflecting on a painful self-truth.
  • The desire to serve ourselves – usually when we’re trying to gain an advantage of some type over our spouse.

When we choose to lie, our focus is inward, on ourselves.

Honesty is risky

Dr. Bader’s approach reminds me that I take a risk every time I share something with my spouse.

When I disclose, I’m opening my personal armor, choosing to let my spouse see something previously hidden (whether consciously or not). My spouse then has his own choice: He can open his own armor, sharing more of himself with me, or he can take advantage of my openness and hurt me.

Is the risk worth it?

Only you can answer that for your relationship. But for me, and the hundreds of people I’ve counseled, honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s also the path to more richness in the marriage – to more embraces, more laughter, more shared secrets, more delight in living every day.

''Honesty is a path to more – more embraces, more laughter, more shared secrets, more delight'' Click To Tweet

But a warning comes with the honesty user’s guide: Sometimes the truth hurts. When you open up to your spouse, you’re making a commitment to hear what they say. That’s part of the deal. Even when it hurts.

So what do you do when the truth hurts?  Dr. Bader suggests you remind yourself of these things when you’re hearing hard truths from your spouse:

  • Deep down, I’m glad they’re being honest.
  • Even if I don’t like what I’m hearing, listening gives us a better chance to work this out.
  • I’ll listen now and take time to digest it later, as part of a bigger picture.
  • This isn’t all about me – there’s a reason they need to tell me.
  • Maybe they felt they couldn’t be honest before now. I need to stay open, so I can hear the reason.

Yes, this approach takes a courageous commitment. And, no small amount of time. But I believe – no matter what marriage stage you’re in – this approach will make your relationship stronger.

For a deep-dive into truth-telling in your marriage, I recommend Dr. Bader’s book, Tell Me No Lies, cowritten with Peter Pearson, Ph.D., and Judith Schwartz. Or if you want to take steps immediately toward a stronger marriage, call my office and ask to speak with a marriage coach today. Or,  schedule an appointment online.

Learn More