This post is the second in a series about my experiences as a wife of a pornography addict. For part one, click here.
Whenever we find ourselves in the midst of the whirlwinds of life it is a natural instinct to reach out and try and grab onto something. We want to regain control. As the wife of a pornography addict it was extremely difficult to have many decisions made that were greatly affecting my life that I had no control over. In an effort to regain control I did all I could to restrict my husband’s choices, of course in the name of helping him, so he couldn’t make any bad choices. I tried to restrict the internet access, I would drive by the house on breaks from work to see if he was home when he shouldn’t be, I would check his pockets and his car. The task I had assigned myself was completely overwhelming. Sometimes I found things that would break my heart all over again, but even when I didn’t find anything it didn’t calm my fears. It was an exercise in futility and it was turning me into a basket case.
One day I was in the midst of a pleading prayer asking Heavenly Father to change my husband. I was asking him to make Vaughn overcome his addiction, to make him see what he was doing to me and our children, and who knows what else. I was mad and I wanted Heavenly Father to solve the problems I was unable to solve. Our patient, loving Heavenly Father helped me recognize the pattern of the things I was asking for and the behavior I was participating in, and it was very familiar. In the pre-mortal life, to assure that we all would be able to return home to live with Heavenly Father, Satan introduced a plan that would have made it impossible to choose anything else. I, along with every other person on Earth, voted against that plan. Agency was important to us. Yet with the veil drawn, and my problems overwhelming me, that is exactly what I was trying to do to my husband. I was trying to restrict his choices. I was pleading with Heavenly Father to restrict his choices. I was trying to take away his agency. (Click here to learn more about the plan of salvation.)
It is very humbling to recognize that you are trying to implement a plan in your own home that we all rejected in the pre-existence. I began to realize that the only person whose agency was being restricted was my own as I allowed all my choices to be reactions of Vaughn’s.
Our gift of agency is incredible. It is our right to choose for ourselves. Agency is very important to our Heavenly Father. C.S. Lewis in the book Mere Christianity explained (I’m paraphrasing, and putting my own interpretation on it) that there are many laws on this earth by which we are bound. For example if we jump up we have no choice about the matter of coming back down again. We are bound by the laws of gravity. However, we have our choice about whether we will follow the most important law, what he refers to the law of nature, or God’s commandments. Of course, we do not get to choose our consequences, but Heavenly Father never forces our choices.
The other plan presented in the pre-existence also provided a way for every single person to return to live with our Heavenly Father as well. However, there was one major difference, although the way is provided for us, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we get to choose if that is what we want. Jesus Christ suffered for all, but again he will not force us to use his sacrifice.
My efforts at control, which of course was only the perception of control, were following the wrong plan and I needed to follow the other plan. I needed to allow Vaughn the room to make his own choices. I am not strong enough to carry the burden of his agency. I can’t do it. I shouldn’t do it. Only our Savior, Jesus Christ, is strong enough to shoulder the burden of our agency.
I recognized that there was not much I could do to help Vaughn unless he asked me. However, that did not mean I had to sit idly by. The very best thing I could do to help my marriage was to become the best me I could be. I can not change and improve who Vaughn is, but I can, and should, change and improve myself. We should not let a misunderstanding of the commandment to cleave unto our spouses deceive us into thinking that we cannot continue on our journey of personal growth without them.
What is one times one? That’s right. It equals one! … One full partner with one full partner equals true oneness in the marriage. Now, what is one times zero? Yup. It equals zero. So what does this mean? It means if your treat yourself as a big fat zero in the relationship, nothing good will be the result. (Strangling Your Husband is NOT an Option, Chapter 3, Page 49)
I don’t want to make this shift in thinking sound easy, because it wasn’t. Giving up my perception of control and shifting to focusing on my own testimony was not an instant choice. It was a multitude of small choices over an extended period of time. Small and simple things. But with time and learning I realized I needed to stop acting like a victim, and start finding out who I am.