The Tale of the Narcissistic Betrayer
There are several factors to consider with the “when is enough enough” dilemma. The betrayed partner has the right to express her anger, ask why this happened and hold on to her feelings of being traumatized by her partner’s actions. But, how long does asking for more details, verbal insults and angry outbursts have to last before the betraying partner says, enough is enough?
It really depends on the type of acting out behavior – acting out with a person is much more difficult to overcome than acting out with porn. There is premorbid level of functioning to consider. Can the betrayed spouse function normally? It also depends on the quality of the foundation of the marriage. One betrayed spouse suggested, when the marriage is important enough to you and you really want it to work, you will do whatever it takes to work on it. If the relationship was strong before acting out; in other words there was little conflict, then it is much easier to attempt to save the marriage. On the other hand when the addict has a personality disorder like narcissistic personality disorder or mental illness it becomes very difficult for partners because there isn’t a capacity for empathy. Without understanding by the betrayer of what you’re going through, how can you get over it without empathy?
Mental illnesses like depression, ADHD and especially bipolar disorder have their own impact on a marriage as well as physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It becomes much easier to accept and forgive an addict when they are actually doing the work necessary to achieve emotional sobriety. This consists of going to 12-step meetings, working the steps, staying in contact with a sponsor, going regularly to therapy, working through workbooks, process groups and eventually changing behavior within the relationship.
There is a huge difference in really doing the work necessary and not just “checking the boxes.” Has the addict gone through the amends/contrition process? Was there a formal disclosure? Has the addict worked through family of origin trauma, or examined attachment disorders?
A betraying addict is fortunate when their spouse or partner has the perspective of eventual forgiveness, knowing that the person she fell in love with is still in there somewhere desperately wanting to come out. You will know that your partner is making progress when he is more humble, caring and compassionate toward you, empathetic and realizing he has to build the trust back with you. The lack of empathy, humility and compassion is a red flag that a partner is not fully working his program of recovery.
Those partners who do not leave their verbally and sometimes physically abusive spouses continue to wallow in their sex and love addiction. They attach themselves to the abusive partner in what is called a trauma bond.
Trauma bonds are generally defined as an attachment to another person that is not healthy and sometimes dangerous, because the attachment is based upon some form of shame, exploitation, danger, threat, or a combination of these things. Individual’s who experience Traumatic Bonding, are bonded to the other person based upon the type of bonding they experienced growing up, and so they unwittingly re-create the same type of attachments to others, that they experienced when they were young.
They stay in abusive relationships because the minute there is a slight glimmer of hope they run back to the abuser, who now has them under their spell once again.