Some married S-Anons new to our program express surprise at seeing so many single S-Anons regularly attending meetings. “Why do you need to go if you’re no longer married to the sexaholic?” they ask. The reason is that we go to get recovery for ourselves, regardless of our marital status.
I began going to S-Anon at my husband’s suggestion, even though I did not perceive that I had a problem. It was only when as part of my First Step I made an inventory of all my significant past relationships that I realized that indeed I did have a problem. What I recognized was that every important relationship, beginning with my first romance at age 19, was with an emotionally unavailable person. The details differed, but the bottom line was that I had made consistently poor choices in my relationships. I had to face the fact that I was attracted to people with whom I could not have a healthy, intimate relationship. Time after time I had rejected the stable, loving man because he was “boring,” while I pursued the exciting, unavailable, unpredictable guy. And I realized, to my dismay, that if my current marriage were to end, I would undoubtedly once again seek an unhealthy relationship. That was when I knew I needed to work on myself. “Our relationships can only be as healthy as we are,” we learn in the program. Some single S-Anons have also recognized a long-term pattern of making poor choices. If those of us who are single hope at some point to have a healthy relationship, we need to become healthy ourselves first.
In the S-Anon program I also became aware of how my tremendous fear of abandonment had led me to accept unacceptable behaviors in others. I could not establish boundaries as long as being alone felt like a fate worse than death. Now that my self-esteem has improved to where I know I would be comfortable alone, I have real choices in my life. I am in my current relationship by choice, not out of dependency. Single S-Anons who are working on this issue have shared their unhappiness over being alone and their desperation to get into a new relationship. They describe how easily their boundaries erode and how quickly they return to people-pleasing behaviors in attempting to hold onto a new relationship. S-Anons who have separated from spouses who are still acting out have shared their difficulty in staying away from the spouse and their temptation to give her/him another chance although the spouse in not in recovery. In S-Anon we learn that we are worthwhile people who do not need a relationship to make us feel whole.
Our basic emotional health does not depend on our marital status. S-Anon helps us build our self-esteem, love ourselves, and make healthier choices in our lives. Too many of us have let significant others be our Higher Power. In S-Anon we learn to rely on a real Higher Power so that we can be happy whether single or in a relationship.
Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.