Some married S-Anons new to our program express surprise at seeing so many single S-Anon members regularly attending meetings. “Why do you need to go if you’re no longer married to the sexaholic?” they ask. The reason that we go is 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 recognize was that every important relationship, beginning with my first romance at age nineteen, 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-Anon members 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 how my tremendous fear of abandonment has 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-Anon members 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 an attempt to hold onto a new relationship. S-Anon members 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 is 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 Summer 1990 issue of The S-Anews©.