Updated: Jan 28, 2021
Once upon a time there was a snake and a toad. They cohabitated together under a large front porch with endless supply of all things creepy & crawly to satiate their bellies. The porch seemed to provide safety and overall was a wonderful place for them to call "home".
One day, Miss Toad was out from under the porch, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the fresh breeze. She was so immersed in her own thoughts, that she did not pay much attention to Mr. Snake, who was slowly slithering up behind her and watching her from the grass. Mr. Snake slowly approached the unsuspecting Miss Toad, but Miss Toad was not fearful. She had come to trust him. They had lived together for years under the porch and she had never seen any reason to hop away. Sure, he occasionally hoarded the food or acted cold towards her, but Miss Toad just reasoned that Mr. Snake was, after all, a cold blooded being, so out of her good nature she chose to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Mr. Snake nuzzled up next to Miss Toad and, with an unexpected twist of the story, opened his mouth wide and grabbed hold of Miss Toad's legs. This strange act of betrayal was most confusing to Miss Toad and she began to consider only what she saw. She, a big fat toad, and he, a pencil thin snake, appeared to be attempting to eat her. Miss Toad, with a somewhat accusatory tone, said to Mr. Snake, "Are you trying to EAT me?" Mr. Snake released Miss Toad and with smooth and convincing speech, told her she was crazy for thinking such absurd thoughts. He was so sly, so adamant, and so confident, Miss Toad sat there, blinking her little eyes in contemplation that she must have imagined it, and made a note to get more sleep the next night. But within a few days, the same exchange happened again.
A replica of the exact conversation ensued. Mr. Snake released Miss Toad once again. Using his conniving words, facial expressions, body language and tone, he was able to once again convince Miss Toad that she was crazy. This "grooming" process took place over many, many years and, over time, Miss Toad started to believe she was the problem, and so, she let him be.
Several times, Miss Toad went to her mentor, Sir Rabbit, and asked his opinion. Sir Rabbit could only go off of his own perceptions and observations, and really didn't know anything about Snakes. He told Miss Toad to work on her communication and learn how to open her heart more to Mr. Snake, and then maybe he would "warm up" to her. Miss Toad would leave these conversations scratching her head in confusion, but tried her best to apply the counsel she was given. What Miss Toad didn't realize was that Mr. Snake's craftiness at being able to hide his true intentions and his true identity was doing great damage to her inner self. It was a slow process of eating away her very identity. She learned to ignore her instincts and busied herself with her own life, not paying much attention to Mr. Snake.
It was completely unexpected when one day, while she was sun-bathing out in the open, she found shockingly discovered Mr. Snake had his mouth around her entire torso, with just her front legs and head free of his grip. She felt suffocated by his powerful jaws, and she suddenly realized what was happening. He was eating her alive. She felt foolish for ignoring her instincts all these years. She could have saved herself if she had only listened to her intuition telling her something was "off".
With a powerful thrust of his body, Mr. Snake pulled Miss Toad back under the porch, where no one could see what was about to happen. After all, he had a reputation to uphold. And there, in the dark and in the once perceived "safety" of home, Miss Toad was completely consumed. Consumed by lies, consumed by hiding, consumed by manipulation and gaslighting. Consumed by his years of condemnation and self-righteousness. Consumed by his selfishness, greed, and lust.
This is the story of many couples when pornography and/or other forms of sex addiction
is in the home.
Toads, who are generally good-natured and kind, are often groomed to ignore their instincts. That is called "gaslighting." Toads may not cognitively be aware of pornography, but they instinctively KNOW something in the relationship is "off". But, due to the gaslighting and lies, toads push away that instinct and make excuses or minimize the behavior of the Snakes. In the parable above, Toad represents the betrayed spouse.
Snake represents the sexual addict. Sex addiction, including pornography, changes the chemistry of the brain. Over time and with continued use, the addict may not even realize his tactics to keep his life hidden. He will use abusive strategies like gaslighting, blame-shifting, defensiveness, and manipulation. He does whatever he needs to do to protect his reputation and protect his addiction. He justifies hiding his secret lifestyle as "keeping Toad safe"...after all, if he told the truth it would hurt Toad's feelings. Deep inside, Snakes have a huge fear of rejection, and if other's know the "real" them, Toads will reject Snakes. Snakes hate the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. They will do whatever it takes to avoid feelings of shame. Sadly, their avoidance turns to abuse. Control. Lies. Manipulation. They become dangerous as the addiction hijacks and takes over.
They believe the lie that they need their addiction to feel loved and validated, and have a hard time considering life without the addiction a part of their lives.
Sir Rabbit depicts the Church (in general) and how their lack of education and their own perceptions protect the Snakes, rather than the Toads. In their lack of understanding, Sir Rabbits will often give misinformed counsel and make assumptions that in some ways, Toads are somewhat responsible. Sir Rabbits believe Toads have the power to change Snakes behavior to some extent, when in reality, Toad is powerless. Sir Rabbits may encourage marriage counseling before Toad has established safety. Pushing for emotional intimacy before safety and trust are established is a big mistake, and one which is counter-productive when an addiction is at play. Sir Rabbits do not understand the abusive strategies that Snakes use over time to protect their hidden identity. Sir Rabbits do not understand how these strategies create self destructive thoughts in Toads. Sir Rabbits are not educated in abuse cycles, love bombing, nor betrayal trauma.
Is there hope?
YES! I was Toad, and even after encountering multiple Snakes in my life, I found that recovery is possible. Healing is possible! Not sure where to start? In my book, Rise: A Guide to Climbing Out of Betrayal Trauma, I have outlined specific steps you can take to heal, regardless of your husbands choices.
If you are the snake, it is your responsibility to take charge of your recovery. You'll need to learn how to not only live in sobriety, but how to be warm-blooded. It is possible! Find a good sex addiction therapist and a recovery group with high accountability. A great place to start is here. It is possible to rebuild trust and shed unwanted behaviors. It is possible to live in victory over this addiction. Many men are doing it! Find programs or therapies and dive ALL IN to your recovery process.
If you are Sir Rabbit, reach out to us or solid programs such as Covenant Eyes. They have amazing resources for the church. Find ways to get yourself and your staff educated. You must be well equipped, well prepared, and well versed to help the Snakes come out of hiding and to help the Toads find healing. Lead the way!
If you are both Sir Rabbit AND Mr. Snake, freedom awaits. There are resources for you, too. There is hope. You can live in victory, experience a life full and FREE.