In Wired for Love (2011), Stan Tatkin, PsyD, discusses the following equation as a clear identifier of obstacles and challenges in relationships(ch. 7, p.119-137): 2 +1 = ZERO . This equation is related to a third party that an individual brings into the relationship, whether it is an outside person, place, task, situation, addiction, or thing. This third party, what I call "the third wheel", typically causes havoc in relationships, and in some cases, can destroy it.
For those individuals that are living with an addiction, the third wheel is the actual substance, affair partner, money, food, work, sex, porn, shopping, spending, gambling, friends, gaming, etc. etc. Regardless of what the addiction is, the person that has it must recognize that they are cheating on their loved on with the third wheel.Hence, 2 + 1 = ZERO. Nothing good can come from a third wheel such as an addiction being in a relationship. After all, it clearly detracts a person from the core values and principles of their primary relationship.How can you focus 100% on your loved ones if you are taking risks via a dangerous third wheel?
Oftentimes, self-help books focus more on the equation in a relationship needing to be 1 + 1= 2, claiming that you must be your whole self in order to be in a healthy relationship with another. While other self help books talk about codependency and the struggle for folks that view relationships with the equation: 1/2 + 1/2 = 1; meaning that they do not feel like a whole and complete person without their partner.
In reality, people tend to waiver between how they view their relationship equation based on their attachment style; sometimes they may feel like a whole, secure person, while at other times, they may feel needy of their spouse to help them feel complete and safe. An addict, however, tends to follow the equation:2 + 1 = 2, thinking they can lead a double life, keeping their third wheel locked in a mental compartment. They separate their double life from that of being a good father or good mother, a husband or a wife, a colleague, co-worker, boss, etc.
They don't realize, until their spouse or partner catches them with the third wheel, that 2 + 1 actually equals ZERO. This is often when folks end up in my office; as a result of a threat of their partner leaving them.Interestingly enough, we all tend to have third wheels; some are healthy, while others are not. For instance, American culture promotes being addicted to work, success, and money as a means for attaining the most desirable social status.
In contrast, a "healthy third wheel" entails ones' children, some family members, and healthy friendships. So how can you have a healthy equation in your life and relationships? First, notice the things in your life that matter; your top priorities (i.e., your family, marriage, health, recovery). Write them down.
Next, identify the things that keep you from focusing on your top priorities. These are your third wheels. Then, come up with some ways to make your top priorities number one (i.e., attend therapy, read an inspiring book, go to a support group, exercise, meet with a nutritionist).
Finally, track your progress. The best way to do this is to talk to your partner, therapist, closest ally; after all, they are the closest people to you and can tell you firsthand where you are improving and where you continue to struggle.
Your relationship equation deserves to be healthy; it deserves to "add up." This week, make a conscious effort to calculate the health of your relationship and get rid of any third wheels.
Please remember, no matter what the equation, that you are ALWAYS worth it!
New Men's Sexual Recovery Group: Facing I with Jenny Jo Tuttle, LCSW, CSAT-C, Expert on treating multiple addictions including intimacy disorders! WHEN? Weekly on Tuesdays. from 6-7:30 p.m. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Facing The Shadow Workbook can be purchased at our office for $30. We look forward to offering you support in your recovery!