The Lingerie Store Revisited

There was a crazy lady Christmas shopping at the lingerie store again this year. At first glance she appeared rather ordinary. But the growing grief and hopelessness on her face, and dejection in her body as she walked slowly from one display to another, would have been apparent to anyone with a lingering gaze. Tears gathering in her eyes, she paused, but never touched. Size availability and price was irrelevant for something that would never leave the store in her shopping bag anyway.

Not much has changed since last December when I wrote The Porn Addict’s Wife Wears Lingerie (or tries to). It is my most read post, more likely because it contains the words porn, addict and lingerie, than people are interested in the bewildering emotions of a middle aged sexually broken woman. And yet there I was, and here I am again.

A lot can happen in a year. And a lot may not happen. Healing brings breakthroughs, and setbacks, and periods of rest and adjustment. Sometimes longer periods of rest than my anxious heart handles with patience and grace.

Last December, I entered that lingerie store with a twinkle in my eye. The winter and Christmas themed lingerie answering the longing in my heart for sexual lightness and fun in my marriage. But then. The fear of unknown triggers. I dejectedly left the store with that same unfulfilled desire, along with a deepened sense of loss wondering if my sexuality and healthy fantasies would be forever tainted by my husband’s past pornography addiction.

Last week was both the same and different as a year ago. I don’t even know why I entered the lingerie store other than to poke my finger into my own open wounds. I knew before I even crossed the threshold that I would not be making any purchases again this year. But maybe, just maybe, the merchandise could offer me a tiny flicker of hope where I had none. I wanted everything that the lingerie was selling me. Everything that was embodied in that magical piece of clothing.

I felt empty as I browsed the store. And then a profound sadness enveloped me. Even the cozy, fuzzy socks and cheerful penguins couldn’t bring a smile to my face. I wondered why, after another full year of healing and recovery, my response was as filled with grief and despair as if I had just returned the following day and not a year later.

I think my sadness was deeper this time though. A year ago, I was confused. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Still a little raw in figuring out how this whole healthy sexuality thing was supposed to work for my husband and I. But I believed it would work. It just wasn’t quite there yet….

Well, a year later, and the hammer of realization that not only was it not quite there yet, it didn’t seem any closer. It is hard to hold onto hope when you feel crushed. Defeated. Mocked by the lingerie displays and menacing penguins. So I didn’t. I plummeted.

But this is where the benefit of an additional year of recovery was revealed to me. I didn’t stay in that darkness long. I visited, but there was nothing for me in that place. It felt wrong and uncomfortable and self indulgent. And dishonouring to God.

I heard the whisper to my soul. Acknowledging the deep hurt and unfulfilled desires of my broken sexuality. If there was a promise of better things to come at that moment, I didn’t hear it. But the raging discontent in my mind and heart quieted.  And that was enough.

A couple days later, God’s whisper shouted to me from the pages of my devotional book as I read about the healing of emotional wounds. An illustration was provided where several shoelaces were tied together in a knot with each knot representing a different problem in my life. Unravelling the knots and smoothing out my troubles would require time and effort. It isn’t possible for the untangling to happen all at once. I need to remember that although it may seem that I am not making any progress, God is untying my knots one at a time. In the order and way He chooses. Not in mine. My responsibility is to co-operate with God in whatever area He has decided we are going to work on first. And sweatpants just might be more important than lingerie.

I’m impatient. I get discouraged. I whine about what is missing rather than being grateful for what has been redeemed and restored in our decades long sexless and porn ravaged marriage. I want our sexual intimacy healed yesterday. Or more honestly, years ago. But there is much bondage, abuse and sexual sin in this one shoelace alone, even once it has been disentangled from the messy ball of life’s other hurts and issues.

My solution would be to grab a pair of scissors and with a few precise snips remove the troublesome knots leaving a perfectly functioning bow in its place. And I would do that after only a few minutes of frustration. But that is not God’s way.

I know because God continues to carefully and slowly heal my wounds and align the desires of my heart with His. Whether I’m wearing flannel pyjamas, silky lingerie or nothing at all. He won’t quit. He never does. So, I guess I shouldn’t either.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9

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Your Husband is a Porn Addict, or Maybe Not, and Why That Matters

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately. A jamming together of puzzles pieces that don’t necessarily belong together. The variations of “Help! I found pornography on the computer and don’t know how to deal with my partner’s porn addiction.” I understand the shock and heartache of discovering your partner’s porn usage. I really and truly know that pain well. What troubles me is the immediate assumption and leap that evidence of porn use indicates the presence of an addiction.

Discovering the existence of pornography in your relationship is definitely a cause for concern that needs to be addressed with the user. I am absolutely not minimizing or denying the damage that pornography use inflicts upon the user, the partner or their relationship, or encouraging anyone else to do so. But I am questioning the growing belief, particularly in the Christian community, that viewing pornography equals an addiction.

I believe using pornography is destructive. What it may or may not be though, is an addiction. And I think, as the devastated partner, it is important to determine where on the spectrum your husband or wife falls so you know what you are dealing with. It is not a measure of your pain. It is not an indication of where your feelings of betrayal should or should not be. Pain is pain is pain. But it seems to me that it is possible that assigning a predetermined label to the issue without knowing the facts can add another level of pain that may be totally unnecessary and unhelpful to your well-being and the situation.

Personally, my mind easily jumps to worst case scenarios. This leads to needless anxiety, distress and fear. In seconds, the images or internet searches that shocked my brain have morphed into flashing lights in my driveway as police officers come to arrest my husband. A pregnant stranger appears at my door searching for him. He loses his job. I become homeless. My community shuns him, me, us. My life and future destroyed. I am hopeless, defeated, filled with despair. And I haven’t even taken my eyes off the screen or talked to my husband yet.

Sadly, and awfully, those scenarios do happen. But not always. So, instead of being convinced that your partner is a full blown sex addict and your marriage and life is beyond repair, take a deep breath and begin the process of finding out what you together, and alone, are up against. A curiosity. A bad habit. An early stage addiction. Or yes, an outright, big, fat, ugly pornography addiction.

The computer history will not likely provide a clear answer. And quite possibly, neither will your partner. But accusing your partner of being a porn addict may simply magnify the problem for both of you. If you are prematurely and carelessly slapping a porn addict label on your spouse, you have also affixed one to yourself. And that may be self-defeating to the care you so desperately need. Your perspective will have a significant influence on your personal healing as much as it will on your partner and marriage.

It is important to know if you are fighting to defeat the devastating effects of pornography, or of pornography and an addiction. Overcoming and recovering from an addiction is possible. The battle is not insurmountable. But it is a different battle than unlearning a bad habit and replacing it with healthier behaviour. For both of you. And that matters.

Guilt over one’s bad behaviour may be a motivator for change. But shame seldom is. If condemnation fills either of your hearts, there is no room for transformation and freedom. If either of you believes the bondage is greater than it is, quite possibly an attitude of hopelessness and despair will prevail. The message you feed yourself and your partner matters. Will it be the truth, or a lie that continues to destroy?

The invasion of pornography’s heavy darkness into your souls and relationship is destructive whether the pieces are still being put into place for an addiction, or it has progressed to a compulsive need. That really makes no difference. Wherever on the spectrum your partner may be, the revealing of pornography use is good news. Light is shining through and illuminating a very real problem with very deep consequences. You are being given an opportunity for yourself and your marriage to be healed and restored from damage that you may not have even knew existed. Or why it did.

Your heart has been shattered. Your soul ravaged. And none of it is your fault. There is no blame or responsibility for you to bear when your partner chooses to indulge their lust or medicate their pain with pornography.

Calling pornography use a bad habit or an addiction doesn’t change the depth of your pain or your ability to heal from it. But mislabeling it may magnify or minimize the issue and affect the path that you, your partner and your marriage will need to navigate for healing. And it is your path. Of light, hope and promise to not just hurt anymore, but to thrive.

I know it is possible. I have seen it. And I am living it.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

There’s a Porn Addict in My Church

I wonder what would happen if my forty something year old husband stood at the front of the church one Sunday morning and disclosed his past pornography addiction and the freedom he has received from it through the healing of God and his recovery program.

Would there be the same cheers that accompanied the announcement of the anniversary of another church member’s sobriety from alcohol? Would there be the same compassionate call to prayer as there was for another member who relapsed in their drug addiction after being sober for nearly a year?

Would there be the same acceptance that was given to the courageous teenager who recently shared how God had freed him at youth camp this summer from his struggle with pornography? I sat in church that morning, trying to interpret the reaction of the congregation, knowing that my perception was subjective, and not necessarily truth.

I was proud of that young man’s willingness and ability to boldly stand before the eyes staring back at him, not knowing exactly what those faces would display. I didn’t hear any horrified gasps, or coffee cups dropped in surprise. Neither was the room filled with an uncomfortable silence or an air of judgement.

My church family seemed to easily accept this admission. Perhaps because it was accompanied by a victory story and did not challenge them to do anything more than pat him on the back and say a few hallelujahs. Perhaps because this was a well-liked, good-looking, intelligent young man from a respected family involved in ministry in the church and community. Perhaps because he did not embody by age, appearance or status the preconceived idea of what a porn user or addict would look like. His testimony appeared to be non- threatening to most of the people who heard it. But it should have shaken everyone.

It made me uncomfortable. Not because I didn’t want to hear it. But because the smiling faces seemed oblivious to the accompanying message being presented to them. Statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that young man and my husband were the only two people in that room battling the darkness and enslavement of pornography.

I was concerned for that young man. Freedom from pornography use or addiction is possible. But it takes work. Intentional steps need to be taken, a plan formed, to overcome the temptation and sin. God seldom heals a heart by an instant removal of the symptom, but rather provides a way to conquer it as He brings healing to the root issue. To me, the celebration of victory over sin by everyone that morning was blissfully deceitful in its ignorance. The real triumph was his desire to acknowledge and confront his bondage and to introduce the topic in church. That made me smile with hope, that unlike my husband, he will potentially be able to avoid years ensnared in the harmful effects of pornography.

My spirit remained unsettled. Feeling like our church family missed an opportunity. For this young man. For my husband. For me. And the others that are sitting in our pews wrestling with the damage caused by their own or a family member’s pornography use. A door was opened a crack. But no one knew what to do with it. Or wanted to open it wider. The responsibility given solely to his parents.  And now with each passing week, the splinter of light diminishes. The warning forgotten. Ignored. Denied.

But just because the monster has been returned to its hidden place in the darkness behind the stacked chairs in the basement crawlspace, doesn’t mean it won’t emerge again. The question is more likely to be when and who. Pornography destroys. All ages. Both men and women. In all social, economic and religious demographics. But it doesn’t have to. I would like to be ready for it next time. I would like my church to be prepared to fight and conquer. Be proactive rather than reactive. When the porn addiction of the twenty to ninety year old is confessed or exposed, it won’t be as easy to accept and dismiss. There will be consequences. People will squirm. God will convict some hearts and push others to their breaking points. I want to be a part of God’s combat team. To defeat the enemy, and to rebuild the broken lives and marriages.

Our pastor knows our story of brokenness and redemption. Of two lives and a marriage transformed. My husband and I have offered ourselves as mentors or resources should any other person or couple come to him for guidance through their own sexual betrayals and infidelity. In the past three and a half years, we have never even been asked for the name of our Christian sexual addictions recovery therapist. And that causes my heart to ache because I don’t believe the reason is that no one else in our church community is struggling or suffering. I believe the shame and stigma surrounding sexual sins and addiction is keeping them alone and silent in their pain.

There is a conflict in my heart. An overwhelming desire to loudly proclaim the proven hope and victory we have found through God’s amazing, redeeming, restorative, healing, saving, supernatural power. And then the balancing of the very real need to cautiously protect my husband and our family from the judgement and consequences of the broad misunderstanding of sex addiction.

The shame and stigma continues. Pornography use remains hidden. And sadly, so does the hope of healing when no one feels safe to talk about it. I want that to change. I want the porn addict to be able to celebrate their sobriety as freely as the alcoholic or drug addict.

I dream of that time. That’s all it really seems to be. A far away dream. But maybe if enough of us dare to dream it, we can open the door together and shine the light a little brighter.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

I Hope I Never Stop Being Surprised

Today I am celebrating another victory. Of mine. In my journey to heal from the devastation and abuse inflicted by my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. My husband might be celebrating too. Or maybe not. I don’t really know for sure. But it doesn’t really matter because although we were together, this part of our story is about me.

I felt eager anticipation for the weekend’s planned events. And excitement and joy as they unfolded. My heart was at peace. The usual clamor of my conflicting thoughts and beliefs still……

A couple of months ago, my husband purchased tickets for us to attend a concert in a nearby city. The show was scheduled for a Friday night, which meant there would be no work commitments for either of us the following day. My mind began dancing with the possibility of making the date a weekend getaway. Although we often go camping, we have never spent a weekend in a hotel being city tourists. The desire was stirring in my heart to go big on this one. But I was apprehensive to suggest the idea to my husband. In our old marriage, the proposal would have been entirely unreasonable and a long list of excuses provided for why it was impossible. My heart had been wounded so many times before by his unwillingness to spend time or money with me. I wasn’t worth it. Eventually I believed it and stopped pleading for his attention. But now. But now, my wishes kept bubbling to the surface. And I dared to hope that my husband would be a willing participant in a weekend getaway.

I fully expected my request to stay in a hotel after the concert and go to a spa the next day to require some persuasion. To my surprise, my husband responded positively with little hesitation. Nonetheless, I was proud of my accomplishment. I had acknowledged and placed enough value on something that my heart desired to gather the courage to risk conflict and rejection to ask for it.

My next success occurred the night of the concert as I fully allowed myself to relax in my husband’s presence, and feel and express appropriate emotions. I was excited. I was happy. That doesn’t happen often. I haven’t learned to entirely act and speak without caution. The fear of my husband’s disapproval and emotional abandonment still faintly lingers. But that night, I felt safe to be me. In a crowd of thousands, with my husband at my side, I enjoyed my own company.

The real breakthrough came the following day. And I didn’t even realize it until later that evening. Which is what made the victory that much more beautiful. It was natural. It required no mindfulness. It was just me unexpectedly, effortlessly and genuinely being a version of me that I had never met before.

We went to an outdoor thermal cycle spa. A place where we were both unfamiliar with proper etiquette and procedures. A place filled with other couples and women. Where I was required to wear a bathing suit. All day. A situation ripe for producing discontent, anxiety and fear in my heart.

But it didn’t. Not even one little bit for one little moment. Normally, I am distressed and highly self conscious every time I wiggle into a bathing suit. Admittedly, I am just as likely as any man to create a ranking of every female body in the vicinity. And of course, I lose more than I win. But somehow, I was completely comfortable with my body and paid no attention to its appearance or to anyone else’s. It was the first time I can recall knowing the freedom of personal body acceptance.

It was also effortless to control my thoughts and the need to see if, and where, my husband’s eyes were roaming. Every time I looked at him, it was because I wanted to look at him. And always his eyes were on me. Smiling.

I also felt a deeper contentment and connection with my husband that dissolved my tendency to compare our relationship to other ones. There was no longing in my heart to be more like them and less like us. The physical closeness and awareness of our bodies without any sexual pressure, hopes or discouragement was very sensual and created a unique physical and emotional intimacy that was new to both of us.

What I learned as my insecurities and hang ups melted away was that there is something much better waiting to fill that spot. Confidence. Courage. Adventure. Passion. Joy. Acceptance. Love. I found them all last weekend. Most notably in the cold water pool, after emerging from the sauna, with my hand covering my mouth so my gasps and screams wouldn’t violate the whispering only rule. It all felt incredibly daring and triumphant for someone (me!) who refuses to wear a bathing suit and go swimming at the beach in July.

My husband stood there grinning. Cheering on this new me. I wowed both of us. That’s what love can do. Our love. But most importantly, the love of our God who has more than restored our marriage. He has redeemed and rebuilt it beginning with the transformation and healing of the man and woman within it.

My husband is a new creation. But so am I. I have witnessed God’s relentless pursuit of my husband’s heart. As for me, God is mending bruises and fractures within my soul that I didn’t even know needed healing. My transformation looks different than his. But it is just as real. Just as astonishing. Just as beautiful.

Maybe one day I will stop being so surprised at what new thing God is doing in my life. But I hope not. ❤

Blessed is she that has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. Luke 1:45

I Gave God an Ultimatum

The companion post to Pray Anyway Originally posted June 5, 2017, it provides more of the story of how God transformed a heart……

I gave God an ultimatum. Not sure if that is an okay thing to do, but I did it, and I am still here to write about it. I know it is more than okay to bring God our messy dirty selves. He can handle the anger, confusion and anguish we throw at Him. As the Psalms show, King David did it frequently, and he was a man after God’s own heart. But to be theologically correct, I don’t know if David actually gave God an ultimatum. A tantrum or two for sure. But I would like to think that wasn’t what I was doing.

I wept. Well, more like blubbered. And I am not a crier, so the depth of my grief manifesting in ugly sobs was a betrayal that bewildered me. It was not a pretty sight. Or sound. But it was just me and God and He was okay with that. He was the One who broke me after all. Often that is what God needs to do before we are able to admit defeat and run into His outstretched arms. When He says, “Finally. I have been waiting for you to come.”

The garbage I threw at God was my marriage. I “let it go” before I even began a formal recovery process and acquired a new vocabulary. No one had to tell me to let it go and give it to God. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want my marriage as it was. I didn’t want my husband as he was. I was done with it all.

I clearly remember the words I used that day. “God, you know the desire of my heart is to have a godly, Christian husband. And I don’t know what that means right now. If this marriage has to end for that to happen, so be it. Otherwise take my husband and do something with him. I can’t do this anymore.”

God chose to take my husband and do something with him.

Although I was a Christian, my husband was not. Therefore, not only would God have to heal him from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, He would have to lead him to repentance and transform his heart. God would be required to break my husband and build a brand new man. That would be a mighty big task.

As God would have it, the Sunday following our first counselling sessions, a group of young men from Teen Challenge were taking over the church service. Teen Challenge is a God centered recovery program for people with substance abuse and addictions. They had been to our church previously, so I knew it would be a time of powerful testimony and authentic worship.

I invited my husband to come to church with me that morning. He did. We talked a little about the service but not much. We were both too immersed in our own pain of the early days of recovery to have the energy or desire for conversation. However, God used the vulnerability and rawness of these men to speak deeply to my heart. And apparently to my husband’s as well. To my surprise, he emerged from the bedroom well before his usual time the following Sunday morning. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was coming to church with me. I hadn’t invited him, so I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this development. I was curious and skeptical of his intentions, but we went to church together again. And then again. And then again.

My husband, a gifted musician, was welcomed onto the worship team. An extraordinary outreach from our church body to include a non-Christian in this role. God just kept laying down stepping stone after stepping stone for my husband. This should have made me happy, but I was still too numb to care and appreciate the miracle that was unfolding right before my eyes.

Two months into recovery, knowing nothing of our marriage crisis, our son, a campus missionary, brought a team of students to our town for a ministry weekend at our church. Our house was home base for the team, with several staying here. Being surrounded by passionate God loving young adults and witnessing them living out their faith all weekend, my husband experienced an outpouring of God’s love. It culminated in Sunday morning’s service as God broke him and he fell weeping into the arms of our pastor and our son.

This is an amazing testimony of how God answered the prayers of our son for his father’s salvation.

It was not a happily ever after moment for me. I was emotionally disconnected from the scene playing out in front of me. It could have been anyone at the altar. I watched numbly, feeling near, but very far away. Cautious. Guarded. My heart just didn’t know what this meant. I didn’t know what I wanted it to mean. Sure, I had prayed for God to do something with my husband, but I wasn’t sure that this is what I wanted Him to do. I was getting an answer that I was afraid to hear and that troubled me.

What continued to distress me was the numerous people who approached me to encourage and celebrate with me in how my prayers for my husband’s salvation “all these years” had been answered. I tried my best to smile and nod while my heart screamed. Firstly, I did not pray for my husband all those years. I didn’t care enough anymore to do that. Secondly, his salvation did not make everything okay. I was still broken. Certainly these people were unaware of his addiction, but there was an assumption that now everything in my world was right. And I still didn’t know if it ever would be.

My husband’s salvation story is bittersweet. It has been two years and three months now. His behaviour is believable. He is a new creation. It is real.

For my husband and hero: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26

For you and me: In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:2

Update: It remains real! Three years, seven months and counting. ❤

Pray Anyway

You don’t have to believe in God to pray. That’s what our Sexual Recovery Therapist told my husband as he outlined the sex addiction recovery program my husband was about to begin. Having a day bookended by prayer wouldn’t have fazed me too much. As a Christian, I didn’t spend as much time talking to God as I could or should have. Twice a day would have been a stretch. But something I would have readily agreed to as a part of my recovery program.

And yet it wasn’t me seeking healing from a pornography addiction, compulsive masturbation and intimacy anorexia. It was my husband. A man who did not believe in the existence of God.

I was highly doubtful that my non-believing husband would agree to pray. My eyes had been glued to our counsellor’s face, grasping every bit of hope his words were offering us. The hope began to fade as I apprehensively glanced at my husband, anticipating his resistance to this instruction to talk to God every morning and every night. He was hesitant.  I saw the conflict on his face. Desiring freedom, but struggling to accept that prayer was part of the answer.

Our counsellor recognized the wrestling occurring in my husband’s heart. As he offered the encouragement that “You don’t have to believe in God to pray,” my husband slowly nodded his head and agreed to the plan.

I don’t know if my husband did pray every morning and evening. Or if he did, what words and emotions those awkward prayers must have included. What I do know is that twenty six days later, my husband asked me if I would begin praying together with him as part of an exercise to rebuild intimacy in our marriage.

I avoided answering the question. On my own, I pleaded, cried, spewed to God throughout my day. Now it was me wrestling with this strange idea to pray together. Although my husband had begun attending church with me the previous weeks, he was not yet ready to accept his need for a Saviour. And even though he was fully embracing his recovery program, my heart was unsure of just what exactly I was committing myself to by agreeing to establish spiritual intimacy while my pain was still so raw and fresh and our future unknown.

He pressed for an answer. His vulnerability was both endearing and unnerving. He was opening his heart to me, and to the world, and inviting me to do the same. A risky endeavour for both of us. That he was willing to take. Which, in my mind, distorted the dynamics of our relationship.  It had always been much easier and more comfortable for me to portray my husband as the villain. But now, as his character was consistently shifting in a positive direction, it ultimately required me to adjust alongside him lest we exchange roles and I become the monster in his place. I said yes.

He took my hands in his. And then his voice led the way in uniting our three hearts together in one intimate conversation. It wasn’t as scary as I had anticipated. I faltered in my words. In expressing my true feelings and thoughts. It wasn’t an eloquent prayer. But it was us. And I told my husband that night that even if we don’t say the right words, God knows what the prayer in our heart is.

We prayed together the next night too. And the following one. And for every day since that pivotal night on January 29, 2015. Even when circumstances physically separate us, praying jointly remains a steadfast component of our bedtime routines. By phone, text or email it happens.  One of the most loving, romantic gestures I have received was a prayer tucked in an envelope and carefully placed on my pillow the first time we were apart. Another cherished memory was praying together in a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean in the minutes before midnight to ensure our commitment to praying together daily didn’t lapse because of a time zone change.

And then after seventeen months of praying daily together, a hiccup occurred. And this time, only one of us was able to pray. But it was enough…….

My husband was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Conscious, but with complete vision loss and confusion. When I arrived in the emergency room, and was given the opportunity to talk to him, I approached the bed, anticipating that my arrival would calm him. I gently told him I was there. He asked me who I was. I said “Cynthia.” He didn’t know who that was. I said “Your wife.” And he replied that he did not know my voice. He became even more upset and agitated than he already was and began to cry.

I started praying out loud for him. Right there in that emergency room. And as my words flowed, I watched the tension ease from his body and relax.

The next day, he told me that when I started praying, that was when he knew it was me. His heart and altered mental state recognized me by the words and cadence of my prayer. That was only possible because we had been praying together daily. And because I had learned how to pray out loud and was bold enough to use the new skills God had been developing in me. A year and a half earlier, my husband never would have known I was at his side. Or that God was.

My husband was heart broken in the following days that he had missed praying with me that night. I assured him that he hadn’t. I may have been the only one who spoke the words, but our hearts were united with each other and God.

Pray anyway. It just may lead to your own blessing and miracle. 

Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 1 Chronicles 16:11

Please Don’t Silence the Courage of a Whisper

Apparently my neediness is unattractive. To my spouse. Although he wasn’t the one who told me that. It was a comment left on my last blog post For His Eyes Only. From someone who I will choose to believe intended to offer me helpful advice, as misguided as it was. The words hurt me. They diminished me. Again. And I allowed them to replay through my mind a hundred times more than I should have. Joining the thousands of times beforehand that I had heard and accepted the many variations of “your neediness is unattractive. Even to your spouse.”

And you know what? Maybe my neediness does repel my husband. But if it does, the problem is within his heart, not mine. Because I am not needy. I have needs. And desires. I am human. A woman. And the two go together. Just to set the record straight, I don’t believe my “neediness” does offend my husband. Sometimes he may wrestle with how to meet my needs that are within his realm of responsibility to acknowledge, and yes, supply. But when he struggles, it is because he is trying. Trying to learn how to relate to me and the dance of oneness and separateness that co-exists in a marriage. If he didn’t struggle, it would be then I would worry. Because I wrestle with this too. Discerning what of our own and each other’s needs are my concern and responsibility. And most importantly, what are the longings of our hearts that only God can satisfy.

I do believe that God has created a spiritual void within the human heart that only a relationship and dependence on Him can fill. But those aren’t the needs I am talking about. God created marriage, and a husband and wife, for intimate relationship and to practically meet needs that we can’t on our own.

I have needs that are my responsibility to fill and to protect. I do. And that realization still makes me mildly uncomfortable. Because I have received a life time of messages from those who should have been loving, supporting and protecting me, telling me instead that my needs didn’t matter. Reinforcing that my wants and desires were insignificant, irrelevant, meaningless, shameful. A childhood and adulthood of abusive relationships where the suppression and denial of me was expected and demanded. Where my voice was not only ignored and unheard, it was muted. And it was okay. Even though it wasn’t.

The wasn’t only became clear to me 3 ½ years ago with the full disclosure of my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, and the revelation and validation that my entire 25 year marriage was riddled with betrayal and abuse. Emotionally, mentally, financially, spiritually, sexually. I was in an abusive relationship. I was abused. And that is a concept I have not yet completely reconciled within my heart and mind.

I was a victim of my husband and other betrayers. I learned and implemented survival skills that served me well at the time and allowed me to function alongside the unheard screams of my wounded heart. However, as I heal, those survival mechanisms are no longer a protection. Holding onto them now would lead me to be the betrayer of my own soul. The abuse is over. There is no legitimate reason for me to continue living in dark silence.

My voice is still squeaky. Often unsure. But gaining confidence. Continually surprising me. In a good way. The scared, scarred, little girl hiding within me is gloriously transforming into the woman that God created me to be. It is a beautiful experience discovering me. Made all the more magnificent by my husband, and the wonderful recovery community God has blessed me with during my healing journey, genuinely celebrating together with me.

And yet, I have also learned that not everyone appreciates and responds positively when the silenced find their voices. In my experience in other personal and work relationships, as my voice grows stronger, others have resisted, even become angry, at the shifting balance of power. Setting boundaries, standing up for myself, even asking questions has resulted in my reception of displeasure, disapproval and hostility at times. That can still be awfully threatening and intimidating to a person traversing the rocky path of recovery from betrayal and abuse.

I am not doing my recovery perfectly, but my results indicate that I am doing it well. Acknowledging and expressing my needs is an integral part of my healing process. At times the process has been ugly. But learning to value my needs has never been unattractive.

My off tune, wavering voice belongs in God’s glorious choir. It is rising above the cacophony. Soaring to new heights. God has given me a new, beautiful song to sing of praise, redemption and restoration. I was created for good things. I am worthy of good things.

Please don’t silence the courage of a whisper. Bring it a microphone.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. Psalm 146:7