The Parents – To Tell or Not to Tell

Please excuse me while I jump ahead in my story to something that hasn’t even happened yet. Tomorrow I get on a plane to visit my parents and my brother’s family. They do not know the events of the last two and a half years of my life recovering from a marriage ravaged by sex addiction. They also are not aware of the neglect and emotional abuse of the preceding twenty five years.

It has been easy to hide the truth from my family. I moved 3,000 km away from home two days after my wedding. In the early years, when our children were young and adorable, someone would make the trek once or twice a year for a family visit. Now that our children are young adults, the frequency of the visits with my parents has diminished to once a year or so. It has been relatively easy for my husband and I to wear smiley faces and play happy little family for one week every year. Besides that, I do come from a family content to hide its flaws from one another. It is more comfortable for everyone that way.

At forty eight years of age, I still fear disappointing my parents. Of messing up in their eyes. My therapist has assured me that they will love me no matter what. He asked me if anything my children did would affect my love for them. I know my mind was supposed to draw the parallel between the parental love I have for my children, and that my parents have for me. But I just can’t quite get there. It seems that I need more than love from my parents. I need acceptance and approval. Security and safety in my position in the family. And that comes from playing my part properly.

To be fair to my parents, I do believe they would wholeheartedly accept both myself and my husband if I dared to be authentic with them. Quite likely there would be tears over my pain. Guilt that they didn’t help me. Hurt that I didn’t trust them enough to share my heartache with them until now.

I have become skilled at justifying to myself why I have not and should not tell them my story. I have asked myself too many questions that don’t have answers. What exactly would I tell them? How much of my husband’s story? Of mine? What do I include and what do I leave out? Why stir things up now when they are getting older? I only see them once a year, wouldn’t it be better, or at least easier, to just keep things as they are?

I have come to realize there a few problems with maintaining the silence. Although my parents are getting older, they are only in their mid seventies. They could easily, and I hope they do, live another twenty years. That is a long time to continue feeling like I am lying and keeping secrets from them.

I would also be denying them the opportunity to celebrate the growth and healing in our lives and marriage. I would be intentionally withholding the story of the outpouring of God’s redemptive love upon us and the miracle after miracle that has become part of our testimony. Surely they would want to know of this amazing grace. Surely God would want them to.

As I sit here writing this, I am becoming mildly uncomfortable that I have chosen to openly share the struggles and victories of my life with nearly everyone but my parents. And yet……

Will this visit be the third time we are together since beginning recovery that I will succumb to my own fears and insecurities and talk about the weather? Will I be able to admit that yes, I am worried about hurting my parents, but it is really me I am trying to protect? Will I seek God’s boldness, strength, wisdom and guidance on the when, hows and whats of this conversation?  Or will I be afraid of the answer and keep waiting for another time?

And so I get on the plane tomorrow not knowing what the next week brings. But God knows. And I am trying to be okay with that.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6

14 thoughts on “The Parents – To Tell or Not to Tell

  1. I am pausing to pray right now that God will give you His peace, grace, boldness, wisdom & discernent in sharing your heart with your parents. Hope your visit with them is a blessing. God bless you! Life is hard, but God is good!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! Yes, God is indeed good, which is why I need to trust that He will fill me with everything I need to share my heart, and also trust that He has been preparing my parents’ hearts to hear my story.


  2. As I have walked this healing journey, I found it important to be authentic and transparent with anyone that I wanted relationship with. It thwarted my growth to put the mask back on fall back into the pretensions that I had learned so beautifully from my FOO and lived so perfectly in my own marriage and family. To help, HUSBAND and I wrote out specifically what we would say (or I or him, as the case may be) to ensure we were sharing the information clearly, simply and specifically without bunny-trailing or burdening.
    Cynthia…it has been freedom in so many ways. I realized part of my bondage was the patterns of the past, and being able to live in honesty in ALL my relationships is a beautiful thing. And you can do hard things, beautiful girl. Hugs.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your inspiring words of encouragement and sharing your experience with me. You have touched on one of my key struggles here. I have been successfully learning to be authentic in my other relationships so the thought of continuing to live in past patterns with my parents is becoming uncomfortable. I suppose that is my answer.
      I truly appreciate your suggestion to write out something ahead of time to avoid the rabbit trails and burdening. That would definitely help with the “whats” of what needs to be shared and what doesn’t to ensure I don’t go places that are unnecessary. That is what I will be doing this afternoon at the airport. Because you are right, I can do hard things.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘Besides that, I do come from a family content to hide its flaws from one another. It is more comfortable for everyone that way.’ Oh boy, do I connect with that! I find it a lot easier to share with ‘everyone’ than with my immediate family… I pray a blessing of peace over your visit, whatever may come. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Most people in my family now know that I’m in a dysfunctional marriage. The first person I told was my Great Aunt (my grandm’a sister) and she had a very abusive marriage. And I felt like I was crawling out of some secret society.

    And when I eventually did tell my Grandma, I was surprised how welcoming she was. I don’t know why, but I thought she’d react harsher than she did.

    So everyone knows, but not everyone understands. I have 3 children with autism, which makes leaving hard. Also, I’m a stay at home mom, which is also hard too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your experience in telling members of your family with me.

      Knowing and understanding are different, but for me at least, it is the acceptance and maybe for the person to at least try to understand how this has affected the woman I am. But even if they don’t understand, there is freedom in removing that mask. Like you said, crawling out of some secret society. Finding out you are not alone. Saying this is me. Here I am. I hurt. And this is why. It is empowering and does release some of the shame. It just seems so much easier with people who aren’t members of our family.

      (((Hugs))) to you for your courage in sharing with your family and with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hugs. The first time I told my aunt it was incredibly hard even though she’s super mellow and accepting.

        Also, I was a member of Sexless marriage forum. I was on Experience Project before it closed down.

        Now I’m a part of, so that also helps.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am glad you have found resources to help you. I never knew there was help and support available for me, so I spent way too many years suffering and struggling on my own, thinking I was alone, until I broke. But then I found so many people willing to support and guide me and share their experiences. And now I have also found this wonderful blogging community to be another blessing!


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