Can’t We Just Be Broken Together?

My husband doesn’t know what to do with my tears. I often don’t know what to do with them either. Three years into our recovery from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, the presence of my tears still distresses both of us, often leaving them unheeded.

I say both of us, because living with the emotional abuse and sexual betrayal of my husband’s addiction for twenty five years left me in a state of emotional numbness. I did not laugh. I did not cry. I wasn’t happy, but neither was I miserable. Life was okay that way.

Until it wasn’t. Until the pain became so strong, and overwhelming, and exhausting, that I no longer had the energy to smother it with nothingness. As I wrote previously in I Gave God an Ultimatum:

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.

It was just me and God sitting alone together in a hotel room far away from my husband. Or from anyone that might witness my brokenness. I don’t remember crying again for a few more months. And when I did, it was in the solitude of my car. On my own. With no one to see my anguish. With no one to look at me with disdain or pity. With no one to comfort me.

Barely two months into our healing journey, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye to our dog. As an empty nester in a home where love was routinely withheld from me, it was particularly true that my beloved dog was my best friend and companion. My source of affection. But also the one who readily accepted the love I offered.

I was very close to crying that day. The tears puddled in my eyes, and a few, though not many, trickled down my cheeks. My husband thanked me for showing my emotions. He was sad. I was sad. At the same time. In the same place. For the same reason. And yet my heart still felt disconnected. I was mystified at the absurdity of his praise, the approval of my tears, and the new experience of sharing a loss together.

Learning to experience and identify feelings is a new thing for me. For both of us. Our communication has improved significantly because of these new skills. But…..

We don’t know how to cry together. We falter in our ability to receive and allow each other’s sadness and pain.

As any recovering addict must, my husband has courageously worked through his need to numb emotional pain through his drug of choice, pornography and masturbation. He has also fully embraced a recovery program providing him freedom and healing from the immense damage porn inflicted on him. And he has recognized the devastation and pain his choices thrust upon me, our marriage, and our children. Porn is not harmless. Ever.

My husband is filled with remorse over the effects his addiction had on all of us. He has a truly repentant heart. Yet he struggles to forgive himself. Tears flow freely and easily for him. That makes him doubt his manliness. But I don’t. He is a man of both great strength and gentleness. His vulnerability allowed me to trust his heart and invite him back into mine.

But frequently, his tears stop mine. When his flow, mine don’t. Often when I approach him feeling hurt or troubled about something, his heart fractures from the reality and magnitude of the pain his sexual sin has caused all of us. He begins crying. My natural response is to comfort him. Which means I withdraw from my own hurt and tuck it back away so I can make him feel better with hugs and encouraging words. And then I feel bitter. Because this was about me. And my pain. But it somehow becomes about his.

It is not a manipulative maneuver on his part. He doesn’t ask me to console him. I’m not even sure he expects that. I just do it because the alternative would be awkwardly watching him grapple with his own pain. Which adds discomfort to my growing resentment.

Recently, as this all too familiar scenario played out, I physically felt my heart constricting and getting harder and smaller. I understood it was time for me to change my behaviour and response to our tears. It was okay to let my husband sit in his sorrow and grief. And it was necessary for both of us to accept my brokenness and expressions of sadness. Maybe we could just cry together. Maybe we could find comfort and hope for our full healing in mingled tears.

The last two months we have made a commitment to delve deeper into building the sexual intimacy that was missing in our marriage. This process has reintroduced emotions that haven’t been regularly experienced since the early stages of our recovery three years ago. Thus, the re-emergence of tears, and need to respond to them in a more healthy way.

My first attempt at allowing my tears to remain, while refraining from extending instant consolation to my husband once his began, left me feeling discouraged. He seemed oblivious to my tears, and although I didn’t speak, my hands reached out to soothe him with my touch. My eyes dried up, and resentment seeped into my heart.

The second time this happened, I sat on my hands and forced my mouth shut to resist comforting my husband. It was awkward and uncomfortable witnessing his despair and doing nothing but let him feel it. The focused effort on my part detached me from my emotions. And yet it was still a small victory.

The next opportunity we had to practice crying together, we cried together. It was a breakthrough for me. And yet I can’t tell you much more than that. Even though it was just last week, I can’t recall my thoughts or emotions. And honestly, that kind of puzzles me. The emotional intimacy connection I was seeking occurred, and yet the memories of it elude me. Positive or negative. I have no explanation as to why.

I don’t know what will happen next time. But I have come to learn on my healing journey that my progress doesn’t always leap directly from discouragement to joy. It often sits somewhere in the middle while I adjust to new behaviours and thought patterns. My progress isn’t perfect, but it is progress, and so I celebrate.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21

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20 thoughts on “Can’t We Just Be Broken Together?

  1. Thank you Cynthia for journaling your way to healing. As you know I come from another direction into recovery. What I noticed while learning is that somehow I, as a person with an addictive personality, expect that my experiences in the world are either mègh or yay! While actually, when looking at nature, there is not tree celebrating growing above the rooftop of a building, there is not flower depressed because the other flower openend the buds earlier, there is no bird sulking because it rains. All of them just do what they do, what has been given to them to do and that brings peace and contentment. I haven’t figured it out yet but as you say: this middle part might just be exactly where life, peace and contentment happen and where progress is surely and steady.
    Thank you for your post.
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My heart breaks for you (and your husband) as you both navigate this difficult road to recovery, but my heart also rejoices with you in that journey, knowing that if you both continue to take the difficult steps involved, even though the territory you’re crossing is unfamiliar, you will be blessed with healing and the intimacy you seek. Praying for the Lord’s strength and comfort for you both. ((( Hugs 🤗)))

    Liked by 3 people

    • You have such a beautiful spirit of encouragement. We have already received miracle upon miracle, and so much healing. There is an abundance of laughter, lightness, and just plain silliness in our home now, that it is funny to be writing about tears. I think God is leading us to deeper emotional and spiritual intimacy to be able to experience the full spectrum of emotions and life together. And only then can our sexual intimacy be fully redeemed.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. As a man who dealt with the same emotions your husband is dealing with, I can say this…despite the fact that, yes, you need to let out your emotions and share them with him his guilt is heavy and he realizes that your pain IS his pain because he caused your pain.

    I applaud you, dear sis, for consoling your husband as he deals with this and know that he will still cry years from now…not for himself…but for others.

    As you continue along your journey of healing the intimacy​ within your marriage will be explosive.

    I also am thankful you are sharing this journey so other women will know they are not alone.

    God bless,
    Stu

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really appreciate your insight and perspective into my husband’s tears and our journey to explosive (wow!) intimacy. And if/when he reads your comment here, he will appreciate the affirmation that his emotions are valid and “normal.” As we have talked about this the last few weeks, he has admitted to feeling selfish now about his tears and has tried to control them. Which is not what I want at all. I love and trust his heart, and his tears help me do that. Comforting him is not a burden to me. I will continue to do that always. And I will also willingly put myself aside to do that. But there are still times we just need to learn to grieve and comfort each other together. We’re not travelling our healing journey perfectly, but we are travelling it daily and intentionally, with each other and God. It is truly amazing and worth it!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The ones that have guilt, sorry and remorse, like your husband and mine, will do the work needed to stay in recovery. What they did is not who they are.

    This is a very painful and emotional journey for all, but it’s healing to share in each other’s pain ❤️ something bigger and greater will grow from this xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • You have a beautiful spirit and are showing grace and wisdom in this recovery journey. I look forward to us walking together and being a part of each other’s journey. Blessings to you my new friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh I struggle with the “let him feel it” part, too!

    Countless times I’ve shared how his porn addiction has made me feel and my pain just destroys him, so I’ve consoled him, too. And one afternoon, I had a meltdown in the shower. I was already alone and honestly just wanted to be left alone. I was having a panic attack, and Hubby heard me so he came in. When he saw me curled up in the tub, gasping for breath and sobbing hysterically, he started to cry and even said something like, “I’m doing everything I can to make this right!” That made me mad and I was able to pull myself together enough to demand that he not ruin my emotional outlet by feeling sorry for himself.

    It was not my finest moment, but later we were able to have a rational conversation in which I explained how much his need to be consoled drains me sometimes. Since that day, we’ve had times when he’s poured his heart out, other times I’ve poured my heart out, and still others when we’ve both clung to each other sobbing and praying together.

    It’s such a process, and I’m so thankful for you sharing your story so that others (myself included) may be encouraged in this hard, hard journey of recovery. And I’m so thankful that you were able to just let him feel it so that you, too, don’t have to tuck your pain away. I’m praying for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know for me crying has been a blessing and a curse. Great to finally get the emotions out but a pain in the butt that you can’t control it and I’d cry anywhere… but it does get better. I still cry more than I ever have but not in public…. lol! ❤️ hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

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