What Forgiveness Looks Like to the Porn Addict’s Wife

I’ve had a week of soul searching. Of examining the cobwebby crevices of my heart. I am tired now. Genuinely evaluating my emotions, attitudes and beliefs often brings me unsettling answers that don’t comfortably agree with the reality I have created for myself. Staring at my own unhealthy and sinful behaviours is deflating. It requires change of me. More healing. Growth. Effort. Energy. Exhaustion.

It began at my Life group meeting last week. We are currently studying a book called The Bait of Satan by John Bevere which deals with offense, the pain of betrayal, and the effects of unforgiveness. Leading myself and the other women through these lessons has been challenging. There have been some really tough issues for all of us to tackle.

This week I entered the wrestling ring. Shaking my understanding of where in the process of forgiveness I stand with my husband. Doubting my certainty that I have forgiven him for the deep pain his pornography addiction, intimacy anorexia, emotional abuse, and sexual betrayal and rejection have inflicted upon me, our marriage and our children.

I have received and claimed an unexplainable forgiveness over these past wounds. A release and fading of the painful memories. The past pummeling just doesn’t matter anymore. I very seldom return to those times, because although they have contributed significantly to the woman I am, they don’t define me. And they don’t define my husband either. We are a couple recovering from his sex addiction, not living in the throes of it.

The lesson asked four questions warning of the possibility that I may still be harbouring unforgiveness in my heart. Even through a stubborn insistence that forgiveness has been extended.

  1. Why am I compelled to tell my side of the story?
  2. How can I fight thoughts of suspicion or distrust?
  3. What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts?
  4. How can I regain trust after someone deeply offends me?

These are warning signs. None of them, or even all together, indicate the presence of unforgiveness, merely the possibility. As I answered these questions as honestly as I could, it was number three that pinged at my heart. What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts? Rehearsing past hurts. Rehearsing. Past. Hurts.

But I don’t really think I am rehearsing past hurts. The hurts I am revisiting are current. From the last few years of our marriage. Not the first twenty five. I have extended grace and forgiveness to both of us for our inability to comprehend the depth of sexual betrayal and destruction we were allowing and inviting into our home before D-Day and recovery.

But now. I have an entirely different set of expectations and boundaries. We both know now what we didn’t know then. The healing process, the journey, is filled with intentional decisions. And when many of the choices my husband makes now to avoid communication and sexual intimacy continues to hurt me, it is a new pain. A fresh gash running alongside the scab. My tears are for today, not for yesterday.

Perhaps there is unforgiveness mingled in with my disappointment and discouragement at what remains broken. At what is being withheld from me. It’s more about what is than what was. With healing, effort, and intentionality I can release the hurts of the past. I have. Forgiveness towards my husband has flowed relatively easily for me.

Forgiveness doesn’t spring from my heart as readily when the stinging blows of rejection keep coming.  Even with all the recovery tools and resources I have gained and utilized to heal from his addiction. Even with a deeper understanding of what forgiveness is.

I’m not refusing to forgive my husband. He is just as deserving and worthy of forgiveness and mercy as I am. I’m not waiting for a magical moment, for that something to happen, or those words to be spoken before I release my feelings of resentment. I’m just recognizing that forgiveness is not a one time occurrence. It is a deliberate decision that I need to make daily because new offenses will come. They just will. Perfection is not attainable for any human.

And so I ask myself:

Have I forgiven my husband for the devastation his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia inflicted upon me for the first twenty five years of our marriage? I believe I have.

Do I still hold unforgiveness in my heart for the remaining fractures and new bruises? I reluctantly admit that I do.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

17 thoughts on “What Forgiveness Looks Like to the Porn Addict’s Wife

  1. You have come such a long way Cynthia! And I can tell from your posts that your husband has as well.

    I just wish and pray that he would realize, despite the other aspects of your intimacy being good/great, that the nonsexual intimacy still hurts you deeply.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I wish the same thing…. for whatever reason, and I really can’t speculate on what is going on in his brain, he remains resistant to acknowledging the depth of my pain. I have seen improvement in the last few weeks, but my heart is still guarded. Interestingly, it seems that as I have lessened my attempts to grow our sexual intimacy, he is becoming more relaxed. It’s almost like he is responding because there is less pressure from me. What he doesn’t realize is that there is less pressure from me because I have withdrawn. He needs to regain my trust anew, because although his behaviour is different than during his active addiction, the last year has still been filled with prolonged sexual rejection and neglect. It is a new wound to heal.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I find the new wounds to be almost more problematic to heal than the old. I’ve been pondering that quite a bit lately. I know that for me I have to actively fight off the line of thinking that goes something like: “After standing by your side and working so hard to heal myself and this marriage you still do (or can’t do, as the case may be) ___x___?” I think I’ve settled on the notion that line of thinking isn’t necessarily wrong or unjustified. It just doesn’t lead anywhere particularly positive or helpful. It may be the case that no matter how much our husbands understand the pain they caused, it doesn’t necessarily lead them to treat us they way we want and deserve to be treated. I realize that my belief that if my husband could see and sit with my pain that it would help him curb his addictive behaviors (not just the acting out but all the hurtful emotional stuff that goes along with it) was too simplistic. As a non-addict, if I hurt someone I love I would move mountains to fix it. I expected that from my addict husband. While I fully believe he intends to move mountains, it’s a much bigger leap for him to actually do it. Empathy and corrective action are, I think, closely intertwined in the brains of non-addicts, but I’ve come to believe that’s just not at all true for addicts. That, in turn, means that there are new wounds far more frequently than we would like or expect. 💔

        Liked by 6 people

      • Thank you for your brilliant insights again. You have a wonderful way of articulating the thoughts in my head and emotions in my heart that I can’t always get into words in my posts, or that I wish I had! It’s interesting and comforting to know that we have been pondering the same thing lately with the healing and forgiveness of old wounds versus new ones. The healing process often seems to unfold in a certain way/order for many of us.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I can’t say what is going through his mind either. Each of us our different in our healing, but this I do know…when I hear from women whose husband is addicted and the pain it causes them it reminds me of all the pains I inflicted without realizing it. And it hurts like hell.

        Your post about what you lost when his addiction won brought a new new level of hurt as I realized the depth of the pain our addiction causes.

        Maybe your withdrawal, as sad as it is to say this, from him will turn the tide in his eyes. With less pressure comes freedom to try. If that makes sense.

        Liked by 3 people

      • It does make sense. Because I think that is what is happening. He is lighter. But unfortunately, I am heavier. And so the pendulum swings. Maybe one day soon it will stop and settle in the center.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Although forgiveness is a huge aspect of all this, regaining trust goes along with it. And not to spouses. Trust in God. Knowing that God’s got this, that He allows all things for His good purposes, accepting all things from His loving hands. Submitting to His will, moment by moment, and being thankful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly this. I often pray for God to keep building my trust in Him, knowing that He is the One who will lead me through the plans He has for my life. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Trust God first, and if the Spirit guides me in that direction, the outflow will be trust in my husband, knowing that God is caring for my heart better than any person could. It is God that I need to trust with my heart first and foremost. After that, I know I will always be okay no matter what comes my way.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. “The hurts I am revisiting are current.” Yep. Me too. It’s a cyclical healing / grieving process, and “slips” with behavior – withhold, covert blame, etc. I have really specific boundaries, now, that I had no idea I needed (before). I have really high expectations for my husband now, too. Recovery is a journey for us all, and even though therapists have this perfect little 3-5 year time block for trauma recovery, it’s not real life. It’s a statistic. Of course, the over-achiever in me wants to hit it at 3 years (around now). My hub was mentally unstable for 1 – 1.5 years after he confessed and tried to kill himself. That delayed him doing recovery work. He wasn’t acting out, but he wasn’t “with it” enough to do the work. And the trauma embedded more in me. It is what it is. And that is OK.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I have struggled with that perfect little 3-5 year timeline too. Although I heard it originally as 2 -5. In any case, we had incredible improvements in our marriage and some immediate transformations in my husband within the first year, so I was a little smug, thinking 2 -5 years. No way! We got this beat in one year. Aren’t we the awesome couple?! Now that we are well into year four, and overall, doing well, I don’t see the five year mark as being attainable for healing and recovery. Perhaps from the initial trauma it is. But not from the new wounds and challenges that occur along the way. I am accepting that this will always be a lifelong journey. But with just as many good and positive things as the negative. There is no such thing as a perfection in this life, so I need to let go of that unrealistic expectation and just keep on moving forward the best I can.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Forgiveness is vulnerability and being vulnerable after such profound betrayal is the most difficult thing for me. For me, it is usually one step forward and two steps back. Progress towards full forgiveness is s.l.o.w! Thank you for such an on point post. ❤️

    Liked by 5 people

    • Forgiveness with on-going wounds and withholding is tough. I really get it.

      I don’t know if wounding in the present (on-going) “can” be forgiven? Maybe accepted is a better word? With understanding that the issues are part of IA, and hope that he’ll continue to heal and become more whole? I dunno.

      I just had a conversation this morning with our marital therapist. There will be a limit to my hub’s ability to emotionally connect on the level I would like if he doesn’t do some “deep diving” with a properly-trained therapist on his end. She said the same as far as how much he’ll be able to empathize with the depth of my pain. She said he only feels it on the surface, and it’s more “cerebral” – so unless he gets proper help, he’ll remain stuck there.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Will still gets stuck in his withdrawn IA head. He is making progress though and it is S.L.O.W! The pint is that it’s progress. Our CSAT is very good at forcing him to feel the pain and not stuff it down. It is SO hard for him to open up…but he’s working on it. I hope your SA can commit to working hard on the IA stuff…that’s more difficult than sobriety. *hugs*

        Liked by 1 person

    • Vulnerability! Yes!! That word is key. Showing up every day with an open heart is the way to full forgiveness. When our marriage exploded, and we began recovery, the repentance and earnestness I saw in my husband allowed me to forgive his behaviours to that point fairly easily. My heart was already busted open, gasping for healing and hope. I was in pain and vulnerable whether I wanted to be or not. But now, it is a different kind of wound, and I almost feel more vulnerable exposing this one. His disinterest, indifference, avoidance is still a betrayal, and my heart is still fragile enough that it struggles with the choice to be vulnerable or withdraw.

      One step forward, and two steps back means you are still moving. Still showing up. Still progressing. Slow does not equal stagnant. It will still get the job done. xo

      Liked by 4 people

  5. I completely agree with you write here. The trauma and pain of a betrayal keep resurfacing over time. This is something we all experience. There are a million cuts, a million losses, and so much grief. Those wounds take a long time to heal and the scab can be knocked off very easily causing a surge of pain again. Feelings of anger and pain are very normal. In fact, i would say they were healthy. They show we have loved and trusted deeply. Hence, they do not necessarily point to a lack of forgiveness.

    Like

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