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Hey Kids, Your Dad is a Sex Addict

Well, those aren’t the precise words that were used to tell our children of my husband’s sex addiction. Because I wasn’t the one who said them. He did.

My husband and I had discussed the when and how of telling our young adult children that our marriage was in crisis and we were in recovery from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. We never really entertained the idea of if.

Neither of our children was living at home with us. Or even near by. Our son lived seven hundred kilometres away. Our daughter was attending university overseas. They weren’t aware that the festering pain in our hearts had erupted. We didn’t have to tell them anything. But we chose to.

We didn’t have a plan of action. No details worked out, other than my agreeing to allow my husband to disclose to our children on his own. I trusted the sincerity of his heart. His vulnerability, courage and desire to expose his sexual sin to our children strengthened my ability to trust his recovery and care for the precious hearts of our son and daughter.

When this would all happen remained an unknown. Particularly knowing it was not likely to be a one time occurrence with our children sitting together on a couch waiting expectantly for their father’s words. No day was marked on the calendar. I trusted God to provide the moment.

And God did just that. Only two months into my husband’s recovery program, he strongly felt the necessity to share his struggles with lust, pornography and masturbation with our then twenty five year old son. It happened in a phone call. My brave husband was scared, but more concerned about our son’s future well being than he was about protecting himself. In his words, he wanted to break the generational curse.

My husband stepped up in his role as a man, father and husband that day. I witnessed his pride melt away and be replaced by a genuine desire to confess his sin and offer a warning and if needed, hope, to his son.

We continued to discuss whether to wait several months until our then twenty two year old daughter was home from overseas to drop this bombshell on her, or to tell her now when she didn’t have the same support system to depend upon. A few months later, my husband received the answer. Our daughter called one afternoon as I was in the city at my partner’s recovery support group. I returned home to the announcement that as they were talking, he strongly felt led to share his struggles and recovery with her. He did.

God was preparing the hearts of both our son and daughter for this disclosure. We did not have to choose the time, or even the words. That was all up to God. All we, or more accurately, my husband, had to do was follow God’s leading. Now the healing that was beginning to occur in each of our hearts, and in our marriage, could radiate outwards to include all our family.

I have met many women through my recovery support group for partners of sex addicts. And I have heard many reasons for not disclosing the addiction to their children. Occasionally, the reasons have merit. There is obviously an age appropriateness factor to consider, and discretion needed in the details provided. But more often than not, the justification was simply an excuse to avoid discomfort or protect a false image of their husband and family.

It is my belief that those false images need to be shattered. That our children should be shown the truth of sexual sin and how it harms the entire family. Because it does. Most children know something is not quite right within their home, and identifying the issue can be freeing for everyone. Exposing the pain and sin allows an opportunity for the healing light to shine through the many, many cracks of a family damaged by addiction. Even when they don’t look broken to the outside world.

As parents, we need to teach our sons and daughters that pornography is not harmless and kills the soul of the user and deeply wounds their loved ones. Our children need to know that hiding and enabling sexual sin does not help anyone. Our sons and daughters need to know that there is freedom and healing, resources and help to overcome the bondage and shame of porn addiction. Our children need to be aware of the dangers of pornography use as they enter relationships. Our children need to know that when choosing their spouse, and also offering themselves as a mate, that often the best partners are those who have fought battles and won. We would have failed our children by remaining silent, standing aside, and watching them enter soul destroying relationships as either the abuser or the abused.

My husband, their father, is a hero. A warrior. Fighting for his freedom and marriage every single day. And winning. I want my children to know that. I want my son and daughter to know that God showed up in a mighty and marvelous way to lead their father to victory over his addiction. I want them to know that the shame of his sin was washed away by the blood of Jesus. I want them to know that miracles still happen. And their daddy is one.

I couldn’t imagine denying our children the opportunity to celebrate God’s supernatural power and healing in their father’s life by choosing to withhold his testimony from them. Their life stories are intertwined.

God shone His light in the darkness, and we followed. We invited our son and daughter to journey alongside us and have never regretted that decision for one moment. Healing is for all of us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

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The Best Part of Addiction Recovery Isn’t What I Expected

I didn’t know that you could say something wrong in a recovery support group. I didn’t expect the words that flowed so innocently and enthusiastically from my mouth would cause shifting eyes and an awkward silence to envelop the room.

I immediately became confused. Quickly replayed in my mind what I had just said that seemed to make this circle of wounded and healing women so uncomfortable. I hadn’t confessed any of my sins or struggles from the week. Or disclosed any of my husband’s. I hadn’t asked a difficult question or raised a triggering topic for discussion.

What I had done was introduce an unexpected burst of joy and an exuberant declaration of God’s goodness and faithfulness to the group. One year into my recovery as the partner of a sex addict and intimacy anorexic, I heartily exclaimed that the best part of my recovery was my deeper relationship with God.

I was surprised and baffled by their reaction. Most of the women in that room identified as being a Christian. And if not, still readily talked about their spirituality. My support group is not church based, but spiritual self care is a component of our check in, and subsequently, God is regularly mentioned.

But perhaps not with as much passion as I did that day. But it was warranted. Two years later, I have often revisited that meeting in my mind, and still come to the same conclusion every time.

The best part of my recovery from my husband’s sex addiction and my own past sexual sin is the intimate relationship I have discovered with Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the One who whispered my name, took my shattered heart in His hand, and set my feet on a path to healing and wholeness. Jesus is the One who called me out upon the water. To the great unknown. Where my feet may fail. And it would be okay anyway.

As part of my morning routine for an entire month, I listened to the song “Oceans” by Hillsong. The lyrics and haunting melody nurtured my soul and provided me courage. One by one, I tentatively allowed Jesus to pry open each finger that was tightly attempting to hold the shards of my heart together. My trust in Jesus grew. And then I timidly prayed for my Saviour to take me deeper. Not quite knowing what that might entail.  But answering the invitation to ride above and through the waves with Him anyway.

At the same time that God was building my faith in Him, He was enlarging my capacity to trust the genuine healing of my husband’s heart. I was beginning to see my husband through God’s eyes, rather than with my own flawed vision.

And then God challenged me. To trust my husband with my heart. God calmed my fear with assurances of His unconditional, unfailing, unrelenting, extravagant love for me. If I could believe that my heart was safe in the hands of my Creator, then I could trust God’s leading to offer it to my husband.

God did not promise that I would never again be hurt by my husband. God did not promise an easy, quick, linear path to restoring our lives and marriage. But God did promise to never leave me nor forsake me. God did promise to be a faithful, constant presence with a never ending supply of strength for my journey.

I began to understand that my husband will fail me. And I will fail him. And we will both fail ourselves. It is inevitable. Despite our best attempts and intentions, we are imperfect, sinful humans. It is wrong of me to expect perfection from him. It is wrong of me to believe that my husband can and should fulfill all my needs. He can’t. Only God can do that.

My worth, joy and peace is not dependent on my husband’s ability to love or respect me. My healing is not determined by the status or success of my husband’s recovery from his addiction. I matter. I am loved. I am cherished by my Heavenly Father. Every moment of every day.  Just because I am me.

God has become the one sure thing in my life. I know that whatever lies ahead for me, for my husband, for my marriage, that I will be okay. Recovery continues to have highs and lows for me as God draws us both closer and deeper in intimate relationship with Him and each other.

I have confidence that should my husband relapse in his recovery, God will sustain me. I am certain that should I falter in my recovery, God will pick me up again.

It wasn’t until my heart was so completely and utterly broken by my husband’s sexual sin that I began to experience how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for me. It became more than a Sunday school song. It turned out to be real.

The truth about God’s supernatural healing power and love is never the wrong thing to say.

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19

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

My Jingle Bells Miracle = Healing from Addiction

Last Sunday evening, seventeen people from my church gathered in a circle in the church’s basement to sing Christmas carols. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about that, except that one of them was my husband.

What makes that extraordinarily special is that three years ago, there would have been few instances that brought my husband into a church at all. And certainly not to sing. And even more certainly, not to sing with me, his wife.

Four Christmases ago, my husband did not believe in God. He also did not place much importance in his wedding vows and marriage. He was ensnared in his fantasy world of pornography and masturbation. There was no room for me.

My husband has always grudgingly attended Christmas Eve church services with me. For that I am grateful. It was a gift to me that our family was together, even though his heart was still far away. For that evening, his physical presence brought me the semblance of the regular loving family that my heart craved. I didn’t have to make any excuses for why he wasn’t with us. I could pretend we were happy. For this night, we were worth his time, and I clung to that offering.

Things have changed in the last few years. God revealed the extent of my husband’s sex addiction to both of us in the weeks before that Christmas three years ago. It was a Christmas of profound sadness, heavy hearts, and utter brokenness. He was a mess. My heart was shattered. We didn’t know how to clean any of it up. And I didn’t know if we could. He hadn’t valued my heart, and now that it was in little jagged pieces, I held the shards tightly in my hand.

In the following weeks, God gently unclenched my grasp. He tenderly took each precious fragment, began the process of restoration and gave me the strength to offer piece after piece to my husband. While this was happening, God was also doing a miraculous work in softening and mending my husband’s heart. God was making us a safe place for each other.

My husband regularly attends church with me. At my side. But not just physically. Also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That is my gift.

It is also my miracle. And his miracle. Because as he freely joined me in singing Christmas carols last weekend, my heart was full. For so many reasons. His recovery from sex addiction. My healing from sexual betrayal trauma and emotional abuse. The redemption of our marriage. The celebration of baby Jesus coming to earth so that one day I could gloriously have my sin and shame washed away.

Those are big things. Really big, significant things. But sometimes, when you are healing and recovering from addiction, abuse or betrayal, seemingly inconsequential incidents are worthy of acknowledgement and celebration too.

Like jingle bells. I wasn’t afraid to ring jingle bells that night. I wasn’t worried that I would shake them wrong. I wasn’t self conscious of looking or feeling foolish to my husband or others. The possibility of receiving disapproval did not fill me with anxiety and paralyze me like it would have in the past. I wanted to ring jingle bells, so I did. And it made me happy.

Standing beside my husband, united as a couple, singing and ringing bells with abandon. Freedom, joy, peace, and acceptance. Acceptance of each other. Acceptance of ourselves. Just as we were. And just as we are. My Christmas miracle.

These words were taken from my Jesus Calling devotional this morning: “As you persevere along the path I (Jesus) have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles – and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly.”

I can see my miracles clearly. Sometimes they sound just like jingle bells.

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. Job 5:9

The Porn Addict’s Wife Wears Lingerie (or tries to)

I was innocently walking through the mall last week. Christmas shopping. Making my list and checking it twice. When in front of me appeared the store that cleverly beckons me. The one that stirs a longing within my heart at the same time it brings a knot to my stomach. Enticing me while rousing my insecurity, fears and loss. A store filled with both hope and grief.

The lingerie store. Filled with intriguing pyjamas, bras, panties, and other attire.

Now, if you are one of my children, this is where you might want to stop reading. But if you are the partner of a sex or porn addict, or have lived with the rejection of a sexless marriage or any type of sexual abuse, you may very well understand the conflicting emotions of wearing lingerie. Or of even buying lingerie.

In my case, I want to wear lingerie. It makes me feel pretty and sexy. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But it also makes me very sad. And a little bit angry. Because I can’t. My sexuality has been damaged. Sex and porn addiction stole my husband’s healthy sexuality. It has also taken mine even though I was not the one viewing it.

I have read articles on the harmful effects of pornography on the addict’s sexuality. I have witnessed those effects in my husband. And I have experienced them on a very deep, personal and painful level. And yet, there is little information on the harmful effects of porn on the partner’s sexuality. But I, the partner, have suffered immensely too.

When my husband chose pornography and masturbation over sexual intimacy in our marriage, my sexuality eroded. I fought to regain it. I read the magazine articles on how to please a man and drive him crazy in bed. I tried it all. Problem was, he was not interested in any of it. My sexual needs and desires were shamed and ridiculed. I finally gave up and did my best not to have them. I stuffed them. I buried them. I accepted a sexless marriage.

And now, almost three years into our recovery programs, I am still struggling in my attempts to accept myself as a sexual being with needs and desires. Even with my husband’s tremendous healing and recovery from his sex addiction, it continues to feel like he holds the power in our sexual relationship. His addiction and recovery influence every choice I make in expressing myself sexually. There is little freedom, fun or lightness when every move I make, every word I speak, every article I wear is funnelled through the lens of porn addiction and the possibility of relapse.

I want to feel pretty and sexy in what I wear to bed. I want my husband to think I look pretty and sexy in what I wear to bed. I do not feel the need to dress provocatively to get his attention, but I do want to clothe myself in ways that please him. That also adds to my pleasure and helps me mentally prepare for sex.

But therein lies the conflict. I want my husband to desire me and my body. I need to be assured that after twenty years of sexual rejection he is attracted to and aroused by what is underneath the lingerie. It is necessary for my mind to avoid any connection to the world of pornography so that I do not unfairly compare myself to the thousands of naked women that have aroused my husband.

The first time I walked into a lingerie store after we began our recoveries, I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t expected that reaction. Approaching the store, I had been filled with nervous anticipation. Feeling excited and bold with this new sexuality that was emerging from deep within me. As my eyes scanned the merchandise, my heart leapt enthusiastically at the possibility of being daring with my sexuality.  And then I froze. Bewildered. Closely followed by my mind screaming “Nooooo. What are you thinking?!”, and an urge to flee from the store. But I stayed, took a deep breath and swallowed the teary lump in my throat.

I soon realized that neither myself or my marriage was emotionally ready for any of the overtly sexual lingerie options on display. But I also knew that with careful consideration I could find something that would make me feel both sexy and comfortable. My focus was not on what my husband would find sexy, but on what would enhance and help me embrace my sexual healing.

I intentionally avoided certain colours, fabrics, and styles. But then I found something that kindled a spark in my soul. And I left the store with more than a new little nightie. I had hope.

That little nightie spent several months in my dresser drawer before I gathered the courage to wear it for my husband. It was a promise and gift to myself as much as it was to him.

I’ve returned to the lingerie store a few times since then. But like my first purchase, the items often stay unworn until I feel safe enough to reveal the growing acceptance of my own sexuality. It is vulnerable exposing not only my body, but also my soul.

Last week the winter and Christmas themed pieces on display reignited the yearning in my heart for sexual lightness and fun in my marriage. I walked into the store with a twinkle in my eye that soon faded with the realization that this could easily be a triggering problem for either my husband, myself or both of us. The sense of loss washed over me once again. I dejectedly wondered if my sexuality and healthy fantasies would be forever tainted by my husband’s past pornography addiction.

I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that I wasn’t emotionally ready to find out this year. I don’t believe it has anything to do with me being scared, or insecure, or not brave enough. Simply, God is laying a foundation and rebuilding a healthy sexuality in both myself and my husband so that one day we will be blessed with holy sex in our marriage as He designed, created and intended it to be. That will be a gift delivered from God, not Santa.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25

I Was Married and Alone

I was married and alone. Very alone. But not very married. We had a wedding ceremony. We had a marriage certificate declaring us husband and wife. We lived in the same house with two amazing children and a dog. But other than that, there was little evidence of a union of hearts and flesh between this man and woman.

There was a constant ache of loneliness deep within my soul. It led to despair, hopelessness and eventually resignation and acceptance that I was unloved and unwanted. After years of trying everything to make my husband love me, to notice me, to offer me a crumb of affection and attention, I realized that the deafening noise in my brain was from me banging my head against the wall. It was not going to happen.

After ten years of marriage, I gave up. I seriously considered leaving my husband. But I didn’t. In all honesty, my decision to stay was not a commitment to my husband, marriage or family. I was not trying to be honourable and stay together for religious or moral reasons. Simply, I was defeated and not brave or strong enough to make such a monumental change to save myself and my children. I was more afraid of the future than the present. In my hidden pain, no one was able to offer me hope. No one recognized the destruction occurring within our home. I was insignificant. And so I did what I did best. Adapted and learned how to survive the abuse.

I no longer had any illusions that my love could change my husband. Neither was I praying and dreaming of the day that God would transform him into my Prince Charming. My heart still ached and longed to snuggle in bed with my husband. To hear the words “I love you.” To hear the words “Good night.” His back turned to me in cold silence every night wounded my heart just a little more, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it didn’t.

One fantasy I did cling to was that my husband was a good man. I was shocked the day God jolted me out of this fantasy and into reality with a DVD by Dr. Doug Weiss entitled Married and Alone. Many times over the years, I had persuaded myself into believing that my husband really was a good man. I would list in my mind all the bad things that he didn’t do. And the good things that he did do. There were many. But that is what he did, not who he was. At least not with me and our children. It wasn’t that he only did good things for others. He did good things for us as well, but we also privately received what others did not. Or more accurately, things were withheld that never should have been.

If you feel married and alone, more like roommates than best friends, there is a good chance that intimacy anorexia has ravaged your marriage and home. And if you can identify with the following characteristics, you may be faced with the same ugly realization that I was: my spouse is not a good person.

  • Busy: has little time for you, does everything they can not to be with you
  • Blame: every issue is your fault
  • Withhold love: you are like a sponge that gets drier and drier
  • Withhold praise: no verbal acknowledgement for the positive qualities you have or things you do
  • Withhold sex: not being emotionally present during sex, or withholding sex from you
  • Spiritual: withholding spiritual connection with you
  • Feelings: unwilling or unable to share his/her authentic feelings with you
  • Anger/Silence: uses anger or silence to control you or push you away
  • Criticism: has ongoing or ungrounded criticism, either spoken or unspoken, towards you
  • Money: controls or shames you regarding money or spending

Sex addiction is one of the causes of intimacy anorexia. And just like my husband’s addiction, I did not cause his abusive behaviours. But I had accepted them. I had agreed with him for twenty five years that it was okay to control and withhold from me. My mistreatment was by mutual consent.

My belief system for my personal and marriage survival began to unravel that day. I received a reality check. Everything was becoming clearer. I felt foolish and naïve in how I had convinced myself of my husband’s goodness. Of how my own actions had enabled my pain to continue and grow. I saw each one of us differently.

My flickering hope for healing from sexual betrayal trauma also grew stronger that day. For me, the educational resources I was utilizing validated my pain and empowered my recovery. The knowledge that my feelings and situation were real, that others experienced and understood the utter chaos and insanity of intimacy anorexia, and that there was a proven and effective recovery plan available to me, my husband and my marriage, gave me the courage to make the changes that I needed to make.

My husband and marriage have been miraculously and wonderfully transformed over the last three years. When an addict finds freedom and salvation, the change is evident. My husband truly is a good man. And so much more. When a husband and wife begin to cherish and respect each other a new strength and love radiates from them. I have seen this. I have experienced this.

But to the people who know me, and have walked the journey with me from beginning to where I am now, they see the change and healing in me too.  And that makes me feel proud. I am rewriting my own story. My husband can’t do that for me.

We need to become our own hero. Married and alone were never meant to exist together.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I Don’t Want to be Strong

I don’t want to be strong. I don’t want anyone to tell me to be strong. I don’t even want anyone to tell me that I am strong. In my experience, if that character trait is being mentioned, and I need to muster courage and resiliency to get through a situation, then something must be difficult. And distressing. And quite possibly, wrong.

Certainly there is a well meaning encouragement behind the words. An offering of support. Perhaps even given as a compliment. Or a reassurance of hope and the calming of a storm.

Early in my recovery from sexual betrayal trauma and the effects of my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, I was tired of holding it all together. I didn’t know how to. And the thought of fighting the destruction was exhausting and overwhelming.

Hearing the exhortations to be strong made me want to scream “But I don’t want to be strong!” I just wanted to be. Whatever that was, I just wanted to be. I wanted someone else to be strong for me. Or better yet, to not have to be strong at all.

If my husband wasn’t a sex addict, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If I hadn’t lived in a sexless marriage devoid of love and affection for twenty years, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If I remained silent and willing to live in an emotionally abusive marriage, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If. If. If.

I thought I had to be strong. And I couldn’t do it. I felt defeated. I remember waking up in the morning already beaten down by the fog of a day covered in pain and uncertainty. My prayer before I arose from bed was not a petition for God to provide me with strength and courage to tackle my day, heal my wounds or save my marriage. My prayer was much simpler, honest and broken. “God, please hold me today.”

God, please hold me today. And He did.

I didn’t have to be strong after all. In my brokenness and weakness, God was more than able to step in and be strong for me. And what I found was that as I ceased fighting, and rested in God’s arms, He began to infuse me with His strength. It just came because it wasn’t mine. I didn’t have to put on my big girl pants because God put His armour on me instead.

God made me ready for my battle of restoration. My Defender. My Protector. The Mountain Maker. The Ocean Tamer. The One who put my life back into place when I thought it was falling apart. The One who showed me that He really does bring beauty from the ashes.

This would be a nice, tidy ending to the story now. But……that’s not how it always works. At least not for me. Sometimes I forget and try to do things on my own strength again. Someone may tell me that I am a strong woman, and that makes me feel proud of the recovery work I have done. I feel affirmed that someone has noticed the changes in me. Sometimes I forget that it wasn’t my own strength that brought me to this place of healing and restoration. Or worse, sometimes I don’t forget, I just don’t acknowledge the One who carried me through and lifted me above my circumstances.

Recently, as my husband and I have committed to improving our emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy, I have found myself once again relying on my own strength. And that isn’t working very well for me. I am struggling. Doing the one step forward, two steps back dance. I pray. But sometimes it isn’t with all my heart. Sometimes it isn’t with a surrendered heart.

God’s grace is sufficient for me. If I let it be. His power is made perfect in my weakness. If I give Him control. But I am still a teeny bit scared of trusting my husband with all of my heart and body. Which also means I’m not trusting God to protect me either.

I have the same power living in me that rose Jesus from the dead, and yet I stifle that power even when God has proven Himself faithful over and over and over again. Even when the battle has already been won.

Now, it is time for the tidy, happy ending, but I don’t have one to this part of my story yet. But it is coming.

God, please hold me today.

O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2