Tag Archive | abuse

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

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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

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’ll build an altar to praise Him….

Today I came across something I’d written years previous: “God is asking me to go back and get the pieces of myself that I abandoned as a young girl. They are pieces of my heart that were left behind because it was just too painful to bring them with me. But now as an adult God is asking me to bring them to the forefront again, to remember them, to bring them to Him, because now as an adult I need them to become the beauty that God created me to be from the beginning…. I need them because God wants to turn my ashes into beauty and He can only do that when I bring them to Him.”

As I look back on the path behind me, in my minds eye it’s as if I can see places along the way marked with an altar of stones…those places where I picked up the pieces of my heart that were lost, stolen or broken or simply never uncovered…and as I picked up each one, sometimes with deep pain and endless tears, other times with intense anger but always with an expectation and a hope, would I lay them at the feet of Jesus.

Small altars along the path of my life built with rough rocks and stones symbolizing memories, brokenness and pain that I needed to surrender, to lay down…those deep places of the heart and spirit that needed His healing touch…. these altars along the path marked my journey with the Lord.

Canadian musician and songwriter Steve Bell, whom I’ve had the privilege of seeing in concert, sings a song called: Here by the Water

Soft field of clover
Moon shining over the valley
Joining the song of the river
To the great giver of the great good

As it enfolds me
Somehow it holds me together
I realize I’ve been singing
Still it comes ringing
Clearer than clear

And here by the water
I’ll build an altar to praise Him
Out of the stones that I’ve found here
I’ll set them down here
Rough as they are
Knowing You can make them holy
Knowing You can make them holy
Knowing You can make them holy


I think how a yearning

Has kept on returning to move me
Down roads I’d never have chosen
Half the time frozen
Too numb to feel

I know it was stormy

I hope it was for me learning
Blood on the road wasn’t mine though
Someone that I know
Has walked here before

I came to the place in my life where no longer could I hide the stones that I’d been given: stones of abuse and rape, stones of abandonment and rejection. They were getting too heavy to carry so I would drop them but no longer could I step over them either.

The stones were not smooth but were jagged and rough, causing me to stumble along the path sometimes cutting my feet. As I looked back I also saw places along the trail stained with blood marking the path.

At the time, although I wasn’t sure how God could make my stones holy, deep down I knew He could, that He would.

How would He bring good out of evil, how could I sing, how could I praise Him….how could He, how would He heal me…and yet, I knew…that somehow, the God of all creation, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End…would bring healing…I had a flicker of hope ignite deep in my spirit and I knew…I believed, and I hung onto HOPE!!

And I began to sing…as God took my bloodied and battered heart and begin to heal it, to mold it, to soften it…. I sang, and hand in hand together God and I walked this rough and uneven path.

This was certainly not the road I would have chosen as a young girl…but I am here today, alive, healing and still singing!! Why can I sing…because I know that I do not walk this road alone.

There were times along the path of healing that the stones were so sharp I felt like my heart was being ripped to shreds.

The trail is stained with my hurt, tears and grief.

But the blood on the path….the blood is not mine…it was shed for me, definitely, but is is mine, no….and the tears…well, they’re not all mine either…..

 And here by the water
I’ll build an altar to praise Him
Out of the stones that I’ve found here
I’ll set them down here
Rough as they are
Knowing You can make them holy
Knowing You can make them holy
Knowing You can make them holy

All the stones….rejection, abandonment, anger, fear, abuse, rape, self-pity, approval, addictions, striving…..today they are all holy….because I chose to lay them at the feet of Jesus and build an altar to praise Him, rough as they were….. so that He could take them from me, use them and make them holy.

And He has……

 

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What To Do If A Child Reports Abuse

Here’s a text from another great site about child abuse:

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm

You may feel overwhelmed and confused if a child begins talking to you about abuse. It is a difficult subject and hard to accept, and you might not know what to say. The best help you can provide is calm, unconditional support and reassurance. Let your actions speak for you if you are having trouble finding the words. Remember that it is a tremendous act of courage for children to come forward about abuse. They might have been told specifically not to tell, and may even feel that the abuse is normal. They might feel they are to blame for the abuse. The child is looking to you to provide support and help- don’t let him or her down.

Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.

Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his/her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.

Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.

Reporting child abuse and neglect

Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives. However, by reporting, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child and the child’s family, especially if you help stop the abuse early. Early identification and treatment can help mitigate the long-term effects of abuse. If the abuse is stopped and the child receives competent treatment, the abused child can begin to regain a sense of self-confidence and trust. Some parents may also benefit from support, parent training and anger management.

Reporting child abuse: Myths and Facts

  • I don’t want to interfere in some one else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
  • What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home – unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
  • They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymousIn most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
  • It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

Child Abuse Hotlines: Where to call to get help or report abuse

Continuing on with ambivalence….

Dr. Dan Allender again states that,” Intimacy begets longing, and longing is interpreted as sexual. Passion destroys; therefore, it must either be avoided or conquered.”
How very true is this statement, the wound deepens as shame and contempt continue their hellish cycle. I began as a young woman to develop a deep hatred of longing and so I learned to deaden my soul.  I could describe myself as a house with the lights on, but never at home. Never feeling alive within myself. Deadening my soul in order to survive, afraid of feeling anything too deeply. Disengaging myself from the wounds of my soul.

Again Dr. Allender says “ Ambivalence robs a person of the joy of being alive as a man or woman. And makes pleasure-any experience of enjoyment- highly suspect and dangerous.”
It would take me years before I could begin to enjoy being a woman and to let compliments whether from my husband or others to begin to penetrate the outer layer of protection that I had so firmly built in place.

When I was in my thirties I received from my friend, Sandi, a porcelain figurine of a little girl kneeling to pray. In her arms she held a teddy bear and surrounding her were tiny rosebuds. Her hair was done up in curls with rosebuds and daisies scattered through out. Her dress pink and frilly…. she was adorable and it played the tune “Jesus loves me”.
This little figurine portrayed to me the angelic appearance of what childhood should be, innocent, pure, and unblemished.
Along with the gift was a card that read, “If I could I would give you back the childhood innocence and the carefree happiness and unconditional love that was denied you but I can’t my friend. But I can give you this beautiful little girl. It’s from the little girl inside of me to the little girl inside of you. And as I give you this gift I send up a prayer that someday soon the little girl inside of you will allow the woman you’ve become to look at herself in the mirror and honestly love who she sees there, just as she knows her precious Jesus does.”

I thanked her in my usual soulless way. (by the way, after I began to heal Sandi and I talked about this as I felt true remorse for my lack of genuine response, I thank God that she saw through my walls and saw who Jesus saw).

Later after I went home I stood in front of a mirror. And as I looked at the woman in the mirror I knew that I didn’t love the woman I saw there. All I saw was the little girl who had been programmed to believe she was of no value.
I also saw at that time that my style of relating to people was like plastic fruit. The appearance was good and tasty, but something real, alive and nourishing was missing. I had learned to live without passion for anything or anyone, other than the drive to stay sufficiently in control. Because in truth, deep down I was afraid that my unseen, fragile core would come unglued if the deep realities were faced.

Receiving the gift and card made me take a long, honest look at myself. And for the first time in my life I opened the window to my soul and I began to grieve.

I will leave off here for now and continue later.