Tag Archive | forgiveness

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

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Why I Made Amends With a Sex Addict

I am a recovering partner of a recovering sex addict. Being restored from the devastating effects of my husband’s pornography addiction and intimacy anorexia, and the soul crushing rejection of a sexless marriage.

I am also a woman recovering from my own poor choices that caused myself and others pain and harm. That is the beauty of a recovery program. It has brought me to a place of mending things that I didn’t realize were broken or needed fixing. I felt regret, shame, and even occasional remorse for my behaviour and words over the years. But there it stopped.

If I am completely honest with myself, I was broken before I met my husband. The pain of my past is not all due to his addiction and mistreatment of me. Others sinned against me. I sinned against me. And I sinned against others, including my husband. In far more ways than just committing adultery.

As I began composing my Step Nine list of persons to whom I needed to make amends, my husband’s name was first on the list. I had confessed my affair to him a year earlier. Now was the time to acknowledge and apologize for my other offenses.

I have both heard and read the words of many partners of sex addicts who are resistant, and even hostile to the idea of making amends to the man who has so deeply wounded and sexually betrayed them. I believe part of the problem comes from the misunderstanding that making amends is for the addict’s healing, when in fact it is for ours. For me.

In owning my behaviour throughout our marriage, I cannot rationalize or blame my husband for the things that I have done that caused him pain or harm. I am responsible for cleaning my side of the street. Pulling the weeds from my own garden. Looking fully at my sin and acknowledging it to the person I sinned against. Asking for forgiveness regardless of where he is in his own recovery journey or ability to forgive me. It does not minimize, justify, or excuse my husband’s behaviour. It does not suggest that I am even partly responsible for, or a cause of it. It is just me being responsible for me.

I earnestly prayed for God to reveal to me the amends that I needed to make with my husband. If I was going to do this, I was determined to do this right. While searching every crevice of my heart, God faithfully uncovered new areas to me that had never previously been addressed, as well as confirmed behaviours that made me a little squirmy to confess.

I pulled out a fresh piece of paper and began making headings and listing specific examples beneath them.

Sexual: Nothing new here. But just the same, it couldn’t be ignored.

Emotional: My patterns of withholding love, praise, respect, physical affection from my husband.

Attitudes: Not including or inviting my husband to join in family activities. Husband bashing and putting him down. Not edifying, honouring, and respecting him to others.

Financial: Lying about how I spent money. Not discussing and hiding charitable donations and offerings. Admitting to stashing escape money and having a secret bank account.

Spiritual: Not praying for my husband. Refraining from inviting him to attend church with me. Not sharing God or His Word with him. Until I had prayed for God to expose my sinful behaviours to me, I had not even considered the notion that I was responsible for spiritually neglecting my husband by my failure to share Jesus with him. This broke my heart.

As I made my way through my list of amends, my husband sat listening with tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. I told him that if I had missed anything, it was not intentional. He said I hadn’t. I suggested that if he needed time to process my confessions, that was okay. He said he didn’t. I was offered immediate forgiveness.

I rejoiced in the freedom I received from releasing my secrets to my husband.

I delighted in the courage God provided me to whisper a scary prayer asking for a heart willing to make amends and be vulnerable with the man who had carelessly wounded it.

I stood in awe that not only did God create a willing heart in me, He placed a deep desire and eagerness within me to face my fears and profess my sinful behaviour to my husband.

I celebrated the confidence and knowledge God granted me that with Him, I can do hard things.

And that is why I made amends with a recovering sex addict. Because God guided me to a place where He could bring further healing to my heart, mend the pieces of my marriage that I broke, and most importantly, restore and grow my relationship with Him. And He did all of that.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Confessing My Affair

Something shifted in my heart. It felt heavier. Or maybe it was my stomach. That’s where it churned the most. The physical manifestation of my unconfessed sin. The sickness compelling me towards revealing my long held secret. But not to the person who most deserved and needed to hear the truth. Not to the man I had vowed to love, honour and cherish.

After a few weeks of counselling related to the sexual betrayal trauma I experienced due to my husband’s sex addiction, I walked shakily into my counsellor’s office. Sat down on the edge of the chair closest to the door. Easiest to bolt out of the room that way. Then silence. And more silence. And looking at my feet (me, not my therapist). Looking everywhere but him while he waited for me to speak. Attempting to hold on to the illusion just a little longer that I was the only betrayed spouse in this marriage. That husband equalled bad guy and wife equalled victim. Once the words left my mouth, we would be on level footing.

“I had an affair.” I looked at my counsellor’s face expecting to see a reflection of my shame and guilt. There was none. Somehow those words spoken to a sexual recovery therapist were not as shocking to him as they were to my plagued heart. That was reassuring. I breathed again. He asked how I felt. I had no answer. My thoughts, emotions and body had not yet realigned. He said that usually people felt lighter after telling him these things. I had to think about that. I did feel a sense of relief. The roiling in my stomach was diminishing. But now that my horrible words were spoken out loud, there was no taking them back. The enormity of what I had done sixteen years before was now sinking in. I had committed adultery. And now it was exposed.

“Do I have to tell my husband?” I half hoped he would say no. I would have been surprised if he did. During my devotional time just that morning, I had read in 1 Samuel 2:25 “If someone sins against another person, God can intercede for the guilty party.” Well, that was me. The guilty party who sinned against my husband. I told my counsellor about this scripture and he asked me if I knew what a “rhema” was. I didn’t. He explained that a rhema is a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention with application to a current situation or need for direction.

I looked at my counsellor with a flicker of renewed hope. God was with me. God was promising to fight for me. These words didn’t come from him, they came directly from God to my ravaged soul. Although I was about to devastate my husband’s heart, shatter the image of my innocence in both our minds, and add another damaging and painful layer to our messy marriage, God wasn’t leaving us on our own. God would be with us, whatever that meant. It was the whatever that meant that remained dubious.

My counsellor believed it was too early in my husband’s recovery process to shock him with the news of my infidelity. He thought it would be best for him to be more solidly entrenched in his recovery to lessen the risk of a relapse and to be better able to offer me forgiveness and understanding. We would wait. We began the planning of my disclosure.

Initially, the plan entailed a waiting period for my husband to gain stability. Looking back, God provided the waiting period for both of us. It wasn’t just my husband’s heart that needed preparation and healing for this disclosure. Mine did too. I had justified and kept hidden my affair for almost sixteen years. It was only now when he sought help for his sex addiction that my guilt began seeping through.

God had some chipping away to do at my heart. A healing process to begin in my soul from the consequences of my own infidelity. I was only then beginning to realize that I needed that. I had fairly easily put the affair behind me many years ago, believing that it had no effect on us now. The only offenders in our marriage being the sex addiction and abstinence of sex. If I hoped for my husband to offer me forgiveness from adultery, I needed to admit to myself the magnitude of my sin and open my heart to God’s forgiveness. And then learn how to extend that forgiveness to myself.

Over the next few weeks, that is what I did. I fell into God’s arms and immersed myself in His Presence. Read my Bible, soaking in the life giving words. Trying so hard to believe that the promises of forgiveness, mercy, grace and love were for me. I prayed, and talked with God. And listened. I walked in the dark and cold of the winter nights. I journaled. I continued to lose weight because of the constant ache in my stomach. I was awake at night more than I slept. It was a battle to be kind to myself.

My husband was confused. He had fully embraced his recovery. We were slowly building intimacy, tentatively regaining trust. And now I was pulling away. He sensed that something was happening within me, but had no idea what. And I couldn’t tell him. I made an extra effort to pretend I wasn’t in emotional turmoil so he wouldn’t suspect anything. I felt phony. Like everything I was doing to restore our marriage was a lie.

Lie upon lie upon lie. But now it was me doing the lying.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Prayer for our marriages…..

Father God, this day we choose to lay our lives and our marriages before You to receive Your healing touch. I ask that You would keep our hearts soft toward each other and not allow any hurt to build to anger.

I ask that You make the changes in us necessary to be the husbands and wives You have designed us to be for our spouses and we release them to You that You should change them only as You will.

I pray Lord that you will protect our mind and our hearts from the lies of the enemy and fill us Heavenly Father with Your Holy Spirit. I ask you Holy Spirit to come and remove the lies that have taken root and I ask that you will plant in their place Your truth and Your love. Father, build in us a restored and new love that can never die…. for what You create will remain forever.

Father I ask You to make us tools of reconciliation. Enable us to communicate well and rescue us from the threshold of separation where the realities of divorce begin.
Father God, if love seems to have vanished then I also pray that You would speak to those hearts and souls and remind them of the love that they once knew for each other, let them rediscover that love and build in them a new and stronger love.

Father, deliver us from the bondage of past mistakes. Take away anyone and anything that would inspire temptation for our spouse.

Change in us our habits of indifference and busyness that we may not take each other for granted. I know Father God that only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can make changes that last. I trust You to transform us and make us the husband and wife You have called us to be.

Father bring into our  lives Godly friends that they might openly share their hearts. May they be trustworthy people of wisdom who will speak truth into our lives and not just say what we want to hear.

I pray that we, as well as our spouses, will listen to Godly counselors and not be a people who are unteachable. Give each of us the strength to reject the counsel of the ungodly and hear Your voice above all others. Instruct us and our spouses even as we sleep and in the morning I pray we will do what is right rather than follow the leading of own flesh.

Father I ask that you would protect our marriages from the things and evil spirits that would destroy it.

Shield it from our own selfishness and neglect and heal the wounds that have been inflicted by such.

Shield us from the evil plans and desires of others. Set us free Father from the past hurts and ties of things that have happened outside of the marriage You designed.
I pray Father that you would convict each of us, as well as our spouses, of any error in our lives. Let there be nothing covered that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known. Cleanse us from any secret sins and teach us to be a person who is quick to confess when they are wrong. Bring all of us to full repentance before You.

 If there is suffering to be done, let it be the suffering of a remorseful heart and not because the crushing hand of the enemy has found an opening into our life through unconfessed sin. Deliver us Father from those things that bind us. Set us free from any thing that causes us or our spouse to stumble and bring deliverance  quickly and be a rock of refuge and a fortress of defense to save.
Father, You have taught us that if we regard iniquity in our hearts, You will not hear, I beg You to hear our prayers….. I ask You to reveal where there is any disobedience in our lives, especially with regard to our spouse. Show us where we have not obeyed You and we confess it as sin and ask Your forgiveness.

Father God, nothing happens in our lives that You have not given permission, and as hard as this is I pray that we will be able to see Your glory through it.

Please Father God calm our mind and spirit. I pray that You will grant us the confidence and patience to allow Your work to be revealed. Give us the strength to take the next step in faith.
We offer our marriages, ourselves, our spouse, and our children to You Lord God that we will glorify You.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray these things,
Amen.

Over The Top Forgiveness

Remember Cain?  When I read those lines in the book of Genesis where God deals with Cain’s sin and retribution I always think of the movie ‘Michael’…  “I put a BLOCK on you!”.  You see, we’re all born with a little justice alarm that goes off when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.  Kids have it the worst of any of us.  No filters, no discretion.  Just try grabbing a toy away from a 3 year old who wasn’t done playing with it and you’ll know how acutely that child is in touch with the idea of what is right and fair.  But for Cain, humanity’s original son, God in His mercy blocked the natural tendency of human retribution against  injustice.  He said:

“If anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 

      ~Genesis 4:15, New International Version

Then along comes Lamech, arguably one of the most violently arrogant men in human history.  Lamech kills an innocent man in cold blood and then tries to escape justice by boasting about the retribution that he himself would magically bring on anyone who tried to hold him accountable.  He says:

 

   “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; 
       wives of Lamech, hear my words. 
       I have killed  a man for wounding me, 
       a young man for injuring me.

    If Cain is avenged seven times, 

        then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

           ~Genesis 4:23-24, New International Version

To be honest, Lamech and his violent boasting make me sick to my stomach.  And I think that’s the point.  Do you hear the arrogance in his boast?  God said he would revenge Cain 7 times – I’ll do it 77!   He’s the epitome of human self-centeredness – brash, over the top, and out of control.

So when Peter asks his master Jesus about the limits of forgiveness, he’s not far from Lamech’s score-keeping mindset.  But Jesus points him back to Lamech by saying:

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

     ~Matthew 18:22, New International Version

What’s His point?  Go over the top in forgiveness.  Forgive extravagantly, brashly, try to out-forgive God!  Forgive like your life and freedom depended on it.  Because it kind of does!

I am asking God what forgiveness is supposed to look like in my life.  I’ve written at length about forgiveness and what it is not.  It’s not about me feeling good and it’s not about making people happy with me.  It’s not about living a lie.  That said, how do I forgive lavishly, abundantly, even arrogantly?  How do I live in freedom?

Thanks for reading!

The Prodigal Son

(OK, maybe I should explain.  I got to thinking about forgiveness and what comes with being forgiven.  I wrote this from the perspective of the Prodigal Son.  I hope you like it.)

 

I bathed five times and rubbed my skin with rose petals.  I burned my clothes and shaved my hair.  It might be my imagination, but as my trembling hand pauses on this old familiar wooden door I can still smell the pigs.

 

A hundred eyes wait for me on the other side of the door.  The side where the wine flows freely and the song of the lyre drips like honey.  But I’ve already looked into the eyes that matter and those eyes told me all I need to know.  

 

In all my life I’ve never seen him run like he ran to me today, his robe hiked up in his belt like a common worker.  The disgrace he wore was mine, should have been mine.  Standing there in my father’s arms I cried like I haven’t cried since I was a little boy.  We both cried until we ran out of tears, until all I could hear was the sound of dry leaves scuttling across the path like so many crabs at the seaside.  He didn’t say much but the relief I saw in him only thinly veiled the pain and worry I had put him through.  I meant what I said, ‘I am not worthy to be called your son’.  But he wouldn’t listen.   Sometimes I think forgiveness is harder to take than it is to give.

 

This isn’t what I wanted.  If I could only work for him like I had planned.  I could serve them anonymously, alone with my shame.  In so many ways that life would be easier than living with the disappointment in my brother’s eyes.  For the rest of my life I’ll be living on his charity.  I’ve spent my part of the fortune.  Asking for my cut with my father still alive was like telling the world I wished he was dead.  My brother may never forgive what I’ve done.  But what I’m about to do is not for him.

 

My father wants things back the way they were.  His love powers the courage I need to walk through this door, the courage to put the past behind me, the courage to forgive myself.  Standing on the path I looked deep into his eyes and what I saw changed me forever.  I saw an image of myself reflected there, me but not me.  Gone were the smelly clothes, the dirty hands and ratty beard.  In my father’s eyes I was stood strong and tall and glorious.  In my father’s eyes I am a prince and from now on I will do whatever I must do to be the man he sees.