I almost made it through last week’s D-Day anniversary and birthday celebrating. Of course, that depends somewhat on how you define celebrating. There wasn’t a party or a cake, but since Halloween is a day of significance in my story of betrayal, there were costumes, smiles and mini chocolate bars involved.
I regret telling my husband that Halloween was a triggering day for me. He did not know that until this week. Now we will both experience a layer of darkness to this holiday that has nothing to do with scary or sexy costumes, trick or treaters, pranks or stomach aches from eating too much candy.
My husband and I have chosen not to reveal our triggers to each other. We decided that knowing these things provided little or no benefit to either of us in our healing and recovery from sex addiction and each other’s sexual betrayals. There may be times it is necessary to communicate when something is bothering us, but for the most part, details have remained unspoken. It does not cause me to wonder or obsess. It allows me the freedom to walk beside my husband not worrying about who or what may be vying for his attention. I am not responsible for his recovery, nor can I control it. There is no point in me watching and questioning everything he does, or heaping more pain upon myself by avoiding places and situations that I have always enjoyed. I will save my energy for my own recovery and growing a healthy me.
To explain my emotional instability and edginess the last few days, I could have just indicated I was being triggered. That would have been enough said. I instantly felt remorseful and defeated for providing details that hurt my husband but that also made me feel like I had just fallen backwards in my own recovery. Because, truthfully, although I was being triggered, that wasn’t the main cause of my unhealthy behaviour. It was just the easiest excuse.
I was anxious. I was scared. I was feeling challenged and stressed. I was taking a risk. A risk that I initiated, but nonetheless, was about to stretch me thin as I began picking at the scabs mending the sexual wounds of my life and marriage.
I assume that rebuilding and restoring genuine sexual intimacy after a relationship has been ravaged by a porn addiction, affair, or any sexual betrayal or infidelity is challenging for many. I say assume, because apart from my own experience, I have heard or read very little about it. The silence roars and adds to the shame and stigma of the struggle. It is incomprehensible to me that other couples affected by sinful sexual behaviours aren’t having difficulty returning to the mutually fulfilling emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy of sex as God created, designed and intended it to be in marriage.
I have suffered immensely through twenty five years of a sexless marriage filled with neglect, rejection and emotional abuse. In our case, we are not rebuilding, but building something that we have never had. The inexperience and awkwardness of new lovers; the harmful and destructive effects of a porn addiction; the baggage of an affair and past sexual history and abuse; and age and health issues combine for a long, slow process of recovering healthy sexuality and intimacy.
I have become frustrated, disappointed, discouraged and impatient. I am angry at God. I have never received the gift of sexual intimacy in my marriage, and even now, with the wonderful healing and recovery we have received individually and in our marriage, it remains elusive. And that makes me cry. And it made me cry last week. I grieve for what I have lost. I grieve for what has not been returned. And when I dare to hope for more, my heart aches.
Last week, my husband and I bravely took a giant leap of faith for our sexual recovery. We have begun working through a book, 31 Days to Great Sex, by Christian author Sheila Wray Gregoire, which has daily readings and challenges designed to improve emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy in marriage. I am nervous, and it scares the heck out of me, but feels so right at the same time. I feel empowered by the format that is holding us accountable to having uncomfortable conversations, while providing a safe environment to do so. I am proud of myself, for both of us, for persevering and pushing through the hard stuff in search of God’s complete plan for marriage.
God sees my tears. And He cares. God knows the desires of my heart. He put them there. I am learning through this process that mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy is a gift in marriage. None of us are entitled to it. I try to reconcile in my mind that it may be something I never experience. That makes me sad.
I am holding on to the truth that God is a Redeemer. I must believe that He either is, or He isn’t. He either redeems, or He doesn’t. And if I trust God is a Redeemer, then I must have confidence that He is able to redeem all of my marriage. Not 50%, not 80%, but 100%. If redemption seems to halt somewhere along the way, it is not because God stopped. It is because I did. I don’t want to do that anymore.
As I wept and prayed last week, my Heavenly Father spoke these words to my heart:
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17
I am listening. I am trusting. I have hope in my Redeemer.