Tag Archive | healing

Step by Step He Leads Me

Every day I choose to heal from the affects of living with a sex addict. Recovery from sexual betrayal trauma is not a singular occurrence, but an action I must make over and over and over again. Frequently throughout my day. Sometimes even several times an hour. Or minute by minute. Intentionally. Mindfully. There is no other way if I want to continue my journey to wholeness. If I want to maintain the healing and growth I have achieved. If I want to remain secure in my recovery. There was a time, not that long ago, if someone had asked me how my day was, I would have replied, “which hour?” Maybe even “which minute?” It could change so easily and quickly when I didn’t guard my heart and thoughts from wandering back into the shadows.

I am not an addict, a co-addict, or co-dependent, and yet I am very much aware that any deviance from my own recovery program can and will slide me back into my own unhealthy behaviours and negative thought patterns. And there I find myself opening my wounds, peeking into the darkness, and allowing the ghosts to breathe life into my insecurities, fears and anxieties. Stealing the hope, peace and joy I have worked so hard to attain.

I have diligently and purposefully worked through a 12 Step program, Beyond Love, adapted for partners of sex addicts. I have also completed a partners recovery guide of 100 Empowering Exercises. These resources stabilized my shaky feet and brought order to the messy, ugly chaos of my soul and marriage.

As I began my healing journey three years ago, I read an article criticizing 12 Step programs for partners of sex addicts. It confused me, created doubt, and made me uncomfortable and questioning of the route I had chosen to follow. A few weeks ago, I read a similar derogatory article. This time it made me sad. And a little angry at the damage and harm it was spreading.

I have observed within my own recovery support group, that not many women will opt to gain their strength and hope through a commitment to thoughtfully and thoroughly completing steps and exercises. It has also been my experience that recovery programs work for those who do the work. I am not suggesting that working a 12 Step program is the only way to heal. But I am stating from personal experience that it was vital in guiding me to dig deeply into my life to address and regain all that had been stolen from me. And thus, I find it nonsensical that someone can condemn a program that works if you work it. I guess because it also doesn’t work when you don’t. There isn’t any easy, effortless way to achieve and maintain healing and recovery. It is hard work. And time consuming. But it is entirely possible if we utilize the valuable resources and tools available to us.

I regularly prioritized my recovery homework. I set aside time weekly to delve into my workbooks and participate in a support group. Daily I read recovery material related to personal and spiritual growth, connected with my support system, and prayed. This meant considerable shuffling of my schedule as my personal recovery took precedence over my other commitments. I resigned from my volunteer committees. Even from serving in ministry at my church where I was the financial bookkeeper. That one was tough, because it was my contribution to my church family. But I knew I needed a season of rest and healing without outside distractions. I needed time to be alone, and time to be with God.

I looked forward to opening my workbook and filling its pages with my hurts and hopes.  For me, it wasn’t an unpleasant, burdensome task, but rather an anchor that grounded me. My body would relax, my spirit would calm, and my cloudy thoughts clear. It was then that I took control of my recovery, brought order to the chaos, and felt like I was bravely doing something to counteract the brutal and devastating affects of sexual betrayal trauma. I was no longer having something done to me. Nor was I waiting and expecting my husband’s recovery to heal me. I ceased passively allowing my circumstances to reign, but rather actively strengthened myself with every new thing I learned about the good, bad and ugly of my life. And I applied it. Then and now.

God’s use of a 12 Step program was highly beneficial and effective in transforming me from victim to survivor to warrior. From a lost, scared, broken little girl to an empowered, thriving, beautiful, life loving woman. It’s hard to argue with the value of that.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:2

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The Porn Addict’s Wife Goes to the Beach

I went to the beach last week. With my husband. And a multitude of women wearing bikinis. And bathing suits. And barely there shorts. Everywhere. Walking along the water’s edge. Lounging in chairs. Lying on beach towels. Half nude bodies in every direction for the lustful eyes and heart of a man to gaze upon. Or for an insecure woman to compare herself to.

When an outing to the coast was suggested, my first thoughts were of the soothing sound of ocean waves, sand gently massaging my feet, the warmth of the sun on my skin. Majesty. Beauty. Peace. Contentment.

And then came panic. Fear. Dread. Shame. That I might be expected to wear a bathing suit. Somehow, the thought of my husband seeing my body in a bathing suit causes me more anxiety and distress than his viewing me naked does. Quite possibly because I associate my nudity with the anticipation of sex, and therefore I can trust that the idea of my naked body arouses my husband. Perhaps he can overlook my flaws, cellulite and stretch marks because there is a different objective.

Whereas my body in a bathing suit, a too small covering that exposes and magnifies the extra lumps and bumps, will only garner disappointment, disapproval, distaste, disgust. In my husband’s eyes. And in my own. I am quite certain that my body does not look anything like the thousands of naked women that have sexually aroused my husband during our marriage. The women he fantasized about, that brought him enough gratification, that he opted to completely reject all sexual and physical intimacy with me. Giving him a glaring reminder of why he daily chose pornography and masturbation over me scares me in so many ways.

Concealing my body is my misplaced effort to hold onto his love and affection. To calm my fears. To protect my wounds from breaking open again. Honestly, I know that doesn’t work. It hurts me more. And it hurts him. It hinders the healing of our sexual brokenness.

Surprisingly, as I was immersed in the distress of my own body image insecurities, I had completely overlooked the fact that there would be other women at the beach not afraid to publicly expose their bodies.  As I settled into our spot, comfortably wearing my knee length shorts and flowy tank top, my eyes spotted a bikini clad woman. I confess I checked her over. Compared her body to mine. I lost. And then I added more losses to my growing tally. Sometimes I won. Which gave a tiny boost to my own approval rating, together with a mixture of envy and wonderment that these women were somehow free enough to accept and embrace their imperfect bodies just as they were.

And then my chest tightened as I was struck with the realization that if I was scoping all the women, surely my husband was too! I anxiously looked over at him. Lying on the sand beside me. Facing away from the surf. With his eyes closed. Looking much more relaxed than I felt.

It was me that had converted the women into mere bodies. Not lustfully, but essentially viewing them as sexual objects to be appraised and rated for their ability to entice my husband’s desire. I was even guilty of objectifying myself and diminishing my own worth as I unkindly attempted to assign each of us sexual value based on the physical attractiveness of our bodies.

I have heard, I have read, all the assertions that true sexual intimacy and fulfillment is available for anyone regardless of their body shape. That true sexiness begins in the mind and heart. That, blah, blah, blah. I have the head knowledge. But it frequently dissipates on the way down to my heart.

My body is not hideous. It never has been. And yet, my husband intentionally declined to behold, compliment or touch my body while he engaged in pornography and found pleasure in the beauty of thousands of other female bodies. My soul wrestles with that discrepancy. Why he chose them over me. Every day for twenty five years.

My husband chooses me now. He does. But that doesn’t make everything okay. I struggle to believe that he finds my forty eight year old body attractive and arousing when my twenty five year old one was spurned. It doesn’t make sense. But that’s what addiction does. It ensnares the addict and distorts reality and truth.

My husband is healing and finding freedom from his pornography addiction. So am I. Our pace isn’t always the same though. We aren’t always in the same place at the same time. God has us both on individual paths of healing and growth that intertwine and yet are still unique to each of us.

I decided to enjoy our day at the coast. I did what I commonly do to chase away the fears, insecurities and lies that cloud my heart. I sang worship songs. With the warmth of the sun on my skin and sand trickling through my toes, I wandered along the shore allowing the tide and God’s love to wash over me and still my soul. I found promise and delight in each precious seashell I discovered, depositing as many as I could into the pockets of my shorts. Contentment. Redemption. The choice was mine.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13,14

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

That Day I Told My Kids I Had an Affair

My husband didn’t ask me to tell our children about my affair. I felt no underlying pressure from him to do so. When he disclosed his sex addiction to our son and daughter, my adultery was not a part of the story. It wasn’t his sin to share.

My husband protected me. He declined to taint the image our children held of me, their mother. He was willing to solely carry the weight of infidelity in the eyes of our children. Be the bad guy while I wore the halo. Even though we both knew my halo was tarnished and dangling and piercing his heart.

But I couldn’t let him do that. That summer, five months after my husband disclosed his sexual sin and addiction to our son, it was my turn. Our son was home for a visit. I sat in the same room with him. Where I could see his face and his body language as the hurtful and confusing words he never expected to hear stumbled from my mouth. I know it was a difficult evening for my son as he processed my confession instead of freely cavorting in the river with his friends. But I will never know the true extent and effect it had on him.

I wrote the following words in an email that night to the leader of my support group:

“I did it. I told my son about my affair tonight. It went as well as could be expected. He asked a lot of deep questions, so I am mentally exhausted now. I am not sure how I am feeling yet. All I know is that I am sitting here with a big bowl of Oreo ice cream even though I am not the least bit hungry. But I did it, and I don’t regret it at all. Phew.”

My daughter was still attending university overseas. I waited. And once she returned, I waited some more.

That winter, as I continued to work diligently through my 12 step program for partners of sex addicts, assembling a personal inventory of my good, bad, and ugly, God’s whisper to my heart grew stronger and louder that I needed to add the names of my children to the list of those to whom I needed to make amends.

I stared at the page with their names on it. The harsh reality of how I had failed them as a mother. The times I allowed my own fears and insecurities to take precedence over their well being. The times I enabled their father’s neglect of us, his family. The times my inaction wounded them. My mind and heart wrestled with what exactly I needed to make amends for. My affair and contribution to the breakdown of our marriage was only a part of it.

My counsellor suggested that as an element of my amends, I ask both my son and daughter if there was any specific situation, behaviour or words that had caused them pain that I needed to acknowledge and apologize for. I liked that idea even though it scared me.

We also discussed whether or not I should confess my affair to my daughter. My counsellor thought yes. I was still unsure. Until God provided me with a beautiful green light affirmation to proceed.

The following weekend, I went to the city for a mother and daughter day. We ate lunch at a new restaurant, wandered through a museum and had a great day together. But ….. I didn’t try to make amends with my daughter at all. I dropped her off at her house, hugged her good bye, waved, and burst into tears sitting in my car. I couldn’t drive away. My heart and feet were heavy as I approached her house and knocked on the door. I managed to do the amends I needed to with my daughter, but also shared more of my story and testimony with her, including the affair. It was an hour of conversation that overflowed with love, forgiveness and acceptance and the evidence that God truly had been preparing both of our hearts for this very moment. My daughter told me that she was proud of me for doing my recovery and admired me still.

And yet, I had very nearly and willfully ignored that still, small voice gently nudging me forward on my path of healing. I regret that God had to increase His volume and prodding to get my attention and trust. I am also grateful that God cared enough to give me a solid push, and then extend His hand to steer me into the center of His plan for us that day.

I called my son that same weekend and completed the amends with him that I had started so many months before. He also said that he was proud of me for my healing. Our conversation ended with him asking if he could pray with me.

I have discovered that it is okay for my children to see my brokenness. And it is more than okay to admit to them that I am messy and struggle and don’t always make the right choices. I hope that my son and daughter learn about resilience, courage, forgiveness, grace and the value of vulnerability through the mistakes of my past and the authenticity of my present. But mostly I pray that my healing journey to wholeness brings my children hope and assurance that God will always provide them a way through their own times of darkness.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

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

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