Tag Archive | healing

The Parents – To Tell or Not to Tell

Please excuse me while I jump ahead in my story to something that hasn’t even happened yet. Tomorrow I get on a plane to visit my parents and my brother’s family. They do not know the events of the last two and a half years of my life recovering from a marriage ravaged by sex addiction. They also are not aware of the neglect and emotional abuse of the preceding twenty five years.

It has been easy to hide the truth from my family. I moved 3,000 km away from home two days after my wedding. In the early years, when our children were young and adorable, someone would make the trek once or twice a year for a family visit. Now that our children are young adults, the frequency of the visits with my parents has diminished to once a year or so. It has been relatively easy for my husband and I to wear smiley faces and play happy little family for one week every year. Besides that, I do come from a family content to hide its flaws from one another. It is more comfortable for everyone that way.

At forty eight years of age, I still fear disappointing my parents. Of messing up in their eyes. My therapist has assured me that they will love me no matter what. He asked me if anything my children did would affect my love for them. I know my mind was supposed to draw the parallel between the parental love I have for my children, and that my parents have for me. But I just can’t quite get there. It seems that I need more than love from my parents. I need acceptance and approval. Security and safety in my position in the family. And that comes from playing my part properly.

To be fair to my parents, I do believe they would wholeheartedly accept both myself and my husband if I dared to be authentic with them. Quite likely there would be tears over my pain. Guilt that they didn’t help me. Hurt that I didn’t trust them enough to share my heartache with them until now.

I have become skilled at justifying to myself why I have not and should not tell them my story. I have asked myself too many questions that don’t have answers. What exactly would I tell them? How much of my husband’s story? Of mine? What do I include and what do I leave out? Why stir things up now when they are getting older? I only see them once a year, wouldn’t it be better, or at least easier, to just keep things as they are?

I have come to realize there a few problems with maintaining the silence. Although my parents are getting older, they are only in their mid seventies. They could easily, and I hope they do, live another twenty years. That is a long time to continue feeling like I am lying and keeping secrets from them.

I would also be denying them the opportunity to celebrate the growth and healing in our lives and marriage. I would be intentionally withholding the story of the outpouring of God’s redemptive love upon us and the miracle after miracle that has become part of our testimony. Surely they would want to know of this amazing grace. Surely God would want them to.

As I sit here writing this, I am becoming mildly uncomfortable that I have chosen to openly share the struggles and victories of my life with nearly everyone but my parents. And yet……

Will this visit be the third time we are together since beginning recovery that I will succumb to my own fears and insecurities and talk about the weather? Will I be able to admit that yes, I am worried about hurting my parents, but it is really me I am trying to protect? Will I seek God’s boldness, strength, wisdom and guidance on the when, hows and whats of this conversation?  Or will I be afraid of the answer and keep waiting for another time?

And so I get on the plane tomorrow not knowing what the next week brings. But God knows. And I am trying to be okay with that.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6

The Gift of Pain

We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. – Dr. Henry Cloud

I love this quote. It speaks truth. This was me the day I resolved that although pornography had its insidious grip on my husband and marriage, it was no longer going to ruin me. This has been me every day since as I walk in the newfound confidence of my worthiness and purpose.

When that pivotal time came, there were so many overwhelming, unrelenting, unanswerable questions. It took every ounce of strength I could muster to remind my body that it needed to both inhale and exhale, all the while holding back tears that were ready to escape at any moment.

Anger is a typical, common response to sexual betrayal. Often escalating to rage. I did not experience anger or rage. I felt a profound sense of sorrow, loss and grief.  I had been betrayed and neglected for the duration of my marriage. It had become my normal. And now that I was no longer able to function in my normal, it was extreme pain and sadness that enveloped me.

Oh, the questions. What do I do now? Will I ever stop hurting? Is this the end of my marriage? Has he done anything illegal? Where will I live? Should I purchase new underwear and socks while I still have money? Will the police show up at my door one day? Who will get the dog? Will anyone ever love me? What will our children think? Why is this happening to me? Am I crazy?

It really did feel as if my head might explode. I always thought that expression was rather embellished until the despair and pressure became so intense that it was not possible to contain it. The exaggerated cartoon image of steam erupting from the character’s ears and head suddenly became plausible. I took a deep breath, and with shaking hands, a churning stomach and unexpected courage, picked up the phone and made a counselling appointment.

There is no shame or disgrace in seeking professional help from a qualified therapist. It is not a sign of weakness. Admitting that our pain is more than we can handle on our own, and being willing to face it head on requires uncommon strength, courage and bravery. It is much more difficult to be vulnerable and ask for help than it is to run and hide from your anguish.

Most family members, friends and pastors are not able to deal with the adverse and explosive effects of sexual betrayal trauma. These people can be a wonderful support system, but are generally ill equipped to offer the assistance necessary to lead you through a true healing and recovery process. It is important to find a counsellor trained and experienced in the partner’s sexual betrayal trauma as well as sex and pornography addiction. At this point, it is you, the partner, who matters most. Not the addict. Not the marriage. You. It is essential to begin healing, changing your behaviours, and becoming healthy individually before making any attempt to rebuild your marriage. Jumping straight into marriage counselling is largely ineffective. The expectation of a healthy, thriving marriage consisting of two hurting, unhealthy people is somewhat baffling.

No one wants pain. And most of us fear change. But often the transformation compelled by pain becomes an incredibly precious gift. Our very own miracle.

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

The Lord is My Strength and My Shield

When God sets our feet on a new path, He will never leave us directionless to flounder on our own. God has provided us with His glorious love letter, the Holy Bible, to teach and guide us, encourage and lift us towards Him.

God has the amazing ability to lead us to the exact words of truth that our heart needs to hear from Him. Whether it be tender whispers and promises of love, healing, grace, peace, redemption; the nudges and conviction of confession, forgiveness of sins, necessary change, the testing of our faith; or the inspiration and joyful celebration of abundant and everlasting life, God will find a way to speak those words into our thirsty hearts.

I am continually in awe at God’s creativity and persistence in revealing His words to me. And a little embarrassed at how often He needs to bonk me on the head so I pay attention. Sometimes it is opening the Bible to the perfect passage, a devotion sitting in my inbox waiting for the right day to be opened, someone’s Facebook post, a friend just wanting to share a verse with me, a fridge magnet…….

It was in the rawness of my pain, as my marriage and security crumbled, that God planted Psalm 28:7 in my heart. Our tears mingled together to water the seeds. And throughout my recovery, we have watched them grow and blossom into a beautiful miracle.

 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my hearts trusts in Him and I am helped.” Psalms 28:7

 Oh how these simple, straightforward, magnificent words broke through the emotional and mental fog of my anguish to bring me assurance of hope and healing. With only a few repetitions they became easily imprinted in my wounded heart and readily available to fortify me at any time.

The Lord is my strength.  Yes, God provided me with His supernatural power to get out of bed every morning and face the uncertainty of my day and future. Today He gives me the strength and courage to leave the pain of my yesterdays in the past in exchange for hope in all that lies ahead as I embrace the hard but worthwhile work of recovery.

And my shield. My shield. These words deeply resonated with my battered spirit. And still do. The Lord is my protector, defender, security. My personal warrior taking the brunt of the assaults and deflecting the attacks against me. Absorbing the pain and damage intended for me. Guarding my heart, spirit and body from further injuries allowing healing to occur.

I have a beautiful image of my mighty God tucking me closely in beside Him, secure under His strong yet gentle arm. He holds a brilliant shield in front of us. We walk steadily across the battlefield, arrows falling at His feet and being crushed beneath them. Nothing can get in the way of my Abba Father triumphantly leading me to a blessed place of safety and rest.

My heart trusts in Him and I am helped. In giving my brokenness to God, offering Him whatever flicker of hope I regain, He will help me. A promise of restoration for today, tomorrow, the next day. The moment I trust God with my bruised heart He will tenderly hold it in His hands, caring, protecting, healing and breathing new life into it.

The Lord is my strength and shield, and He also wants to be yours.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”       Psalm 3:3

When God Rips Off the Band-Aid

God didn’t rip the band-aid off my wounds with one quick yank. He gently eased it off, controlling the procedure and allowing me time to adjust to the discomfort.

The unravelling of my carefully bound heart began while sitting in a gynecologist’s office as I provided my medical history:

“When was the last time you had intercourse?”

“Well, it’s been awhile.”

“A few weeks?”

“Um, well, um….” Thinking if I stall long enough, say enough ums, he might give up on receiving an answer and carry on to the next question. But no, he waits patiently and expectantly for a response. “Ten years,” I nervously mumble directing my answer to my shoes. It is a lie.

A look of confusion crosses his face. He looks down at his clipboard. “I thought you said you were married?”

“Yes. I am.”

This doctor does not have a poker face. Apparently doctors have not seen and heard it all. I wonder what his reaction would have been if I had spoken the truth, that it had been twenty years without sexual intimacy, a kiss, a hug, my hand being held by the man who vowed to love and cherish me. I grow increasingly uncomfortable, feeling my face becoming flushed. My mind is racing, searching for safety, but it is too late to protect myself. This man now knows how terribly flawed I am. I want to tell him that it isn’t my fault. It isn’t my choice to have a sexless marriage. It isn’t because of me.

The rest of the appointment is agonizingly cruel as I place my feet in the stirrups and resist the doctor’s attempts to take a sample from my uterus for a biopsy. My female sexual anatomy is betraying me. Mocking me. Again. First by existing, and now by being defective. My husband has rejected these parts of my body and so have I. The irony is not lost on me.

Leaving my appointment, the shame of my damaged sexuality engulfs me. It weighs as heavily upon me as the prospect of cancer. My thoughts shift back and forth between the two. What emerges is the certainty that I will not tell my husband that I am waiting for test results. The possibility of a cancer diagnosis is scary enough, but the belief that my husband would not care is unbearable. I did not have the strength to face both my health issues and his indifference. Either felt like a death sentence.

Before the week was over, my husband confronted me. My mask was fracturing under the stress. My irritability was making us miserable. I admitted that I was waiting for the results of a biopsy. My husband asked why I had not told him what was going on. I lied. I didn’t want you to worry, I replied. When in all truthfulness it was me I was attempting to protect, not him.

Seated in the doctor’s office a month later, I experience the relief of a no cancer diagnosis. I learn that I will still require surgery to remove uterine polyps and my heart sinks when I am told that I will need someone to accompany me to the hospital. I question if it is necessary for someone to drive me home after my surgery or if it is just a recommendation. The doctor looks at me curiously, and logically asks “Won’t your husband come with you?” I mumble that I don’t know. I feel so alone. Exposed.

My doubts and fears were grounded. I am struck by my husband’s reaction to my surgery, “Will I have to take the whole day off work?” A stranger would have responded more compassionately.

That was the moment the last of the band-aid was torn off, uncovering the ugly wounds of my marriage and allowing the breath of God to alight on my scars. It was now time for God, my Creator, my Jehovah Rapha, to take my hand in His and guide me on an incredible, miraculous, healing journey to wholeness beyond anything I could have hoped for or imagined.

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

So Glad to Meet You

My name is not Cynthia. Well, that is not entirely true. My birth certificate says it is, but no one has ever identified me by that name. Well, that isn’t entirely true either. When producing my passport, the agent will undoubtedly call me Cynthia as that is the name printed there. But all that does is elicit my blank stare which isn’t at all suspicious when travelling to another destination. And if you were to attempt to get my attention by shouting “Hi Cynthia” to me I would not turn my head, simply because I wouldn’t know that you were. I tell you this so you can stop crossing off the list in your mind of any Cynthias that you may know. I am not her. I also tell you this so that we may begin our journey together today with truthfulness and no traces of deception between us.

I admit that when I read the post introducing me as a guest writer for this blog, I had quite the mix of emotions. It is an absolute honour and privilege to be invited into this valuable blog community where we can heal, grow and learn together. I was completely unprepared for the gracious and kind words used to describe me and my writing. This Cynthia woman sounded amazing. And then came the moments of doubt and fear. Could I really do this? Will I be enough? Will people be disappointed? How could I possibly live up to your expectations when it was me that you were going to meet? And so by writing one and a half paragraphs on this blog so far I have already been shown two truths. One, that the telling of our stories is an integral part of our ongoing healing process and transformation into the person that God created and intended each one of us to be. And secondly, that yes, by the grace of God and through the redemption of Jesus Christ, I am enough.  And so are you.

If you are wondering what I will be writing on this blog, so am I. Because I will be leaving that decision up to God. But what I can tell you now is that you will hear of our mighty God’s miraculous healing power that has redeemed the untold pain and despair of my life and marriage. You will hear how beautifully God has designed every detail of the healing that He has available for us. You will hear that I am a wife of a man recovering from sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, married for 27 years, the last two happily. And I would be amiss if I did not tell you that I am the blessed mother of two awesome young adult children and a beautiful daughter-in-law. But most importantly, I am an extravagantly loved and cherished daughter of God which took me nearly 46 years to discover.

I am Cynthia. But if you are reading this, then quite possibly so are you. Or maybe it is the woman sitting beside you at church, your neighbour, or co-worker. It may even be your best friend, daughter or mother. There are many Cynthias living each day in invisible pain and shame.  Many Cynthias that need to know, and not only know, but believe that there is hope and healing for the wounds and pain they have kept hidden for so long. Because there is. Oh, there is. And my prayer for you is that as we journey together you will open your heart enough to glimpse the hope and healing that is within your reach. No matter how faint the glimmer may be, there is One that can and will take the smallest offering brought to Him and turn it into more than you can ever imagine. I know because His name is Jesus and He has become my best friend.

Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told. Habakkuk 1:5

Welcome a New Writer!

I have invited a guest writer to my blog and although she will introduce herself in the coming days and weeks and she shares her story and her heart, I would like to take a moment to say a few words about her and to welcome her to Tears in A Bottle. 

A few years ago when my life seemed to unravel I often thought; “I’m so alone! No one else gets it!”

And then God brought Cynthia into my life!! And though our stories may be different there is a common thread that runs through them.

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Cynthia is a talented writer, a wife and mom and a dear friend. She sees, not only with her eyes, but with heart and spirit.

She writes about the invisible grit, the soul parts that we feel but can’t see. And she does so with gracefulness, honesty, and whispered words of faith.

She is a gift to me.

Cynthia’s honesty challenges me. Truly. And yet, her honesty shows me grace, not shame.

I am grateful for that about her. Over the last couple of years as I’ve come to know Cynthia and have read what she writes, I kept thinking; “this has got to be shared!”

 

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And so from time to time I would mention this blog and ask if she would consider writing and sharing her story here…..because I know there are many who need her words of encouragement, life and yes, even challenge.

It’s a scary thing to write on a blog, but she was willing to listen to God’s voice…and in His timing move forward in faithful obedience…knowing He’s right there beside her.

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Really, for all of us, whether it is with a pencil or a paintbrush or a mixing bowl or a microphone or a dust cloth, an empty page, a blank canvas or a sheet of music.

They are tools….and we are called create.

Friends, for each of us, it’s time to peel back the layers, remove the veil and find the art – the gifts – deep within. Uncover them. Dust them off. They are yours. Unique to you.

And like Cynthia, in His timing, we use them. I encourage each of you, use your gifts to influence those around you. This is your art.

You will find that Cynthia writes with feeling, depth and truth. You will see glimpses of her heart through her words, her writing is her art.

Beautiful

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I hope that you will welcome Cynthia and read her words and hear her heart, because through them God will impact your life.

Thank you Cynthia for saying “Yes” to the invitation to share your heart.

Thank you for your obedience Cynthia and the legacy you’re leaving. Thank you for sharing with us your art.