Tag Archive | infidelity

My Hiding Place

Some days, well, most days, I feel an overwhelming need to escape to my hiding place. Sometimes I run, other times I limp. I have even crawled to my place of comfort, where my soul is soothed, even if only momentarily. This is where I peel off my protective bandage and expose the wounds of sexual betrayal and abuse to the fresh air.

 I often get mixed up with the what, where and who of my hiding place. And by mixed up, I mean I settle in and pitch my tent with the wrong thing, location or person in my attempt to relieve the pressure of my emotional pain.

The wrong thing is often obvious. Using alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling to pacify the screams of the heart. But there are other methods of medicating emotional pain that may seem innocent enough, but the temporary release only infects and deepens the wound rather than heals it. Things such as food, shopping, TV, video games, romance books, over sleeping, busyness, etc. This is where my jar of peanut butter and jumbo size package of chocolate chips fits in.

My where is not so much an inappropriate place that I shouldn’t be, (although I do have places and gatherings I avoid that trigger negative emotions in me) but perhaps not being in the location I should be to face and process my pain. When my daughter moved away from home, her bedroom became my office. It is a wonderful sanctuary for me in many ways. It is where I do my daily devotions and Bible reading, where I write. But sometimes I retreat there instead of sitting on the couch in my living room with my husband confronting my inner turmoil.

My who. This is where I frequently muddle the order. I have many safe people with whom to connect for support and guidance. My recovery support group, counsellor, pastor, friends. My husband. God. All sources of refuge. But sometimes I share my pain with others instead of, or before, my husband because I still fear his rejection and abandonment. And sometimes I lay my pain and confusion at my husband’s feet before bringing them to God’s. As the wife of a recovering addict, there may be times when I need solid advice from a trustworthy source before tackling an issue with my husband. And my husband is the physical heart, arms and ears that God has provided me on earth. But……

God is my hiding place.

God is the One who knows me better than I know myself. And He loves me anyway. I find an overwhelming comfort in that knowledge that both calms and brings tears of wonder to my soul. Me and God. God and me. We have some special hideouts to hang out in when I need the safety, security, assurance and protection of His love and grace.

When my heart needs an infusion of peace and stillness, my Abba Daddy takes me by the hand and leads me to a treehouse nestled in a tranquil forest grove where the quiet beauty of His creation surrounds us. Rays of sunlight filtering through the vibrant green foliage. A gentle breeze. The sound of a stream rippling nearby. A curious chipmunk. The hurts and chaos of every day life melts away from my heart, mind and body as the soothing warmth of God’s presence envelops me in this place where no person or thing can find me. Where the sign on the treehouse reads No Pain Allowed.

There are other times when my heart is searching for acceptance and belonging. It is then that God and I gleefully build a magnificent blanket fort. Armed with our flashlights, a Bible, colouring books and pencil crayons, we huddle cozily together whispering and giggling, delighting in our companionship. As we share gummie bears, chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate from a thermos, soft pillows and fuzzy blankets my heart is filled with contentment and joy that there is no other place God would rather be than right there with me. Just as I am. Just as we are.

This isn’t escapism. This isn’t avoidance. This is the promise that when the burdens of my bumpy healing journey begin to overtake me, God will provide a refuge and allow me time to rest. Sometimes minutes is all I need. Sometimes the minutes become days, or weeks. However long I need in my retreat, I emerge empowered with a calmer, stronger spirit ready to continue the daily battle of recovery. Victory belongs to team God and Cynthia.

You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

Where is your hiding place? Or favourite place to hang out or visit? 

Who would you take with you? Or would you go alone?

What I Found When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Lost

A man. That’s what I found when my husband began to battle his porn addiction and intimacy anorexia. I found a broken, lost, little boy standing in his own puddle of tears make the courageous decision to grow up and face his pain rather than continue running from it.

A husband. I found a man who desired a wife with whom to share his heart, life and home. A man, who with determination and commitment, embarked on a daily quest to honour, respect, and love me, his wife.

A father to our children. I found a man willing to share parenting responsibilities. A man attempting to channel his remorse and regrets into repairing and building relationships with his children.

The seemingly logical follow-up to my previous post, What I Lost When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Won, would be a simple reversal of my list of losses. But that’s not how it works. Firstly, there is nothing simple and easy about healing from the effects of sexual betrayal trauma. But most importantly, my husband choosing to fight for healing and freedom from his wounds and addiction does not, and cannot, restore my heart and return everything to me that I lost. No matter how successful and miraculous his recovery journey is, it is his recovery journey.  When he triumphs over pornography, he wins.

Certainly, having a healing husband with consistent and believable recovery behaviours has made my life easier and things in our home flow more smoothly. He has created a supportive and loving environment conducive to my own healing. And yes, some of the losses that were dependant on his behaviour alone have been returned to me. Fidelity being one. And there are other losses, such as companionship, where his new participation in our relationship has provided me the opportunity to regain what I lost should I actively choose to accept the offering.

But the deep wounds of my emotional and spiritual brokenness are something that only I have the ability to heal. The removal of pornography from my husband’s life and our marriage does not magically restore my own self worth.  That is like expecting that if we both were injured in a car accident, the cast on my husband’s leg would mend my fractured arm. Addiction and sexual betrayal trauma are each a separate injury to a different person thereby requiring individual healing.

I have been diligently working on my recovery for three years. It has become a new and rewarding lifestyle. And because of that, many of the losses I suffered have been returned to me. I laugh more now than I remember doing at any other time in my life. Other losses are still a work in progress. Trust and intimacy take time to re-establish. And others, like learning to dream, haven’t yet arrived. But I believe they will. My path is leading me to wholeness.

What I found when my husband won, and his porn addiction lost, was a transformed man. The healing I have found in me would have occurred whatever the outcome of that struggle because my war is no longer against pornography. My battle is with my own heart and mind.

Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

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

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 Porn Addict’s Wife Wears Lingerie (or tries to)

I was innocently walking through the mall last week. Christmas shopping. Making my list and checking it twice. When in front of me appeared the store that cleverly beckons me. The one that stirs a longing within my heart at the same time it brings a knot to my stomach. Enticing me while rousing my insecurity, fears and loss. A store filled with both hope and grief.

The lingerie store. Filled with intriguing pyjamas, bras, panties, and other attire.

Now, if you are one of my children, this is where you might want to stop reading. But if you are the partner of a sex or porn addict, or have lived with the rejection of a sexless marriage or any type of sexual abuse, you may very well understand the conflicting emotions of wearing lingerie. Or of even buying lingerie.

In my case, I want to wear lingerie. It makes me feel pretty and sexy. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But it also makes me very sad. And a little bit angry. Because I can’t. My sexuality has been damaged. Sex and porn addiction stole my husband’s healthy sexuality. It has also taken mine even though I was not the one viewing it.

I have read articles on the harmful effects of pornography on the addict’s sexuality. I have witnessed those effects in my husband. And I have experienced them on a very deep, personal and painful level. And yet, there is little information on the harmful effects of porn on the partner’s sexuality. But I, the partner, have suffered immensely too.

When my husband chose pornography and masturbation over sexual intimacy in our marriage, my sexuality eroded. I fought to regain it. I read the magazine articles on how to please a man and drive him crazy in bed. I tried it all. Problem was, he was not interested in any of it. My sexual needs and desires were shamed and ridiculed. I finally gave up and did my best not to have them. I stuffed them. I buried them. I accepted a sexless marriage.

And now, almost three years into our recovery programs, I am still struggling in my attempts to accept myself as a sexual being with needs and desires. Even with my husband’s tremendous healing and recovery from his sex addiction, it continues to feel like he holds the power in our sexual relationship. His addiction and recovery influence every choice I make in expressing myself sexually. There is little freedom, fun or lightness when every move I make, every word I speak, every article I wear is funnelled through the lens of porn addiction and the possibility of relapse.

I want to feel pretty and sexy in what I wear to bed. I want my husband to think I look pretty and sexy in what I wear to bed. I do not feel the need to dress provocatively to get his attention, but I do want to clothe myself in ways that please him. That also adds to my pleasure and helps me mentally prepare for sex.

But therein lies the conflict. I want my husband to desire me and my body. I need to be assured that after twenty years of sexual rejection he is attracted to and aroused by what is underneath the lingerie. It is necessary for my mind to avoid any connection to the world of pornography so that I do not unfairly compare myself to the thousands of naked women that have aroused my husband.

The first time I walked into a lingerie store after we began our recoveries, I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t expected that reaction. Approaching the store, I had been filled with nervous anticipation. Feeling excited and bold with this new sexuality that was emerging from deep within me. As my eyes scanned the merchandise, my heart leapt enthusiastically at the possibility of being daring with my sexuality.  And then I froze. Bewildered. Closely followed by my mind screaming “Nooooo. What are you thinking?!”, and an urge to flee from the store. But I stayed, took a deep breath and swallowed the teary lump in my throat.

I soon realized that neither myself or my marriage was emotionally ready for any of the overtly sexual lingerie options on display. But I also knew that with careful consideration I could find something that would make me feel both sexy and comfortable. My focus was not on what my husband would find sexy, but on what would enhance and help me embrace my sexual healing.

I intentionally avoided certain colours, fabrics, and styles. But then I found something that kindled a spark in my soul. And I left the store with more than a new little nightie. I had hope.

That little nightie spent several months in my dresser drawer before I gathered the courage to wear it for my husband. It was a promise and gift to myself as much as it was to him.

I’ve returned to the lingerie store a few times since then. But like my first purchase, the items often stay unworn until I feel safe enough to reveal the growing acceptance of my own sexuality. It is vulnerable exposing not only my body, but also my soul.

Last week the winter and Christmas themed pieces on display reignited the yearning in my heart for sexual lightness and fun in my marriage. I walked into the store with a twinkle in my eye that soon faded with the realization that this could easily be a triggering problem for either my husband, myself or both of us. The sense of loss washed over me once again. I dejectedly wondered if my sexuality and healthy fantasies would be forever tainted by my husband’s past pornography addiction.

I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that I wasn’t emotionally ready to find out this year. I don’t believe it has anything to do with me being scared, or insecure, or not brave enough. Simply, God is laying a foundation and rebuilding a healthy sexuality in both myself and my husband so that one day we will be blessed with holy sex in our marriage as He designed, created and intended it to be. That will be a gift delivered from God, not Santa.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25

I Don’t Want to be Strong

I don’t want to be strong. I don’t want anyone to tell me to be strong. I don’t even want anyone to tell me that I am strong. In my experience, if that character trait is being mentioned, and I need to muster courage and resiliency to get through a situation, then something must be difficult. And distressing. And quite possibly, wrong.

Certainly there is a well meaning encouragement behind the words. An offering of support. Perhaps even given as a compliment. Or a reassurance of hope and the calming of a storm.

Early in my recovery from sexual betrayal trauma and the effects of my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, I was tired of holding it all together. I didn’t know how to. And the thought of fighting the destruction was exhausting and overwhelming.

Hearing the exhortations to be strong made me want to scream “But I don’t want to be strong!” I just wanted to be. Whatever that was, I just wanted to be. I wanted someone else to be strong for me. Or better yet, to not have to be strong at all.

If my husband wasn’t a sex addict, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If I hadn’t lived in a sexless marriage devoid of love and affection for twenty years, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If I remained silent and willing to live in an emotionally abusive marriage, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If. If. If.

I thought I had to be strong. And I couldn’t do it. I felt defeated. I remember waking up in the morning already beaten down by the fog of a day covered in pain and uncertainty. My prayer before I arose from bed was not a petition for God to provide me with strength and courage to tackle my day, heal my wounds or save my marriage. My prayer was much simpler, honest and broken. “God, please hold me today.”

God, please hold me today. And He did.

I didn’t have to be strong after all. In my brokenness and weakness, God was more than able to step in and be strong for me. And what I found was that as I ceased fighting, and rested in God’s arms, He began to infuse me with His strength. It just came because it wasn’t mine. I didn’t have to put on my big girl pants because God put His armour on me instead.

God made me ready for my battle of restoration. My Defender. My Protector. The Mountain Maker. The Ocean Tamer. The One who put my life back into place when I thought it was falling apart. The One who showed me that He really does bring beauty from the ashes.

This would be a nice, tidy ending to the story now. But……that’s not how it always works. At least not for me. Sometimes I forget and try to do things on my own strength again. Someone may tell me that I am a strong woman, and that makes me feel proud of the recovery work I have done. I feel affirmed that someone has noticed the changes in me. Sometimes I forget that it wasn’t my own strength that brought me to this place of healing and restoration. Or worse, sometimes I don’t forget, I just don’t acknowledge the One who carried me through and lifted me above my circumstances.

Recently, as my husband and I have committed to improving our emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy, I have found myself once again relying on my own strength. And that isn’t working very well for me. I am struggling. Doing the one step forward, two steps back dance. I pray. But sometimes it isn’t with all my heart. Sometimes it isn’t with a surrendered heart.

God’s grace is sufficient for me. If I let it be. His power is made perfect in my weakness. If I give Him control. But I am still a teeny bit scared of trusting my husband with all of my heart and body. Which also means I’m not trusting God to protect me either.

I have the same power living in me that rose Jesus from the dead, and yet I stifle that power even when God has proven Himself faithful over and over and over again. Even when the battle has already been won.

Now, it is time for the tidy, happy ending, but I don’t have one to this part of my story yet. But it is coming.

God, please hold me today.

O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2

Restoring Sexual Intimacy After Betrayal

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.

Trading Labels for Tiaras

I’m feeling kind of lost these days. Not sure where I belong. As much as I dislike labels, right now I am struggling because none of them fit. Or maybe because all of them fit and therefore none of them just right.

When I began guest writing on this blog, I knew I was going to share my story of being married to a sex addict. And how God has miraculously healed and transformed my husband, my marriage, and most of all, me. The gift of pain and the gift of recovery.

I also knew that to be authentic, I would one day confess my own affair. In my feeble attempt to share the magnitude of God’s goodness and redemption, both sides of the sexual sin equation needed to be brought into the light. The abounding grace and forgiveness of our marriage redemption story grows exponentially in my eyes with the hurt of both a betrayed wife and a betrayed husband.

What I didn’t count on was my identity shifting in the process. Switching name tags from wife of a sex addict to cheating wife has left them both crumpled on the floor with me having one foot in each group and not fulling belonging to either.

This happened to me once before. Feeling like a fraud. Which is ironic when it is my transparency and honesty that leaves me standing alone in the center of the playground.

I read and write comments on other blogs. Mostly of other women who have been sexually betrayed by their partner. Women who have been devastated by pornography, affairs, emotional abuse. Because I was too. And my heart passionately wants to offer them the hope for their own healing and freedom that I have found.

But then I wonder……what if they knew the truth about me? What if they knew that I had been the same liar and cheater as the husband that has ripped their heart and life apart? Would they feel betrayed by me too? I couldn’t bear the thought of causing anyone additional pain.

At the second partner’s recovery support group meeting I attended, my eyes scanned the circle of broken and beautiful women, all in different parts of their journey and varying degrees of healing. My heart dropped at the possibility of further hurting these precious souls because of my past infidelity.

I didn’t speak a word that day. After the meeting, I hung around and spoke to the leader. I confessed my affair to her and told her that I could not return. I felt that I was betraying these women simply by being present in the same room with them. I did not belong there. The leader assured me that I was welcome. My counsellor said the same. I was still wounded and seeking healing from my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia regardless of my own infidelity.

I didn’t know how to wear both labels. I couldn’t. So I didn’t. I stopped participating in the support group and focused on healing the damage caused by my own sinful behaviours. Two months later, God nudged me and whispered to my weakly beating heart that it was time to return to the support group. I did.

And since that day, the two have co-existed as I have sought complete healing and wholeness from the wounds that were created by myself, my husband and others. All separate offenses that together make my story what it is. Mine.

The women in my recovery support group, unless they have read my blog, do not know of my affair. That no longer troubles my heart. I have come to an understanding that not everyone needs to know. It does not change anything. I am in recovery. I belong standing alongside the courageous women mending hearts shattered by sexual betrayal and emotional abuse.

But this is where things differ here in the blogging world. Everyone knows. Everything. Both sides. And I haven’t fully reconciled in my mind how that works. Surely it will matter to some and not to others. It may very well change things. Sometimes there are consequences to disclosing flaws and sin. But there are also blessings. I was willing to take that chance.

I could worry about which team will accept me as a member. I could fear rejection from both sides. I could anxiously hold my breath pridefully hoping that both groups will welcome me.

The best choice would be to stand tall, identify myself as a woman receiving God’s unrelenting outpouring of grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, redemption, restoration and healing, and wear the only name tag that matters – Daughter of God. And logically, since God is the King of Kings, that would make me a princess.

I am trading in my labels. Now I just need to decide if I want a sparkly tiara or a jewelled crown.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.            1 John 3:1-3

I like emeralds. My crown will have gleaming emeralds.

Breaking Bread and Broken Hearts – The Morning After

Our first communion together. After 25 years and 6 days of marriage. Four days after my husband’s salvation. And less than 24 hours after shared disclosures of our sexual history, sin and betrayals.

The day before, I heard details of my husband’s sex and porn addiction behaviours. He was blindsided with the stinging news that his wife (that would be me) had an affair many years earlier.

The morning after had arrived. In the two months that my husband had regularly been attending church with me, we often left home separately, as he served on the worship team and needed to be at church early for practice. This Sunday was different. There were guests leading the worship service. He would be operating the sound system but had set it up the evening before. In God’s grand design, we drove to church together. Raw. Quiet. Each of us immersed in our own unrelenting pain. Separate yet united.

We walked into the sanctuary. He headed for the sound station. I sat with a friend. Disappointment weighed heavily on my heart that we were not able to sit together as a couple for our first communion.

The immensity and weariness of our brokenness kept me from singing. My heart was breaking that even here at church, circumstances and seating arrangements were disconnecting us on a very special occasion.

I decided that once I had received my bread and wine (or rather grape juice and cracker) I would go and stand beside my husband at the sound station. There was enough division in our marriage. This would not be another time.  God’s sanctification and redemption was for us to claim.

I was too late. A movement beside me. I looked up and there he was, joining me on my pew! He said we had to be together for his first communion. It was a bittersweet moment. The joy of partaking in our first communion together was covered with an overwhelming sadness. We could not move. Or sing. Or pray and reflect. My husband had his arm around me. I had my head tucked in his shoulder. And we just cried together. Walking to the front of the church for prayer was not a possibility. The weight of our pain immobilized us. Our pastor came to us. Never before or since have I seen him approach anyone seated in their pew for prayer. Nothing was ordinary about that day. After a bit, my husband went back to work the sound system. The rest of the service was a blur. Except for the words of one worship song that resonated deep within me:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning

It’s time to sing Your song again

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me

Let me be singing when the evening comes.

(10,000 Reasons)

The morning after the most difficult day of our marriage, with the day stretching darkly ahead of us, these words brought me a glimmer of hope and light. The sun had come up. And nothing would ever be the same again. We were both now fully aware of all the “whatevers” that had combined to ravage our hearts and marriage. The devastating effects of sexual sin and betrayal were very much our present. And would be daily for a long time to come. But the actions and behaviours were in the past. It was the “whatever” lying before me that remained unclear. And yet it wasn’t. Unknown where the details and timing of God’s plan to rebuild our lives and marriage. Known was the commitment to the process I felt during the communion service from all three of the components in the trinity of my marriage – God, husband and wife.

God gathered a broken man and woman to Him that morning. In the brilliant setting of a communion service. Where we were called to remember the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ as He bled and died on the cross for me. For my husband. For every one of us. Where extravagant love and overwhelming sorrow were forever united at Calvary so they could one day join us on our church pew. Cleansing. Purifying. Transforming. I am forever humbled and grateful.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22,23