Tag Archive | intimacy anorexia

What Forgiveness Looks Like to the Porn Addict’s Wife

I’ve had a week of soul searching. Of examining the cobwebby crevices of my heart. I am tired now. Genuinely evaluating my emotions, attitudes and beliefs often brings me unsettling answers that don’t comfortably agree with the reality I have created for myself. Staring at my own unhealthy and sinful behaviours is deflating. It requires change of me. More healing. Growth. Effort. Energy. Exhaustion.

It began at my Life group meeting last week. We are currently studying a book called The Bait of Satan by John Bevere which deals with offense, the pain of betrayal, and the effects of unforgiveness. Leading myself and the other women through these lessons has been challenging. There have been some really tough issues for all of us to tackle.

This week I entered the wrestling ring. Shaking my understanding of where in the process of forgiveness I stand with my husband. Doubting my certainty that I have forgiven him for the deep pain his pornography addiction, intimacy anorexia, emotional abuse, and sexual betrayal and rejection have inflicted upon me, our marriage and our children.

I have received and claimed an unexplainable forgiveness over these past wounds. A release and fading of the painful memories. The past pummeling just doesn’t matter anymore. I very seldom return to those times, because although they have contributed significantly to the woman I am, they don’t define me. And they don’t define my husband either. We are a couple recovering from his sex addiction, not living in the throes of it.

The lesson asked four questions warning of the possibility that I may still be harbouring unforgiveness in my heart. Even through a stubborn insistence that forgiveness has been extended.

  1. Why am I compelled to tell my side of the story?
  2. How can I fight thoughts of suspicion or distrust?
  3. What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts?
  4. How can I regain trust after someone deeply offends me?

These are warning signs. None of them, or even all together, indicate the presence of unforgiveness, merely the possibility. As I answered these questions as honestly as I could, it was number three that pinged at my heart. What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts? Rehearsing past hurts. Rehearsing. Past. Hurts.

But I don’t really think I am rehearsing past hurts. The hurts I am revisiting are current. From the last few years of our marriage. Not the first twenty five. I have extended grace and forgiveness to both of us for our inability to comprehend the depth of sexual betrayal and destruction we were allowing and inviting into our home before D-Day and recovery.

But now. I have an entirely different set of expectations and boundaries. We both know now what we didn’t know then. The healing process, the journey, is filled with intentional decisions. And when many of the choices my husband makes now to avoid communication and sexual intimacy continues to hurt me, it is a new pain. A fresh gash running alongside the scab. My tears are for today, not for yesterday.

Perhaps there is unforgiveness mingled in with my disappointment and discouragement at what remains broken. At what is being withheld from me. It’s more about what is than what was. With healing, effort, and intentionality I can release the hurts of the past. I have. Forgiveness towards my husband has flowed relatively easily for me.

Forgiveness doesn’t spring from my heart as readily when the stinging blows of rejection keep coming.  Even with all the recovery tools and resources I have gained and utilized to heal from his addiction. Even with a deeper understanding of what forgiveness is.

I’m not refusing to forgive my husband. He is just as deserving and worthy of forgiveness and mercy as I am. I’m not waiting for a magical moment, for that something to happen, or those words to be spoken before I release my feelings of resentment. I’m just recognizing that forgiveness is not a one time occurrence. It is a deliberate decision that I need to make daily because new offenses will come. They just will. Perfection is not attainable for any human.

And so I ask myself:

Have I forgiven my husband for the devastation his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia inflicted upon me for the first twenty five years of our marriage? I believe I have.

Do I still hold unforgiveness in my heart for the remaining fractures and new bruises? I reluctantly admit that I do.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Change Your Hair, Transform Your Heart

My husband shaved his head this weekend. He had been telling me for the last few days that his hair was getting too unruly and he would need to cut it all off soon. And yet I was still unprepared for the moment when I turned to greet him as he walked into the kitchen after his shower. The baldness startled me. My heart received a sharp pang, and the lump in my throat that was holding back the tears from rising to my eyes grew. He knew instantly that I was dismayed. I attempted to smooth over my reaction by mumbling something about how I wouldn’t be able to run my fingers through his hair anymore.

But that wasn’t the real reason. I couldn’t even look at him. All day I managed to talk and interact with him while avoiding eye contact, and well, looking at his head at all. If my eyes naturally glanced at his face as he began to speak, they quickly bounced away before the image had a chance to embed itself in memories of pain, rejection and abuse.

My husband’s hair, or rather his lack of hair, triggers me. He doesn’t know that. He does know that it upsets me whenever he shaves his head. But I have never told him why. I have chosen not to because it is his hair, on his body, after all, and he has every right to keep his hair at whatever length he wants to. I would not appreciate my husband trying to impose his will over me for any of my personal body choices. I believe that he thinks I just prefer him with hair. Not much different from how I favour the blue T-shirt that matches his eyes over his other clothing options.

But it does go deeper than that. In the beginning stages of our dating and married life, my husband had hair. He kept it fairly short, but still, there was hair on his head. This was the man I was attracted to and fell in love with. Then he began closely shaving his head. I don’t believe it was a defining moment for either of us. How much hair he did or didn’t have was of little importance throughout our marriage.

Until four and a half years ago when I confronted him, and the depth of his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia was exposed. Corresponding with the timing of his decision to battle and enter a recovery program for his pornography use, his head began to be covered in soft, blond curls. I was quite curious and intrigued by this seeming connection of my husband seeking healing and recovery, and letting his hair grow out.

My husband is a big man. With his bald head, his appearance was somewhat intimidating. While in the throes of his pornography addiction and intimacy anorexia, he was an angry, disconnected, emotionally abusive man. The hardness of his heart was displayed on his face. For twenty five years.

As my husband embraced his recovery program, his entire body language shifted and relaxed. The tension was released from his body. His face softened. The blond curls framed his newly smiling eyes. The undeniable change in his physical presence was a gift that allowed me to trust that the same thing was happening in his heart. It was.

And now, I found it so difficult to meet my husband’s gaze. The man who loves me, cherishes me and fights daily for his freedom from addiction. His appearance propelled me back to a time when there was nothing but coldness and indifference in his eyes.

Throughout my day, God gently reminded me that an altered appearance does not reverse the restoration of a heart. Lessons I had received early in my recovery relating to change and transformation surfaced in my thoughts.  They are not the same thing.

Change can change again. It involves a modification of behaviour or actions, making something different, and is usually motivated by the realization that something is no longer working to your satisfaction or needs. Change generally seeks improvement whether it is the filing system at work, repainting your house, or cutting your hair. But it is often temporary, either returning to how it was before, or to something else again.

Transformation has a permanence to it. An overhaul. It does involve change, but also a renewal of one’s character, not just actions. It is the result of a repentant heart pursuing and finding healing and freedom. And once it happens, once awakened to the beauty of life, there is no going back. Transformation acknowledges the past, learns from it and celebrates a new way of living.

My husband changed his outward appearance. And he will again. Throughout his life. So will I. But God has transformed his heart just as He has transformed mine. My husband is a new creation. I am a new creation. Our marriage has been rebuilt and redeemed. And that remains the same whether he has hair on his head or not.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

Seeking a Satisfied Heart

I’m still waiting. Surprisingly, more patiently than I would have expected amidst my sadness of the last few months. Perhaps because I have changed my focus. Oh, my heart still yearns for the mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy that remains as elusive as finding a family of brightly coloured M & Ms dancing in my backyard. And I am certainly not going to pretend I found a way for it to not matter anymore. History has proven me to be pretty gullible at believing lies and accepting deception, but even I can’t convince myself that the pain of continual sexual rejection and neglect is inconsequential.

But what I am doing is trying my darnedest to no longer let my disappointment and discouragement consume and taint all areas of my life. It is a satisfied heart I seek. A heart that is able to experience peace and joy despite my prevailing sadness. A heart that is open to the goodness of life and God’s creation even when my healing process is not following my predetermined timeline. Even when things don’t seem to be on my timeline at all.

Sometimes, or rather often, when the wounds of sexual betrayal trauma begin to bleed again, I hold my fragile heart tightly in my hands. It is considerably stronger and healthier than it was four years ago. But still there are scars. Some now only faint reminders of the pain and abuse inflicted upon me by my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. Others, fading nicely. But this stubborn scab. Nope. It remains resistant to healing.

I will pray for everybody and everything except for the pain that haunts me. And taunts me. And has burrowed into the crevices of my heart. It’s not that I never have. It just seems like there is nothing more to say. I’ve poured my heart out to God. The silent screams. The very real tears. The flickering hope. The guilt and embarrassment of acknowledging that my greatest source of suffering is sexual in nature when others are dealing with considerably more stress and loss filled situations and circumstances in their lives.

My marriage has disappointed me. My husband has disappointed me. My own sinful behaviours and choices have disappointed me. But God has not disappointed me. And I want to keep it that way. Confused and angered me, yes. But when those emotions emerge, I have been able to address and overcome them. For me personally, those emotions don’t threaten to infect and poison my heart and mind in the same way as the crushing defeat of unmet expectations. If I pray, and wait expectantly for an answer, and I don’t receive the response I want or think I should get, well, then, my hope wavers. My trust in God weakens. The domino falls and my trust in my husband falters, and then in myself. My heart begins to ache. The pain crescendos again. And then I stumble and fall into the pity party that welcomes me with open arms and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

I know this cycle. I am tired of this cycle. I have crawled and lunged through every distorted room of the misnamed carnival fun house forwards, backwards and sideways. With joy, terror and an uneasy acceptance of my task. I have concluded that praying for me, for my marriage, for sexual healing is not safe. And as someone recovering from sexual betrayal trauma, I crave safety and security. A sure foundation.

I have taken many courageous leaps of faith on this journey to wholeness. Some looked like the tiniest of baby steps, others soaring jumps off the ferris wheel. Both were scary. And rewarding. In more ways than I could have ever imagined. Or expected. I have followed the popcorn trail through the chaotic fairgrounds savouring the buttery, salty prize along the way. But for some reason, the freshly squeezed lemonade stand remains elusive and I am unable to quench my thirst. I have sought guidance, and received directions, but they don’t take me to the destination I desperately seek. The popcorn doesn’t taste quite as good as it once did. My heart is not satisfied.

I began writing this post two months ago. When I opened it again, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I didn’t know if the current state of my heart and mind would align with my thoughts from then, and I could pick up where I left off, or if my words would be relegated to the recycle bin. Truthfully, after four years of recovery, I would hope and expect that I would not be stuck in the exact same place for over two months without any movement. But there I was. And here I am.

I cried this weekend. Two days in a row. Saturday evening, the tears of my aching heart appeared on my cheeks as I dared to expose my pain and offer my crushed dreams to God to hold in His hands. I prayed the prayer I was withholding from us all – husband, wife and our Father God. I can’t say that I felt instantly lighter or hopeful. But by allowing God into my deepest pain, I didn’t feel so alone. My burden became more bearable.

In Sunday morning’s church service, the worship band led the two songs that I cherish as being significant healing forces in the very early stages of our disclosures and recovery. The first, “Great are You Lord” was the song I uncontrollably sobbed to, and loudly croaked along with, broken and alone in my living room. Just me, God and my overwhelming pain. Indeed, God was and continues to be the breath in my lungs. The second song, “Oceans” was the daily faith and trust builder that provided me the courage to press forward, lean into Jesus, and prepare my shattered heart for healing. And it did it again. The tears welled in my eyes as God’s tender, merciful whisper to “trust Me” infused my soul with peace and hope.

So I am. Trusting God. And seeking a satisfied heart. I think the two are inseparable.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Spiritual Intimacy is Knocking on My Bedroom Door

The chorus to my life song has been on a frustrating loop this winter. As beautiful and triumphant as the lyrics and melody of God’s amazing grace and glory have been in my life, feeling stuck on repeat was hindering me from recognizing that the tones were becoming richer and deeper. I did not recognize that God has been steadily and surely composing the next verse for me.

I write a lot about my discouragement and pain in reclaiming and building sexual intimacy in my decades long sexless marriage ravaged by my husband’s sex addiction, pornography use, intimacy anorexia and my own adultery and recovery from childhood sexual abuse, premarital sex and sexual betrayal trauma. What I don’t generally write about is the same deep desire I have to connect spiritually with my husband and cultivate a spiritual intimacy that is new to our marriage since we began recovery four years ago.

It is that spiritual intimacy that is becoming stronger and lusher. And yet I nearly missed tasting the sweet harvest that God has been nurturing because of my narrow focus on what I believe is lacking sexually in our marriage rather than looking at the bigger picture of what God has redeemed and continues to heal, restore and transform.

I want to talk to my husband about God. I want to talk to God with my husband. I want us to share and celebrate our God moments; the big and little miracles that happen throughout our day; the impact and perfect timing of a scripture to strengthen, comfort or challenge us. I want us to grow spiritually together. And I want us to stand as one in awe and anticipation of how God will use us and our redemption story to bring Him glory, and to transform and offer hope to other broken lives and marriages.

My passion to be joined together as one goes far beyond the bedroom. And so, maybe for us, it doesn’t begin in the bedroom. Maybe for us, sexual oneness will be a by-product, an offering of worship that comes from serving God as a couple. And maybe, as we wholly serve God both individually and jointly, the fulfillment that brings will satisfy my heart and overflow to all areas of my marriage and life.

You see, my hope is rising. From the day four years and four months ago that I implored God to provide me with a godly, Christian husband, He has been answering my prayers. God is providing me with the desires of my heart. With each display of my husband’s spiritual growth, and his support of mine, my heart swells.

Since we began our recovery, our bedtime routine has included praying together. There are other times when we may pray jointly for a specific request. But that has generally been initiated by me. Until the last few weeks, when twice my husband has stopped me to lovingly take my trembling hands in his, join his heart with mine, and lift my troubled spirit to our Heavenly Father. These tender moments brought tears to my eyes and wonder to my soul.

My husband also reads from the Bible to me every night. We are currently reading through the book of Exodus. I find great comfort and strength in the Old Testament stories of God’s faithfulness. The account of Moses’ radiant face after his encounter with God’s glory on the mountain thrills my heart. But then it is a struggle to read with much interest the very detailed list of materials and measurements required to build the tabernacle. But my husband has managed to make this section into a fun learning experience filled with laughter. I don’t know why we need to know about acacia wood, the various metals used, or the colour of the yarn, but I am confident that God delights in the fact that we joyously do.

We have also been attending a Life group together at our church. I am involved with a wonderful and fulfilling women’s group, but still my heart has longed to be a part of a small group as a couple. Sharing, expanding and deepening our faith together with others in an intimate setting. I participated alone for the first few gatherings. Waiting for my husband to respond to the Spirit’s nudging to join me. He did. In this weekly setting, my heart is filled with an extra dose of contentment and security in the us of today and tomorrow.

There has been a gentle shifting in the holy trinity of our marriage. The spiritual presence and connectivity of my husband growing. The answer to my prayer for him to become a spiritual leader in our marriage, home and family emerging.

It is sexy. Not sexual. But exciting and appealing in a way that is filling my heart with gratitude and celebration. And a sliver of guilt and remorse at my failure to appreciate and acknowledge God’s faithful, unrelenting devotion to healing, restoring and building intimacy in our marriage. Piece by broken piece. In His order. In His timing. By His design. With the utmost care for both of our hearts.

I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalm 84:11

Porn – The Serial Killer of Our Sexual Intimacy

I baked my husband’s favourite oatmeal chocolate chip cookies after supper last week. It was Valentine’s Day and we hadn’t done anything special to acknowledge it. I hadn’t made any plans for us, and I wasn’t expecting that he would. Our silence on the subject implied an agreement that nothing would differentiate this day from any other. I did place a card on his pillow after work. Intentionally choosing that time rather than the morning, lest it initiate an obligatory and guilt induced errand during the day to reciprocate in some form.

As we sat eating our nachos and smokies, my heart wrenched a little. The flickering desire to connect with my husband more intentionally and intimately was growing stronger. I’ve been missing him. There is a widening crack in our marriage. It’s ironic how stagnancy does that. How inactivity doesn’t just stall development, it feeds the foulness in a marriage no longer striving for healing. The wrong things grow.

I began devising a way to redeem a small part of our evening. Cookies. Milk. Dreams. Talking about our wedding anniversary the following week. Making plans for spring break and summer vacation. Daydreaming about sailing away (literally) into our retirement years. Scheduling time together. The security of there being an us. That was all the romance I needed.

But I didn’t get it. As I sat at the kitchen table, anticipating the emotional intimacy of jointly sharing our hopes and desires for the coming weeks, months and years, my husband walked into the room. He said some kind words of appreciation for the cookies, bent down to give me a quick kiss, grabbed his snack and promptly disappeared. And I didn’t stop him. I sat there alone. Confused and sad. Wondering why he didn’t choose to sit down with me. Wondering why I didn’t invite him to.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Holding back my words, my thoughts, my desires and needs. Reclaiming pieces of my heart that I have decided are no longer safe with my husband. The bruised, broken pieces that I had cautiously, but courageously, offered back to him in the last four years as we began healing and recovering from the betrayal, rejection, neglect, and abuse of his sex addiction, intimacy anorexia and a twenty year sexless marriage.

I have done a tremendous amount of work in the last four years to heal from sexual betrayal trauma, as well as the deep wounds of sexual sin inflicted on me by both myself and others. I have embraced a recovery program that has included counselling, a recovery support group, and reading and completing numerous workbooks and recovery materials.

And I have prayed. And wept. And prayed. And burrowed into the Bible. Where I discovered refuge and the promise of forgiveness, hope, grace, and extravagant love. Where God’s comfort, strength and healing power began tenderly restoring His daughter to a new life of wholeness. Where I received the assurance that it was safe to trust God with my heart. And as He drew me towards my husband, I began to understand and believe that it would be okay to trust my husband with it too.

And now my heart aches. The pain of sexual rejection and neglect continues to wash over me. I wrestle with resentment, bitterness, envy, self pity and intense sadness. My hope for God designed, mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy wanes. I am angry at those who have falsely offered me the assurance that when my husband overcame his pornography addiction, his brain would become rewired to sexually desire me. Well, he has, and he doesn’t. He denies the latter. But as recovery teaches us – believe behaviours, not words.

I don’t know for how long we can blame his former pornography addiction and compulsive masturbation for the lack of sexual intimacy in our marriage. I don’t know if, or when, the issue shifts from the effects of past porn use to a current unwillingness or ability to prioritize sexual health.

It appears that we will likely never have a conventional sex life. As we have both neared the age of fifty, the physical health of our bodies has betrayed us. It is my desire to find ways to compensate for and overcome these obstacles to cultivate and enrich our sexual intimacy, whether short or long term. An intimate connection that will work for us and be uniquely ours. My husband does not share this desire with me. And that hurts. A lot.

But what hurts even more than the continued sexual deprivation and neglect is the prevalent dishonesty, deception, and avoidance related to our sexual issues. My needs are being ignored and shamed. As are my requests for communication. I feel like I am being strung along as I was for the first twenty five years of our marriage. Being manipulated to keep the boat from rocking.

I am being denied the opportunity to improve our sexual intimacy, and I am being denied the ability to mourn and grieve an integral part of marriage. Of my marriage.

The last several months, I have been unable to fully trust my husband’s words and behaviours. That makes me sad. My heart is his. My body is his. But he can’t or won’t accept that gift. And I don’t know why.

I struggle with this. I recently encouraged a friend by telling her that if she was struggling and wrestling, that meant she was still showing up every day for the battle. She hadn’t surrendered to the enemy.

I haven’t given up either. Even though some days the temptation is strong. I truly believe that God continues to heal, restore and redeem that which pornography and addiction destroyed in our lives and stole from our marriage. I’m awaiting the final victory. Just wishing we were waiting together.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

There’s No Taking Breaks From Recovery

I’ve been taking a break from reality and my daily routines. Turns out that hasn’t been a good thing for me. It didn’t begin as an intentional decision. I truly didn’t have any overwhelming burden from which I needed to escape. No additional disclosures from my sex addict husband. No relapses or significant triggering events. Just tiny choices made every day that have stalled my healing process and growth. The transformation into a healthy and confident woman the last four years as I broke free from the abusive and soul crushing effects of my husband’s porn addiction and intimacy anorexia fading. I can’t find the new and improved me as clearly these days as I could a few months ago. I miss her.

I’m tired. Weary. Discouraged. Avoiding conflict. Losing my energy. Letting my joy be stolen.

An addict must fight for their freedom every minute of every day. But so must an addict’s wife. It’s a different battle, but a battle just the same. And although I haven’t stopped wrestling with the barrage of negative thoughts and lies attempting to engulf me, my guardrails have shifted. In neglecting regular maintenance and reinforcement, my protective barriers aren’t withstanding the attacks against them like they used to.

Cracks can easily form in the comfortableness. Blemishes appear as the freshness settles. The strong foundation cultivated in recovery may seem to shake. But the steadfast rock of recovery and God’s Word remains firm and unwavering. The earth isn’t moving beneath me. God’s faithfulness remains unchanged. It is my knees that are wobbly, my arms weakened, my heart dull. And they don’t have to be.

It’s not a matter of oh, I’ll just have one drink, or another brownie, or allow my eyes to linger for a few seconds. The activities and behaviours I have been indulging in are not necessarily harmful or bad. But neither are they helpful or good. What they are is time wasters. Junk food for my soul and body. Lacking much needed nourishment to sustain and foster my personal and spiritual growth and healing.

I am on uneven ground. Dangerously close to falling into old unhealthy patterns. Perhaps it is a season of rest or testing for the next part of my journey. I have feebly used that justification to explain my immobility. But in this instance, it is only a poor excuse. Growth and healing doesn’t just happen in the stillness. Movement is still necessary on my part. And I’m pretty sure that choosing to watch another home improvement show rather than going for my evening prayer walk, or playing one more level of Word Cookies on my phone rather than reading recovery material, connecting with others, or engaging in true self care, will enhance my life in any meaningful way. It hasn’t. With every questionable yes I have made with my time and energy, I have said a solid no to something exceedingly more beneficial to my life, or to someone else’s.

And so here I am again. Still learning. But yes, learning. Recovery is a lifestyle. It has no end. Even after four years of tremendous personal healing and transformation, I can’t afford to take my eyes off the goal and final destination. Slow down and rest when needed, sure. But cease being intentional with the limited minutes of my day, no, no, no. Each one of them is a gift.

Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth.
Psalm 116:7-9

I Hope I Never Stop Being Surprised

Today I am celebrating another victory. Of mine. In my journey to heal from the devastation and abuse inflicted by my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. My husband might be celebrating too. Or maybe not. I don’t really know for sure. But it doesn’t really matter because although we were together, this part of our story is about me.

I felt eager anticipation for the weekend’s planned events. And excitement and joy as they unfolded. My heart was at peace. The usual clamor of my conflicting thoughts and beliefs still……

A couple of months ago, my husband purchased tickets for us to attend a concert in a nearby city. The show was scheduled for a Friday night, which meant there would be no work commitments for either of us the following day. My mind began dancing with the possibility of making the date a weekend getaway. Although we often go camping, we have never spent a weekend in a hotel being city tourists. The desire was stirring in my heart to go big on this one. But I was apprehensive to suggest the idea to my husband. In our old marriage, the proposal would have been entirely unreasonable and a long list of excuses provided for why it was impossible. My heart had been wounded so many times before by his unwillingness to spend time or money with me. I wasn’t worth it. Eventually I believed it and stopped pleading for his attention. But now. But now, my wishes kept bubbling to the surface. And I dared to hope that my husband would be a willing participant in a weekend getaway.

I fully expected my request to stay in a hotel after the concert and go to a spa the next day to require some persuasion. To my surprise, my husband responded positively with little hesitation. Nonetheless, I was proud of my accomplishment. I had acknowledged and placed enough value on something that my heart desired to gather the courage to risk conflict and rejection to ask for it.

My next success occurred the night of the concert as I fully allowed myself to relax in my husband’s presence, and feel and express appropriate emotions. I was excited. I was happy. That doesn’t happen often. I haven’t learned to entirely act and speak without caution. The fear of my husband’s disapproval and emotional abandonment still faintly lingers. But that night, I felt safe to be me. In a crowd of thousands, with my husband at my side, I enjoyed my own company.

The real breakthrough came the following day. And I didn’t even realize it until later that evening. Which is what made the victory that much more beautiful. It was natural. It required no mindfulness. It was just me unexpectedly, effortlessly and genuinely being a version of me that I had never met before.

We went to an outdoor thermal cycle spa. A place where we were both unfamiliar with proper etiquette and procedures. A place filled with other couples and women. Where I was required to wear a bathing suit. All day. A situation ripe for producing discontent, anxiety and fear in my heart.

But it didn’t. Not even one little bit for one little moment. Normally, I am distressed and highly self conscious every time I wiggle into a bathing suit. Admittedly, I am just as likely as any man to create a ranking of every female body in the vicinity. And of course, I lose more than I win. But somehow, I was completely comfortable with my body and paid no attention to its appearance or to anyone else’s. It was the first time I can recall knowing the freedom of personal body acceptance.

It was also effortless to control my thoughts and the need to see if, and where, my husband’s eyes were roaming. Every time I looked at him, it was because I wanted to look at him. And always his eyes were on me. Smiling.

I also felt a deeper contentment and connection with my husband that dissolved my tendency to compare our relationship to other ones. There was no longing in my heart to be more like them and less like us. The physical closeness and awareness of our bodies without any sexual pressure, hopes or discouragement was very sensual and created a unique physical and emotional intimacy that was new to both of us.

What I learned as my insecurities and hang ups melted away was that there is something much better waiting to fill that spot. Confidence. Courage. Adventure. Passion. Joy. Acceptance. Love. I found them all last weekend. Most notably in the cold water pool, after emerging from the sauna, with my hand covering my mouth so my gasps and screams wouldn’t violate the whispering only rule. It all felt incredibly daring and triumphant for someone (me!) who refuses to wear a bathing suit and go swimming at the beach in July.

My husband stood there grinning. Cheering on this new me. I wowed both of us. That’s what love can do. Our love. But most importantly, the love of our God who has more than restored our marriage. He has redeemed and rebuilt it beginning with the transformation and healing of the man and woman within it.

My husband is a new creation. But so am I. I have witnessed God’s relentless pursuit of my husband’s heart. As for me, God is mending bruises and fractures within my soul that I didn’t even know needed healing. My transformation looks different than his. But it is just as real. Just as astonishing. Just as beautiful.

Maybe one day I will stop being so surprised at what new thing God is doing in my life. But I hope not. ❤

Blessed is she that has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. Luke 1:45