Tag Archive | intimacy anorexia

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

Advertisements

Please Don’t Silence the Courage of a Whisper

Apparently my neediness is unattractive. To my spouse. Although he wasn’t the one who told me that. It was a comment left on my last blog post For His Eyes Only. From someone who I will choose to believe intended to offer me helpful advice, as misguided as it was. The words hurt me. They diminished me. Again. And I allowed them to replay through my mind a hundred times more than I should have. Joining the thousands of times beforehand that I had heard and accepted the many variations of “your neediness is unattractive. Even to your spouse.”

And you know what? Maybe my neediness does repel my husband. But if it does, the problem is within his heart, not mine. Because I am not needy. I have needs. And desires. I am human. A woman. And the two go together. Just to set the record straight, I don’t believe my “neediness” does offend my husband. Sometimes he may wrestle with how to meet my needs that are within his realm of responsibility to acknowledge, and yes, supply. But when he struggles, it is because he is trying. Trying to learn how to relate to me and the dance of oneness and separateness that co-exists in a marriage. If he didn’t struggle, it would be then I would worry. Because I wrestle with this too. Discerning what of our own and each other’s needs are my concern and responsibility. And most importantly, what are the longings of our hearts that only God can satisfy.

I do believe that God has created a spiritual void within the human heart that only a relationship and dependence on Him can fill. But those aren’t the needs I am talking about. God created marriage, and a husband and wife, for intimate relationship and to practically meet needs that we can’t on our own.

I have needs that are my responsibility to fill and to protect. I do. And that realization still makes me mildly uncomfortable. Because I have received a life time of messages from those who should have been loving, supporting and protecting me, telling me instead that my needs didn’t matter. Reinforcing that my wants and desires were insignificant, irrelevant, meaningless, shameful. A childhood and adulthood of abusive relationships where the suppression and denial of me was expected and demanded. Where my voice was not only ignored and unheard, it was muted. And it was okay. Even though it wasn’t.

The wasn’t only became clear to me 3 ½ years ago with the full disclosure of my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, and the revelation and validation that my entire 25 year marriage was riddled with betrayal and abuse. Emotionally, mentally, financially, spiritually, sexually. I was in an abusive relationship. I was abused. And that is a concept I have not yet completely reconciled within my heart and mind.

I was a victim of my husband and other betrayers. I learned and implemented survival skills that served me well at the time and allowed me to function alongside the unheard screams of my wounded heart. However, as I heal, those survival mechanisms are no longer a protection. Holding onto them now would lead me to be the betrayer of my own soul. The abuse is over. There is no legitimate reason for me to continue living in dark silence.

My voice is still squeaky. Often unsure. But gaining confidence. Continually surprising me. In a good way. The scared, scarred, little girl hiding within me is gloriously transforming into the woman that God created me to be. It is a beautiful experience discovering me. Made all the more magnificent by my husband, and the wonderful recovery community God has blessed me with during my healing journey, genuinely celebrating together with me.

And yet, I have also learned that not everyone appreciates and responds positively when the silenced find their voices. In my experience in other personal and work relationships, as my voice grows stronger, others have resisted, even become angry, at the shifting balance of power. Setting boundaries, standing up for myself, even asking questions has resulted in my reception of displeasure, disapproval and hostility at times. That can still be awfully threatening and intimidating to a person traversing the rocky path of recovery from betrayal and abuse.

I am not doing my recovery perfectly, but my results indicate that I am doing it well. Acknowledging and expressing my needs is an integral part of my healing process. At times the process has been ugly. But learning to value my needs has never been unattractive.

My off tune, wavering voice belongs in God’s glorious choir. It is rising above the cacophony. Soaring to new heights. God has given me a new, beautiful song to sing of praise, redemption and restoration. I was created for good things. I am worthy of good things.

Please don’t silence the courage of a whisper. Bring it a microphone.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. Psalm 146:7

The Best Part of Addiction Recovery Isn’t What I Expected

I didn’t know that you could say something wrong in a recovery support group. I didn’t expect the words that flowed so innocently and enthusiastically from my mouth would cause shifting eyes and an awkward silence to envelop the room.

I immediately became confused. Quickly replayed in my mind what I had just said that seemed to make this circle of wounded and healing women so uncomfortable. I hadn’t confessed any of my sins or struggles from the week. Or disclosed any of my husband’s. I hadn’t asked a difficult question or raised a triggering topic for discussion.

What I had done was introduce an unexpected burst of joy and an exuberant declaration of God’s goodness and faithfulness to the group. One year into my recovery as the partner of a sex addict and intimacy anorexic, I heartily exclaimed that the best part of my recovery was my deeper relationship with God.

I was surprised and baffled by their reaction. Most of the women in that room identified as being a Christian. And if not, still readily talked about their spirituality. My support group is not church based, but spiritual self care is a component of our check in, and subsequently, God is regularly mentioned.

But perhaps not with as much passion as I did that day. But it was warranted. Two years later, I have often revisited that meeting in my mind, and still come to the same conclusion every time.

The best part of my recovery from my husband’s sex addiction and my own past sexual sin is the intimate relationship I have discovered with Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the One who whispered my name, took my shattered heart in His hand, and set my feet on a path to healing and wholeness. Jesus is the One who called me out upon the water. To the great unknown. Where my feet may fail. And it would be okay anyway.

As part of my morning routine for an entire month, I listened to the song “Oceans” by Hillsong. The lyrics and haunting melody nurtured my soul and provided me courage. One by one, I tentatively allowed Jesus to pry open each finger that was tightly attempting to hold the shards of my heart together. My trust in Jesus grew. And then I timidly prayed for my Saviour to take me deeper. Not quite knowing what that might entail.  But answering the invitation to ride above and through the waves with Him anyway.

At the same time that God was building my faith in Him, He was enlarging my capacity to trust the genuine healing of my husband’s heart. I was beginning to see my husband through God’s eyes, rather than with my own flawed vision.

And then God challenged me. To trust my husband with my heart. God calmed my fear with assurances of His unconditional, unfailing, unrelenting, extravagant love for me. If I could believe that my heart was safe in the hands of my Creator, then I could trust God’s leading to offer it to my husband.

God did not promise that I would never again be hurt by my husband. God did not promise an easy, quick, linear path to restoring our lives and marriage. But God did promise to never leave me nor forsake me. God did promise to be a faithful, constant presence with a never ending supply of strength for my journey.

I began to understand that my husband will fail me. And I will fail him. And we will both fail ourselves. It is inevitable. Despite our best attempts and intentions, we are imperfect, sinful humans. It is wrong of me to expect perfection from him. It is wrong of me to believe that my husband can and should fulfill all my needs. He can’t. Only God can do that.

My worth, joy and peace is not dependent on my husband’s ability to love or respect me. My healing is not determined by the status or success of my husband’s recovery from his addiction. I matter. I am loved. I am cherished by my Heavenly Father. Every moment of every day.  Just because I am me.

God has become the one sure thing in my life. I know that whatever lies ahead for me, for my husband, for my marriage, that I will be okay. Recovery continues to have highs and lows for me as God draws us both closer and deeper in intimate relationship with Him and each other.

I have confidence that should my husband relapse in his recovery, God will sustain me. I am certain that should I falter in my recovery, God will pick me up again.

It wasn’t until my heart was so completely and utterly broken by my husband’s sexual sin that I began to experience how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for me. It became more than a Sunday school song. It turned out to be real.

The truth about God’s supernatural healing power and love is never the wrong thing to say.

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19

Can’t We Just Be Broken Together?

My husband doesn’t know what to do with my tears. I often don’t know what to do with them either. Three years into our recovery from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, the presence of my tears still distresses both of us, often leaving them unheeded.

I say both of us, because living with the emotional abuse and sexual betrayal of my husband’s addiction for twenty five years left me in a state of emotional numbness. I did not laugh. I did not cry. I wasn’t happy, but neither was I miserable. Life was okay that way.

Until it wasn’t. Until the pain became so strong, and overwhelming, and exhausting, that I no longer had the energy to smother it with nothingness. As I wrote previously in I Gave God an Ultimatum:

I wept. Well, more like blubbered. And I am not a crier, so the depth of my grief manifesting in ugly sobs was a betrayal that bewildered me. It was not a pretty sight. Or sound. But it was just me and God and He was okay with that.

It was just me and God sitting alone together in a hotel room far away from my husband. Or from anyone that might witness my brokenness. I don’t remember crying again for a few more months. And when I did, it was in the solitude of my car. On my own. With no one to see my anguish. With no one to look at me with disdain or pity. With no one to comfort me.

Barely two months into our healing journey, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye to our dog. As an empty nester in a home where love was routinely withheld from me, it was particularly true that my beloved dog was my best friend and companion. My source of affection. But also the one who readily accepted the love I offered.

I was very close to crying that day. The tears puddled in my eyes, and a few, though not many, trickled down my cheeks. My husband thanked me for showing my emotions. He was sad. I was sad. At the same time. In the same place. For the same reason. And yet my heart still felt disconnected. I was mystified at the absurdity of his praise, the approval of my tears, and the new experience of sharing a loss together.

Learning to experience and identify feelings is a new thing for me. For both of us. Our communication has improved significantly because of these new skills. But…..

We don’t know how to cry together. We falter in our ability to receive and allow each other’s sadness and pain.

As any recovering addict must, my husband has courageously worked through his need to numb emotional pain through his drug of choice, pornography and masturbation. He has also fully embraced a recovery program providing him freedom and healing from the immense damage porn inflicted on him. And he has recognized the devastation and pain his choices thrust upon me, our marriage, and our children. Porn is not harmless. Ever.

My husband is filled with remorse over the effects his addiction had on all of us. He has a truly repentant heart. Yet he struggles to forgive himself. Tears flow freely and easily for him. That makes him doubt his manliness. But I don’t. He is a man of both great strength and gentleness. His vulnerability allowed me to trust his heart and invite him back into mine.

But frequently, his tears stop mine. When his flow, mine don’t. Often when I approach him feeling hurt or troubled about something, his heart fractures from the reality and magnitude of the pain his sexual sin has caused all of us. He begins crying. My natural response is to comfort him. Which means I withdraw from my own hurt and tuck it back away so I can make him feel better with hugs and encouraging words. And then I feel bitter. Because this was about me. And my pain. But it somehow becomes about his.

It is not a manipulative maneuver on his part. He doesn’t ask me to console him. I’m not even sure he expects that. I just do it because the alternative would be awkwardly watching him grapple with his own pain. Which adds discomfort to my growing resentment.

Recently, as this all too familiar scenario played out, I physically felt my heart constricting and getting harder and smaller. I understood it was time for me to change my behaviour and response to our tears. It was okay to let my husband sit in his sorrow and grief. And it was necessary for both of us to accept my brokenness and expressions of sadness. Maybe we could just cry together. Maybe we could find comfort and hope for our full healing in mingled tears.

The last two months we have made a commitment to delve deeper into building the sexual intimacy that was missing in our marriage. This process has reintroduced emotions that haven’t been regularly experienced since the early stages of our recovery three years ago. Thus, the re-emergence of tears, and need to respond to them in a more healthy way.

My first attempt at allowing my tears to remain, while refraining from extending instant consolation to my husband once his began, left me feeling discouraged. He seemed oblivious to my tears, and although I didn’t speak, my hands reached out to soothe him with my touch. My eyes dried up, and resentment seeped into my heart.

The second time this happened, I sat on my hands and forced my mouth shut to resist comforting my husband. It was awkward and uncomfortable witnessing his despair and doing nothing but let him feel it. The focused effort on my part detached me from my emotions. And yet it was still a small victory.

The next opportunity we had to practice crying together, we cried together. It was a breakthrough for me. And yet I can’t tell you much more than that. Even though it was just last week, I can’t recall my thoughts or emotions. And honestly, that kind of puzzles me. The emotional intimacy connection I was seeking occurred, and yet the memories of it elude me. Positive or negative. I have no explanation as to why.

I don’t know what will happen next time. But I have come to learn on my healing journey that my progress doesn’t always leap directly from discouragement to joy. It often sits somewhere in the middle while I adjust to new behaviours and thought patterns. My progress isn’t perfect, but it is progress, and so I celebrate.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21

I Was Married and Alone

I was married and alone. Very alone. But not very married. We had a wedding ceremony. We had a marriage certificate declaring us husband and wife. We lived in the same house with two amazing children and a dog. But other than that, there was little evidence of a union of hearts and flesh between this man and woman.

There was a constant ache of loneliness deep within my soul. It led to despair, hopelessness and eventually resignation and acceptance that I was unloved and unwanted. After years of trying everything to make my husband love me, to notice me, to offer me a crumb of affection and attention, I realized that the deafening noise in my brain was from me banging my head against the wall. It was not going to happen.

After ten years of marriage, I gave up. I seriously considered leaving my husband. But I didn’t. In all honesty, my decision to stay was not a commitment to my husband, marriage or family. I was not trying to be honourable and stay together for religious or moral reasons. Simply, I was defeated and not brave or strong enough to make such a monumental change to save myself and my children. I was more afraid of the future than the present. In my hidden pain, no one was able to offer me hope. No one recognized the destruction occurring within our home. I was insignificant. And so I did what I did best. Adapted and learned how to survive the abuse.

I no longer had any illusions that my love could change my husband. Neither was I praying and dreaming of the day that God would transform him into my Prince Charming. My heart still ached and longed to snuggle in bed with my husband. To hear the words “I love you.” To hear the words “Good night.” His back turned to me in cold silence every night wounded my heart just a little more, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it didn’t.

One fantasy I did cling to was that my husband was a good man. I was shocked the day God jolted me out of this fantasy and into reality with a DVD by Dr. Doug Weiss entitled Married and Alone. Many times over the years, I had persuaded myself into believing that my husband really was a good man. I would list in my mind all the bad things that he didn’t do. And the good things that he did do. There were many. But that is what he did, not who he was. At least not with me and our children. It wasn’t that he only did good things for others. He did good things for us as well, but we also privately received what others did not. Or more accurately, things were withheld that never should have been.

If you feel married and alone, more like roommates than best friends, there is a good chance that intimacy anorexia has ravaged your marriage and home. And if you can identify with the following characteristics, you may be faced with the same ugly realization that I was: my spouse is not a good person.

  • Busy: has little time for you, does everything they can not to be with you
  • Blame: every issue is your fault
  • Withhold love: you are like a sponge that gets drier and drier
  • Withhold praise: no verbal acknowledgement for the positive qualities you have or things you do
  • Withhold sex: not being emotionally present during sex, or withholding sex from you
  • Spiritual: withholding spiritual connection with you
  • Feelings: unwilling or unable to share his/her authentic feelings with you
  • Anger/Silence: uses anger or silence to control you or push you away
  • Criticism: has ongoing or ungrounded criticism, either spoken or unspoken, towards you
  • Money: controls or shames you regarding money or spending

Sex addiction is one of the causes of intimacy anorexia. And just like my husband’s addiction, I did not cause his abusive behaviours. But I had accepted them. I had agreed with him for twenty five years that it was okay to control and withhold from me. My mistreatment was by mutual consent.

My belief system for my personal and marriage survival began to unravel that day. I received a reality check. Everything was becoming clearer. I felt foolish and naïve in how I had convinced myself of my husband’s goodness. Of how my own actions had enabled my pain to continue and grow. I saw each one of us differently.

My flickering hope for healing from sexual betrayal trauma also grew stronger that day. For me, the educational resources I was utilizing validated my pain and empowered my recovery. The knowledge that my feelings and situation were real, that others experienced and understood the utter chaos and insanity of intimacy anorexia, and that there was a proven and effective recovery plan available to me, my husband and my marriage, gave me the courage to make the changes that I needed to make.

My husband and marriage have been miraculously and wonderfully transformed over the last three years. When an addict finds freedom and salvation, the change is evident. My husband truly is a good man. And so much more. When a husband and wife begin to cherish and respect each other a new strength and love radiates from them. I have seen this. I have experienced this.

But to the people who know me, and have walked the journey with me from beginning to where I am now, they see the change and healing in me too.  And that makes me feel proud. I am rewriting my own story. My husband can’t do that for me.

We need to become our own hero. Married and alone were never meant to exist together.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

(Mis)Adventures in Joining a Recovery Support Group

So much about recovery involves scary leaps out of your comfort zone. That safe place you are in is likely unhealthy, but it is where you are, and what you know, and that can count for an awful lot of points when your life is falling apart around you. Maybe I should be a little more personal here and replace these “you” and “your” words with “I” and “my” because it is me that I am really talking about.

Knowing how to quietly walk on eggshells and when to tiptoe around the perimeter. When to keep my mouth shut. Which is almost always because everything will come out wrong or stupidly. Learning how to camouflage into the background. Trying so hard to be unnoticed. By everyone.

This was my comfort zone. The isolation and security of me. Not letting anyone see the dark places of my soul, but also not the unique beauty of it either. Certain that it would be rejected and ridiculed. Because it was. Daily. By the person who I freely and trustingly gave it to. If my husband so thoroughly disliked me, logically, everyone else would as well. I lived in constant fear of being humiliated and rejected by everyone.

And there was my problem with embracing a recovery program. Recovery is not a “me” journey to be taken alone. At my first counselling session, my therapist introduced me to the five vital components to treatment and recovery for partners of sex addicts.

Number one, one on one counselling. I could do that. I was cautious, but desperate for guidance. It was his paid job to sit and listen to me without fleeing from the room repulsed by my thoughts and emotions. I trusted this counsellor who validated my pain and offered me hope and practical ways to achieve healing. He thought I was worth it and I began to believe that too.

Number four, reading. I was encouraged to read sex addiction recovery resources for partners and other personal growth books. Again, a reasonable suggestion. Especially with a list of recommended materials provided to me.

Number five, prayer. In the words of my counsellor, “When God is at the center of your life, long-term health and maintenance is much more likely. You can be okay no matter what happens in your relationship.” Nothing much to argue there. I believed in God so talking to Him wasn’t a stretch.

But ah, yes. Components two and three. For me, the tough, scary ones that I was inclined to skip over. The people ones. The relationships. The ones where other women will look me in the eyes, and listen to my wobbly, foolish words, and recognize instantly that I am a waste of their time.

Number two, participate in a recovery group. I was told that I would receive support, validation and strategies for recovery. That I was not alone. My counsellor’s wife, herself a recovering partner, led a weekly teleconference group that I was welcome and encouraged to join.

Number three, accountability. Meeting other women who have gone through what I am going through will help me stay accountable to a recovery and healing process. Okay. Doubtful, but maybe. But then my counsellor lost me completely by suggesting these women would become my friends. I was unconvinced. And saddened that he would say something so outlandish to me.

Nevertheless, out of my comfort zone I stumbled. Literally. On my first attempt to connect with my counsellor’s wife, (after staring at the phone in my hand for several minutes beforehand), I panicked and hung up the phone when I heard my counsellor’s voice on the line. Ridiculous, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Only minutes later, after a few deep breaths, I dialled again wondering if they had call display. He answered again. This time I identified myself. With my real name.

Later that week I bravely called in to the teleconference recovery group for the first time. It was awful. I said two words. “Cynthia” when I had to identify myself as the caller. And “no” when I was asked if I wanted to do a check-in. It was overwhelming, confusing, discouraging. It was quickly evident that I had no idea what was ahead of me. This was an unknown culture with an entirely new vocabulary. Triggers. Disclosures. Polygraphs. Boundaries. What?!?!

I hung up the phone that night and sobbed. Crushed by the overpowering raw emotions of myself and the other women I heard. Too much pain.

As my tears turned to stillness, I heard a tiny whisper. I called the group leader. Explained how much the call had distressed me. Through her words and beautiful spirit, God deeply ministered to my brokenness. A calm settled over my heart that could only come from my Abba Daddy.

I would like to say that my second time participating in group went more smoothly. But that would be untrue. I did hobble through a partial check in. Choked on the words, “Hi my name is Cynthia and I am the partner of a sex addict and intimacy anorexic.” The foreign recovery lingo was still there. I hung up in a worse state than I was in an hour earlier.

It distressed my husband to see me so upset with my recovery group. He was finding life and freedom in his support group and thought I should quit mine if it was making me miserable. He handed me an out. I was in enough pain as it was. We both wondered why I would intentionally add to it.

But I heard that tiny whisper again that refused to let my flickering hope be snuffed out. God gently nudged me forward. Drawing me through. Asking me to trust the process and path laid before me. Giving me the courage to do it. Making me brave.

The next week I walked into an in person recovery group and said “Hi, my name is Cynthia. The thing I like about myself today is that I am here.”

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Finding Me in Telling the Truth

I told my parents the truth about my marriage. Not all of it. But enough. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Maybe because I had rehearsed my words and my parents’ reactions so many times it was playing in a loop through my mind. The tears of sorrow. The tears of joy. A group hug. Someone running through a meadow, arms outstretched, hair blowing in the breeze…… Well, you get the idea.

And so the response I received to what I thought would be a startling confession and revelation of my pornography ravaged and emotionally abusive marriage was rather anti climactic. As was my testimony of how God’s grace was restoring and carrying my husband and myself through it.

My nervousness only showed itself through the rabbit trails I led my parents along thinking maybe this addition to the story will elicit a comment, a question, a nod of the head, or something…… If not immediately, perhaps in the following days.

My mother did seem to be listening and following along with me. Closely watching my face the whole time. She did make one or two mostly innocuous comments. She gave me a hug afterwards and said it must have been hard for me to share with them.

My father was silent. Not only were no words spoken, but his body remained motionless. He did not look at me, fidget in his chair, clear his throat. He seemed to be making his best effort to be unnoticed, and so his silence did speak to me. Just not entirely sure what it was saying.

I chose not to share the details of either mine or my husband’s sexual sins, other than to mention the pornography addiction.  I did not mention the resulting compulsive masturbation, the twenty long years of being in a sexless marriage, the affair. Some things a girl just doesn’t want to share with her parents about her sex life.

Instead I highlighted the recovery process our sex addiction recovery therapist has guided each of us through. I told of our involvement in support groups and my working a 12 step program adapted for partners of sex addicts. I shared about our participation and commitment to the “Dailies” explaining why I was on my phone talking or emailing my husband every night. (In the Dailies we identify and share feelings from our day unrelated to our relationship or each other, give each other two praises, and pray together. We also share scripture or read a passage from the Bible together. It is a very important time of connection for people also healing from intimacy anorexia.)

Most importantly, I described the story of my husband’s salvation two months into his recovery from sex addiction, and of my own deeper and closer relationship with God. I emphasized God’s hand in the tremendous healing we have received individually and in our marriage. They needed to know that we, that I, am only where I am today because of God’s extravagant love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and redemption.

My parents needed to hear this part of the story even more than the other. I grew up in a Christian home, attending church regularly as a family until I married and moved away. Shortly after this, on a return visit home, I discovered that my parents no longer went to church. And sadly, that has been the case for the last 27 years. But maybe, just maybe, voicing God’s miracle in our home will ignite a new light and life in theirs.

Whether or not sharing my marriage crisis and its reconciliation changes anything in the hearts of my parents, it has shifted something within me. It truly did free me. Not necessarily from big things, but the small, simple every day life things. I am recognizing that conversation and relationship is becoming much easier and healthier now that I don’t have to sidestep questions, hide my whereabouts and activities, or worry about saying something that may reveal my secrets. Previously, my mother asking a seemingly straightforward and normal question about what I did on my trip to the city would cause panic and feelings of guilt within me. Sure I could tell her the truth that I went shopping or had lunch with my daughter, but when the primary reason was to attend a counselling session or support group it felt like lying by omission. And it was. And I don’t have to do that anymore!

Removing masks, being vulnerable and learning to be authentic is hard. And scary. But each time I do it I am amazed by the beautiful woman I see emerging. And the best part is that beautiful woman is me. And I like her more and more every day.

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Psalm 46:5