Tag Archive | Marriage

From Addict to Best Friend

My addict. Those were the words I used to describe my husband in the title of my previous post “Untangling From My Addict.” In the days following the post, I found myself wondering how and why I had so unhesitatingly attached the addict label to him.

In the beginning of our recovery program, it was a relief and validation to be given a name for our crisis. Sexual addiction and sexual betrayal trauma were the answers to the question of “What the heck is wrong with us and our marriage?” Once the problem was identified, our therapist followed through with the solution.

I accepted that my husband was a sex addict. I acknowledged that I was the partner of a sex addict and a victim of his behaviours. The admission was a breath of fresh air to me. Denial was a thing of the past. It was a blow, but not a defeat. It was freeing, promising, life giving to know I wasn’t crazy. It was hard confronting my wounds. Oh, the effort was gruelling. But it is necessary to call it what it is if you truly want to release its power over you.

As I dove further into recovery resources, I began to feel uncomfortable wearing the labels that had been affixed to us. Addict. Yes. Victim. Yes. That was a part of who we were. Of who we still are today. But only one component. It is not the entire picture.

I spent many weeks struggling with our classifications of addict and victim. I was being careful to ensure I wasn’t returning to any state of denial. But I was also gaining an awareness that we were so much more than these labels. This was not my identity, nor his.

For me, wearing a sticker tagging me as a victim, as a partner of a sex addict, only encouraged and validated that role, and I had no intention of giving my husband that much power over me anymore. I was victimized by his addiction, but choosing not to stake the victim claim.

At the same time as God was gently opening my heart to hope and healing, He was showing me how unconditionally and extravagantly He loved me. Revealing to me my value as His beloved daughter, wonderfully created in His image to bring Him delight. I was finding a new identity in Christ.

God also began slowly changing my heart attitudes towards my husband. Uncovering the truth that my husband was also passionately loved and designed by God. Hmmm. If I was more than a victim, then logically my husband was more than an addict. We were both broken humans being called to healing and wholeness.

The check in sheet being used by my recovery group began to trouble me. It didn’t seem right to identify myself as the partner of a sex addict, giving him a label that both of us were required to wear. I suggested a change in wording to our group leader. She agreed. The check in sheet was modified to introduce us as the partner of a man recovering (or not ☹) from sex addiction. It is amazing how such a small transformation and choice of words can make a difference in the views of ourselves and our husbands.

My husband is a new creation. I am a new creation. And so I am still not sure what drew me to using the words “my addict” in the title of my previous post when I was so uncomfortable applying that label to us. Maybe the key is in the “my”. Recovery has become a lifestyle for us now. He will always have to utilize his recovery tools to remain sober. I will always have to rely on God, my Higher Power, for my health and sanity. But we are doing this together. He is mine. My addict. My husband. My best friend.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Untangling From My Addict

I stood in the doorway of my bedroom watching my husband shaking uncontrollably on the bed. His pain and anguish was palpable. This was days after he came to an understanding and acceptance that he was a sex addict, his life had become unmanageable, and his marriage was falling apart. This was the moment he told me he felt suicidal.

I didn’t react immediately. God kept my tongue still until my thoughts and emotions caught up with each other. And then I responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I cannot help you. If you are truly suicidal please call our pastor or your doctor. You need help, but I have nothing I can give you.”

My words surprised me. But then they seemed right. I was in my own emotional turmoil and intense pain and somehow recognized that my first priority was looking after me. Not him. I cared about my husband as a person, as the father of my children. I did not want him to die. But there was nothing within me strong enough to pull him out of his darkness. I needed what little energy I had to keep myself functioning. I was barely doing that.

I was hurting too. For once, this was not going to be all about him. I would not comfort and console him. Try and make him feel better. That’s what our marriage had been for twenty five years. Me receiving and accepting the blame for everything at the expense of my own heart. This time would be different.

I was the one responsible for no longer allowing the invasion of pornography in our marriage. I was the one refusing to continue living in a sexless marriage. I was the one that said I am worth more than this. I was the one who shook up the status quo.

But he was the one who brought the addiction into our marriage. And fed it every day. It was he who caused this pain. Mine and his. I had finally found the courage within me to say “No more.” He was going to have to find his own strength. I had no intention of giving him an opening to steal mine away. I needed every bit of it for myself. Besides, the physical manifestation of my husband’s pain was evidence that God was breaking him. The best thing for me to do was stand aside and let God do His work.

This was a significant turning point for me. Looking back now, it was the unofficial beginning of Step One. I admitted that I was powerless over the sex addict and my life had become unmanageable.

I somehow intuitively knew that I was gaining back control of my life from the sex addict. I was broken, and the first step in my healing and rebuilding had been laid before me. I was valuing myself over the addict.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.                                              2 Samuel 22:17-20 and Psalm 18:16-19

Sundogs and Rainbows – or When God Sends a Hug and a Promise

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. God sends me rainbows. I’m not kidding. Or imagining things. Rainbows have shown up too many times, at just the right moment when my heart needed reassurance of God’s care and presence in a situation for them to be a coincidence. Sure, rainbows have randomly occurred on days that are just any other days for me. And then I can smile at how marvellously God has designed every aspect of creation for our delight. There is always a message in the beauty of creation for my heart to receive.

And then one day I received a sundog. Disclaimer that this is not scientifically correct, but the most understandable way to describe a sundog if you haven’t seen one would be that it is a rainbow on either side of the sun that is formed in cold weather by ice crystals. Winter’s rainbow.

And so it was, that frosty January afternoon as our truck left town and turned onto the highway, a brilliant sundog appeared ahead of us. This was only a few days after hearing the words from my husband “I am a sex addict.” The reason we were unaccustomedly in a vehicle together going to the city, or anywhere for that matter, was for individual counselling appointments with a sex addictions recovery therapist. My first. His second.

The atmosphere inside the truck was as heavy and still as the frigid air outside. But we were together. And that meant something. Especially when I looked up and saw the sundog. God’s hug in that moment. For me. God’s promise that He was with me holding my hand on this journey He was setting before me. The unmistakable sign that I was not alone. That whatever may or may not happen, God was with me. I would be okay.

God has signs all around us all the time. Some are obvious. Others we don’t recognize for what they are. But the miracles and wonders are there. I call these “God moments.” A friend describes them as “God-incidences.” God knows exactly what will speak words of comfort, peace, strength, courage and hope to my soul and to yours. He knows what will make each of our hearts smile when we need it most. A hummingbird, a smile from a stranger, a flower growing in an unexpected place, a meaningful compliment, a starry night……. a sundog on a desperation filled day.

Did the knot in my stomach untangle? No. Did the lump in my throat disappear? No. But the warmth of God’s embrace allowed me to take a deep breath, look heavenward, and thank God for the inevitable and much needed change that was beginning in my life. And as an added blessing, He brought my husband along for the ride too.

For I am the Lord , your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

I Gave God an Ultimatum

I gave God an ultimatum. Not sure if that is an okay thing to do, but I did it, and I am still here to write about it. I know it is more than okay to bring God our messy dirty selves. He can handle the anger, confusion and anguish we throw at Him. As the Psalms show, King David did it frequently, and he was a man after God’s own heart. But to be theologically correct, I don’t know if David actually gave God an ultimatum. A tantrum or two for sure. But I would like to think that wasn’t what I was doing.

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. He was the One who broke me after all. Often that is what God needs to do before we are able to admit defeat and run into His outstretched arms. When He says, “Finally. I have been waiting for you to come.”

The garbage I threw at God was my marriage. I “let it go” before I even began a formal recovery process and acquired a new vocabulary. No one had to tell me to let it go and give it to God. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want my marriage as it was. I didn’t want my husband as he was. I was done with it all.

I clearly remember the words I used that day. “God, you know the desire of my heart is to have a godly, Christian husband. And I don’t know what that means right now. If this marriage has to end for that to happen, so be it. Otherwise take my husband and do something with him. I can’t do this anymore.”

God chose to take my husband and do something with him.

Although I was a Christian, my husband was not. Therefore, not only would God have to heal him from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, He would have to lead him to repentance and transform his heart. God would be required to break my husband and build a brand new man. That would be a mighty big task.

As God would have it, the Sunday following our first counselling sessions, a group of young men from Teen Challenge were taking over the church service. Teen Challenge is a God centered recovery program for people with substance abuse and addictions. They had been to our church previously, so I knew it would be a time of powerful testimony and authentic worship.

I invited my husband to come to church with me that morning. He did. We talked a little about the service but not much. We were both too immersed in our own pain of the early days of recovery to have the energy or desire for conversation. However, God used the vulnerability and rawness of these men to speak deeply to my heart. And apparently to my husband’s as well. To my surprise, he emerged from the bedroom well before his usual time the following Sunday morning. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was coming to church with me. I hadn’t invited him, so I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this development. I was curious and skeptical of his intentions, but we went to church together again. And then again. And then again.

My husband, a gifted musician, was welcomed onto the worship team. An extraordinary outreach from our church body to include a non-Christian in this role. God just kept laying down stepping stone after stepping stone for my husband. This should have made me happy, but I was still too numb to care and appreciate the miracle that was unfolding right before my eyes.

Two months into recovery, knowing nothing of our marriage crisis, our son, a campus missionary, brought a team of students to our town for a ministry weekend at our church. Our house was home base for the team, with several staying here. Being surrounded by passionate God loving young adults and witnessing them living out their faith all weekend, my husband experienced an outpouring of God’s love. It culminated in Sunday morning’s service as God broke him and he fell weeping into the arms of our pastor and our son.

This is an amazing testimony of how God answered the prayers of our son for his father’s salvation.

It was not a happily ever after moment for me. I was emotionally disconnected from the scene playing out in front of me. It could have been anyone at the altar. I watched numbly, feeling near, but very far away. Cautious. Guarded. My heart just didn’t know what this meant. I didn’t know what I wanted it to mean. Sure, I had prayed for God to do something with my husband, but I wasn’t sure that this is what I wanted Him to do. I was getting an answer that I was afraid to hear and that troubled me.

What continued to distress me was the numerous people who approached me to encourage and celebrate with me in how my prayers for my husband’s salvation “all these years” had been answered. I tried my best to smile and nod while my heart screamed. Firstly, I did not pray for my husband all those years. I didn’t care enough anymore to do that. Secondly, his salvation did not make everything okay. I was still broken. Certainly these people were unaware of his addiction, but there was an assumption that now everything in my world was right. And I still didn’t know if it ever would be.

My husband’s salvation story is bittersweet. It has been two years and three months now. His behaviour is believable. He is a new creation. It is real.

For my husband and hero: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26

For you and me: In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:2

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

The Parents – To Tell or Not to Tell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counselling – Three’s a Crowd

I am responsible for healing my pain. I am not responsible for the pain my husband and his sex addiction inflicted on me.

He loaded the gun, pulled the trigger, and fired the poisonous bullet that ripped through my body. Leaving shattered fragments of myself along its path. Lodging the shards in the very center of my being. Infecting me.

He caused the damage. Allowing him to poke and prod at my wounds to “help” me would only compound the injury. He cannot fix me. Only I can do that. But I am wise enough to know I can’t retrieve the bullet on my own. That job is for someone who knows what they are doing. Which is not me, and certainly not my husband. This requires professional help.

This is where it may get tricky. One size fits all counselling does not exist. It may take time to find the right therapist. It did for me. This is very frustrating in a crisis situation. But don’t give up on all therapy because of a disappointing encounter. The bullet may be twisted and pushed in deeper, but it still needs to be removed.

I began therapy with a female Christian counsellor. I thought I would be most comfortable with my own gender. I also felt safer with someone I trusted to have similar beliefs and values as my own. I did not particularly trust a male therapist to know how to care for my heart.

This assumption was a mistake. I learned from it and moved on after three visits. Turns out she left an abusive marriage. Told me there was no hope for mine. I wasn’t there looking to save my marriage, but neither was I there to end it. At that point, I just wanted to stop feeling crazy and take back control of my spiralling mind and life. I really didn’t care about the future status of my marriage, and yet her taking away hope and declaring its death stung more than I anticipated.

On my third and final (although neither of us knew this yet) visit to this therapist, she told me about a Christian sexual recovery therapist whom she thought could be helpful for my husband. Whether or not my marriage survived, my husband was the father of my children, and it mattered to me that their dad be as healthy as possible. Whatever that was. And so I gave my husband the information. Without tears or pleas, threats or ultimatums to make an appointment. Just handed him a piece of paper, said “I heard about this guy, maybe he can help you.” And I left it at that.

My husband called. My husband went. My husband came home and told me had a sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. I listened and said nothing. I was confused. Troubled. Didn’t know what that meant. The pieces didn’t fit together. I knew about the porn, but a sex addiction didn’t make sense for someone who avoided sex.

I searched this counsellor’s website. There was information about partner’s sexual betrayal trauma. I wanted to know more about all of this, so I set up an appointment for myself.

I didn’t know what to expect at my session. I walked into the room a messy, broken woman. I walked out messy, broken and validated. My voice was heard. Supportive words of kindness and grace were spoken to me. This was not my fault. I did not cause it. I could not fix it. Nor was I expected to. This counsellor gave me hope for my marriage, and for my husband, but most importantly he gave me hope for me.

I was told that I had a bad marriage. These words unsettled me. Made me uncomfortably squirmy. It was an odd sensation to hear these words of truth spoken out loud. I knew I didn’t have a good marriage, but I had never considered that it was bad. It just was what it was. The realization that I had a bad marriage wound its way from my head to my heart and landed as a heavy weight in my stomach.

The therapist outlined for me the recovery program that he would be introducing to my husband. I resignedly asked what I was supposed to do to help him. “Nothing,” he said. “You don’t do anything except give him to me.” What freedom I received at that moment! He went on to explain that my husband’s recovery was his to do, and mine was for me to do. And after we both had several weeks of individual therapy, we would then meet together to see how things were going and if we were ready to proceed with marriage counselling.

To have my counsellor give me the freedom and permission to put my husband and marriage aside to focus on my pain and healing was life giving.

To put a name to my experiences and pain …… betrayal, trauma, intimacy anorexia …… lifted some of the shame that this was a real thing beyond me. Not just a manifestation of my failures, flaws and weakness.

My heart began to hope that day. January 3, 2015. I was offered the gift of recovery and I accepted it.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16