Tag Archive | Marriage

Saying “I Do” Again, and This Time Meaning It

As I have been writing the story of my healing journey through my husband’s sex addiction, intimacy anorexia, our joint infidelities and the restoration of our marriage, I have mostly done so in a chronological order. But I have left out two significant events from the first year of our recovery. Purposefully. And yet both situations were answers to prayer, evidence of God’s supernatural healing power, and yes, miracles.

And although they are not secrets to our family, close friends, and in one case, our community and the world of Facebook, I have held the precious memories close to my heart. Maybe too close. Unwilling to taint the experience, perhaps lessen it is some way by not being able to eloquently articulate and express how deeply meaningful and profound it was to me. To my husband. To us. Worried that by sharing it with someone who doesn’t understand or appreciate the bittersweet celebration, it loses its value. Which is absurd. But not much different than tucking away and hiding a favourite, much loved gift rather than using it for fear of it becoming broken or damaged.

In my last post, The Case of the Missing Wedding Rings, I indicated that my husband and I had recently celebrated three years of wearing wedding rings.  But we did more than just present each other with new rings that day. We also renewed our wedding vows. We had numbly acknowledged our twenty fifth wedding anniversary four months prior. This was the real celebration.

I purchased a new dress. Bold, colourful, and flowery to match my growing confidence in life, God, my husband, marriage, and me. My husband, of his own volition, bought himself a dress shirt for the occasion. I never asked him to, so it pleased me that he made that effort.

As this commitment ceremony was only for us and our Father/Father-in-law God, we privately and informally held it on a Wednesday night with only our pastor, assistant pastor and their wives as witnesses. All good friends who had faithfully poured support and love into our lives and with whom we could joyfully celebrate the victorious testimony of God’s transformation in our lives and marriage.

Committing my heart to my husband and my marriage to God while standing in the Himalayas, or more accurately, surrounded by styrofoam mountains and a backdrop of Mount Everest covering the wall for the upcoming Vacation Bible School, added an element of fun and lightness to a deeply powerful experience. I don’t think when I was twenty years old, naively standing at the altar saying “I do”, that I fully understood the true meaning and complexity of wedding vows. I certainly had no vision of the struggle ahead of us with pornography, a sexless marriage and adultery. But honestly, in retrospection, the words were just words I was supposed to say on my way to a happily ever after with my Prince Charming. This second time was truly an intentional commitment. Every word and tear savoured and treasured. Of which there were many flowing from my husband’s eyes and heart throughout the ceremony.

Arriving at the church that night, my nervous stomach was competing with the peace, joy and gratitude reigning in my heart. My emotions had been going a little crazy all day, changing from minute to minute, but always solid in my decision. There was a little sadness at what my marriage had been, but unbelievable thankfulness at what it now was, and where it was going. The blanket of forgiveness and grace covering us was unexplainable. The past was truly put in the past. The only thing that mattered was today and tomorrow. A gift that continues.

We concluded the ceremony with a song that a friend sang at our wedding. Morning Has Broken. I loved it then, but it was lost in the blur of a wedding. However, this time, in these circumstances, listening to Third Day’s version captivated my heart.

I just paused from my writing to listen to the song. At this moment, the lyrics and their significance have me darn near tears. I have been overcome with emotion just writing this post and re-reading an email I sent to a friend the following day. I have never seen, or again written, as many exclamation marks, wows, and praises to God as there are in that email. Pure joy and exuberance at the gift and blessing of my healing journey.

Which is why I haven’t attempted to share our vow renewal on my blog yet. I just can’t adequately express how powerfully overwhelming it was at the time, and the memory still is. I am fearful of the possible reaction, judgment, eye rolling, misunderstanding, skepticism, and well, even indifference, to something that I deeply treasure.  A tarnishing of my miracle and God’s goodness.

But it is a miracle that needs to be told. A rejoicing in answer to prayer. Two broken people restored. A marriage rebuilt and redeemed. We hear about the destruction and messes all the time. I read about beautiful, strong, courageous women fighting for their healing, partners and relationships. And yet so many people are unable to believe that a marriage destroyed by sexual betrayal can be stronger and more beautiful than ever.

We show up every single day with our battle armour on and recovery tools in hand to guard and protect our victory. The battle has been won, but it will never be over. Truthfully, there are scars that remain. But as they fade, they no longer haunt us. And I just want you to know that.

You are the light of the world, like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16

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The Case of the Missing Wedding Rings

We were playing Exploding Kittens last weekend. The card game. That I once packed in my carry on luggage and was warned not to mention in the vicinity of airport security ears unless my desire to be detained and patted down was greater than my desire to reach my destination.

But it isn’t the game that is important. It was the hand holding the cards that most caught my attention. Or to be more specific, the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand of the man holding the cards. The scratched, slightly scuffed wedding ring of my husband.

And those little nicks made me smile. Why? Because that meant the ring was being worn. And not taken off. The covenant promise of the wedding ring was being valued.

I never had to wonder if my husband was wearing his wedding ring. And he never had to worry about losing or misplacing it. Because we both knew where it was at all times. Collecting dust in his jewelry box. Where it had been every day since our wedding day. Not so that it would be easier to cheat with other women. Which he didn’t physically do anyway. The reasons he provided me were that he didn’t really like it, and it didn’t fit well. Which was true. But I translated that to mean that the universal symbol for marriage, for our union as husband and wife, was not important enough for him to invest any energy, time or money into rectifying. The wedding ring I gave my husband seemed to have little worth in his eyes.

I did wear my wedding rings. For awhile anyway. I lost the diamond in my engagement ring while doing handstands in a hotel swimming pool approximately ten years into our marriage. I was upset. But even more so when my husband indicated we did not have the finances to replace the diamond. I removed the ring, gave it to my husband and suggested he save money and have the diamond replaced for our twenty fifth wedding anniversary. My ring sat forgotten alongside his.

The one remaining ring stayed on my finger for several more years. Until I removed my wedding band one day to squish raw ground beef into hamburger patties. After I washed my hands, I picked up the ring and instead of twisting it back onto my finger, I placed it in my jewelry box. I don’t even remember when that was exactly. It is not a time stamped memory. Just a moment of annoying inconvenience that the ring was getting tighter to slide on and off. And then the decision to not bother trying anymore. It was a bittersweet recognition that my wedding band had lost its symbolism and become merely another accessory.

Because I did not intentionally remove or return my ring to my husband as a direct response to his sex addiction and infidelity, I cannot pinpoint the time, even to the year, that I stopped wearing it. But I do know that I was ringless for several years prior to our recovery.

After attending my recovery support group for two months, I returned home from a meeting with a seed of hope planted in my heart and mind. I mentioned how one of the other women had recently renewed her wedding vows and had shown us her new wedding ring. My husband looked down at my hand. When he lifted his head, his face was filled with sadness, hurt and confusion that there was no wedding band on my finger. He asked me where it was. I interpreted his question and the pain in his eyes to mean that he believed my missing ring represented a recent disconnection from our marriage.

My heart ached at the sight of his brokenness and the acknowledgement that his behaviour was the likely cause of his ringless wife. But then…….But then my heart began to wrench with my own hurt at the bitter realization that not only had my husband been oblivious to my bare finger for years, but also that he had remained unaware of its absence for the past two months of our healing journey. He had never even noticed it was gone. I felt invisible again.

Three months later, we went shopping together to purchase new wedding bands for both of us. I delightedly chose a ring with tiny, sparkly diamond chips to replace the diamond I lost many years before. My husband wisely chose one that he liked, and that fit him.

One month later, on June 24, 2015, we ceremoniously presented each other with our new rings. Slipped them on each other’s fingers and sealed the new covenant with a kiss.

We just celebrated three years of wearing wedding rings. A symbol of our new marriage. That still makes me smile every time I return my ring to its rightful place after squeezing raw meat through my fingers. That still warms my heart every time I see the evidence that his ring remains steadfastly in place.

Our wedding rings have immeasurable meaning now. They tell a story of pain, redemption, restoration and a hope and commitment for our future. The one is slightly battered, the other glistens. Melded together they are us.

Since they are no longer two, but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together. Matthew 19:6

Hope and Contentment Collide

I want my hope back after all.  Once again, God has shown up to give me a kick in the butt. Good thing He is God, or His foot would be awfully sore by now considering how many times He has had to forcefully propel me out of my comfort zone because I willfully chose to ignore the gentle nudges.

As I was whining to my mentor and friend about my discouragement and the seeming hopelessness of building mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy in a once sexless marriage ravaged by porn addiction, emotional abuse and infidelity, I said to her, “I sound like a broken record, don’t I?” The slight pause on the other end of the phone was answer enough. Which was the honest response I needed.

One of my personal flaws and weaknesses is my impatience and frustration with broken records. I am passionate about the healing wonders of recovery and of God. The two together fill me with awe. And so I confess, that when I think the answer to someone’s dilemma is apparent, and yet they remain immobilized, it tends to exasperate me.

My lungs deflated and my heart sank as I humbly realized that I was my own irritant. That motivated self reflection. And that led to the recognition that up until now, I had fully embraced my own personal recovery from sexual betrayal trauma and my own adultery. I had actively pursued and utilized many resources and materials available to partners of sex addicts: counselling, a recovery support group, workbooks, a 12 step program. I was intentional in separating my ability to heal and grow personally and spiritually from my husband’s recovery. And yet, now I was waiting for him to bring me the healing of our sexual intimacy.

Of course, healing a sexual relationship does need to involve two people. And it’s not as if I did nothing at all in the last three years to mend my own broken sexuality. I have read many great books and blogs and worked through exercises both on my own and together with my husband. I even branched out from my sexual addictions recovery counsellor and had a couple of sessions with a Christian sex therapist. But then I somehow determined that there was nothing else I could do. That things were out of my control now and I just needed to learn to be thankful and content, accepting the level of intimacy we had managed to build. Stop wanting and expecting more. Being satisfied with less.

And then I read this, from The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge: “Sadly, many of us have been led to feel that somehow we ought to want less, not more. We have this sense that we should atone for our longings, apologize that we feel such deep desire. Shouldn’t we be more content? Perhaps, but contentment is never wanting less; that’s the easy way out. Anybody can look holy if she’s killed her heart; the real test is to have your heart burning within you and have the patience to enjoy what there is now to enjoy, while waiting with eager anticipation for the feast to come.” This excerpt was taken from a book about drawing closer to the heart of God, not a marriage partner, and undoubtedly the intention of the authors was not to reignite my sex life or anyone else’s. But still, the parallels struck me deeply. And really God can, and does, use anything to get our attention. The fact that I was reading this page, in this book that had been sitting on my bookshelf untouched for months, the same week I was struggling with the definition of hope and contentment, well, that was a God-incidence.

And then God began to fill my heart with conviction and courage. A new strength and boldness is growing within me. And I am letting it. In answer to my prayer the week before for clarity and a vision for our present and future sexual intimacy, God is preparing me to find out.

This is a catalyst of sorts. Change is about to happen. One way or the other. My sexual needs and desires do matter. And I’m going for it. Accepting the challenge to begin expressing myself sexually and more openly in the bedroom. I’m giving myself another pep talk here.

One of two things will happen. We will receive an encouraging promise of freedom from the joint fears, insecurities, and inhibitions that have remained an unwelcome third party in our lovemaking. Or we will panic, stumble and be forced to address the elephant in our bed that just pushed us out and onto the floor. Either way is a breakthrough from the bondage currently entrapping us.

I anticipate a win-win situation. Now I just need patience while I wait for my miracle.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

My Fight to Reclaim Sexual Intimacy from Porn

Last week I prayed for God to take my hope away. I was walking down the street, chatting with Him when it happened. It wasn’t one of those times when my eyes were blinded by tears and I was in danger of walking into parked cars or falling into a ditch. When the words silently appeared on my tongue, I wasn’t expecting them. It wasn’t a total surprise as I had been struggling to hold onto hope for awhile. And yet I wasn’t in a place of desperation or undue distress. Mostly my heart was weary of waiting.

I tasted the words for a few moments. Unsure of whether to allow them to remain or to quickly retract them. I felt a twinge of guilt, and perhaps hypocrisy, at the realization that I love to offer hope, encouragement and support to others, particularly women healing from the devastation of sexual betrayal trauma and abuse. And yet I was ready to give up.

I allowed my prayer to linger on hold a bit longer. And then I decided it could stay. Which interrupted my conversation with God as my spirit tried to make sense of what to do or say next. I felt sadness, but also relief. In my mind, if hope was removed from my heart, it was possible that the disappointment, discouragement and anxiety woven through it would also leave. I imagined that once hope was eliminated that would also take care of the longing in my heart for more.  The possibility of contentment and fulfillment was within my reach if I could just lower my expectations, be grateful for what I currently had, and just let whatever would be, be.

And by “whatever” I mean sexual intimacy. There I said it. It is hard for me to say. It is still challenging for me to admit that it matters so much to me. That my soul aches for a physical, emotional and spiritual connection with my husband. That my sexual desires and needs continue to hurt me and bring me shame. That my broken sexuality may never be satisfactorily healed. That I may never know what is supposedly so amazing about sex.

I’ve heard and read that sex is fabulous, blissful, rapturous, fun and even sacred. But I’ve never experienced that. Or maybe I have, and I just don’t know it. I wonder about that sometimes. If sexual ecstasy and fulfillment is just a product being expertly sold and I am expecting an outcome beyond its capability. Consequently, when I open the packaging, my unrealistic expectations inevitably lead to disappointment and frustration. Just like the marvellous kitchen gadgets on The Shopping Channel. Too good to be true. So you put it back in the box and place it in the corner of the basement with the shadows and spiders.

The only problem with that scenario is that I can’t reasonably return my sexuality to the stifling darkness it emerged from three years ago when I began healing and recovering from the soul crushing effects of my husband’s porn addiction and intimacy anorexia. There are times that I want to return to the safety of our previously sexless marriage. Where there is comfort in the anguish I know and not have to learn and adapt to a new pain. But with the recovery both my husband and I have made, and the incredible healing in other areas of our marriage, suppressing the fact that I was created and designed by God to be a sexual being just isn’t possible.

And really, I don’t want to. Most of the time I deeply desire the emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy of sex with the man I love and married. I yearn for a one flesh union with our bodies and our hearts. And because of that, there is a battle in my mind and a conflict in my soul between the longing for something I so desperately want, and the despair of believing it is unattainable.

Sexual intimacy is a gift uniquely designed by God for marriage with the intention of bonding a husband and wife to each other. And like any gift, neither I, or anyone else, is entitled to it. Our sexuality and intimacy has been reclaimed from the clutches of pornography and infidelity. But that is not the same as restoring it. It is somehow caught in the land of in between. No longer there, but not quite here. Just like resignedly biding time in an airport terminal. It makes no difference what city you are in, or even if you are coming or going. The journey started, and although you have a destination, you aren’t on the plane.

A few days ago, I prayed again. But not for hope. Rather for a vision and clarity of what is, could be, and never will be.  An acceptance, I suppose, of the amount of time and effort to put into nurturing and building a sexual relationship that perhaps has a limited distance. If my destination is further abroad, I want to enthusiastically run for the boarding gate tightly gripping my husband’s hand. But if my ticket is for right here, I need to find joy and contentment in the place I am, where we are together, and not resentfully and enviously look out the window at where the other couples are landing.

My husband is my gift from God. Freedom from his addiction an abundant blessing to both of us. My healing an unimaginable testament to God’s grace and power. The love, laughter, and joy of our rebuilt marriage a miracle.

My heart rejoices in God’s glory. Again and again throughout this journey to wholeness. I don’t want to lose sight of my numerous miracles because of the one that hasn’t happened. Yet.

Maybe I do want my hope back after all.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

What I Found When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Pain Hurts – No Measuring Stick Required

When I first received an offering of hope and the opportunity to heal from sexual betrayal trauma, I desperately grasped the branch being held out to me, not knowing if it was strong enough to rescue me, or would snap from the weight of my despair. The answer didn’t really matter because I couldn’t imagine hurting more than I already was anyways.

Although I had experienced the soul crushing effects of my husband’s porn addiction and a sexless marriage for twenty five years, I was astoundingly ill informed about these topics. I was not in denial as much as I was ignorant and naïve. Which was not bliss. But did allow me to survive and function at a level that no one ever suspected the magnitude of emotional and sexual abuse occurring in my marriage. Not even me.

It’s not that I didn’t know something was very wrong with my marriage. It was just that I did nothing to gain a better understanding of the cause of the dysfunction. I lived with the symptoms without seeking a diagnosis until the pain became unbearable and numbing my emotions impossible.

And then wondrously, the mystery, the underlying cause of my shameful loneliness and sexual rejection was identified. My husband chose and preferred a fantasy world of pornography and masturbation over me. As hurtful as that revelation was, this new awareness was enlightening.

My husband met the criteria for both a sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. The intimacy disorder made sense. But I was confused that a man who intentionally shamed and berated his wife for having sexual needs and desires could be addicted to sex. I felt desperately alone.

Through counselling, reading recovery material, and attending a support group for partners of sex addicts, I received information that propelled me into a healing process. Although my pain was being validated, and the knowledge I gained was empowering, I still felt distressingly isolated in my abnormal situation.

The ache in my heart longed to find similarities to my story in the voices I read and heard. But it was rare. I needed to know that there was someone else like me. Someone who shared and understood that approximately 9,125 days of being sexually rejected by your husband was traumatic and a form of both sexual betrayal and sexual abuse. Someone who had found healing of her own damaged sexuality. But I couldn’t find her.

I began reading books written by women who had traversed the healing journey from the crippling effects of sexual betrayal trauma. I found encouragement, support and practical ways to navigate through the pain and chaos. I found beautiful testimonies of healing and restoration. I found evidence of God’s supernatural strength, love and guidance. But I didn’t find the details of their husband’s destructive behaviour and betrayal. I didn’t know what their husbands had specifically done. I didn’t find a way to compare and measure atrocities, to mark off behaviours on a checklist that would rate my experiences against anyone else’s. There was no ranking and winner in the pain department. All pain hurts.

I vowed that if I ever wrote my story, I would write with complete vulnerability and transparency. That every wound and scar would be open for the world to see. My motivation was not for sympathy, but rather to fight the darkness of isolation. There had to be another woman like me. And if I couldn’t find her, maybe she would find me.

And then I healed. And understood why the graphic details were missing. They weren’t important to the story. Or to my story. I have borne the consequences of the sinful behaviour inflicted upon me, but I did not cause it. Thus, the offenses are not mine to confess and recklessly proclaim to others. It is the journey from Point A to B that matters. The starting point need only provide a reference and introduction.

That doesn’t mean the many facets and layers of sexual betrayal are insignificant. For me, there were many specific words spoken and acting out behaviours from my husband that I needed to process to be able to heal from them. But the best place for that was with a counsellor or my husband. I chose to clean up the poison rather than spread it further.

There have been times, and will continue to be, when I share certain offenses of my husband’s betrayal and abuse with someone. When the generalities and vagueness just isn’t enough to break through the suffering. When one of us just needs the assurance that there is another person who “gets” it.  But I have found that those are the times God has connected two hurting women together with the purpose of bringing further healing and restoration to one or both of our hearts. When we are led by love, grace, forgiveness and compassion.

The most important part of my story isn’t what happened, but what I have learned from it, and how I allow God to use it to make me a better person.

I am learning to live my life with a new vulnerability and authenticity.  For me, that also includes this reminder from Neil T. Anderson – “Don’t forsake love in your eagerness to be honest.”

And in the words of Solomon:

“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9

What I Lost When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Won

There have been many losses in my life created by my husband’s porn addiction and intimacy anorexia. Many things were blatantly stolen from me throughout my marriage leaving me dazed and confused. But others were a slower trickle that I didn’t even notice until the emptiness engulfed my soul.

Either way, I lost. And my husband’s addiction won. It wasn’t fair that I was an unknowing participant in a battle I knew nothing about it. I wasn’t prepared. I had no warning. I didn’t even know it was occurring. I repeatedly got knocked down, each time multiplying the losses and shattered shards of my heart. Until one day, I lay battered and crumpled on the floor. My opponent oblivious and uncaring that he and his addiction were the cause. On my knees, I cried out to Jesus for mercy and help. And then I rose unsteadily, turned around, and hobbled away from the ruins.

Sexual betrayal devastates and ravages a person to their very core. It is a complete and brutal attack against the whole being. Heart, mind and body. There is nothing left untouched, unaffected, unquestioned. Once you begin trudging through the aftermath of destruction, sifting through the truths and deceptions, the sense of loss settles in. And as grief often does, it incapacitates as your reality is shaken. When you no longer know what your reality was, is, or will be.

My husband’s sex addiction, unbeknownst to me, insinuated itself into our entire marriage. And I suffered immensely because of it. Loss upon loss upon loss as I slowly faded away.

I never knew just how much his addiction cost me until several months into my recovery. An exercise in my Partner’s Recovery Guide encouraged me to identify and acknowledge each of my very real losses so that I could release them from my head and into a healing process. I was entitled to own every loss, allow myself to grieve, and then stop the betrayal from taking anything else away from me by “throwing it all away”. I was hesitant to trust this new concept of loss and grieving. My heart was guarded, but I was committed to searching for any offering that might hasten my healing.

The exercise’s directions were to make the list as long as it needed to be, followed by the instruction to write down one loss per sheet of paper. The example used was that if you had thirty losses you would need thirty pieces of paper. I was quite bewildered at the possibility of anyone having thirty losses because of their partner’s sex addiction. But because I had been diligent in my recovery program thus far, I found a stack of paper, sat down and stared at the blank pages.

A few losses came to mind immediately resulting from my sexless marriage. The obvious one being the withholding of sexual intimacy. As I reflected on that, the related losses snowballed: lack of any physical affection or touch; my sexuality, needs and desires; the ability to feel sexy, attractive or desirable; healthy body image; comparing myself to other women; comparing my marriage to other marriages; fidelity.

Soon the recognition of my losses was coming faster than I could write: trust; security; respect; acceptance; sense of belonging; self worth; confidence; praise and affirmation; emotional intimacy; companionship; receiving love; giving love; joy; peace.

Followed by the isolation and deficiency in: family time together with our children; doing things with other families or couples; time with my parents and other family members; close friendships; spiritual intimacy with God, my husband and others.

And then the crushing weight of understanding just how far reaching, just how much living in a marriage and home riddled by my husband’s addiction and intimacy anorexia had stolen from me: the ability to express and identify my emotions, needs, desires, and likes; the ability to have fun and laugh, or relax and just be; my sense of adventure; travelling, outings, new experiences; spending money on myself; dreams; hope for the future.

I wrote more than thirty pages. A lot more. My pile was disconcerting. Each scrap was a missing part of me.

The next step of the exercise required me to actively and symbolically let go and rid myself of each loss/page one at a time. There were several methods suggested. I liked the idea of starting a fire, tossing the papers in and watching them disintegrate into ashes. But as that wasn’t a viable option, I found a cigarette lighter and pie plate and began burning them one by one in my kitchen sink.

The moment didn’t bring me instant freedom. My world didn’t suddenly fall into place. My thumb was raw from setting the pages ablaze. My back ached from leaning over the sink.

What I did receive was an expanding hope for my full recovery. Knowing that with each effort I made, I was doing everything that I could for my healing and not expecting it to just happen. Freedom may not have been immediate, but I was moving closer towards it.

Through this recovery exercise, God opened my eyes and heart to the possibility and probability of a deep healing from sexual betrayal trauma. But first, I needed to recognize my losses and gain an understanding of what I was grieving. It isn’t true that what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

What I do know now is that what was lost can be found. What was stolen can be replaced with something better, brighter and more beautiful. And amazingly, what was once mourned will be celebrated.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Isaiah 51:3