Tag Archive | partners of sex addicts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I 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

I Don’t Want to be Strong

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, please hold me today. And He did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, please hold me today.

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

The Day I Told My Husband I Had An Affair

I woke up. That’s a good thing. It meant I had been sleeping and my heart had received enough peace to allow my mind to stop spinning for a few hours.

I fervently prayed. Immediately. Before I even got out of bed. This was not my regular schedule. But this was also no ordinary day. Next, I dove into my Bible. My heart yearned to receive God’s words. A message of hope, faithfulness, promise, strength. Something. Anything I could hold onto to soothe my anxious spirit. God did not disappoint. He never does.

Now I felt a little steadier to begin my morning routines. Showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast. Every step bringing me nearer to our departure for the city and our counselling session. Every minute that passed on the clock carrying us ever closer to the moment I would add another hurtful layer to our story of sexual betrayal and recovery from my husband’s sex addiction.

Disclosure day. Mine and his. Only he didn’t know there would be two that day. He did not know that it was his heart that would be torn apart more than mine would be. Although he would be revealing the extent of his sexual history and sin to me, it felt like I was the one about to destroy my tattered, much loved teddy bear. Ripping out the stuffing. Leaving shredded fragments lying scattered on the floor. A gaping hole where his heart should be beating and healing.

As soon as my husband woke up, we prayed together. I tried my best to pour love and care into him. I wanted God to do the same.

We both received texts from our support system that day. God was not leaving us on our own. And neither were the people God had provided to walk our healing journey with us. Intercession was occurring at the same time we pulled into the parking lot, entered the building, walked into the office, and the door closed behind us. No turning back.

His disclosure first. I listened. Asked a few questions. Received honest and sufficient answers. When it came to a natural end, our counsellor looked at me, I took the first of many deep breaths, and nodded. Our counsellor told my husband it was now my turn.

A look of confusion and surprise crossed my husband’s face. And then as I confessed my affair and sexual sin, sadness and grief were added into the mixture. I saw in his teary eyes and the emotions on his face what a broken, dejected heart looks like.

I did not cry as I read my disclosure. But my voice and hands were shaky. I had to stop reading several times to take a deep breath before continuing to shatter his heart.

My husband reached over and took my hand. He held it for a minute or two before letting go.

He blamed himself. Our counsellor quickly corrected his thoughts. He agreed with him that he had created an environment in our marriage that made me more susceptible to committing adultery, but ultimately, I was the one responsible for that infidelity. The affair occurred because of my choice, and my behaviour.

Driving home, my husband again reached over and held my hand. Until we decided it was best that he have both hands on the steering wheel while maneuvering in city traffic. Nevertheless, this action spoke what words could not yet achieve.  A sign and promise of forgiveness and hope. The immediate assurance that although our hearts and lives were broken, God was mending us both separately and together.

We arrived home. We walked through the door and my husband gave me a welcome home hug and a gentle kiss on the forehead. Akin to carrying his bride over the threshold.

Soon after, our pastor called to check in with him. And then he left for worship practice at church. He asked me if I wanted him to stay home. I didn’t. I knew that God had predestined this worship practice to minister to his heart and surround him with the support and love of our pastor and his wife. Because our God is so good that way.

We climbed into the same bed that night. Our bedtime recovery routines were clouded with the heaviness and raw pain of both of our sexual betrayals. But even though it would have been understandable, perhaps even excusable, to miss a night of our rituals, my hero, my husband, remained dedicated to communicating feelings and praises to each other. And so we did. And then once more that day, he reached for my hand and we prayed together.

My husband and I were covered in prayer that day. When the extent of both of our sexual betrayals and sin were revealed and confessed, rather than destroying the progress of our individual and marriage recoveries, grace won. Both of us were given the opportunity to not only receive grace, mercy and forgiveness from God and each other, but also to extend it to each other and ourselves.

God teaches and grows our character as He heals. That really is amazing grace and love.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Twas the Night Before Disclosure(s)

My husband held out his phone, showing me a text he had received from our pastor. He didn’t understand what it meant. It was the day after he accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour. A fellow church member had asked our pastor if he had warned my husband about the spiritual attacks he was likely to face in the coming days. Apparently, this other man’s new found freedom and salvation had been immediately assaulted and he was concerned that my husband be prepared and on his guard for the same thing.

I read the words and my heart dropped right to my feet. Right to the instruments I would be using in two more days to crush his open and vulnerable spirit. He was about to be blindsided by my disclosure. At our next counselling session, I would confess my affair to him. Yes, I understood about spiritual attacks. I also sickeningly realized that his spiritual attack would be coming from me. I looked up at his confused and fearful face. And I tried to be strong and encouraging for both of us. I don’t think it worked.

My husband was an emotional mess that week. He had been preparing his disclosure with our therapist for our session and was very anxious about my reaction and the outcome. We had attempted a casual date night at home the evening before. It was obvious that it was more than the jigsaw puzzle causing his agitation. He was distraught over the looming revelations of his sexual sin the next day, and of hurting me even more. I did my best to reassure him that it would be okay. I was pretty certain that part would be. Our therapist had indicated that it was doubtful I would hear anything from him that would be newly traumatizing. So I was a little baffled at how troubled he was. But also moved by his concern for me and the brokenness I was witnessing.

My husband was the genuine picture of remorse that every sexually betrayed partner wants to see. Only at that moment, I didn’t really want to see it. If he had tears in his eyes now, how would I bear the look on his face the next day when he learned of my adultery? How would he?

That evening was emotionally brutal. Because of the progress in my husband’s recovery, he was beginning to believe that I was a miracle and a gift. Profound sadness had overtaken me, mixed in with a hefty dose of shame and guilt. I was not a miracle. I was not a gift. I was a cheating wife.

I was also extremely worried and afraid that my survival mechanisms would kick in, my emotions would retreat and shut down, and I would appear cold and unfeeling during my disclosure. I was so fearful of my remorse not being clearly apparent, that I had been praying all week that I would cry during my confession. At the very least, that my voice would be quivery. I was sure it would seem like I didn’t even care about the wounds the discovery of my affair would cause. Or the feelings of betrayal he would surely experience from keeping my disclosure hidden from him while he was distressed about his.

It was a night of heaviness and secrets. Of darkness about to meet light. And yet neither of us knowing if the light would be bright enough to overcome the raw, palpable pain.

What we did know was that we were in this battle together. We intentionally chose to spend the evening before the disclosure(s) dating each other. Neither of us had the energy or desire to leave our home for a date, but nevertheless we ordered takeout, watched Netflix, completed a jigsaw puzzle of a fluffy white kitten and desperately clung to hope. Together.

Hope and faith was all we had, as faint as it was. But Jesus tells us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed mountains will move. We had two mountains. And two mustard seeds. Also a prayer team that, unbeknownst to each other, had been assembled by each of us reaching out to members of our support systems.

We ended our evening sharing feelings from our day, giving each other praises, and most importantly,  holding hands and praying together. I don’t remember the words that were said, but God does. He heard them. The prayers from our hearts were enough. We did not have to fight this battle on our own.

But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you! 2 Chronicles 20:17

It’s What I Did, Not Who I Am

When I first began considering how to approach the subject of my affair on the blog, I planned to write some informative posts on the devastating effects of pornography and sex addiction in marriages. Explain the complete rejection and suffering of a sexless marriage. Describe the emotional abuse of intimacy anorexia. Basically, I wanted to set the stage to defend and justify my behaviour. Encourage you to nod your head in compassion and understanding. We would agree that an affair was inevitable.

Next came the notion that once the reasons and excuses were established, I would show overwhelming remorse and repentance. Write some flowery, weepy words of how truly wrong my sin was. Pull at your heart strings so that you would show up on my doorstep with hugs and chocolates and exclamations of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

I wanted you to like me. To refrain from judgment. To forgive me. To believe with me that I am not a horrible person.

This is what I wanted to do. Until God started digging deeper into my heart a few weeks ago. When He showed me that there are only three people in my marriage. God, my husband and me. It is only within this trinity that forgiveness, mercy and grace matters. My unfaithfulness and sin was against my husband and God, and therefore the acceptance, approval, understanding or judgement of anyone else is irrelevant.

In the month between confessing my affair to my counsellor and then to my husband, God did a tremendous job of wrenching the poison of my infidelity from my heart. I was filled with shame and guilt. My emotions were more raw and confused than I remember feeling in the weeks, months and years after my affair occurred. I was remorseful. I was repentant. Enough to confess my unfaithfulness. After all, I was not caught in my affair. It is doubtful it would have been exposed after all this time had God not convicted me and shone a floodlight onto my own sexual sin.

I knew that cheating was morally wrong. I avoided the word adultery. It was a little too biblical sounding. Breaking of covenants and talk of stoning and all. Cheating just seemed less severe. More like stealing money in a Monopoly game. In my head, I knew it was sin. In my heart, my affair was a gift. A present that I didn’t want to return. My saving grace.

And this is my struggle today. Facing my long held, unwavering belief that my affair rescued me and saved my marriage. Trying to reconcile how something so immoral could also salvage the broken pieces of my heart. How the attention of another man, and abandoning my wedding vows, was a pivotal moment in committing to keeping my family intact.

My affair offered me something that my husband did not. Validation. Self worth. The belief that I was attractive and desirable. The knowledge that there wasn’t anything physically wrong with me. An awareness that I was okay, and that whatever the problem was, it was not me.

As my self esteem began to return, I grew stronger. For myself and my kids. I refocused, shut out the pain of my marriage, and entered survival mode. I had collected my two hundred dollars and passed go.

I also learned that I was capable of cheating on my husband and susceptible to accepting validation from men outside of my marriage. At one time, I was a woman who steadfastly believed that my character and values would never tolerate an affair. I would have been horrified by the idea. I did not pursue an affair, but when the opportunity grew, I did not flee. I welcomed it.

My affair did not have an emotional entanglement. There was no pretense of loving feelings or a possible relationship. We both used each other sexually to assuage our personal pain. But I was fine with that. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.

I have clung to the belief all these years that my affair carried me through the rejection and abandonment of my husband and provided me the strength and ability to stay in my marriage. In a way, it did. But I was deceived. Now I see that just when I had received an indication of my value, instead of being liberated, I chose to suppress my emotional and sexual needs, and accept a lonely and neglectful marriage. I lost the very woman I was trying to find. And I didn’t have to.

Then, and until recently, I didn’t understand that there was a much better way to find my worth as a woman. Through the eyes, and in the arms, of my Saviour Jesus Christ. The true lover of my soul. Sadly, I should have known this and could have prevented years of unnecessary suffering for myself, my husband and our children. I grew up in a Christian home and even spent a year at Bible College. God was not an unknown entity. But I drifted away. God was not a part of my marriage. And when I needed God most, when He would have drawn me close, breathed new life into my lungs, wiped the tears from my eyes, and delighted in my return to Him, I broke His heart too.

God has been patient with me. It has taken me a long time to realize that my truth of my affair is not God’s truth. Deception blinded me. And I let it. I chose a very wrong path. Adultery is never okay. It is never justified. It is not a gift. There is always a better choice for a broken heart. His name is Jesus.

The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14