Tag Archive | porn addiction

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

Restoring Sexual Intimacy After Betrayal

I almost made it through last week’s D-Day anniversary and birthday celebrating. Of course, that depends somewhat on how you define celebrating. There wasn’t a party or a cake, but since Halloween is a day of significance in my story of betrayal, there were costumes, smiles and mini chocolate bars involved.

I regret telling my husband that Halloween was a triggering day for me. He did not know that until this week. Now we will both experience a layer of darkness to this holiday that has nothing to do with scary or sexy costumes, trick or treaters, pranks or stomach aches from eating too much candy.

My husband and I have chosen not to reveal our triggers to each other. We decided that knowing these things provided little or no benefit to either of us in our healing and recovery from sex addiction and each other’s sexual betrayals. There may be times it is necessary to communicate when something is bothering us, but for the most part, details have remained unspoken. It does not cause me to wonder or obsess. It allows me the freedom to walk beside my husband not worrying about who or what may be vying for his attention. I am not responsible for his recovery, nor can I control it. There is no point in me watching and questioning everything he does, or heaping more pain upon myself by avoiding places and situations that I have always enjoyed. I will save my energy for my own recovery and growing a healthy me.

To explain my emotional instability and edginess the last few days, I could have just indicated I was being triggered. That would have been enough said. I instantly felt remorseful and defeated for providing details that hurt my husband but that also made me feel like I had just fallen backwards in my own recovery. Because, truthfully, although I was being triggered, that wasn’t the main cause of my unhealthy behaviour. It was just the easiest excuse.

I was anxious. I was scared. I was feeling challenged and stressed. I was taking a risk. A risk that I initiated, but nonetheless, was about to stretch me thin as I began picking at the scabs mending the sexual wounds of my life and marriage.

I assume that rebuilding and restoring genuine sexual intimacy after a relationship has been ravaged by a porn addiction, affair, or any sexual betrayal or infidelity is challenging for many. I say assume, because apart from my own experience, I have heard or read very little about it. The silence roars and adds to the shame and stigma of the struggle. It is incomprehensible to me that other couples affected by sinful sexual behaviours aren’t having difficulty returning to the mutually fulfilling emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy of sex as God created, designed and intended it to be in marriage.

I have suffered immensely through twenty five years of a sexless marriage filled with neglect, rejection and emotional abuse. In our case, we are not rebuilding, but building something that we have never had. The inexperience and awkwardness of new lovers; the harmful and destructive effects of a porn addiction; the baggage of an affair and past sexual history and abuse; and age and health issues combine for a long, slow process of recovering healthy sexuality and intimacy.

I have become frustrated, disappointed, discouraged and impatient. I am angry at God. I have never received the gift of sexual intimacy in my marriage, and even now, with the wonderful healing and recovery we have received individually and in our marriage, it remains elusive. And that makes me cry. And it made me cry last week. I grieve for what I have lost. I grieve for what has not been returned. And when I dare to hope for more, my heart aches.

Last week, my husband and I bravely took a giant leap of faith for our sexual recovery. We have begun working through a book, 31 Days to Great Sex, by Christian author Sheila Wray Gregoire, which has daily readings and challenges designed to improve emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy in marriage. I am nervous, and it scares the heck out of me, but feels so right at the same time. I feel empowered by the format that is holding us accountable to having uncomfortable conversations, while providing a safe environment to do so. I am proud of myself, for both of us, for persevering and pushing through the hard stuff in search of God’s complete plan for marriage.

God sees my tears. And He cares. God knows the desires of my heart. He put them there. I am learning through this process that mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy is a gift in marriage. None of us are entitled to it. I try to reconcile in my mind that it may be something I never experience. That makes me sad.

I am holding on to the truth that God is a Redeemer. I must believe that He either is, or He isn’t. He either redeems, or He doesn’t. And if I trust God is a Redeemer, then I must have confidence that He is able to redeem all of my marriage. Not 50%, not 80%, but 100%. If redemption seems to halt somewhere along the way, it is not because God stopped. It is because I did. I don’t want to do that anymore.

As I wept and prayed last week, my Heavenly Father spoke these words to my heart:

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

I am listening. I am trusting. I have hope in my Redeemer.

Celebrating My D-Day

If I had a D-Day, it would have been this week. My three year anniversary of Discovery Day. This generally refers to the day sexual sin is exposed in a relationship, forever changing the unsuspecting partner’s life. It is a moment of utter devastation and complete betrayal. However, for me, D-Day has a somewhat different meaning.

D-Day was the day I discovered me. Buried deep underneath the fragmented layers of a life destroyed by the neglect and rejection of a sexless marriage. It was the day the broken and crushed spirit within me found enough courage to fight for my soul. It was the day that I recognized the pain of staying the same was becoming greater than the pain of changing something. Anything. It was the day I decided I didn’t want to hurt anymore. D-Day was the awakening, not the breaking of me.

Not only was my soul awakened that day, but my eyes were also opened. My naivety and embedded beliefs that had accepted sexual and emotional abuse throughout my life were greatly challenged.

My husband was away from home. I sat down at his computer. I found pornography. That day, and the next, and the next. The magnitude of his porn use slowly sinking into my mind and my stomach.

I didn’t confront him. This was about me now. For the first time, this would be about me, not him. I needed the time to prepare and strengthen myself against the attacks of shame, blame, anger, and complete insanity I knew from experience would be deflected back to me. This time I would not allow him to confuse me and twist the truth so that I no longer knew what it was. I needed time to gain clarity and confidence.

A few days later, I was shaken by the revelation that my husband was able to look me in the eye and blatantly lie to me. As odd as it may seem, I had never actually considered that my husband was deceitful and untruthful with me at any time in our marriage. Finding out he was a liar disturbed me just as much as the pornography. I wondered how many times he had lied to me. How many times he had laughed at my gullibility. I felt foolish and stupid and betrayed.

The overwhelming emotions pushed me into action. I was no longer willing to be the wife who accepted a marriage devoid of affection, companionship, respect, intimacy, love and sex. I did not feel brave. I did not feel courageous. I felt battered and abandoned. I was about to change the role I was playing in my marriage but it did not unduly scare me. My life would be different, and have new challenges, but it couldn’t be worse. I might be married. I might be alone. But I would no longer be neglected and abused.

My D-Day is a birthday more than an anniversary. A celebration of a new beginning and a new life. I began to value me that week. More than my marriage and more than the façade of a happy family.

I began the journey to healing and wholeness on my own. Without my husband. And without inviting God to join me. Leaving God out wasn’t a deliberate omission, rather I just didn’t think about it at all one way or the other. Although I went to church regularly, and considered myself a Christian, the protective walls I had built around my heart were also a barrier to a functioning relationship with God.

Years earlier, I remember attending a church service where I clearly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and heard the whisper to open my heart and fully let Him in. And I also recall distinctly telling God no, I can’t do that, it would hurt too much. I believed that opening even the smallest sliver of my heart to God would release the floodgate of all my suppressed emotions and pain. It was my belief that my heart could not be both open to a relationship with God and closed to my husband. I chose to keep my heart wrapped up tight.

Many times throughout my marriage, God beckoned me to Him. He stretched out His arms to me and I consciously refused to draw close. My heart had been broken too many times by the people who were supposed to love and protect me. Even in the despair of the events leading to my D-Day, my distrust extended to God.

It took me a few weeks before I finally approached God with my shattered heart. And He was right there waiting for me. He gently took my heart and my hand in His, and set me on an unbelievable path of restoration and healing.

Looking back, I can see God’s orchestration all along. Even when I rejected and pushed God aside He waited patiently for me as a loving Father does. Even when I did not feel His presence He was there.  Even when I thought it was only me against a husband and world that had let me down, it wasn’t.

My D-Day was the end of my life as I knew it. I thank God every day for that new beginning. What the devil meant for evil, God meant for good. And it is good.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

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