Tag Archive | porn addiction

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

Step by Step He Leads Me

Every day I choose to heal from the affects of living with a sex addict. Recovery from sexual betrayal trauma is not a singular occurrence, but an action I must make over and over and over again. Frequently throughout my day. Sometimes even several times an hour. Or minute by minute. Intentionally. Mindfully. There is no other way if I want to continue my journey to wholeness. If I want to maintain the healing and growth I have achieved. If I want to remain secure in my recovery. There was a time, not that long ago, if someone had asked me how my day was, I would have replied, “which hour?” Maybe even “which minute?” It could change so easily and quickly when I didn’t guard my heart and thoughts from wandering back into the shadows.

I am not an addict, a co-addict, or co-dependent, and yet I am very much aware that any deviance from my own recovery program can and will slide me back into my own unhealthy behaviours and negative thought patterns. And there I find myself opening my wounds, peeking into the darkness, and allowing the ghosts to breathe life into my insecurities, fears and anxieties. Stealing the hope, peace and joy I have worked so hard to attain.

I have diligently and purposefully worked through a 12 Step program, Beyond Love, adapted for partners of sex addicts. I have also completed a partners recovery guide of 100 Empowering Exercises. These resources stabilized my shaky feet and brought order to the messy, ugly chaos of my soul and marriage.

As I began my healing journey three years ago, I read an article criticizing 12 Step programs for partners of sex addicts. It confused me, created doubt, and made me uncomfortable and questioning of the route I had chosen to follow. A few weeks ago, I read a similar derogatory article. This time it made me sad. And a little angry at the damage and harm it was spreading.

I have observed within my own recovery support group, that not many women will opt to gain their strength and hope through a commitment to thoughtfully and thoroughly completing steps and exercises. It has also been my experience that recovery programs work for those who do the work. I am not suggesting that working a 12 Step program is the only way to heal. But I am stating from personal experience that it was vital in guiding me to dig deeply into my life to address and regain all that had been stolen from me. And thus, I find it nonsensical that someone can condemn a program that works if you work it. I guess because it also doesn’t work when you don’t. There isn’t any easy, effortless way to achieve and maintain healing and recovery. It is hard work. And time consuming. But it is entirely possible if we utilize the valuable resources and tools available to us.

I regularly prioritized my recovery homework. I set aside time weekly to delve into my workbooks and participate in a support group. Daily I read recovery material related to personal and spiritual growth, connected with my support system, and prayed. This meant considerable shuffling of my schedule as my personal recovery took precedence over my other commitments. I resigned from my volunteer committees. Even from serving in ministry at my church where I was the financial bookkeeper. That one was tough, because it was my contribution to my church family. But I knew I needed a season of rest and healing without outside distractions. I needed time to be alone, and time to be with God.

I looked forward to opening my workbook and filling its pages with my hurts and hopes.  For me, it wasn’t an unpleasant, burdensome task, but rather an anchor that grounded me. My body would relax, my spirit would calm, and my cloudy thoughts clear. It was then that I took control of my recovery, brought order to the chaos, and felt like I was bravely doing something to counteract the brutal and devastating affects of sexual betrayal trauma. I was no longer having something done to me. Nor was I waiting and expecting my husband’s recovery to heal me. I ceased passively allowing my circumstances to reign, but rather actively strengthened myself with every new thing I learned about the good, bad and ugly of my life. And I applied it. Then and now.

God’s use of a 12 Step program was highly beneficial and effective in transforming me from victim to survivor to warrior. From a lost, scared, broken little girl to an empowered, thriving, beautiful, life loving woman. It’s hard to argue with the value of that.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:2

The Porn Addict’s Wife Goes to the Beach

I went to the beach last week. With my husband. And a multitude of women wearing bikinis. And bathing suits. And barely there shorts. Everywhere. Walking along the water’s edge. Lounging in chairs. Lying on beach towels. Half nude bodies in every direction for the lustful eyes and heart of a man to gaze upon. Or for an insecure woman to compare herself to.

When an outing to the coast was suggested, my first thoughts were of the soothing sound of ocean waves, sand gently massaging my feet, the warmth of the sun on my skin. Majesty. Beauty. Peace. Contentment.

And then came panic. Fear. Dread. Shame. That I might be expected to wear a bathing suit. Somehow, the thought of my husband seeing my body in a bathing suit causes me more anxiety and distress than his viewing me naked does. Quite possibly because I associate my nudity with the anticipation of sex, and therefore I can trust that the idea of my naked body arouses my husband. Perhaps he can overlook my flaws, cellulite and stretch marks because there is a different objective.

Whereas my body in a bathing suit, a too small covering that exposes and magnifies the extra lumps and bumps, will only garner disappointment, disapproval, distaste, disgust. In my husband’s eyes. And in my own. I am quite certain that my body does not look anything like the thousands of naked women that have sexually aroused my husband during our marriage. The women he fantasized about, that brought him enough gratification, that he opted to completely reject all sexual and physical intimacy with me. Giving him a glaring reminder of why he daily chose pornography and masturbation over me scares me in so many ways.

Concealing my body is my misplaced effort to hold onto his love and affection. To calm my fears. To protect my wounds from breaking open again. Honestly, I know that doesn’t work. It hurts me more. And it hurts him. It hinders the healing of our sexual brokenness.

Surprisingly, as I was immersed in the distress of my own body image insecurities, I had completely overlooked the fact that there would be other women at the beach not afraid to publicly expose their bodies.  As I settled into our spot, comfortably wearing my knee length shorts and flowy tank top, my eyes spotted a bikini clad woman. I confess I checked her over. Compared her body to mine. I lost. And then I added more losses to my growing tally. Sometimes I won. Which gave a tiny boost to my own approval rating, together with a mixture of envy and wonderment that these women were somehow free enough to accept and embrace their imperfect bodies just as they were.

And then my chest tightened as I was struck with the realization that if I was scoping all the women, surely my husband was too! I anxiously looked over at him. Lying on the sand beside me. Facing away from the surf. With his eyes closed. Looking much more relaxed than I felt.

It was me that had converted the women into mere bodies. Not lustfully, but essentially viewing them as sexual objects to be appraised and rated for their ability to entice my husband’s desire. I was even guilty of objectifying myself and diminishing my own worth as I unkindly attempted to assign each of us sexual value based on the physical attractiveness of our bodies.

I have heard, I have read, all the assertions that true sexual intimacy and fulfillment is available for anyone regardless of their body shape. That true sexiness begins in the mind and heart. That, blah, blah, blah. I have the head knowledge. But it frequently dissipates on the way down to my heart.

My body is not hideous. It never has been. And yet, my husband intentionally declined to behold, compliment or touch my body while he engaged in pornography and found pleasure in the beauty of thousands of other female bodies. My soul wrestles with that discrepancy. Why he chose them over me. Every day for twenty five years.

My husband chooses me now. He does. But that doesn’t make everything okay. I struggle to believe that he finds my forty eight year old body attractive and arousing when my twenty five year old one was spurned. It doesn’t make sense. But that’s what addiction does. It ensnares the addict and distorts reality and truth.

My husband is healing and finding freedom from his pornography addiction. So am I. Our pace isn’t always the same though. We aren’t always in the same place at the same time. God has us both on individual paths of healing and growth that intertwine and yet are still unique to each of us.

I decided to enjoy our day at the coast. I did what I commonly do to chase away the fears, insecurities and lies that cloud my heart. I sang worship songs. With the warmth of the sun on my skin and sand trickling through my toes, I wandered along the shore allowing the tide and God’s love to wash over me and still my soul. I found promise and delight in each precious seashell I discovered, depositing as many as I could into the pockets of my shorts. Contentment. Redemption. The choice was mine.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13,14

Why I Made Amends With a Sex Addict

I am a recovering partner of a recovering sex addict. Being restored from the devastating effects of my husband’s pornography addiction and intimacy anorexia, and the soul crushing rejection of a sexless marriage.

I am also a woman recovering from my own poor choices that caused myself and others pain and harm. That is the beauty of a recovery program. It has brought me to a place of mending things that I didn’t realize were broken or needed fixing. I felt regret, shame, and even occasional remorse for my behaviour and words over the years. But there it stopped.

If I am completely honest with myself, I was broken before I met my husband. The pain of my past is not all due to his addiction and mistreatment of me. Others sinned against me. I sinned against me. And I sinned against others, including my husband. In far more ways than just committing adultery.

As I began composing my Step Nine list of persons to whom I needed to make amends, my husband’s name was first on the list. I had confessed my affair to him a year earlier. Now was the time to acknowledge and apologize for my other offenses.

I have both heard and read the words of many partners of sex addicts who are resistant, and even hostile to the idea of making amends to the man who has so deeply wounded and sexually betrayed them. I believe part of the problem comes from the misunderstanding that making amends is for the addict’s healing, when in fact it is for ours. For me.

In owning my behaviour throughout our marriage, I cannot rationalize or blame my husband for the things that I have done that caused him pain or harm. I am responsible for cleaning my side of the street. Pulling the weeds from my own garden. Looking fully at my sin and acknowledging it to the person I sinned against. Asking for forgiveness regardless of where he is in his own recovery journey or ability to forgive me. It does not minimize, justify, or excuse my husband’s behaviour. It does not suggest that I am even partly responsible for, or a cause of it. It is just me being responsible for me.

I earnestly prayed for God to reveal to me the amends that I needed to make with my husband. If I was going to do this, I was determined to do this right. While searching every crevice of my heart, God faithfully uncovered new areas to me that had never previously been addressed, as well as confirmed behaviours that made me a little squirmy to confess.

I pulled out a fresh piece of paper and began making headings and listing specific examples beneath them.

Sexual: Nothing new here. But just the same, it couldn’t be ignored.

Emotional: My patterns of withholding love, praise, respect, physical affection from my husband.

Attitudes: Not including or inviting my husband to join in family activities. Husband bashing and putting him down. Not edifying, honouring, and respecting him to others.

Financial: Lying about how I spent money. Not discussing and hiding charitable donations and offerings. Admitting to stashing escape money and having a secret bank account.

Spiritual: Not praying for my husband. Refraining from inviting him to attend church with me. Not sharing God or His Word with him. Until I had prayed for God to expose my sinful behaviours to me, I had not even considered the notion that I was responsible for spiritually neglecting my husband by my failure to share Jesus with him. This broke my heart.

As I made my way through my list of amends, my husband sat listening with tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. I told him that if I had missed anything, it was not intentional. He said I hadn’t. I suggested that if he needed time to process my confessions, that was okay. He said he didn’t. I was offered immediate forgiveness.

I rejoiced in the freedom I received from releasing my secrets to my husband.

I delighted in the courage God provided me to whisper a scary prayer asking for a heart willing to make amends and be vulnerable with the man who had carelessly wounded it.

I stood in awe that not only did God create a willing heart in me, He placed a deep desire and eagerness within me to face my fears and profess my sinful behaviour to my husband.

I celebrated the confidence and knowledge God granted me that with Him, I can do hard things.

And that is why I made amends with a recovering sex addict. Because God guided me to a place where He could bring further healing to my heart, mend the pieces of my marriage that I broke, and most importantly, restore and grow my relationship with Him. And He did all of that.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Hey Kids, Your Dad is a Sex Addict

Well, those aren’t the precise words that were used to tell our children of my husband’s sex addiction. Because I wasn’t the one who said them. He did.

My husband and I had discussed the when and how of telling our young adult children that our marriage was in crisis and we were in recovery from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. We never really entertained the idea of if.

Neither of our children was living at home with us. Or even near by. Our son lived seven hundred kilometres away. Our daughter was attending university overseas. They weren’t aware that the festering pain in our hearts had erupted. We didn’t have to tell them anything. But we chose to.

We didn’t have a plan of action. No details worked out, other than my agreeing to allow my husband to disclose to our children on his own. I trusted the sincerity of his heart. His vulnerability, courage and desire to expose his sexual sin to our children strengthened my ability to trust his recovery and care for the precious hearts of our son and daughter.

When this would all happen remained an unknown. Particularly knowing it was not likely to be a one time occurrence with our children sitting together on a couch waiting expectantly for their father’s words. No day was marked on the calendar. I trusted God to provide the moment.

And God did just that. Only two months into my husband’s recovery program, he strongly felt the necessity to share his struggles with lust, pornography and masturbation with our then twenty five year old son. It happened in a phone call. My brave husband was scared, but more concerned about our son’s future well being than he was about protecting himself. In his words, he wanted to break the generational curse.

My husband stepped up in his role as a man, father and husband that day. I witnessed his pride melt away and be replaced by a genuine desire to confess his sin and offer a warning and if needed, hope, to his son.

We continued to discuss whether to wait several months until our then twenty two year old daughter was home from overseas to drop this bombshell on her, or to tell her now when she didn’t have the same support system to depend upon. A few months later, my husband received the answer. Our daughter called one afternoon as I was in the city at my partner’s recovery support group. I returned home to the announcement that as they were talking, he strongly felt led to share his struggles and recovery with her. He did.

God was preparing the hearts of both our son and daughter for this disclosure. We did not have to choose the time, or even the words. That was all up to God. All we, or more accurately, my husband, had to do was follow God’s leading. Now the healing that was beginning to occur in each of our hearts, and in our marriage, could radiate outwards to include all our family.

I have met many women through my recovery support group for partners of sex addicts. And I have heard many reasons for not disclosing the addiction to their children. Occasionally, the reasons have merit. There is obviously an age appropriateness factor to consider, and discretion needed in the details provided. But more often than not, the justification was simply an excuse to avoid discomfort or protect a false image of their husband and family.

It is my belief that those false images need to be shattered. That our children should be shown the truth of sexual sin and how it harms the entire family. Because it does. Most children know something is not quite right within their home, and identifying the issue can be freeing for everyone. Exposing the pain and sin allows an opportunity for the healing light to shine through the many, many cracks of a family damaged by addiction. Even when they don’t look broken to the outside world.

As parents, we need to teach our sons and daughters that pornography is not harmless and kills the soul of the user and deeply wounds their loved ones. Our children need to know that hiding and enabling sexual sin does not help anyone. Our sons and daughters need to know that there is freedom and healing, resources and help to overcome the bondage and shame of porn addiction. Our children need to be aware of the dangers of pornography use as they enter relationships. Our children need to know that when choosing their spouse, and also offering themselves as a mate, that often the best partners are those who have fought battles and won. We would have failed our children by remaining silent, standing aside, and watching them enter soul destroying relationships as either the abuser or the abused.

My husband, their father, is a hero. A warrior. Fighting for his freedom and marriage every single day. And winning. I want my children to know that. I want my son and daughter to know that God showed up in a mighty and marvelous way to lead their father to victory over his addiction. I want them to know that the shame of his sin was washed away by the blood of Jesus. I want them to know that miracles still happen. And their daddy is one.

I couldn’t imagine denying our children the opportunity to celebrate God’s supernatural power and healing in their father’s life by choosing to withhold his testimony from them. Their life stories are intertwined.

God shone His light in the darkness, and we followed. We invited our son and daughter to journey alongside us and have never regretted that decision for one moment. Healing is for all of us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t We Just Be Broken Together?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.