Tag Archive | pornography

My Fight to Reclaim Sexual Intimacy from Porn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I do want my hope back after all.

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

My Hiding Place

Some days, well, most days, I feel an overwhelming need to escape to my hiding place. Sometimes I run, other times I limp. I have even crawled to my place of comfort, where my soul is soothed, even if only momentarily. This is where I peel off my protective bandage and expose the wounds of sexual betrayal and abuse to the fresh air.

 I often get mixed up with the what, where and who of my hiding place. And by mixed up, I mean I settle in and pitch my tent with the wrong thing, location or person in my attempt to relieve the pressure of my emotional pain.

The wrong thing is often obvious. Using alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling to pacify the screams of the heart. But there are other methods of medicating emotional pain that may seem innocent enough, but the temporary release only infects and deepens the wound rather than heals it. Things such as food, shopping, TV, video games, romance books, over sleeping, busyness, etc. This is where my jar of peanut butter and jumbo size package of chocolate chips fits in.

My where is not so much an inappropriate place that I shouldn’t be, (although I do have places and gatherings I avoid that trigger negative emotions in me) but perhaps not being in the location I should be to face and process my pain. When my daughter moved away from home, her bedroom became my office. It is a wonderful sanctuary for me in many ways. It is where I do my daily devotions and Bible reading, where I write. But sometimes I retreat there instead of sitting on the couch in my living room with my husband confronting my inner turmoil.

My who. This is where I frequently muddle the order. I have many safe people with whom to connect for support and guidance. My recovery support group, counsellor, pastor, friends. My husband. God. All sources of refuge. But sometimes I share my pain with others instead of, or before, my husband because I still fear his rejection and abandonment. And sometimes I lay my pain and confusion at my husband’s feet before bringing them to God’s. As the wife of a recovering addict, there may be times when I need solid advice from a trustworthy source before tackling an issue with my husband. And my husband is the physical heart, arms and ears that God has provided me on earth. But……

God is my hiding place.

God is the One who knows me better than I know myself. And He loves me anyway. I find an overwhelming comfort in that knowledge that both calms and brings tears of wonder to my soul. Me and God. God and me. We have some special hideouts to hang out in when I need the safety, security, assurance and protection of His love and grace.

When my heart needs an infusion of peace and stillness, my Abba Daddy takes me by the hand and leads me to a treehouse nestled in a tranquil forest grove where the quiet beauty of His creation surrounds us. Rays of sunlight filtering through the vibrant green foliage. A gentle breeze. The sound of a stream rippling nearby. A curious chipmunk. The hurts and chaos of every day life melts away from my heart, mind and body as the soothing warmth of God’s presence envelops me in this place where no person or thing can find me. Where the sign on the treehouse reads No Pain Allowed.

There are other times when my heart is searching for acceptance and belonging. It is then that God and I gleefully build a magnificent blanket fort. Armed with our flashlights, a Bible, colouring books and pencil crayons, we huddle cozily together whispering and giggling, delighting in our companionship. As we share gummie bears, chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate from a thermos, soft pillows and fuzzy blankets my heart is filled with contentment and joy that there is no other place God would rather be than right there with me. Just as I am. Just as we are.

This isn’t escapism. This isn’t avoidance. This is the promise that when the burdens of my bumpy healing journey begin to overtake me, God will provide a refuge and allow me time to rest. Sometimes minutes is all I need. Sometimes the minutes become days, or weeks. However long I need in my retreat, I emerge empowered with a calmer, stronger spirit ready to continue the daily battle of recovery. Victory belongs to team God and Cynthia.

You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

Where is your hiding place? Or favourite place to hang out or visit? 

Who would you take with you? Or would you go alone?

What I Found When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Pain Hurts – No Measuring Stick Required

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in the words of Solomon:

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

What I Lost When My Husband’s Porn Addiction Won

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, I Didn’t Bring a Pot of Soup

I made a church lady gasp in disbelief. And I admit I liked it. Occasionally, I wonder if I should be confessing a sin for delighting in her astonishment and discomfort. Three years later, I still giggle in amusement at our encounter. It was a significant moment in my fledgling recovery and journey to wholeness that I gleefully celebrate.  Because sometimes setting boundaries and saying “No” with a church lady can be just as daunting as with a husband addicted to pornography.

Three months into our recoveries from my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, our church’s youth group held a soup and pie fundraising luncheon. Every year, I dutifully supplied my contribution to the event. One year, I brought a pot of chili and called it chili soup. I have never been mistaken for a soup connoisseur, but I was always obliging.

But this year was different. All my energy was being consumed by my efforts to claw my way through the devastating effects of sexual betrayal trauma. Knowing that I would be anxious all week about whether I could classify chili as soup again, or if I needed to recklessly attempt an unproven recipe, or when I would have time to hastily create a culinary masterpiece, added a stress and burden that needlessly overwhelmed me. I decided to be kind to myself and forego bringing anything but myself to the lunch. I was learning and practicing self care.

That Sunday after the church service, as we waited for lunch to begin, I was provided with my next opportunity to practice the skills I was gaining through my recovery program.

Resulting from a life time of low self esteem, it was always my natural inclination to silently blend into the setting around me attracting as little attention as possible. Avoiding eye contact was essential, lest it seem like an invitation to acknowledge my presence and commence an awkward conversation. And yet, somehow that day, I saw The Church Lady approaching and I could not hide or stop the dread and unease from forming.

She probably said hello, and engaged in small chit chat, but all I remember is the alarming question: “What did you bring?”

“Nothing.” I replied.

My answer clearly confused The Church Lady. She looked at me incredulously, and then asked me again, (in case I didn’t hear her properly?), “You didn’t bring anything?!?”

So, I said again, “Yes, nothing.”

And then she waited expectantly for me to say more. To explain my negligence to her. I didn’t. I watched her squirm a little. I wish I could say I wasn’t squirming too, but I was. I had never opposed a church lady before. I was proud of myself for not offering a lame excuse.

At the time, I was certainly not going to tell her the real reason. But afterwards, my amusement grew at what might have happened if I had.

“Well, I didn’t make any soup because:

I am trying to navigate through the aftermath of my husband’s sex addiction.

All my time and energy is being used to heal my shattered heart and broken marriage.

I have no appetite to eat, so cooking food would just upset me and make me nauseous.

I can’t sleep at night, so getting dressed and going to work is my day’s accomplishment.

I thought the addition of my tears to the broth might make the soup too salty.”

And then I imagine God standing behind The Church Lady laughing and giving me a wink. I know, I just know, that my Abba Daddy delights in the stretching, growing and healing we are doing together. In all my relationships. In all areas of my life. Healing and wholeness reaches far beyond the confines of my marriage and home.

What may seem like the tiniest of baby steps, or not even a step at all, was actually a risky, giant leap over the gaping pit of my insecurities, fears, and feelings of worthlessness. I celebrate that on that day, I glimpsed myself through God’s eyes and I was enough just as I was. No matter what measuring stick I, or anyone else held. It was a victory for me to be able to sit and be still in my season of rest and healing, and ignore the outside clanging trying to distract me from my purpose. From God’s purpose.

Self care and extending grace and kindness to ourselves is essential to mending a wounded heart. As lovely and refreshing as gifting ourselves a pedicure, bubble bath or flowers can be, self care goes deeper than that. Self care is setting boundaries to protect and guard our heart and mind. It is learning to say “No” to others, and to ourselves. It is learning that “No” is a complete sentence and requires no justification or explanation. Self care is listening to that still, small voice that prioritizes how, and with whom, you will share the limited and valuable resource of your time. For me, that changes from day to day, and from week to week.

I am gaining the ability, and granting myself permission, to acknowledge and accept my limitations at any given time. Finding a balance is healthy, not selfish. One time I might say, “No, I cannot bring a pot of soup.” Other times I offer an alternative that will work for me, “But I could pick up some buns.” And sometimes I say, “Yes, I would love to help in that way.” Regardless of what my answer is, it has become an intentional decision which frees my heart from anxiety, bitterness, resentment and the stealing of my peace and joy.

I choose to celebrate every baby step. Every accomplishment and act of courage. They have all added up and joined to become beautiful stepping stones on my winding path to healing and recovery.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

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

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

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

My Jingle Bells Miracle = Healing from Addiction

Last Sunday evening, seventeen people from my church gathered in a circle in the church’s basement to sing Christmas carols. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about that, except that one of them was my husband.

What makes that extraordinarily special is that three years ago, there would have been few instances that brought my husband into a church at all. And certainly not to sing. And even more certainly, not to sing with me, his wife.

Four Christmases ago, my husband did not believe in God. He also did not place much importance in his wedding vows and marriage. He was ensnared in his fantasy world of pornography and masturbation. There was no room for me.

My husband has always grudgingly attended Christmas Eve church services with me. For that I am grateful. It was a gift to me that our family was together, even though his heart was still far away. For that evening, his physical presence brought me the semblance of the regular loving family that my heart craved. I didn’t have to make any excuses for why he wasn’t with us. I could pretend we were happy. For this night, we were worth his time, and I clung to that offering.

Things have changed in the last few years. God revealed the extent of my husband’s sex addiction to both of us in the weeks before that Christmas three years ago. It was a Christmas of profound sadness, heavy hearts, and utter brokenness. He was a mess. My heart was shattered. We didn’t know how to clean any of it up. And I didn’t know if we could. He hadn’t valued my heart, and now that it was in little jagged pieces, I held the shards tightly in my hand.

In the following weeks, God gently unclenched my grasp. He tenderly took each precious fragment, began the process of restoration and gave me the strength to offer piece after piece to my husband. While this was happening, God was also doing a miraculous work in softening and mending my husband’s heart. God was making us a safe place for each other.

My husband regularly attends church with me. At my side. But not just physically. Also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That is my gift.

It is also my miracle. And his miracle. Because as he freely joined me in singing Christmas carols last weekend, my heart was full. For so many reasons. His recovery from sex addiction. My healing from sexual betrayal trauma and emotional abuse. The redemption of our marriage. The celebration of baby Jesus coming to earth so that one day I could gloriously have my sin and shame washed away.

Those are big things. Really big, significant things. But sometimes, when you are healing and recovering from addiction, abuse or betrayal, seemingly inconsequential incidents are worthy of acknowledgement and celebration too.

Like jingle bells. I wasn’t afraid to ring jingle bells that night. I wasn’t worried that I would shake them wrong. I wasn’t self conscious of looking or feeling foolish to my husband or others. The possibility of receiving disapproval did not fill me with anxiety and paralyze me like it would have in the past. I wanted to ring jingle bells, so I did. And it made me happy.

Standing beside my husband, united as a couple, singing and ringing bells with abandon. Freedom, joy, peace, and acceptance. Acceptance of each other. Acceptance of ourselves. Just as we were. And just as we are. My Christmas miracle.

These words were taken from my Jesus Calling devotional this morning: “As you persevere along the path I (Jesus) have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles – and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly.”

I can see my miracles clearly. Sometimes they sound just like jingle bells.

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. Job 5:9