Tag Archive | Recovery

The Day I Told My Husband I Had An Affair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twas the Night Before Disclosure(s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s What I Did, Not Who I Am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confessing My Affair

Something shifted in my heart. It felt heavier. Or maybe it was my stomach. That’s where it churned the most. The physical manifestation of my unconfessed sin. The sickness compelling me towards revealing my long held secret. But not to the person who most deserved and needed to hear the truth. Not to the man I had vowed to love, honour and cherish.

After a few weeks of counselling related to the sexual betrayal trauma I experienced due to my husband’s sex addiction, I walked shakily into my counsellor’s office. Sat down on the edge of the chair closest to the door. Easiest to bolt out of the room that way. Then silence. And more silence. And looking at my feet (me, not my therapist). Looking everywhere but him while he waited for me to speak. Attempting to hold on to the illusion just a little longer that I was the only betrayed spouse in this marriage. That husband equalled bad guy and wife equalled victim. Once the words left my mouth, we would be on level footing.

“I had an affair.” I looked at my counsellor’s face expecting to see a reflection of my shame and guilt. There was none. Somehow those words spoken to a sexual recovery therapist were not as shocking to him as they were to my plagued heart. That was reassuring. I breathed again. He asked how I felt. I had no answer. My thoughts, emotions and body had not yet realigned. He said that usually people felt lighter after telling him these things. I had to think about that. I did feel a sense of relief. The roiling in my stomach was diminishing. But now that my horrible words were spoken out loud, there was no taking them back. The enormity of what I had done sixteen years before was now sinking in. I had committed adultery. And now it was exposed.

“Do I have to tell my husband?” I half hoped he would say no. I would have been surprised if he did. During my devotional time just that morning, I had read in 1 Samuel 2:25 “If someone sins against another person, God can intercede for the guilty party.” Well, that was me. The guilty party who sinned against my husband. I told my counsellor about this scripture and he asked me if I knew what a “rhema” was. I didn’t. He explained that a rhema is a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention with application to a current situation or need for direction.

I looked at my counsellor with a flicker of renewed hope. God was with me. God was promising to fight for me. These words didn’t come from him, they came directly from God to my ravaged soul. Although I was about to devastate my husband’s heart, shatter the image of my innocence in both our minds, and add another damaging and painful layer to our messy marriage, God wasn’t leaving us on our own. God would be with us, whatever that meant. It was the whatever that meant that remained dubious.

My counsellor believed it was too early in my husband’s recovery process to shock him with the news of my infidelity. He thought it would be best for him to be more solidly entrenched in his recovery to lessen the risk of a relapse and to be better able to offer me forgiveness and understanding. We would wait. We began the planning of my disclosure.

Initially, the plan entailed a waiting period for my husband to gain stability. Looking back, God provided the waiting period for both of us. It wasn’t just my husband’s heart that needed preparation and healing for this disclosure. Mine did too. I had justified and kept hidden my affair for almost sixteen years. It was only now when he sought help for his sex addiction that my guilt began seeping through.

God had some chipping away to do at my heart. A healing process to begin in my soul from the consequences of my own infidelity. I was only then beginning to realize that I needed that. I had fairly easily put the affair behind me many years ago, believing that it had no effect on us now. The only offenders in our marriage being the sex addiction and abstinence of sex. If I hoped for my husband to offer me forgiveness from adultery, I needed to admit to myself the magnitude of my sin and open my heart to God’s forgiveness. And then learn how to extend that forgiveness to myself.

Over the next few weeks, that is what I did. I fell into God’s arms and immersed myself in His Presence. Read my Bible, soaking in the life giving words. Trying so hard to believe that the promises of forgiveness, mercy, grace and love were for me. I prayed, and talked with God. And listened. I walked in the dark and cold of the winter nights. I journaled. I continued to lose weight because of the constant ache in my stomach. I was awake at night more than I slept. It was a battle to be kind to myself.

My husband was confused. He had fully embraced his recovery. We were slowly building intimacy, tentatively regaining trust. And now I was pulling away. He sensed that something was happening within me, but had no idea what. And I couldn’t tell him. I made an extra effort to pretend I wasn’t in emotional turmoil so he wouldn’t suspect anything. I felt phony. Like everything I was doing to restore our marriage was a lie.

Lie upon lie upon lie. But now it was me doing the lying.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Sometimes “Happy” Anniversary Isn’t

Two very special friends from my recovery group for partners of sex addicts had wedding anniversaries this weekend. I first wrote the word “celebrated” but replaced it with “had.” Because although one was a celebration, the other, not so much. And I can’t stop thinking about the transformation that has occurred in my marriage from the not so much to the celebration.

The first friend wrote in an email “We have plans to celebrate our anniversary this weekend.” Even included a smiley face. I responded with “Happy Anniversary! The best part is that it really is happy, isn’t it?! A joy and gratitude filled celebration.”

I learned of my other friend’s anniversary via my Facebook newsfeed. As I scanned the messages of “Happy Anniversary to a wonderful couple!” my heart sank. My first reaction was “Uh-oh.” Because I know, oh, I know, the sting of those words that do not always bring joy. I knew in this instance, that as they had for me, each proclamation would be a poke and twist into the wound of unhappy days behind and uncertain days ahead.

My wedding anniversary became a mocking reminder of just how long I had been mistreated, neglected, unloved, in pain. With every congratulatory acknowledgement I received over the years came the assumption that I had a happy marriage. Or that I would at least have a happy time celebrating it for one day. I failed at both.

Anniversary cards would come in the mail from our parents and church. Some years I opened them and left them out for my husband to see. They might garner a quick glance. Or a snicker at the corniness. Nothing more. No sweet sentiments for my starved soul from him. Other times I would open a card, hold back tears and throw it in the garbage. The words inside too hurtful and so far away from my reality that they didn’t have a place in my home.

For our tenth wedding anniversary, I received a commemorative Precious Moments plate from my parents. It made me cry. As a teenager growing up in the eighties, my bedroom was filled with Precious Moments figurines, many received as gifts on special occasions. This is what my mother thought she was doing now. It should have been a perfect gift, but instead it was so very wrong for my wounded heart. I kept it for another seventeen years. This spring I threw it away along with the painful memories it generated.

My parents and in-laws were the only people who celebrated our anniversary over the years. Not the husband and wife within the marriage. It was another bitter rejection that my husband was not willing to sacrifice one evening of his year to spend with me. The one day, that maybe, just maybe, he would choose to be with me rather than the television or computer or his fantasy world. It seldom happened. Once or twice if there was something he wanted to do. We went to a movie once that he wanted to see. Cast Away. I remember because we don’t go to movies together. There is no theater in our town. It requires a drive to the city. Which would also require spending three hours with me in a vehicle. As it also happens, there are no decent restaurants in our town. Going out for dinner was never an option in his mind. The food choices seemed to be more important than the company (me). It didn’t take long for my mind to make the connection that I was not worth his time.

Less than two months into our recovery for his sex addiction, our 25th wedding anniversary occurred. A momentous milestone with every possible conflicting emotion attached to it. The week before, I mustered up the courage to tell my husband that I wanted to go out for supper. We would have a date for our anniversary, and I would pick the restaurant. He agreed. Now that I had dared to communicate my need, panic set in. My mind was spinning with choosing the “right” restaurant. I was still wary of his disapproval in my selection and trying to find the balance of keeping him happy while staying true to my newfound desire to use my squeaky little voice. And honestly, I knew he wouldn’t want to drive a long distance for our date, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend that much time in a vehicle together either. Supper conversation would bring us enough unease for the evening. I researched restaurants and menus in nearby towns. I hummed and I hawed. But I didn’t discuss it with him. As challenging as it was, it was very important to my recovery (and in retrospect his) that this decision be mine, not his.

We observed our 25th wedding anniversary together. Celebrated would not be quite the right word. It was not a light, party atmosphere in our section of the restaurant. We were both self conscious and uncomfortable. Conversation was awkward, tentative, but very polite. As an added bonus, we were keenly aware that less than a week later we would be sitting in our counsellor’s office hearing his disclosure. And what I also knew was that he was about to be blindsided by mine.

The pain between us was palpable that evening. We shared it. Each of us holding more secrets in our hearts that would soon be exposed. Each of us searching for hope in each other’s eyes.

We have returned to that same restaurant now to celebrate our 26th and 27th wedding anniversaries. It is never too late for a bride and groom to begin new traditions.

Maybe that evening was a celebration. Maybe God was looking at us with a twinkle in His eye. A smile on His face that His plan for redemption was in motion. Because it was. It most definitely was.

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and His banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4

Honey, I’m Home

I drove by my house. Unable to turn into the driveway, park my car, and take the agonizing walk across the yard and through the door. Circling around the block another time seemed like the easiest thing to do. And it was. More than once.

I have also sat in my car, staring at my house, the weight in my stomach keeping my butt firmly in the seat.

And then there have been the times that I have stood on my step, taking deep breaths and willing myself to open the door and enter my house. My house. But not always my home. And never my sanctuary or refuge.

My husband was on the other side of that door. He was always home from work before me. In the pre-recovery days, that didn’t bother me so much. It was unlikely that our paths would cross, even in our small house, for more than the few necessary moments. Most of his time was spent in the bedroom or his office with the door closed. Keeping me and our children at a distance.

But now that I knew how my husband had been spending his after work hours, now that our marriage was openly struggling and battling sex addiction and sexual betrayal trauma, the tension of his presence was in every room, whether he physically was or not.

It took time for me to adjust to him being more physically present in the house. It was odd to have him greet me at the door when I came in. To seek me out during the evening. To leave our bedroom door open. (No longer requiring me to knock and receive permission to enter to put laundry away, or to come to bed!)

This all kept me a little off balance. Not knowing what to expect next. I had learned ways to avoid the anger, soften the criticism, withstand the silent treatments, tiptoe around the perimeter to evade detection. I was fairly adept at walking on eggshells. But now the parameters were changing on me. And although it was a good thing, indeed a very good sign of the behaviour changes of recovery, I didn’t always know what to do with these offerings.

I was curious, cautious, hopeful. Watching, and not quite believing. But desperately wanting to. But mostly I was uneasy and confused. My husband’s new behaviour challenged everything I knew to be true. It left me a bit shaky and uncertain. It caused me to react and respond differently to him. It was seeping through the cracks of my carefully guarded heart. My world was changing. And that scared me. Even in the crazy, messed up life of being married to a sex addict, it was my life. It was what I knew. It was what I could trust to be true. It was him. And it was me. And now it wasn’t.

I no longer dread coming home. Home has become my safe place. My husband’s smiling face, open arms and loving heart welcome me. Every time. My spirit lifts when I know I am about to see him.

Recently, I was driving home from an outing to the city. Sadness was weighing heavily on my heart due to the painful situations of several people close to me.  My eyes were close to tears. I felt incapable of helping them all. My heart called to God, “How do I do this?”

I turned and glanced out the side window of my car. It was dusk, and a brilliant full moon was shining through the wispy pink sky around it. I was in awe of the beauty. And I heard God’s whisper telling me “You don’t. I do.” My spirit calmed. And my heart longed to get home and tell my husband about the beautiful moon and God’s voice and comfort.

My heart longed to get home and tell my husband about the beautiful moon and God’s voice and comfort. These are not words that I would have ever imagined writing. Or thinking. Or feeling. I smiled then. And I am smiling now. Although I am feeling that little lump in the back of my throat forming. The one that overwhelms me with gratitude in God’s miraculous healing of my heart, my husband’s sex addiction, and our marriage. God has taught me to trust and to love again and it is a wonderful thing.

He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21

Name That Feeling

Name That Feeling. Right now. As you paused to read this. As you have been scrolling down your page scanning posts to read. Are you curious, intrigued, bored, impatient, hopeful, disappointed……? What is the feeling you were feeling then? Now? An hour ago?

Identifying feelings and emotions is a skill. It needs to be learned. And practiced. Which I have been doing for two years and five months now. I still struggle to Name That Feeling. If it was a game show, I would be the last contestant to buzz in. This continues to be a very real side effect of numbing and medicating emotional pain for most of my life.

Feelings are exactly that. Feelings. An emotional response. What they are not is right or wrong, fact or truth. When God created humans in His image, He intentionally gave us emotions. All of them. Even Jesus, the only sinless, perfect person to ever live on earth experienced feelings that many of us consider sinful, negative, to be avoided. Anger. Grief. Sorrow. Loneliness. These feelings were a part of the life of God’s Son, and yet I chose to do everything I could to not make them a part of mine.

In one of my early counselling sessions, my therapist handed me a list of feelings. I handed it back to him. He didn’t take it. I was left holding the paper in my hand. I sighed. As per his instructions, I reluctantly closed my eyes and let my finger fall on the chart. Whichever word my finger landed on, I was to share a time when I experienced that feeling. Oddly enough, the feeling was distressed. I looked up, smiled and said “I feel distressed right now talking about identifying feelings.” Aha. Win for me. He did laugh. But then he asked me to remember the first time I felt that way. That took longer to answer. And I always dislike paying for those extended moments of silence in the counsellor’s office. I also still disliked talking about feelings. Or having them. It was vulnerable. Risky. It came too close to uncovering the buried monsters that I worked tirelessly to push back down every time they reached towards the surface. It was much more comfortable to share my story as a disconnected bystander, not the person living in and experiencing the pain. I was still afraid of my boogeyman becoming exposed even though I no longer wanted to be held in its grip.

Not being able to identify my feelings naturally led to not being able to express or experience my feelings. I seldom cried or laughed. Generally, I lacked emotional responses to people and situations. I have been perceived as snobbish and cold hearted. No one saw the terrified and battered little girl hiding within my adult body who just didn’t know how to access her emotional database.

When we had to make the heartbreaking decision to put our dog down two months into our recoveries, a few tears threatened to escape from my eyes. My husband praised me for showing sadness. He wanted and needed to share his emotional experience with me, but I didn’t know how to do that. So he encouraged me to just be sad in the moment because I was sad in the moment. I squirmed with the unfamiliarity of purposefully opening my heart to unpleasant emotions.

Experiencing, identifying and expressing feelings is an essential skill to learn in recovery. Upon completion and continued practice of an empowerment exercise on identifying and communicating feelings in Dr. Doug Weiss’ Partner’s Recovery Guide for partner’s of sex addicts, I have learned:

When I had a feeling and didn’t know what it was, I could ignore it or suppress it until it went away. I had many methods of doing this. The problem with that is I also could not meet my own real needs. I didn’t know what they were.

It is easier for me to prevent relapsing into old unhealthy behaviours because I know better how to handle and manage my feelings now that I am more successful at identifying them. If I am hungry or desiring dessert, it is okay (well, kind of) to eat a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter and chocolate chips. If I am bored or anxious, it is not. Then I need to find a healthier alternative to medicating my emotional pain such as going for a walk.

If I have relapsed and find myself staring guiltily or woefully at an empty chocolate chip container, it is easier for me to go back through my day and track down what happened. What emotions preceded my setback. Perhaps this time I was disappointed or angry that my husband hadn’t made supper so I stuffed my mouth full of soothing yumminess before grudgingly beginning to prepare a meal.

Identifying and communicating my feelings, whether internally or externally, has improved all my relationships. With my husband, kids, friends, co-workers. It allows and creates more intimacy. Life is just better.

So, yes, I have been learning these things. Learn-ing. Not completely learn-ed. A visit to my kitchen would show you that. But that’s okay. I don’t need to experience every feeling on my list in one day. I just need to open my heart and mind to experience the feeling of the moment whatever it may be. A feeling doesn’t have the power to hurt me. Or betray me. But a feeling does have the ability to expand my love and gratitude for living a full and abundant life in God’s glorious creation.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …………..           A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4