Tag Archive | sex addiction

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

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

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

That Day I Told My Kids I Had an Affair

My husband didn’t ask me to tell our children about my affair. I felt no underlying pressure from him to do so. When he disclosed his sex addiction to our son and daughter, my adultery was not a part of the story. It wasn’t his sin to share.

My husband protected me. He declined to taint the image our children held of me, their mother. He was willing to solely carry the weight of infidelity in the eyes of our children. Be the bad guy while I wore the halo. Even though we both knew my halo was tarnished and dangling and piercing his heart.

But I couldn’t let him do that. That summer, five months after my husband disclosed his sexual sin and addiction to our son, it was my turn. Our son was home for a visit. I sat in the same room with him. Where I could see his face and his body language as the hurtful and confusing words he never expected to hear stumbled from my mouth. I know it was a difficult evening for my son as he processed my confession instead of freely cavorting in the river with his friends. But I will never know the true extent and effect it had on him.

I wrote the following words in an email that night to the leader of my support group:

“I did it. I told my son about my affair tonight. It went as well as could be expected. He asked a lot of deep questions, so I am mentally exhausted now. I am not sure how I am feeling yet. All I know is that I am sitting here with a big bowl of Oreo ice cream even though I am not the least bit hungry. But I did it, and I don’t regret it at all. Phew.”

My daughter was still attending university overseas. I waited. And once she returned, I waited some more.

That winter, as I continued to work diligently through my 12 step program for partners of sex addicts, assembling a personal inventory of my good, bad, and ugly, God’s whisper to my heart grew stronger and louder that I needed to add the names of my children to the list of those to whom I needed to make amends.

I stared at the page with their names on it. The harsh reality of how I had failed them as a mother. The times I allowed my own fears and insecurities to take precedence over their well being. The times I enabled their father’s neglect of us, his family. The times my inaction wounded them. My mind and heart wrestled with what exactly I needed to make amends for. My affair and contribution to the breakdown of our marriage was only a part of it.

My counsellor suggested that as an element of my amends, I ask both my son and daughter if there was any specific situation, behaviour or words that had caused them pain that I needed to acknowledge and apologize for. I liked that idea even though it scared me.

We also discussed whether or not I should confess my affair to my daughter. My counsellor thought yes. I was still unsure. Until God provided me with a beautiful green light affirmation to proceed.

The following weekend, I went to the city for a mother and daughter day. We ate lunch at a new restaurant, wandered through a museum and had a great day together. But ….. I didn’t try to make amends with my daughter at all. I dropped her off at her house, hugged her good bye, waved, and burst into tears sitting in my car. I couldn’t drive away. My heart and feet were heavy as I approached her house and knocked on the door. I managed to do the amends I needed to with my daughter, but also shared more of my story and testimony with her, including the affair. It was an hour of conversation that overflowed with love, forgiveness and acceptance and the evidence that God truly had been preparing both of our hearts for this very moment. My daughter told me that she was proud of me for doing my recovery and admired me still.

And yet, I had very nearly and willfully ignored that still, small voice gently nudging me forward on my path of healing. I regret that God had to increase His volume and prodding to get my attention and trust. I am also grateful that God cared enough to give me a solid push, and then extend His hand to steer me into the center of His plan for us that day.

I called my son that same weekend and completed the amends with him that I had started so many months before. He also said that he was proud of me for my healing. Our conversation ended with him asking if he could pray with me.

I have discovered that it is okay for my children to see my brokenness. And it is more than okay to admit to them that I am messy and struggle and don’t always make the right choices. I hope that my son and daughter learn about resilience, courage, forgiveness, grace and the value of vulnerability through the mistakes of my past and the authenticity of my present. But mostly I pray that my healing journey to wholeness brings my children hope and assurance that God will always provide them a way through their own times of darkness.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

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