Tag Archive | sexless marriage

The Lingerie Store Revisited

There was a crazy lady Christmas shopping at the lingerie store again this year. At first glance she appeared rather ordinary. But the growing grief and hopelessness on her face, and dejection in her body as she walked slowly from one display to another, would have been apparent to anyone with a lingering gaze. Tears gathering in her eyes, she paused, but never touched. Size availability and price was irrelevant for something that would never leave the store in her shopping bag anyway.

Not much has changed since last December when I wrote The Porn Addict’s Wife Wears Lingerie (or tries to). It is my most read post, more likely because it contains the words porn, addict and lingerie, than people are interested in the bewildering emotions of a middle aged sexually broken woman. And yet there I was, and here I am again.

A lot can happen in a year. And a lot may not happen. Healing brings breakthroughs, and setbacks, and periods of rest and adjustment. Sometimes longer periods of rest than my anxious heart handles with patience and grace.

Last December, I entered that lingerie store with a twinkle in my eye. The winter and Christmas themed lingerie answering the longing in my heart for sexual lightness and fun in my marriage. But then. The fear of unknown triggers. I dejectedly left the store with that same unfulfilled desire, along with a deepened sense of loss wondering if my sexuality and healthy fantasies would be forever tainted by my husband’s past pornography addiction.

Last week was both the same and different as a year ago. I don’t even know why I entered the lingerie store other than to poke my finger into my own open wounds. I knew before I even crossed the threshold that I would not be making any purchases again this year. But maybe, just maybe, the merchandise could offer me a tiny flicker of hope where I had none. I wanted everything that the lingerie was selling me. Everything that was embodied in that magical piece of clothing.

I felt empty as I browsed the store. And then a profound sadness enveloped me. Even the cozy, fuzzy socks and cheerful penguins couldn’t bring a smile to my face. I wondered why, after another full year of healing and recovery, my response was as filled with grief and despair as if I had just returned the following day and not a year later.

I think my sadness was deeper this time though. A year ago, I was confused. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Still a little raw in figuring out how this whole healthy sexuality thing was supposed to work for my husband and I. But I believed it would work. It just wasn’t quite there yet….

Well, a year later, and the hammer of realization that not only was it not quite there yet, it didn’t seem any closer. It is hard to hold onto hope when you feel crushed. Defeated. Mocked by the lingerie displays and menacing penguins. So I didn’t. I plummeted.

But this is where the benefit of an additional year of recovery was revealed to me. I didn’t stay in that darkness long. I visited, but there was nothing for me in that place. It felt wrong and uncomfortable and self indulgent. And dishonouring to God.

I heard the whisper to my soul. Acknowledging the deep hurt and unfulfilled desires of my broken sexuality. If there was a promise of better things to come at that moment, I didn’t hear it. But the raging discontent in my mind and heart quieted.  And that was enough.

A couple days later, God’s whisper shouted to me from the pages of my devotional book as I read about the healing of emotional wounds. An illustration was provided where several shoelaces were tied together in a knot with each knot representing a different problem in my life. Unravelling the knots and smoothing out my troubles would require time and effort. It isn’t possible for the untangling to happen all at once. I need to remember that although it may seem that I am not making any progress, God is untying my knots one at a time. In the order and way He chooses. Not in mine. My responsibility is to co-operate with God in whatever area He has decided we are going to work on first. And sweatpants just might be more important than lingerie.

I’m impatient. I get discouraged. I whine about what is missing rather than being grateful for what has been redeemed and restored in our decades long sexless and porn ravaged marriage. I want our sexual intimacy healed yesterday. Or more honestly, years ago. But there is much bondage, abuse and sexual sin in this one shoelace alone, even once it has been disentangled from the messy ball of life’s other hurts and issues.

My solution would be to grab a pair of scissors and with a few precise snips remove the troublesome knots leaving a perfectly functioning bow in its place. And I would do that after only a few minutes of frustration. But that is not God’s way.

I know because God continues to carefully and slowly heal my wounds and align the desires of my heart with His. Whether I’m wearing flannel pyjamas, silky lingerie or nothing at all. He won’t quit. He never does. So, I guess I shouldn’t either.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9

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For His Eyes Only

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. It isn’t the only one his eyes have gazed upon. That number would be in the hundreds. Likely thousands. Maybe even hundreds of thousands. There becomes a point where the amount becomes meaningless. The magic number is one. Me. Anything beyond that is inviting someone else into the center of our marriage. Into the core of his heart and mind. Where only I am supposed to be.

My husband has been successfully battling his porn and sex addiction for 3 ½ years. He hasn’t done it perfectly, but neither has he had any serious relapses. Occasionally, I ask him when the last time was he masturbated. Or looked at sexually explicit or arousing images. (You know, just in case we define lust and pornography differently.) I am pleased with his answers and trust their truthfulness. He has received such healing and freedom from his addiction that his heart change is evident. In the way he loves, cherishes, admires, serves me. How he spends time with me talking, hanging out, laughing. The hugs and kisses. His presence emotionally and physically. Our growing intimacy. Behaviours and attitudes that were glaringly and painfully absent throughout our porn ravaged sexless marriage.

One of the most terrifying things I have done in my recovery from sexual betrayal trauma, and at any time in my life, was undress for the first time in front of my husband after twenty five years of his sexual shaming and rejection of me. I fought my fear and anxiety as I vulnerably and shakily removed my bra to expose the breasts that had so often received his undeserved criticism. Knowing that if I caught even a fleeting look on my husband’s face of disgust, disapproval, disappointment or an attempt to conceal any of those reactions, I was risking further damage to my soul and the possibility that any hope of building intimacy could be lost forever.

My husband didn’t laugh, or gag, or cover his eyes, or run from the room screaming. He slowly smiled. Slowly, not because it seemed that he was trying to find an appropriate response. Slowly, as if he was drinking in and appreciating this new sight. I relaxed slightly.

But a problem remains. Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. And his apparent disinterest causes my heart to ache. Still.

I have asked my husband why I never catch him either obviously or surreptitiously watching me change or undress. Although I don’t want my body to be sexually objectified, I still need assurance that my body is noticed, admired and desired by my husband. I want to feel pretty and beautiful and sexy, not just through my own eyes, but my husband’s as well.

He told me that he is trying to be respectful. It’s hard to argue with that. But I wonder if the reason he offers is just a morally acceptable, and perhaps kind, deflection of a disinterest or aversion to my body. I have also questioned whether it is related to the recovery tools he uses to overcome lust and his porn addiction. That in his attempts to rewire his brain, he exorcises my body along with the fantasies. I never received a satisfactory answer. Which makes the first scenario the most likely. And also the most hurtful.

If, and when, I accept the respectfulness factor as the truth, that leaves me with another shaming dilemma. I enjoy looking at my husband’s naked body. And though I don’t lustfully gawk and ogle, or say anything distasteful or inappropriate, I don’t hide the fact with my eyes or words that I am admiring what I see. But logically, if he believes it is disrespectful to look at my nakedness, then it is also wrong for me to look at his.

Either way I feel shame, guilt and disappointment. That my husband declines to behold my nudity, even knowing that I welcome it. That I take pleasure in the sight of his. And that this is one more way his sex addiction has stolen freedom from our bedroom and my ability to express and experience healthy sexuality.

I no longer take my time openly undressing, hoping to notice my husband peeking at my body with desire and appreciation. I have returned to my old habits of changing in darkness, with my back to him, under the covers, removing my bra without removing my shirt. Whatever it takes to conceal the vulnerability of my physical self.

As we lay in bed talking about our day, I now refrain from strategically lowering the blanket and positioning my body to offer a glimpse of what is underneath my pyjama top. Instead, I tuck the quilt under my chin and over my shoulders completely covering my body from exposure to my husband’s eyes. Ironically, he finds this look adorable.

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. My hope is that one day that will be a joy filled reason to celebrate rather than a reason to cry.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Proverbs 5:18,19

Hope and Contentment Collide

I want my hope back after all.  Once again, God has shown up to give me a kick in the butt. Good thing He is God, or His foot would be awfully sore by now considering how many times He has had to forcefully propel me out of my comfort zone because I willfully chose to ignore the gentle nudges.

As I was whining to my mentor and friend about my discouragement and the seeming hopelessness of building mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy in a once sexless marriage ravaged by porn addiction, emotional abuse and infidelity, I said to her, “I sound like a broken record, don’t I?” The slight pause on the other end of the phone was answer enough. Which was the honest response I needed.

One of my personal flaws and weaknesses is my impatience and frustration with broken records. I am passionate about the healing wonders of recovery and of God. The two together fill me with awe. And so I confess, that when I think the answer to someone’s dilemma is apparent, and yet they remain immobilized, it tends to exasperate me.

My lungs deflated and my heart sank as I humbly realized that I was my own irritant. That motivated self reflection. And that led to the recognition that up until now, I had fully embraced my own personal recovery from sexual betrayal trauma and my own adultery. I had actively pursued and utilized many resources and materials available to partners of sex addicts: counselling, a recovery support group, workbooks, a 12 step program. I was intentional in separating my ability to heal and grow personally and spiritually from my husband’s recovery. And yet, now I was waiting for him to bring me the healing of our sexual intimacy.

Of course, healing a sexual relationship does need to involve two people. And it’s not as if I did nothing at all in the last three years to mend my own broken sexuality. I have read many great books and blogs and worked through exercises both on my own and together with my husband. I even branched out from my sexual addictions recovery counsellor and had a couple of sessions with a Christian sex therapist. But then I somehow determined that there was nothing else I could do. That things were out of my control now and I just needed to learn to be thankful and content, accepting the level of intimacy we had managed to build. Stop wanting and expecting more. Being satisfied with less.

And then I read this, from The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge: “Sadly, many of us have been led to feel that somehow we ought to want less, not more. We have this sense that we should atone for our longings, apologize that we feel such deep desire. Shouldn’t we be more content? Perhaps, but contentment is never wanting less; that’s the easy way out. Anybody can look holy if she’s killed her heart; the real test is to have your heart burning within you and have the patience to enjoy what there is now to enjoy, while waiting with eager anticipation for the feast to come.” This excerpt was taken from a book about drawing closer to the heart of God, not a marriage partner, and undoubtedly the intention of the authors was not to reignite my sex life or anyone else’s. But still, the parallels struck me deeply. And really God can, and does, use anything to get our attention. The fact that I was reading this page, in this book that had been sitting on my bookshelf untouched for months, the same week I was struggling with the definition of hope and contentment, well, that was a God-incidence.

And then God began to fill my heart with conviction and courage. A new strength and boldness is growing within me. And I am letting it. In answer to my prayer the week before for clarity and a vision for our present and future sexual intimacy, God is preparing me to find out.

This is a catalyst of sorts. Change is about to happen. One way or the other. My sexual needs and desires do matter. And I’m going for it. Accepting the challenge to begin expressing myself sexually and more openly in the bedroom. I’m giving myself another pep talk here.

One of two things will happen. We will receive an encouraging promise of freedom from the joint fears, insecurities, and inhibitions that have remained an unwelcome third party in our lovemaking. Or we will panic, stumble and be forced to address the elephant in our bed that just pushed us out and onto the floor. Either way is a breakthrough from the bondage currently entrapping us.

I anticipate a win-win situation. Now I just need patience while I wait for my miracle.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

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

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

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