Tag Archive | sexless marriage

I Don’t Want to be Strong

I don’t want to be strong. I don’t want anyone to tell me to be strong. I don’t even want anyone to tell me that I am strong. In my experience, if that character trait is being mentioned, and I need to muster courage and resiliency to get through a situation, then something must be difficult. And distressing. And quite possibly, wrong.

Certainly there is a well meaning encouragement behind the words. An offering of support. Perhaps even given as a compliment. Or a reassurance of hope and the calming of a storm.

Early in my recovery from sexual betrayal trauma and the effects of my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, I was tired of holding it all together. I didn’t know how to. And the thought of fighting the destruction was exhausting and overwhelming.

Hearing the exhortations to be strong made me want to scream “But I don’t want to be strong!” I just wanted to be. Whatever that was, I just wanted to be. I wanted someone else to be strong for me. Or better yet, to not have to be strong at all.

If my husband wasn’t a sex addict, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If I hadn’t lived in a sexless marriage devoid of love and affection for twenty years, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If I remained silent and willing to live in an emotionally abusive marriage, I wouldn’t have to be strong. If. If. If.

I thought I had to be strong. And I couldn’t do it. I felt defeated. I remember waking up in the morning already beaten down by the fog of a day covered in pain and uncertainty. My prayer before I arose from bed was not a petition for God to provide me with strength and courage to tackle my day, heal my wounds or save my marriage. My prayer was much simpler, honest and broken. “God, please hold me today.”

God, please hold me today. And He did.

I didn’t have to be strong after all. In my brokenness and weakness, God was more than able to step in and be strong for me. And what I found was that as I ceased fighting, and rested in God’s arms, He began to infuse me with His strength. It just came because it wasn’t mine. I didn’t have to put on my big girl pants because God put His armour on me instead.

God made me ready for my battle of restoration. My Defender. My Protector. The Mountain Maker. The Ocean Tamer. The One who put my life back into place when I thought it was falling apart. The One who showed me that He really does bring beauty from the ashes.

This would be a nice, tidy ending to the story now. But……that’s not how it always works. At least not for me. Sometimes I forget and try to do things on my own strength again. Someone may tell me that I am a strong woman, and that makes me feel proud of the recovery work I have done. I feel affirmed that someone has noticed the changes in me. Sometimes I forget that it wasn’t my own strength that brought me to this place of healing and restoration. Or worse, sometimes I don’t forget, I just don’t acknowledge the One who carried me through and lifted me above my circumstances.

Recently, as my husband and I have committed to improving our emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy, I have found myself once again relying on my own strength. And that isn’t working very well for me. I am struggling. Doing the one step forward, two steps back dance. I pray. But sometimes it isn’t with all my heart. Sometimes it isn’t with a surrendered heart.

God’s grace is sufficient for me. If I let it be. His power is made perfect in my weakness. If I give Him control. But I am still a teeny bit scared of trusting my husband with all of my heart and body. Which also means I’m not trusting God to protect me either.

I have the same power living in me that rose Jesus from the dead, and yet I stifle that power even when God has proven Himself faithful over and over and over again. Even when the battle has already been won.

Now, it is time for the tidy, happy ending, but I don’t have one to this part of my story yet. But it is coming.

God, please hold me today.

O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2

Restoring Sexual Intimacy After Betrayal

I almost made it through last week’s D-Day anniversary and birthday celebrating. Of course, that depends somewhat on how you define celebrating. There wasn’t a party or a cake, but since Halloween is a day of significance in my story of betrayal, there were costumes, smiles and mini chocolate bars involved.

I regret telling my husband that Halloween was a triggering day for me. He did not know that until this week. Now we will both experience a layer of darkness to this holiday that has nothing to do with scary or sexy costumes, trick or treaters, pranks or stomach aches from eating too much candy.

My husband and I have chosen not to reveal our triggers to each other. We decided that knowing these things provided little or no benefit to either of us in our healing and recovery from sex addiction and each other’s sexual betrayals. There may be times it is necessary to communicate when something is bothering us, but for the most part, details have remained unspoken. It does not cause me to wonder or obsess. It allows me the freedom to walk beside my husband not worrying about who or what may be vying for his attention. I am not responsible for his recovery, nor can I control it. There is no point in me watching and questioning everything he does, or heaping more pain upon myself by avoiding places and situations that I have always enjoyed. I will save my energy for my own recovery and growing a healthy me.

To explain my emotional instability and edginess the last few days, I could have just indicated I was being triggered. That would have been enough said. I instantly felt remorseful and defeated for providing details that hurt my husband but that also made me feel like I had just fallen backwards in my own recovery. Because, truthfully, although I was being triggered, that wasn’t the main cause of my unhealthy behaviour. It was just the easiest excuse.

I was anxious. I was scared. I was feeling challenged and stressed. I was taking a risk. A risk that I initiated, but nonetheless, was about to stretch me thin as I began picking at the scabs mending the sexual wounds of my life and marriage.

I assume that rebuilding and restoring genuine sexual intimacy after a relationship has been ravaged by a porn addiction, affair, or any sexual betrayal or infidelity is challenging for many. I say assume, because apart from my own experience, I have heard or read very little about it. The silence roars and adds to the shame and stigma of the struggle. It is incomprehensible to me that other couples affected by sinful sexual behaviours aren’t having difficulty returning to the mutually fulfilling emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy of sex as God created, designed and intended it to be in marriage.

I have suffered immensely through twenty five years of a sexless marriage filled with neglect, rejection and emotional abuse. In our case, we are not rebuilding, but building something that we have never had. The inexperience and awkwardness of new lovers; the harmful and destructive effects of a porn addiction; the baggage of an affair and past sexual history and abuse; and age and health issues combine for a long, slow process of recovering healthy sexuality and intimacy.

I have become frustrated, disappointed, discouraged and impatient. I am angry at God. I have never received the gift of sexual intimacy in my marriage, and even now, with the wonderful healing and recovery we have received individually and in our marriage, it remains elusive. And that makes me cry. And it made me cry last week. I grieve for what I have lost. I grieve for what has not been returned. And when I dare to hope for more, my heart aches.

Last week, my husband and I bravely took a giant leap of faith for our sexual recovery. We have begun working through a book, 31 Days to Great Sex, by Christian author Sheila Wray Gregoire, which has daily readings and challenges designed to improve emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy in marriage. I am nervous, and it scares the heck out of me, but feels so right at the same time. I feel empowered by the format that is holding us accountable to having uncomfortable conversations, while providing a safe environment to do so. I am proud of myself, for both of us, for persevering and pushing through the hard stuff in search of God’s complete plan for marriage.

God sees my tears. And He cares. God knows the desires of my heart. He put them there. I am learning through this process that mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy is a gift in marriage. None of us are entitled to it. I try to reconcile in my mind that it may be something I never experience. That makes me sad.

I am holding on to the truth that God is a Redeemer. I must believe that He either is, or He isn’t. He either redeems, or He doesn’t. And if I trust God is a Redeemer, then I must have confidence that He is able to redeem all of my marriage. Not 50%, not 80%, but 100%. If redemption seems to halt somewhere along the way, it is not because God stopped. It is because I did. I don’t want to do that anymore.

As I wept and prayed last week, my Heavenly Father spoke these words to my heart:

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

I am listening. I am trusting. I have hope in my Redeemer.

Celebrating My D-Day

If I had a D-Day, it would have been this week. My three year anniversary of Discovery Day. This generally refers to the day sexual sin is exposed in a relationship, forever changing the unsuspecting partner’s life. It is a moment of utter devastation and complete betrayal. However, for me, D-Day has a somewhat different meaning.

D-Day was the day I discovered me. Buried deep underneath the fragmented layers of a life destroyed by the neglect and rejection of a sexless marriage. It was the day the broken and crushed spirit within me found enough courage to fight for my soul. It was the day that I recognized the pain of staying the same was becoming greater than the pain of changing something. Anything. It was the day I decided I didn’t want to hurt anymore. D-Day was the awakening, not the breaking of me.

Not only was my soul awakened that day, but my eyes were also opened. My naivety and embedded beliefs that had accepted sexual and emotional abuse throughout my life were greatly challenged.

My husband was away from home. I sat down at his computer. I found pornography. That day, and the next, and the next. The magnitude of his porn use slowly sinking into my mind and my stomach.

I didn’t confront him. This was about me now. For the first time, this would be about me, not him. I needed the time to prepare and strengthen myself against the attacks of shame, blame, anger, and complete insanity I knew from experience would be deflected back to me. This time I would not allow him to confuse me and twist the truth so that I no longer knew what it was. I needed time to gain clarity and confidence.

A few days later, I was shaken by the revelation that my husband was able to look me in the eye and blatantly lie to me. As odd as it may seem, I had never actually considered that my husband was deceitful and untruthful with me at any time in our marriage. Finding out he was a liar disturbed me just as much as the pornography. I wondered how many times he had lied to me. How many times he had laughed at my gullibility. I felt foolish and stupid and betrayed.

The overwhelming emotions pushed me into action. I was no longer willing to be the wife who accepted a marriage devoid of affection, companionship, respect, intimacy, love and sex. I did not feel brave. I did not feel courageous. I felt battered and abandoned. I was about to change the role I was playing in my marriage but it did not unduly scare me. My life would be different, and have new challenges, but it couldn’t be worse. I might be married. I might be alone. But I would no longer be neglected and abused.

My D-Day is a birthday more than an anniversary. A celebration of a new beginning and a new life. I began to value me that week. More than my marriage and more than the façade of a happy family.

I began the journey to healing and wholeness on my own. Without my husband. And without inviting God to join me. Leaving God out wasn’t a deliberate omission, rather I just didn’t think about it at all one way or the other. Although I went to church regularly, and considered myself a Christian, the protective walls I had built around my heart were also a barrier to a functioning relationship with God.

Years earlier, I remember attending a church service where I clearly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and heard the whisper to open my heart and fully let Him in. And I also recall distinctly telling God no, I can’t do that, it would hurt too much. I believed that opening even the smallest sliver of my heart to God would release the floodgate of all my suppressed emotions and pain. It was my belief that my heart could not be both open to a relationship with God and closed to my husband. I chose to keep my heart wrapped up tight.

Many times throughout my marriage, God beckoned me to Him. He stretched out His arms to me and I consciously refused to draw close. My heart had been broken too many times by the people who were supposed to love and protect me. Even in the despair of the events leading to my D-Day, my distrust extended to God.

It took me a few weeks before I finally approached God with my shattered heart. And He was right there waiting for me. He gently took my heart and my hand in His, and set me on an unbelievable path of restoration and healing.

Looking back, I can see God’s orchestration all along. Even when I rejected and pushed God aside He waited patiently for me as a loving Father does. Even when I did not feel His presence He was there.  Even when I thought it was only me against a husband and world that had let me down, it wasn’t.

My D-Day was the end of my life as I knew it. I thank God every day for that new beginning. What the devil meant for evil, God meant for good. And it is good.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

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

Untangling From My Addict

I stood in the doorway of my bedroom watching my husband shaking uncontrollably on the bed. His pain and anguish was palpable. This was days after he came to an understanding and acceptance that he was a sex addict, his life had become unmanageable, and his marriage was falling apart. This was the moment he told me he felt suicidal.

I didn’t react immediately. God kept my tongue still until my thoughts and emotions caught up with each other. And then I responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I cannot help you. If you are truly suicidal please call our pastor or your doctor. You need help, but I have nothing I can give you.”

My words surprised me. But then they seemed right. I was in my own emotional turmoil and intense pain and somehow recognized that my first priority was looking after me. Not him. I cared about my husband as a person, as the father of my children. I did not want him to die. But there was nothing within me strong enough to pull him out of his darkness. I needed what little energy I had to keep myself functioning. I was barely doing that.

I was hurting too. For once, this was not going to be all about him. I would not comfort and console him. Try and make him feel better. That’s what our marriage had been for twenty five years. Me receiving and accepting the blame for everything at the expense of my own heart. This time would be different.

I was the one responsible for no longer allowing the invasion of pornography in our marriage. I was the one refusing to continue living in a sexless marriage. I was the one that said I am worth more than this. I was the one who shook up the status quo.

But he was the one who brought the addiction into our marriage. And fed it every day. It was he who caused this pain. Mine and his. I had finally found the courage within me to say “No more.” He was going to have to find his own strength. I had no intention of giving him an opening to steal mine away. I needed every bit of it for myself. Besides, the physical manifestation of my husband’s pain was evidence that God was breaking him. The best thing for me to do was stand aside and let God do His work.

This was a significant turning point for me. Looking back now, it was the unofficial beginning of Step One. I admitted that I was powerless over the sex addict and my life had become unmanageable.

I somehow intuitively knew that I was gaining back control of my life from the sex addict. I was broken, and the first step in my healing and rebuilding had been laid before me. I was valuing myself over the addict.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.                                              2 Samuel 22:17-20 and Psalm 18:16-19

I Gave God an Ultimatum

I gave God an ultimatum. Not sure if that is an okay thing to do, but I did it, and I am still here to write about it. I know it is more than okay to bring God our messy dirty selves. He can handle the anger, confusion and anguish we throw at Him. As the Psalms show, King David did it frequently, and he was a man after God’s own heart. But to be theologically correct, I don’t know if David actually gave God an ultimatum. A tantrum or two for sure. But I would like to think that wasn’t what I was doing.

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. He was the One who broke me after all. Often that is what God needs to do before we are able to admit defeat and run into His outstretched arms. When He says, “Finally. I have been waiting for you to come.”

The garbage I threw at God was my marriage. I “let it go” before I even began a formal recovery process and acquired a new vocabulary. No one had to tell me to let it go and give it to God. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want my marriage as it was. I didn’t want my husband as he was. I was done with it all.

I clearly remember the words I used that day. “God, you know the desire of my heart is to have a godly, Christian husband. And I don’t know what that means right now. If this marriage has to end for that to happen, so be it. Otherwise take my husband and do something with him. I can’t do this anymore.”

God chose to take my husband and do something with him.

Although I was a Christian, my husband was not. Therefore, not only would God have to heal him from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, He would have to lead him to repentance and transform his heart. God would be required to break my husband and build a brand new man. That would be a mighty big task.

As God would have it, the Sunday following our first counselling sessions, a group of young men from Teen Challenge were taking over the church service. Teen Challenge is a God centered recovery program for people with substance abuse and addictions. They had been to our church previously, so I knew it would be a time of powerful testimony and authentic worship.

I invited my husband to come to church with me that morning. He did. We talked a little about the service but not much. We were both too immersed in our own pain of the early days of recovery to have the energy or desire for conversation. However, God used the vulnerability and rawness of these men to speak deeply to my heart. And apparently to my husband’s as well. To my surprise, he emerged from the bedroom well before his usual time the following Sunday morning. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was coming to church with me. I hadn’t invited him, so I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this development. I was curious and skeptical of his intentions, but we went to church together again. And then again. And then again.

My husband, a gifted musician, was welcomed onto the worship team. An extraordinary outreach from our church body to include a non-Christian in this role. God just kept laying down stepping stone after stepping stone for my husband. This should have made me happy, but I was still too numb to care and appreciate the miracle that was unfolding right before my eyes.

Two months into recovery, knowing nothing of our marriage crisis, our son, a campus missionary, brought a team of students to our town for a ministry weekend at our church. Our house was home base for the team, with several staying here. Being surrounded by passionate God loving young adults and witnessing them living out their faith all weekend, my husband experienced an outpouring of God’s love. It culminated in Sunday morning’s service as God broke him and he fell weeping into the arms of our pastor and our son.

This is an amazing testimony of how God answered the prayers of our son for his father’s salvation.

It was not a happily ever after moment for me. I was emotionally disconnected from the scene playing out in front of me. It could have been anyone at the altar. I watched numbly, feeling near, but very far away. Cautious. Guarded. My heart just didn’t know what this meant. I didn’t know what I wanted it to mean. Sure, I had prayed for God to do something with my husband, but I wasn’t sure that this is what I wanted Him to do. I was getting an answer that I was afraid to hear and that troubled me.

What continued to distress me was the numerous people who approached me to encourage and celebrate with me in how my prayers for my husband’s salvation “all these years” had been answered. I tried my best to smile and nod while my heart screamed. Firstly, I did not pray for my husband all those years. I didn’t care enough anymore to do that. Secondly, his salvation did not make everything okay. I was still broken. Certainly these people were unaware of his addiction, but there was an assumption that now everything in my world was right. And I still didn’t know if it ever would be.

My husband’s salvation story is bittersweet. It has been two years and three months now. His behaviour is believable. He is a new creation. It is real.

For my husband and hero: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26

For you and me: In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:2

Finding Me in Telling the Truth

I told my parents the truth about my marriage. Not all of it. But enough. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Maybe because I had rehearsed my words and my parents’ reactions so many times it was playing in a loop through my mind. The tears of sorrow. The tears of joy. A group hug. Someone running through a meadow, arms outstretched, hair blowing in the breeze…… Well, you get the idea.

And so the response I received to what I thought would be a startling confession and revelation of my pornography ravaged and emotionally abusive marriage was rather anti climactic. As was my testimony of how God’s grace was restoring and carrying my husband and myself through it.

My nervousness only showed itself through the rabbit trails I led my parents along thinking maybe this addition to the story will elicit a comment, a question, a nod of the head, or something…… If not immediately, perhaps in the following days.

My mother did seem to be listening and following along with me. Closely watching my face the whole time. She did make one or two mostly innocuous comments. She gave me a hug afterwards and said it must have been hard for me to share with them.

My father was silent. Not only were no words spoken, but his body remained motionless. He did not look at me, fidget in his chair, clear his throat. He seemed to be making his best effort to be unnoticed, and so his silence did speak to me. Just not entirely sure what it was saying.

I chose not to share the details of either mine or my husband’s sexual sins, other than to mention the pornography addiction.  I did not mention the resulting compulsive masturbation, the twenty long years of being in a sexless marriage, the affair. Some things a girl just doesn’t want to share with her parents about her sex life.

Instead I highlighted the recovery process our sex addiction recovery therapist has guided each of us through. I told of our involvement in support groups and my working a 12 step program adapted for partners of sex addicts. I shared about our participation and commitment to the “Dailies” explaining why I was on my phone talking or emailing my husband every night. (In the Dailies we identify and share feelings from our day unrelated to our relationship or each other, give each other two praises, and pray together. We also share scripture or read a passage from the Bible together. It is a very important time of connection for people also healing from intimacy anorexia.)

Most importantly, I described the story of my husband’s salvation two months into his recovery from sex addiction, and of my own deeper and closer relationship with God. I emphasized God’s hand in the tremendous healing we have received individually and in our marriage. They needed to know that we, that I, am only where I am today because of God’s extravagant love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and redemption.

My parents needed to hear this part of the story even more than the other. I grew up in a Christian home, attending church regularly as a family until I married and moved away. Shortly after this, on a return visit home, I discovered that my parents no longer went to church. And sadly, that has been the case for the last 27 years. But maybe, just maybe, voicing God’s miracle in our home will ignite a new light and life in theirs.

Whether or not sharing my marriage crisis and its reconciliation changes anything in the hearts of my parents, it has shifted something within me. It truly did free me. Not necessarily from big things, but the small, simple every day life things. I am recognizing that conversation and relationship is becoming much easier and healthier now that I don’t have to sidestep questions, hide my whereabouts and activities, or worry about saying something that may reveal my secrets. Previously, my mother asking a seemingly straightforward and normal question about what I did on my trip to the city would cause panic and feelings of guilt within me. Sure I could tell her the truth that I went shopping or had lunch with my daughter, but when the primary reason was to attend a counselling session or support group it felt like lying by omission. And it was. And I don’t have to do that anymore!

Removing masks, being vulnerable and learning to be authentic is hard. And scary. But each time I do it I am amazed by the beautiful woman I see emerging. And the best part is that beautiful woman is me. And I like her more and more every day.

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Psalm 46:5

Counselling – Three’s a Crowd

I am responsible for healing my pain. I am not responsible for the pain my husband and his sex addiction inflicted on me.

He loaded the gun, pulled the trigger, and fired the poisonous bullet that ripped through my body. Leaving shattered fragments of myself along its path. Lodging the shards in the very center of my being. Infecting me.

He caused the damage. Allowing him to poke and prod at my wounds to “help” me would only compound the injury. He cannot fix me. Only I can do that. But I am wise enough to know I can’t retrieve the bullet on my own. That job is for someone who knows what they are doing. Which is not me, and certainly not my husband. This requires professional help.

This is where it may get tricky. One size fits all counselling does not exist. It may take time to find the right therapist. It did for me. This is very frustrating in a crisis situation. But don’t give up on all therapy because of a disappointing encounter. The bullet may be twisted and pushed in deeper, but it still needs to be removed.

I began therapy with a female Christian counsellor. I thought I would be most comfortable with my own gender. I also felt safer with someone I trusted to have similar beliefs and values as my own. I did not particularly trust a male therapist to know how to care for my heart.

This assumption was a mistake. I learned from it and moved on after three visits. Turns out she left an abusive marriage. Told me there was no hope for mine. I wasn’t there looking to save my marriage, but neither was I there to end it. At that point, I just wanted to stop feeling crazy and take back control of my spiralling mind and life. I really didn’t care about the future status of my marriage, and yet her taking away hope and declaring its death stung more than I anticipated.

On my third and final (although neither of us knew this yet) visit to this therapist, she told me about a Christian sexual recovery therapist whom she thought could be helpful for my husband. Whether or not my marriage survived, my husband was the father of my children, and it mattered to me that their dad be as healthy as possible. Whatever that was. And so I gave my husband the information. Without tears or pleas, threats or ultimatums to make an appointment. Just handed him a piece of paper, said “I heard about this guy, maybe he can help you.” And I left it at that.

My husband called. My husband went. My husband came home and told me had a sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. I listened and said nothing. I was confused. Troubled. Didn’t know what that meant. The pieces didn’t fit together. I knew about the porn, but a sex addiction didn’t make sense for someone who avoided sex.

I searched this counsellor’s website. There was information about partner’s sexual betrayal trauma. I wanted to know more about all of this, so I set up an appointment for myself.

I didn’t know what to expect at my session. I walked into the room a messy, broken woman. I walked out messy, broken and validated. My voice was heard. Supportive words of kindness and grace were spoken to me. This was not my fault. I did not cause it. I could not fix it. Nor was I expected to. This counsellor gave me hope for my marriage, and for my husband, but most importantly he gave me hope for me.

I was told that I had a bad marriage. These words unsettled me. Made me uncomfortably squirmy. It was an odd sensation to hear these words of truth spoken out loud. I knew I didn’t have a good marriage, but I had never considered that it was bad. It just was what it was. The realization that I had a bad marriage wound its way from my head to my heart and landed as a heavy weight in my stomach.

The therapist outlined for me the recovery program that he would be introducing to my husband. I resignedly asked what I was supposed to do to help him. “Nothing,” he said. “You don’t do anything except give him to me.” What freedom I received at that moment! He went on to explain that my husband’s recovery was his to do, and mine was for me to do. And after we both had several weeks of individual therapy, we would then meet together to see how things were going and if we were ready to proceed with marriage counselling.

To have my counsellor give me the freedom and permission to put my husband and marriage aside to focus on my pain and healing was life giving.

To put a name to my experiences and pain …… betrayal, trauma, intimacy anorexia …… lifted some of the shame that this was a real thing beyond me. Not just a manifestation of my failures, flaws and weakness.

My heart began to hope that day. January 3, 2015. I was offered the gift of recovery and I accepted it.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Things I Didn’t Know About Being Married to a Sex Addict

Being married to a sex addict, there were a lot of things I did not know.

I did not know the destructive nature of pornography and its far reaching, devastating effects on the lives, families, homes, churches, places it touches.

I did not know that the presence of pornography in my home had invaded my husband’s soul, and was a root cause of our damaged marriage and my utter brokenness.

I did not know that my husband had chosen pornography, masturbation and fantasy over intimacy with me.

I did not know that pornography was a form of betrayal.

I did not know that my husband was able to blatantly lie to me.

I did not know that the rejection of my heart, soul and body was not my fault.

I did not know that my body was fine just the way it was.

I did not know that I was likeable, desirable or loveable.

I did not know that I was deserving and worthy of a husband who loved and cherished me emotionally, spiritually and physically.

I did not know that God’s heart was breaking to see me, His beloved daughter, mistreated and broken.

I did not know that God was waiting to draw me close, hold me in His arms, and wipe the tears from my eyes.

I did not know that God created and designed me intentionally, wonderfully, perfectly.

I did not know that there was beauty within me to rise from the ashes.

I did not know that the blood of Jesus washed away my shame as well as my sin.

I did not know that God had a plan to redeem and restore myself, my husband and our marriage.

I did not know that my story would be filled with God’s wonders and miracles.

I did not know that God’s goodness and healing power in recovery would fill me with gratitude and joy.

I did not know that I would fall as deeply in love with my Abba Father as He has always been with me.

I did not know that my heart would be filled to overflowing with God’s love and a desire to share it with others.

I did not know that I would.

Being married to a sex addict, there were a lot of things I did not know about myself, my husband or God. Now I do. And my heart sings a victorious song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s gift of recovery.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

Uncovering Betrayal

Knowledge. Awareness. Understanding. I needed to identify what had caused my marriage to go so very wrong. I couldn’t fix any of it, including myself, until I had the answer.

I began gathering information. Quietly donned my W5 investigator’s hat. Wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, but I had an idea.

Pornography.

But honestly, in my naivety, this was only a whisper of suspicion. Because I had learned out of necessity to suppress my own sexuality, I simply assumed that my husband had also. I believed that if I was no longer having sex, then logically, neither was he.

There were signs throughout the years that I chose to ignore or didn’t recognize. I was colour blind to the flapping flags. Or in some cases did not have the knowledge to understand or distinguish the different hues and patterns on those flags.

When we married, I was aware that my husband had a couple of porn magazines. Not a stash. It didn’t bother me. Just something normal that men did. I didn’t even consider this to be a bad habit. And although we never viewed porn together, admittedly, out of curiosity, I did look at the magazines occasionally when he wasn’t around. I believed it to be harmless for both of us.

Before I continue with my story, I implore you to resist opening computer files and sites you discover and suspect your partner of viewing. If the name is suspect, the content is. You don’t need to know for sure. You don’t need to see what was viewed. Protect yourself from those disturbing images. They will stay burned in your memory. I can describe to you today every sickening image that I was exposed to in the last fifteen years as vividly as a room in my house.

Fast forward to the advent of home computers and a non-techie wife (me) who one day accidentally discovers unsettling file names. And opens them to confirm that the titles were indeed what they indicated.  I was stunned. Disbelieving. Confused.  Felt sick to my stomach. Why was he looking at porn when he scorned all things sexual?! Or was it just my sexuality that he shunned?

I confronted my husband. Most of what he said didn’t make sense whatsoever. His responses confused me even more. Left me questioning myself. The outcome was that he needed to be more careful with his computer activity so that our children didn’t accidentally happen upon porn. I essentially gave him permission to continue. If it was out of sight, I could willingly bury my head in the sand.

Several years later, I walked into our home office and stumbled upon pornography staring back at me from the monitor. This time I did not have the choice to look or not to look. The excuses and feigned surprise he offered over their presence were just as ridiculous as before. I didn’t swallow them as easily, but I did. I wanted to so I wouldn’t have to admit that my husband had viewed porn twice now during our marriage.

Another three years passed before I took a deep breath, broke through my denial, and began searching my husband’s computer history. To say I found what I was looking for is a mild understatement. As I tracked his activity over the next few weeks, it was impossible to overlook the irrefutable evidence that this was more than a bad habit. It was a pornography addiction.

And yet, what unhinged me as much as the extent of his porn usage was uncovering the magnitude of his lies and deception. My feelings of foolishness and stupidity. The unearthing of betrayal.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28