Psalm 139:11-12

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (PSALM 139:11-12)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

American Idol: When Sex Takes Center Stage

Money and sex are the top two struggles for married people.

Our culture shares our affinity for them, dangling them daily in our faces, like a luscious carrot in front of a hungry rabbit. The fact that we buy into the myth that more money and more sex will bring us happiness is perhaps even more concerning.

The media, advertising, internet accessibility, ignorance, denial, even the Church — we need not look far to find someone to blame. Whether we are just gullible or we lack self-control, it's not difficult to fall into trouble in either one of these areas.

I could be wrong, but there seems to be a lot more shame circling issues with sex then with financial strain. We are confronted with sexual images and content every day and yet it's a subject we rarely talk honestly about with each other. And honesty is not brag sessions in the men's locker room. I cannot believe some of the stories that come out of those testosterone-filled chats and the way women are frequently disrespected and objectified.

Maybe if we were honest, we would find that most of us struggle with finding balance in the bedroom.

I'm not an expert, but I believe this ebb and flow is quite normal for most couples. But there are many other factors that effect intimacy in marriage.

I have written about my own issues emanating from childhood sexual abuse. And finding out several years into my marriage of my husband's struggle with pornography and adultery, which led to a diagnosis of sexual addiction.

These discoveries have revealed legitimate reasons for sexual dysfunction in our marriage. Trying to navigate this path together is often difficult, sometimes treacherous, and usually a bit lonely.

I don't have answers. I will never claim to have it all figured out. But I can invite you in and let you know that you aren't alone, if you're struggling here.

I can encourage you to investigate your role in the dysfunction and seek healing for whatever you find there.

We can pray — that both you and your spouse can talk openly about what is going on. That there will be understanding and compassion to deal with the disappointments, the unmet expectations, or the hurt feelings that might be sitting under the surface. That necessary truths will be revealed and hearts will be open because nobody likes to look at themselves in the mirror and take responsibility for the sins seen there.

I know what it's like when sex sits front and center of your marriage. I know the nights fraught with guilt when you haven't "given in" because what he wants from you is merely body and lacks the soul. And the moody mornings and pissy attitude that accompanies a night like that.

I have been there.

But thankfully anymore, only beauty and oneness and love come with the desire. And it feels safe and welcome. And because of this I can write hope — that growth and change are possible. That hearts can mend and marriages survive.

But you're not there yet. Stay, will you? Let's talk honestly and figure it out together.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unraveling Lies That Make It Hard to Trust

Betrayal is unraveling.
Betrayal is unraveling.

Because tucked into every relationship is the hope that people will be faithful and loyal to you.

But is betrayal just a fancy word for disappointing my expectations?

It's okay to trust that a spouse will be faithful. But ultimately, trust is really just hope and there is no guarantee.

It might be okay if you were a good judge of people. Although, even trustworthy people make mistakes and let you down.

But if you were abused it might be harder to grasp. Especially when you tell yourself this,

If people loved you, they would not betray you. You are not important enough to love.

Guard your own heart, because no one cares enough to protect yours.

It felt like love, but you were obviously wrong about that. People use you.

Betrayals from my childhood sprouted these lies, but I listened for so long they sound like truth. And it feels impossible to see it any other way.

My childhood was full of love. My family was supportive and present. But I still wonder what love is supposed to feel like? Because maybe I can't trust myself.

So I build walls and I only let a few people really in because I'm sure one day they, too, will figure out who I really am and decide I'm not valuable enough to love, just like the others.

And as I grew, each betrayal, especially the affair, confirmed this for me.

I began creating these wild expectations of what it's supposed to feel like when people love me. And I have come to depend on it to affirm my worth.

Choose me. Accept me. Think of me.

And then when you don't, I'm back to the lies again. And I wonder if I was wrong about you because I have been so wrong before.

It's a terrible cycle that betrayal creates. And I'm hanging out here, today. Batting the lies around in my head. Wondering how I'll ever be free.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Truth About a Post-Crisis Marriage

I have a "post-crisis" marriage.

I never heard it referred to in that way until I read this post by Sarah Markley called, "When a Post-Crisis Marriage is Full of Imperfections." Her confessions got me thinking about my own life and marriage post-crisis. She makes many excellent points.

I think there are things that happen in life that you work through and ultimately get over, for lack of a better word.

And then there are big, defining moment kind of events that become part of your process.

I'm living with the latter.

It's not that I'm stuck in the past. And I have forgiven. By all accounts we are living in a redeemed marriage. Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!

But, like Sarah Markley writes,
"I never want any bio or blog post or talk I give to ever make it sound like this post-crisis marriage is easy. In fact it's really, really hard."
I think it's not only important to clear up any impression that a redeemed marriage is somehow magically transformed and perfect, but it's also important to remind people that just because a few, maybe even a good many years has passed, there is still work being done.

This is true in all marriages, I think. And I believe with all my heart that there is hope for marriages damaged by sexual betrayals of all kinds. And there are some that no matter how much you want to keep it together, the healthiest thing is to split. There is no judgement from me in that.

Staying despite betrayal takes a lot of work. And the crisis that brought us to this place to begin with — were really symptoms of deeper issues. Issues that continue to surface every now and then and often require counsel.

Some days I'm weary from the struggle. And sometimes my own problems get in the way. This is the reality of any life, redeemed or otherwise. And I hope to convey that as much as possible on this blog.
"In fact, it's a struggle each day to love well and like wading through mud to suppress our own selfish inclinations." Sarah Markley, "When a Post-Crisis Marriage is Full of Imperfections"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Confession and Healing (Part 2)

This post is a continuation from here.

Confession or being caught doesn't necessarily secure a happy, walk away from my sin ending. There's far more to it than that.

Exposing the sin is just the beginning of a complex process. The spouse with the figurative pornography noose around his/her neck has to want to remove it.

By the time my spouse confessed, he was already fed up with himself. He desired change and spent too many years trying to do it on his own. Confession freed him from the burden he carried alone, but it wasn't easy and it sometimes comes with a cost.

But sometimes, a spouse is sorry he got caught instead of being sorry for the hurt he's caused or the sin itself. What do you do then?

I can't speak from that experience specifically since everyone's journey through this looks different. But I can tell you that sexual betrayal, via adultery or pornography or lust, impacts your marriage and requires healing for both husband and wife, whether there is repentance or not.

Dealing with the pain of betrayal is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but the work was necessary. My husband's sexual addiction became an opportunity for me to do some self-examining.

And since I chose to stay and fight for our marriage, I knew my attitude towards his healing would effect everything. I could remain withdrawn, bitter, and angry or I could become his biggest ally. Neither option was a guarantee that he would not slip again, but one could lead to more hiding and the other encourages open communication.

If you suspect your spouse is struggling with pornography or sexual addiction:

  • Talk to him about it. Show him you are a safe person by the way you approach/respond to him.
  • Share/confess your own sin. God knows you struggle, too! Does your spouse know you're not perfect either?
  • Establish accountability to protect him from temptations. Who can he call on when he's feeling tempted? Who can both encourage him and help pick him back up if he falters?
  • Become partners/allies/teammates — together fighting against temptations. Can you help guard his heart? How can you help establish/support healthy boundaries for him/for both of you (what he sees, reads, hears)?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Suspecting and Confronting (Part 1)

I was not one of those ostrich wives that happily preferred to hide my head in the sand. If anything, I was more suspicious and distrusting than most.

I didn't suspect my husband was viewing pornography until I found it on our computer that day. And I certainly never suspected my husband was having an affair with another woman. I was never naive enough to think he could never do that to me. In fact, unfaithfulness was one of my greatest marriage fears.

I have learned that liars always get caught at some point. It's like a built-in safety net and I have a great deal of faith in that.

I also believe that our intuition is stellar. You may not know specifically what's going on, but eventually, your gut will nag you into suspicion of something. Maybe you just have to ask the right questions?

Far too often, we talk ourselves out of or allow our spouse to minimize our suspicions. And I often left those conversations feeling selfish and guilty for second-guessing him.

We have a sin nature that doesn't like to get caught. Our shame and guilt is so powerful we would rather hide it from everyone then face the embarrassment and disappointment of others. The deeper we are in the sin, the harder it is to break free alone. So we're caught in this ugly spiral, in a state of contention, where right and wrong tug and pull at us, and we feel like there is no way out.

Cue the hope.

One of the best ways out of sin is confession. And maybe a close second is when someone who loves us confronts us about our sin. I shine a light over the darkness of my own sin or someone else does. Either way, I can no longer hide from it.

And that's a great place to start.

To be continued here

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fantasizing About Mr. Right

I'm not sure why, but my parents didn't talk much about the birds and the bees.

I learned about relationships from television and movies. I took notes on kissing from the soap operas the women in my life watched daily.

And I read romance novels. They certainly appealed to my blooming curiosity.

After a while they became quite predictable. Girl meets boy, they flirt, they fall in love, and everything is happily ever after. I was so enamored with that.

Every girl imagines finding the man of their dreams! And romance novels stirred my "knight in shining armor" desires and set me up with unrealistic expectations.

As I "matured," so did my taste in romance novels. And they became racier and racier as you can imagine.

My real life wasn't going so well then. My relationship with my new husband was shaky at best. I knew the Lord, but I wasn't in relationship with Him. And I was just coming to terms with the ramifications of childhood sexual abuse. There was a lot of turmoil. It's safe to say I was quite unhappy in my life and in my marriage.

Betrayal had shattered my trust of men. I started using fantasy as an escape — imagining in my mind the perfect life with an adoring and affectionate mate that would always chose me over anything else that happened to be going on. It was a welcome respite from the chaos and emotions of my real life.

I thought nothing of it then. But many years later, as my marriage relationship improved and we began the long road of healing from my husband's infidelity and sexual addiction, I realized what I was doing was wrong, too.

If my husband was going to be accountable for his lustful actions, so should I. And reading romance novels and fantasizing about Mr. Right in my mind were not honoring my spouse.

As much as I wanted to downplay it, explicit romance novels are a form of pornography (check out the definition). Although we may turn to romance novels, fantasizing, or other forms of pornography to find "fulfillment," all they serve to do is make you dissatisfied, especially with your spouse.

I believe pornography can be a struggle for women. And I have met women, even some in good marriages, that fight the urge to fantasize. If you can relate, please know you aren't alone.

I have not read "Fifty Shades of Grey" and I don't intend to. Call me a prude, but I don't want to get caught up in author EL James' personal fantasies.

My husband has worked so hard to protect himself, why shouldn't I?

In the same way that I want to be the focus of my husband's affections, I need to focus my affections on him.
So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It's better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. (Matthew 18:8)
If you're confused about the role pornography may play in your marriage, read this article from Covenant Eyes.

Be honest with your spouse. You are teammates fighting for your marriage. Help each other, encourage each other, and try to avoid situations that lead to temptation.

And if you cannot avoid it, protect yourself from it. Do not allow yourself to be drawn back in. Stop the thoughts before they take you down a road you do not want to take.

The catalyst for me was experiencing true intimacy with my husband, both physically and emotionally. At that point, I no longer felt the need to escape because the real life we were working to build together was much better than anything I could dream up.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Re-Defining Your Defining Moments

There are moments in our lives that are seared in. Memories anchored. Stakes driven deep into the ground — flag waving events. When you look back on the horizon of your past you see them there. You skip over the mundane and leap frog from defining moment to defining moment.

Perhaps they are firsts — like the first time you were kissed, the first time you drove in the car by yourself, when you graduated from high school, your wedding day, the birth of your children.

Some are good, happy moments. Some were shockingly hard.

Some run deep and still haunt you today. Ghosts that taunt you, accuse you, remind you of moments you might rather forget. Your deepest regrets, a loved one who's passed, a wound from abuse or betrayal.

Humans don't enjoy pain. We search for pleasure so we don't have to feel sadness, disappointment. We are looking for the next high, the thing that will fill us. We hate to suffer.

I tried denial. Denial was like administering local anesthesia. It was numbing. Denial helped me forget for a little while. But anesthesia wears off. And then there is pain.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, something did happen. And the wound inside hurts. The longer you go without treatment, the more infected it becomes.

No matter how I tried to outrun the pain, it caught up. For a while I thought I was dealing. I thought I was okay, that I was in control. I tried to chase the memories away, but no matter how far away I thought I had pushed them, they were still right there.

Childhood sexual abuse, a spouse that's betrayed you through adultery or pornography or both, whatever past pains you are running from, these are defining moments. Unchecked the negative experiences will wind up defining you — lies and all.

Healing became my only choice. I had to face the truth about my past and about my marriage so that I could actually move forward. So that I could focus on a future filled with hope and healing.

And I want that for you, too.

Acknowledging the defining moments of my past and seeing them in a new light, helped them lose their power to haunt and accuse. Because I am not what happened to me. I am not shame or guilt or to blame.

Healing helped me to re-define my defining moments, so by grace, I may accept my whole, beautiful and scarred story.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Worth Fighting For

A story continued from "Tell Me the Truth"

I had to leave the room.

As the truth came pouring from his lips that night I knew I needed time. I sat in the rocking chair in the dark living room. I didn't know what to do. My husband had just told me he had an affair and had struggled intensely with pornography for years. Suddenly I doubted everything I ever knew.

Our toddler was sleeping soundly in the next room, oblivious to the chaos whirling outside his door. What debris would be left behind in the aftermath? Would our child's whole world change that night?

I suddenly found myself holding all the cards. I had the power to destroy my husband, but it would destroy our family, too. He had given it to me simply by being honest. We all had a lot to lose.

It's hard to go back there — to that awful, beautiful night. It was wrenching. I was so angry. So confused. I needed time to process — to make sense of the senseless.

And I loved him. Still loved him.

In my heart I knew, if he was really done with the hiding and was willing to work hard and get help, we were worth fighting for.

And this man I loved, he was lost and confused, just like me. And he needed someone to believe in him, to fight for him, and to show him he was worth it. And he is.

Healing produced a new found trust for both of us. I can trust in his commitment to be honest and accountable to me and to others in his life. And he knows that I will not take advantage of the power his honesty affords me. That I remain committed to our marriage and working through whatever comes up.

For my husband and I, the flicker of light in the darkness of that evening turned into the fullness of living in the light. It's not always easy. But it's better then the alternative.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tell Me the Truth

We had just gotten ready for bed. Settled under the covers, I reached over and turned the light on my bedside table off. I remember our conversation like it was yesterday.

He started. My friend told me his wife doesn't want to know when he looks lustfully at another woman. It's too upsetting for her.

I replied. Really? I'm just the opposite. I'd rather know. It's what I don't know that scares me the most.

And that's how it started. The conversation that began my husband's full and complete disclosure.

I was right. I did feel scared as he revealed a sexual history I had not been aware of. But in the midst of the pain and confusion I was feeling, I also felt…peace?

Yes, it was peace. I could deal with what was being laid out in front of me. Our room was still dark, but a flicker of light was shining out of that darkness.

It was truth. And I had waited a long time to hear it.

The beauty of his words of truth was that it was the start of something essential for our relationship. We were talking, honestly talking, for the first time in our entire marriage. This mixture of honesty and vulnerability was the hope I needed — our marriage needed — to have a future together.

I believe a marriage relationship cannot be strong without honesty and communication. When both husband and wife are willing to ask and answer the hard questions.

To tell me the truth, to risk losing it all, he had to trust me — and God. Because I had the power to destroy him and everything he held dear.

To be continued

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why I Wasn't Enough, Part 2

Part 2, continued from this post

I knew some of his "sorted" past when I started dating him. At that point he had mastered the art of hiding. No one knew his secret struggles. He let no one know of his pain.

Sexual pleasure was like a drug. It consumed his mind, it dictated his choices. It was all about when and where the next opportunity would arise. He knew it was wrong, but it became like a noose around his neck — squeezing ever tighter, not letting him go. How would he ever be free?

To him, sexual addiction was like trying to fill a bucket with water, not knowing there was a hole in the bottom. No matter how hard he tried, he could not keep the bucket filled. And it became increasingly more difficult to fill it up. He had to find new and different sources, but nothing ever satisfied.

It was easy for me to think that his infidelity had something to do with me — who I was, whether or not I fulfilled him. The truth was, nothing fulfilled him, not even the sexual pleasure he was searching for.

I stopped accepting blame when I began to understand sexual addiction (reading Schaumburg's book, "False Intimacy" gave me great insight). It also helped when I tried to see the innocent boy inside the hurting man.

I began to realize how rooted the infestation was and found, to my surprise, compassion and a desire to help him.

Sexual addiction doesn't happen overnight. It wouldn't have mattered who he had married. The temptation to stray was more about filling the bucket, then about me.

I would never be enough until he broke free from the chains of addiction and started a path towards healing.

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