I've been on vacation this week. Thus the delayed blog.
Before I introduce Debbie, here is a wee bit I learned about me in the past few days.
2 years ago I went to the beach with my children for vacation. I was fresh out of my divorce and emotionally raw. I cringed when the hotel concierge asked me if my husband would be arriving soon, and I could only watch my children play in the ocean.
I felt out side myself.
Like I could not participate in life.
But I really wanted to watch life. I stood on a pristine white beach willing my children to enjoy each other. I laughed when they laughed, rejoiced when they lifted each other up, and wept in the privacy of my showers.
But this week has been different. I've engaged WITH them. I splashed in the ocean, raced go-carts with them and swam with dolphins.
And I have not wept in the shower.
Healing is possible. I promise.
Given that success, it just seems appropriate to share another story of healing from a true "Not a Casserole Widow."
Meet Debbie. She is a colleague and I am honored she has the courage to share her story.
When I got married, it was forever. Or that’s what my intent was.
Several years into my second marriage, I surrendered my heart to Jesus and became that much more committed to the ‘forever’ commitment that I had made without Him.
Every marriage and relationship has issues…none are without conflict or even some disappointment. That’s what I thought I was dealing with….normal conflict and communication stuff. So I kept up the fight. I dug in my heels to be even more committed to do my part, to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I read. I prayed. I attended the Bible Studies. I attended the marriage conferences. I gave up the romance novels and the soap operas that gave unrealistic expectations.
Finally I went to counseling. When my first counselor said she couldn’t believe I was still with my husband, I interpreted that as she wasn’t really a committed Christian and was just like the world…when unhappiness or trouble come, get out. After a while I changed counselors partially for that reason.
After learning of my own sexual abuse as a child, I self determined that that was the reason for all of our problems…relationally, sexually, emotionally. I had always accepted the blame but now much more. I approached my husband and apologized to him for thinking he was at fault for our problems and for my unspoken blame. And even some that was spoken.
God led me to a counselor who specialized in sexual abuse and unbeknownst to me, was about to start a group for healing from childhood sexual abuse. That group was life changing for me. I became stronger in my faith, in my self esteem, in relieving shame. I learned the things that formed my thinking. Though I was changing, nothing else in my marriage changed.
Then we went to our marriage intensive. That’s when my eyes were opened. My husband confessed his continued pornography use. He tearfully apologized for that and for another incident that I had no recollection of. I began to feel hope again. I felt that now we were getting to the root of the problem and had somewhere to go so that we could truly heal our marriage. This was the same way I always felt when he would confess something.
My husband had an addiction. The signs were always there but I didn’t know them. I genuinely thought it was all me, or that because we started our relationship in a way that wasn’t God-honoring, that we would always have trouble.
But I was wrong. Feeling crazy isn’t normal. Feeling as though I could be anyone, sexually, isn’t normal. Feeling ignored, an object, someone who is there to please my man, isn’t normal.
Normal is also not someone who tries to make you ‘happy’ by never discussing their feelings or who tries to ‘do’ things they think will bring happiness instead of a serious discussion. It’s not about ‘doing’ good things to try to outweigh the unhealthiness in the relationship. Becoming a healthy couple should be number one. That’s how we can honor God in our marriages. Marriage is mutuality. It’s both giving our best. Throughout the relationship there will always be times when one gives more than the other. But it’s never one person trying to make the marriage work and the other waiting for change to come.
I learned all I could about sexual addiction. Not because I ever intended to become an expert, but because I wanted to understand what I had been living, what real recovery looked like, how long it took and if it was even possible. Knowledge is power. I felt stronger just knowing what I was to face. This addiction is the hardest to overcome and takes approximately 3-5 years of serious, solid recovery actions. I needed to know this so that I could stay well while my husband said he wanted to work on recovery. I worked on my own recovery. I learned to set boundaries. I learned to speak my truth even if I didn’t feel heard or valued.
I didn’t see the results of his recovery actions. I kept waiting and watching. In the beginning, during an in house separation, I felt hopeful. When I needed to move back into our bedroom for the sake of space in our home, I lost hope again. But I continued to watch and wait.
Two and a half years later, still seeing no change, I begged him that if he was willing to do the work, I would continue to wait. He chose not to. Instead, shortly after, he chose to move out. He let others know that he wanted to work on the marriage, yet he was talking with other women. He was dating. I had proof. He wasn’t really interested in recovery or having a healthy marriage. I had changed. And because of what he had done up until that point wasn’t real recovery, I had had enough. I filed for divorce almost three years after his confession.
Here’s what I want to say. I’m not a quitter. Many women who walk this road are not quitters either. They want their marriage to work and survive. But even more, they want it to thrive. Without real recovery, it never will.
For so many of us we are accused of giving up before the miracle or that we just need to bear our cross.
Friend. Christian. Church. Don’t you think we did? Don’t you think that we wanted our marriage more than you did? Don’t you think we had been praying for MANY years at this point for God to do something miraculous in him and in us so that we could have that amazing testimony?
But that’s not my story. And for so many others it’s not theirs either.
Here’s what partners need from you.
To be heard.
We want our story to end differently more than you do.
God didn’t answer my prayers how I thought He would and I don’t know why. But I know that He still loves me and values me and cares for me. He doesn’t define me by my divorce. He doesn’t see me as a quitter. He knows. He saw. And He’s not done with my story yet.
Friend. Christian. Church. If you are so godly and God is all of these for us and to us, why can’t you be? And if the unbelieving world can be these things, shouldn’t you even more?
We need our Christian friends and the fellowship of other believers. Instead of treating our believing, hurting friends with love and care, we can add to their pain with assumptions of what we think should have happened. Or what we think should be done. Christ meets us where we are and we need the same from our believing friends. Not condemnation. Not judgment. Not additional pain that we are trying to heal from.
And I say ‘us’ and ‘we’ because sadly I have done the same to others. I thought I knew what was best for someone else in a situation. For those to whom I’ve done that, I’m so sorry.
Partners, I pray you find your tribe. I pray that you are treated with respect and care as you walk through, potentially, the hardest valley of your life. I hear you. And so does Jesus.
Have you lost friends, church family, or loved ones as a result of you choosing to end your marriage?How have you been able to move forward?
As a partner, what have you needed from your friends or church family?
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