Moving through the pain

I’ve had a couple of gals email me recently asking about a particular part of the process that they are really struggling with. It’s something that I know many of you can relate to. It’s summed up in these questions – how will I ever move past the pain? How can I look at him, touch him – without thinking of her or without thinking of what he has done? Will I ever be able to look at him and not think about the pain and the hurt?

After Jason shared his ugly truth with me – my new reality set in slowly. There was the usual shock and denial that helped me absorb the weight of his actions. Anger was soon to follow with bouts of further shock and denial; as well as hopelessness and depression. It wasn’t long before I realized – I was in the thick of grieving.

As I continued to grieve – the pain never quite seemed to leave me. It was always just one trigger or one thought away.

I was able to busy myself with my career or with socializing with friends. But it was always there. Like a heavy bag around my shoulder with contents I couldn’t seem to unload.

And it would meet me at the most unexpected of times. I might be talking with a friend and boom – something would remind me of Jason’s infidelity. Or I might be minding my own business driving down the street and bam – out of nowhere, it would hit me like a ton of bricks.

These crude reminders that yes – this is my life. My husband was unfaithful and now I am broken – possibly beyond repair. As one woman this week said – she is haunted by what he has done.

I wondered during those times – would the weight – the heavy bag I was carrying – ever go away? Could I ever live a normal life again? Free from the constant reminders, the constant pain, the weight of it all?

Below are three things that helped me move forward through the weight, through the constant reminders, through the thoughts that held me down –

Three things I needed in order to move forward

Validation

The first thing that I needed was validation. Keeping the thoughts and the feelings bottled up inside did me little to no good. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t handle it anymore and I needed to get it out. Sharing with Jason was potentially most helpful. Receiving validation from the one that has wronged us can really do wonders but Jason wasn’t always in a place to do this. If Jason was in a place of humility and was willing to listen to my pain – then sharing my pain with him was fruitful. But there were times when I had to rely on a group of women that God had placed in my life.

When it came to my go-to girls – early on, I didn’t need someone to fix me. I didn’t need someone to tell me what to change. I just needed someone to sit in the pain with me. To be empathetic and to hear the depths of the pain that I was experiencing.

Born out of the validation and empathy I received from others – I was able to validate myself. And this, my friends, was huge. To not minimize or shame myself but rather to say – yes, this pain is unbearable. This weight is too much to carry. The hurt is real and these women I trust say it’s brutal, too.

Brain Stops

Girls – I had to get really really good at stopping my brain from being on the hamster wheel. This. Well… it was a process.

I had to work HARD to set down the bag of hurt and pain and walk into an exercise class and just tell myself – I’m leaving this at the door and it will be here when I come back out. I can pick it up then.

I’d be driving around in my car in those early years (I worked out of my car) and I’d have to say out loud – “BRAIN STOP. Just stop. I’m going to take a break. I’m not going to think about this right now.”

I’d focus my mind on memorizing Bible verses in my car (my mom would be so proud if she knew this!) or immersing myself into a good book – just to get a break from the constant that was in my head and heart.

Transformation

If I were to stay married to Jason – he had to allow God to transform him. God transforming my husband = the weight in the bag became lighter. Jason not doing the hard work God needed him to do = I’m carrying the bag. And while Jason couldn’t fully ever take away my pain – he could work toward cultivating character traits that would help me drop the bag and run back to him.

And when I say change – I’m not just talking about living with integrity. I’m talking about the deeper heart change that had to take place. Trading the pride for humility, switching out hopelessness and resignation for determination and leading the way, exchanging a posture of unforgiveableness to one of being forgiveable.

In effect – what Jason was able to do was to pick up my bag of pain and give me the respite I needed to keep going. When he was humble and I came to him with my hurt – he was in effect saying – I see you, I hear you and what you are going through isn’t okay. I should have never put you here in the first place. And I’ll sit with you in this for as long as it takes and help your heart heal.

This transformation didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of waiting and watching on my part, not knowing what the future might hold – would the marriage be restored? Or would I heal on my own?

I’ve heard it said – “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for.” (John Ortberg)

It was through the wait that I learned to lean on God and trust Him before anything else. It was through the wait that I learned what it looks like to surrender my life to Him. It was through the wait that God started a good work in me, cultivating character and strength, hope and love; and born out of the suffering – immense joy.

xo – Shelley

Photo credit

Dear Me – A Letter to my 26 year-old self on Valentine’s Day

This is a letter written to my 26 year old self – it’s how old I was when my life turned upside down.

Hey You – yes you!

I know you’ve been dreading today, Valentine’s Day.  You’ve never loved this holiday – except for those homemade sugar cookies your mom would always bake for you.  That’s really the only thing about Valentine’s Day you ever liked.

Looking back, Valentine’s Day was always the day when you realized there was absolutely no boy on the planet that was interested in you.  Ugh.  And this didn’t even change after you graduated from braces to retainer gear.

Any who, now Valentine’s Day is ruined forev – or so it seems.  How can you celebrate cupid’s special day when your husband hasn’t been faithful to you?  This holiday will never ever ever ever feel the same.

That innocent love – gone in what seems like a poof.

I know you feel like here will always be a black cloud over Valentine’s day, Birthday’s, Christmas, heck – even the Fourth of July.  And you are right, it’s gonna be hard for a while.

Breathe deep and don’t expect so much from yourself.  For goodness sake, your heart was just ripped out of your chest and it’s going to take a while, a long while for the mending to be complete.

When you try to pick out a Valentine’s card a couple of years into your recovery, well, don’t even try it.  Because there won’t be a card that fits the bill.

Where are the cards that say “I think I love you but the ache hasn’t gone away and I don’t know that it ever will.”

Or “I’m thankful you’ve done some work but I don’t love you to the moon and back and I don’t want to have sex with you tonight just because it’s Valentine’s day.  If I’m honest, I’d love for you to remove yourself from this house for the entire day.  That’s what I want.  The end.”

Sadly, those cards don’t exist.  Note to self: you should seriously write down all the sentiments you feel and start making your own cards for women with a similar story.  I bet they’d be popular.

But you’re a fighter.  And you want so badly to like Valentines day.  Every year, you keep going to the card store to pick out a card that will work.  Every year, you walk away with a pit in your stomach because you can’t identify with literally any of the cards.  Another blank one on the inside will have to do.

Don’t believe the lies that you are too different.  That you are too broken.  That every holiday is ruined forever.

You so desperately want to feel normal on this day.  Pssst – forget about normal.  Normal is over-rated.  Just be confident in how you feel today and honor yourself, m’Kay?

Because it’s going to take a long while, like seven whole years, before you start to see the light.  You’ll walk into that card store and for the first time, you will read a card that fits.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not one of those sex cards.  Just a sweet simple “I love you” card.  And you believe it.  It’s a sweet moment – because you realize you’ve come a long way and your heart is softening.  Finally.

It will continue to get better.  You’ll start to roll into the card store and laugh at all the silly cards.  You will also laugh at all the over priced flowers, chocolate or even the lingerie begging to be purchased.  You will pass it all by as you kick your head back and laugh out loud!

Because a decade in, you will realize that Valentine’s day is really just another day.  Sure, it’s a chance to say “I Love You”.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s just your relationship isn’t hinging on what you do or don’t do on February 14th.  Your relationship is hinging on what you do the other 364 days a year.

So remember this – you must go through the pain and the heartache in order to get to the other side.  You can’t skip over it, not even the pain of holidays, you must bravely move through them.

Thirteen years after your first post-betrayal Valentine’s Day, you will be so thankful that you chose to stay.  You will be so thankful for the way Jason has led this recovery.  You won’t be able to believe the love you feel for that man, your husband.  The way you two will laugh together and cry together.  It’s redemption at it’s best.

So breathe, be true to how you feel, and take the pressure off.  You and God – you’ve got this.  I pinky-swear-promise.

Love, me

 

Humility and Empathy… (Part 2)

In the last blog post, I discussed what I believe to be two of the most important heart changes that we must see in our husbands in order for our marriage to survive – humility and empathy.  Just to be clear, I’ve yet to hear of the husband that shows these characteristics early on in the process.  But it IS something we, as wives, need to see at some point down the road.

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So let’s talk about empathy and humility a bit more and make sure we understand what these characteristics look like.  I’ll try to weave in a bit of my journey and what it’s looked like to {try} to cultivate these character traits.

Empathy – Brene Brown has a great three minute video that depicts the difference between empathy and sympathy.  When I think of empathy, I think of someone that is willing to be vulnerable enough to open their heart up to what someone else is experiencing.  They start to feel similar emotions to the person expressing pain or grief, for instance.  This can be really hard to do.  It takes intentionality and emotional energy to go there.  We surrender control when we allow our feelings to show as the person next to us expresses theirs.

With that being said – the opposite of empathy is self-protection or selfishness.  Someone that chooses not to show empathy is someone that wants to control their emotions.  They don’t know how to deal with vulnerability so they protect themselves and strong arm those closest to them – keeping them at arm’s length so they don’t have to feel what the other person is feeling.

I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with intimacy aversion.  I’ve spent a lot of my life not letting others in.  So self-protection?  I know how to do it well.  Even 12 years into this journey, when Jason is feeling pain (and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with me), it takes a lot of energy and deep breaths to give him empathy.  To get in his circle and feel his pain with him.  It’s vulnerable and intimate.

It will always be easier to self-protect rather than to open up and give empathy.  Remember, our default setting is broken.  So I believe there is a natural pull toward this self-protection.  Nobody is immune.  It’s work to take down the walls and let others in.

Next up, humility.

The literal meaning of humble from a Biblical perspective means “lowly” or “to bend the knee” (see Ephesians 4:2 or Proverbs 11:2).  When I think of moments of recent that I’ve felt lowly, I have to be honest – I’ve resisted.  It hurts.

And yet, even as I type this out – I identify that the one experience, more than any other, that started to refine this character trait, was coming to terms with the fact that Jason was unfaithful to me.  It’s always been hard for me to put into words one of the {many} things I experienced as Jason’s darkness came into light.

Let me try to put it into words now and I really want to hear if any of you wives track with me.

It’s like I came to terms with my smallness.  The fact that I wasn’t all that special after all.  I don’t mean this in a shameful, I’m unworthy sort of way.  (And believe me, I DID/DO feel that way plenty and have had to work through it.)  There were these moments early on in our recovery when I realized that I was small, that I was dependent on God for everything.  And that I was nothing, a nobody without God in my life.

I had never experienced something like this before and I’ll never forget it.  Girls, it was a gift. (And if you are newer on this journey – like in the first three years – I realize that you might want to punch me about now.)

My 6 figure income?  Didn’t matter in that moment.  My big house?  Who cares.  My reputation in the neighborhood or at church? Worth nothing.  The fact that I judged the neighbors across the way for their marriage trouble?  Um, how about I take a closer look in the mirror instead!

There was this sweet relief in coming to terms with my smallness.  It felt so good and so right to lie low.  To be small.  To have nothing left and to know that God was my only hope.

Once again, I sit here and acknowledge that God doesn’t waste anything on us.

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And yet, just like empathy – humility isn’t something that comes naturally.  God gave me a taste of it and it felt so right.  My brokenness, my humanness always turns to pride as the default.  Remember, our default setting is broken.

So now, as I tie up this blog post, I think of those moments recently when I felt lowly a little differently.  God uses those situations when I feel lowly to humble me. To allow me to shed my pride.  Because the truth for me is, I can’t do it on my own.

What about you – how have you seen God cultivate these character traits in you?  Although I believe our husbands must work {hard} at these heart changes, I also believe we benefit from pursuing them as well.

Up next, the focus is on our husbands.  How can they work toward empathy and humility and why is it so darn hard for them to turn away from self-protection and pride?

 

Making it through the holidays (you will have to read on to understand!)

I found this blog post recently.  I intended to send it out just before Christmas.  But we all know how craZy December can be.  And it never made it out.

I was reminded that I had it after a gal in one of my groups courageously opened up about the array of emotions she felt when she went to the store to pick out a card for her husband’s birthday.  Her husband has worked hard in his recovery.  And so has she.  And yet, looking for a card that would mirror how she feels in her heart was, well, impossible.  I can SO relate.  Keep reading for more…

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Special events including birthdays and holidays can be especially difficult for us wives, whether you are two weeks in or two years into your process.  I’ve had the chance to dialogue with some of my groups about this over the last month.  How do we enjoy the holiday season yet still be true to our current feelings?  How do we go to special gatherings with the man that has betrayed us and pretend like everything is fine?  How do the holidays not sting and hurt more than any other day?

This is hard.  Really hard.  For the longest, I used Jason’s birthday as a gauge for the condition of my heart towards him.  It was for many many years (probably around 7 to be exact), that I’d go select a card for Jason and as I looked through them, never could find one that didn’t make me want to rip him (and it) to shreds.  All that to say, early on, Jason didn’t get a birthday card.  And at some point, as my heart started to thaw, I was able to find a simple card that would do.  It’s only been in the last four years or so that I’ve been able to select a card for him and felt wholly in agreement with what the card said.

If you find yourself feeling like you are having to wear a mask this holiday season, here’s what I’d like to tell you:

  • Listen sweets (this is a name I use with much adoration and affection), it’s not going to be this way forever.  I pinky-swear promise.
  • You’re in good company.  I’ve been there and so has every other woman that shares a similar story.
  • Depending on your life stage and the family and friends you are going to be with, it’s okay to give yourself permission to unplug from your present reality and allow yourself to enjoy the day (with or without your husband).
  • Even this (see preceding point) will take a lot of work.  You may have to do a “brain stop” every ten seconds. (A brain-stop is when you stop yourself as your mind starts to wander and conjure up the past.  You can say “STOP!” out loud, or to yourself.  Just know that your family may give you strange looks if you say this out loud.)
  • It’s also okay to open your hands wide and grieve hard.  Get it out.  Know that God meets you where you are.  He’s kept a record of your every tear (psalm 56:8).
  • Gently speak truth to yourself:  It’s because of Jesus that we don’t have to be perfect.  We don’t have to forgive perfectly, grieve perfectly, or go through this process perfectly.  Jesus bridges the gap for us.

Wishing each of you a very merry Christmas.  I’m so thankful for YOU.  And I’m so looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

Love – Shelley

I guess I should say, wishing you a happy summer!  And I AM so thankful for each and every one of you.  What about you – have you found it especially difficult to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or other holiday?  Does it give you peace to know it took me 7-8 years before my heart was aligned with the birthday cards I perused at the store?

On what we lose when we are married to a sex addict

You might think this blog post is all about the many things we lose when we are married to a sex addict.  There are so many, it would take me all day to list them:  our self-respect, our voice, our security, our safety, our significance, our trust for others, our trust for God, our health, our power, our dignity, our faith in the human race, our family, our house, our comfort…  The list goes on and on.  (Feel free to leave a comment and add what you’ve lost.)  Rather, what I want to do is focus on one of these things:  Our intuition.

I know for myself, I started to slowly close the door on that inner voice early on in my relationship with Jason.  Well before I married him.  I had no idea that I was even doing it.

Maybe it’s because I admired him.  Maybe it was because he covered the biggest of gaping holes in my heart and soul.  You know, the hole that said “Shelley is unchosen”.

Yes, it was Jason that finally chose me.  And it seems because of that, I allowed a lot to slide.  Including those feelings deep within that were telling me something wasn’t quite right.

And at some point, I shut the door, locked it, and threw away the key.

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When I started to pick up the pieces of the betrayal…  When I started to see that I wasn’t going crazy…  I realized I had completely lost my compass, my internal notion that helped me know which way was north.

And it seems that twelve years into this recovery, I am still working on opening the door wide.  Trusting my intuition.  Trusting my instincts.  And being obedient to what God might ask me to say or do.

I read recently that there is a connection between our enteric nervous system (the part of our nervous system that controls our GI tract) and the emotional center of our brain.  Here is what I read:  “Evolution has placed part of our emotion-generating circuits in the gut, an area where you have major mechanical influences such as contractions and a direct interface with the environment.”

Wow, isn’t that amazing?  And it totally makes sense.  So how, after all we have been through, do we learn to trust our gut?  To trust our intuition?  The Holy Spirit.

For myself, the first step to taking back my intuition was demanding to know the truth about my life.  I kept thinking there must be something I was missing.  And there was!  The more I swept the evidence under the rug, the crazier it made me feel.  It wasn’t until I knew the truth.  That my husband was committing adultery.  Which led me to recognize that I wasn’t going crazy, that I was able to find the key and unlock the door.

Even still, it would be months or years before I was able to trust my intuition.

Other ways I have worked to learn to trust myself again:

1)  Sharing with trusted friends about what I am thinking and processing.  Yep, it’s living in community.  Usually, my friends have words for me that I might feel but can’t say.  They help clarify, validate, and dissect my feelings.  I typically walk away with more clarity.

2)  Being more aware of my feelings.  I’ve spent many a years staying very busy.  My busyness became a buffer for me in that it prevented me from dealing with the feelings within.  Over the last three years, I’ve started to let go of the busyness and be more intentional with my time and commitments.  It’s been through this intentionality that I’ve begun to take the time to feel how I feel.

3)  Learning to take Risks.  When we start to trust our instincts again.  And trust the true voice in our heart and soul, we might find that we are faced with taking risks.  It’s through risking that we learn to trust ourselves and trust God even more.  In fact, Jennie Allen, in her book Anything, says that “the only exercise that works works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God, is risk.”

What about you – what has it looked like to reclaim your intuition?  That inner voice that God has given each of us through His Holy Spirit?  And what else might you add to the list?  What have you lost being married to a sex addict?  I’d love to hear from you.

xo-Shelley

On Working Toward Self Awareness

On Working Toward Self-Awareness

I don’t know exactly how it happened. I’m sure it wasn’t just the car ride I remember so well that influenced me in such a way. It is a memory that stands out from the rest. We were driving to church and my older brother wouldn’t be quiet. And I remember my mom saying, “Clay, can you please be quiet? Look at your sister. See how quiet she can be? Be like her.” And I thought, “That’s it. That’s my role. I will be quiet.”

Continue reading at Hello, Darling…

Practical Tips For Setting Boundaries – Part Two

Last time, we started a discussion about setting boundaries.  The first piece of the puzzle when setting boundaries is that we need to be able to use our voice and identify our feelings.  If we can’t do that – then setting boundaries will be, well, difficult.

Once we hone in on what we need to feel safe, which involves knowing how we feel, we can then start to identify the boundaries we need to put into place.  Setting boundaries can help in two different areas:  1)  to help alleviate or reduce triggers and 2)  to protect ourselves from our husband’s continued acting out.  Boundaries should never be used to punish or hurt our husbands.  The damage is done and even hurting our husbands won’t take the pain away.

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Let’s start with triggers.  A trigger can be defined as any situation, thought or feeling that causes us to feel fear and decreased safety within our marriage.  Early on in our process, our counselor encouraged us to implement the “Five-Minute Rule”.  If I called Jason, he had five minutes to return my call (if he didn’t pick up) or else i would assume the worst.  This was a boundary that we put into place so that I wouldn’t be triggered when I couldn’t get a hold of Jason.  And guess what grows out of our boundaries when we communicate them clearly to our husbands and they oblige?  Trust!

(I use a five-step process for working through triggers in my groups.  If you are reading this and would like for me to send you the five-step process, let me know and I’d be happy to send it your way!)

Now let me give you an example of a boundary put into place for the purpose of protecting ourselves from our husband continuing to act out.  Just to be clear, a boundary won’t 100% of the time prevent our husband from acting out.  Rather, it is something put into place for our safety and protection.  Probably the most effective boundary I put into place early on with Jason was my request that we go to couples counseling at least once a week.  Part of the requirement was that 1)  I would ultimately decide if the counselor was the right fit for Jason and I and 2)  Jason would be in charge of setting up and keeping the appointments.  And once again, as Jason began to show me that he was responsible enough to schedule the appointments, make time for the appointments, and be present in the appointments – my trust started to grow!

If you are having trouble coming up with ideas for setting boundaries, I encourage you to check out Jason’s new book, Worthy of Her Trust.  Chapters 11, 12, 13 and 18 are filled with ideas on setting boundaries.  Check it out.

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Next, let’s discuss what to do, in practical terms, when our husbands choose not to comply with the boundaries we have set.  Is this the case for you?  If so, I’d love to hear from you.  xo-Shelley

Practical Tips for Setting Boundaries – Part One

One of the many hard pieces of this process is using our voice to set boundaries.  I believe for most of us wives, at the point of disclosure and/or discovery, we are in a place of feeling both voiceless and experiencing feeling-confusion (Feeling-Confusion is, {a word I just made up} at its simplest sense, not being able to pinpoint the feelings within.  You may also want to think of this as not having a lot of self-intimacy {fully knowing oneself}.)  One of the first steps in my road to healing was finding my voice and finding my feelings.  It’s only after we accomplish this that setting boundaries can even be a tool that helps us communicate our needs to our husband.

Before we dive into practical tips for setting these boundaries, let’s make sure we understand why most of us start this process feeling voiceless and experiencing feeling-confusion.  Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • For myself, I’m a recovering people-pleaser so I learned at a young age to make sure everyone around me was happy and in effect, my thoughts, opinions and needs went out the door.  I was voiceless.
  • When married to a man with sexual integrity issues or a sexual addiction, manipulation is at play.  As our husbands use manipulation to get what they want, oftentimes wives become more voiceless and confused with our feelings.
  • Piggy-backing off of the last point, I felt like maybe I was cRaZy while Jason was in the throes of his addiction.  The craziness can cause us to wonder if we even have the right to have feelings.
  • It doesn’t help that some of us have taken scriptures like Ephesians 5:22-24 to the extreme and we think we must submit to our husbands not matter their behavior.  I know for myself, in the early days of our marriage, there was a constant struggle at play between submitting to Jason and deep down feeling like there was something terribly wrong.  My confusion led to feeling-confusion and losing my voice.
  • When it comes to dealing with the pain of betrayal in our marriage, it can seem easier to deny our feelings in order to protect ourselves and our marriage/family.

If this voicelessness and feelings-confusion resonates with you, remember that insight is powerful.  Once we recognize and can put words to what is going on, we can then start to take steps towards healing.  To that end, here are two quick things that helped me early in my process.  My counselor repeated these two phrases over and over to me and thus I repeated them to myself over and over and over again (and guess what, I still do!):

  • “It’s not my fault.  There is nothing I could do to prevent Jason from yoking himself to a sexual addiction.”
  • “I get to feel however I feel.  There is no feeling that is wrong.  I will own my feelings.”

Now let’s turn back to setting boundaries.  As we start our healing process and as we begin to work through our triggers, we will need to set boundaries.  Think of boundaries as what we need to feel safe.  And let me emphasize once again, if we don’t have the self-intimacy to pin-point how we are feeling and what we need to feel safe, how in the heck will we be able to set a boundary?

I’m all about five minute posts (think of it as a little jolt to keep you going) so join me in a couple of days for part two to setting boundaries.  In the meantime, I’d love to know your take on voicelessness and feeling-confusion.  xoxo-Shelley

 

On Sharing With Family and Friends (Part-2)

I’d like to pick up where we left off last time.

Sharing with our family and our friends is definitely not something we should jump into or take lightly.  For Jason and I, we didn’t feel like we could hide what was going on from my parents, even though I think we both would have liked to.  It’s just the way it happened.  Or maybe it’s just the way God insisted on it happening!

As I think through this facet (choosing to share with famlly and friends) of my process, here are several tips and considerations to keep in mind:

1)  Remember the importance of support for yourself.  If you are the only person on the planet that is privy to the details of your husband’s sexual indiscretions, it’s a load you don’t have to bear alone.  Reach out.  Whether through a support group, a trusted friend, or a mentor.  Know this isn’t something to carry alone.

2)  Remember that this isn’t just your story.  It’s also your husband’s story.  If your husband asks for privacy, so be it.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t tell anyone, as support is a must.  It just means your support network may not be expansive.

3)  Remember that with anyone you choose to tell, you are surrendering control over their reaction.  It’s impossible to predict how they will react.  You are also surrendering control over who they might choose to tell.  Even with the best intentions, these things find a way of leaking out.

4)  Remember up front to ask for what you need.  If you are looking for a band of women to support you as you figure out next steps, say that.  If you are looking for people to pray for you, say that.  If you are asking that any negative or hurtful comments not be shared with you while you are still reeling, you can say that, too!

5)  Remember that when you share your pain in the here and now with others, you are giving them a gift.  They are given the opportunity to minister to you, serve you, love you.  Let them do this.  And someday, you can return the favor.

6)  Remember it’s not going to be perfect.  You may tell someone you wished you hadn’t.  You may wish you had told someone sooner.

7)  Remember that it’s okay to only share the basics with family.  Although I think that it’s important that you are completely transparent with some of your friends, I suggest keeping the information basic and high-level with family.  The less details with family, the better.

8)  Remember that when you keep your secrets quiet, because you want to protect your husband; this doesn’t promote healing for either of you.  By dragging the truth into the light, us wives can’t live in denial and our husbands, well, they can’t live in denial either.  There is always freedom waiting for us on the other side of sharing our secrets.

I’d love to hear from you.  What has your experience been when sharing with friends and family?  Has sharing helped?  Or has it hurt? 

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On Sharing With Family and Friends

This is a hard one.  How do we invite others into our process all the while protecting ourselves and not damaging our husband’s reputation?  It’s a question I’m often asked.  And unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple, nor is it a one-size-fits-all.

When Jason finally chose to confess his ugly truth to me over 11 years ago, we were driving from Dallas to Amarillo, TX.  We had arranged weeks prior to visit my parents over Memorial Day weekend.  And then my life started to crumble around me.

On our way to Amarillo, we notified my parents that we wouldn’t be staying with them that evening.  Instead, we met with the pastor that married us and he graciously put us up in a hotel.  We reconvened our time with our pastor the next day and he helped us decide what exactly to share with our parents, as I’m sure they were becoming concerned as to why we had stayed in a hotel the night prior and why we hadn’t shown up that next day.

The sun had started to set over the High-Plains of West Texas before we walked into my parents home.  We sat down and Jason started the conversation.  He kept it simple and straight-forward.  He told my parents (and my younger brother) that he had been unfaithful to me.  He told them that we were going to try to work through it.  And he told them how sorry he was.

Talk about one of the most difficult and awkward conversations of my entire life.  My mom was recovering from a rotator-cuff surgery and fidgeting in her sling, she walked over to Jason and told him it was okay.  I still remember her patting his shoulder as he sat crying in the chair.  My dad on the other hand turned stone cold.  He was not happy.  He told Jason that hurting his daughter was one of the worst offenses he (my dad) could think of.  It pains me to think of that night even to this day.

A couple of days later, we drove that seven hour car ride home with a plan.  We agreed that we would tell friends and our immediate family.  Jason called his parents at some point.  I wasn’t privy to their conversation.  We started to share our ugly truth with select friends.  We were clear with them that we were looking for people to support us as we tried to recover and heal.  Some of these conversations went well.  And some were met with questions and concerns.  It was incredibly painful for me.

Friends that chose to stand by us – we allowed them in.  They poured into us and we took from them.  Friends that weren’t able to handle our ugly truth – we distanced ourselves from.

And here are some of the things we learned:

1)  We learned that we weren’t alone in this new world (for me) of sexual betrayal.  Getting honest opens the floodgates for others to get honest.  We all have a story.

2)  We learned that our poor choices effected those we love.  They had to work through forgiving Jason and he had to work at rebuilding trust.  It was painful to see the devastating ripple effect of my husband’s poor choices.

3)  We learned that most of our friends were ready to love us in our pain.  I had a preconceived notion that they couldn’t handle the truth, but boy was I wrong.

4)  We learned that some of our friends couldn’t handle the truth.  It hurt.  But on this side of it all, I understand better how it may not have been as personal as I allowed it to be back then.  Because today I know that my truth can stir up past-pain in other peoples lives.  That doesn’t have to be all about me, that’s about them.

5)  We learned that we didn’t want our pain to be in vain.  As the hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks, I prayed:  “Please God, can I help just one person?  Then this won’t be for not.  Then my pain is somehow worth it.”

6)  I learned that the more I shared my pain, the more I was able to live in reality and not in denial.  And the more I shared my story, the more connections I was able to make about my past and the why’s behind my actions.

7)  I learned that I had major issues with being vulnerable in my relationships.  Sharing with family and friends was the beginning of me learning to be more transparent in every area of my life.

I’ll be back later with some tips and considerations for each of you as you consider sharing what you are dealing with to those you love.  For now, I’d like to know:  who have you chosen to share with?  And was it worth it?

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