Sharing my pain and looking for empathy – the challenge is real.

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

For those of you interested in a workshop to help work through the pain of betrayal – I would LOVE to see you at Restore in Orange County, CA next month!  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about the workshop – otherwise you can get most all the details here.


I’ve been reading some great books lately – I just finished Visioneering and before that Essentialism and loved them both.  Highly recommend as books that might help give you a fresh perspective on your vision and goals for 2018.

I’ve moved on to another one that’s been sitting in my queue for quite some time – Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud.  Apparently this is the book that was the inspiration for the oh-so-popular Boundaries books by Cloud and Townsend.

This morning, I came across this while I was reading:

Since we often do what we know is wrong, rules rarely keep us in line.  Love does a much better job of keeping us moral.  We think of how we might hurt the one we love, more often than we think of some code we must keep.  p.58 “Changes that Heal”

And it got me thinking…(I know, this could be dangerous).  Reminds me of a couple of things –

First – it immediately reminds me of what Paul says in Romans 7 – “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  (Romans 7:15)  This verse has always confused me but I think I’m starting to get it.  The default setting is broken and in our sin nature – we will always veer toward that which we don’t want to do versus that which we want to do.  It is SO much harder to do the right thing and SO much easier to do the wrong thing.

Second – it reminds me of our husbands.  Very rarely is a husband able to just stop looking at porn or just stop having affairs (or anything in between for that matter).  Even when they know it’s NOT the way they want to live – that’s not enough of an incentive to “stop just because it is wrong”. (And this is pretty depressing for us wives, to say the least.)

For starters, they have to get some tools to replace the poor choices with better choices.  There is also the rewiring of their brains.  And let’s not forget there is the insight and knowledge that must be discovered as to why they do the things they do in order to turn around and do things differently.

With that said – there is another key area that can help deter our husbands from making these choices.  And that’s where what I read above in Changes that Heal comes in.

Jason has always said that him seeing my pain and experiencing it first hand in the days, weeks, months and years (yes, I said years) after betrayal has been a key motivator to not go back to his old ways.

To be clear, I don’t believe that this is his only motivation or even his primary motivation.  Jason came to the end of himself and first, for God and second, for himself, he knew it wasn’t the way he wanted to live.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the one woman on the planet that he wanted to guard and protect in this world – that would be me people – he failed to do.  And with that said, I became the face of his poor choices.  I was, at least for a while, the constant reminder that he fell short.

And that, my dear friends, leads me to a couple of questions:

What does it look like to be fully known with your husband and express your pain?  Especially if he isn’t in a place where he can or will receive it?  It takes a LOT of vulnerability and transparency to share our pain and when we are feeling raw and vulnerable from the pain of betrayal – it often feels like too much of a risk to express it to the one that caused it.

Second question :

How do our husbands get to a place where they can receive our pain? (Rather than our pain spiraling him into shame.)   Because for most if not all husbands – they have no stinkin’ idea how to give empathy much less receive empathy!  But there is hope!  There is no age limit on learning to be empathetic and Jason as well as countless other men have learned to do this.  It’s one of those character changes that is integral for men that are working toward living a life of sexual integrity.

So this is what we are going to tackle in the next couple of blog posts – how do we express our pain and how do our husbands work toward receiving our pain.

In the meantime, what is this stirring up in you?  Would love for you to share your thoughts!  Let’s make this an amazing year.

xo – Shelley


17 thoughts on “Sharing my pain and looking for empathy – the challenge is real.

  1. Cathy

    January 11, 2018  |  01:20 pm

    I was asking myself that exact question this morning…how do I express my pain to the very one who has caused it without him spiraling into shame and me knowing he will probably not even understand. One thing I have had to do is remind him I am not the enemy, satan is.
    I am in counseling, btw. So I have a place to vent, but there are times (and this is when I get confused) I need to work through things wth my husband, but he takes it as an attack or just a reminder of what he has done to our marriage and somehow my feelings become the cause of pain for him in that moment.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  02:29 pm

      Cathy – you bring up exactly what I hear so many wives struggle through – working through the pain with their husband is exactly what they want and need – BUT for him, it feels like an attack (as you said) or a reminder of how terrible he was. And so many women remain silent in order to keep the peace but this doesn’t bring peace – it brings isolation and despair. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts AND for being oh so brave to go first! xo-Shelley

  2. Bonnie Dittes

    January 11, 2018  |  01:34 pm

    This topic jumped out at me. I too don’t want my pain to keep my husband in shame, a place where satan wants to keep him. But then again, I don’t believe in hiding my pain. Another place satan wants me to be. My husband also has been diagnosed as being Intamacy Anorexic. Lack of empathy added to this has left me in a hole many times. I may understand who he is, why he is the way he is but without my strength through God, I’m not sure where I’d be.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  02:30 pm

      Bonnie – I’m so grateful that you are finding your strength through God and in times of despair – you can lean on Him! You are exactly right – satan wants our husbands to stay in shame and us to stay in hiding the pain. It’s a lose – lose. Thank you for adding your voice to this important topic. -Shelley

  3. Elizabeth

    January 11, 2018  |  07:59 pm

    I am so tired of being good and trying not to shame him. I have allowed things to build up over and over until I get to a point where it boils over and I have to say something. Years ago I would blurt out things that were killing me and I hoped would hurt him. Then I grew into calmly sharing my deepest feelings, what was bothering me, hoping it would compel him to want to change. I am learning that I can’t help him. It is a journey for me to turn towards myself and my relationship with my maker. WHether it’s with my husband or not, I need to heal.

    We had a phone consult with Jason today and I find myself in a sort of reeling…..

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  02:32 pm

      Elizabeth – you are right – he must want to help himself and change because he knows that God has a better way for him to live. If our husbands primary motivation is us – it’s not going to work. Reeling from the phone call? Oh boy, let me know if you need something. Thanks for sharing here. xo – Shelley

  4. Noname

    January 12, 2018  |  09:04 am

    Last night after reading Shelley’s post, I was thinking about how to reply. This morning, when I read the replies from Cathy, Bonnie and Elizabeth, there it was! How DO we open up our hearts to the one who ripped it apart all the while “worrying” that it will send him into that dark place of shame?
    As Elizabeth said, I too am tired of being good, of hiding my pain so as not to shame my husband. It just seems easy/convenient for him to play the “shame card” 4yrs into this journey instead of doing the hard work to learn the art of empathy.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  02:41 pm

      I hear you. Thank you for sharing your gut-level honesty with us here. I so appreciate it and know you are NOT alone in how you feel. xo – Shelley

  5. Sherry

    January 16, 2018  |  06:54 am

    My husband has had to come to complete ruins to finally decide he wants to do what ever it takes to change this. Unfortunately it’s happened twice once 20 years ago when he went through a drug rehab and now 20 years later with this

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  02:33 pm

      Sherry – I think the hard part with him coming to complete ruins is he’s probably taken you down with him – is that the case? This is so hard. I am grateful he is hitting rock bottom – I’m just so sorry it comes at a cost. Thanks for sharing. xo – Shelley

  6. caroline

    January 16, 2018  |  08:27 am

    This is such an important topic because without empathy there will never be safety and trust in the marriage. Even if there is sobriety, there wont be intimacy.

    An active sex addict couldn’t afford to have much empathy because he needed to use people in order to have his next high, his next mood altering event. Having empathy would have ruined his ability to see others as objects available for his use.

    Now that he is trying to live sober inside and out, and really see all people as souls and not mere objects, developing empathy will be the key in making that switch in the mind.

    But it will be painful.

    If my husband is to have true empathy for me, (not a look of empathy or an empathy pose) he’s going to have to feel my pain. Stay with me, hear my words, and feel my feelings. And this will be hard. Addiction is by its very nature an attempt to AVOID all pain and sorrow, so pursuing empathy is going to be the exact opposite of what he’s always done.

    When I need to share pain now I warn him ahead of time. This really seems to help. I warn him with a lot of humor and I assure him that feeling pain does not mean that I don’t love him and it does not even mean I want to quit. It just means I am hurting, and I want him to move into the pain. I don’t share unless he agrees to TRY move into the discomfort rather than flee.

    I also will sometimes stop in the middle and I’ll ask him what he heard so far and he’ll repeat back his version. With practice he is getting pretty good at hearing me, but he might still get it wrong because he heard a hidden accusation right from the start and that’s all he heard. I’ll say, No I really said this, and he’ll try again to hear me. We don’t move on till he actually heard what I said.

    In doing it this way, I realize I have wasted a lot of words on him because all he ever heard was LOSER LOSER LOSER… He was not interested in what I was saying for my sake, only for his own. He still wanted to be worshiped and adored, not through porn, but by me. He couldn’t bear my pain because it meant he wasn’t perfect. That’s still pride, the twin sister of shame.

    That’s not empathy.

    I might also stop to ask what he’s thinking about what I’m sharing. He will sometimes say I’m thinking I wish I was dead. And I’ll say now you’re making it about you again. How would you being dead help me or the children, or anybody? That’s very selfish of you. You just want me to feel sorry for you and have sex with you and I wont. I want you to feel sorry for ME and rub my feet…

    We actually take turns being the speaker and listener, and I have found I’m not that great of a listener myself.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  02:40 pm

      Caroline – this is your best response yet! I hope that everyone reads your comment here – it is packed with TRUTH. Thank you sister for bringin’ it here today. You’re amazing!!! xo – Shelley

  7. Trisha

    January 16, 2018  |  09:13 am

    I can’t get past how my husband doesn’t fully grasp the depth of the pain he has caused me. So I keep bringing it up over and over and telling him its not me that he wants but the other women…..he chose them over me for 3yrs in a virtual affair ( his was not physical but fantazing, acting put and think of them while we are being intimate). I can’t believe he wants me or is attracted to me at all! Everyday I feel like they have to be more beautiful to him than me.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  02:37 pm

      Trisha – I am so sorry for your pain. I want you to hold this loosely – even thought it might not make sense right now – your husband pursued these other women because of the low risk of rejection. He was looking for intimacy but in an illegitimate way – it wasn’t about their beauty. It was about him not getting hurt. It doesn’t take away the pain – I realize that – but I hope you do see that this had NOTHING to do with your beauty, your body, your quirks, your personality – nothing. Thanks for sharing yourself here. xo – Shelley

  8. muchalone

    January 16, 2018  |  02:58 pm

    There is no sharing of pain…it is NOT okay here.

    My husband is totally into escaping…into whatever fantasy he can conjure up the easiest to avoid anything that might hint at being unpleasant. No one is allowed to express anger or disagreement in his presence…he just can’t comprehend that he could survive that…

    So I don’t…it doesn’t matter…he can’t hear it…and his fantasy land is his answer to anything boring or uncomfortable…so that is where he remains. He has a counselor, but I don’t see much change…

    I was blessed by a few minutes to chat with a Godly friend about the tiring effects of being…um…’oddly alone’ with him…it was good to be able to just say that I was struggling…wish I could have that honesty with my husband…

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 16, 2018  |  03:31 pm

      Thank you for sharing your heart here. This has to be so tiring and so frustrating for you – the one person on the planet we are to be closest to – and he won’t let you in. I am so sorry. Know that you aren’t alone here. xo – Shelley

  9. Breathing

    January 22, 2018  |  03:18 pm

    Sadly, when your pain is not enough, and they repeat the offense, some days I can hardly breathe. Now after learning of more affairs, porn, strip joints, casual “bar sex”, he wants me to help fix it again?

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