As we wrap up our November series on connection (I know, it’s December, just roll with me!) allow me to introduce you to Caroline. This lady knows how to keep it real and there is something SO refreshing about that. She shares a similar story to you and me and is working hard to move forward on her journey. If you missed the other blog posts on connection, you can read them here, here and here.
I was drifting off after getting the new baby back to sleep when a little face pressed in close, right up next to mine.
“Mom,” he whispered, “can I get in wiff you?” My hand felt in the dark for the space between my husband and the tiny bundle tucked in next to me. There was room enough. “Climb on up here with us.” He wiggled his little four year old self into the middle and curled up close to dad’s back.
“Did you have a bad dream?” I asked.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” I asked.
“No. I just need to be in here wiff you.”
I guess it never really goes away does it, this desire to crawl up between some really safe people when things go all scary? The dark night closes in, and morning seems so far away – you can sometimes forget there is such a thing as morning. A crisis comes into your life and all you can see is the dark.
There in the darkness, everything looks like a bear.
When crisis comes in the form of sexual betrayal, that bear is so close you can feels it’s breath and hear its long claws clicking. You long for someone big and safe to put their arms around you, say its just a heap of blankets and tell you morning is coming. Maybe a big safe someone who has wrestled a few bears in their time.
When my own betrayal crisis came, I had just recently found a wellspring of safe people. In His mercy, God had already brought me to a community of women in varying stages of healing. When my own darkness was circling in on me, they were there to say “Climb on up here with us” and “Morning is coming”. They did this by bravely sharing their own stories of betrayal, trauma, and healing.
Some of the stories were much like my own, some were very different. Some women were just finding out about their husband’s double life , and some were several years into the process. Some husbands had entered wholeheartedly into recovery, some were still heartlessly pursuing their addiction. Some marriages were being reconciled, some were at a standstill. Some women were separated, some were divorced.
The point was never that our marriages were all going to be saved and made beautiful. The point was just that we were there for each other. We understood each other. No need to describe what a trigger was, why the nights were so long, why photo albums were painful and holidays nearly impossible. In the company of other sufferers, we could let down the walls and be known. As our stories were shared, the healing magic of community began.
We know a support community is vitally important to the process of all addiction recovery. Whoever tries to make it alone there will have great difficulty maintaining their sobriety. But this element sometimes gets overlooked for those of us healing from betrayal and trauma from a husband’s sexual addiction. It’s just as essential! Isolation will drain the life and hope out of us, where community pours it back in.
Looking back at my own experience of finding safety in community, a few things stick out as being very important lessons for my journey.
#1. I learned I was not alone.
This was not just a misery-loves-company kind of companionship. It was an I’ve-been-there-too and here’s-how-I’m-handling-it kind. It was friendship and lay counseling and church all in one. As other women offered their stories to me, it forced me outside my own broken heart. I saw that many others were in pain too. They were moving forward, and so could I. It took my focus off just me, and saved me from drowning in self pity. In their presence, I found comfort.
#2. I learned I had something to give.
The longer I stayed and shared and listened, I saw that there was meaning in suffering. My pain did not have to be wasted. My story, my insights, my forward movement, all this could actually helps others. Reaching back and reaching out transformed the hard work I was doing. This wasn’t just for me and my family, but God was using my story to tell His story. In giving back, I found purpose.
#3. I learned I had options.
I saw other women who refused to be trapped by their circumstances. They were risking. Just like me, they were learning to set boundaries for the first time with their husbands. We were cautiously drawing lines, holding feet to the fire, taking to the stands to watch, and enacting other colorful metaphors. We were not in control of the final outcome, but at least we were living honestly before God. In the options, I found hope.
#4. I learned to accept only the truth.
As I read the details of other addict marriages, very familiar patterns began to emerge. So many things I had been asked to swallow were exposed as horrendous lies. Though I had been choking them down with difficulty for years, I still would not have known to question them except other brave women had already wrestled out the truth and shared it with the rest of us. It was in reading the detailed story of another woman that gave me the courage to demand the whole truth from my husband. In the truth, I found freedom.
This last one was probably the most profoundly life changing for me. Marriage with a sex addict can be both lonely and suffocating. Much like living in a small dark prison cell.
Everything is secret and hidden.
Something is very wrong, but you’re not allowed to know what it is. For a time the addict himself is the only source of information. He spins a tangled web of lies and the wife must exist within that false world. Even in recovery a man may continue to hold all the power if he alone knows the truth.
Joining a community of wives all on a similar journey loosened my husband’s hold on me. As I read story after story, I saw us. We were not the exception. I knew too much to be fooled anymore. “Oh Yeah?” I’d think as he lamely tried to explain something away. “This doesn’t sound true…it sounds very much like So & So, only his decline ended very differently”. After 20 years together I was no longer caught in his web.
Ask my husband today and he will tell you how very grateful he is for my support community of women. He has definitely benefited from my new found empowerment. He was trapped in a web of lies himself and he needed someone to come along and cut him down with one clean swipe. I was the only one who loved him enough to get that close, and without the support from other wives I would have had neither strength nor courage enough to take that risk.
Caroline lives in a little house in the big woods of Alaska where she stumbles forward with her husband. Bring your heart and your story and join Caroline at http://restoringgodsdaughters.ning.com/ a brand new online community of wives supporting each other as they recover from betrayal.