Giving all our Emotions a Seat at the Table (not just the pretty ones)

I was walking home from school this morning and I was thinking about a relationship that I think has permanently ended.  It made me feel super sad.  I don’t remember exactly what I said to myself – but essentially I shut down giving myself space to feel sadness, disappointment and frustration.

My default setting is to try to talk myself out of my emotions, at least the negative ones and if I’m honest, sometimes the positive ones as well.  Not sure if this is programming from childhood or part of my DNA (I’m a one on the Enneagram and sitting right next to the nine – I have to admit that I thrive when there is harmony) or maybe it’s something else.  But it’s there and active and alive and something I have to continually be aware of.

When the negative emotions start to surface – I hear – “you shouldn’t feel this way” or “be grateful for what you do have” or “you really just need to move on”.

As I rounded the bend and headed down my street – I realized that I needed to give the sadness, the frustration, the disappointment a seat at my tableEach one of these emotions deserves space to breathe, space to have a voice, space to be heard and seen.

I’ve been using this metaphor recently and when I am feeling overwhelmed, I will literally walk out to my dining table and sit at the head of the table. (I know, I’m weird.)  I will then look at the empty chairs around the table and acknowledge that there are emotions and feelings that I am experiencing that all deserve a space.

Sadness – you sit here.  Frustration – come on over.  Disappointment – I see you – sit there.

At this point – it’s less about solving the overwhelm and more about acknowledging the overwhelm and experiencing it in order to work through it.

And this is the harder work – to acknowledge the emotions and feelings and sit with them versus to shush them and push them away  Pushing them away leads to isolation, loneliness, despair, stress.  Acknowledging them leads to connection, clarity, authenticity.

Depending on where you are at in this journey of betrayal – your table might be a 6-seater.  Or – if you are like me in the early days – I was looking at a banquet sized table – many many emotions and thus many many chairs.

Own your table and make space for those emotions!

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So I gave the emotions this morning a seat at the table.  I saw my disappointment.  And then I explored it.  I heard my frustration.  And then I looked at what about the situation was causing me to feel frustrated.  I felt my sadness.  And acknowledged the reasons within that were causing the sadness to bubble up.

Fast forward to this afternoon – nothing has changed in the relationship.  Nothing has been solved.  But I feel more whole versus segmented.  Seeing and hearing the emotions has allowed me to be more deeply connected to myself.  I feel authentic and can breathe.

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I’d love for you to try this exercise next time you sense that there are some heavy emotions bubbling up.  Give them ALL a seat at your table.  See them, hear them, give them space to breathe.

Then explore the emotions.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

What is causing this emotion to rise up?

What about this emotion scares me?

What would be the benefit of seeing and hearing the emotion and not doing anything else about it?

And for those of us that are ready to fix:  what does this emotion say about a next step I need to take in my journey?

While it’s true our emotions shouldn’t always be the predictor for the next decision we make – our emotions are there for a reason.  They are God-given, apart of our heart and soul.  As Proverbs 4:23 says –

Above all else, guard your heart.  For everything we do flows from it.

Let’s remember this as we go about our days.  Let’s honor and guard our hearts as we acknowledge what we are feeling, give the emotions a seat at the table and allow them to be seen and heard.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

 

Manna

Well Ladies – I am officially on a roll.  I have three littles in school and have a total of four hours to myself, five days a week.  Last week was the first week of this new schedule and I have to laugh – the day before my youngest started preschool – I was worried I would have too much free time.  I was slightly concerned that I might just roll around in bed all morning long and eat potato chips and watch “As the World Turns” or something similar.  Jason just laughed and shook his head when I told him my deepest worry for the Fall season.  How could he?!

Then – last week happened and it was a mixture of frenzy, glory and tears.  The words out of my mouth by the end of the week – “Four hours isn’t NEAR enough time!  No!!!”

I’d like to say that this is more of the perseverance that I spoke of in the last blog post – but I’d be kidding.  I am thankful for my small allotment of time.  It flies – but it’s filling my soul.

I’m listening to some different podcasts while I tidy the house (which how in the world could the 5 of us make such a mess in the morning that it takes me 90 minutes to pick up once everyone is up and running?! – does anyone else experience this?).  I’m starting to work on some projects that have been sitting on the shelf for far too long.  And I’m working hard to wake up before the boys for those 20 magical moments so I can read, journal, reflect, and pray.  Ladies – for real – this last part is so hard for me – but it is filling my soul.

Recently, I came across this devo that I had tucked into a rickety chest of drawers next to my desk until I finished this study which took me forev to do!  The devotional was given to me by a precious woman in one of my groups and in the introduction – the author, Nancy Guthrie talks about a horrific time in her life and her search for what could possibly get her through the next day, what could possibly fill her soul.  It was the author’s sister-in-law that answered – “manna”.

Just as the Israelites depended on God for food to get them through the day for 40 years – we as well depend on God to nourish our souls so that we as well can get through our days.  Especially when we think we might not make it.

And just as the Israelites couldn’t store up the food (except for the Sabbath) – nor can we.  As Nancy says – “every day, we need a fresh touch, a fresh word to nourish us and sustain us.  Yesterday’s manna, yesterday’s insights may inform us, but every day we need something new to keep us moving forward toward healing” (p.xvi, Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Hope).  LURVE that!

These fresh touches, fresh words – oftentimes they do come in the still and quiet of the morning while my feet hit the pavement or while I am sitting in my cramped office, that also serves as a catch-all, reading a study or journaling to God.  But other times these touches and words come from my community – family and friends that know me.  And then there are those sweet times when it’s God disguised as a stranger.

Yesterday – the manna for my day – the thing that kept me moving forward toward healing was in the midst of a conversation I had with a fellow group facilitator.  We were processing something that came up in her group and she asked – when we choose not to show up – is it because we can’t accept ourselves right where we are at?

Her question gave me pause.  I’ve thought of all the times when I choose hiding over showing up.  When I lurk into the shadows instead of bravely walking into the light and saying – here I am – pain, hurt, ugliness and all.

It also had me wondering – what comes first – accepting ourselves (in isolation) before sharing the ugly with others?  Or sharing the ugly with others (in community) and then learning to accept ourselves as we see those around us accept us first?

I believe it’s the latter that is the more likely way we experience healing.  And that is a hard pill to swallow.  I’m reminded of something I re-read recently – We get hurt in relationships.  And – we heal in relationships.

As you continue on your journey toward hope, healing and wholeness – what is the manna that is getting you through today?  It could be words of truth in a conversation (like my example above) or it could be encouragement or grace or love.  I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

xo – Shelley

 

 

Truth for your day

This week – I was acutely reminded of the pain of the first days and weeks following Jason’s disclosure of his secret past.  The gut-wrenching – deer in headlights – I think I’m going to vomit sort of pain that brings us all to our knees.

The good news is (because I’m always looking for the brighter side) is Jason is living with integrity and living a godly life with purpose.  He is all in.  I as well am all in and living a life trying to pursue God and His path for me and not my own (the struggle is real!).  Yes – the good news is Jason and I are together and intact and fighting strong.

While I know sharing particulars here isn’t wise – the last few days have brought back some of the priceless and ever-so-important realities that I had to mine for in the weeks and months following Jason’s confessions.

So if you are new on this journey or a seasoned veteran like myself – I think you will appreciate hearing what keeps bubbling up in my head as we wade through the waters –

There isn’t a one of us that can fully prevent bad things from happening.  As much as I’d like to believe I can be perfect – this week has reminded me once again that it’s impossible.  God is the only one in this life that is perfect.  We are not.  I heard this quote yesterday and appreciated it – “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence I can reach for, perfection is God’s business.”  -Michael J Fox

Boy, did I struggle early on in our journey with questions such as – how could I have prevented this?  How could I have prevented myself from marrying a sex addict?  How could I have somehow been a better wife, a better lover so that this wasn’t my story?

The truth is – bad things happen to good people and it wasn’t my fault – but it was so hard to get there.  Especially when I suffered consequences as if it were my fault.

Isolation breeds fear.  It’s critical to talk about it.  One of the hardest things we will ever do is to share our pain with someone else.  I can remember 15 years ago – how I held onto my story.  Wondering if I just didn’t tell anyone – maybe it wouldn’t be real.  However – holding it all inside for month after month sickened me.  There was so much fear that I carried around inside of me.  John 11:10 says “but if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

When we choose to drag what is dark into the light – no matter how scary it is – there is always freedom awaiting us.  It certainly doesn’t take away the consequences or the reality of the choices made by those we love (or made by ourselves for that matter) – but it does something powerfully healing when we share our truth with someone else that we consider safe.

My heart aches for all the women out there that haven’t shared their stories with a single soul.  That, my friends, is why I believe so much in these support groups.  Because it’s a place where you can share your story and work toward being real, true and authentic.

I’m reminded (and oftentimes forget) I’m no better than anyone else.  Then tragedy strikes and I’m back on my knees, realizing none of us are better-than.  It comes back to humility and there is nothing like the humbling work that Jesus does in our lives.  It’s painful.  It’s harsh.  And it’s also necessary.  Because living from a place of lowliness – continually choosing hands wide open, asking God to get us through the next minute, the next hour – there is such a sweet richness there that can quickly fade when life is throwing us Care Bears and rainbows.

What good will come from this?  I remember asking God – how will you redeem this?  How in the world could any good come from it?  I heart Genesis 50:20 when Joseph says to his brothers years after they betrayed him – “what you meant for harm, God meant for good.  The saving of many lives.”

Oh God – how much we all want that for our stories – for it NOT to be for harm but instead be for good.  And for not just one life to be saved because of our pain but for many lives to be saved.  Yes – that’s what we want!

Here’s to hoping that when you read this post – you are resting in God’s goodness – even if you feel like you are at the bottom of the food chain.  xo – Shelley

An encounter with a porta-potty and how it was a metaphor for the week I barely survived.

Do you ever have a week that you just want to end because it’s kicking your behind?

A week where you feel like you can’t, will not, no matter what you do – get ahead?

Forget about get ahead – a week where you just want to maintain?  But can’t even do that?!

That was me this past week.  Between intense discussions with Jason that wouldn’t end (aka a fight), not so nice texts and emails, painful conversations, and getting ready for family to come into town – let’s just say that I felt like I was getting beat up.

I have never been so happy for a week to end – and end with a bang it did.

Jason and I went for a run on Friday morning (bonus) and as we were nearing the end of our run, behind us came a truck with a porta-potty on a trailer.  There were a lot of small bumps in the road so the truck was hauling the porta-potty quite slowly.  Since we were going in the same direction and because we are such speedy runners (just kidding!), the port-a-potty, it seemed, stayed put right beside us for several minutes.

Unfortunately – this particular porta-potty was full of you know what.  This was obvious because it didn’t take long before the WORST stench filled the air.  It was so bad that I almost started gagging.

You would think that we would have just stopped, or even turned down a street and gone in a different direction.  But none of that we did.  We just kept right on running right beside it as we groaned, punched the air with our fists, and started laughing.

What a perfect metaphor for the week I’d had – a week that left me feeling like poop.

We finally started thinking straight and stopped running so that the truck could take that port-a-potty far, far away from us.  And shortly there after, it pulled out onto a busier street and that was the end of the porta-potty full of poop.

When I’m having a poopy week – one of the things that is of utmost importance is connecting with someone that I trust and being able to just say it like it is.  (To be clear – there are many things I need – a moscow mule, a good book, an all expense paid for vacation, a shopping spree, time alone with God….)  But back to connecting with someone – I need a safe place to vent and get it all out.  If ALL I do is vent and feel heard – that in and of itself works wonders.

What it comes back to is connection and leaning into being intimate with others.

I was reminded of this last night as I was talking to one of my groups – we were talking about how with men that struggle with sexual integrity issues – the issue is an intimacy issue – not a lack of sex issue.  For these men – they don’t know how to be fully known (intimate) with others because of the very real risk of rejection.  Oftentimes us wives find ourselves struggling to be fully known, too.

But wait – we were created to be fully known.  We are commanded by God to love him with all of our heart, mind, body and soul.  We are also commanded to love others as we love God (Luke 10:27).  That means we love others with our heart, mind, body and soul, too.

It’s innate for us to live from a place of fully known.  But in this world we live in – it’s always going to be a challenge.  Take media for instance – we feel a little bit connected as we watch our favorite show – but it’s not intimate or real.  Then there’s social media (don’t even get me started!) – we might think we really know the gal we follow on Instagram – but in all seriousness – how well do you fully know her from a photo of what she ate for dinner last night?

All that to say – we are not set up in this life to be fully known and true and real – quite the opposite in fact.  But when we are having a poopy week (Ralenda – I want you to know I am really trying to behave with my words!) – the antidote is intimacy.  It’s being fully known and fully knowing.  It’s understanding that there is a very real risk of rejection – but showing up anyways and taking off the mask and saying – this is what’s really going on.  This is who I really am.  And this is what I’m struggling with.

So that’s what I did.  I talked to a friend poolside and told her all about my difficult week.  I then called two different friends this week and vented to them.  And let me just tell you – while it was hard to lean in (it always is) and risk with what I was really feeling – as always – it helped.  Sure, there are no guarantees but I know that I know that this is the answer – to be real and true with myself, with others and also with God.

What would it look like for you to lean in as this week comes to a close?  What could you do today to work toward being fully known with someone else that you deem safe?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

xo – Shelley

Shaking out the blanket

Hi Ladies!

I’ve been yearning to sit here and write to each of you – and it’s been a bit cRaZy over here so I haven’t been able to.  This morning, I’m putting everything to the side,  I’m sitting in my comfy pants and I have my favorite chartreuse blanket wrapped around my legs.

So here we go.

What’s been keeping me so busy,  you ask?  Well, several things –

I’ve been prepping like crazy for two events coming up.  If you live in the Seattle area, I’d love for you to come to this one day event.  And if you find yourself sinking and in need of a weekend-long intensive, I’d so love for you to come here.  This is six months of healing wrapped up into one weekend and let me just say – you are worth it!

As if prepping for these events wasn’t enough, Jason had a bit of an emergency a week ago that landed him in the ER.  Ten hours later and one surgery later, I brought him home.  My parents were absolute life savers as they immediately drove seven hours to come help and took the littles back to Texas with them the next day.

So it was just me and Jason in this home of ours.  And it was incredibly quiet.  I loved it.

I realized like never before how much I love this man.  How thankful I am that I chose to stay.  How thankful I am that he did the hardest work that any guy could do to save our marriage.  Thankful.

We had some sweet conversations this past week – and realized some things that need to change.  I guess that’s what a surgery will do to a family.  Allow us to see things in a different light.  To recognize the importance of family and friendships and love and connection like never before.

Why do we keep landing here?  Asking ourselves – what are we really doing?  Why are we limping along like this?  Should it really be this difficult?  This stressful?

The answer – maybe, maybe not.  Certainly raising little boys makes life a bit more intense.  Trying to keep our marriage a priority makes things, well, messy.  At the same time, we are asking ourselves, where can we simplify?  What can we say “no” to?

(And before you start to think that I do it all, please know that I don’t.  And if I’m brutally honest, the truth is – these speaking events I’ve been prepping for?  Well, I’ve sacrificed other really good things like time with Jason, time with my littles, time with friends to make them work.  And I don’t know that that’s even right.  Sigh.)

Reminiscent of the breakdown I had almost three years ago – where we had to completely shake out the blanket and re-prioritize almost everything.

Anyone feel like they are here?  Like they are just barely making it through their day?  So much on their calendar and on their to-do list that life really is all about that and not about celebrating, loving, connecting and enjoying?  Well, if you are feeling me here – know you aren’t alone.

I was talking to a friend yesterday and she was saying that by the end of the week, they are ripping off pieces of a paper towel to use as toilet paper in their house because they’re all out of the TP.  She asked – what are we doing??  All I could do was nod and say, I get it.  Completely.

So maybe, like me, it’s time for an overhaul.  It’s time to set all commitments and priorities out on the table and look at them one by one and decide – does this stay?  Or does this go?  Shaking out the blanket.

This is always scary for me, is it for you?  I’m sitting here as I type and asking myself – why is this so scary?  Why not exciting?

There is relief, that’s for sure.  Anytime I get to the end of myself and realize, there must be a better way – there is relief.  But I don’t like change.  I don’t like facing the reality that I can’t do it all.  It taps into my incompetence like none other.  So maybe that’s why.

I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9 when Jesus says – “My grace is sufficient for you.  For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Okay, God.  Maybe this is an alright place to be.  To know I can’t do it all, to know I have limits.  To know that when I am weak – that is when You are strong.

Would love to hear from you – are you feeling like you’re barely making it through the day?  And if so, what could you say “no” to?  Likewise, if you are reading this and thinking – I was there but I’ve made some changes, thank goodness I’m not there anymore – then please tell us, what did you do different?

love you gals – Shelley

ps.  I promise, I will come back to worthiness soon.  I hope you are still keeping track of the lies in your head like I am.  My list is growing.  Holy cow, can’t believe how I shame myself.  xoxo

On what precludes us from connecting and creating space for connection to occur

So in all seriousness, I just recovered from Christmas two nights ago.  I’m so not kidding.

I had junk piles everywhere, thank you notes to write, returns to make and decor to put away (and mind you, I am a minimalist when it comes to Christmas decor, I can’t imagine if I decked the walls like my momma does!).

A couple of my girlfriends have been talking about their summer camp plans for their littles this week and I’m thinking, “Can I just get through January first?!” (Does anyone else feel me here?!)

Which leads me to my thoughts for you today:  how to stay connected with your husband amidst this busy life we all lead. (‘Cause I don’t care what stage of life you are in, honey, you are busy. Snap, snap, snap.)

So let’s have a chat.  Get comfy now and come close (and no, I’m not the wolf that tried to eat little red riding hood!)  Let’s first talk about why it’s so darn difficult to stay connected:

For starters, remember that the default setting is broken(I love saying this, by the way!)  Although connection can feel so good when it’s done right – it always comes at a cost because connecting = vulnerability and anytime there is vulnerability, there is a risk of rejection.  So for all of us, isolation might always have a stronger pull.  That’s our default setting.

Second, there are so many things vying for our attention.  Whatever your favorite media outlet – it doesn’t matter – we are constantly being bombarded with information and entertainment.  And if it’s not media – it’s something else that’s constantly requiring your attention (i.e. littles).  If you had to sit down and write out your top 5 greatest distractions from connecting with your husband, what would they be?  And how easy is it to come up with 5 things?  So easy!

And last, it’s {hard} work.  Simple?  Maybe.  But easy?  Not at all.  Don’t confuse simple with easy. No ma’am.  Case in point, Jason and I will try to have a meaningful conversation while our kids are around and it’s pretty ridiculous and maddening.  It literally takes us 3 hours to get half way through a conversation.  One of us normally concedes with “We’ll talk when we’re 50!”

As in – I. give. up.

Alright, now that we’ve established the fact that connected with our husbands is going to be a challenge, I’d like to share with you how Jason and I have created space for connection to occur.

This is an ever evolving practice at our home and we feel like we are almost constantly fighting for it.  It never comes easy.

So here they are – the three times that work best for us to connect:

After dinner – our bellies are full and our children are usually happy.  Once the boys have cleared off the table we encourage them to go play in the playroom (or outside if it’s summer).  Jason and I usually have a good 10 minutes to connect – uninterrupted.  This usually makes a huge impact on how the rest of the evening transpires.

After the littles have gone to bedI’d say this is probably our favorite time of the day to connect.  Sometimes we have a little work to do so we’ll set a time to meet on the couch.  Even if it’s just for 30 minutes (although oftentimes we need more like 90) to meet eye to eye and connect.  It’s amazing what we’re able to unearth while our boys are asleep!

Once our heads hit the pillow – this is a time of connection that we definitely have to fight for.  We have very different bedtime routines – with my routine being a {bit} more extensive.  I like to shower before bed and read a little before we chat.  Jason on the other hand is a no-nonsense, let’s get in bed asap, turn off the light, and before I can say “let’s talk”, he’s out.  We’re still working through how to make this one work – and it takes sacrifice on both of our parts.  For me, a little less reading (or none at all) and for Jason, well, he actually sometimes lets me wake him up when I get in bed so we can chat.  Now that is commitment right there!

Remember – connection is critical in order to not only survive but thrive in your marriage after betrayal.  As simple as it might sound, it’s not easy.  In fact, it’s a fight.

Would love to hear from you ladies – when during the day do you connect?  What do you see as roadblocks prohibiting you from connecting?  Sometimes identifying the roadblocks is half the battle.

xo-Shelley

 

 

Surviving the next 72 hours

Hi girls!

Um, where did 2016 go?  Are you kidding me?!  Quickest year ever.

I want you to know how much I’ve been thinking about my readers this week and as much as I’ve wanted to connect with you via a blog post, it seems so many other things have been pulling me away.

What I’ve been dying to talk to you about is this – surviving the holidays.

For some of you, you might have just found out about your husband’s affair or porn use.  If this is you, chances are, you don’t even know which way is up right about now.  I get it.  Been there.

Or, you might be a couple of years in and feeling like the good times will never return.  I think this can be the hardest part of the journey – the newness of it all has worn off and you are TIRED.  I get it.  Been there.

Or you might be seeing, finally, the fruits of all you’ve been through.  Your pain turned into something good.  For this, you are so grateful and breathing such a sigh of relief to have made it to the other side.  I get it.  I’m there.

All that to say – no matter where you are on your journey, here is a quick survival guide to make it through the next 72 hours:

Remember what we talked about all last month – connection with God, self and others is key on this journey.  This, dear ones, is critical over the next 72 hours.  As a bonus, I learned recently that our brains are most receptive to information the first 30 minutes of the morning as well as the last 30 minutes before bedtime.  This would be a great time to connect with yourself via journaling and connect with God via reading scriptures.  As for connecting with others, well, chances are, most of us will do much of that over the next couple of days.  Just remember to intentionally connect with someone that you feel you can be yourself with – even if that means making a phone call to one of your go-to girls.

Remember to detach as necessary from your husband and from his (or your) cRaZy family.  With detachment comes a lot of watching and waiting and yet trying not to get tangled up in the emotions of it all.  A sweet woman, Tam, on one of my calls explained it this way – it’s sitting in the stands, with your popcorn, observing what’s going on below you.  Not on the offense and not on the defense, simply observing and taking it all in.  Another wife told our group one evening that detachment meant enjoying his company when she felt safe.  I love this concept and want to encourage you to give yourself permission to enjoy yourself if you feel safe and secure to do so.

And last, remember over the next couple of days that absolutely nothing is impossible with God.  This takes us to Luke chapter 1 when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would give birth to Jesus.  I can only imagine how terrified Mary must have been.  How much she might have doubted even for a split second.  Gabriel reassured her, telling her not to be afraid.  He then told her – “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Ladies, I LURVE this part of the Christmas Story.  How impossible could it be – to become impregnated as a virgin.

Likewise, how impossible could it be – to heal from the pain your husband has caused.

Remember, nothing will be impossible with God.

There is hope.  You will heal.

For now – connect with God, self and others (that you deem safe); detach if need be; and dwell on God’s truth – nothing is impossible.  Oh, and if at all possible, I encourage you to allow yourself to laugh and to enjoy some of the delicious food that comes your way.

xo-Shelley

 

 

Guest Writer Caroline Writes About the Importance of a Support Community

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.

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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.
“Yes.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?” I asked.
“No.  I just need to be in here wiff you.”

isolationcommunity

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.

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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.

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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.

When the pain just won’t go away

{Pssst – I’ve been talking about connection all month long.  Read the first two posts here and here if you haven’t already!}

Connecting with God, self and others is at the heart of this recovery process both for husbands and for wives.  And to be clear, we need all three.  God created us for connection not just with Him but also with ourselves and with others.

And yet, the reality is, sometimes even this connection won’t take away the pain we experience.

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Less than twenty-four hours ago, this is exactly where I was at.  I was feeling emotional pain and I knew I’d better buckle up because the work was about to begin.  I connected with Jason, I went on a run, I journaled.  These things no doubt helped but it didn’t take away the pain completely.

This morning, I woke up and although I felt lighter initially, it didn’t last.

So I knew I was in for the wait.

And in that wait, I knew I had choices to make.  I could ruin my entire day with the belly ache I’d be dealing with if I helped myself to heaps of my boys’ Halloween candy sitting in the pantry.  Another poor option: on-line cyber Monday shopping but I knew I’d deal with major regret if I chose to spend our hard earned money on things I don’t even need by shopping on-line.

Yes indeed, I have choices to make – and that in and of itself is a bit scary because my track record is certainly not pristine clean!

So I {for once} made a positive choice – I reached out to friends.  I then tried to connect with God by listening to two Flatirons podcasts that I missed recently.  I loved myself well by going on a run in the freezing wind and making myself warm soup and sourdough bread for lunch. (I’m giggling as I proof this – maybe I’ve been reading The Little Red Hen a bit much to my little lately but it might appear that I made soup and bread from scratch so just to be clear – canned soup and bread toasted in the toaster from the grocery store.)

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And yet, the pain is still here.

So I wait.

It reminds me of Psalm 40:1 where David says,

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

In this passage, the Hebrew word for wait is qavah.  Qavah also means “to hope”, “to strengthen” and “to expect”.

So this waiting that we do – we want to do it well.  We want to continue to connect with God, ourselves and others.  We want to love ourselves well and do our best to make good choices.

And in this wait – we choose to have an expectant hope.  A hope that at some point, God will lift us out of the slimy pit and set our feet on a rock.  In the wait, He will refine us and we will be stronger for it on the other side.

That is our hope.

Do you know what this means?  It means we put a teeny tiny bit of faith in God.  We lean into trusting Him.  And this, my friends, can be oh-so-difficult.

Waiting is hard work.  It’s life work.

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Come on girls, I know I’m so not alone in the wait I feel today.  Let’s do this together.  Let’s wait with hope.  Let’s expect God to lift us out of the slimy pit.  Let’s trust in Him.  Let’s believe that there is more strength in store for us on the other side.

xo-Shelley

 

 

Connecting with Yourself – A Simple Exercise for you to try

I met with my go-to girls on Thursday evening.  I didn’t take much time to prepare before our meeting.  That right there was a sign that something was awry.  As a part of my check-in, I mentioned that I wasn’t feeling connected to Jason.  And given he was out of town speaking at Every Man’s Battle, I didn’t feel much hope to connect with him anytime soon.  Sigh.

self-intimacy

It wasn’t until after we said good-bye that I started to realize something I’ve recognized before.  The reason I wasn’t feeling connected with Jason was in part due to the fact that I wasn’t connected to myself.  So I decided I needed to take some time over the weekend to do just that.  Connect with myself.  Because a lot of times, when I feel a disconnect with Jason – it’s because I’m not doing my part.  I’m not working on self-intimacy.  Could it be that in order to be fully known in our relationship with our husband, we must first be fully known (as best as we know how) with ourselves?  I’m thinking the answer, oftentimes, is “yes”.

So I did a little exercise that I’ve been doing lately.  It’s super simple (for the most part).  And it works.  So I thought I’d pass it along to you.

A Super Simple Exercise to Connect With Yourself

Step one:  The hardest part of this exercise is finding the time and the space to be quiet.  Oftentimes, this happens for me once my littles are asleep for the night.  So on Saturday evening, I sat down with my journal and a couple of homemade chocolate chip cookies and ice cold milk (not a required part of the exercise but definitely encouraged) and started the simple process.

Step two:  I started writing down any and all feelings that were surfacing.  After writing down each feeling, I journaled a bit about exactly why I was feeling this way.  I always underline the feeling as well so that it pops on the page and start a new paragraph with each new feeling.

I continue to write as many feelings as I can that come to mind (along with the why behind them).  I usually start with more negative feelings it seems, so I also try to tap into any positive feelings I might be feeling as well.

On Saturday evening, I came up with 11 different feelings that were hiding within.  Here are the 11 feelings:  sad, frustrated, bored, disconnected, disappointed, successful, thankful, hesitant, satisfied, relieved, uneasy… all in that order!

If you find you are having trouble identifying how you are feeling, I highly recommend you use the feelings wheel by Dr. Gloria Wilcox.  There is an explanation on how to use it here.

Step three:  After working through as many feelings as I can think of – I typically feel more clear headed.  I like to go back and just take a quick view at all the words again that I am feeling.  I allow myself to embrace all the feelings.  To acknowledge that they are there and acceptable feelings to feel.

And that’s it.  Super simple.

I encourage you to try this the next time you start to feel like you are disconnected from yourself or those close to you.  Remember, it isn’t a way to change how you feel but rather to embrace the feelings within.

xo-Shelley