Two years ago, I thought I was hearing things when our marriage counselor (who specialized in trauma related to sexual addictions) stated that I - the wife, the victim, the innocent standby - would ALSO need to come to counseling twice/month. I would need one-on-one intensive psychotherapy and help in the exact same fashion my porn-addicted husband was receiving.
I immediately resorted to anger and taking offense at this preposterous suggestion. How DARE this counselor presume that I needed help! I was the one who had been hurt over and over again by this man. I was the one who had suffered in silence these ten years of marriage. I was the primary caregiver as a full-time stay-at-home-mom who had done the baby-birthing and child-raising 24/7 since 2010. If ANYone needed help, it was this addict (also known as my husband) that kept screwing things up and making MY life more difficult.
"How DARE this counselor presume that I needed help!"
Just the mere suggestion that I needed help, too, made me want to storm out in a huff of denial and rage.
Thank GOD this counselor said what he did. Praise GOD he is a trained professional and knew to predict such a response from a traumatized wife. And thank the LORD this counselor knew exactly how to reach me in my lowest of lows that summer of 2017.
I had no idea how badly I needed to work on myself. I had no idea the wounds I had buried so deeply inside kept causing these huge bursts of rage and sadness and anger and frustration. The emotions that continued to well up and burst from my mouth in fits of rage and anger (mainly toward our 4 precious boys, which grieves me to the core of my soul even today) were inexcusable.
I desperately needed help.
I needed to find a better way to cope with the waves of big emotion that were far too great to navigate on my own. I thought I was supposed to stuff them all these years. I thought that was how I 'should' handle it in order to preserve my husband's feelings. I thought that was 'being a good, submissive wife' by shutting down my emotions and never expressing how I truly felt in order to spare him pain and shame.
"I had NO idea how to take care of myself or these big emotions I was feeling."
Instead, these emotions would bubble over in high-stress situations, which meant the brunt of most of these 'bursts' occurred when I was home alone with my four little boys. As you can probably imagine, being home almost constantly alone with four children under the age of 6 was enough to make me 'lose it' on a daily basis. I had NO idea how to take care of myself or these big emotions I was feeling. I had NO idea how to NOT take it out on my precious boys. And with little to no sleep, breastfeeding issues with our newest born son, AND trying to navigate homeschooling (with once/week community day with our co-op), I WAS EXHAUSTED. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually dried up. I had nothing to give... to my kids, to my husband, and certainly not to my God.
I was spent. The life had literally been sucked out of me. Motherhood alone can do that to a woman if she's not mindful of her self-care. But add in the ever-present trauma of repeated betrayals, not being able to trust your husband, and the constant insecurities that come with both those issues, and you've got an emotional basketcase on your hands.
As I reflect on that season of life - the loooong, long summer of 2017 - I am reminded of several precious angels God sent my way.
[Do y'all believe that? Do you believe He sometimes delivers us and answers our prayers by sending us people to bless our lives right when we need it most? Because looking back on that summer, there's not a doubt in my mind these souls were deliberately put in my path to help SAVE me.]
I was on the road to self-destruction, and I was navigating a curve going way too fast.
If not for their intervention - their SHOWING UP in my life - I do not know who or where I would be today.
First of all, there was the counselor who helped me see I needed to take the time and do the work to heal my broken heart. He waded into the deep waters of my past and present wounds. He met my numbness with understanding and healing words. He taught how to open up and trust another human being with the scary mess of emotions I had buried so deeply for so long. He helped me see the light again. No, really - the world had literally looked dark and gloomy and bleak for far too long. Working through all those deep, dark places of my memories and past helped me dig it out of my soul. It made room for the light again. I was able to see the world as I had before for all its beauty and vivid color and HOPE. I wasn't in the depths of despair anymore - I could envision a future of possibility again.
"I was able to see the world as I had before for all its beauty and color and HOPE."
Next let's talk about two dear friends who prayed for me and with me, let me blubber through all the emotions, and who never gave up just BEING THERE for me. Did they always know what to say? No. Did it really matter? NO. You know what did matter? The fact they cared and just showed up. They didn't NEED to know what to say. And when they didn't know, that's what they would pray! And I still felt all their love and support and encouragement every single day. Whether they knew it or not, they helped carry me through that hardest of trials and seasons. They helped to bear my burdens like no friends before them. And I've never felt such love and support in my life.
Sometimes, just sitting with your friend who's broken and hurting is the BEST thing you can do. So don't be afraid. Just be there. The Spirit will lead you with what to say and what to pray. Let Him be your Guide through ALL the hard stuff. Don't let the lie that 'you need to know what to say in order to really help your friend' hold you back from showing up and LOVING a person through their mess!
You don't even need to bring a pie - coffee will do just fine ;-)
If there's anything I've learned through this whole messy experience of being married to a man who used to struggle with a pornography addiction, it's that we NEED each other. We need each other in a face-to-face, hands lifted high to heaven together in prayer, let's show up and cry through it kind of way. A text is always good, a handwritten card better, but walking with someone through their hardest spots in person is a blessing and a gift you'll BOTH carry with you for the rest of your lives.
"...walking with someone through their hardest spots in person is a blessing and a gift you'll BOTH carry with you for the rest of your lives."
Show up for those around you who are broken and hurting. Don't shy away from the hard things - Holy Spirit will equip us with everything we need! AND, when it's your turn to walk through a hard season, let people show up for you and bless your life.
All my heart,