A wife of a sex addict shares how ending the ‘cycle of shame’ brought healing, growth and recovery – for both of them.
I had only been married about a year and half when I first woke up in the middle of the night to find the other side of the bed empty. My husband was in the other room on our computer. When I confronted him he denied doing anything wrong.
It was a few months after that the he admitted to me that he had a problem. He was watching online porn. He was, in fact, addicted.
Together we shed tears and my heart was broken. He was able to share his addiction with some men from our church and they got together and prayed over him. He also sought 1:1 counseling.
He had a lot shame. And I had a lot of hurt and anger, and his struggle continued for years. It was a painful cycle of me catching him, him feeling shame, and me shedding tears. As so often happens in this scenario, we were feeding each other’s dragons. My tears only fed his shame which drove him deeper into his addiction, and heaped on more shame like hot coals on his head.
I truly believe that shame is one of the enemy’s favorite tools.
After about 8 years of this cycle I began a 12-step program for my co-dependency. As many women in my situation can relate, I thought it was my job in life to make everyone else happy. To fix and make everyone else’s life problem free.
It was a painful cycle of me catching him, him feeling shame, and me shedding tears. As so often happens in this scenario, we were feeding each other’s dragons. My tears only fed his shame which drove him deeper into his addiction, and heaped on more shame like hot coals on his head.
But even worse was my belief that I knew what was best for others. While going through the 12 steps, God clearly spoke to me and said “You don’t respect your husband.” My response was “well DUH.” But as only God can, He began to do a work in my heart. At that point, I truly was incapable of finding it in my heart to respect my husband. He was certainly a good father, and a good husband in many other ways, but it was true: I didn’t respect him.
Working the Steps
As I began to work the 12 steps I began to focus on taking my own inventory and making amends when and where necessary, God began to really work in my heart. A lot.
There was one turning point in our journey that I remember in particular. One morning I could tell that he had been up the night before. But instead of responding with the usual accusations and tears, I walked in to the bedroom and confronted him. I looked him in the eye and said “I know what you did last night, but I want you to know that I still love you, I respect you and I honor you as my husband.”
You would have thought that I had slapped him from the look on this face. The truth is, those words broke through the lies that the enemy had been feeding him – and even feeding me -making me believe that at some level it was my fault.
It was just a beginning, but a beginning none the less.
Things didn’t get better right away. In fact, it was another year and a half before he began attending a Prodigals Homecoming recovery group. But God was at work. Changes in his behavior were not immediate; I’ve learned in recovery there are no quick fixes. But the work that God did in my heart to help me love my husband better, as Christ calls us to, was huge. I truly had to do the work of working the steps, and let God do the rest. I had to find that line between my co-dependency that had taught me to say “Oh of course this is my fault, just back the truck up and dump it all here,” to saying “You do your work, and I’ll do mine.” My husband engaged with a Prodigals Homecoming group, and I began engaging with a Partners in Process group.
How To Trust Again?
I remember sitting in one of Prodigals Partners in Process groups one day and I asked the leader “How do you come to trust again”? She said “you don’t, all you can trust is the process, is your husband going to meetings, is he calling his sponsor and is he saying his prayers at night and first thing in the morning, that’s what you trust.”
The journey has been hard but in May my husband will have been part of Prodigals for 16 years and we’ve been married for 24. I’m so grateful for the program and the work its done in my husband’s life and in my own. Because sometimes even this journey prepares us for another one.
“How do you come to trust again”? She said “you don’t, all you can trust is the process, is your husband going to meetings, is he calling his sponsor and is he saying his prayers at night and first thing in the morning, that’s what you trust.”
A New Journey
Three and half years ago my 15-year-old son told me he no longer believed in God. Of course I was devastated as any mother of faith would be. But because I had been through the journey with my husband – one with no quick fixes, but literally years of prayers and tears, without knowing how it will end – I know I am in the journey for the long haul. God will give me His strength.
A year later that same son told me that he was gay. The last two years has been quite a journey. But I was able to look at my son and say “Son, while I never in a million years would wish upon you your being gay because it is a hard life you have ahead of you, I can honestly say I am so grateful for the journey that it has put me on to learn how to love better as Christ loves us and, more importantly, called us to love others.” He smiled and said “thanks mom.”
When I started this journey of my husband’s addiction I never knew the work that needed to be done in my heart. Work that would help not only me but my husband’s journey. But it further prepared me for what was to come with my son. Because I know God is powerful, He is mighty and together we are in it for the long haul.
The Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference is a ministry of Prodigals International. Our 2017 conference is a powerful and unique opportunity for encouragement and support for women impacted by sexual betrayal – whether from a partner’s pornography addiction or other infidelity. The one-day conference is, Saturday, April 29, at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, WA. Come together with a safe community of women who understand your pain and the journey toward healing.