by Karla Summey
I am a fellow sojourner on this path of healing from sexual betrayal, and I am one of the Wives Care Group leaders. I am going to share one of the most helpful tools I found on the road to healing: A Therapeutic Separation. There were many gifts that our Therapeutic Separation gave both my husband and I, but I will highlight four from the perspective of the betrayed.
1. The gift of fully surrendering my husband to God.
Seven years after the life I thought I had was shattered in an instant by my husband’s confession of sex addiction, I was suddenly staring at blatant evidence of his current acting out (yet again), and I had the personal strength and conviction to tell him to leave our home. By that point in my own recovery journey, I knew how to ride the wave of crisis and to focus on the present moment. I just needed space to get clarity away from my husband’s desperate pleas.
By the next morning, I knew that God was asking me to draw a line in the sand for the sanctity of our marriage. My wise ISA sponsor affirmed my need to try something that we hadn’t tried before; “something different”, and I knew that that was a physical separation: the very thing I did not ever want.
I sent my husband an email saying that I was withdrawing the privileges of a relationship with me (other than to communicate, by email, the logistics of co-parenting our 5 children, ages 7-16), and that it would be at least 6 months before I would reassess this. I also informed him that I had taken the entire balance in our savings account and had moved it to a new savings account in my name only. He responded by telling me I was making the right decision, because things were worse than I knew. I had tried in so many ways to help him. I needed to let him face the consequences of his continued behavior, and to fully surrender him to God.
2. Physical space to prioritize caring for my own broken heart and body.
I didn’t know the term “betrayal trauma” in 2010, but I experienced all the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual symptoms. My body was frozen in terror, trying to reconcile the love of my life that I knew with the actions and thinking patterns that my husband confessed. I had a hard time sleeping next to him, and an even harder time crying around him. Somehow it always turned into me comforting him because I triggered his shame. I had 5 little kids who I needed to care for, so I sucked up all the pain, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. My grief was frozen.
I developed depression and eventually an autoimmune disease. As I kept working on my own recovery, I learned more about “putting my oxygen mask on first '' and the importance of self-care. Asking my husband to move out of our home allowed me to have our bedroom space as my very own. I could cry, and pray myself to sleep without worrying about him. I could put on music in the middle of the night when I was awakened with grief and not disturb anyone. I had a door I could lock during the day to seek quiet in the middle of a busy house full of kids if I was triggered or sad or needed a nap. I had physical space to prioritize my needs.
3. The opportunity to demonstrate to myself that I will be ok without my husband.
This gift relates to #1 and #2 above but from a slightly different angle. No one gets married wanting a divorce. My husband and I met our first year out of high school at a Bible school and every aspect of my life presumed we would grow old together.
And then suddenly my reality was that I had been out of the workforce over 15 years, my nursing license was no longer transferable to our current location, and I was finally accepting that my marriage might not survive this addiction. But I had such a strong sense that I would be OK.
I was no longer naïve or shocked by my husband's behavior. I had already survived things I could never have imagined. I had more tools and more support than on my original D-day, and I’d seen so many women I admired courageously endure divorce and they were thriving and healing, even without their marriages. I knew it would be hard, but that my ultimate relationship was with Jesus. I’m sure it also helped that my kids were older.
If my husband couldn’t or wouldn’t do everything needed to give our marriage a new start, I was going to be OK as a single mom. I knew that divorce would bring me grief, but grief was the reality no matter if my marriage survived or ended, and I was no longer afraid of the pain. I began the hard emotional and spiritual labor of becoming a fully functioning adult.
4. A written agreement outlining the goals and details of the separation.
Practically speaking, a therapeutic separation is a well thought out agreement. After a few months of no contact, my husband sent me a worksheet for creating a Therapeutic Separation Agreement and asked me to consider creating an intentional plan.
Eventually we met with a therapist to read our individual answers and agree to the plan needed to prevent me from filing for divorce, as well as what changes I needed to see in order to take down my no contact wall and take slow and steady steps towards a new relationship with my husband. His answers demonstrated that he knew he had a long way to go, that he was taking personal responsibility for the damage he had caused our relationship, and that he was prioritizing our kids' stability regardless of whether we were separated, together, or divorced. I used it as an opportunity to raise my bar higher, and follow the newer betrayal trauma model of healing that APSATS and other attachment-focused professionals use to help couples heal from betrayal.
I knew that I had already lost the marriage I wanted, and that there was no quick path out of pain. I knew I could take my time, and watch and wait from a safe distance to see if reconciliation was even possible.
If you are not safe in your marriage, if your body is tired and broken trying to navigate forgiveness and love with an addict who isn’t in recovery, if you are ready to raise your bar and stand for what you believe your marriage vows meant: I encourage you to explore the option of a Therapeutic Separation.
And for any struggling addicts reading this: if you are ready to focus on your own healing and stop trying to keep your marriage at all costs (by lying), I encourage you to “put your oxygen mask on first” and go get well. Trust God to take care of your wife.
*To learn more about what exactly a Therapeutic Separation is, I highly recommend this blog by Vicki Tidewell Palmer and the book Taking Space by Robert J. Bucchicchio
by Andrea Stunz
Volunteer Wives Care Leader
You might be wondering why I am praying for my husband who chose to betray our marriage covenant. Honestly, sometimes I wonder the same thing.
There are two reasons. One is that it is impossible for me to stay angry with someone I am earnestly praying for. And two, I long for peace. Max Lucado writes in his book, Anxious for Nothing, “The path to peace is paved with prayer.” In these days of utter turmoil, peace sounds very very good.
In Lysa TerKeurst’s book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, she breaks Psalm 51 down in a way that allows its meaning to settle in deep. If David, one who committed unthinkable, sinful acts, can sing a song asking God for change and restoration, perhaps my husband will ask the same and be granted the same measure of grace God gave David, the man after God’s own heart. And what a gift it is to have the opportunity to participate in and witness that hoped-for change and restoration.
I don’t want you to read that I think praying for my husband lets him off the hook for his behavior. All things can be forgiven but not all things are excusable. Something else I don’t want you to read is that I think I’m somehow better than my husband. I don’t come to this prayer from a place of arrogance. I haven’t done what he has done but I, too, have my broken places and am a sinner in need of grace. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23)
Here are five quick things I have come to understand about prayer in the realm of marriage betrayal:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-23 NIV)
After reading TerKeurst’s book, I committed to focus on praying Psalm 51 over my husband. If you are in a season of healing from betrayal, I would like to gently cyber hug you and tell you how I genuinely wish you weren’t. I wish I weren’t either. But, alas, here we are. So, let’s join together and pray Psalm 51 over our husbands. Let’s pray for their hearts to be softened toward repentance and renewal. Oh, what a hoped-for day when we see our husband’s spirits, souls, and bodies find their way to integrity and, if at all possible, our marriages restored – for the glory of God.
With a humble heart, pray with me.
Psalm 51 NIV
For the director of music. A Psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on (him), O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out (his) transgressions.
2 Wash away all (his) iniquity
and cleanse (him) from (his) sin.
3 For (he) know(s) (his) transgressions,
and (his) sin is always before (him).
4 Against you, you only, (has he) sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely (he) was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time (his) mother conceived (him).
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught (him) wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse (him) with hyssop, and (he) will be clean;
wash (him), and (he) will be whiter than snow.
8 Let (him) hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from (his) sins
and blot out all (his) iniquity.
10 Create in (him) a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within (him).
11 Do not cast (him) from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from (him).
12 Restore to (him) the joy of your salvation
and grant (him) a willing spirit, to sustain (him).
13 (That he) will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver (him) from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God (his) Savior,
and (may his) tongue sing of your righteousness.
15 Open (his) lips, Lord,
(may his) mouth declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or (he) would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 (May his) sacrifice, O God, (be) a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
May our tears of sorrow become songs of redemptive joy.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:5-6 NIV)
This article was originally published in January, 2019 on emptyplatefullheart.com. It was edited by the author for consensual publication by BeBroken Ministries.
by Kimberly Johnson
Counselor, Founder of Divine Identity
“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you . . . “
Zechariah 9:9 (NLT)
I have one client in particular who is doing the laborious work of looking at her brokenness and letting Jesus heal her. Let’s call her “Jen” (not her real name).
Not surprisingly, most weeks when we began our session she would say something like, “This healing stuff is hard work, and I knew it would be. But I just didn’t know how difficult!” Every time she said this I would attempt to encourage her by reminding her that the difficulty doesn’t indicate that she is doing something wrong, but quite the opposite. In her case, it indicated that she actually was doing the real work correctly.
In our most recent session there was somewhat of a shift in our conversation. It went something like this:
Me: Hello, Jen. How are you?
Jen: You know, I’m actually okay!
Me: Hmmm, I think I’m hearing that as a good “okay” and a positive thing. Is that correct?
Jen: Yes, it really is!
Me: Excellent! What is making the difference?
Jen: (With tears in her eyes) I am beginning to see Jesus as my Prince Charming. Coming to rescue me and whisk me away.
Me: Wow, Jen! That is such a beautiful picture you’re painting. What is Jesus whisking you from, and what is He whisking you to?
Jen: (Even more tears) He is taking me away from my false ideas of Who He is. He is taking me away from the false ideas of who I think I am, and how He views me. He is taking me to a place where I understand that I am unconditionally loved and accepted by Him.
Incredible! This was great news. I was so excited for and rejoicing with Jen. Jen is not unique in that what originally led her to me was a struggle with porn and/or masturbation. She was somewhat unique, however, in that the sexual acting out struggle she experienced was not current. She had stopped the acting out some time ago. But she was plagued by the shame of the acting out and low self-worth from the things in her past. Jen needed a rescuer, and she found One in Jesus.
What honest woman would say she hasn’t wished for a Prince Charming to come and rescue her? The good news is, we have One. He is sitting mounted on His horse waiting to swoop in and rescue you. Not because He thinks you are helpless or pitiful, but because He delights in you and longs to take you to the place He prepared for you -- a place of love, light, truth and freedom. It is a place where you are no longer confined by life dominating habits and the small thinking of the lies of the flesh and the enemy.
“He brought me forth also into a large place: He delivered me, because He delighted in me.” -Psalm 18:19 (KJV)
You see, for most of us the true thing we need rescuing from is not the sexual behavior that we have grown to loathe, though we often think that is the case. Certainly, we do strive to abolish this habit in practical ways (many of which can be found here or at CovenantEyes). The behavior, however, is only a symptom of something deeper we need to be rescued from.
Jesus didn’t come to simply help us stop our sexual acting out. Jesus came to rescue us from the lies and long held shame beliefs that caused us to act out in the first place and then are often solidified by our acting out.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
And on and on the list of shame lies could go…
I want to encourage you to be honest, and ask yourself what lies you have believed that you need rescuing from. For me, as I broke free from my own addiction I believed many of the above lies -- and even more! But as I began to dare to believe that Jesus not only came to rescue me from those lies, but longs to do so, I started to experience His freedom not only in my mind, but in my behaviors.
You see, as I realized I truly was valuable to Him the need for my coping mechanisms lessened as I learned that He was taking care of me and protecting me. As I had the audacity to cling to scripture and test Him as my Comforter I found I no longer needed to come up with my own false comforter of porn and masturbation.
What God did and is doing for Jen and for me He will also do for you. He doesn't show favoritism, after all!
Take that first step of trusting Him to be Who He said He will be for you.
Resources for Women
40 Days of Purity
Online Course for Women
This online course is for women who want to break free from pornography or any other unwanted sexual behaviors. Written and facilitated by Kimberly Johnson, counselor and founder of Divine Identity.
Learn more and enroll
by John Fort
Director of Training
It is a familiar story: a person struggles with sexual brokenness, they finally get help, their life changes and they experience real freedom, then months or years later they find themselves struggling once again. It can feel like nothing works. It can feel like we are too broken to be fixed. It can feel like maybe God doesn’t care enough to help in the long term.
None of these thoughts are true; they are misguided. The misunderstanding that occurs is when we come to believe that the successful outcome of seeking help for sexual brokenness is to stop emotional pain or a specific behavior. This is true for any form of sexual brokenness, including a betrayed spouse, sex addict, survivor of sexual abuse, or child struggling to resist temptation.
The goal of healing is not to stop negative feelings or even behaviors.
Journalist Johan Hari said in his Ted Talk, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is human connection.” Changing behavior is something we want, but not the goal. I believe the same is true when dealing with the emotional pain that comes from sexual brokenness.
There are multiple steps to healing from sexual brokenness. In the beginning, we do have to do some work in several areas before we can see much progress. Those areas include the following:
Any form of sexual brokenness will have accompanying trauma. In fact, some form of trauma is almost always what creates sexual brokenness in the first place. That trauma does not have to be sexual, but it affects our sexuality. We need help addressing our trauma as part of our healing.
It is also true that in the beginning of our healing we need help examining our behaviors to look for ways we react to things that are not in our best interest. This is true of all forms of sexual brokenness. Part of coming out of brokenness is learning to react in more healthy ways to our world around us and the people in it.
A later stage of healing includes examining our beliefs and testing them against the truth. We may come to believe that others are not safe and cannot be trusted. Or we view ourselves as unworthy, unwanted, and of no value. Some of us decide God himself is not really good.
Such beliefs are based in past experiences and are hard to let go of, even if we intellectually understand they are false. Yet, this is part of our healing process.
WE (THINK WE) ARE DONE
This is where some of us stop. This is the point that we typically begin to feel better. We start to feel free from compulsive behaviors, deep emotional wounds, or both. Life is no longer so dark. We feel hope in a way we may have never felt before.
This is when many of us believe we are healed. We assume our healing process is finished and we can let go and relax. Within a few months or maybe a year, however, our sexual behaviors or deep wounds usually come racing back and overwhelm us once again.
THE MISSING CONNECTION
It is true that we need to address trauma, behaviors, and beliefs. But none of those things are what true healing is about. Those are just the precursors to lasting healing. Addressing trauma, modifying behaviors, and reframing our beliefs make it possible for us to do what healing requires: connect at a much deeper level with God and others.
We were created in God’s image for connection. God is communal in nature, illustrated by the unified Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is not a superficial connection, but a deeply vulnerable and utterly transparent interdependence. God created us in the same way.
We were designed to need vulnerable, honest, and transparent connection to thrive. When we do not have this kind of connection with God and others, we become broken.
The mistake some of us make is to withdraw from regular, honest connections once we reach a satisfactory point in our healing. We fail to recognize that the reason we found any healing at all was because of the honest and transparent connections we had to make use of in our healing process. Our recovery was as much about those regular connections as it was about trauma, behavior, and beliefs.
At the writing of this blog I have been meeting weekly with other men to be honest about my feelings, behaviors, and beliefs for 25 years. These regular meetings, perhaps more than anything else, are what keep my healing in place.
I am not suggesting that healing is something so fragile that we must keep bolstering it up to prevent it from falling apart. I am saying that healing IS connection. To be healed is to be connected with others in regular, open conversation. To be healed is to do life together with others who are safe. To isolate is to move away from healing and back toward brokenness.
HEALTH & FITNESS
We know we should eat well to stay healthy. We know we need a certain amount of exercise not to fall into frailty. We know that having outlets for creativity keeps us in better mental shape. Our connection with others is no different.
Eating is required to survive physically but eating better food will also make us healthier. In the same way, having connection with others is required for basic mental health but the quality of those connections determines the extent of our wholeness. Shallow connections help us survive but do not help us thrive. Only deep, honest connections can keep moving us in the direction of wholeness instead of brokenness.
For those of us who have been sexually abused, we need safe people we talk with regularly so we can bring up past wounds any time they attempt to resurface.
For those who struggle with compulsive sexual behaviors, we need regular connection with others who know our story and will support us as we work through any triggers that come up.
For those who have been betrayed, we need regular connection with others who know our story who can be an ally when we are occasionally reminded of past traumas.
For children and adolescents who are still trying to make sense of their sexuality and temptation, they need adults to regularly talk through what they are feeling and remind them they are not alone.
Allies like this are not just for the time we are in active recovery or healing. Allies are supposed to be forever. Allies are supposed to talk often. Allies should be available at all times to support each other when needed.
We sometimes forget that God commanded all of us to do these things on a regular basis. This is something every follower of Jesus is supposed to be doing, all the time.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much.
—James 5;16 (NASB)
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
—Galatians 6:2 (NASB)
The opposite of sexual brokenness is not sobriety or the absence of emotional pain. The opposite of sexual brokenness is regular connection with God and a group of allies as we journey through our life on earth.
by Jonathan Daugherty
President and Founder of Be Broken
“Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.”
I'm not a biologist, but I struggle to think of anything in the animal kingdom that thrives (or even survives) alone. I believe humans especially suffer when left alone. More so than maybe any other creature on the planet we need each other. Yet, so often the wounds we carry from the difficulty and cruelty of life are carried alone. This is no way to thrive (or survive).
Having lived a life of addiction myself, I can predict a common question that might come from those drowning in the self-deception of compulsive thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to shake:
"What are the benefits of togetherness?"
In other words, what's in it for me? (By the way, this is the way an addicted person thinks about everything: me, me, me.)
Well, I have good news. There is a lot in it for those who are willing to step into the realm of community and engage in the process of doing life together with others.
The following are five benefits that I believe make doing life together way better than doing it alone.
Together we find comfort
Ecclesiastes 4:11 - ...if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Living alone is painful, and cold. And I'm not talking about not having a roommate, or a spouse, or living in a cave on the side of a mountain. I mean that living detached from others emotionally is painful. And many live like this, especially addicts.
But in recovery, an addicted person finds that they are wanted, embraced, even loved in spite of their brokenness. This brings great comfort to a lonely, broken heart. There is a warmth felt in relationships that can't be replicated in aloneness. God made us to soothe one another, to "keep one another warm," when the difficulties of life press in on us.
I remember when my recovery began. My wife had left because of my infidelity. I was alone. Lonely. I could no longer ignore or deny my sin and brokenness. So, I went to see a counselor.
Within just a few sessions with the counselor, he suggested that I plug into a support group. I was reluctant at first (to be honest, I was terrified!). But I eventually decided to go to the group. I’m glad I did.
My very first time at the group I experienced the comfort of other men who understood me and my broken life. They listened to my story. They didn’t reject or ridicule me. They embraced me; metaphorically and literally! I felt I had come home.
Together we experience comfort for the pain and struggles of life.
Together we protect each other
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
We are more vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we live alone. We need friends, family, and a community to help protect us against the harms that swirl about us in life.
Temptations do not have the same power over us when we have a brother or two to fight alongside us. But if we are alone and isolated, as the verse above states, we likely will not stand.
But we don't just need relationships so we can be protected, we also need them so we can protect others. It's just as important for our brothers that we are in the foxhole as it is for us that they are there. When you have someone specific to fight for, rather than just a concept or principle (i.e. purity), you become quite a bit more invested in the battle. You realize that there are actual lives on the line, and they need your presence to help them be victorious.
After I had been attending the group for awhile, I noticed something about this idea of protection in community. No one belittled another man’s story and no one ever shared another man’s story outside the group. This wasn’t even a verbalized “rule,” this was just how men in the group protected each other.
I believe this desire to protect other group members is rooted in respect for courage. It isn’t easy to confess secret sins. Telling others of the awful selfish behaviors you have engaged in takes a great deal of courage. But when that courage is displayed, respect is granted.
We all need a group of friends, of confidants, who “have our back” in the trenches of life. We need those who protect our dignity, and we need those whose dignity we can protect. The bond of such friendships becomes unbreakable.
Together we stand up and protect each other.
Together we learn
The longer a person is isolated or disconnected from relationships, the more prone they are to delusional thinking. We rarely come up with brilliant ideas alone. How do I know this? Try bouncing one of your "brilliant" ideas off someone else, or better yet several someone else's. You are likely to get some push back on your ideas, maybe even causing you to realize that they weren't even that good, let alone brilliant.
Proverbs 18:17 - The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
We need each other to help us learn and grow and be accountable. This requires humility, acknowledging that we aren't as smart as we think we are and that there is good that comes from sharing ideas. Surely, the Word of God contains the most important ideas, and we must be willing to wrestle with the truth that sets us free, even when it demands that we change our ways.
The best context for such learning is in community with others who also desire to heal and grow.
Within a few weeks of joining my support group, one of the men shared a truism from the AA community: “It’s your best thinking that got you here.” At first, I was shocked and a little bit offended. What a hard statement! But it was also a true statement.
I was confronted with the reality that my “wisdom” in addiction was actually foolishness. My reasoning, my false beliefs, my choices landed me squarely in the prison of compulsive behaviors that I could not control or resist. My best thinking got me here.
This is when I began to discover the treasure of wisdom that exists in a group of people pursuing freedom, truth, and grace. Group became a place for questions to be asked and wrestled with. It was safe to say “I don’t know” and to let go of “always being right” thinking.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. -Proverbs 13:20
Together we learn and grow in wisdom and humility.
Together we multiply good
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
One major point of fellowship and togetherness is to multiply good; to pass along the blessings we have received to those struggling. As we stumble through life, we do so together. We pick each other up when we fall, helping one another to move forward and not get stuck -- in addiction, depression, shame, etc.
Which is more encouraging:
When you fall, someone hands you a book to read.
When you fall, someone lifts you up by spending time with you.
(It's rhetorical; the answer is obvious!) Togetherness is how we multiply good. When someone has cared enough to lift you up through their time and presence, you feel compelled to demonstrate the same care and sincerity, not only toward them, but also toward others who fall.
After several months in my group I noticed a change in me when it came to sharing my story outside the group. I was more open and honest with friends or coworkers, even people in my church. As I was receiving help from the group and seeing changes manifest in my thoughts and behaviors, I felt more compelled and confident to share this with others -- even inviting other men to join me in the group!
About one year after beginning my recovery I started a group for men in my church. That was over 20 years ago and hundreds of men have come through that group on their own journey of recovery and growth.
Together we multiply good for generations to come.
Together we love
1 Corinthians 13:13 - So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Our chief aim in all of life is to love -- both God and others. At the core of our being we were made for relationship, to love one another with all our being. Love cannot be fully expressed or enjoyed alone. It makes no sense. Love must be shared.
The deepest need we have is to be known and loved. You cannot be known if isolated and disconnected from others. And if you cannot be known, you certainly can't be loved. To love someone is to know them; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We long to be loved, and we are made to love others.
For decades now my favorite day of the week is Tuesday. Why? Because this is the day that our weekly support group meets. I love this day because I love the men who show up. And when they experience love, they experience all that comes with it: hope, freedom, joy, peace, and so much more.
Together we love one another no matter what.
Don't live any more of your life alone. Reach out to others around you and start the journey of knowing and loving one another. The greatest joys in life only come in relationship.
We are better together!
by Marie Good
A letter to women who have experienced sexual betrayal by a spouse. Originally posted on October 23, 2017.
We have all been there. Each one of us have had a defining moment that has knocked us down. I once heard someone say… a miner is not looking for the dirt, but the gold. So how do you find the hope and healing among the devastation: your gold within the dirt.
In the classic book, The Scarlet Letter, Hester is forced to wear a Scarlet letter on the front of her garment as a constant reminder and label of her shame. I often wondered why she never ripped that horrible letter off, what forced her to continue living with that humiliation? Her shame became her bondage! She was stripped of her value and her worth…. Sound familiar?
Many of us have had wounds in our hearts that have held us in bondage just like Hester and her scarlet letter. Believing the lies that we have little worth or value will keep us from rising above the rubbles. I love this quote from Thema Davis,
“Make sure you do not start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you. Know your worth even if they don’t”.
Rising from the rubble will require us to receive the truth of who we truly are. Not where we have been, nor what we have done or has been done to us, but who did God see when He so gently formed each one us? Scripture says, in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
The world is filled with blame and shame, but God desires His daughters to realign our thinking with who He says we are: beloved, beautiful, chosen and absolutely enough! When we are able to accept that truth then we will be able to have the strength to rise and receive the love.
Our gold within the dirt is to be able to see ourselves through the eyes of a heavenly daddy who loves His little girls dearly, a God who has given our wounded and orphaned heart a new name, Forever loved!
by Dan Wobschall
Director of Gateway to Freedom
It’s been said, ‘‘You cannot give what you do not have.”
Here’s an example. If someone asks me for ten thousand dollars, I could write that person a check for the ten thousand bucks, but in time (not long) they will find out that it was a promise unable to be kept. The check looked legit, it has my signature on it and is from my bank, a bank with real money in it. However, my account couldn’t back up the offering of the money as promised by my signature. The funds are not in my account to give.
I could not give what I did not have.
And for me to expect that same person to trust me enough to write them another check that day or anytime soon would be just foolish. I wouldn’t deserve that trust or respect. Yet, for many addicts they expect to be trusted within just a few weeks or even months as they begin recovery. That is not a realistic expectation to have.
Ask yourself this honest question: “How quickly would I trust & respect that person if the shoe was on the other foot?”
I’m going to speak to you today from two perspectives: the porn abuser and the wounded spouse. Notice I didn’t say husband and wounded wife. The reality of porn being primarily, or only, a ‘man’s’ problem is no longer true.
More women than ever are finding themselves caught up in the use of pornography. And, it’s just as painful and damaging to her, her relationships, and her marriage.
These women are our wives, daughters, sisters, friends, and church family members. Today, I pray you ladies find the courage to speak up. Ask for help and trust that others will walk alongside you, love you, and not shame you.
Trust and Respect
As pornography damages and destroys trust and respect, the task of rebuilding trust is a must for the marriage to survive. Respect grows in the light of trust. If there is no healthy, daily exchange of trust and respect in your marriage, it will suffocate. All of this has a foundation of honesty. Painfully honest truth.
The rebuilding process is much like a human being put on a respirator when incredibly ill until the person is strong enough to support himself or herself.
For the betrayed spouse of the porn user, it’s very common for he or she to feel as though they cannot trust themselves. These thoughts and beliefs develop over time as they extend trust and respect and then it’s broken (over & over in many cases). They begin to question whether they can even trust themselves and lose self-respect.
This was very true for my wife in our recovery. She couldn’t give me trust and respect until she once again had for herself. I see it often in the marriages I mentor and minister to.
One more time: You cannot give what you do not have.
Truths About Rebuilding Trust & Respect
When you blow it, and we all do during recovery, tell your wife or husband. If lying, hiding and minimizing undermine trust and respect, honesty and truth-telling rebuild. Secrets are the fuse to the dynamite strapped to trust.
Don’t expect instant gratification or praise from doing what’s right.
Expecting instant praise for doing what should be expected in the first place is self-centered thinking. This thinking minimizes the fact that your spouse is grieving.
Defensiveness is a clear sign of expecting instant gratification, and it’s not helpful. When getting encouragement during recovery, receive it as the grace that it is. Be thankful. Thankfulness displaces the anger that is an underlying element of sexual strongholds.
Listen more–talk less
Men, listen to your wife. Listen for the meaning behind her words. If your wife is speaking to you, she is revealing something about herself to you. Read that last line again, bebause it’s profoundly true.
Men, hear me: BE HONEST. Secrets and dishonesty destroy trust.
Ladies, listen for sincerity, while watching for changes in the words being spoken and are actions supporting them. Have their words becoming less and less self-focused and are their actions demonstrating that?
Self-condemning thoughts are destructive.
The depth of the wounds we carry affect at what level this interferes with someone’s recovery. I’ve seen it manifest itself with the addict turning compliments and encouragement into criticism in their mind. Romans 12:2 instructs us how to battle this problem, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It takes intentionality.
Restoring trust and respect doesn’t happen by osmosis or wishful thinking. Many enter recovery expecting it to be pain-free. The deepest wounds our bodies receive have pain as part of the healing process. Intentionally pushing through the pain, doing what must be done in order for long lasting healing to take root, is the prescription. Expect it.
It takes time.
You cannot microwave trust and respect back into your marriage. This is akin to instant gratification. How did you build that trust & respect in the beginning of your relationship? You earned it. Guess what, you have to earn it again. This time, however, you have jumping hurdles that weren’t there the first time–hurdles we placed on the path with our lies and deceptions in the midst of the porn addiction.
As the porn addict who destroyed sacred trusts, we gave up our privilege to be trusted and respected. Do we deserve to be trusted again? Honestly, no. Can we earn back the respect and trust of our spouse and others? Yes, but it’s hard work, takes time, and will be difficult.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! The growth and the closeness my wife and I now have are beyond what I could have imaged.
Will you stumble and fall along the way? Yes. Get back up, dust yourself off, and keep pressing on.
by Debra Wallace
Wives Care Assistant
Maybe you have been hesitant to join a wives care support group?
After I discovered sexual betrayal in my marriage, the last thing on my mind was joining a group!
“Who would ever want to sit in a circle, share their sad story, and listen to other women sharing their sad stories?” was my thinking. “How depressing is that! After all, isn’t my husband the one with issues? Why would I need a support group?”
But after attending a Wives Care group, my thinking changed. Would you like to know why?
Here are my “Ten Reasons Why a Support Group Helps You Heal From Betrayal":
A support group helps you discover you are not alone by decreasing isolation and shame.
Upon first discovery, it’s hard to know who you can trust to share your story. Feelings of shame may keep you in isolation and secrecy, yet talking about it would bring relief to your soul, meeting the longing for someone to tell who would validate your feelings and understand your sadness and despair.
Meeting other women who have also experienced betrayal allows you to realize you aren’t the only one this has happened to. You no longer feel invisible in our pain. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
A support group creates connection with others, helping you to experience increased social networks and friendships. It provides a sense of community while walking through this valley.
There is a bonding among groups who share similar painful circumstances. Pain has a bonding effect. When betrayal is the common denominator, we experience a “me, too” moment. We empathize and are able to comfort one another, with the same comfort we receive from Jesus.
We heal in relationships. The gift of new friendships can be the source of unexpected blessings during this time. Some even find lifetime friends in a support group. Proverbs 18:24
A support group allows you to find your voice and provides a safe space to share your story. (Group offers safety, empathy, validation, and support.)
Confidentiality is key among those attending a support group. We need a safe space to lay our anguish down, and assurance that our story will not be the source for gossip, (as it could be among friends who simply do not “get it”) bringing peace and relief.
A support group helps us to find some sense of trust—even though we’ve recently experienced a crushing blow and are left wondering if we will ever trust our spouse again. John 14:27
A support group shares information and resources.
Betrayed women long to understand reasons for what just happened to them. Although not everything has an explanation, women in support groups receive a wealth of information to help them process the pain and begin the healing journey.
Books, videos, articles, podcasts and names of counselors (with a trauma-informed approach) are shared so women can heal most effectively.
A support group empowers you. You will learn to be assertive and set healthy boundaries.
Most women are at a loss about what her next steps should be after the discovery of betrayal. Wives Care groups introduce the need for safety, self-care, healthy boundaries, and many topics to put wives on a path of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual healing and wholeness.
As you heal, your worth and God-given value are realized — worth more than rubies! Self respect returns as healing begins, establishing your true worth as a Daughter of the Most High King. Isaiah 61:3
A support group helps you rediscover hope and points to the true source of hope, Jesus.
After betrayal, we are often left feeling hopeless and helpless. We may be having a crisis of faith—which is NORMAL—and have additional feelings of guilt because of our questioning God’s part in all of this.
Hearing stories of God’s faithfulness to others—whether or not a marriage survives—brings hope to those full of despair. God’s promises of abundant life, and examples of women living it, give hope to those who need it most. 2 Corinthians 1:10
A support group provides increased self-awareness, gained insights.
As healing begins, a woman realizes there may be issues she is responsible for. Taking a look at ourselves and addressing problem areas that we need to work on is key to becoming whole again.
Being able to take responsibility for our own actions shows us we are imperfect, and may need to ask others for forgiveness, as well as make changes in our behaviors to become more Christlike.
Other women encourage us in this process and give us courage to move forward with a new outlook. We learn to live day by day, living in the present moment.
A support group provides a guided process for healing.
Topics addressed in groups are the key areas of healing to help a woman move forward while processing feelings. Anger, grief and lament, self-care, identity in Christ, boundaries, triggers and grounding, are elements regarding betrayal trauma needing to be addressed and processed. Each topic guides a woman as she perseveres, regardless of her circumstances. James 1:2-3
A support group helps provide coping skills and offers accountability.
As each woman is allowed to share and “check-in” she may discuss her feelings, ask for feedback from peers, or request accountability for future actions. Tools to help cope while riding an “emotional roller coaster “ provide safety, sanity, and stability.
Knowing she has friends who come alongside to encourage her without judgement, who hold space for her, is priceless. 2 Corinthians 13:11
A support group moves a woman from a victim identity into a survivor/overcomer. (You WILL breathe, laugh, trust, and hope, again!)
Understanding you have been victimized, but also realizing you cannot remain in the victim mentality indefinitely, shows that you can move forward with courage as you heal.
The ordeal betrayed women go through is difficult—no doubt—but peace, hope, and joy can be found again.
You will realize that you are stronger and more resilient than you might think! Romans 15:13
You have an enemy. His name is Satan (also known as Adversary, Accuser, Deceiver) and his goal is simple: destroy your life.
Satan has been around for a long time, way longer than us. He started out well, as an angel of light. He was essentially the "worship leader" of the angels in heaven. But his worship of God became overshadowed by worship of himself, and such pride got him kicked out of heaven (along with the rest of his worship band; about one third of the angels).
Ever since Satan's "fall" he has been intent on one thing: destroying the God he once worshiped. This is where his focus on you and me comes in.
God created mankind in His own image. We read the following in the first chapter of the Bible:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26a, 27)
We (humans) are the only part of creation that bear this special mark of God; we are created unique, distinct from everything else in the universe. And this is why Satan hates us: we look something like our heavenly Father.
When God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, He placed them in a beautiful garden and said, "“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16b, 17)
They had freedom with only one restriction. (Can you imagine?) God gave humans a choice: trust God and live or trust anything else and die. This is the leverage point Satan seized upon in order to try and destroy humans, and thus try and mar the image of God.
In this story of mankind's fall into sin, Satan employs three tactics that he still uses today to seek to destroy God's image bearers. Learn to recognize these tactics and you will do well in fighting against Satan's destructive force in your life.
Tactic 1: Distraction/Doubt
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
Satan's first tactic to destroy God's image bearers was distraction, or doubt. He asked Eve a question to plant a seed, not to gain information. He wanted to distract Eve just enough from God's Word so that she would begin to spin additional questions about God's trustworthiness.
This tactic is still used all the time today. God's Word says one thing, yet Satan brings a question to plant the tiniest seed of doubt as to whether God's Word is trustworthy or even good.
Some examples might be:
Tactic 2: Distortion
Notice how Satan completely flips the script of what God actually said.
"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?" (3:1, emphasis mine)
The simple answer is: No, God did not actually say that!
God said: "You may surely eat of every tree... except one."
Satan distorted God to say: "You shall not eat of any tree."
It's stark, but subtle. God actually invites Adam and Eve to focus on all the freedom He has given them, and also pay attention to the one danger. Satan, conversely, entices Eve to focus on the one restriction and ignore completely the vast freedom God has granted.
Let's continue the story to see even more of Satan's tactic of distortion.
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3:2-3)
Eve gives a decent answer, but it's incomplete. Satan's first tactic seems to be working. She has already forgotten bits of God's Word. The seed of distraction and doubt is steering her ever so slightly away from the truth.
God said they could "surely" (or "freely") eat from the trees in the garden. She omitted this small, but significant qualifier. She also added something God never explicitly said about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: "neither shall you touch it."
Anytime we add to or subtract from God's Word, the meaning will eventually become distorted. And Satan smiles.
His distortion continued.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
Satan flat out contradicts God's Word when he says "you will not surely die," for God said plainly, "for in the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die."
This is the moment of truth for Eve (and us). Trust God and His Word or trust Satan and his word. This is how every decision of life ultimately boils down.
For many of us, much of the time, the tactics of Satan have the same effect on us as they did on Eve (and Adam) below.
Tactic 3: Division
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:6-7)
Satan's seeds of distraction and doubt drew Eve's attention away from God's Word just enough for him to plant a few more seeds of doubt through distorting and flat out contradicting God's Word. With each question and contradiction Eve's focus was diverting from God (and freedom) to sin (and death).
And as soon as Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit a separation of cosmic proportions was established. Immediately there was division between husband and wife; they became self-conscious of their nakedness and sought to hide their bodies from each other.
But more than just a marital division occurred. Heaven and earth were separated. God's image bearers chose the way of the Deceiver instead of their Creator. Life would never be the same again. And life would also have an expiration. Every human being born from Adam will surely die. God's Word was true after all.
Satan, the great Deceiver, is intent on destroying your life and mine. He literally hates us! He uses the same tactics today that he used in the beginning: distraction/doubt, distortion, and division.
Where in your own life do you see the enemy's tactics? Has he planted seeds of doubt about God's goodness and trustworthiness? Has he distorted God's Word, causing you to omit or add things that fundamentally alter its meaning and effectiveness? Where has Satan created division between you and God, or you and others, or even you and yourself?
Do battle today to reclaim ground the enemy has stolen. Because of God's grace and the power of the resurrected Christ your life does not have to be destroyed.
Trust fully in God's Word.
Repent of sin.
Pursue unity with God and others.
It's true you have an enemy. But it's also true you have Savior in Jesus Christ, the One who conquered sin and death -- and Satan! In Christ, you have hope and joy -- and the freedom your soul was made for from the beginning.
Life is stressful. Can I get an 'Amen'?
Stress (or anxiety) can come from lots of places: medical issues, broken relationships, work problems, trauma, mental health disorders, addictions, drugs, alcohol, heredity, and many others. Just about anything can be a trigger for stress.
Stress, for the purposes of this article, can simply be defined as worry -- to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.
So, how are you handling your stress?
Let me suggest that the following exercises might help you manage your stress in healthier ways:
1. Read and Pray Every Day
While there certainly can be physical reasons for anxiety, one thing seems to always be present when we are stressed: obsessive thoughts about our fears.
What you think about matters to how you feel. And what you think about is affected by what you focus on. So, what are you focused on?
A simple way to refocus your mind away from your fears and anxieties is to read and pray every day. Read a passage of Scripture that reminds you of your inherent value or of your identity in Christ.
Pray throughout the day. Share your struggles and fears with God. Be honest and open about the difficulty you are having; even expressing any doubts you are having about God and goodness and life.
Also, it is important to read other good material on understanding your emotions and how to respond to them in healthy ways.
Read and pray every day. It makes a difference for handling stress well.
Stress creates a sense of panic. And when we panic everything speeds up -- thoughts, heart rate, and even breathing.
So, a very practical exercise to help deal with stress in a healthy way is to focus on your breathing. And keep it simple: breathe in and breathe out.
According to Medical News Today, something called the 4-7-8 breathing technique can help reduce tension and stress. (I'm not advocating for yoga; this is only a simple way to breathe that has positive effects on your body.)
Simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds. Start easy by doing this for 3-7 minutes, then work your way up to 15-20 minutes a day. I suggest lying down or sitting down when you start, just in case you get light-headed.
To enhance this breathing exercise, meditate on Scripture or pray the Lord's Prayer. Breathe in God's grace and truth, and breathe out any lies of shame and all the things you can't control. Focus your mind on God's truth and grace.
Breathing is essential to life. Learn to breathe deeply and focus on what is true. This will help you handle your stress far better.
3. Name Your Fears
Stress seems most powerful when it attaches our fear to the unknown. And the unknown is whatever is unnamed.
Have you ever noticed that the stuff that scares us most is usually the stuff we know very little about. Take something extremely difficult, like cancer, for instance.
When someone has cancer but doesn't know it, their fears about feeling sick can go in a million different directions. But once the cancer is named, those particular fears are not as strong -- even though the thought of fighting cancer is very daunting.
Once the diagnosis is made, new fears emerge, right? But why? Because now there are yet more unnamed realities that must be faced.
Naming your fears is healthy self-talk. The Psalmist says, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" (42:5) And follows this up later with a specific question, "Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
Finally, after naming the specific fear (oppression of the enemy), the Psalmist fights it with pointing his will toward truth: "Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."
The more you can name your fears and combat them with truth, the more you can limit their power over you -- and the more your stress will decrease.
4. Connect with Healthy People
It is not easy to deal with stress, or name your fears, alone. You need to connect with healthy people who love you and can listen thoughtfully to your full story of stress and anxiety.
Healthy people are those who understand the difficulties of life, and have likely traveled through some valleys themselves, but know how to direct you to wisdom with love and compassion.
The more you try to handle your stress alone, the more you are likely to drown in it. Healthy people lift your head above water so you can see from a different vantage point, and breathe the air of hope and truth.
I'm sure you're asking, "Where do I find these healthy people?"
Start right where you live. Plug into a local church where you can connect with Christians who can love and support you.
Seek out professional counseling to deal with any underlying roots to your stress, whether they be psychological or physical.
Connect with others in a confidential support group.
5. Embrace Your Limitations
There is no "cure" for the difficulties of life. Sure, there are things you can do that help with responding to such difficulties in healthy ways, but be careful of "magical" thinking that says you just need to get the formula right and all your troubles will disappear.
You and I have limitations. And each of us is different. I'm amazed at how "easily" some people seem to handle stress. It's like nothing bothers them. But I'm not them. And neither are you.
Admitting you are weak is not weak. It's actually quite powerful. The Apostle Paul said as much:
"But he [Jesus] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (1 Cor. 12:9-10)
Stress isn't fun. It seems to "torment" with relentless persistence. But you can respond with confidence; not in yourself, but in the grace of God.
Preach this message of truth and hope to yourself every day: though I am weak, my God is strong. I will trust in His power, not my own. I rest in Him.
May you grow in grace as you learn to handle stress in healthier ways.
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries
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