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Journey to Healing and Joy

What if Shame was a Bridge, not a Barrier?

Written by Marsha Means, M.A. on .

newsletter shame

 

What if Shame was a Bridge, not a Barrier?

by Marsha Means, M.A.

Whenever
 
What If Shame Was A Bridge, Not A Barrier? ~Jackie Hill Perry (quote from the film The Heart of Man)
 
While chatting with my drop dead gorgeous niece last weekend—who happens to be a medical doctor and single—I half-jokingly said, "Well, when you think you've found Mister Right, ask him to take a lie detector test!" My mistake. She quickly abandoned the conversation, and as she stood to leave she said, "I would hope I have better discernment than to choose someone who would need that."
 
Inwardly I groaned: Didn't we all?
 
How could so many—in fact, millions of us—miss the clues that could have shown us betrayal was ahead in our most intimate relationship? Did God not hear our prayers for wisdom? Was it our failure—or His?
 
Or, could it possibly be He didn't fail us at all, and neither did our discernment. Could it be it's our perspective that's flawed? The perspective that says that if a person struggles with sexual sin, he's automatically off the list.
 
What if, as humans, failure is a given, just as the Bible says? What if God knew we would fail, which is why He created a way to experience His grace? What if He never intended for us to feel shame and a need to hide our true selves from Him and from one another when we fail? Guilt yes, but shame no.
 
What if failure could be a bridge toward each other, rather than a barrier that traps us in secrecy and addiction? And what if an atmosphere of grace made room for truth-telling, especially in the Church, and it trickled down until it permeated even our most intimate relationships? In the movie the author Paul Young tells us, "Secrets have been killing me my whole life, but every time we share our secrets, our shame is cut in half." Could shame become a bridge, not a barrier? Could a grace-filled space help us overcome the failures and help us realize we need each other in order to heal? Could that grace-filled space turn the Church into a place of healing, rather than pretense?
 
As I ponder these and related questions this year, I'm not alone. Similar thoughts and questions are beautifully woven throughout a powerful new movie that will show in cities across the country on Thursday, September 14th, and that day only. Titled, "The Heart of A Man," it depicts our struggle with lust and sexual sin, and God's vast, unending grace. And it brings the hope-filled message that if a relationship or church is a safe place to be real about our struggles, that grace can help us win the battle with sexual sin. This is a link to the "The Heart of Man" trailer: http://heartofmanmovie.com/trailer
 
Gaps reveal who you truly are. They will expose every part of you, parts healthy and unhealthy, your beliefs or lack of beliefs, your ingrained habits, and your strengths and weaknesses. How you respond to gaps will determine your future. "Gap Times" as I call them, those distinct times of transition, are some of the most significant and influential times in our lives because there is an unbelievable amount of insight and wisdom to be gained for those who will embrace the deep, rich experiences that gaps uniquely offer. Gaps are where deep healing and true transformation can begin.
 
Tickets are available for purchase at http://heartofmanmovie.com/tickets (simply do a search for your area or city for theaters and showtimes). I will be in the audience in my city's theater. I encourage you to see it too if it is within driving distance from where you live.
 
If you watch it, I invite you to dialog with me after the movie. I would love to keep this conversation going and hear your thoughts and feelings. The week of Sept. 14 you will find, on our Facebook page, a pinned post (at the top) about the film: https://www.facebook.com/acircleofjoy/
 
Please stop by and share!
 
In a world that makes it impossible for kids to grow up free from exposure to sexual content and stimulation they lack the maturity to understand, these are questions that must be answered. In this digital age, children can no longer be completely protected. If every male (and female) who acts on lust needs to be removed from the available bachelors list, few of our daughters will experience motherhood, and most of us will never become grandparents! And that's too high a price to pay for shame and the silence and secrecy it fosters.
 
Please join me in watching and supporting this important movie, as it brings into the open the pain being lived behind closed doors,and the secrecy that keeps people trapped there. The pain that sits in silence in every pew in every church every Sunday around the world. My mission in the years I have left on earth is to somehow do my small part to help change us and the Church. So I'm excited that the makers of this movie share that passion. Please support their mission with your attendance. Together, we can make a difference in our, our children's, and our grandchildren's world!
 
With Everyone's Healing at Heart,
Marsha Means, M.A.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
 
New Groups at A Circle Of Joy
Lynda Ward, M.T.S., C.S.D., will be offering a group for women who are Living in the Gap, the uncertain time between yesterday and tomorrow, and who may be in the process of deciding whether it is best to stay with or leave their addict partner. The group will take a close look at healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. If you would like more information on Lynda's upcoming "Gap Time" support group, or would like to be notified of when the group will begin, please contact her, Lynda: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Also upcoming is a group for women who have made the decision to file for divorce. If you would like more information on this divorce group or would like to be notified of when it begins, please contact Katherine: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

Living in the Gap

Written by Lynda Ward on .

newsletter gap

 

Living in the Gap between Yesterday and Tomorrow

by Lynda Ward, M.T.S., C.S.D.

Whenever I'm asked to describe what betrayal trauma is like, I say: Imagine going to bed one night, safe and secure in your own bedroom, in your favorite pajamas, snuggled under a warm blanket, inside the home you've known and loved for years. But when you wake up, still dressed in your pajamas, you find yourself curled up on hard, cold concrete behind a dumpster in the back alley of a place you've never before seen. It's still night and dark. You can hear voices, people talking. But when you listen closely, you realize they are speaking a language you can't understand. You check to see if this is a dream, or a nightmare. But no, it is reality. Somehow you went to bed in your own home, and you woke up here. Three questions immediately spring to mind: 1) Where am I? 2) How did I get here? And, most importantly, 3) how do I get home?
 
The answer to that third question is likely the most painful, and yet simplest: you can't get back home. No amount of wishing, praying, trying, or clicking your heels together and repeating "there's no place like home" will work — you can never return to the place you were, hours before, when you went to bed.
 
If you have experienced betrayal trauma, you likely know what happens next. Once the sun comes up, some good-hearted, well-meaning people will see you there behind the dumpster looking frightened and confused, and they will offer advice: You should go home. You must try to work things out. Or, forget going home, you need to go someplace else and find yourself a new life. Or, you've got to bloom where you're planted — meaning, of course, stay here in this strange land — but get yourself out from behind that dumpster, get out of those pajamas, find an apartment, and get a job. Or, let go of the past and just move on.
 
So what should you do? Stay? Leave? Try a trial separation? Give things a few weeks, months, or years before making a decision? Or should you let go and move on?
 
Our two previous newsletters explored one woman's decision to file for divorce (click here) and another woman's decision to stay with her husband (click here). But what does it mean to live in "the gap": in that time between disclosure day (D-day) and the day when you can confidently make a decision about your future?
 
Please note, if you are in immediate danger and your partner is abusive, or if you don't know whether or not you are safe, it is imperative to protect yourself (and your children and pets) and get to some safe place right away, at least until you can be certain that you are not in danger. Good resources to help are hotlines, social services, counseling centers, women's shelters, the police, doctors, and even some family law attorneys. When in doubt, use all available options.
 
The Importance of "Gaps"
 
As a certified Spiritual Director, and having taught religion classes that focused on personal transformation at a private university for the past eleven years, I know the importance of "gaps." Gaps are those unique times of transition which occur when what you had expected to happen doesn't happen. Instead of what you had expected, something completely unpredictable and altogether unexpected happens. This opens up a gap.
 
For example, you're on your way home from work and you stop by a convenience store to pick up milk. While waiting to pay, two masked, gunmen burst through the door, and one grabs you and puts a gun to your head. You couldn't have expected this, and so it opens a gap. Or when you think you have a simple infection and go to the emergency room expecting the usual round of antibiotics but instead discover you have stage 4 cancer—a gap opens. Or while taking a walk with your husband, the man you have loved and admired for over 20 years, on a warm, sunny June afternoon, you discover he has been, for your entire marriage, lying to you and living a secret life, and you had no clue—this opens a gap, and a new journey begins.
 
Gaps reveal who you truly are. They will expose every part of you, parts healthy and unhealthy, your beliefs or lack of beliefs, your ingrained habits, and your strengths and weaknesses. How you respond to gaps will determine your future. "Gap Times" as I call them, those distinct times of transition, are some of the most significant and influential times in our lives because there is an unbelievable amount of insight and wisdom to be gained for those who will embrace the deep, rich experiences that gaps uniquely offer. Gaps are where deep healing and true transformation can begin.
 
Living In and Embracing The Gap
 
My own D-day (disclosure day) was just over 2 years ago. That means for two years and two months now, I have been living in a gap. I have not yet made any final decisions because I have learned:
 
1) Discernment takes time.
 
When your life has been turned upside down, and you are struggling to get your footing, it is okay to make temporary-only decisions. In fact, it is perfectly normal to decide one thing one day, then later change your mind, then change your mind again. And please don't let anyone push you to make a decision that you aren't ready to make or to do anything with which you aren't completely comfortable. Discernment is a process that takes time and support. Being overwhelmed by trauma certainly slows the discernment process. So it's okay not to know what you want to do long term. In fact, it is very important to take time to carefully weigh all of your options and figure out where you are truly being called. Time itself is a gift because it offers you the opportunity to heal your wounds, to build your support network, to prepare for the future, and to assess your partner's investment (or lack of investment) in recovery as well as the overall health of your relationship. And should you decide you want to try to save your marriage, you'll need time to find the right resources to help you repair and rebuild the relationship.
 
2) Taking an inventory of losses and blessings is a necessary part of the healing process.
 
When suffering from trauma, it is normal to focus on your losses, especially when the losses are overwhelming. One of my first clients, while I was still in supervision and training for Spiritual Direction, was a woman in her forties who had just been diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. Six months prior to this, her husband had abandoned her. And needing a job, she had to move over three hours away from where she had been living. She had already lost her home and community. And now with the cancer diagnosis, she feared losing her future as well. Gap Time is a time of recognizing and grieving losses. The grieving is necessary for healing. But if we focus only on the losses, we risk overlooking the blessings. So along with her list of losses, I asked my client to make a list of all of the things the cancer could not take away: a list of what she had left, what gifts and blessings she possessed that could help her live a meaningful life today and embrace whatever the future would hold.
 
One of her joys was Bible studies. She loved participating in Bible studies. She was also a great cook. And even though she had no children of her own, she had always wanted to be a elementary school teacher because she enjoyed children and had been told she was good with them. So with her "blessings list" in hand, she found a Bible study at a nearby church for women with cancer. She signed up as a volunteer cook for that church's soup kitchen, then through the soup kitchen ministry, she discovered a local women's shelter that needed someone a couple days a week to play with and read to the children while their mothers attended job training workshops. By focusing on and embracing her gifts and blessings — what she had not lost — during her Gap Time, my client found meaning and purpose, a new community, and a network of supportive friends. And as she continued to focus on her gifts and blessings, she discovered some gifts and strengths she never knew she had!
 
3) Gap Time is a good time to get educated so you can make informed decisions about your future.
 
When you wake up to discover you're behind a dumpster in a strange land, the saying that "knowledge is power" is true. Wherever your life's journey has taken you, learning as much as you can about where you are now, and how to navigate your new environment, can keep you safe, help you make informed decisions about the future, and help prepare you to get to where you eventually need and want to be. This is especially true when it comes to your partner's porn and sex addiction and your betrayal trauma. The more you know about both, the safer you can be and the better you can take care of yourself. With a good understanding of your situation, you can make informed decisions about what specific kind of treatment, help, and resources are the best fit for you.
 
Remember, when you've been in a relationship with a sex addict, you've been living with a very unhealthy person, and so much more needs to be addressed than just the addict's compulsive sexually acting out. Sex addicts have many unhealthy habits, attitudes, and behaviors that affect their partner's self-esteem, overall self-evaluation, health, and well-being. When you have been in a unhealthy relationship with an unhealthy person, it can negatively affect every part of you: the way you see and understand yourself, others, the world around you, and even your relationship with God. So taking the time to learn all the ways in which you, your life, and your family have been harmed by your partner's addiction is essential to being able to embrace the future as a healed, healthy, and whole person. Partners who come to understand all the ways the addiction and the trauma have affected them, can make healthier decisions about their present relationships, any new relationships, and their overall future.
 
Gap Time is Different for Everyone

During my "Gap Time" I chose to stay with my husband because we were able to renegotiate the rules and boundaries of our relationship, and he stayed in treatment with a licensed clinical addiction specialist (LCAS). He regularly attends meetings and meets with his sponsor, and he is actively trying to understand and heal his past. But a woman I met years ago, at one of my weekend retreats, made a different choice. (I will call her "Jane.") After having just discovered that her husband had been having a 10 year long affair, and that he had had a child with this other woman, Jane came to the retreat in order to decide what to do. Jane was an artist who had, just prior to D-day, received a commission to create some statues for a community garden. During the weekend retreat, and through a process of prayer and discernment in community with the other women on the retreat, Jane felt led to ask her husband to move out. She decided to have no contact with him, but to put off making any further decisions at that time, choosing instead to spend the first three months of her "Gap Time" focusing on and completing her art project.
 
Each person's "Gap Time" will look different, but one rule applies to everyone: it is important not to ignore the gap, or try to push it or wish it away, or to try to rush it (no matter how painful it is or how much you would like for it to be over). It is okay, and actually a good thing, to be patient, kind, and compassionate with yourself as you live minute by minute, and take things step by step, when living in a gap. And even though it's true that you can't go back home and to the life you once knew before D-day — Gap Time, spent well, will make it is possible for you to get to some place better, some place more safe and more wonderful than you could ever have before imagined.
 
New Groups at A Circle Of Joy

I will be offering a group for women who are Living in the Gap, and who are in the process of deciding whether it is best to stay with or leave their addict partner. We will also be taking a closer look at healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. If you would like more information on my upcoming "Gap Time" support group, or would like to be notified of when the group will begin, please contact me, Lynda: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Also upcoming is a group for women who have made the decision to file for divorce. If you would like more information on this divorce group or would like to be notified of when it begins, please contact Katherine: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

Grace & Peace,
Lynda Ward, M.T.S., C.S.D.
Coach, Communications & New Media Specialist
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Considering Options

Written by Jodi on .

newsletter coach jodi

 

Considering Options: Choosing to Stay with a Sex Addict

by Coach Jodi
 edited by Marsha Means, M.A.

Ten years ago when I discovered I was the partner of a sex addict, I felt as if I had fallen into a deep, dark hole: a pit really, and initially, I had no idea where I was, or how to find my way out. Back then—and even now—I identified with this poem about addiction and recovery. For me, it accurately portrays a partner’s journey: 

An Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson (click here for printable version of original poem)

1. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

2. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in. I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

3. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

4. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

5. I walk down a different street.

Upon discovery or disclosure, each of us can identify with Chapter One. We wonder, where in the world am I? How did I get here? We feel disoriented, confused, and shocked, and many of us say we feel like we’re spinning in a deep, dark vortex. And we’ve no idea how to get out.

Two Questions Helped Me Know What I Wanted to Do

Two simple questions helped me determine what I needed and wanted to do.

1. What can I not live with? This question forces us to determine our “deal breakers.” These are the behaviors we know we cannot and will not tolerate in our marriage. When we encounter true deal breakers, the choice to stay is no longer an option, at least not long term. But sometimes leaving takes time. It can require time to plan and prepare, even if we don’t want it to. However, having a plan, and persistently working it will enable us to leave as soon as the pieces of our plan are in place.

(Please note: This newsletter does not apply to abusive and dangerous situations. Anyone in an abusive situation and in danger must seek safety immediately --- to stay when harm and danger are imminent, for you or your children, is not an option.)

2. What can I live with? Most of us at least consider leaving. And when we do, we’re forced to examine our ability—or inability—to make it on our own, if we leave the marriage. Finances, children, family matters, or health issues might make staying the wisest—or the only—choice. At least for a season. I took the time I needed to sift through all of the painful feelings of betrayal, abandonment, loss, and feeling less-than, and eventually I chose to stay, even though my marriage wasn’t healed.

These two questions helped me gain the clarity and peace I needed to make healthy decisions about my life and my future. You may have different questions you need to answer, because each of our journeys is uniquely our own.

Coming to Understand the Strange World Of Sex Addiction

At some point post-discovery, our shock wears off and we bounce between Chapters 2 and 3 of the poem above.

During this time we try to learn what sex addiction is about, and how to care for ourselves in a marriage tainted by it. Like me, many partners realize, for their own reasons, they need or want to stay in their marriage. Some women will stay for a short while as they work their plan and prepare to leave. And others will choose to stay, perhaps permanently. Either way, partners can use this time to learn, heal, and prepare for their future.

Six Tasks that Equip Us to Heal Whether We Choose to Stay or Leave

The following task list helped me take responsibility for my own well being, and it kept me from slipping into the negative patterns that can come when married to a sex addict.

*Finding Support: Support and a healing process is crucial for for partners of sex addicts. One of the best resources available is our Journey to Healing and Joy workbook. Working through this workbook with a coach and a small group of women is the best gift you could give yourself. At the end of the 12 weeks you will have been given the opportunity to share your story in a safe setting while gaining new skills and tools to use not only in your marriage but in every relationship in your life.

*Separating Your Healing from the Addict's: After I learned as much as I needed to about this addiction, I focused my energy on learning ways to heal from my trauma symptoms. And I learned that if we want to heal, we must separate our healing from that of the sex addict. Learning how to detach and refocus on our own healing for a season is one of the hardest things we must do, but without it, we will never heal.
 

*Utilizing the Power of the Serenity Prayer: The Serenity Prayer can bring calm, clarity, and peace in the space of thirty seconds. It’s like a form of spiritual breathing. The simplicity of this prayer helps me discern my needs, and helps me access the empowerment I need to meet them. It enables me to “let go” when needed, and it provides a continuing source of courage and comfort. I love its wisdom and it’s simplicity: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

*Learning and Using Boundaries: Learning how to detach from my husband in a healthy way provided a safe space to learn and create the boundaries I needed to begin to heal. It took a lot of trial and error, but I eventually learned how to create healthy boundaries to keep myself safe. If you need help with boundaries, our A Circle Of Joy's Coach Carin facilitates a boundaries support group for that purpose.

*Taking Responsibility for Our Own Well Being: The Life Model has played an important role in my healing. And nothing is more powerful in helping us take responsibility for our own healing and well being than the Life Model principles. Learning to “return to joy from negative emotions,” and “using joy to increase my emotional capacity so it’s higher than my pain” were foundations for me. Another Life Model principle that’s helped me is “Learning to suffer well.” This means, “Can I be true to who I am in the midst of suffering?” We touch on the Life Model principles in our Journey to Healing & Joy groups, but if you want to learn about these skills and many more, consider participating in a Healing through Joy group with Coach Katherine or with me, Coach Jodi.

*Finding Purpose In Our Pain: While early post-discovery is a very painful time, finding “the purpose in the pain” is highly valuable. Women have even said it is a sacred time where they feel more connected to their true self. Once they experience “being well,” and learn new ways to take care of themselves (or return to activities that bring them joy), wonderful, beautiful things can happen. And they learn how to be well in a less than ideal marriage.

In time, I was able to regain a sense of safety and security, even though my marriage wasn’t healed. Now, ten years post-discovery, I see myself on Chapter 4 of the poem. I now know where the holes are, and I am able to walk around them. I still have triggers but they no longer have the power to hijack my brain. I can access and use empowerment to take care of myself in healthy ways. And I know Chapter 5 is available to me if I am not able to keep myself emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically safe while staying married.

I encourage you to find the resources and tools you need to heal, whether or not your husband chooses recovery, and whether or not you stay. Healing is possible for any woman who discovers she is married to a sex addict.

While I did not choose this addiction, I do get to choose my story. I am not responsible for my husband’s recovery, but I am responsible to make sure this addiction doesn’t get “two for the price of one.” Ten years ago I was determined to find the help and support I needed to heal and feel like myself again, and I’m so glad I did. My hope is that you will find the help you need to heal from the pain this addiction has brought into your life. We are here to help you on your healing journey.

With your healing at heart,
Coach Jodi
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

www.ACircleOfJoy.com
www.JourneyToHealingAndJoy.com
www.FreedomUnit.com

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Marriage: Should I Stay or Should I Leave?

Written by Coach Katherine on .

Marriage: Should I
 Stay or Should I Leave?
 

by Coach Katherine
 edited by Marsha Means, M.A.

No bride ever dreams of divorce on her wedding day. But sadly, for those of us married to sex addicts, it is something many of us eventually consider. I am one of those women.

Recognizing the Inconsistences
As I was married to a sex addict for 34 years. My story can be found on our website by clicking here. A year or two prior to separating, I started to suspect that something wasn’t right with my husband. Because he had been in recovery for several years, and I thought things were getting better, I felt a range of emotions when I considered the inconsistencies in his recovery. If your husband isn’t working a strong recovery program, you may identify with them. These are just a few I recognized:

*Denial that he was choosing his addiction all over again after six years of sobriety.

*Anger that I might have to enforce my consequences. After all, hadn’t I said the marriage would end if he acted out again?

*Questioning God. Because my faith is an important part of my life, I stayed in the marriage because I believed God had asked me to. I did my part, so why was He allowing my husband to go back into his addiction?

When I dared to acknowledge these emotions, it forced me to face hard questions.

Asking Myself The Hard Questions
As I considered my marriage and ability to live on my own, these four questions were among those I asked myself:

*Can I stay in my marriage when it appeared that my husband would probably never choose long term wholeness and healing?

*Was lack of commitment to the hard work of recovery all he was willing to give me?

*Could I accept the pain and loneliness one feels with a sex addict not in recovery for the rest of our married life, knowing how it was affecting me?

*Didn’t I deserve to have a faithful and honest husband who loved me?

It took time to sift through my circumstances and ask myself the hard questions. Each of us must do this in our own way to find our personal answers to the difficult questions we must face, and the inner peace we need to accept what we find there.

Facing My Fears
Contemplating divorce forced me to face my fears and really look at the personal cost of ending my marriage. These are some of the fears I faced:

*Fear of being unable to support myself. I married at 18 and was a stay at home mom who didn’t have to work outside the home. I had only gone back to work four years prior to my separation. Gratefully my children were grown by the time I separated. But for those who still have children at home, this fear—and reality—can force them to delay the separation until they’ve honed their workplace skills and gained the ability to earn a high enough income to survive.

If you face this challenge, remember: information is power. Most, if not all, cities and large towns have a Crisis Clinic with a huge data bank of resources for anyone in the community facing hard life situations. Start your search for help and answers there. Another great resource can be found at the Women’s Resource Center at a local junior college or other service center in your community. There you can seek aptitude testing, and discuss with counselors fields of study that require shorter periods of prep and education, but also earn sufficient income.

Without workplace-ready job skills, we may have to get creative to build a bridge from where we are to where we want to be. Hold on to the reality that this is a period of transition and not your final destination. If you keep your eyes on the goal of self-sufficiency, you will get there in time.

*My fear of the impact on my children. My children were grown, so they didn’t experience the impact younger children nearly always feel. And my former husband and I are able to be friends, so holidays and special events can still be enjoyed as a family. But I know that’s impossible for many, and children often experience their own trauma when a family struggles with sex addiction. So find an experienced counselor if your children need help processing and adapting to the life changes. If counseling for them is outside your financial capability, school counselors have helped the children of some clients, without the cost of a private therapist.

*Fear of losing my spiritual community. Many churches and religions advise against divorce. So for those of us who are a part of a spiritual community, making a decision aligned with our beliefs and teaching generally requires time, soul searching, and perhaps spiritual counsel. If you fall into this category, I explain how I arrived at a place of peace at the end of this article.

*Fear of splitting our marital assets. Unless your partner is kind and caring, fair and generous, even when he is living in his addiction, seek legal counsel to understand your marital assets and your rights to a percentage of them in the event of a divorce. Learn all you can about what you have to work with so you can fight fear with knowledge. Remember: information is power, so do everything you can to become informed. If you can’t afford legal counsel, every town has a legal clinic where lawyers offer a pro bono session to women in need. There is generally a six week waiting list before you can get an appointment, so if you find you are already asking yourself the hard questions, get on the waiting list. Seeking counsel does not mean your marriage will end. It simply means you are gathering information in case your partner doesn’t fight for sobriety and you eventually have to leave your marriage.

*The fear of being alone. Being single doesn’t mean you have to be alone. I knew the pain of being alone when I was married. I don’t feel that pain anymore as I live on my own. Good friends can help fill that gap. Start exploring new things and discover what brings you joy. Get familiar with what works for you and what doesn’t. I’ve also gained encouragement from starting a joy journal. It gives me a way to track the joys that come into my life and counters letting them pass by unnoticed.

These are just a few of the fears we face. Remember, you can’t go over fear, under fear, or around it. If you are ever to put fear behind you, you must walk straight through it. When you face fear head on and gather needed information, fear loses its crippling power, and increased courage and new growth begin to replace your fears.

Dealing with our fears may be the biggest challenge of divorce. But when we allow fear dominate our thoughts, it can keep us stuck and unable to move forward toward a new chapter in our life. We all suffer from fear of change and fear of the unknown. And we definitely face those fears when sex addiction destroys our marriage.

Take Your Time
Take your time. Don't be afraid to declare a "mourning time" for yourself. Divorce is like a death, so please don’t downplay the deep grief you feel. Many find divorce more painful than the death of their life partner, because an addict makes a choice that doesn’t leave room for his wife in his life, but one who dies didn't choose to leave. Face your losses and grieve them as much as possible prior to leaving. Be proactive. Lay out an exit plan that works for you. Get help from those you trust. Find a therapist or coach who can help you take those steps. If faith is part of your life, trust that God is for you and not against you. Plan ahead so that when you are alone, you've already faced the period of transition that precedes a new life.

I took my time. For me that was key. It helped me make progress when I faced the emotional losses that came with the decision to leave my marriage prior to actually leaving.

A word of caution: If you are being abused, please don't wait to leave. Find help now. Staying in an abusive relationship is not only emotionally crippling, it can be dangerous for you and for your children.

Reaching Acceptance
Finally, I came to a place of acceptance of the painful truth that my husband wasn’t choosing recovery. Whether I stayed or divorced, I had no choice but to accept my situation. And as I did, I came to acknowledge the painful reality that my husband was not choosing recovery and life with me over his addictive behavior. That really hurts, but acceptance is the key to our eventual healing.

Two Years Post Divorce
I have been divorced for over two years now. I know the fear of facing life alone; the fear of facing financial worries; and the fear of the impact of divorce on our children. But I have survived, and gone on to thrive.

Divorce is not an event but a process. You grow through it minute by minute, hour by hour, and week by week. Then one day you realize the pain has eased and you feel joy again.

Regrets & Joys
I knew I didn’t want to feel regret, which is why I took my time. But there’s one regret I’ve failed to avoid: I wish I had asked my husband for a full disclosure and polygraph during those years before separation. But because his addiction cost us our home, his career, and virtually everything, the resulting financial burdens put an intensive outside our financial reach. I do regret that we couldn’t do an intensive, but I’ve come to terms with that part of my story.

For the most part, I now have so much more joy in my life. Several years ago I discovered The Life Model and their teaching on the importance and value of creating joy in our lives. I proactively pursued joy from that moment on, and it became a turning point in my healing journey. I found joy so key in my life, I taught classes at my church on the value and practice of joy for those struggling with addictions and those in trauma. And we include it in the groups we offer at A Circle of Joy.

I also added gratefulness and appreciation to my tool box. Joy, appreciation, and gratefulness became focal points as I moved through my losses and trauma. I still pursue these things faithfully. I now have a home that I love; my children and I are close; I love my job, have good friends, and I have a new church that I enjoy.

I am divorced but I don’t suffer from loneliness like I did in my marriage. I truly feel content knowing that God continues to use and grow me. I hold on to this scripture in Isaiah 54:5: For your Maker is your husband; the LORD Almighty is his name. The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. 6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit; a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.

Divorce Recovery Takes Time
I suggest you give yourself at least two years to move through the period of recovery post divorce. Since my divorce, I’m learning to trust God at a deeper level. I’m still a work in progress, trust me, but I’m learning to trust Him in the areas of my finances and my future. I’m learning that I am whole on my own; that I don’t need a husband to make me feel complete. I still pray for my former husband, and I do want him to find healing and peace.

For Those Whose Faith & Beliefs Typically Do Not Leave Room For Divorce
The Bible tells us God hates divorce. Unfortunately, most pastors only know how to play that one string. Most avoid speaking about pornography and infidelity because they’ve not been trained in helping people through the heartache of sex addiction.

However, in the Bible, God does recognize the reality of divorce. I believe He knew divorces were going to occur, so He outlined the proper methods to follow. In Matthew 19, Jesus debates with religious leaders about the grounds on which a divorce could happen. In verse 9 he said that divorce was invalid except for marital unfaithfulness. I believe that. If your husband is unwilling to recover from sex addiction—to work his recovery and rebuild a healthy emotional and sexual relationship with you—Jesus said that you have grounds for divorce.

I know some will disagree with me, but as my husband returned to his addiction, I sat down with my senior pastor and asked him his views on divorce. He shared his perspective on divorce in cases such as mine, and it helped me further accept my reality, and to make a choice that was in line with my beliefs.

Blessings,
Coach Katherine
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How Relationships Can Help Us Heal

Written by Marsha Means, M.A. on .

heart to heart POST

 

The Amazing Power of Heart to Heart Support: How Relationships Can Help Us Heal

I want to share with you a wonderful, nine minute video about a woman named Amy Silverstein. You can view the video on Amy's website by clicking here (please scroll to the middle of her home page). The video is also on YouTube. It’s a video about the power of support when life gives us more than we can handle on our own. Interestingly, though Amy has the kind of husband every woman dreams of, even he isn’t enough without the power of heart to heart support from Amy's female friends or "sisters" on her journey. 

I’ve watched the video several times, each time jotting down new takeaways from this life-giving story. But what I hope you take away is that none of us can face life’s most painful and difficult mountains without what the story calls a “support group posse.” It takes a group of supportive sisters who will tunnel through the mountain’s pain and chaos with us. Though Amy’s mountain is different—and perhaps even worse—than ours, it’s her circle of support that enables her to face it.

Amy had to choose whether to let herself literally die with her broken heart, or to face all that comes with getting a new one. It was her circle of supportive sisters who gave her the courage and tenacity to choose life. The right kind of support can enable us to choose life too.

We would love to hear your takeaways from this powerful video, and we invite you to post them on our Facebook Page or in our free Online Community. For me, it’s a beautiful metaphor of what it takes to heal, whether it’s our physical heart or emotional heart that’s dying. 

With your healing at heart,
Marsha Means, M.A.

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