Grief

Support Group

When our counselor told me that his wife ran a bi-weekly support group for women dealing with sexual betrayal, I cringed. I have only had a handful of close female friends to begin with, and the idea of sitting in a circle with a bunch of crying women sharing their story sounded like a special torture that I wasn’t game for.

So I signed up.

I needed to see that I was not alone.

On one hand I was relieved to get around this group of ladies for the sheer fact that they might understand how shunned I was feeling. As Christians, they too, were not only navigating pain at home, but enduring the embarrassment of sharing with the church (another post for another day).  On the other hand, I wasn’t as privy with the feelings wheel that I raved about last week, and its scary to wade through them with others watching.

Being vulnerable is hard.

These five women, whom I continue see every other week, have shown a side of bravery that I had not witnessed first hand prior to all this mess. They are easily a few of the most fantastic women I have ever met. My preconceived ideas of women sitting around in a circle crying, was a horrible assessment of them, therefore I repent. All have a different story, but all have in common the agony that deception carries, and while we do tend to sit in a circle, crying is only one expression of emotion, but being vulnerable is center stage.  

A safe place to grieve is nourishment to the soul.

I still haven’t cried in front of them (its coming, I know it), but I would not be as far along in the recovery process without them. In addition to meeting in person, we exchange email, group text, and they are always a phone call away. The group thrives because its heavy on encouragement and validation, slow to judgement. The group brings about healing in a kindness that feels like balm to an open wound. Jesus resides in that place, a safe haven, when much of the time in-between the visits is spent in denial of pain, self loathing, what ifs, and the like.

What does this support group look like?


"She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened." Mark 16:10

If you are in need of a support group, please fill out the contact form on my page and I can help get you connected. 

You are not alone.


In The Counselor's Office - Part 6 - My Husband's Reaction

I began to well up with regret as I put down the list of boundaries and expectations. The consequences for my actions were not something I wanted to do.

“How could she be so strict”, I thought to myself.

I am not the kind of guy who likes rules and boundaries, but despite my irritation and frustration with my wife as she laid them before me, I knew I had no other option. This was not her fault.

Abusing my freedom to betray her, was most definitely my fault.

I wasn’t even sure that I could live up to these newly enforced standards, but worse than the doubt, was the anger I felt.

Everything was being stripped from me! She cut off my personal phone line and it felt like a limb was being torn from my body. All of my social media accounts were deleted, contacts were lost, and I now had zero privacy in my marriage. Surely she was on a mission to punish me and get her revenge! 

It only got worse.

I sat there listening to her read the phone records aloud, each one revealing all the minutes I had spoken to the other woman in totality (24,615 to be exact). Everything that I was hiding was being dragged into the light, and the “casual conversations” I told myself I was having, proved to be much more severe than I realized. 

Here she stood, exposing me for the man I was. 

Those beginning days after receiving the list were intensely hard for me.

She kept my phone and restored many texts and emails that I am ashamed of. It wasn’t pretty.

But there was also this other part of me that felt, hope. As nervous as I was about her having access to everything, I knew that safety laid in the boundaries. I sensed that true freedom would be had by being completely open and honest with her from here on forward. I wanted that opportunity, and she deserved that from me.

Looking back, I can see how enslaved I was to the things that were being taken away from me.

I was addicted to social media and addicted to privacy in my marriage (social media is not bad in and of itself). These boundaries exposed so much hurt within me, and today I am thankful I get to address it. 

Who knows how long these “rules” may be enforced, but as someone who has had a taste of what our marriage could be like someday, I’d be fine having them in place for the rest of our lives. 

”they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Mark 10:8)




From One Love to Another: Just Say NO to Smileys/Emojis!

In our most recent post I shared my list of boundaries and expectations for my husband in light of his affair, but forgot to mention one; No using smiley faces/emojis when texting/emailing other women. 

 What?!  

Yeah. No. Not allowed.

Sure, we have access to one another's devices at all times, but aren't able to get away from communicating with people altogether. Especially when it comes to being in the workforce. Therefore this one had to be discussed;

Is using a smiley face or emoji with the opposite sex cultivating grounds for secrecy and shame or love and safety in our marriage?

For us, it creates the former, so we are stearing clear from it entirely. This may feel extreme, because it is. But I cannot deny the truth;  I don't feel safe or cherished when my husband uses smiley faces or emojis with any other woman but me. 

Our culture celebrates being fun/flirty/kind with one another (myself included), but have we crossed the line by choosing the thrill of being flirty/friendly rather than creating safety and loyalty with our significant other? 

These are the kind of conversations we are having these days. We decided that individually we are too easily tempted to reach out for affirmation to/from others (especially in a difficult marital season) rather than going Jesus and one another in candid discussion.  

While this boundary has no power to change our heart, it provides a type of security for our marriage and healing.

Also, it just plain ol' feels good to invest in one another. 

 What says you? How do you feel about your spouse using  :) ;) 😏😉☺️😍😊😇 with the opposite sex via text or email? 

 

  

 

 

In the Counselor's Office - Part 4 - Writing the Full Disclosure

Burris shares what it was like to write his full disclosure letter:

“Randy, this week I would like you to write out your entire sexual history from as far back as you can remember. When you come in with your wife next week, I will ask that you read it aloud to us and we will discuss what comes next. The more truthful you are with yourself and us, the better.”

I felt overwhelmed because I knew I had an extensive sexual history.

I felt skeptical about writing it, wondering if it would even help. But I was convinced I had nothing to lose, so on that fourth day I came home from work and plopped down on the couch to get busy writing. 

When I first began to write, the history poured out onto the computer screen quite easily. But something happened when I came to a particularly bad season in my life where I gained a ton of sexual knowledge. It started around the time I was nineteen years old and I couldn’t help but wonder, had those explorative years not happened, what might have I been spared?

I felt guilty for giving away all of my sexual curiosity when I could have saved it for my wife. Something I hadn’t thought about before.

Because I work full time, and wanted a chance to really sit and ponder every detail of my history, the letter took me three days to write. I felt thankful once I finished because I had this sense of being at rock bottom and hoped for a chance to start over. Of course, that feeling changed the day I was scheduled to read it aloud in the counselor’s office. 

As I sat down in the chair I felt scared as I began to read the letter aloud.

I was nervous, wondering if I was going to get an opportunity to make things right with my wife. In one aspect I reasoned that losing my marriage might be an easy out. But I couldn’t shake that losing her would not be easy because my wife and kids make up so much of who I am; losing them would mean losing half of myself. 

Despite the tears of sadness, shame, guilt and inferiority, I finished reading the letter. I glanced to see the look on my wife’s face, instinctively wanting to distance myself from the pain I caused. Instead, I leaned into the truth of who I really was. 

I hadn’t done that before.

It seems that in this moment (and possibly at the cost of my marriage) I was freed from living an exhausting double life. Everything was out in the open. Although this pain was not going to rewrite my history, it was going to drive me to repentance, and give me the choice to walk in the light of truth from here on forward. Now the scary question; would my wife decide to stay married to me? Could she ever forgive me for betraying her so badly? 

Could anyone possibly love me after knowing everything I had locked away?

The counselor turned to my wife, and declared;

“You have the right to know everything your husband is doing. The ball is in your court and I would like you to come up with a list of boundaries and expectations for your husband that will help you feel safe. Anything goes. Here is a list of ideas and you can add anything you want.” 

As we walked out the office that day with a homework assignment out of my control, I had this sense that walking in the light from here on forward was about to test me in ways I never knew possible.

And this is where I step back and let her share the list she came up with. 

”But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)



Grief in the Discovery - Part 2 - Bargaining

Our counselor looked me square in the eye and said, “Leslie. You are not to blame for your husband’s adultery.”

I felt disconnected from the first session entirely.

Shock was having its perfect work and I felt like I was floating above the three of us in that room, looking down. I sat there replaying the images over and over of all the data that was collected in the prior two weeks of my being in that chair. Texts, phone records, the dark cloud that now hovered over any good memory from the last 18 months and the red flags that I had subconsciously ignored.

“Leslie, I will say it again. You are not to blame for your husband’s adultery.”

Wait. Was he talking to me?

The disconnection I was experiencing in that session was really just distraction. I was distracted by my thoughts. You see, while the counselor was telling me it wasn’t my fault, those two weeks post discovery I was busy thinking over everything I could have done to prevent this betrayal. Thoughts like:

“What if I had given him sex more frequently?”

“If only we had gone on more date nights.”

“What if I am not attractive enough for him?”

“If only I wasn’t pregnant at the time, maybe I could have been there for him more.”

Hundreds of dollars later, I found out that this distraction was not uncommon in grief. No, in fact, it was necessary and included in the cycle...

I was bargaining.

I wanted to go back and rewrite the history of my marriage in order to keep this pain from happening at all. I didn’t want to be in this seat. I didn’t want our marriage destroyed. I thought everything was fine up until…. Well, you get it.

I was already angry with God for not hanging my husband on that cross to pay for his sin, but I also would have done anything to go back in time and do things differently rather than start our marriage over from the ground up. The “what if’s” and “if only’s” were what I was clinging to as a coping mechanism for my grief. I didn’t want Jesus. I wanted a do-over.

Could I not get away from self-justification for just a moment!

No. I could not. Bargaining, while necessary and normal in any tragedy, was just another way that I was able to see utter dependence on myself to save our marriage rather than depending on Someone Else to make all things new.

There is only One Person who was unafraid of my bargaining. He sat with me while I was busy trying to assess the rubble and decide how I was going to fix it. And He let me do that. Not even one time did He tell me how wrong I was for wanting to fix everything myself . Nor did He stop me from entertaining the idea that if I could go back to do things again, I would be spared from all this pain.

In all our mess, Jesus sat with me.

And when I was ready to give up fixing my marriage (and if I’m honest, my husband), He would be there to whisper, “I love you. As if none of your self-salvation projects ever happened. You own my perfect record of obedience and so does Burris. I am willing to sit with you both and weep over this. I’ve got you.”

If only it hadn’t taken me so many months to listen to Him…but then again, that’s bargaining for you.