In the last few weeks I have written a series for Shannon Ethridges blog. In the next few days I will be posting them here. Enjoy!
“When will I stop wondering if he is kissing me and thinking of someone else?” As we speak over Thai food, Morgan’s questions unleash a flood of memories. Pain, distrust and betrayal, I feel their sting as a near decade of recovery evaporates in an instant. Nine years ago I struggled with the same question when finding out that my husband is a sex addict. I wondered if our fragile marriage would survive. How could I ever trust him again?
“When I get home, we need to talk. You might want to make an appointment with Jane.” As Steve spoke these words, my heart sank. The delicate threads that hold the broken pieces together unravel with every passing second. This was serious! Was this the other shoe dropping? I expected the worst without being able to name what that might be.
We sat down, hearts in our throats, and I steeled myself for what I knew to be coming. “I need to be honest and confess that I have had an addiction for most of my life. It was there in my earliest memories.” I tasted bile. What was I hearing? I needed someone to tell my heart to be quiet, to turn down the thudding in my ears. I felt like I was suffocating, drowning in the confusing mix of emotions threatening to swallow me; hurt, anger, fear, confusion, and relief. Yes, relief. The fact that our marriage had survived up to this point was astonishing considering the demons we had already faced. And while we had come a long way, I still carried a nagging feeling that a piece of the puzzle was missing. Somehow, in the middle of the numbing confusion, I knew this was it! Looking back, I think that knowing was the driftwood allowing me to survive the waves of negative emotion. Don’t misunderstand. It wasn’t easy. Picking up the pieces again took a lot of work, grace and understanding.
Thankfully, we made it through the aftermath with our marriage not only intact, but immeasurably richer. While we aren’t perfect, I honestly think we have one of the healthiest marriages around. And after so many years of secrecy, we choose to be very open about our story. For us, it is therapeutic. This openness, along with Steve’s frequent speaking engagements, gives me many opportunities to hear questions just like Morgan’s. While the questions I hear are varied, there are three which surface repeatedly. Is he thinking of someone else while kissing me? Have I really forgiven though I can’t forget? And, do I need to know everything?
I wish the answers could be tied into neat little bows, tidy and crisp. In reality, they can’t. In the coming weeks I will share my feelings, tempered by 9 years of renewed trust that Steve and I have built. Recognizing every situation is different, my intent in sharing is to give you hope. Because it all starts with the smallest bit of hope, doesn’t it?