30 March 2012

It feels like dating all over again...

Pete is sleeping on the couch tonight.  I'll explain that in another post about boundaries, but I've been lying awake alone in my bed thinking about an email from a reader, especially in light of today's events. 

She said I could share her questions here, I think we all want as much help as we can get, but I think I'll just call her A.H.

She asked:

"I feel like I have made good progress with myself and my feelings toward my husband. He also is doing good and has made great progress. I feel like I’m ready to start rebuilding our relationship. But after all that has taken place were do you start. I find it hard to even hold a conversation with him. I want to be close to him but yet I’m not sure how. I feel as if we have nothing in common any more. "

Let me just say, I can totally relate.  And while we are doing so much better, even today there were moments where I felt confused about us.  I will come back to that, but I know that there is an elephant in the room as they say.  Hugging your own husband feels awkward, laughing together feels unnatural, it is just uncomfortable and I often feel like we're dating all over again.  So I've tried to think about what has helped the most to rebuild a broken relationship and I came up with these four things.

1. Let go of the anger. 

The day and night before Mother's Day last year were bad for Pete, and I hardly slept that night.  We were out of town visiting family, so it was fake it fake it fake it, and then on Mother's Day we went to church and it was fake it fake it fake it.  Then we drove the longest most uncomfortable four hours back to our hometown.  I felt so hurt and broken, but occasionally one or the other of us would start up a conversation.  But as soon as things started to feel "normal" again I would grasp for my anger.  I needed it, I couldn't forgive him yet.  Not yet. 

Sometimes we sabotage our own efforts to heal our relationship because we are so scared to let go of the hurt.  If we let go we feel like we lose our power, our control.  But the little inklings of resentment I carried around were just walls that prevented Pete and I from seeing each other again. 

2. Create comfortable environments, make new memories.

This is the dating part, and it sounds so cheesy, and at first it felt so FORCED.  But doing things that we've always done is so helpful.  For us, nothing breaks the ice like a bowl of popcorn.  These comfortable environments are great, stirring up old feelings.  But I think even more important is making new memories.  Start a new tradition, something forward facing. I think there is much to be said for focusing on the future.  Interestingly, our new tradition is going to meetings each week.  They are about 25 minutes away and it gives us a good chance to talk.  On the way there we talk superficial: "How's work? What did you do today?"  On the way back we are little more open and we can talk about the heavier stuff. 

We also found a tv series we both really like that we can watch together.  We make plans, and then do them.  If you feel like you have nothing in common or nothing to talk about start with something as simple as a Readers Digest.  Read an article together or even just the jokes. 

3. Communicate

Tell him what you just told me.  Tell him you want to be close to him.

Mara has been blogging lately about being vulnerable.  When Pete and I fell in love it felt so good to be vulnerable.   Then I got hurt.  Now I want to be strong and independent.  But I've learned that I have to be honest and share my feelings, even if it makes me feel vulnerable. The more I share, the closer I feel to him.  I share when I'm worried, I shared when I've had a breakthrough, I share when I discover a new weakness in myself, I try to apologize when I know I'm wrong.  It is important to say "This helps, I like this." Or "This is not helping, I don't like this. " And  "I need _______."  Or "Can we not do __________?" And try to be the person that he can do likewise with you. 

4.  Time 

I don't know what else to say about this.  It will just take time.  Be patient with yourself and him. 

I mentioned that today I was having some of those old feelings.  There was a "slip", there was a confession, and my initial reaction was peaceful and forgiving.  But then I started to doubt myself, did I make that too easy?  Anger taunted me, called to me.  As soon as it did it was like the ground and air was freezing around me, tension, awkwardness.  Fortunately I was able to dismiss those feelings before they got the better of me, and it felt good. 

I am so hopeful for you, A.H. that there will be very tender moments with your husband, that will lay the foundation for a deeper relationship.  You know the bitter now, it is nasty, and when you find the sweet, it will be oh so sweet!

Okay now- everyone else- how do you do it? Where did you start?

28 March 2012

Step Two

Step 2 is HOPE. 

To muster any motivation to go forward having accepted that this addiction is part of my life and that it was making my life unmanageable as I tried to control Pete and his behavior, I had to dig deep for hope.

I remember several years ago after an incident in my family that caused great heartache my mom asked me "Well, do we believe what we say we believe?"  If we do- we have to move on, move forward, acknowledge that God IS there. 

So if I really believed what I said I believed I had every reason to hope that there was happiness and peace in my future.  At the time, those things seemed conditional upon Pete and his choices, but Step 2 taught me that "the power of God can restore me." 

"He can bring peace to our souls regardless of what others are doing."

For awhile I couldn't fathom HOW God was going to do that, without "fixing" Pete, but I knew that because of what I believe I was ready to hope that he COULD.  So what did that mean for me? President Uchtdorf says:

 "Hope is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm and patient perseverance."

How can I feel those things when my natural inclination is to be distrustful, discouraged and pessimistic?

The manual suggests:

"As we take actions that bring us to Christ, the Lord's grace enables us to develop hopeful thoughts and emotions." 

I think the key words are that we must "take actions."  Which actions are most productive will be different for everyone, but for me I became a sponge for spiritual insights.  I read the scriptures and other uplifting books.  I talked to people, I prayed, I served. 

At one of my first few group meetings someone shared the following scriptures.  I'm going to type them as she read them, because as she read them I felt HOPE.  It is from Mosiah 24:10-16

And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.

And [Jane and her sisters] did pour out their hearts to him, and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.

And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions saying, Lift up your heads and be of good comfort...

And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you can not feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage, and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I the Lord God do visit my people in their afflictions. 

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon [Jane and her sisters] were made light; yea the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord"

I know sometimes it seems impossible to be cheerful and patient, and as President Monson says, sometimes all we can do is say "I'll try again tomorrow."  But it IS possible, as President Uchtdorf says:

"As we draw near to Heavenly Father, we become more holy.  And as we become more holy, we will overcome disbelief and our souls will be filled with His blessed light."

25 March 2012


I was thinking this morning about what I wrote and I felt like I should add a little note. 

Everything I suggested was in response to a slip/relapse/episode.  I don't have any advice for how to respond to the initial disclosure, there was no "D-Day", as they say, for Pete and I.  His descent into addiction was subtle and gradual and I watched it unfold until it was severe enough that I began to respond in all the wrong ways that I described previously. 

Anyway- I hope you are hanging in there.  I heard a new story of pornography addiction recently that broke my heart.  It is a 17 year old young man, who started looking at pornography on his cell phone at age 14.  He was recently arrested for molesting children, as young as three and including his little brother. 

I felt anger, not just anger but RAGE, not at the boy or his parents, but at the industry that denies wrong-doing, that ruins lives, that destroys individuals who both participate in person or by viewing.  And then of course there are the victims. 

Not wanting to end on that depressing note- some words from one of my favorite talks- Come What May and Love It by Elder Wirthlin that I recently read on Wife A's blog:

"The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."
Wife A is an awesome example of someone who turns her anger at the industry into action and I admire her proactive attitude. 

23 March 2012

how to respond

Having already described what I realized were ineffective responses I want to describe some general ideas about how to respond in a more productive way.  I am not a qualified expert on the subject, and the specifics of the conversations/behaviors/feelings that need to take place for your healing and your addicts recovery are for you to sort through. 

Anyway- having made that annoying disclaimer to hopefully avoid any backlash I'll move on. 

First of all, the feelings will come, and there is nothing wrong with the feelings.  The 12-step program manual says "Not feeling anger will not make it go away."  It will come, and so will frustration, hurt, disappointment.  The trick is to release them.  Feel them, then let them go.  At first it might be realistic to recognize that this won't happen in the immediate moments following disclosure, so during those initial minutes following his confession use your self-control to not let your reaction be driven by those negative feelings.  You may have to set some boundaries to give yourself some room to cope.  (I'll write about boundaries another time.) 

I know it's not easy, trust me I know.  But I also know that when I am able to dismiss the anger and forgive, two amazing things happen.

1.  It helps me walk away from the situation and feel peace, feel composed and not feel ashamed or have regrets about the way I handled myself.  Controlling anger and fear allows me to feel the Spirit and to feel God's presence.  When I let anger and fear motivate my actions all the support and love I feel from God vanish.  I've lost my connection to him, I've cut the line. 

2.  It gives Pete confidence and it helps him see me as a safe person to talk to.  It provides an atmosphere that fosters honesty and encourages unity between husband and wife.  If you want a great example of this read Mac's comment on the last post. 

The idea is to exude love and confidence in the addict.  How do you do that? For me it involves a hug, and a few encouraging remarks.  "It's going to be okay."  "You are going to figure it out."  "Yes, I know you are sorry."   [Pete actually rarely uses the words "I'm sorry" because for so long I hated those words, I still think they are inadequate.]

Anyway, it is probably different for every addict, but I think the golden rule is a good place to start.  If you were to go to a friend or loved one, to confess a mistake how would you hope for them to respond?  [I had to do this recently and it was painful.]

Better yet- when you kneel and repent  to your Father in Heaven, for a weakness you have repeatedly failed to correct, what do you long for from him? And what does he never cease to offer? 

Love.  And He believes you can overcome it.  He believes it so much that he gave his son to make it possible. 

We don't have to fix our addicts.  We are not their Savior.  We can trust that if they are willing, God will take care of them and we help them see we really believe He will.  And even if they are not willing, God will always take care of us, if we let him by behaving in a way that allows us to hear his voice.  

20 March 2012

How NOT to Respond & Why

My idea of how to respond to Pete's relapses has evolved over the years.  I think I've tried every response I could come up with.  I've been cruel and said awful things, I've been angry and stomped around, I've withdrawn and become despondent, I've sobbed in front of him and in private.  I kept waiting for one of these methods to be the silver bullet that motivated him to never return to the hurtful behavior.  But I could see that they weren't having the desired effect. 

I'm going out on a limb here and drawing a parallel to parenting (although I also believe this principle applies to ALL relationships.)  Have you heard the phrase "positive parenting?" It's sort of a trend in parenting that is based on the idea that if you guilt, shame, manipulate your child as a form of discipline, it might provide immediate results, but is not effective for long-term behavior change.  Punishing children this way, it is suggested, causes the children to feel ashamed, to lose their self-worth, feel a lack of love from the parent, and over all decrease the child's confidence that he/she is capable of making good choices.  In essence, using guilt, shame and manipulation as a consequence does more harm than good. 

I used to think that the harder I cried, the worse Pete would feel and therefore the more he would desire to change.  The problem was, Pete already desired to change, he just didn't have the strength to do so.  And feeling guilty, ashamed and hated by me sucked even more strength out of his already weak spirit. 

Quick aside- I must be careful not to imply that I am responsible for Pete's recovery, I only want to show how without meaning to do so, I was hindering his recovery. 

It is not my job to punish Pete.  But, you might say,

"If you are quick to forgive, if you don't demonstrate through tears or anger how you've been hurt, he will take advantage of you and he will never change because he knows you will always forgive him! "

This is not true.  Like I said before, Pete already has a desire to change.  And to differing levels I believe all addicts do.  Pete's own pain, the anguish he feels of his own accord, the suffering of disappointment, shame and frustration with himself are adequate for him to realize that this is not the way he wants to live. 

In addition, I am quite certain that by now, Pete knows how it hurts me.  He knows.  Whether or not I throw a tantrum he knows.  And because he is an addict, and logic and reason mean nothing during temptation, he doesn't consider how it will make me feel before acting out.  Whether consciously or subconsciously I'm positive that before he crosses that line, he never thinks

"It's okay if I do this.  She will just forgive me."

Although there may be narcissitic addicts, who thrive on hurting others, I think this is the rare case.  My heart breaks for you if this the type of relationship you find yourself in, I pray that you will be able to trust God to help you discern the path ahead. 

But more often than not, I believe most addicts love their wives, hate their addiction and long to feel loved and supported. 

I'll come back to this and share what I believe are the blessings that come with learning to respond in a way that doesn't enable addiction but gives peace to me and support to Pete.

17 March 2012

the addict

The other day I was listening to the song "Someone Like You" by Adele. I practically cry every time I hear that song.  But this time as I heard it I suddenly felt a wave of compassion flood over me for the men who destroy their lives as slaves to addiction.  It was as if it were an addict singing Adele's words- 
"I heard that you're married now, that you found a [man] and you're settled down. I heard that your dreams came true, guess [he] gave you things, I didn't give to you..."

I typically like to focus on the women on here, and our choices but I want to say a word about the men because these feelings are fresh.  (I am aware the gender roles aren't always as I just described, but they are for me and so it's what I'm familiar with.)

I've heard so many stories.  Men who were unfaithful, men who lost their jobs, men who molested their own daughters, men who are in prison; all began with porn and all sex addicts. 

We get to move on.  Whether we move on with or without our addict is irrelevent to the point I want to make.  We get to choose to heal and move on.  They get this choice too, but they have to wrestle the powerful and binding chains of addiction, and face the disappointment, shame and utter anguish that the circumstances in their life are their own fault.  Despite giving in to their carnal desires, they are miserable.  We know that, don't we? They are miserable.  Haven't we all seen our addicts sob in desperate suffering?
Choosing to see an addict as a really sick person, who is psychologically incapable of making good choices and practicing sound judgement until they get the appropriate help for their illness completely changes the way I am able to cope with the anger I feel.  Should I choose to see addicts as jerks, selfish ... 

well I better stop before this gets obscene. 

Don't get me wrong, I feel anger.  I get angry.  But I've chosen to take my anger to God.  (Have you seen the movie "The Help?")  I love how Aibileen writes her prayers every night.  I imagine she wrote some angry prayers, cuss words and all.)

But that's it for me.  The anger stops there.  I don't bring it to this blog, I don't take it to group meeting.  After I've had my moment to feel it, I let it go. 

I've heard that holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal, you are the one who gets burned. 

I'm just here to say, that for ME, bad-mouthing Pete has never made me happy.  Sometimes lashing out to a friend or in a blog post, using the most hateful language we can muster gives us a self-promoting, satisfying pleasure.  But it doesn't provide lasting peace.  Perhaps we either consciously or sub-consciously justify the way we view our addict as an unloveable soul because if he wasn't all the awful things we said about him, we would feel guilty about leaving.  This is a fallacy.  It's okay to feel love and compassion for him, and still separate.  Some addicts are not able to offer the requirements of a healthy relationship: love, trust, safety etc. 

My heart aches for addicts.  I can not fathom the discouragement, hopelessness, desperation, loneliness, shame, frustration, confusion and horror that haunt them.  Sometimes they lose it all (such are the consequences of their choices), and then are left with nary a shadow of their former life left  to cling to for strength to change. 

"Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead."

15 March 2012

out of the ashes

Photo from Sondrio Festival
I like to respond to comments in a blog post, because I never know if people come back and read my response in the comment section.  This will be quick, I promise. 

"Sometimes I wonder...can this awful thing really be some incredible spiritual journey?"

First of all, I love the words, "sometimes I wonder." Me too.  I OFTEN wonder.

Some trials come upon us because of an unfortunate accident, or circumstances beyond ours or anyone's control.  I can't possibly say that it makes those trials any easier, but it does seem like those circumstances are clearly God's will.  Especially when there is no reasonable explanation for them.

But then there are trials that seem go against God's will.  By that I mean, people use their agency to make stupid choices that are contrary to the choices God wants them to make. 

So is this really what God wants for me? 

There are a million different answers to those questions, you have to find them yourself.  In the beginning there was nothing spiritual about this for me.  It was painful, disappointing, frustrating and had everything to do with sin.  I HATED that Pete's bad choices were so hurtful. There was much anger.  (And my situation isn't even as extreme as others.)

But along the way I've learned a few things, and as I started to recognize a change in me I could see that I could learn from this. I encourage you to think of ONE thing, one little thing that you understand now that you didn't before.  Maybe its the way you treat others, maybe its the discovery of your own inward strength, maybe its something about the type of mother you want to be or maybe its an amazing new friendship that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

I know it doesn't seem like this whole ugly ordeal is worth one little nugget of truth, but start a list.  And even if it takes years you might be able to see how far you've come.

Guess that's wasn't so quick.  Anyone else want to weigh in?

14 March 2012


Faith does not come easily for me, I have to work at it.   There are so many things to doubt. And even harder still is patience.  Even after I am able to say "Okay, God can take care of this."  I still want to say, "But He needs to take care of it right now."

For awhile I was seeing this quote all over Pinterest. 

I overlooked it for a long time.  Then lately I've realized that I was probably overlooking it because I didn't want it to be that way.

Once I decided to let God heal Pete, I decided I wanted it done right away, I wanted immediate results, closure, I wanted to move on.  Then I learned a bit more about it, and I realized it wasn't going to work that way, and even if God was ready to take this temptation from Pete, it was up to Pete to let him.

Now I am ready to have my own shortcomings taken away.  I truly desire to change, so why isn't it happening? Why am I still getting annoyed with people? Why do I still have issues with intimacy? I am praying, I am aware, why isn't God fixing me? 

Last night at group meeting there was a quote that helped me change my perspective.  Again, from Elder Maxwell.

"Spiritual submissiveness is not accomplished in an instant, but by incremental improvements."

Sometimes it seems those incremental improvements are imperceptible.  (How's that for alliteration?)

Furthermore, I'm determined to have everyone else who suffers be healed in an instant.  Each time there is a new attendee at group meetings I want to shove my so-called wisdom down their throats so that they can go home with a changed heart, having made no effort on their own to discover these truths.  Someone finally had explain to me that I was being a little overwhelming. 

Pete pointed out that patience is often associated with faith in the scriptures, and that if we really believe that God is in control, we can patiently wait to see his hand. 

So I will be adding patience to my list of things I need to learn.  I just wish I'd hurry up and get it already. 

07 March 2012

The Tables Turned

It's strange how in my new place of peace I have been so confident that Pete's addiction would not destroy me again.  Sure, I expected disappointment and hurt, but not like the heart-wrenching anguish I've known in the past.

And then, I was blindsided.  But it wasn't Pete's addiction to blame.

I think it's because of the progress I've made that I was able to listen to Pete with an open mind and heart.  I was not feeling defensive, I didn't know I needed to be.  I've been sitting on such a high pedastal these last few months, and particularly these last few weeks.  I was so sure that I was a saint for being so patient and loving.  Just today I commented on a blog post about how accepting and forgiving I've become toward my addicted husband.  It never occurred to me that I had need of such acceptance.  It never occurred to me that Pete might have his own disappointments.

Tonight in a quiet and serene conversation, with no anger or blame, Pete expressed his disappointments to me.  I can even say that I think the Spirit was present as he disclosed his own hurts.  He said he felt like jerk.  But an individual's needs and longings go beyond a loyal and patient spouse.  I think we can all attest to that. 

Then came that fear, that awful muscle-tightening gut-wrenching fear.

I really am inadequate

Let me be clear that this was not an argument.  Pete was not lashing out, hurling thoughtless accusations.  He was calm, he was thoughtful, and he was genuine and honest.  He was telling me something he's tried to tell me before and I was too defensive and accusatory myself to hear it. 

I know that Someone is trying to keep me humble.  And I know that for a few piercing moments tonight I could feel what it must be like for an addict.  To have my personality flaws exposed and to see the way they have afflicted someone I love was excrutiating. 

I am hopeful that I can use my sorrow as motivation to be better, to be less self-absorbed and more attentive.  And I am also hopeful that sitting on the other side of the table, Pete can accept me, despite his disappointed hopes and unrealized expectations. 

04 March 2012

How I Misunderstood Fear

My dad is currently studying psychology and told me months ago that fear is the root of many negative feelings and behaviors.  I didn't really buy into that idea until now. 

I've always thought of fear as a feeling of being scared.  And I mean scared in the way you feel when you watch a horror movie.  Suspense, panic, anxiety.  This is true.  This is fear.  And I've felt afraid in this way many times as I have worried about Pete.  I have felt this deep, lung-tightening, muscle contracting fear.   What does the future hold for my marriage/family? What if his addiction leads to infidelity? What if this goes on forever?

But the kind of fear I never realized I was feeling is the fear that Danny taught me is the opposite of faith.  Danny acquainted me with the idea [perhaps not new to you, but new to me] that God teaches that peace and joy come from faith, hope and love. Selfishness and misery come from fear, doubt and enmity.  This is how he described it to me.

"The more I rid myself of self doubts, fears, and anger...the easier it became to express true faith, hope and love. And when those feelings are expressed in their deepest sense, with the total abandonment of their opposites....suddenly you feel better."

After hearing Elder Busche's words over and over I kept getting hung up on his line  "Avoid any fear like your worst enemy." I wondered what he meant.  I felt like it would be extremely difficult to avoid fear, the way I understood fear, as the body's fight or flight physiological response. [Although I think that is possible, as I mentioned with regard to the intense fears I had about Pete's addiction.] But now I see a different fear that he wants me to avoid. 
Self-doubts, anger, jealousy, cruelty all come from fear.  They aren't an all-consuming, foreboding fear, they are a subtle and nagging fear.  Here are some of my fears, and how they cause me unhappiness.
  * Fear of being inadequate.  There is so much expected of me, how can I possibly measure up? -My fear of not being the mother/wife/friend I should be causes me to act defensive, irritated and helpless toward people I love.
* Fear of being unappreciated.  This is my insatiable apetite for attention, pity, admiration. I pridefully desire credit and accolades for my so-called merits.  -To protect myself from the hurt of being a nobody I put on pretenses and act pompous and independent, meanwhile in my mind I am wondering "Is anyone noticing me?!"

* Fear of what others think of me.  I long to be thought of as intelligent, funny, attractive and kind.  -But fear of not being those things causes me to compare myself with others and either feel superior as I observe their faults or inferior as I fail to measure up to their strengths.  (This is a miserable way to live.)

   * Fear of rejection.  I can't emotionally handle it when someone disagrees with me, someone doesn't want to be my friend, when someone declines my requests, or when my husband views pornography. - I build walls.  I resent those who disagree with me or show dislike toward me.  I alienate myself and sabotage relationships.

These fears demonstrate a general lack of faith, hope and love.  At best they are unproductive, and at worst they are destructive.  My fear of the future regarding Pete's addiction was a fear that was easy to identify.  It was all-consuming and I simply could not have faith and happiness while I allowed it to live inside me.  But these fears are much harder for me to identify, and therefore almost harder to abandon.  I'm still working on that.