Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dear Addi: "how do I help my wife heal?" Step 8: Make sure she gets time with her priesthood leaders too!

Throughout the entire secrecy of my addiction, I always knew that someday I would need to face my priesthood leaders and confess everything. I ‘knew’ I would need to, however, I always convinced myself that if I could just be clean long enough, that maybe the confession part wouldn't be necessary. I told myself that through my will power alone, I would prove to God that I was worthy and therefore, did not need to confess. It's one more of Satan's subtle little lies that, if we can just stop acting out, there would be no need for repentance. But even if I were able to put it away on my own (which by the way, I couldn't) I would still be buried under all the secrecy and guilt. There is no repentance without confession. It is a key part of the process and might I add, extremely liberating. For me, It happened in stages. First I bore my soul to my wife. As I have mentioned before, It was a crushing world shattering revelation. Everything she knew and believed had been flipped upside down and she was left with nothing but a sliver of hope to hold on to. We spent hours negotiating, apologizing, crying, and trying to imagine if there was a way forward. Thankfully she felt that there was and she said to me “the first thing we need to do is call the stake president”. We did. And so, through shame and embarrassment, I finally went before my priesthood leader and confessed everything.

I don't think he was prepared for what he was about to hear. My lies, cover up, and acting had been so complete that, even though I sat next to him many times a week as his second counselor, he had no idea of what I was about to confess. For the next hour I poured out every detail of my dark addiction to him. Through streaming tears, I confessed a multitude of sins and shame. He, to his credit, said nothing. He just sat, listened and cried with me. He felt the weight of what I had been carrying. He showed me love and compassion. He accepted my confession and then began to explain to me what the road forward would look like. It, for me, was the most overwhelmingly glorious experiences of my no longer be in no longer be fighting this alone and to know that I had an advocate that was working with me to see that I succeed. I left his office feeling light and free from the weight of sin I had carried for years..

Then there was my wife. She waited outside his office for over an hour, at times pacing, walking the church, and ultimately finding herself pleading with God on her knees in the empty chapel. It was a long, lonely,  desperate hour for her. And so as I emerged from his office feeling that I had finally found an escape from my hell, she was feeling heaviness and pain as she entered a hell of her own. She questioned who I was.   If She should leave. She hurt from the pain of betrayal and lies and deceit. She questioned whether she could move forward in a marriage with a man that she did not know could be trusted again. Should she even try? All hope and happiness had been sucked out of her life and into the vacuum of my sins.

I stepped out of the office and faced a broken wife.  Again, to his credit, the stake president then invited her into his office and spent the next hour with her. I don't know everything that was said in that one on one meeting but he called me back in after that second hour and with her in the room said to me, “You have broken your wife’s heart.”   Of course, I knew that.  It was one of the main reasons that I didn’t want to come clean...I knew what it would do to her.  This simple statement helped my wife immensely.  It told her that he understood her pain and the cause of it.  He was blunt and bold and quickly called me out on the damage I had done to her. She needed that. She needed someone to finally be on her side.  At that very moment, the Stake president asked me to turn over my temple recommend.  My wife witnessed me having to take that very painful step.  He then offered us both a blessing.  I declined. She accepted.  In that blessing,  he told her that this would be her life defining trial. After that initial meeting, we met with the Stake President several times a week leading up to my excommunication and then almost monthly after that.  We also met with our bishop once a month as well for the first year.  We looked forward to those meetings.  Those check ins gave us the power to persevere and the strength to move on.

And thankfully, that is what we have been doing for the past 23 months.

Now, here is what I know in talking with both wives, husbands, and from my own experience as a Bishop:  not every wife of an addict gets this kind of an attention.  More often than not, the husband confesses and then the Bishop hones in on him and wants to meet with him a couple times a month. He puts all his effort into helping him stay strong, into helping him heal. And so the husband gains all sorts of strength and help through regular visits. But the wife? Well, many wives and husbands tell me is that she very seldom is asked how she is getting along. In fact, she may not talk to the bishop again until his her next recommend interview or perhaps until right before his next disciplinary council.

This is not because the bishop is ignoring the wife or doesn't care. It's because just like the physician, he is automatically going to give attention to the spurting wound and make sure that he has stopped the bleeding.  But the truth is.. while he is distracted by the most gruesome looking injury, he may be overlooking the major head blow that the wife took in the process. Not on purpose, and certainly not in every case, but in many cases it seems to happen this way.

I served as a Bishop for just over 5 Years. I know it sounds hypocritical to say this but, I loved the opportunity to work through trials with husbands and wives who wanted to try and save their marriages. Maybe it was because watching them survive the difficulty of their trial gave me hope that someday I would be able to face mine. Nonetheless, I too fell into the trap of focusing all my time on the transgressor and failed to see the wounds of the recipient of the sin. And in truth, once I had met with a brother and his wife, I would often times simply forget about their issues until I ran into them again. This sounds cold but, with all of the welfare, Youth, missionary, ward staffing and  activation issues that were always in front of me, sometimes those things that deserved the greatest part of my attention simply got pushed off until another time. Then of course I had my own family to spend time with and a job to work. Please understand that I am not trying to make excuses. I truly believe I could have done things better (and wish I had). My point in saying all of this, is that I don't believe my experience as bishop is too different from that of many if not all other Bishops in the church today. We spend a great deal of our time working through things that could (and should) be passed off to a counselor or quorum president and dedicate the smallest portion of our time to that which matters most. And unfortunately that means the wife may end up getting the least time and attention.

But wives, your  wounds need treatment too!

Let me offer a couple of quick suggestions to help you in getting what you need from your priesthood leader.

  1. Don't wait on the Bishop to call you. He has a very capable executive secretary. His primary job is to schedule the bishop’s appointments. Use him. He will get you in very quickly if you tell him it's urgent. And don't worry that the secretary is going to ask you all sorts of questions about why you need to see the bishop. He won't. His job is to schedule and that is all. He may ask… “What's this meeting for?” but only to find out if you need a recommend interview or financial help, or something that one of the bishop's counselors can help with instead. All you need to tell him is that it is a personal matter and leave it at that. He will go to work and get you scheduled.
  2. Don't feel that you are wasting the Bishops ‘Precious time’. I promise you, you are not. At one point, we apologized to our Bishop for taking so much of his time every month.  He laughed and said, “This is the kind of stuff I like to do, especially when a couple takes my advice and comes back every month,  having made some progress.”  I can tell you that helping families  heal and helping members overcome sin is probably one  of the things he will remember most from his time as bishop.  He welcomes your call. Please Please Please…. Never feel you are wasting his time. You are the reason he was called. You are his priority.
  3. Insist on equal time. If he spends an hour with your husband, ask for an hour as well, especially early on in your trial. In the first year you will need him the most. Those long nights filled with nightmares, memories, hurts, pains are never more present than during the beginning of this process. Furthermore if, heaven forbid, things between you and your husband can't be resolved or he is unwilling to make the changes necessary to find recovery, you will most likely be the one seeking the support and strength of the bishop. So make time to include him as your advocate.
  4. Don't be minimized. Lets face it, not a lot of Bishops have dealt with lust, pornography, or sexual addictions, and frankly most don't have any counseling degrees to help them through the process. They are human. Which means they may make a wrong call from time to time. I promise you they are praying and seeking help with your situation. However I still hear stories from wives quite often where they say “the Bishop just doesn't get it.” Lets face it, wives of addicts are the real experts. You have spent time studying, reading and researching addiction. You know better than most, the triggers and level of difficulty that lust in all its forms can be. Bishops… generally don't. One wife told me that when she visited the bishop with her husband to witness her husband confess, the bishop simply slapped his wrist and said… don't do that any  more… now go home and be happy. She said that it felt like he didn't care at all how this had hurt her and suddenly they were the good old boys club scratching each others backs and minimizing the addiction altogether. She told the Bishop how she felt about his response and, to his credit, he humbly looked at things differently and decided to do his own study. This good Bishop became an expert on addictions because this wife refused to be minimized.

Let me close by sharing something my wife likes to say in jest. She says “I believe God has a much more tender and compassionate love for his Daughters on earth than he does His sons. Oh He loves them lots, but just not as much as his Daughters.”

Even though she says that with a sense of humor, I have considered it. I use to think that statement couldn't possibly be true. God loves us all the same… but… over the last 22 months… I have come to agree with my wife on this point. We men will most likely spend the rest of eternity playing catch up, especially spiritually, to our wives. And I think the Lord knows it. All I can say is thank goodness for the atonement of Christ. It is the only thing that puts men on an equal playing field with the daughters of God. Husbands, let’s make sure that our wives...His precious daughters...get the help they need.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dear 'Addi', How can I help My Wife Heal? Step 7, Make New Memories!

7. Make new traditions. Make changes.

After my complete confession nearly 22 months ago, the one thing I knew I needed to do for sure was make things feel different. Things that felt the same are things that brought on triggers for both of us. We knew that if we were going to survive this trial that we needed to start looking at life a little differently. We were now in the second part of our marriage. A new marriage really. With my re-baptism and my desire to stay clean, we decided to simply call this part of life, ‘Life 2.0’.

There were several things that needed to change of course, but there were also some traditions and holidays that needed to be altered, at least initially.

For instance, in my case, my deepest betrayal took place during the holiday season. As can be expected, that time of year is filled with hurt and sorrow for both the betrayal that took place and for the guilt and shame that is brought to mind.

So we went about replacing bad memories with new ones. For instance, this past Christmas, we took the whole family out of town and went on a cruise.  We left the location of the heaviest pain behind and created some new memories with our entire family. It was wonderfully healing and fun.

I’m not suggesting that going on a cruise is the right thing for you. I am simply saying, sometimes we need to change the feeling and atmosphere just enough to eliminate the reminders.

In addition to changing events, there are also several little things we can do to simply make things feel different and to help our wives feel safe and special. The following are a few things we have done over the last year in an effort to draw more attention to her and to make some new traditions in and around our life.

  1. Daily scheduled texts messages. With the alarm function on my phone, I simply set 2 alarms each day. One for 11:45 and one for 2:45. everyday at those exact times my alarm goes off reminding me to text my wife that I love her. You might say, ‘If it is scheduled then it isn't really spontaneous. Its not really out of heartfelt love”. Well I say Hog Wash. Sure it is. I love my wife. But I am busy. I get caught up in work, or email, phone calls and I forget to do those little things that make the most difference to her. So I Schedule it. And she LOVES it. She knows that every day, at least twice a day she is going to get a text or call or email from me expressing my love to her. Its fun to make them unique as well. I will sometimes send a goofy picture of me with the text. at times I have written a short poem or I have gone out of my way to make it funny and memorable. Your wife, more than anything, needs to be reminded you love her. You can tell her 50 times a day and it won't be enough. This is a new thing for us, so it is a welcome change and has strengthened our bond through a simple text. What's more, she has come to look forward to those scheduled texts so much, that if I miss one, I will get one from her telling me that she loves me. It has become an important part of our relationship in Life 2.0.
  2. Tulip Tuesday. Last summer I discovered a Farmers market a couple miles from my office that had a couple of fresh flower booths. The Farmers market was only open on Tuesdays. I decided that as part of our new life together that she should have flowers every Tuesday (I also discovered that they give you a punch card and you get free flowers after buying 10 bouquets. Total Bonus). The flowers were fairly inexpensive at $5 to $15 per bouquet. I felt that for the sake of our marriage we could afford $40 to $50 per month in weekly flowers. 
    So Tuesday became ‘Tulip Tuesday’. Again I put this on my calendar as a reminder that every Tuesday I need to pick up flowers. My Wife loves this for 2 reasons. 1. She loves getting fresh flowers. and 2. I never did this before. Sure I had purchased flowers on occasion but maybe only once a year. She has reminded me several times that I never even brought her flowers when she was in the hospital giving birth to our children. So, to her, this feels like a different man. A man who is taking time out of his day to focus solely on her. She feels special and Loved. Such a small investment can go such a long way. I will also tell you that there have been a couple of occasions when I have forgotten. She is not shy to remind me that I missed her flowers that day. It has become a special part of our new life.
  3. Couple getaway. This is something that has been healing for us. A few times a year, we will simply get a hotel room for a night. It might even be in town. The idea is to get away from the kids and have a special date night for just the 2 of us. I'm not talking about a long week vacation. Just a single night. It starts at about 5 PM. We go to a favorite place for dinner (Not even expensive gourmet food. My wife's favorite place is ‘Chipotle’). Then we will go back to the Hotel, or maybe see a movie. We always return to the hotel room with enough time to enjoy one another's company (Ill let you fill in the blanks there). We cuddle and talk and simply enjoy being alone. Here is the key. She is not allowed to plan any of it. You have to plan it all. You book the room, make dinner plans, organize the baby sitters. Go buy some flowers and candies and maybe even decorate the hotel room before she arrives with romantic or funny stuff. We sometimes like to wake up at the crack of dawn and sneak down to the hot tub and enjoy some super quiet soaking time, where we seem to have some of our best talks. We check out as late as they will let us. My wife has begun to cherish and look forward to these short little getaways. Again… they are new memories being made in our new life.
  4. Little changes make a big difference. Simply offering to do the dishes, weed the garden, wash the car, change the kids, make the lunches, take the kids to seminary, or anything that is different. Your life before was built on a routine, but it was your selfish routine of addiction. Everything else or at least most everything else became secondary. new habits were formed around what you wanted to do. Often times that meant leaving all the leftover housekeeping and family rearing stuff to her. Offering to do a few of those routine things will go a long way in showing her that you are trying to become a new man focused on helping her heal. Lift her load a little bit each day. The saying “A happy wife is a happy life” is more true than we sometimes want to admit.
  5. Do Something for her! I have a friend who tells me that he has discovered the secret to a blissful marriage. He says “A wife sometimes just needs some girl time”. To accomplish this, he will schedule simple things for her a couple times a year. Without her knowing, he will call one of her friends and schedule for the 2 of them to go to a spa for a couple hours. His wife is tickled. She gets to spend time with a close friend and be pampered at the same time.  Now I know a spa treatment is not in everyone's budget, so here are some other ideas. Plan a movie night with the girls. Invite all of her friends over, get the movie and goodies together, and then take the kids and get out of the house for a few hours. Last year he planned an overnighter at his home, with a few scheduled activities throughout the day. Each of the women received a gift bag filled with inexpensive items. The ladies stayed up well into the night chatting and playing games and having fun. The ladies invited loved it and are always hoping to get invited back the next time. He says, “All I have to do is create an opportunity for them to be girls and I end up looking like husband of the year”.

There are so many things that we can do to make life feel different. It is a struggle to overcome the trials that this addiction brings into our families. Marriage, takes effort even in the best of times. Our addictions and choices from an old life will undoubtedly add a tremendous amount of strain.  Anything that feels positive and different than the old routine is good. The goal is to make everything fresh, new, and welcome in life 2.0.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dear 'Addi', How Can I Help My Wife Heal? Step 6, Complete Transparency

Show all Your Cards!

6. Complete Transparency

To say, ‘Be completely honest’, should be obvious. But making a mind shift to telling the truth when you have spent years of your life living lie to lie can be a difficult transition. I have found myself on several occasions avoiding the honest conversation that I know needs to be had. Or perhaps I will only share the minor parts of my day so as to not draw attention to the difficult moments. Lying still comes easy and in our guilt filled minds it can seem easier than facing the truth. I have even gone so far as to rationalize that, ‘ I know how much it hurts her when I slip up, and I feel like being less than honest is easier on her than telling her every time.’

Hog wash! I’m not protecting her… I’m protecting me. But I can understand why we as men resort to this position of defensiveness so quickly. The whole reason we started lying in the first place was because we either didn't want to hurt or disappoint our sweethearts or we were afraid she wouldn't understand the reality of the struggle it is to be an addict. We feared it might be the last straw or too much for her to take. But, this information is hers to have whether we want to share it or not.

I have even had the thought, “I have done so good for so long. My slip will mean another confession of my weakness. I can't tell her or she will lose faith in me”. The adversary would like nothing more than for us to latch on to these ideas, but who am I really kidding here? I have a weakness. This is no surprise to her. Your complete honesty will go a lot further to regaining her trust then constant half truths.

Men, we are in a new place now. We are not under the same rules that we lived by before this was known. Don't forget that you are in “Save My Marriage Mode” now. We must throw all our freedoms and rights of privacy out the window. Not to do so will only serve to drive a wedge between the 2 of you and cause ongoing mistrust and suspicion.

You have to think of yourself as the grounded rowdy teenager in the house. You have proven that you can't be trusted, by your own admission. And so, you have to offer up some assurances that you will no longer participate in the behaviors that got you grounded in the first place. This is where transparency comes in.

I am not suggesting that all of the following things are right for your relationship, But here are a few things we can do to prove, with transparency, that the bad behavior has ceased. I think most of these things have to do with phones and computers, but lets be honest… that is the easiest place to slip and where most of the bad behavior starts.

  1. Unlock your phone. Do not for any reason have a password on your phone. It is unnecessary. If you have nothing to hide, then there is no reason for it. If you want a worried, suspicious, wife, then leave it there. I promise you that your password protected phone makes her crazy. Even if she hasn't mentioned it to you. If your reason to have a locked phone is because of kids, then at the very least, share the password with your wife. If you use a fingerprint to unlock the phone, then add her prints to the unlock as well.
  2. Leave your phone lying around. Don't hide it in your pocket 24/7.  And let your wife hold it, use it, look through it, anytime she wants. Our wives have free reign on our phones now. That also means that at anytime she can call for a random and unexpected phone check. If she does, you don't get to be offended or pull the whole “I wish you just trusted me” guilt trip routine. Just smile and hand it over. She will gain a huge amount of trust if you take this approach instead of being defensive
  3. Periodically, walk your wife through your phone, showing her every app and every text. Let her sift through them and ask questions. Explain what each app is and what it does and why you need it on your phone at all. I am a news junky and I love the way I can get the news on my phone and have it send me articles that I might like. I recently showed my wife one of the apps I use for reading news and as we looked through it together, I began to notice the number of external links this app adds that lead to places I don't want to find myself in a weak moment. After this realization, we decided to uninstall the app and find one that is a bit safer. Making her a part of the process will give her confidence that you are sincere in your efforts.
  4. Link your email to her phone or at the very least make sure she has the passwords to your email, Facebook, and other accounts.  There is no privacy left in this new marriage. It is not needed because there should be nothing left to hide.
  5. Link your calendars. Her phone sees what you have on your calendar. I know not every couple uses smart phones, and honestly, if you have an addiction to pornography, maybe it's not such a good idea. However, if you and your spouse both have smart phones, then link your accounts, calendars, emails. Sync everything to both phones. It is easy to do by adding a second account to your phone (I'm an android user, but I've been told you can do it on Iphone as well). This of course goes back to having ‘nothing to hide’. She will feel in the loop and know what is coming up on your schedule. Sometimes our wives feel like they are living a separate life. Let her see everything you are working on, planning, and more. Not only will this make her feel a part of your life, but she will often remind you of things coming up that you simply overlooked.
  6. If your wife is nervous about how you spend your time away from home, download a family tracker app. We bought one for $5. It allows her at any time to ping your phone and find out exactly where you are (or were ) within 5 minutes or so. Again, If you feel that all of this is an invasion of privacy, then you are probably not serious about either your recovery or restoring her trust in you.
  7. You and I both know how to manipulate the computer and browsers to disguise our online activity. If you are being truly open, then you should take the time to show her how to check your browser history.  Go a step farther and show her the things you used to do to cover your trail such as, deleting, cookies, cache, and history or using incognito windows. Knowing that you are willing to share your past practices may help her to feel safe moving forward. If that is not enough, install a free software, like ‘K-9’, or  an accountability software like covenant eyes that will both act as a parental control and log every website for later review. I personally have covenant eyes installed on every one of my computers and devices. It is not a filter and will not keep you from going places online. Instead, it simply logs every place you go and emails it to whomever you like even on incognito windows. You may even find, as I have, that this a help or deterrent to you when temptation strikes.
  8. When plans change, call her. Our wives;' minds are already stretched to the limit. Satan is pouring every bit of concern, worry and confusion into them as they are trying to cope with our deception and addiction. The last thing she needs is an unexplained absence in the timeline of your day. (Especially if like me, you are trying to repair the damage done by an affair.) I'll use today as an example. I volunteered to work at our Bishops Storehouse this morning. I was to help unload a truck of food for the next couple weeks. I arrived promptly at 7AM for my shift only to find out I had arrived on the wrong day. “OK” I thought, “I'll just head into work early instead." I got into my car and started heading to my office when I decided to look at this through her eyes. ‘He said he was going to work at the storehouse and then last minute it canceled and he says he went into work for the next hour’. With trust already thin, I know I need to let her know on the spot that plans have changed. Telling her later will cause her to wonder ‘Why he delayed’, or  ‘What was he really doing?’. The last thing I want is for her to be suspicious of any of my activities. So I called her, and let her know I was heading into the office. That simple call gave her the confidence that I am being honest always. And I know you may think this is overkill, but call her when you leave the office for home. Call her when you're gonna be late. Call her! Call her! Call her! Her greatest fear is being left out of the loop and being lied to again. A simple call will remind her that you are putting her first.

I know it is difficult to make ourselves this transparent. I know it feels a little bit like we are exposing ourselves and losing a bit of our own freedoms. But just like that rowdy teenager, we must earn trust before we are given it. If you have nothing to hide, then there is no reason to push back on any of these suggestions. Your wife will feel much safer and more confident in you if you volunteer these things instead of her having to plead with you to put them in place.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dear 'Addi', How Can I Help My Wife Heal? Step 5, Acknowledge That She Hurts.

A Wife in Mourning.

5. Make time each day to acknowledge she hurts. Acknowledge her pain and understand that she is mourning.

I have heard the term ‘Mourning’ used a lot during the recovery process. You might think, “What in the world could she be mourning? Its not like I have died. I am right here...and I am finally free of the sins. This is something to celebrate, not to mourn!”

I have learned over the last year that there are some things she will feel the need to mourn. I have also come to realize that while I feel the weight lifted from my years of sin, she is only now discovering that I had this secret sin at all.

The truth is, her mourning is real. What does she have to mourn?

  1. The loss of the marriage that she dreamed of since she was a little girl with a “prince charming” who puts her needs, her feelings, and her concerns first.
  2. The memories that she thought were filled with genuine moments, but that she has since discovered were filled with lies and deceit.
  3. The trust that she had grown to rely on and believe in.
  4. The safety of a life free from the overwhelming fear of being manipulated.
  5. The confidence she felt knowing that she was being placed first in his life, and that he thought of no one else emotionally, romantically, intimately.
  6. The Priesthood in her home (if you have been excommunicated or lost your priesthood blessings), the ability to go to the temple with her husband (for the same reasons).
  7. Probably one of the most difficult losses of all is the loss of those sacred, intimate moments that she thought belonged to only the 2 of you. Whether it be pornography or adultery, there is no way to get those intimate moments back.  We are taught from our youth (as LDS/Christian members) that purity before marriage is not just sought after but cherished. Those first moments of learning and sharing together in intimacy are sacred pearls. We cling to them with the knowledge that they belong to us together and no one else. So many things can be restored through the atonement, but these sacred moments are impossible to restore. If you have shared intimate moments with another or if you have  become so buried into pornography that a normal healthy sexual relationship with your spouse has been replaced by something that resembles the imaginations in your mind, then you can't turn back the time and take those things away. They exist now and they will exist forever. The loss of those sacred moments can't be reversed. Those cherished pearls have been cast into the sows’ den and the 2 of you may mourn the loss of that personal sacred celestial intimacy together for many years to come.

She will feel grief and weep over the loss of so much that she thought was real. The pain of that discovery will last much longer than the few months it took for the initial shock to dissipate.

It seems to me that it is like losing a child or a loved one. The sting at first is sharp and filled with ache. Over time, the hurt and loss softens, but the desire to have that loved one back will never fade.

She will miss all that that man meant and represented to her. She will long for the days when she didn't have to fear or worry about what he might be doing behind her back or what dark thoughts plague his mind. It is a true loss that she is learning how to cope with and, like a death, it takes time.

Acknowledge it. Recognize the struggle she is going through. Know that she is trying to hold on to some of the precious moments in the past, but now knows that some of those moments are marred with lies and deceit.

What can you do?

  1. Live worthy of this new opportunity you have been given. This is sincerely a restart. Don’t take it for granted. She has chosen to stay and work things out, at great personal cost. Be grateful for that tender gift and prove you are worthy of it.
  2. Remind her that although that man is dead (or hopefully, if not dead, slowly suffocating), a new man is being reborn, free of the weight and sin. With time, she will begin to see the evidence of that change. You can't help but walk lighter and taller when you are no longer carrying the heavy overwhelming burden of deceit and darkness.
  3. Give her no reason to question your actions, activities, or motives. There is no way to let her look into your head to see how you are doing spiritually. You have to do your proving in a physical, watchable, discernible way. I will share a few more thoughts on this point in the next post.
  4. Give her a shoulder to cry on in those moments of grief and honestly reassure her that the future can and will be better than the past.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dear Addi, How Can I help My Wife Heal? Step 4, Honest Answers!

Honest Answers

4. Humbly Listen to and answer questions.

Let me tell you that for me, this is the hardest point of all. Why? For a couple reasons I think.

First off, it requires us to be humble.  We have become so guarded and protected by our pride and lies. It is the shield that allows us to still function even though we are riddled with guilt. Pride offers us the illusion of being normal.. even when deep down we know we are anything but. It helps us mask our behaviors and desires and allows us to be convinced that perhaps our sins are not all that bad… at least not in comparison with the other sins we see people committing. Dropping that protective shield for even a minute is difficult for those of us who have spent a lifetime behind its facade.

The other reason is fear. We are in constant fear of both the questions and the honest answers they require. We fear the questions because the very fact that our spouses need to ask them means we have done something that brings them to the surface. I still panic whenever my wife says to me…. “I was thinking of something the other day and I was hoping you would clarify it for me.” I hear those words and want to crawl into a hole. Its not because I fear the questions… or even the honest answer… but I fear how that honest answer will affect her. Will she think about this for the next few days? Will it hurt her self esteem and self worth even more to know that I still fight and battle each day to keep my thoughts clean? Will it damage the trust we have built if she thinks I am not progressing at the same speed she wants me to? 

No matter how difficult the questions and how brutally honest the answers, every one of them has to be discussed. And not just once. It may takes answering the same questions 50 times before she is ready to move past it for good. I can tell you that in the last 15 months I have answered the same questions dozens of times. I will openly admit that I still battle pride when those questions come up. But here is the truth I have discovered: honest questions and painfully honest answers will do more to heal your marriage then any other thing you can do.

  1. She already knows you are broken… so why keep up the act? There is nothing to be gained here by faking that you're living in perfection.
  2. She has lived the last several years believing lie after lie and now feels like a fool. When you honestly share true feelings, even painful feelings, she can at least know that it is truth and truth goes a lot farther than deceit. Truth heals.

Wive (or husbands if the roles are reversed): The question and answer process can be detrimental if it is done for the wrong reasons. Remember this is not a game of "gotcha." Here are a few things to consider as the 2 of you go through the discovery process.

  1. Remember, you already know he is an addict but some of his revelations may still be sharp and painful to hear. He will be far more open to share if you receive it with kindness. Do your best not to act offended or surprised when he begins to reveal to you the details of his addiction.
  2. Help him feel safe enough to share. He has hidden these things for years because he is ashamed. He wants to get better. He needs help and you help. But if his confessions are met with disgust and anger, he may retract instead of opening up.
  3. Don't ask about the gory details. I know you want to know everything but remember.. every detail is added weight that moves off of him and presses down on you. With it comes thoughts, imaginations, and a new wave of pain. Decide what you need to know and what you can live without knowing.  The goal is to heal, not to write a gossip column. To alleviate the weight, only ask for those things that give you the clarification you need. Remember, if he is willing to talk about this with you at all, it means he is trying to change and repent. Don't force him to drudge up thoughts and memories that require him to relive his sin over and over.  Don't let the details pull you down like the anchor they are. Once you have learned them you can never unlearn them. They become new memories that haunt your marriage.

Husbands (or wives if the roles are reversed): Don't use this as an opportunity to be a jerk. It is hard to have to relive the sins of your past over and over again, but your spouse is going through a trauma that she didn't ask for. You must try with all your might not to become prideful, angry, or mean. I know it's easy to sit back and say, "I would never treat my wife that way," but I can tell you that for some reason, we turn into that which we despise when we feel backed into a corner. I'm not sure exactly why a series of questions such as these could make one feel backed into a corner, but that seems to be the emotion I have experienced throughout this process. Be kind. Be gentle. Remember, she is hopefully not trying to “Catch You” or blame you. The time for that is passed… at least it is if you have already confessed and are trying to live an honest, sin free life.  What she is trying to do is simply understand. 

This is tough because there is no amount of explaining that you can do that will ever completely make things clear for her. The pieces will never fit exactly into place in her mind. And truthfully, they shouldn't. Nothing about this makes sense. Both the addiction and the recovery are madness. Here is the thing to remember most of all: If you are intent on saving your marriage, it's time to give up the selfish routine. Every moment of the last umpteen years, my addiction has been about me. The recovery, even though it has multiple parts and affects both you and her and your family and others, must be focused on her needs. Before it was 90% about you and 10% about her. Now it needs to be at least 60% about her, and pride has no place in those kind of ratios.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dear Addi, How Can I help My wife Heal? Step 3, Get Into the Game!

Get Into The Game!

3. Be Engaged in the process

When I was in Middle school, I was an awkward dorky kid and I had no athletic skills whatsoever. I felt out of place and unequipped to participate. I eventually figured out that if I just played near the edge of the field, that no one would pay me any attention and the game would simply go on around me. I would hide in plain sight, never wanting to face my biggest fear of all… playing the game.

During the last 15 months in my recovery process, I have met some amazing men working through the pornography addiction recovery course. I have heard many of their stories and seen them go through many phases of the process. I have a great deal of respect for these men for simply showing up at all. They have taken a step onto the field of play. 

However, every once in a while a brother will come through who you can tell is only there because they were drug there by their wife. They are not excited to be in the game at all and would prefer to simply stay on the sidelines.

One such Brother came for several weeks and each week simply ‘Passed’, when given the opportunity to share in group. He seemed distracted while group was going on. I often caught him playing video games on his phone, sketching pictures, or texting. It seemed very disrespectful to the others and it was obvious he didn't want to be there. Over time I got to know the brother and his wife. I eventually asked him if he felt he was getting anything out of group. He said, “No. Not Really. I'm not ready to give up my addiction yet. I just go because my wife yells at me if I don't and it's easier to just go then to fight.” I watched him after group each week as he would meet his wife in the parking lot and could see the look of hope on her face that perhaps today he heard something that would inspire him to engage in the process. But, up to that point, he hadn't. He seemed sad, depressed and generally negative. He put zero effort into his recovery and she could see it.  

Its time to play the game. Do not be a side-liner. 

After a few games, on my middle school team, one of the older boys pointed out an area of field that he wanted me to be responsible for. He said, “If the ball comes into this area, its yours.”. I was petrified. I spent most of my time hoping it never came near me. Eventually I learned that if it did come into my zone, it was easy enough to kick it on to the person in the zone next to me. On one occasion the ball came into my zone and I immediately passed it on to the adjacent zone, hoping that the more experienced player would know what to do with it. It rolled into his area and then to a stop. My teammate was no where to be found. He had gone to block for me. He hoped that I would follow the ball and continue on toward the goal. But in my mind, I had done my job. I had covered MY zone. Could he really expect me to cover his too? Needless to say, the opposing team got the ball and returned it for a goal. I was chastised and reminded after the play that, this was a team sport and that we have to be willing to back each other up when needed.

Another way we sit on the sidelines is to assume you have done your part and the rest is up to your wife. I know this sounds callous. How could anyone treat their spouse this way after all the damage we have caused? It does happen though and is an easy trap to fall into. The problem is, we are really fighting two separate battles. His is a battle to overcome sin and fight off the demons that pull him into a world of filth. Hers is to piece back together her life and try to find a way to both forgive and continue to live with, this new knowledge. 

The other difficulty is that each battle has a different definition for success. Your success comes when you feel a sense of control over your life. You see a long stretch of sobriety as winning the war and start to feel like you can conquer your demons. Her success however is based on whether or not she can overcome the pain of your revelations and your weaknesses. Can she learn to cope with this new knowledge? Can she trust you again? She will undoubtedly have a longer battle to fight before she sees the the victories. 

Simply because he is doing well at defending his zone, doesn't  mean she is always successfully defending hers. Our victories do not always happen at the same time. We can not simply sit back and enjoy our spoils while our wives are in the midst of an epic onslaught. The ball is still in play and it still needs our attention. Remember, this is a team sport. It requires both of you to overcome the opponent.

Unlike my middle school experience, this game will come to an end. Those who either don’t get engaged or are satisfied that their job is done, will eventually be defeated.  The truth is, you, the husband, are the MVP of the game. You are the only one who can make the critical plays to move the ball in the right direction. If you never get engaged or only engage in your zone of the field, the game will come to an end and you will be left on the side line.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dear Addi, How can I help My Wife Heal? Step 2, Take Responsibility!

'Take Responsibility'

2 - Take responsibility. Don't make excuses.

Kent Crockett shared the following story in his book ‘The 911 Handbook’.

One day when my son Scott was two years old, I heard him crying.  I went into his room and my daughter Hannah, who was four, was there also.  A plastic bat was lying on the floor.  
     "What happened to Scott?" I asked.
        Hannah answered, "He hit his head."
        "On what?"
        She pointed toward the bat on the floor and said, "The bat."
        "Where was the bat?"  
        She said, "In my hand."

We learn the Blame-It-On-Someone-Else Method at such an early age.

I once had a dear friend confess to me that over the course of several months he had met with a handful of women privately for secret late night rendezvous. This happened as his wife slept. “My wife”, he said, “has a debilitating disease and we have not been intimate in several years. She has denied me intimacy for so long. I was just looking for a way to fill that gap in my life” This was the basis for his decision to meet with strangers for sexual favors.

Another friend, after having been caught in an affair and excommunicated for his sins, told his wife that “I am tired of trying to live up to your image of what you think I should be.  Maybe if you weren't pushing me so hard I wouldn't have had the affair.”

In both cases, the men  were quick to offer excuses for their actions. The knee jerk response was to somehow shift the blame to something their wife either did or didn't do.   Passing blame is the perfect way for us to shift some of the weight and guilt for our choices. But there is no question that these flimsy excuses won't hold up in front of a council. No bishop will listen to such excuses and say, “You know what, you’re right, she is kind of bossy.  You are justified in  lusting after another.”  They would never do that.  No matter how difficult or perilous one’s marriage or family life is, only we can take ownership for our choices.

Don’t fall into the trap of the blame game. It will only break down lines of communication and make it impossible to move past current hurts onto healing. Take a step back and look to see who is the one crying and who is the one holding the bat.

A few months back I had a ‘slip’. I broke one of my personal rules and stayed up too late alone. It led to viewing a program that had far too many triggers in it. Those triggers eventually led to viewing pornography. This ‘slip’ devastated my wife. After more than a year of sobriety, she was suddenly faced again with the questions “Am I safe in this relationship? Is he going to be true? Is he going to have another affair?”. You might think it extreme to jump to such thoughts immediately after a year of sobriety, however, she knows that my addiction led me far beyond looking at pornography and into an affair that nearly destroyed our family. So a slip to her is only inches from a full blown affair.  At the time, I was feeling guilty and ashamed and I felt that her response was an over reaction. I let her know so. For the following weeks she was far more observant of my comings and going and would sometimes hourly ask me how I was doing that day. ‘Did I feel strong?’ I allowed myself to get prideful and take offense. I began to think, “Hadn't I just proved my dedication with a year of sobriety? Hadn't I earned a small level of trust? One slip up was not the end of the world was it?”. At one point I pushed it back on her. “Stop asking me if I feel strong or if I feel ok”, I would say, “Its as if you are saying ‘I Don't Trust YOU!’, and I hate that.”

In this moment I took her need to feel safe and her genuine concern for me and meshed it with the shame and the guilt of my own failure. I then turned it around on her. I wanted her to stop asking. Not because I was worried about her level of trust, but because it made ‘ME’ feel guilty about ‘MY’ mistakes. And so, I went out of my way to make ‘her’ feel guilty for asking at all. Did I feel guilty?, Yes! Did I know she had problems trusting me?, Yes. But I made my guilt… hers. Even after putting weeks of space between the sin and the present, She still felt in danger.

As we, the offender, begin to heal from our sins and feel the forgiveness that comes through the atonement of Christ, we can become comfortable and slowly start to slip back into what feels like a “normal life”.In this new place of feeling forgiven, we may choose to act out in what we think of as a ‘Righteous pride’, and begin to blame her for ‘making us relive the sins of our past’ or ‘ Wanting to rehash old sins instead of focusing on the repented person we are’. Its easy to, even after months in recovery, somehow make them feel guilty for not recovering quickly enough from the crime that WE committed.

Again, we need to ask ourselves, who is the one holding the bat.

We can go a long way to helping our loved ones heal by simply accepting responsibility. Confess it all. Leave nothing in hiding. Answer every question, and above all… beware of pride. Pointing fingers or making excuses is a recipe for failure.