What About Me?

The following was written five months after my husband’s excommunication from the LDS Church.

christus-lds-454706-tabletLife is not fair and I am certainly feeling that is true in my life right now as I continue to feel the pain of betrayal trauma. My husband will one day be re-baptized and will be cleansed of all his past sins. He will rise up out of the water perfectly clean of all wrong-doing and he will have to change to begin his life anew. But what about me? While my husband begins life as a new man, I will be left broken, worn, and hurt. How can that be fair or just?

I have struggled with thoughts regarding all the pain my husband has caused my children, extended family, our friends, and mostly me. To count each specific lie and sin throughout our married years would be impossible.

There is no way that my husband could ever pay the price for his sins during his earthly life. That is why we have a Savior.

My husband will do all he can to repent and make amends, but it will never be enough. The Savior will make up the difference. It is the only way.

So, what about me?

A recent experience helped me better understand what might be in store for me. I was dreading the Sunday that my grandchild would be blessed. I would have the painful reminder that my husband was not worthy and would not be in the circle with other good brethren participating in that ordinance. I felt that, after all the years of working to have a gospel-centered home, I was being punished with a broken family and a broken heart.

There was nothing special about the way the meeting began, but I slowly felt a change happen. I was suddenly aware of the good people in my ward and I could feel their love. I felt the powerful testimonies of my faithful adult children sitting on either side of me. I had an overpowering sense that I was at the right place, doing the right thing, and that the Lord approved of my efforts overall. I let no sense of loss when the circle of brethren, without my husband, surrounded the newborn. I was only aware of a profound sense of love. I thought, “This must be how a healed heart feels.” The feelings lasted just long enough for me to know that a broken heart can be mended through the miraculous power of our Savior’s atoning love.

Just like my husband, I also can rely on the Savior’s ability to make up the difference.

My pain is so acute and my hurt is so deep that it seems impossible that I can ever again experience joy in this lifetime. By myself, I do no know how to heal completely and wholly. I believe that I can learn coping tools, study the gospel, and pray, but it may not be enough. The Savior who paid the price for my husband’s sins will also heal my heart. He will make up the difference for us all.

 

 

 

Teeter Totter

teeter totter

When I was a young girl, I loved playing on a teeter-totter. I don’t see many teeter-totters on playgrounds anymore. Perhaps the need for protective helmets and shin guards take some of the fun out of my childhood playground equipment!

It is necessary to have a partner in order to use a teeter-totter. I remember one of my friends was not a very good totter partner. She and I would get a nice up and down rhythm going. I would love the cool breeze against my skin as I gently swayed toward the sky and then gently glided toward the ground. It was absolutely heavenly until my friend would purposely put her feet out so her seat would hit the ground hard and then she would just sit still without allowing the totter to move. The hard hit always gave me a jolt. I was helpless as I dangled up in the air. There was nothing to reach out to for safety. All I could do was hold on to the metal bar in front of me until the board moved and allowed me to find the safety of the ground again.

Sometimes I feel that living with a sex addict is like riding a teeter-totter.

My husband has been diligently and successfully working on his recovery for a while. I am progressing well in my healing from betrayal trauma. There are days and weeks when my husband and I fall into a nice steady groove of doing our daily self-care of, among other things, praying, studying scriptures, healthy eating, exercising, and getting plenty of rest. It is heavenly as we develop a healthy rhythm to our relationship. Communication is open and transparent. We laugh. We cuddle. We are optimistic about our future.

Then, without warning, we experience a rift in our relationship. It is often rooted in a small misunderstanding, but it almost always results in a temporary emotional withdrawal. When my husband suddenly becomes overly defensive, or withdraws emotionally, or is just irritable, I get jolted. The jolt is especially painful after enjoying a period of time when things seem to be moving along smoothly. I feel like he is hitting bottom and I am simply up in the air without many options. I become fearful and begin to believe that I can’t get back to the ground until my husband makes a changing movement.

But I am not helpless in my see-sawing life. There is a strong metal bar or rod in front of me that I can grasp. The bar does not bend. It is always there whether I’m the one in the relationship that is up or the one down. If I can cling to the handlebar long enough, I know things will eventually change. Life, like a teeter-totter, does not stay still for long.

The reliable thing that I can always grasp in order to get a handle on life is the Atonement of Christ. No matter if I’m enjoying a high or a low point in my marital relationship, Christ is always there in front of me. He is always waiting for me to come to Him again. Always waiting for me to reach my hands out and find a tight grip for safety. My life teeters, but Christ is always constant.

Helaman taught his sons this lesson when he reminded them that Christ, the Son of God, is a sure foundation, “a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12). We cannot fall nor will we teeter our way through life if we cling to Christ, our Redeemer and Savior.

Holding On

I used to sit in my church pew knowing that I had it all together. My family was doing the right things. We weren’t perfect, but we were on a righteous path. I often cast my eyes around the congregation and could subconsciously nod approval at the other families who also appeared to be on the right path. Other families were broken. Obviously, they made some choices that took them off the path because if we keep the commandments we will be blessed, or so I assumed.

And then . . .  the bomb dropped! I found out about my husband’s infidelities.

Since that day, my view of the church and the people in it has changed. The church and the people have not changed, but I have. After struggling with questions about Priesthood authority, Divine revelation, and more importantly, the subtle lack of focus on the Savior, I finally settled on this: I need to work on ME!

praying handsI believe in Christ. The church, for me is a vehicle that helps me learn and grow closer to Christ. My understanding of the Atonement has been limited, but that is because of ME. Until now, I never had to rely solely on the power of the Atonement. Christ’s doctrine and teachings have always been spoken and taught through the church curriculum and its leaders but I didn’t fully grasp the meaning because I didn’t think I needed it. I had a very basic understanding of my Savior and, for my life as it was, that was enough.

I’m beginning to feel gratitude for the necessity of reforming my faith. Currently, I sit in the same pew at church but my eyes see things so differently. As an imperfect being with an imperfect life, I am among other imperfect individuals and families. We are all striving for the same things. We want to be happy. We want to secure a place with our Father in the hereafter. And, most importantly, we want to know Christ. We are all at different levels of understanding. When I hear shallow comments during class discussions, I simply remind myself that I was once there. My visions used to be rather shallow. I’m still there some days. I’m still learning. If I begin to feel impatient or judgmental about what I hear or see at church, I remind myself to “let it go.”

I once thought because my kids served missions and got sealed in the temple, and because my husband and I each served in a variety of leadership positions, and because we easily portrayed ourselves as happy and faithful, that my future was secure. But none of those things seem important, now. Ward activities, missionary work, and service projects . . . those things can wait a bit. They are not my primary focus at this time. I need to be right with Christ. Regardless of how many callings I have or how  my children turn out, I need to know Christ. And that’s why I attend church.

I go to church to find Christ. And I feel like He is there.

I have a lot of experience in the church that has built a strong foundation under my feet. I’ve overcome trials, including the death of an infant son, but discovering my husband’s indiscretions has been a trial of my faith like nothing else. I let my questions sit in my heart. I take them to church with me. I know I will find answers as I strengthen my relationship and faith in Christ. That’s all that matters to me. I’m holding on to Christ.

Finally.

Paper Brave

pen and paper-7The are times when I can give awesome advice. There are times when I have unstoppable courage. There are times when I am so in tune with the Spirit, I have no doubts concerning the most important answers about life. When I am writing in my journal or invited to respond in writing to a question or concern for someone else, I have expotential courage. Oh, yes! I’m a valiant warrior woman when my pen hits the page. Sometimes I feel I am my bravest self when my life is written on paper. I project magnificence on the printed page!

It is a careful and methodical process when I attempt to write down the perfect thought to share with others. Surely, I can inspire and buoy others with my profundity. Yes! I know all about the addiction cycle and how someone behaves when in addict mode. I have great ideas about boundaries. I’m doing the 12-step dance every day along with scripture study and prayer. You need an article? Give me a second and I’ll find the perfect conference talk for your solace and comfort. Look at me! I’ve got this!

The reality is that writing down my thoughts gives me time and forces me to think things through.

I can quickly delete or erase any of my misdirected thoughts when I’m writing. The end result is that I sound mighty terrific! I can easily give the appearance that my healing progress is right on the mark. No foul-ups. No overly emotional responses. Ever.

Paper brave does not, however, save me from the moments when sobbing and hugging the floor is the only thing I can manage to do. My paper brave self cannot eliminate triggers that, without any warning, jump out and catch me when I’m off-guard. Paper bravery does no even exist when my imagination conjures up horrific images or scenarios that terrify me to the core in order to “fill in the blanks” of my husband’s disclosures. There are moments when my unstoppable courage halts, when I can’t think of any decent advice, and when detecting the Spirit is a challenge. Those are the moments when trauma takes over and my bravery cowers in the corner.

Fortunately, during times of trauma, I can read my journal filled with audacious counsel and guidance. As I read, I wonder, “Where is that warrior woman? Where did she go?” I keep reading until

I find myself again.

 

 

 

 

About the Lion

It was one of those dreams that wake me up at night and then haunt me for weeks after.

The most significant part of the dream began with me walking alone on a dirt road with thick woods on either side. There were a few other people walking along the road, but I did not interact with them. I felt isolated and alone as I walked. From a short distance away, I heard someone yell, “Look out!” I instinctively jumped to the right side of the road as a circus train barreled past me on the left. The train was miniature-sized and was barely as tall as I was. As the train rolled by, I noticed that many of the windows in the train cars were broken and I thought, “The circle animals are going to be loose!”
As soon as the train went by, I excitedly began to search for the animals that would be roaming free. There was an amazing sight in front of me with elephants, zebras, monkeys, and other animals casually roaming about. The animals were everywhere!

In an instant, my excitement disappeared as I realized there might be a lion among the newly freed animals. I froze with fear at the thought of meeting a lion. I said a quick and fervent prayer, “Please God. Please, don’t let there be a lion. Please, no lion!”

As soon as my prayer was finished, I looked up to see a huge lion ahead of me and on the side of the road. The lion was staring at me and I was gripped with terror. “I can’t do this. I’m going to die,” I thought. Slowly the lion, while keeping his steady gaze on me, sauntered to the center of the road. He looked at me as if daring me to cross his path. I felt trapped with no options. lion

In the blink of an eye, the lion was suddenly hidden from my view because a huge cart appeared in front of me. It was a very large, heavy, wooden cart. The thought came to me that if I pushed the cart, the lion would be crushed. I knew I didn’t have the ability to push the cart by myself. I got a strong impression that if I could just push with all my might, the cart would begin to roll. There was a push bar in front of me and I grasped it firmly and tried to push.

Nothing.

Another impression came that I had to believe that I could push the cart. I tried to push again, but this time I told myself I could do it. “Have confidence! You can do this! Confidence!” I told myself. I gave all the effort that I had. The cart began to budge a bit and then it slowly began to roll. Once it started to roll, it just kept going and I was surprised at how easy it was to push.

The cart rolled over the spot where the lion was. I couldn’t see him, but I knew I had crushed the lion under the weight of the cart. The lion was gone. There was no sign of him anywhere.

I crushed the lion.

I believe the lion represents my fears. As I progress in my healing from betrayal trauma, I remind myself that I may have to continue facing down lions, my fears, day after day. I have a sturdy cart, the Atonement of Christ, that I can utilize to overcome any and all obstacles and fears in my life. I just have to have confidence in myself and believe in the power of the Savior.  Once my Atonement cart starts to roll, I will continue crushing the lions that stand in the way of my hope and healing.