For Better & For Worse

Vegas is always a fun place to go, especially when you’re at your wits end in your marriage and just wanting to let off steam. I didn’t party though, I had gone there on a business training trip. On the last night one of the girls and I went out to see the sights.

A quick gander of the Cowboy Ugly saloon in New York New York lead to meeting a few random people and we explored with them for the rest of the night. One pub here, a restaurant there…little to no drinking on my part, but it was fun! Flirting, laughing, exploring…one of the guys in the group and I hit it off by the end of the night and he had asked me up to his room. As far as I remember, there was no physical contact between us, but that doesn’t mean the desire wasn’t there. In a setting like that, when your marriage is struggling, of course the desire is there. I said no to his offer even though I wanted to. I just knew that I couldn’t realistically act on that urge.

This was another sign to me that I needed to leave my marriage. If the temptation to cheat was so strong, eventually I would give in to it, and I couldn’t do that to my husband. I needed to leave before I hurt him like that. He needed someone to love him more than I did.

It’s so interesting to me that feelings like this and others I had felt in the past, were signs to me that I needed to leave my marriage. If I was struggling with these thoughts, I assumed that I didn’t love my husband enough and I shouldn’t be in my marriage…when in actuality, they were signs of the dysfunction of my own heart, and red flags of correction that I, personally, needed to make. They shouldn’t have been reasons for me to leave my husband, they should have been reasons I needed to be honest with myself and my husband and seek help.

These struggles weren’t abnormal, they were ones that many individuals go through. They aren’t a reason to divorce, they’re a reason to assess the situation. Maybe love isn’t being given and / or received so the individual is looking else where. Maybe connection isn’t being felt. Maybe there’s a spiritual imbalance which has lead to an unhealthy thought life.

None of these issues are impossible! They’re all able to be corrected with counseling, intentional changes within the marriage, corrections to thought processes…But of course, that would mean admitting to my own faults, humbly asking for help and working at applying the steps it would take to make a change.

Doing this is so difficult, admitting unhealthy behaviour or thoughts is a blow to the pride and ego. But leaving a marriage because of these issues doesn’t mean they stop. You still carry these issues into whatever life situation comes next.

Dealing with your own issues before ruining a marriage because of them is the healthier, albeit harder option. It saves a severing that takes years to recover from, if at all. It prevents a situation that God has said he hates. It allows two people to work on themselves and become better individuals and a healthier team. You’ll grow, you’ll learn and God will bless the efforts he sees you making to heal yourself and your covenant.

I truly believe that a bigger blessing is waiting for you on the other side of this struggle. The covenant we make in front of God on our wedding day is sacred, it’s an earthly and obvious reflection of God’s relationship with us. He will back the efforts we put into it and will show us his presence in ways we thought were impossible. We need to stubbornly push through the For Worse to reach the For Better.

Sex & God

I am totally fascinated by sexuality and the effects of sex on a human being. I’m taking a psychology course and I am completely enamoured with how the human mind works and specifically how sex changes us.

My goal with the course started with becoming a marriage and family counselor, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I need to focus more on the sexual aspect of relationships. It’s what fires me up, puts me on the edge of my seat, makes my eyes light up and my words come out really. really. fast. There’s an obvious passion built into me about this topic and I believe that God has written my story in a way that allows me help others in this area.

It’s interesting looking back on my life and seeing myself progress in the sexual intimacy department. I used to be (probably still am…) the friend that would crack the “that’s what she said” jokes and make innocent comments sexual (it’s amazing what raising your eyebrows can do). From my friends point of view, my marriage sex-life must have been passionate and the sex itself, frequent. If I was so open about sexuality in our friend-group, of course I would be just as open about it when my husband and I were alone.

Not the case.

We had a good sex life, the sex we did have was enjoyable and frequent, but it took some convincing for me to want to participate.

When I heard on Sexy Marriage Radio that sex is a form of communication, it really made me assess my sex life. Dr. Corey Allan and Shannon Ethridge mentioned that the way you live out this part of your life is often the way you live out your day-to-day life.

If this is true, what did it mean for me?

In my marital sex life, I was very distrusting and on edge.

It took everything in me to believe that my husband wasn’t just using me.

I had to be convinced to relax and be vulnerable.

Big sigh.

All of these things could be translated into my life in general.

In friendships I held emotional connection back, creating walls, until I saw that it was safe to let my heart participate. People around me may not have seen the hesitation, but inside, my mind was telling me I shouldn’t trust.

In my day-to-day, my first thought was that people were using me or going to hurt me, and it took a mental game to convince myself that they genuinely wanted a friendship.

I often had to be coerced to do something out of my comfort zone and even when I did participate it took a while for me to relax and enjoy myself. In the meantime a bad attitude and an edgy-ness was obvious (both defense mechanisms).

The way I lived out my marital sex life was absolutely a direct reflection of how I lived out my every day.

Now, what do I do with this knowledge?

Knowledge is power.

I consider how I have changed through the last few years, and how my sex-life has gone from one extreme to another only to settle into what I believe God has called me to. How does this reflect my life and how I communicate myself to others?

Is this even important? To consider how our sex lives are a reflection of other parts of us? I think it is. Sex was given to us by God, built into our humanity. It’s a drive for each of us. It’s important to acknowledge it and it gives us insight to other aspects of our lives.

Even if it’s just helping us see ourselves in a new light, that is important.

So looking at my current sex life (or lack thereof), I can see how I have changed. How I have matured. How God is working and molding me. Leading me in His direction and not my own.

I see the forgiveness I’ve received. The softness of my heart. The grace. The patience. When I look at my sexual journey, strange as it may seem, I see God and His work in my life.

 

 

 

Secrets

I was reminded today, in a completely unexpected way, of a part of my story. A little forewarning, this is a sensitive subject.

When I was little, and until my mid teens, I had a very disturbing reoccurring dream. I didn’t tell anyone about it, I was ashamed, I felt gross and I was completely embarrassed. I would pray, beg, for this dream to stop, but for years it would roll through my sleeping hours.

Finally, close to my 20’s, the dream seemed to go away. Even so, I was left with the emotional damage. The feelings of shame, inadequacy, filth, failure and helplessness. I remember having intense emotional breakdowns, feeling overwhelmed with pain and inner struggle.

The scariest thing about these dreams was that I was sure who the perpetrator was. Not only this but I was becoming more and more confident that these dreams were images of acts that had been committed against me as a child.

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was married at the age of 22. Even though this pain that the dreams had left me with was still so present, I was certain that if I ignored it, it would go away. I believed that I was dealing with it myself and that my husband didn’t need to know. It would have been to hard for me to share the details with him, and I didn’t see the point of intentionally bringing that hurt into our marriage. The symptoms would disappear eventually. Right?

Fast-forward four point five years later and our marriage had hit a rough spot. I was drained and borderline depressed, barely having the strength to get out of bed or off the couch, let alone put energy into our relationship. But my husband wouldn’t accept that and he forced me / us to go to counseling. He is a good man.

Counseling was the most difficult thing I had ever done. I was shaking uncontrollably the entire two hour drive to the counseling session. I didn’t want to go and I hated my husband for making me. I couldn’t even look at him. I was positive that the counselor was going to tell me what a bad Christian wife I was being.

But it wasn’t like that. This session was the first of several we would go to and it did help me get a little closer to healing.

During the session the counselor used EMDR Therapy. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. A simplistic description of this therapy is that you follow the therapists hand movements with your eyes. Sometimes the client will loose sight of the fingers, showing that there is a blind spot in that area. Since humans process most memories visually, these blind spots are signs of repressed memories.

When the counselor hit a blind spot of mine, my body fell off balance and I struggled to stand upright. She asked what thoughts had come to mind in that moment and I lied and said that nothing had. But it was the memories of these dreams that had resurfaced. I quickly looked at my husband and knew I couldn’t bring them up. Once again, I believed the lie that acknowledging them would be pointless and that I was dealing with them on my own.

I know now that if I had been honest and brought up what had come to mind during the EMDR treatment, my story would be very different. I would not doubt that it would have saved my marriage. But instead, I decided to struggle with my secret on my own, thinking that everything would work out just fine.

I couldn’t see that this secret, although so far in the past, was affecting everything about myself and my marriage. It affected my confidence and body image, my view of men, my sexual experiences and view of these moments, the way I accepted affection and love…and that’s just a couple things that come to mind.

Secrets slowly seep into your life and darken everything.

Secrets kill. They are a deadly rust that spreads throughout relationships, slowly crumbling the foundation until it all topples over.

I refuse to feel guilt and shame from my past. I will acknowledge the wrong and move forward with those lessons. But I will fight the lies that Satan would love to tie me down with. I will share my story in order to help others in their walks, knowing that God has given me this plot for a reason. There is a purpose to my path and I believe that is to give glory to his name and to help those struggling around me.

So my offering of help today is this: Are you keeping a secret? Is there something you think that you’re dealing with on your own?

It might be hard, you might be shaking the entire time you do it, but share your secret with someone. Help them carry this burden. Ask for guidance or just spill the beans. Go to someone wise, loving and full of grace.

And friends, if you’re the one helping to share the burden, be gentle. Guide with truth and bring God into this conversation. Pray, listen, and remember that words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being a sounding board. Have the wherewithal to suggest therapy if needed, or hold your friends hand all the way to the pastors office if you have to. But most of all, be open and listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Sharing secrets is painful but that pain will pass. It doesn’t feel like it, I understand that. But please believe me when I say, dealing with secrets is so much better than hiding them.