It was almost 18 years ago that I sat in my living room, holding my newborn son, and sobbing tears of pain. I cried relentlessly as I discovered my husband’s well-kept secret. I had so many questions on that dreadful day when I learned of his sexual addiction. Who was he really? Who was this man that I thought was my prince charming? Does he have a secret life? How could he do this to me? To us? To our family? Am I not pretty enough? My thoughts raced in my mind as I felt I had no one to turn to that could fully understand my pain.
I lived in silence for many years until I finally broke. I could not endure holding onto his secret any longer. I was dying on the inside and no one knew. I just exploded one day… I blew up and told everyone within reach. I was angry, I was bitter and most of all I was full of pain. Sadly, I did not handle this correctly and further harmed myself and my husband. Exploding was not what I had ever intended to do but like an over packed trash can, my feelings came spilling out. Thankfully, I now know there is help. I now know there are other’s that I can turn to that understand my pain.
Unfortunately, most spouses do not realize the full impact their husband’s sexual betrayal has on them, so like me, they stay in isolation and go through the pain alone. Marsha Means and Barbara Steffens explain in their book, “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse” about betrayal trauma and attachment bonds. They explain that in a marriage, the couple forms an attachment bond. Through the bond, their desire to be loved is fulfilled and security is gained as they grow together through their experiences. If anything threatens this bond for a partner, that each of them depend upon and expect to be their security, then fear of abandonment sets in. When this fear of abandonment becomes a reality, a betrayal trauma occurs and life becomes chaotic. So what do you do if you have just discovered your husband’s sexual unfaithfulness and are suffering from a betrayal trauma? There are many things that you can do but your top priority should be re-establishing safety and gaining empowerment. This will help lessen the blow of the trauma and help relieve the pain.
Below are some ideas to help you regain safety and become empowered:
- Ask yourself, how can I feel safe in my home again and what are my needs to accomplish this? This may involve a temporary in-home separation. Some may need sexual boundaries until trust can be rebuilt. I encourage you to pray and ask God to show you what you need to feel safe again. He will guide and lead you. “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure” (Proverbs 16:9).
- Create boundaries. Having boundaries can help you feel safe and it can also help you take responsibility for yourself. Some boundaries I have set up for my marriage are having filters placed on computers and smartphones, no movies that have sexual content, no Facebook friends that have sexual content on their pages, and avoid environments that may trigger trauma symptoms.
- Get a support system. Find a counselor that specializes in sexual addiction or trauma. Connect with a wife’s support group. Talk with a trusted family member or friend (caution: make sure this person is “safe” and will be nonjudgmental). Talk with a minister or pastor. Our secrets will keep us sick. ”When I kept silent, my bones wasted away” (Psalm 32:3).
- Gain resources. Use resources from xxxchurch, books, and articles to help educate you on the effects of sexual addiction. Be educated so that you can understand the cycle of addiction and the impact it has on you.
I am praying for you and hope that you know you are not alone. Please do not wait like I did to reach out for help. Reach out and allow others on this journey to walk along side you and help hold you up as you recover and begin to heal.