There is something that I am truly struggling with and I finally feel strong enough and safe enough in my world to address it. I am completely open to talk with you about what I’m about to write. I feel like it is so emotional for me that I would do better to write it all out first, without the emotions and intonations, in order to prevent myself from getting side tracked by the heaviness and tenderness and therefore allowing myself to be true to my heart and what I’d really like to say. I want you to know that the only expectation I have is to be heard, really heard, so that I can release the painful emotions I have and heal and move forward. I no longer want to feel hurt (and if I’m truly honest, bitter) any more and the only way I know how to release the emotions at this point is to openly acknowledge them.
I want to start by saying that I believe in a loving and merciful God. I believe that He is more merciful, patient and forgiving than any of us could ever truly fathom. I know He’s real and He’s here. I know that He has provided us a church to learn about His ways and help us to become closer to Him. I know that His church is lead by a loving and faithful prophet. President Monson is God’s truly appointed prophet in our day. I know that our Heavenly Father has provided bishops, stake presidents, relief society presidents and other local and general leadership to help His children learn of Him, feel His love and help them to return to Him one day. I know that although the system is perfect it does not always work perfectly because it is made up of flawed humans who are all trying to feel of His love and remember who they are. I know, in every recess of my heart, that you are the person that He has chosen to lead and love our ward family. I see your mercy, love and compassion. Last Sunday you looked at me and smiled at me and I felt that. I felt the very real love that you feel for me. Above every thing I say, I want you to know that this I know above all else- You are the man God chose to be my bishop at this time and you love me.
One day, I woke up and realized that I was married to a stranger. The man that I had loved, laughed with, born children with, trusted and shared a bed with, was not the man that he had portrayed himself to be. He was not the man I thought I was married to. The realization of this caused me to question everything. Every moment we shared, good or bad was questioned. Every laugh, vacation, intimate moment and cherished time was questioned. I questioned whether my children were really baptized or whether their blessings would be honored. I questioned whether I was truly lovable or if it was my own flaws that created this mess. I questioned who I was, what I believed and everything I once thought of as my truths. So often in young women’s, the unspoken truth is that if we make all of the “right” choices, we will be “safe”. We are taught to marry returned missionaries in the temple and keep ourselves morally clean because in return we will receive a husband who honors and respects us and values the same things we do. We stay away from nonmember boys and instead ask faithful member boys questions about their feelings on family and their missions in order to secure a loving and safe future for ourselves. And then just like that, one day, we find out that we never really were safe. The “right” questions and making the “right” choices have done nothing to keep us safe. We are no safer than any other woman who walks this earth.
Then, far too often, our husbands confess their sins and even worst, their secret life, to our bishops over and over and over and over and over again, and nothing happens. The lack of consequences afforded to my husband after multiple confessions of secret lives, blatant lies and the scriptural definition of infidelity, further reinforced to me that I wasn’t actually the cherished daughter of God that I was taught that I was. It showed me that virtue and morality were only important up until the point that I knelt across the altar and said “yes”.
I felt like first I was betrayed by my husband and then I was betrayed my priesthood leaders. Even my own father told me to “put this behind me and move on.” and that I was “over-reacting”. No one, ever, not once, looked at me and told me that I was worth more than I had been treated. I had to determine that all by myself. The only thing I can think to compare it to for you is if one day, after years of faithful service you were shown, without a doubt that the priesthood was actually not God’s power on earth, but rather a placebo effect. When you questioned the man who ordained you, he confessed that he knew all along but didn’t want you to feel stupid. When you tried to talk about how hurt and betrayed you felt by this to everyone you trusted that would listen to you, they told you that they were sorry, but you needed to move past this. You were making a bigger deal about it than it actually was. Can you imagine the thoughts you would have and the processes you would have to go through? Think of every blessing you have given. Every time you have felt the confirmation from the Lord that His work was done. Every person that was healed by your hands through His power. Every person that was loved and comforted. Every time you felt, without a doubt, God’s love for you. And imagine how you would feel every time you saw a blessing given and were told to calm down and be silent, that you were over-reacting. That chaos that you would feel, this was my life.
In his videos Helping Her Heal, therapist Doug Weiss describes what a wife goes through upon learning of her husband’s betrayal, as being shot in the face by her husband with a shotgun. As she is screaming for help and gushing blood, her husband is asking her what is wrong with her and why she isn’t forgiving and trusting him, because he’s not shooting anymore. But, just saying this demonstrates that he is still holding the gun. His lack of accountability and his failure to accept the natural consequences of his actions tells us that he is still unsafe to us. Far too often, what isn’t seen by those who are trying to help us, are the intense manipulations and emotional abuse that we have come to accept as normal in our lives. Control, blameshifting and gaslighting are common and quite often every day occurrences in the life of the wife of a porn/sex addict. My husband was able to mask his desperate attempts to hide his addiction and secure his methods of acting out as protection and care for me. I was tricked into thinking control was love. I understand now that I was emotionally and intimately abused by my husband before I knew about his addiction and I continued to be emotionally and intimately abused by him for some time after finding out about his addiction. I can see this now and the reason I can see it is because I have a stark comparison as to how he treated me for the first 17 years of our marriage and how he treats me now. I realize that I didn’t see what I didn’t know to look for.
I tell you all of this because I think it is important for you to understand what we were going through when we came to visit with you. I have come to find out that what I have described above is very, very normal in relationships with an addiction present. Which is why, when you looked at me and told me that because I was going 70 miles an hour and my husband was going 30, if I didn’t slow down I would break up my marriage, I received very real trauma that I still feel and am recovering from today. I believe that the difference in our speed could have absolutely broken up our marriage, that is true, but it would not have been my fault, I was listening to the spirit and doing exactly what I needed to in order to rebuild my faith, my self worth and heal from the trauma that I did nothing to deserve. There is nothing in my recovery that I look back on today and regret. I am proud of myself for listening to Him despite all of the voices around me. I believe that if our marriage had failed, it would have been because my husband was dragging his feet, playing the victim and unwilling to do what needed to be done to heal and save our marriage. I believe that only he could save what only he broke. My job was to release the anger, rebuild my self worth, forgive and assess my safety. His job was to rebuild his self worth, repair his broken brain, fully repent and build a safe and trustworthy environment for our marriage to heal.
When you looked at me and placed the responsibility of saving our marriage on me, you released him from that obligation and added weight, strain and responsibility on top of my trauma, which enabled him to continue his abuse and misuse of me and caused me further trauma, not only from the advice that you gave to me but also by giving him permission to continue abusing and blaming me.
The most damaging aspect of this addiction for me, and many other women I speak to, is that in order to hide their addiction and low self esteem, we as women are trained to question and doubt our ability to listen to the spirit. We are taught that our husbands are our worthy priesthood holders and patriarchs in our home and so if they don’t agree with something we feel we are inspired to do, then we must be wrong. Even as my husband was confessing to lying and viewing porn for years, his word and ability to listen to the spirit was accepted and taken over mine. I know that I am far from perfect, but I was doing everything I could to be in a position to listen to God’s voice in my life. Every time I felt it was time to have a baby, my inspiration was questioned. What house to buy, where to move, whether to adopt, the list goes on and on, every time I felt inspired, the choices he was making in his life, that I was unaware of, caused him to question and doubt me which eventually caused me to doubt my ability to listen. And since I had been taught, by my husband who was unknowingly lying to me and struggling, that I was unable to hear Him, when my priesthood leader doubted me as well, it sent me into a faith questioning tailspin that was dark, lonely and full of doubt and despair. That is when I began to question my faith; the church, the priesthood, the plan of salvation and even the existence of God.
I acknowledge this is likely hard and heavy. I feel hard and heavy. So, I think it is important that you know where I am today and why I think it is important to acknowledge all of this. Today I believe. I believe in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe in the immeasurable blessing of the Atonement. It is real and it is amazing. I believe that when we hold ourselves accountable and do the long lasting, hard work required, we can change and we can heal. I know that I wasn’t safe before and I never truly will be but I am always loved, seen and heard by God. I know that the choices made by other people are not my fault and not only do I not have a responsibility to heal them or save them, I can not, for my Savior has already done that for them. I know that I am a beautiful daughter of God and my husband is one of His cherished sons, and I love him. I know that He is not defined by his addiction any more than my worth is defined by the choices he made. I am pleased and satisfied with where we are now and the direction we are heading together. And I know that if we are willing and if we listen, our Heavenly Father will use us to take what we’ve learned and teach His other children how to feel loved and heal from whatever afflictions they suffer from. And I want to re-state, that I know that you are chosen by God at this time to be my bishop and that you love me. I know that you were doing the best you knew how with the understanding and information you had and that you in no way, at any time, meant to hurt me or traumatize me. I know this. And like I said before, my only expectation is to be heard. I don’t want to feel alone and unheard any more. I don’t want to be scared or feel like I’m seen as a crazy, vigilante wife for saying that I am hurting. I realize that I could have misunderstood things that were said or that happened and I know that your intention was never harm but that doesn’t negate the very real pain I feel in my heart today.
I am ready to work through these emotions, let them go and be available for anything and everything the Lord would ask of me to do. I acknowledge that I can’t fully do that with my broken heart.
I imagine that there may be a lot to process here and some reflection and recollection that may need to happen. I am in no hurry, I realize that healing and learning take time. I would be happy to talk with you about this, explain it further or apologize if I am at fault or out of line. I do have very tender feelings about this, but I am willing to sort them out. Please let me know if you would like to or are willing to do this.