According to Webster's Dictionary, the word 'redeem' means "to free from the consequences of sin." Although, it was not my sin, I still desperately need to be freed of the consequences.

"Redeemed women of God have tender merciful hearts, backbones of steel, and hands that are prepared for the fight." - Staci Elderidge

"Even though my heart has been broken at times, I want to retain a tender merciful heart- the kind of heart that is vulnerable, open to all emotions, and engaged in honest, intimate relationships. If my heart is hardened, no matter the cause, I cannot live to my fullest potential.

By setting and holding emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries and standing up with courageous determination to what I know to be right, I continue to forge my backbone of steel.

As women, I believe we want to fight against evil, and we have power greater than we've ever imagined to aid us in that fight."
- Rhyll Croshaw

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Reader Question: Accountability

Question:
I recently discovered my husband's pornography addiction.  I've been married almost 30 years. I'm angry, hurt, hopeless and it doesn't help to hear that our relationship will end up stronger than ever. I've been so upset by the lack of consequences my husband has received from our bishop. It feels like a slap on the wrist just like my teenage son. Don't take the sacrament, or use your recommend and read a book on the Atonement. I want to scream!!! I went and talked with my bishop about it and he said the church handbook doesn't recommend church discipline for this problem. WHY? 

He's doing everything he can to repent and seek help. I'm thankful for that. But I'm struggling to find myself under the huge pile of lies and secrets that have been dumped on me. I'm part of a club of amazing women that just like me don't wan't to be in the club. 

My question for you is this...how can we help the church leaders understand the trauma that pornography causes the betrayed spouse? Spiritual guidance is great but it doesn't validate our broken souls. I want to give my bishop a packet of resources for both spouses. If pornography addiction is considered an infidelity than why is the accountability within the church not matching this offense? And does that perpetuate the problem? I can't be the only one that has these concerns right?!?!

Again, you can't imagine the amount of validation and relief your words have given me today. I am so thankful for you and all the other brave women that have paved the Internet highway of information.


Thank you,
A Friend


Answer:
Oh Friend,
I am so sorry!  I am so sorry that your husband's choices lead you to my blog!  I'm sorry that you've had to become just one more secret member of a club that no one ever wants to be a part of.  I'm sorry that his choices will take your time, resources, energy and trust.  I'm sorry that you can make all of the right choices and still find yourself no better off.  I'm just so sorry.

And unfortunately, I don't have any good answers for you.  I know that the church is slowly changing their tone and acknowledging the trauma.  I know that info is slowly getting down to the bishops, but the church moves very slowly.  And the wives are sometimes the consequence of that.  There is a resource page available to only bishops online.  When they log in, there are like 13 questions to ask the addict and a list of questions to ask the spouse.  I showed them to my bishop 18 months after they were released.  He had never even heard of them and this was a few years ago.  I have personally corresponded with a member of the quorum of the 12 and described the gravity of the situation.  I know of other women who have personally met with members of the General Relief Society board within the last 6 months.  I know that the church is in the process of filming new videos, based on real stories of trauma and addiction.  They are hoping to release these after the first of the year.  I believe our leaders in Salt Lake are aware.  I believe they hear us.  But, the local leadership is made of accountants and lawyers and computer software techs.  They rotate out every five years, and they just do not have the training and life skills to handle such issues and recognize the trauma the women receive.  Studies show that 70% of women whose husband's have porn addictions experience betrayal trauma and 70% of men in the church have "porn issues".  The odds aren't in our favor.  And our chances of getting a bishop who is a CSAT therapist trained in betrayal trauma is slim to nil.  And sometimes the bishops themselves are really struggling and praying for their own mercy.  I do not believe that the men are being fully held accountable within the church.  I also believe that accountability from leadership would be hugely validating to the spouse, who has often been blamed and gaslighted for years.  When my husband was honest about the choices he'd made, no one stepped forward to hold him accountable.  Not my bishop or my dad or anyone else.  That was really hard for me.  I felt alone and at fault for his choices.  But in time I have realized that the promises and covenants my husband broke were ones he made with me and my Father in Heaven.  Not my bishop.  Or anyone else.  I realized that I could hold him accountable, I didn't need another man, or woman, to and more importantly, he needed to hold himself accountable.  The way wives in trauma are often treated actually lead me to redefine my faith, as it has for many of my wopa friends.  I do not count on my bishop to fully hold my husband accountable.  But, I also don't believe it is his job.  My bishop is a witness or a guide, but my husband is his own judge.  Only he can decide his fate in the kingdom of God, just as only I can decide mine.  Our Heavenly Father does not refuse us, we refuse Him due to our own discomfort.  It is up to each of us to decide whether we are comfortable in the light of our Father in Heaven. My husband's personal accountability is actually what keeps me safe, not my bishop's.  I no longer look at my bishop as a counselor or go to him for temporal guidance.  He's a business man and I think that giving him the burden of solving my personal life issues is unfair to him.  He is the director of our ward and he is inspired to guide us and lead us as a ward, but my personal inspiration and guidance comes straight to me from my Father above.  There is no voice more pertinent or powerful to me than the whisperings of my own soul.  

I believe that our Father is greatly displeased with the treatment of His daughters.  I believe He hears us.  I believe He sends us to the people who can validate our pain and help us heal and find our sure footing.  I believe that we are all, men and women, saint and sinner, given a wide berth to navigate this messy world and we don't have to figure it all out today.  I also believe that there are huge differences between doctrine, policy and culture within the church and they too often get mixed up and intermingled and most of my pain comes from that.  I believe in the basic fundamentals of the gospel.  I believe that policy is enacted for the preservation and simplistic structure of the church.  And I believe that culture is the lay interpretation of both and is mixed with the philosophies of men and is often hurtful and harmful.  And I speak out against it more often than I follow it.  Separating these things saved my testimony.  

And whereas I believe that it is good for us to share resources and support with our bishops, stake presidents and relief society presidents, doing so really got me no where and caused me to have more distrust in my local leadership.  So, I let them be just as humanly flawed as I am and I listen for Him to give me my next step.  There are countless resource packages that have been created to share with bishops and many of them have been well received and changed countless wopa lives and families, but I've never had that privilege.  It's not that my bishop wasn't willing to listen, I just don't think he ever really got it.  It didn't fall of deaf ears, he sympathized even, he just didn't know what to do with it, or me.  If my Heavenly Father needs me to be there for one of His daughters, He will connect us.  

At the end of the day, I believe that what we are really suffering from is the instability brought by broken trust.  He looked at porn, he saw naked women.  That sucks.  But what really shattered my world is the secret life that he was living that I was unaware of.  I was living my life as if it was one way when it was something else entirely.  My bishop can't fix that.  Only my husband can.  I wanted my bishop to hold my husband fully accountable so that my husband would do all he could to rebuild that broken trust.  But, really, the one person who really needed to get that, was my husband.  The church couldn't save us, my husband had to save us. Brene Brown gives a trust analogy using a marble jar.  Every relationship we have creates a marble jar.  Every action and experience with that person either adds marbles to the jar or takes marbles out.  The more marbles, the safer the relationship.  You didn't realize that your husband was secretly removing marbles from the jar until the day that you caught him and the facade of what was happening cracked the entire jar.  Your husband just picked up your marble jar and smashed it to the ground.  It is a sick double standard, but there is nothing that your bishop can do to repair that jar.  I've come to believe that True Justice comes in the next life, not this one.  Right now is the time for your husband to rebuild the jar and slowly start adding marbles to it.  Some days he'll add 10, some days one.  Some days he'll remove 5.  The difference is, now you are watching, now you see.  I think your only job is to watch him and see what he does.  I hated it when people said that our relationship would be better than ever because just because it happened for them, it didn't make it a sure thing for me.  My husband had smashed the jar.  He had lied about the jar.  He had hidden what he'd really been doing and that jar could only be repaired if HE chose to repair.  Sure, your relationship could be better than ever, but only if he chooses to rebuild that jar, and it will take a long time.  In the meantime, you are hurting today.  You don't trust him today.  Today, you are navigating marbles and broken glass.  I'm so sorry.  

You have every right to hold your husband accountable.  You.  The promises he broke are the ones he made to you.  Not to your bishop.  You don't need him for your husband to get with the program.  You just need to know that you are worth more than you've been treated and you need to live your live accordingly.  You are amazing.  You are beloved.  You are a cherished daughter of God.  You are seen.  You are heard.  You are loved.

Thank you so much for reaching out to me.  I'm so sorry I don't have the answers you are looking for.  They caused me many sleepless nights and days on the bathroom floor.  I wish I could give you more.  I wish I could wrap my arms around you and stand beside you at this time.  

With love,

Shay

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why I Stayed

A while back, I had one of Paul’s recovery friends ask me why I’d stayed.  This guy’s wife had divorced him and he struggled for a long time with why.  Almost without even thinking I blurted out, "because he did everything I asked him to do."  I've been thinking about that answer ever since, it kind of sounds like I gave Paul a list of "do's" and "don'ts" and he complied.  But, that isn't what happened at all.  I actually never told him specifically what he needed to do.  I never gave him anything close to a list.  What I asked was that he be willing to do anything that it took recover, heal, and repair the damage he caused.  Anything and everything, even if it was painful and uncomfortable.  I never asked him to do what I wanted him to do, I asked him to do everything that he could and needed to do.  

A couple of weeks after D-day, upon returning from a meeting with the bishop, Paul told me that he wouldn’t be going to 12 step meetings.  At their meeting, our bishop had said to him, "I don't think you need the 12 step meetings" and this advice was all Paul needed to rule them out.  I can still remember the moment like it was yesterday.  I was sitting on the family room floor folding laundry and we were alone.  The children were all already asleep.  It was eerily quiet as I looked up at him from the floor and took a deep breath to say, "I don't feel like you are in a position to decide what you think you should do.  I think you should hit your knees and do what HE tells you to do.  And whatever it is, I suggest you do it."  And that's about how it went.  I didn't care what his path looked like as long as it was working.  After I said that on that day, that's what he did.  He figured out what he needed to do, instead of what he wanted to do, and he did it.

That's why I stayed- but honestly for a long time, a good year and a half, I wasn't sure that I was going to.  I stood back and watched for a long time.

If you are in the place where you are deciding whether to stay or whether to go, know that whatever you decide to do, will be the right thing for you.  In the meantime, know that you are amazing.  You are worthy of love and connection and you always have been and always will be absolutely enough.  

I am worthy of a life with an honest husband who honors his vows and can see not only his worth but mine as well.  He is worthy of an honest wife who consistently honors her vows and sees not only his worth, but hers as well.  I could not and did not make this happen.  All I could do is decide what I was okay with and what I wasn’t and live my life according to those values.  I can’t change him but I can change how I respond to him.  One of my all time favorite quotes is from Paul Parkins- "You can't change others, you can only change yourself, but by changing yourself, you invite change in others."  

Only you can decide what you need to do going forward and whether it is worth it to stand back and watch and see or whether it is time to cut your losses.  I watched and waited and it was absolutely the right choice.  My life today with my husband is amazing and I wouldn't take back a single day of the pain to have the life I have now.  But, I have friends who have made other choices and those were right for them.  Calm your heart, calm your soul and you will know what needs to be done when the time is right.