Journey to Healing and Joy

A Shout-Out to Women from an Adult Son

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Some of our readers know that I am walking with my mother, who is about to turn 90, through the painful and difficult valley of dementia. There are times I share a tiny bit with my groups so that the emotion I am carrying these days won’t get in the way of group process. I’ve learned emotion shared in a healthy way with “safe” people” is a good way to then “put it away for now.” It’s a form of detaching.

Read more: A Shout-Out to Women from an Adult Son

To Tell or Not to Tell Our Children?

 

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I know this title presents a divisive question, which is why I’ve chosen to avoid it over the years. Even my colleagues disagree on the answer. For that reason, I typically tell women it’s a question each of us needs to answer for ourselves. But recently an email from a former client changed my personal beliefs on the topic. Reading it broke my heart for what she and her family are now going through. So knowing her well enough to know she has good enough boundaries to tell me “No,” I asked her how she would feel about sharing with our readership on this topic. Her response is below. You can hear her heart as you read it:

“Yes, you can use my experience in your article. If it will help someone else prevent this from happening to them, it will be a blessing to me.” Her story follows.

“Life has a strange way of bringing me around to things. It’s a long story, so I’ll try to summarize it. Basically, my oldest daughter, who is a young adult, found a letter that I’d written to my husband. There were some very specific details in it that I would never have shared with her or my other children. When she started to read the letter, she didn’t know what she was reading. But she soon figured out it was written by me, and it was written to my husband. She was shocked because we have not shared my husband’s sex addiction (or our recovery story) with any of our grown children. Her reaction was to send it to her siblings, attaching my letter to a text message to them. And it was—and remains—a disaster. They all say that they never want to talk to or see my husband again. It’s all really, really sad.
“In hindsight, I wish we'd told our children. It doesn't mean they wouldn't have found the letter, but if they had been told about our recovery journey, they definitely wouldn't have had the shock they got when they read it unprepared.

“My letter was written from a place of anger, and included horrible details of things that hurt me. And it expressed the despair I'd felt back then. If we had told them, our discussion would have come from a place of compassion with facts, not my angry emotion.

“I asked our therapists several times if I should tell them. I always got the answer that it's an individual decision and everyone is different. I made my decision based on me being able to control the situation. But as we know, life happens and there are just some things that are out of our control.

“I now think my control should have come from a dialogue with them. Now they are angry at him for betraying me; angry with me for staying with him; and angry at both of us because we hid it from them. I was trying to protect my adult children from this ugly fact because I didn't want them to feel the hurt & betrayal I felt. But I now view that as codependent. They are responsible for their own feelings.

“Now I can only be here for them to answer any questions and support them through this horrible time in their lives. That being said, I'm glad you will be writing an article on this topic.”

So it is in the hope that this story may somehow help you as you grapple with the same question: to tell or not to tell your children? Clearly there is no "right" or "wrong" way to handle this, but her email is full of the wisdom that can only come from experience.

Over the many years I’ve been doing this work, I've heard both positives and negatives about telling our children, though more positives than negatives. Reading my former client’s email has convinced me that my personal position is that telling our children is best. I believe it needs to be well thought out and planned, the timing needs to be perfect, and what we tell them needs to be age-appropriate information, but I think the feelings of betrayal in teens and young adults is lessened when parents shoot straight with them. And as you’ve read above, this woman has come to that conclusion as well.

Yet I do not have a God-complex; I am not the holder of “truth.” This will continue to be seen as a very personal decision that each of us must make for ourselves. But it is my hope that as you grapple with this difficult question, this woman’s experience will help you think it through—and find your own best answer.

If you have personal experience with this topic that you would like to share, please feel free to comment or send us a private message on our Facebook Page! We can all continue to learn as we share with one another.

With your healing at heart,

Marsha

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Accepting that your new reality is a part of your marriage and story is a required first step if you hope to heal. But it’s also one of the most gut-wrenching things you will ever have to do. A marriage compromised by sex addiction is simply not what you signed up for! But if you want to heal emotionally and stay healthy physically, there is no way around it. For your healing’s sake, keep reading.

Just what do I mean by accepting your situation?  Let’s begin with what I am not saying. I am not saying that you must approve of your husband’s addictive behaviors. Nor am I asking you to turn a blind eye, or to put up with your situation for another day—much less indefinitely. Acceptance is not approval.

Acceptance is acknowledging that what you’ve learned is true and it’s real. It’s a very real part of your new reality. Acceptance requires that you acknowledge and admit the facts as you now know them. It requires that you stay present in the midst of your situation. For some of us, this is a tall order; we would rather dissociate than stay present with this painful wrinkle in our story.  
 
Acceptance is about feeling the grief, the pain, the loss, and yes, the anger, that comes with this journey. It requires that we:

  • Accept the truth about our husband’s behavior and his brokenness, even though it has brought trauma in our lives
  • Accept that it’s his job to make changes in his life; and that we can’t do that work for him.  
  • Accept that we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and get the help we need, even if he isn’t working to change.  

Acceptance and healing are hard work. 

Early in my own journey of acceptance, I found the recovery expression, “It is what it is” to be incredibly helpful. I had to repeat it often to maintain acceptance in my life. Back then it helped me accept that my husband was very broken, and he needed to find his own way. I couldn’t do it for him. And it helped me remember I had to focus on me, my healing, my journey, my life moving forward, whether or not my marriage healed. Sadly, my marriage did not survive, because ultimately, he chose his addiction over his healing. But clinging to acceptance as I moved through that loss—repeating “It is what it is”—kept me on task as I lived out the new loss that came with divorce. 

Like everyone else, initially I found the idea of acceptance difficult to grasp. I knew I needed to reach and embrace it, but it took time to get there.  So if you are struggling with acceptance, know that it’s hard for all of us. But if you keep showing up and doing the work, you will get there in time. 

When you finally open the door to acceptance and walk through it, you open the door to adaptation, and with adaptation comes healing and new growth. That healing and new growth brings rich rewards you would have missed, were it not for this journey.

If you are struggling in this area, come and join us on this journey. We can help you get there. Begin by filling out our assessment form for a 1-hour free call with a coach who has walked this journey herself.

Your sister on this crazy journey,

Coach Katherine, CPLC
Certified Professional Life Coach

https://www.journeytohealingandjoy.com

Simplicity, Grace & A New Way of Life

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I know that at this moment many of you feel overwhelmed because of what you’ve discovered about your marriage. And I am so sorry! There is so much pain in this journey as partners of sex addicts. The grief you feel may still be raw. The lies and deceptions many of you face in your marriage cut to the core of your being. The betrayal is beyond anything you’ve previously experienced. I remember that in my own journey even breathing was hard some days. My heart hurts for you as I remember those days, months and even years of deep, deep pain. It is overwhelming.

And life just doesn’t slow down, does it? Life continues to demand that you show up and meet your commitments: that may include children, a husband, work, financial responsibilities, meal preparation, appointments to attend, and counselors to see. Have you asked yourself, “What about me and my needs? Where do I fit into my day?” It can all be too much to handle. I get that. In the complex mix of emotions and demands, remembering to keep “it” as simple as possible can help.

Keep it simple!  

In the dark days of my own heartache, I learned that to keep it simple I was forced to accept that I could only do one thing at a time, and acceptance required a “no guilt allowed” policy.  Learning the “no guilt” part required work because like most women, I felt guilty too much of the time, even before discovery.

Can I be honest with you? I just didn’t have the energy or the will to do much early in my journey. My brain and my body didn’t work well during those black days. I had to learn to keep it simple, or I wouldn’t have survived the bomb that had gone off in my marriage.  My moto back then was Keep it simple and things get done, one thing at a time. I suggest you write my moto down and put it somewhere as a reminder that this is your life right now. And no guilt allowed! 

Give yourself grace

The truth is, we don’t have to do everything on our to-do list. Most of us don’t have very clean houses or cook delicious meals in the midst of this trauma. Keeping up with the laundry may be as far as we get, and that’s okay. Giving ourselves permission to let go of everything that’s non-essential can help us find time to grieve our losses and begin a healing process.

You will also need to give yourself grace if your healing takes an extended length of time. Most of us are willing to give the process three months to six months. But depending on your story, it’s possible it can take two or three years! And that’s okay. It takes what it takes.

Slow everything down

Let's talk briefly about what goes on in our brain when we experience trauma. Understanding what trauma does to our brains helps us understand why we feel and act the way we do. 

The prefrontal cortex, which is the front part of our brain, is also the rational part. This is where our consciousness lives, and it’s where processing and reasoning occur. When you experienced trauma, you went into a fight, flight, or freeze state. That caused your prefrontal cortex to shut down. Your brain experienced overwhelm because of your circumstances, and your brain/body automatically went into a survival mode. It’s this shutting down that causes everything to be so difficult right now. You are in survival mode.  

Adjusting our lives and slowing down our self-expectations enables us to adapt to our present reality. And to make space for healing, however long it takes. So slow down; breathe; ask for help when you need it; and keep things simple by focusing on one task at a time. Making these behaviors your new norm helps you stay grounded and avoid overwhelm. And they will enable you to slowly move toward healing.

Embrace the reality that recovery is a lifestyle

Our trauma is calling us onto a healing journey. A journey that will lead us to a heart that will be healed and whole.  We must embrace and surrender to the process of recovery.

First, we need to acknowledge that our lives are a mess and admit that we can't heal on our own. We need to honestly admit that we need help to heal. It’s not just our husband’s recovery; we need to recover as well. Though our journeys are different, we, too, need a healing process.

It takes courage to admit we are powerless over our pain and to find and ask for help. To let go of our pride, control and accept our limitations. It has been said that recovery is a team sport; it’s not a game you can play on your own. If you are ready, we invite you to fill out the assessment form on our website (Click Here) and receive a free one-hour call with a coach on our team. We would love to have the honor of hearing your story and explaining what you can do to begin to heal.

Your sister on this crazy journey,

Coach Katherine, CPLC

Certified Professional Life Coach

https://www.journeytohealingandjoy.com

   

 

Men Aren't Just Hairy Women

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Okay, I’m dying to know what went through your mind when you read that title. My brain didn’t quite know what to do with it when a client said it and attributed it to a Tony Robin's video during a recent support group session. Now I can’t get it out of my head! Nor can I stop thinking about another thing a group member said that day. At the end of this article, I would love to hear what you think about what she said. Here’s how it all started.

We were doing chapter seven in the group workbook. That’s a chapter women usually choose to skip because it’s about men’s brains and sex addiction, and most women are sick of reading about the guys’ side of things once they really get anchored in their own healing process. But this particular group wanted to process it, so we did. And that’s how we got on the topic of men and hairy women.

Among other things, chapter seven highlights some key differences between the way men and women think. Most of us don’t like these differences, but in most cases, they come with the territory, so we don’t get to vote. Let's talk about one of those differences because gaining understanding helps us understand how a truly good man can end up acting out sexually. The reality is that men’s brains are like waffles, whereas a woman’s brain is more like a plate of spaghetti. To many of you, that’s nothing new, but let’s tweeze it apart and talk about it for a few minutes.  
               
Men tend to compartmentalize the areas of their lives

What does that mean, really? It means men don’t think like we do. For a woman, virtually everything in her life is interconnected. Making a change in one area will in some way effect other areas. If she goes back to work, managing the kid’s schedules will get a lot harder. If she has an affair, she will hurt her husband and possibly lose her marriage. It’s a no-brainer, right? Wrong; not if you are a guy, or so men tell me. Men often keep the compartments of their lives separate emotionally. Like the tiny squares on a waffle, each area has little dams around it, so if he’s busy in one square, it won’t damage another. A few years ago I asked my brother, Steve, about that.

Steve’s not a sex addict. If anything, he errs on the side of loyalty. But he is a guy, so he was the perfect one to help me get it as we cooked dinner together one evening.

“Sis,” he said, “men were created with brains that compartmentalize because they were also created to be protectors. What do you think would happen if a man had to go off to war to protect his family and country and he couldn’t compartmentalize as he walked away from his family? How could he shoot another human being if he couldn’t compartmentalize?”

Hmmm; I had to ponder that for a minute. And so did the women in my support group as we talked about this difference together.

“It’s hard to accept,” one woman said. “I didn’t know that. I can read it, but the waffle compartmentalizing thing evades me. I just don’t get it!”

“But my husband doesn’t understand the way my brain works either,” said another. He doesn’t get that everything is connected.”

I remember another woman’s painful processing after learning her husband had acted out again. When he tried to explain that it had nothing to do with her, she wailed, “How could he say that? I’m his wife. It has everything to do with me!” 

Recovery is a learning and growing process, for both sides

As we continued to process chapter seven in that recent session, a group member asked: “How do you hold that truth and still leave your mind and heart open to a relationship with your husband?” It was then that I shared another thing my brother, Steve, said that night we had the waffle conversation in his kitchen.

“That doesn’t mean men don’t need to work and grow in their understanding of their wife’s thinking patterns and learn to meet her needs,” he said. So according to Steve, men can learn and grow…they need to learn and grow in their understanding of their wife’s needs. 

Which leads me back to my group and chapter seven, because it was something one of the women said that day that still has me scratching my head. She posed this question: “If we expect them to understand how we think, isn’t it only fair that we learn to understand them?” In all honestly, no one has ever asked me that question before. And as she asked it, I became aware I had never asked it of myself. We (including me) want and expect our husbands to work to understand the way we think and work to meet our needs, but is it a two-way street? Could healing as a couple after betrayal come easier if both partners worked to understand the other’s brains and thinking patterns?

What do you think? Is that asking too much from a broken heart?