*Disclaimer for blog: My intention for writing this blog is to explore the question: “what is hardwired inside of women that allows us to experience intimacy and recovery in a marriage – even after betrayal has occurred?” This post is intended to be an encouragement for women who are watching their husband’s track record over time. As wives, we ask what Jesus did: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” Matthew 3:7-10
If you are like me – you might be divorced because there was no fruit of repentance or safety, and everyday you are getting stronger, empowered and more self compassionate because you are FINALLY safe! Sometimes betrayal has wounded us so badly – trust cannot be restored – and therefore the marriage cannot be restored. I want to validate you: THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT, nor is it your responsibility. This post is not intended to “guilt-trip” women back into their abusive marriages. I hope my objective comes across clearly in today’s post that IF your husband is bearing fruit in keeping with repentance – it is possible for the marriage to be restored. Unfortunately, this is not the case for so many marriages – as 56% of all marriages end because of a sexual addiction. (statistic from the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes)
Here we go…
I want to be beautiful And make you stand in awe
Look inside my heart And be amazed
I want to hear you say Who I am is quite enough
I just want to be worthy of love and beautiful
-Bethany Dillon, “Beautiful”
The words of this song are so vulnerable, aren’t they? When I hear these lyrics – it stirs something in me. It reminds me of the most vulnerable parts of being woman. How I naturally desire to be loved and cherished. Something I longed for and expected from my marriage – but did not experience. In my most vulnerable place – I want to know that I matter to someone.
Sexual betrayal is one of the most devastating pains a woman can experience because the natural state of a woman is when her heart is open, like a flower in full bloom – offering intimacy to another person – We delicately and vulnerably offer the questions… would you like to know me? am I beautiful? do I matter? If we are in safe relationships, with trust, communication, team work, emotional intimacy – then that relationship can respond to these core questions a woman brings to the table. Our intimate attachments can validate who we are as image bearers of God.
However, when betrayal trauma strikes and the ground beneath our feet gives way – our world implodes – we are blindsided, devastated and numb. Somewhere between the implosion, the chaos and the rubble – our heart completely shuts down. It’s no longer open like a delicate flower – it is shut tight. The environment has become hostile – we cannot risk opening up to ask those intimate questions to our partner. Our partner has become enemy number one and a cold, dead heart is the only form of protection. Right?
Someone may point the finger at you, with your delicate heart; petals folded up tight, the petals are doing their job of protecting against the elements. Some people in the church or family members or even the addict might accuse you of being bitter, resentful, sinning in your anger, rebellious, selfish, judgmental, prideful, arrogant, oversensitive – or worse; say you are not submitting. All the while your intimacy and vulnerability are being protected by the delicate petals tightening around the very essence of being a woman. You are naturally responding to an environmental threat. You sensed danger and your flower petals closed up.
We first need to understand what those flower petals are protecting. As woman – you and I have a massive capacity for intimate relationships and as image bearers – what does this tell you about who God is? He too, has a massive capacity for intimate relationships. And even though it is still hard for me as a spiritual abuse survivor to wrap my brain around this concept – God YEARNS absolutely DESIRES to have an intimate relationship with me. The whole Bible is a love story between God and His people – and when His people don’t get it – God is always so sad that they can’t just MELT into His love. God himself is the flower in FULL BLOOM, always vulnerably asking – will you choose me? Am I quite enough for you? Here He is vulnerably exposing his essence longing for intimate attachment with His children:
“… how often I have LONGED to gather the children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but sadly you are not willing.” Matthew 23:37
“If you look for me – you will find me. “I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and RESTORE your fortune. I will gather you out of the nations… I will bring you home AGAIN.” Jer. 29:13 – 14
A.W. Tozer states, “God Waits to be WANTED”. Isn’t that amazing? As women we carry this image of God – and just like God asks for intimacy by saying, “Why won’t you choose me?” When we find ourselves in the midst of sexual betrayal – we often ask – with petals closed up tight; “Why won’t you choose me?”
Our image of God that was intended for sweet intimacy with our spouse – has been manipulated and assaulted. Instead of asking the questions “Am I beautiful?” “Do you want to choose me and know me?” with petals wide open in full bloom. Naturally, we close our petals up tight to protect and our questions are disguised in pain and fueled by safety seeking statements that sound like; “I can’t compete with that” “Why didn’t you want me?” “Am I not enough?
It is important to understand which parts of the Creator you reflect because it can empower you along your journey. When we begin to realize our identity and what we naturally bring to a marriage relationship – we can sit back and breathe a BIG, HUGE sigh of relief. Why? Because healing the marriage is NOT your intended role. It’s not in your creation identity!
As my mentor reminds me all the time, “Rochelle – if you could fix it – it would all ready be fixed!” So let’s break this down: The man in your house – the one that has devastated you beyond belief. The one that has caused the petals of your flower to close up tight – he has the power to HEAL the marriage or POISON the marriage. Your husband can work with God to HEAL his wife’s heart or continue to work AGAINST GOD – poisoning his wife and children’s hearts.
John Eldredge states this about the POWER of a good man: “A woman in the presence of a GOOD man, a REAL man, LOVES being a woman. His strength allows her feminine heart to flourish [the intimacy brings based on God’s design]. His pursuit draws out her beauty.”
It’s true sisters, if a man will lead in recovery – he has the power to work with God and change every single heart in his household. If he leads the way in healing it will slowly allow you to feel safe, opening those petals back up one by one and overtime you will be able to trust and go back to your natural state – experiencing deep intimacy in the relationship as God intended.
When a man takes ownership and responsibility for his addiction – this will turn into leadership. He will slowly become a new creation and by design the female heart will open to the transformation she sees in her spouse. As your husband responds to God – your heart will RESPOND to your husband. In fact, when 100 women were polled – 88% of the betrayed said they would be willing to stay in the relationship if the one who sexually deceived them stopped lying. (Keffer and Skinner, “Intimate Partner Betrayal Trauma”)
This is SO EMPOWERING because instead of getting stuck in a self-condemning loop with statements like: “What’s wrong with me?” “It must be something I’m doing wrong” “I have to behave like the perfect wife so he can heal and not be triggered to act out.” “I have to figure out how I can fix the marriage.” “Maybe if we see this counselor, or read this marriage book, or maybe if I learn how to be more respectful…” Nope! We can actually, sit back, do our own work to heal by addressing our safety, boundaries and voice. We can let go. Release the reigns – and understand that – IF his heart responds to God and the work of recovery, my heart will naturally follow suit. The healing of the marriage is his responsibility – not mine. The petals on my flower will open back up when it is safe – that is God’s design – I don’t have to force it, or conjure up feelings of trust. I cannot force recovery from my husband or convince him to care. I CAN sit back and release control of the outcome of my marriage. It’s not my job.
In her book “Intimate Deception” Dr. Sheri Keffer states, “It is the responsibility of the betrayer to do the heavy lifting of restoring the marriage and rebuilding trust.”
I will say it again, if the man in your house were committing to the work of recovery, becoming a new creation and leading his family into healing – your heart is naturally wired to follow suit. Men have power – if only they would use their power for good, use their power to find healing and freedom from sexual addiction, use their power to get face down in the ground and submit their soul to the Lord in absolute brokenness. If only all our husbands would use their power to ADVOCATE for their wife’s healing by meeting her with empathy when she is triggered, gentleness when she doesn’t feel safe, tenderness, compassion, safety and the love that Jesus had for the church…
“Christ loved the church – He gave up His life for her … to make her holy and clean, washed by the CLEANSING of God’s word.” Ephesians 5:26 NIV
Wow, how powerful – that is the same kind of love that husbands ought to have for their wives – as the addict RESPONDS and submits to GOD and his recovery work he has the power to work with God to heal, clean and make holy the marriage covenant with his wife. Making the relationship so safe – that in TURN your heart will respond – and one by one those petals will open back up, allowing you to be free to bring those intimate questions back out into the relationship in a healthy way: “Will you choose me?” “Will you walk in relationship with me?” “Will you know me deeply?”
My Dear Sister, the outcome of the marriage is NOT on you – release the responsibility to the one it belongs to (your husband). Release and RUN to the One who is safe. RUN as fast as you can to the one who is WAITING TO BE WANTED BY YOU!!! He is waiting for you to cry, to ask if you matter, to work through your anger and your grief. He is waiting for you – because He asks the same questions that we do. “Will you choose me?” “Will you be captivated with me?” “Am I enough for you?”
The Enemy has assaulted the beautiful flower that you are. Your petals might be closed up in protection and that is okay. There is only ONE who can open the flower back up, regardless of your husband’s choices – Jesus came to ransom you, heal your trauma, and set you free – and the BEST part? He actually came to RESTORE you to your original Creation Identity – a woman who can experience DEEP beauty, and DEEP INTIMACY. He wants you to live from a place of shalam; a place of comfort, security, and safety.
“For, dear one, I will bestow beauty upon you
where you have known only devastation.
Joy, in the places of your deepest sorrow,
And I will robe your heart in thankful praise
in exchange for your resignation and despair”
You are not alone.