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our 20th anniversary: what’s to celebrate?

When my husband told his therapist that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary this year, the therapist was surprised. After all, that’s why I stopped going to therapy, I was doing so much better and didn’t need his weekly help. But doing somewhat well as an individual and wanting to celebrate our anniversary as a joyous occasion are two different things. I am pleased at the progress my husband is making, but I don’t feel a party-like atmosphere is in order. I am pleased at how well I am healing, but I don’t feel the need to exchange gifts. I told my husband that what I want can’t be purchased.

So my 20th wedding anniversary came and went quietly last week without a trip to Europe like I always thought we would take. We were out of town, at my parents’ home in sunny southern California. I had told my husband all month long that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary. I didn’t want a gift, didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want it mentioned really. (I was afraid my parents would wonder why we chose not to celebrate it so I did bake a cake in our honor, or at least that’s what I told them.)

Since our anniversary is at the very end of the year it’s always been kind of a ‘reckoning’ moment for me. Usually on my anniversary I look back on the last calendar year and think about all the great things that my husband and I were able to accomplish. I like to think about all the blessings we have and how we have grown as a couple. We always talk about our wedding day in Los Angeles. How hot it was for December; how there were 29 other couples on school break getting married that day; how we were the last couple to get married at high noon; how they closed the temple and I had to change out of my wedding dress in the visitor’s center tiny bathroom; how fun it was to go out to lunch, all alone, as husband and wife in Puente Hills while our families got the church ready for our reception.

But not this year’s anniversary. This was the year where I was robbed of all those good memories. This was the year where I stopped saying, and will never say again, “we really do have the best marriage, we are the best of friends.” I really was looking forward to turning 40 in the year 2014; it seemed like a hallmark of all the good in my life. But then in June it all shattered and I learned my husband had been a porn addict our entire marriage. All of it.

And as 2014 came to an end and all my friends who also married in December wrote lovely tributes on Facebook to their spouses I thought of my own imaginary post. “Happy 20th anniversary to my sweetheart; marriage is indeed hard but we love each other and we aren’t divorced yet.” But who wants to read that.

Here’s to my 21st year of marriage. May it be just a smidge better.

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i know he loves me but i need respect

Over the last six months my husband has told me countless times how much he loves me and how sorry he is for his years of lies. And several of those times I have said back to him, “I know you love me but I need respect.”

I have no doubt that my husband loves me. I have no doubt that he feels attached to me; that he is fond of me. But is love enough? Hell no, it is not.

Grungy Brick Wall

I need respect. And love without respect is dangerous; it can crush someone as the last six months have taught me. A person who is respected is seen as her own unique individual self; with the right to make decisions for herself, based on reality, not some fantasy façade of what he thinks would make her happy. My husband admits he never once told me the truth of his problem because he loves to make me happy and knowing this wouldn’t make me happy. That’s so sweet right? Not wanting to hurt someone is true love, right? Wanting to spare them any pain is love right? Maybe, but it is NOT respect. And if I had to choose between love and respect I would choose respect.

I suppose I am splitting hairs here because I do believe true love encompasses respect. But I know now that it is totally possible to love someone, to feel attachment and fondness, but not to respect them. A man who truly loves his wife respects her enough to be completely honest even if it paints him in a bad light; respects her enough to be truthful even though it may cause her pain; and respects her life decisions once she knows the full truth.

Years ago when Robin Givens talked about her abusive marriage to Mike Tyson she told a story I will never forget. She talked about how he would beat her and then within a few hours they would be hugging, cuddling, holding hands, and crying together. What the hell kind of nuttiness is that? I remember at the time thinking, “If he loved her he would’t have hit her in the first place!” Well, now my 40-yr old self gets that story. I so get it. Mike Tyson was indeed crying because he felt shame and remorse for what he did to someone he was attached to and fond of (love). So now I would say, ‘If he respected her he wouldn’t have hit her.” Huge, huge difference.

My husband never told me when we were engaged that he had a 10-year problem with porn/masturbation/lust. If he had respected me he would have known that nobody has the right to make decisions for somebody else’s life. And after a few years of marriage when I discovered part of his problem, he lied to me some more about the rest of the story because he didn’t respect me enough to think I deserved the truth. When my husband objectified me (and countless other women) as sex objects he did so because he didn’t respect me as a smart, educated, hard-working woman with her own ambitions and life dreams. It’s so patronizing and patriarchal to assume I need to be protected, coddled, and kept in a fantasy world of lollipops and sunshine. Thankfully with 6-months of sobriety he is beginning to respect me. The haze of addiction has subsided and now when I tell him I need respect more than love, he can see the difference and progress is being made.

Many thoughts in this post came from this amazing article.

sin is never ever a good idea

One of thee worst phrases in all of Mormondom is “You chose this trial.” I have heard this phrase many, many times from well-meaning but ignorant people–especially when we found out we couldn’t have kids. Somehow assigning some nobility to my suffering made them feel better. Well, that stupid phrase never made me feel better. Someone has watched Saturday’s Warrior one too many times if they believe we chose everything before we came to mortality. I don’t even care if it is (I doubt it) true because that doesn’t help me get through today’s troubles. It’s akin to rubbing my face in a bowl full of pain.

The second worst phrase in all of Mormondom, the one that makes me bristle because it is so common, is: “I am grateful for my trials.” Now I believe you can be grateful for the lessons you learn from trials; I believe you can be grateful to feel God’s love for you so acutely in your moment of suffering that you can never again doubt His, or your divinity. And maybe when the trials are just a part of everyday life you can be grateful for the actual trial, but I do not believe for one minute I need to be grateful for the sin that, unbeknownst to me, has been a part of my 20-yr marriage.

I will never, ever be grateful to know that my husband is capable of lying to me.

I will never be grateful to know that my husband has seen and lusted after thousands of naked women.

Sin is never a good idea and we don’t have to go looking for it, nor love it to prove that the Atonement works. As Elder Holland has said, “We don’t have to look for sorrow. We don’t have to seek to be martyrs. Trouble has a way of finding us even without our looking for it.”  Bingo Elder H.

men are that they might

To be grateful for this filthy trial that my husband chose (God did not send this to me) would be to be a martyr, happily suffering because of his misuse of agency. We just read this scripture from 2 Nephi 2:27 with my children the other night “…..men are that they might have joy.” We are supposed to have joy in this life–we are not here to embrace suffering as martyrs because of someone else’s sins. The Gospel makes me happy, sin does not.

Martyrdom is overrated.

a tool to add to my belt: giving God my will

Jeffrey R. Holland, in this BYU sppech, The Will of the Father in All Things, has really helped me to understand what it means to submit to the Lord’s will–to willingly say “thy will be done.” My will (also know as my thoughts, feelings and desires) is this pain I carry, this broken heart, this sadness, this broken-ness, this bitterness, this pride–these are my feelings and I have every right to carry them as long as I want. I have been wounded, I have been crushed, I am entitled to feel this way, it is part of who I am right now–it’s my will. But God will never force us to anything we simply don’t want to do. Well I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I really do want to give it all to God but I simply didn’t know what that looked like. Until I read this:

….Education, or public service, or social responsibility, or professional accomplishment of any kind is in vain if we cannot, in those crucial moments of pivotal personal history, submit ourselves to God even when all our hopes and fears may tempt us otherwise. We must be willing to place all that we have…..our ambition and pride and stubbornness and vanity—we must place it all on the altar’ of God, kneel there in silent submission, and willingly walk away.

I get it now. I know what I need to do. And for weeks I have been doing this very thing. I have been reading Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and he talks about visualizing (Habit #2–Begin With the End in Mind). So that’s what I have been doing every day for weeks. Here’s the visual:

I visualize myself walking into a room, nobody else is in the room, this isn’t about my husband, it’s about me only.  I walk over to an altar and on that altar I lay down all my negative feelings, my sadness, my crushed dreams, my pain, in other words, my will to hold onto those things. I kneel down, I say a prayer something like “I don’t know how you’re going to take this all away. I don’t know how you’re going to make this all better. It seems impossible to me, but I know you can.” And then I walk out of the room, quietly, without looking back. That’s it, that’s the exercise.

Then Elder Holland goes on to say:

I believe what I am describing here is the scriptural definition of a saint, one who will “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” and “through the atonement of Christ . . . becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

Now I don’t believe for a second the Lord is inflicting any of this upon me, sin is never a good idea in his book, I am innocent, but I do believe the principle is the same.  I need to submit to Him to be healed. And let me tell you, this realization, this exercise has meant everything to me. By far it is the best tool so far in my healing. I think about it everyday, I visualize myself unloading my will on that altar everyday. And that’s how I’m finally able to apply the atonement. God’s ways are always better than my way. So I’m doing it his way.

building my faith

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I am trying to do this so desperately. I read my scriptures, conference talks, BYU devotionals, and pray everyday. I love it. It’s helping but wow it is hard, hard work, this healing thing. This talk by Sheri Dew “Sweet Above that which is Sweet”, has helped me so much lately. The above quote is my favorite. Read it, you’ll get something out of it.