Over the past two posts, I've brought out some common scenarios that arise for betrayed wives as they look for support. Thanks to the many women who offered to share their stories of what they faced when trying to find support from family, counsellors, and church.
Lost my own Family
A. writes: I've been so discouraged because of lack of support and misguided "support." My husband has been masterful at making ME seem like the problem.
I'm very tender-hearted and sensitive and have struggled with anxiety and fear off and on throughout my entire life. Being married to my husband for 32 years has only made it worse. When I began finding out more about my husband's addictions a few years ago, I was so devastated and heartbroken that I had a nervous breakdown. What floored me the most was his complete lack of love, concern, or empathy for me and our daughters. My brain just couldn't process it! My teenage daughters were deeply affected too and developed depression, OCD, and PTSD.
Through it all, my husband has come out smelling like a rose and I look like the crazy one because I'm still having so much anxiety/panic attacks. He has played the part of a godly man and innocent victim (of childhood abuse) so consummately that even my family, whom I thought would always be there for me, gave me and my daughters very little support. Talk about crazy-making! If it weren't for my daughters and Jesus, I would have been institutionalized. His ability to deceive himself and convince himself and others that he's really a great guy left me speechless! All of it has played with my mind to such a degree, that I've been unable to recover from the nervous breakdown, unable to get a job and have independence from him.
God created sex in such a way that it would touch the soul, but when it's misused and abused, it destroys the soul and the mind along with it. Thank you for letting me ramble!
Had to Change Counselors
W. writes: I have now found wonderful support with a female counselor. I think finding the right person for support is paramount. Unlike my first experience with a counselor who said I was co-dependent and just needed to find a nice new man.
Both of those suggestions made matters worse. And put me off counseling. The book Worthy of Her Trust was very helpful to myself (what recovery should look like in your spouse)and to my husband (he was able to see he was doing recovery all wrong). Thank God the light finally came on. Again it is early days.
Even though the future is still uncertain (we still sleep in separate bedrooms) getting good support for myself has helped me be more sure about myself my boundaries, and what I want and expect for myself, irrelevant of whether my spouse manages to stay on track. I'm more sure and confident of going forward even if at some point down the track things don't work out for us being together. She also helped me see how God sees me. Not the way my traumatized self sees me (which wasn't good).
Lack of Church Support
J. writes: I went to my archdeacon, truly believing that that was what the Lord required of me just in case there was the possibility of P. having been guilty of professional misconduct with any other parishioner apart from the one woman he was secretly involved with for decades.
The archdeacon informed the bishop who left it to the archdeacon to do as he thought best. The archdeacon, retiring, left it with the vicar here—who approached me with words similar to this: “J., You have been very good over this, and you have forgiven P. and you have forgiven L. and they both said they’re sorry and I don’t see any reason why you can’t all be in church together again... and nobody needs to know anything about it.” He seemed surprised and disappointed when I said that I would not be complicit or enabling in any cover-up of sexual sin in the church I’d served and loved. He also later said that he could get the bishop here to talk to both of us if I would like him to to help us sort out our differences.
I approached the archdeacon again because I was concerned that “the woman“ was still in the position of spiritual and pastoral leadership in the church. I was told that because she had no official capacity he had no way of dealing with it; if I wanted to take it further I would have to put in a formal complaint to the bishop. I pointed out that I’d initially approached him in his official capacity with my concerns and at no stage had I been told that I needed to formalise something that I’d taken on trust would be dealt with rather than, to my mind, covered up.
I believe him to be a good, kind, God-fearing man—who has no training or understanding of my situation and similar situations. The new archdeacon visits periodically. I will probably choose to speak to him at some stage. Cynically, I think the chances of me being patted on the head and prayed for kindly are high. And I don’t want to see him with that as my expectation!
I was recently at a weekend away for divorced and separated clergy wives, ‘Broken Rites’ who were treated by the church, in similar situations, in the most horrific ways, often left homeless while the behaviour of their errant husbands was covered up.
Lisa, it’s evil!!
For an example of how the church can inadvertently undermine our healing/his recovery, H. writes: There was a lady (mid 50’s) preaching on Sunday from the story of Hannah and she said a couple of things that are a big problem for me and I want to know if I’m overreacting. Interestingly my husband thinks it’s unacceptable too!
She said 1 Samuel was the start of the 4 books where all the interesting stuff happens like women bathing naked on rooftops. This was greeted audibly by a "come on" from our worship leader!
When explaining why Hannah’s husband took a second wife she said “he loved Hannah but she couldn’t conceive so Pinaina would not have been plain, she would have been tasty with childbearing hips in order to be chosen”
Regarding lack of support in the church, I've just learned that our friends at Covenant Eyes are working on a resource (I'm consulting with them on this) for pastors, on how to support wives of men with porn addiction. I'll let you know when it's available so we can all be part of the solution to this too-common problem.
Also if you have friends/family who are open to learning how to support you better, offer them a copy of this free PDF document.