If you discovered your husband’s betrayal/sexual addiction some time recently, this title isn’t going to make sense to you. Face the pain? The pain is in your face… generally kicking you in the teeth several times a day.
Nevertheless, a time comes when the pain sinks below the surface and sits there. Initially this feels great. Finally, we’re not being continually pummelled by tidal waves of heartache. We’re sleeping through the night again. We’re not having panic attacks while out shopping (or at least not often). Life seems like it may actually be liveable after all.
From my own experience, and that of others, I've come to feel that this is a dangerous position to be in. It’s very tempting to say, ‘Good enough, I’ll just stop here.’ Then we drop our counselor or coach and our support group (if we ever had these) and refuse to let anyone (including our husband and God) mention a word of it ever again. We paint a smile on our face, and dare anyone to tell us all isn’t well.
However, what happens when we do this is that the pain – bubbling just under the surface – rises up and overwhelms us at unexpected times. We are triggered by a place, a person or an object that reminds of our husband’s infidelity and we begin to have trouble breathing, or feel rage welling up in us. Next thing, we’re having some horrible moment of lashing out, suffering a panic attack or in some way finding ourselves unable to cope.
Dragging It Out
Now, all this is normal in the first year (or two): even with the counselor, the support group, and others validating our pain and encouraging us. It may continue steadily into the next year. However, when we choose to ignore the pain, this (numbness followed by eruption) can become our ongoing reality.
Seeing a counselor or coach, attending a support group and having our husband admit his current struggles (or even better: process his past ones with us, as Jason Martinkus recommends in his Amends Matrix: described in Worthy of Her Trust) will absolutely bring up the pain again. It will cause us suffering (and I know, it isn’t fair: we have already been brought to the brink of death by this). However, it is suffering for a purpose. As we make space in our lives to grieve with God, and those he has sent to support us, we will heal. The pain below the surface… will begin to fade.
Count It All... What??
Really, truly it will. Even if your husband is delivering a constant supply of fresh wounds (and if he’s embracing recovery, the nature of these should be less devastating than the original batch) you will be moving forward. Moreover, you will be in a better place to deal with new pain; and to create protective boundaries and consequences… particularly if you’ve got that support infrastructure (counsellor, support group, friends, God) backing you up and encouraging you.
And as the wounds heal over (leaving their scars) and the pain fades, you will be able to move into that place where God redeems this devastation. The place where you realise you have grown. The place where you can, 'count it all joy.'
Next week I'll be discussing how to do a "grief retreat"... a way (for those who are ready because there is now safety and stability in their world) to push past "numb" and begin to move into the "redemption of all this suffering" God wants for us.