Yesterday, I fasted for Jack. Nothing specifically, just for him. For strength, for hope. Maybe for me to have strength and hope for him. Maybe for our relationship. I just fasted for him and asked God to take care of whatever he needed.
I got some answers. And I can already feel the strength in me and in our relationship.
While waiting to meet with Bishop, I started reading a chapter from the strengthening marriage and family manual in the gospel library on my phone. The chapter I read was nurturing love and friendship in marriage. The things that stood out to me the most were attributes of charity, cooperation, drawing together in trial through selflessness, and understanding how hard you have to work to keep a marriage strong. I learned a lot. I just wrote brief words here, but the depth and meaning behind what I read and learned was intense. I felt strength in facing our trials, especially the pornography trial.And it prepared me for what I would hear from Bishop.
I've been in a lot of pain lately. Maybe it's because I am finally facing/admitting the truth that the addiction is always going to be a part of our lives. I didn't realize I had kind of been in denial about that until, well, today, as I have been writing. I've hoped and prayed. I've forgiven and been accepting and loving. I've done a lot. I've been very selfless. I've held on to the hope that he would overcome, and I think I've been secretly hoping it would be quickly. I've been hoping it would just be a phase and he would heal soon.
I've known that the addiction could last our whole lives. I just haven't wanted to actually admit that. I haven't really said it out loud. So here I am. In all my vulnerability.
It's been most of our marriage. I have known for over two years. He has been addicted for over half his life. This isn't going away any time soon.
I have hope that he will overcome it, but it probably won't be very quickly. That scares me. Because anything could happen. I know he "loves" his addiction. He has said that. There is this part of him that truly loves it, no matter how much he despises it. He isn't ready to be fully free of his addiction. Because he doesn't want to be yet. He has said that to me, and he has said that to our bishop. And Bishop reminded me of that yesterday.
When will he be able to give it up? Will he be able to give it up? How hard is he really trying? He says he is trying, and I'm sure he is trying sometimes, but is he really trying? All the time? Will this break up our eternal marriage?
I feel more at peace with the fact that maybe I will be on my own after this life. Maybe I won't. I don' t know how it works. I do feel more at peace with the idea of not clinging to him, though. You know, not stressing over the fact that maybe we might end up in different places after this life. And no matter what happens, I'll be happy because I'm dedicating my life to get to God. I'm not really afraid of being alone in eternity. The idea just makes me sad. It's a painful kind of sad.
A question I need answered for myself right now is do I want our marriage to work? Bishop said that I have shown myself as Christlike and forgiving. Many women in my position (whom he has seen) would have already given up--separated or divorced. And quite frankly, it's getting harder. I know the pornography and masturbation aren't every day. But it's there. It's frequent enough. It's infidelity. It's adulterous.
It's hard. It's really hard.
That chapter I read yesterday, about nurturing love and friendship in marriage, was really motivating. I understand better how much work I have to put in to our marriage. I wish they would teach you these things before you get married. I wish someone would have said, "Hey, Marie, you're in love. You think your husband is perfect, but just imagine for a second that he's not. Imagine that he has some horrible traits. Let that image settle for a second. Are you willing to stick to him?" They should teach something like that in the marriage prep class.
It's not easy. It's not going to be easy. I can't be in denial anymore about it, though. My life is hard. It will be hard for the rest of my life. He isn't going to overcome his addiction as fast as I want him to. There is the possibility that he might not ever. Do I want this marriage to work? Do I want to give up and quit, or am I ready to give it my all, holding nothing back? If I hold nothing back, I'm setting myself up for big emotional battles. I'm preparing myself for all kinds of opposition and negative emotions. Am I ready to face that? Am I ready to give it my all?
Bishop told me that through my actions, I have definitely shown my ability to be Christlike (which made me feel so good. Christlike is what I'm always striving for). I have shown compassion and forgiveness. But, he encouraged me to expect and demand more. And I know my motivator needs to be love. If I really love Jack, I will expect more. Because I am seeing him through God's eyes. And God expects more.
What he said made me think. I've gone back and forth on the expectations thing a lot. I've found it's easier to have no expectations because then I don't have to deal with the intensity of the emotions. I've definitely had my fair share of all the negative emotions that are wrapped up with a sex-addicted husband. And I do have expectations. I just haven't been forceful about them. I've been angry. I've sure as heck been angry. And I've tried to get away from the anger. I've tried to steer away from co-dependency. With all the talk about co-dependency and how bad it is, I've tried hard to let things be and work on my healing and separating myself from the addiction (if that makes sense). I've tried to be confident without him. I've tried to make our marriage work, but I've also, in a sense, removed (or at least tried to remove) myself from the addiction. To avoid pain. And to save myself.
When he confesses something, I am strong. I know he is hurting, and I know he is hurting me, so I hold solid for a few days. And then my walls come crashing down. Sometimes in private, sometimes to him. Sometimes I tell him things to express how much it hurts, but I usually try to be strong. For him. So he doesn't experience more pain himself. Because I can only imagine how much it must hurt to be addicted to something that causes so much pain to the person you love more than anything else in this life.
I have to find a balance. Yes, he is addicted, but he sins. He knowingly sins. I have to have expectations for that. After all, we made covenants.
Having high expectations, dealing with the pain, and trying to be forceful and controlling is not going to be healthy. I don't want to slip back into codependent mode. I don't want to lose what I have gained in my recovery already.
Peace. I don't want to lose peace. I don't want to turn into a crazy, psychotic, controlling woman. So, how do I establish the expectations and boundaries in a non-controlling or threatening manner? How do I establish the expectations and boundaries in a way that shows I'm doing it out of love for him, not because I'm cautious or scared for myself and our relationship? Because ultimately, I have shown forgiveness. I have shown compassion. I have let him try to do it on his own (with God), but he needs me. He needs me to help him adhere to his expectations for himself, my expectations for him, God's expectations for him, and our boundaries. He needs me to be his cheerleader. He needs me to show him my love and care, he needs high expectations but also high emotional response and support.
That sounds to me like a democratic parent. I teach about democratic parents in Child Development, Parenting, and F.A.C.S. Democratic is the best style of parenting. Permissive is what I have been: high emotional response, but low demand. That's better than just plain neglect (no response or demand), but not the best. The best is to have high response and high demands. People need expectations.
I need to find a balance for myself. Obviously, I'm not parenting. I'm partnering. I'm loving. I talked about that with Bishop too. He asked me what my goals are for when Jack and I are parents. Do we want to be partners? Of course we do. Do I want him to be a priesthood leader in our home? Of course I do. If I want those, I need to treat him as such now. We are partners. He has made covenants. He isn't the priesthood leader he should and could be. And I can't expect him to make any changes on his own. I have to put more effort into helping him recover rather than just sitting on the sidelines cheering him on. I have to help him. I have to set expectations. And I will expect in the most Christlike manner possible.
Bishop recommended that we make rules. If Jack is using the computer to access porn, then his computer-use needs to be restricted (I got the impression that he would be perfectly okay with me destroying my husband's computer. That sounds kind of fun... but it's my computer, actually. His laptop broke, and we haven't been able to afford a desktop. When I told Bishop that, he then suggested I restrict Jack's access to my computer). I told him, I'm afraid that won't help with a change of heart. Destroying the source is just bandaging the problem, not actually helping it heal. He said he can see my point, but sometimes we need to make a change in behavior first to cleanse us and prepare us for a change of heart. You can't have a change of heart if the actions aren't changing.
I haven't really heard it put that way before. But it totally makes sense to me. In the 12-step guidebook, there is that quote about Christ taking the slums out of the people and then they take themselves out of the slums. I used to think it only meant you have to experience a change of heart first, and then you can make changes of behavior. That quote has new meaning to me today. It could mean that we take the slums out of Jack (take the porn out. Take out what is giving him access) in order for him to truly take himself out (change of heart). And then when he has taken himself out (when his heart is truly changed), he won't want to go back in.
Whoa. What a new perspective.
Bishop also told me it's okay to just throw the money-changers out of the temple. Christ didn't ask them nicely to leave. He said get the heck out right now. He overthrew the tables. He cast them out. Christ had expectations for his temple, and when those expectations weren't met, he became the change that needed to happen. Our marriage is like that. I can throw the bad out. I can say, "Hey, I have expectations. These are my expectations, and if you are going to look at porn, I'll get rid of the source." I can throw the money-changers out.
Of course, I have to do this with charity. Love. Christlike love. It's not about me being angry or irrational. It's about me loving my husband enough to throw the money-changers out of our temple--out of our marriage. It's about me saying, "Yep, this will be hard. But I'm going to do what's best for you, even if you don't like it right now." That is true love, true charity.
Bishop commended me for being so Christlike, so forgiving. But, from our conversation, I felt him encouraging me to become even more Christlike. Really act with love. I need to do more than just forgive and tolerate. I need more than compassion. I need to put forth effort to make our home better and to help make Jack better.
So, that's what I'll do. It's kind of hard for me to be strong (forceful?) about boundaries or expectations. But I know I need to be. And I guess this is the next step towards my recovery and healing. So I will set expectations and boundaries. I will define my needs and my goals for our family. I will share them with Jack, and we will both be stronger.
Now, it's time to get back to the Love Dare. I've taken a few days off. But now I think I can resume and do all these nice, wonderful things for Jack because I know the work I need to put in. And I know that I still need to act with service and love. I'm not in denial about the work our marriage takes anymore. I'm ready and willing to work hard. I won't give up on our marriage because there is still hope. And I've made covenants with Jack and with God. And I'll do what I can to keep those covenants and help Jack keep his.
**I know that what my bishop is encouraging me to do is not for everyone. Everyone has their own way of healing and dealing with this trial. I have a testimony that my bishop is a man of God. I could feel God's presence in that room while we talked yesterday. I know the counsel given to me was of God, and I am preparing myself to make changes in the way I handle this trial. As I make changes, I will be prayerful and really try to do things the way Christ wants me to. And I really am trying to make my motivator love. Which, is what the Love Dare is trying to get me to do too. Funny how that goes hand-in-hand with everything else...