As the wife of an addict, my husband and I talk in acronyms often. We use handy, memorable “helps” that remind us how to avoid sticky traps and to connect honestly with one another.
One of the new acronyms Dave and I are working on is CHERISH.
A mental checklist to help us remember how to treat each other well—to cherish each other. Especially on “those” days. Wives, please admit with me that you and your hubby have THOSE days!
Some days I honestly think I’d prefer to be a hermit living in a cabin in the backwoods of Colorado. Except for the rattlesnakes, the mountain lions, and bears. Hmm.
Ever have a day or two like that? The interpersonal issues that come from two people within proximity cause sparks. And not all sparks connect to create a growing, cherishing relationship.
Gary Thomas, in his book Cherish, encourages you and me to go to war against the forces that break our connection. He calls this “the war against contempt.” No relationship in your life is more familiar than your spouse. Too often, this familiarity results in a slip into a cycle of contempt. We are shown first-hand (and we realize) we married an imperfect person, which leads to disappointment, which leads to frustration, which leads to bitterness, which leads to contempt. As Thomas reminds us, “This is a spiritual journey before it’s a marital one.”
Last week, for Dave’s birthday, we went out to a favorite local diner for lunch, where I quietly observed cherish.
While I watched Dave enjoy his chocolate peanut butter malt, an older couple sat down at a table across from us. Her hair wasn’t perfect, and she seemed a bit disoriented. But his gentleness and protective attitude toward her radiated cherishing. I found myself drawn to them. This couple understood that marriage is a verb; it’s something you do every day. Neither of these two was young and full of life, yet their deep contentment in each other’s presence was apparent to anyone willing to give them a second glance. You might not label their gentle care for each other as “sparks,” but the warmth of their connection was evident. They were cherishing each other and their time together.
In the movie On Golden Pond, my favorite scene is the one where Henry Fonda’s character, Norman, gets disoriented while walking down the driveway of his New England vacation home and quickly turns back to find his wife and familiarity that he’s lost. Katharine Hepburn (Ethel) delivers one of the most poignant lines in the whole movie, “Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it.” As many issues as these two had in their marriage and relationship with their daughter, somehow, they figured out how to cherish each other, to connect through it all. I choke up every time I watch this scene.
I want to connect deeply with my spouse in my later years.
But I know it doesn’t happen magically. Dave and I have to work at connecting. This deep connection doesn’t happen without continued care, nourishment, and cherishing.
To connect, we must CHERISH each other through:
C – Cherishing Care.
“To truly cherish something is to go out of your way to show it off, protect it, and honor it.” Gary Thomas, Cherish
I think about a hand-painted small plate that’s been passed down through the generations in my family. If you hold this plate up to the light, its translucent beauty causes you to wonder at its delicacy, the skill of the painter, and its preservation for at least 100 years. It is a cherished part of our family history. We so easily understand this concept of cherishing care as it relates to heirloom or things. Why then do we trip over how to care for our closest relationships cherishingly? What if you took that same level of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy expended on the heirloom and applied it to your spouse? What would change in you to create a deeper connection?
H – Healthy behaviors.
Do you prioritize healthy behaviors? Does your husband? Viewing pornography is not cherishing. When your husband watches porn, he breaks the connection with you. The person consuming the porn places another person, whom he objectifies, in place of the one he vowed to love, cherish, and protect.
When two people practice “cherish,” they decide to stay away from risky behaviors or activities that cause harm to their most important relationship—their marriage. They place a higher priority on caring for the other person than meeting their lustful desires. Anyone who focuses on building a deeper connection with their spouse protects that relationship at all costs.
E – Expressing love through action.
Talk is cheap. But, actions shout your true feelings. When Dave and I began our recovery journey, we learned to find new, small, but meaningful acts to show the other our care and compassion. Each action allowed me to remember little things I appreciated and loved about Dave. Every time I spoke to him with kindness, he felt heard and accepted. These intentional steps to reconnect took hard work when I’d rather have thrown in the towel and walked away. But, as Stephen Covey said, “Love is a verb.” It is an act of the will. Nothing shows a husband’s desire to change, heal, and reconnect than consistent, faithful acts of service toward a wounded spouse.
R – Reaching for reconciliation.
Every marriage struggles. That’s a fact. No marriage is perfect, despite what anyone tells you or believes. Two different people living in the most intimate relationship will wound each other many times over the years. It’s part of being human. When there’s been a wound or betrayal in the marriage through porn addiction or something else, both parties must decide if they will reach toward each other or push away. As long as unresolved anger, grudges, and continued rehashing of the issues remain, you continue to draw blood like two porcupines trying to snuggle up. Honest acknowledgment of the wound and division in the marriage precedes reconciliation. Call it what it is. Then, you can agree on a path forward toward healing for both of you.
I – Initiating forgiveness.
Connection breaks when one person lies, betrays, belittles, abuses, or ignores the other. Too often, I hear about unresolved issues that have festered for years within a marriage. Each one rips wider the rift between you and your husband. Until you seek to bring healing and forgiveness to those wounds, forgiveness eludes you.
It’s time to talk about what’s happened between you. And not just a “you did this” type of conversation. But an honest evaluation of the cause of the deterioration in your marriage. Wisely, seek professional assistance with this. You don’t want it to turn into a shouting match or all-out brawl. The goal is to find ways back to forgiveness. Don’t be discouraged if this takes some time.
Pay attention to your thoughts about your husband. Most likely, there is something you need forgiveness for. Take the initiative and reach toward your husband by asking for forgiveness.
S – Seeking new ways to connect.
Overcoming porn addiction means you need to create new healthy connection patterns. The old habits got you to this point. Therefore, it’s a decisive choice to change your routine. You won’t get to this point quickly. Much healing must take place before you start to connect. During this healing time, you may find it helpful to recall some unique things about your husband. What can you and your husband do together to begin dating again? How often do you flirt with him? Jot down ideas. It’s not only up to him to build the connection. Small, consistent, careful actions to reconnect build a strong connection over time. Don’t rush this. If you both seek to save your marriage and reconnect, you pull toward each other. It will come in time.
H – Honoring the other as much as possible.
Honor may seem like a strange word to use when talking about connection. But pause here with me for a moment. When someone speaks about you with kind, thoughtful, and uplifting words, how do you feel?
Now, think about the last time you struck out at your husband verbally? What happened between the two of you? How did his demeanor change? One rule I learned early on in our marriage was never to speak in a less than honoring way about Dave. If I was angry with him, I kept my mouth shut in public. After his pornography addiction, I too often dishonored my husband in conversations. Each time, I saw him wince. My harsh critique (even though it may have been truthful) further broke our connection. My counselor helped me identify ways I could honor Dave again. And when I did, I felt better and sensed a new connection.
I choose to connect with and cherish my husband.
I choose to cherish the same man that wounded me years ago with a confession that laid me flat. Not many would fault me for making a different choice. For walking. But my eyes were on a different relationship. The only one that supersedes that of my marriage relationship.
I cherish my relationship with my Creator.
I had to work through what this meant for my heart, my wedding vows, and how God and I would walk this out together. And all these years later, with our kids and grandkids, and our family connected, I’m so glad God showed me that He was bigger than my pain and had a plan I couldn’t do on my own. Thankfully, He never left me alone to figure it out.
If you 100% can’t imagine cherishing THAT guy right now. I get it. I’ve been there. Oh, have I been there. But I didn’t want to stay there. I couldn’t see the way out of the pain until I reached out. Slowly, God rebuilt my desire to connect again with my husband.
I used to wonder why God allowed such horrible pain, but now I know. It’s to help wives who deserve healing from the pain of discovering their husband’s addiction to pornography. To heal the parts of US that have been hurt. I’m here to offer help. And I cherish the opportunity to be your outstretched hand.