Amy couldn’t shake the underlying malaise that overshadowed her days. Would she ever recover from the shock of Ted’s porn use? With the holiday season approaching, Amy felt joyless. How could she pretend everything was good? It wasn’t, and Amy wondered if her life and their marriage ever would be again.
Do you feel Amy’s struggle?
Maybe you’ve recently discovered your husband’s porn use, and your marriage hurts.
The shock and aftershocks continue reverberating in your heart, mind, and relationship. Or perhaps it’s been several years where you and your husband perform an awkward dance with distrust and animosity. Even though you’ve tried to move past the heart-wrenching pain, it lingers. You wonder when the next earthquake will hit with more broken promises and betrayal.
The previous blog discussed the first two survival tactics to navigate the holidays when your marriage feels strained.
Reduce your to-do list.
Lower your expectations.
These two tactics focus on external survival tactics. They focus on how you relate outside your relationship and home.
In this blog, let’s look at some internal decisions you might need to make to survive the holidays when you and your marriage hurts.
1. Forgive him as much as you can today.
Forgiveness releases you. When I decided to forgive Dave for his porn addiction, it came grudgingly. I wasn’t gracious or Christ-like, but I wanted to obey God. Of course, that was after God confronted me. I recall saying something like, “God, I know you tell me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven, so I’ll forgive Dave. But I don’t like him right now. Please help me forgive.” Then, about an hour later, I had to do it again.
As God healed the wounds in my heart and showed me his trustworthiness, I gathered the courage to forgive Dave for the specific pain I felt. Stephen Arterburn says forgiveness unhooks you from the offense and offender so you can be free. I like that. With each level of forgiveness, I felt freer. But it didn’t come all at one time. Forgiveness was a daily process for me. You may find it the same way. Here’s a sample prayer you might pray:
Jesus, you tell me to forgive. I don’t know if I can do that. I’m so angry. So, Holy Spirit, please help me forgive this hurt and pain. Help me run to you whenever I want to lash out at him in anger. Without your help, I can’t forgive. I’d never do it on my own. Would you work on my husband’s heart to desire healing from this [name the cause of the pain]? Would you work on my heart, too? And, when I want to lash out again, please give me the courage to turn to you with my hurt and trust that you will continue your work in my husband. Please give me some small evidence that my husband’s promise to [fill in his promise] is true.
During the holidays, especially at Thanksgiving, look for something about your husband for which you are grateful. Risk thanking your husband for this. Find other things in your world where you can express gratitude to God. Journal these gratitude items. Notice what happens in your mind, heart, and soul when you look for gratitude instead of more pain.
Forgiveness doesn’t stop the pain, but it frees you to heal one step at a time. Give yourself the grace to process, grieve, renew, mature, and change according to the way God created you.
2. Acknowledge your emotional state. It will change.
Allow yourself the space to process your emotions. They aren’t wrong; they are. Emotions are your relief valve, similar to the pressure valve on an Instant Pot®. Let out the steam. If you keep it in, you could explode and cause severe damage. Our emotions constantly change, so we can’t let them dictate life. Would you choose to acknowledge your emotions, name them, and then seek a healthy path today?
Ask God to show you the truth in the situation. If your gut churns in a setting, figure out why. If something seems off, it probably is. Please don’t run away from the emotion but identify its root. Are you angry? About what? Name it. Dig to see what’s behind the anger. You might need help to do that. Reach out to a trusted Jesus-with-skin-on friend or a professional.
Stuffing your emotions doesn’t solve the issue. Eventually, like the steam building in the Instant Pot®, they’ll explode at the least opportune moment. Most likely, when they do, the explosion will not make sense because it isn’t related to the current situation.
The stress of concealing your emotions and pain does damage your body. Look at this list from the Mayo Clinic listing the common body impacts of stress:
The article states, “Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.” Unresolved emotions will contribute to your stress levels.
How do you cope with the emotions that might flare during the holidays? Acknowledge them. Allow yourself to step away from the festivity to compose yourself. Have a safe person you can call, such as your best girlfriend, a coach or counselor, or a mentor. Grab your journal and write what triggered the emotion and how you feel. Go for a walk to let off steam if necessary. Deal with the feelings, and move on from them. The emotion isn’t right or wrong; it just is.
Which of these internal survival tactics do you need to adopt?
Forgiveness may not be possible right now, depending on where you are in the healing process. Ask God to show you what this looks like in your current situation. And please don’t confuse forgiveness with a “get out of jail free” card for your husband’s porn use. All actions have consequences. If you can forgive, you will find new freedom.
I remember how crazy my emotions felt during recovery’s first few months. If this is how you feel, it’s okay. Recognize the crazy without judging yourself for them and allowing them to dictate your actions. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive. Emotions impact our thoughts which dictate our actions. Feel out of control emotionally? Reach out for help. You can tame the emotional beast.
You can survive the holidays.
If you need help processing these internal survival tactics, let’s talk. I promise to listen without judgment, hear your heart, and help you discover some simple actions to ease you through the holidays.
In the next couple of blogs, discover five more survival tactics you can use this holiday season.