Jesus said he was the resurrection and the life. Anyone who comes to him lives—what a statement!
You might believe life was over when you discovered your husband’s betrayal.
There’s no possible way to recover from this severe damage to your heart, mind, soul, and relationship. I know that’s what I thought.
The abrupt discovery shook the foundations of my marriage, my beliefs, and my spiritual life. What I’d built my life on no longer made sense. This aftershock resulted in death, which meant I needed resurrection to life.
Recovery requires death first before you experience new life.
With that death also comes grief you must process as part of your recovery journey. Whenever we experience any loss, we experience grief.
So, if you feel like your marriage is dead, it is—at least the marriage you’ve had until now. Don’t let that frighten or discourage you. Your normal cannot live another day because it’s what got you where you are today. It’s time to move forward.
Hopefully, you and your husband desire to resurrect your marriage. But even if he isn’t willing to make the necessary changes, to put to death the destructive behavior that led to this point, you can recover.
The steps I’m proposing may happen quickly or not, and they might be jumbled and probably not in order. You could experience one or two stages several times (I did) with varying intensity.
Let’s look at seven possible grief stages you work through during the recovery process.
My knees buckled when I heard my husband’s confession. This physical response evidenced my mental state–shock coupled with denial. “I can’t believe it,” raced through my brain, “How could this be? That’s not the man I married.” And more. What “craziness” do you sense right now? Write your thoughts down, and do your best to capture them. It’s okay. You might feel emotionally numb and mentally foggy, which is a normal part of dealing with trauma and grief.
2. Pain and Guilt.
So many questions flip through your mind. “What did I do to make him look at porn?” “Why didn’t I pay attention to him more?” “Were there warning signs I missed?” Then you start the blame game. “If only I’d had sex with him more often.” “I should have lost the baby weight right away.” All these questions and blame-shifting, while normal, don’t address the solution but are part of the grieving process. At this point, you might feel betrayed, disgusted, or desperate. All normal emotions to work through. But don’t get stuck here, which often happens. Reach out for help.
Anger is like a lion with a thorn in its paw. You hurt as you’ve never hurt before, and you want it to stop now. Watch for the torrent of words that spew out. I remember feeling like my clenched jaw would shatter my teeth in my deepest anger. Immediately, you start assigning blame to him for everything wrong in your life and marriage. You strike out wherever you can. Your emotions might include resentment, stubbornness, or “woe is me.” Deal with these normal responses to the trauma, but don’t escalate or be surprised when this one comes around more than once.
4. Depression or loneliness.
When you discover porn addiction, your instinct will be to isolate, keep it to yourself, and even hope it will disappear. But that’s detrimental. The best thing I did was reach out for help immediately. Set up an appointment with a counselor or coach specializing in sexual addiction recovery. You need to process this information and the aftershocks. You’ll probably experience frustration, an emotional heaviness, or difficulty sleeping. While these are normal, isolation only increases these emotions and symptoms. You need someone to hear you and help stop the spin cycle happening in your head. Again, you may struggle with this stage more than once. That’s normal.
What a lifesaver it is to feel hope for the first time. Hope brings light rays into the blackness of depression, loneliness, anger, fear, and many other emotions you experience during the aftershocks. Let me reassure you that you have hope to recover, resurrect your life, and even your marriage when both parties in the betrayal desire to change and recover. Yes, there’s hard work involved, and the process takes time. But all things in life worth pursuing require time and work. Some emotions you might enjoy are motivation, excitement, and cautiousness. When you reach this part of the cycle, you begin to breathe deeply for the first time. The struggle isn’t over, but hope remains. And the person who has a personal relationship with Jesus understands that hope remains centered in Jesus alone. Cling to this stage with eyes wide open and remind yourself of it when you cycle around through the others. Because you will cycle.
I remember the first time I knew recovery and restoration with Dave was possible. That awakening reinforced hope even though I still saw the huge stumbling blocks before us. At this stage, you begin to look for solutions or believe they can happen. I found this part of my recovery cycle difficult to hold onto. It seemed the first road bump knocked me back to one of the earlier cycles. But then I learned that was normal, too. The early-stage possibility is a fragile state. You can expect to feel refreshed, inspired, and solution-focused. Your mind fog clears a bit, which helps you process information and new challenges better.
I appreciate this stage. It’s the one where I moved from my “perfect world” to reality. While I didn’t necessarily like everything in this reality, I no longer feared it. At this stage, I knew that what happened was part of my story but did not need to define my future. My husband wasn’t trapped, nor was I. We could choose a different path. Though life would never go back to that normal, we worked to define and develop our new normal—a healthy, authentic relationship built on love, respect, and strength. Don’t be surprised when something triggers you to another stage in the cycle. That’s normal. Some emotions you might experience include security, optimism, and relaxation with yourself, your husband, and God. Building a solid relationship with God is key to remaining in this stage. He alone brings security to your life. Not you or your husband. Only God.
As you walk through the stages of the recovery process and grief, find comfort in these verses from Psalm 9:
The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,
a refuge in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.
I know what it’s like to work through the recovery process.
However, I found healing and joy when I allowed myself to grieve and wrestle with God about the loss of my dream life and expectations. I received more than I desired because I allowed God to do the work in me first while doing the same work in Dave. Today, life isn’t perfect, but it’s fulfilling and fun. The adventure I desired started when I let go and let God do his work.
How can I help you? I promise to listen to your pain, encourage your heart, and point you to Jesus, the only one who brings resurrection to your broken heart.