What is Journey?
Journey is a community of women who have all experienced betrayal and loss as a result of their spouses’ struggle with life-dominating sexual sin. As a group, Journey meets weekly to give women an opportunity to grieve with others who identify with their pain, to begin breaking free from harmful and distorted patterns of thinking, to learn how to set boundaries that guard their hearts, thoughts, and behaviors, and to allow God to use authentic relationships to heal and transform them from the inside out. Women on the journey together work through a core curriculum that addresses relevant issues and helps them reconnect with God in a time of daily devotion. They also experience the healing power of spiritual community as they deal with real-life hurts, struggles, and sins. In a word, Journey is about relationships—relationships with God and other believers that help women walk this life with grace and truth, no matter what choices their spouses may make along the way.
Who can become a part of Journey?
There are three requirements for women who are interested in becoming a part of Journey. First, you must have been or currently be in a serious relationship (dating steadily, engaged, married, separated, or divorced) with a man who struggles with some form of life-dominating sexual behavior/sin. This includes compulsive masturbation and fantasy, internet pornography, strip clubs, adult book stores, prostitutes, voyeurism, exhibitionism, multiple affairs or one-night stands, anonymous sexual encounters, etc.—acted out in either heterosexual or homosexual ways. Second, you must participate in an intake interview via phone with a member of the Journey staff. The goal of the interview is to give you a chance to share your story in a safe and confidential way and to assess which small group will be the best fit for you. The final requirement is that you are willing to sign a confidentiality waiver in which you commit to keep confidential the identities of fellow sisters and information shared in group.
Are there any fees associated with Journey?
We invite all Journey newcomers to pay a one-time fee of $20.00 to cover the cost of the materials they will use while involved in Journey.
How often does Journey meet?
Journey meets once a week on Wednesdays. There are two times available throughout most of the year—Wednesday morning from 9:30 to 12:00 and Wednesday evening 6:00 to 8:30. (During the summer, only the evening group meets.)
Is child care available? How much does it cost?
Childcare is available each Wednesday night from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. (Women who have children in childcare share first and leave at 8:00.) The only costs associated with childcare are for materials for our Cubbies (ages 3-5) and Awanas (ages K-5th) programs. (Ask if you need financial help. Some scholarships are available.)
What can I expect at a Journey meeting?
We begin with a large group time in which we open with a song and have a short time of teaching or devotion. Then women break up into assigned small groups for sharing and accountability. On your first night you are invited to share your story, if you feel comfortable doing so. Other women will be sharing discoveries from their homework, asking questions, telling about struggles they are facing, or asking for accountability in some area. Small group time closes with prayer for each group member.
How can I know if my husband truly has a problem or if he is just doing what all men do?
First of all, although most men struggle with lustful thoughts at some point in their lives, acting on those thoughts—whether it be fantasy, masturbation, or actual contact with another person—is always sinful and outside of the will of God. The struggle with sexual thoughts and behaviors becomes problematic when a man chooses to use his sexuality to attempt to meet needs for nurture, comfort, solace, significance, and security. Most men who struggle with life-dominating sexual behaviors are not acting out sexually just because they love sex. They are being sexual with themselves and others in order to meet core emotional needs that only God can fill. And because sexual arousal and climax releases a mixture of pleasure-producing neurochemicals within the brain, sexual behaviors can become addictive physiologically as well. When a person wants to alter his mood, being sexual can give him an exciting, albeit brief, escape from the often harsh and stressful realities of life.
Although all men are unique individuals who deal with sexual struggles differently, there are some patterns you can look for to determine if your husband is struggling with a pattern or habit of sinful sexual behavior. Here are some of the most common and the likely emotional response you are feeling:
- Your husband seems less and less interested in sex with you. When he is sexual with you he may seem disconnected (“not there”), self-serving (“it’s all about him”), or be unable to maintain an erection. You feel rejected and inadequate. You wonder if something is wrong with you sexually and question whether the lack of physical intimacy in your marriage is somehow your fault—i.e. you’ve gained too much weight, you’re too old, etc.
- Or, your husband is constantly pressuring you for sex—sometimes multiple times a day—and asking you to be sexual in ways that are uncomfortable or painful for you (i.e. anal sex, using sex toys, asking you to use “dirty” language during sex, wanting to tie you up or handcuff you, etc.). You feel like all you are to your husband is body parts. You feel violated, used, humiliated, and confused—often wondering if God intended the marriage bed to be this way.
- Your husband seems “checked out” much of the time and is unable to connect with you emotionally or spiritually. You feel very alone. You may nag or try to arrange date nights for connecting with your man, but he seems distant. You feel like you really don’t know him anymore. There seems to be an invisible wall between you.
- Unexplainable financial problems have developed in your marriage. There is a lack of money but no apparent reason why you should be struggling. There may be suspicious charges on credit card bills or unexplained withdrawals at the ATM. You feel unsafe and anxious. Worries about financial security haunt you, and you are beginning to doubt the trustworthiness of your husband.
- Your husband finds excuses for doing office work late or night or for making unplanned trips out of town. He is away more than he is home, and when he is home, he spends a great deal of time on the computer. You feel rejected and cheated. You also feel conflicted, knowing that he is trying to provide for you but jealous over the amount of time he gives to his work instead of relating to you and the kids. His time away has become a source of internal conflict within you and external conflict within the marriage.
There are also circumstances that provide more conclusive evidence that your husband is struggling with a pattern of sexual sin.
- You go to the doctor for your annual check-up and discover that you have a sexually transmitted disease.
- Your husband loses his job because of pornography usage at work.
- Your husband is arrested for soliciting a prostitute or for some other criminal sexual behavior.
- You find pornography sites listed on the history of your computer.
- You receive a phone call from one of your husband’s affair partners.
- You find receipts for sexually-related activities or purchases (i.e. drinks at a strip club, adult video rental, adult videos charged to hotel bills, etc.).
- Your telephone bill reflects numerous calls to dating/escort services, phone sex lines, or affair partners.
When in doubt, listen to your God-given intuition and begin praying that God would reveal to you any secrets your husband is keeping. Be wise and watchful. Tell your suspicions to a safe friend who can keep confidence and pray together that God would bring all darkness to light. Then ask Him for the courage to face what He shows you.
If I know my husband is struggling with sexual sin, what do I do?
- First, talk to a safe friend or contact Journey so that you are not alone with the truth about your husband.
- Second, evaluate the safety of your relationship with your husband. Do you trust him not to blame you for his problem? Does he lose control when he is angry, and are you fearful of a violent reaction from him?
- Decide how best to confront him. It is often safest and wisest to ask others to be there with you when you confront his sinful behaviors.
- Fourth, until you know the extent of his sexual behaviors, abstain from a sexually intimate relationship with your husband. This boundary is for your physical safety. If he has been sexual with other people, you will both need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases before resuming your sexual relationship within the marriage. (If he claims to have been faithful to you but your heart doubts his truthfulness, go with your heart. If he is being honest, God and time will help you to know it is safe to be sexual with your spouse. If he is being dishonest, then you are wisely protecting yourself from the potential consequences of his sexual sin.)
- Fifth, think about your choices. Evaluate what you need and want. Resist the temptation to control, manipulate, or pressure your husband into changing. Give him the freedom to choose what he wants most—even if that is not you right now. Set healthy limits around your heart, and decide what you need from your husband in order to stay in relationship with him.
- Grieve. And grieve in community with other believers who can hear your pain and anger and confusion without condemning you or trying to fix it all for you. Talk to God about all that you are feeling. Stay in relationship with safe people, and don’t isolate yourself. (Journey is a wonderful place to begin experiencing authentic spiritual community.)
- Come to a place of acceptance and allow the Father to take you on a journey of growth and transformation—no matter what your husband chooses to do.
If you are interested in becoming a part of Journey, contact Bonnie Palma.