hopequest blog

When Do I Invite Family and Others Into My Story?

Right now my mind is being flooded with a bunch of questions I’ve heard women ask along the way. Let me list some of them here and try to answer them briefly.

Whose responsibility is it to tell his parents about the problem?

Many times when a woman finds out about her husband’s sexual addiction, one of the first phone calls she makes is to her parents. Her husband, however, may struggle with telling his parents about the problem. Shame is working overtime in his heart, and facing the pain of disappointing his parents is a huge hurdle to overcome. In my opinion, it is his responsibility to tell his parents—not yours. It’s part of the hard work he must do—facing his sin and taking responsibility for it. Don’t rescue him from that work.

If he is blaming you for the marital problems instead of owning them with his parents, it is still not your responsibility to tell them. You can say, “Your son is not being completely honest with you. The marriage has been greatly damaged by _____’s choices. I am really hurting right now, but it is _____’s responsibility to be honest with you about what is going on.” If his parents really care for you and are interested in knowing the truth, they will confront their son. If they are unhealthy and deceived, then they won’t believe anything you tell them anyway.

Should my husband meet with my parents for a time of reconciliation?

If your parents are aware of the problem, are safe people (i.e. they won’t meet him at the door with a shotgun), and are willing to talk with your husband, I think it is a very wise and Scriptural thing to do. Your family needs to know that your husband is sorry for what he’s done to you and to them. Regardless of how your family members respond, it is a great exercise in obedience and faith for your husband. I would say, however, that a plan to meet with your parents and apologize should be initiated by your husband—not you. That’s his stuff. Let God work in his heart to bring him to that place of maturity and obedience.

What should I do if my husband doesn’t want me to tell anyone about his struggle?

Especially in situations where the husband is not working on his stuff, this is a very common response. If this is your situation, you will need great discernment and great courage. Tell your husband that you need a place to talk about how his sexual sin has impacted you. Assure him that you will use discretion. Then find a counselor, become involved in a confidential support group, and if you have a safe friend or two, tell your husband that you are going to tell them and let him know exactly what you will say about him. This is your stuff. His sin has impacted you, and you must walk in both grace and truth. You may need a lot of courage to stand by your word if your husband threatens to leave you. But covering up his sin in order to save the marriage won’t work. You’ll be miserable, and the marriage will eventually fall apart. Again, be honest with safe people, be truthful with your husband about what you are sharing and who you are sharing with, and trust God to be at work in your husband’s life.

What should I tell acquaintances who are really not close friends?

Tell them the truth without sharing any details. Things like, “Yes, we are really struggling right now. I really can’t share what’s going on, but please do pray for our marriage.” Or you could try being very real. “Thanks for your concern. I really don’t know you well enough to share details with you, but I appreciate your prayers for our marriage.” Lots of truth. Healthy boundaries.

I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about this. Do I have to?

Well, that depends on two things: can you keep from telling without being dishonest and can you remain in relationships without telling? You have to have people, and you have to have truth. If the truth about your husband’s struggle causes you to isolate yourself from other people, you will never heal. Healing comes in relationship—and not just relationship, but intimate relationship. If you are lying about your situation, you will never heal—and neither will your husband. It was secrets that brought him this far, and it is secrets that will keep him bound. I can’t make you tell safe people about your struggles. But overcoming your fears and your shame will be necessary for you and your husband to continue on the journey.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Other Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Disclosing Your Story to Family Members and Close Friends

Trusting God In Uncertainty

Finding Freedom for Yourself

Five Guys and Addiction

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

Journey – Week Forty-Three

Disclosing Your Story to Family Members and Close Friends

When it comes to disclosing what has happened in your marriage to family members and close friends, much of what we feel is related to how we learned to deal with embarrassing and shameful situations in our home as a child/teenager. You need to be aware of those dynamics in order to walk with both truth and grace with your family and your husband’s.

For instance, in my home, telling the truth about what had happened was very important, but expressing how you felt about the truth was not encouraged and sometimes even discouraged. So, when I was growing up if something bad happened, we talked about it in terms of factual reality, but we didn’t talk about how it impacted us emotionally. Telling my parents about Troy’s unfaithfulness was not difficult from the standpoint of being truthful. It was difficult because I didn’t feel safe to express how his unfaithfulness was impacting me. I felt like I needed to look like I was doing okay—even if I really wasn’t. My siblings were especially difficult to talk to. They accepted the truth, but they did not seek to know my heart or to share how Troy’s sin had impacted them.

Troy’s parents, on the other hand, grew up in family systems that taught them not to “air their dirty laundry in public.” They were very uncomfortable about other people finding out about Troy’s sexual sin and resented those who reacted to his sin negatively. In their generation, people didn’t talk about their problems with others. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is a recipe for bondage. Secret sins and wounds can only be forgiven and healed if they are brought to the light. Covering them up only leads to more sin and more secrets.

So, the first thing to be aware of before you disclose to family or close friends is how they typically respond to painful/shameful information. You need to know what to expect in order to prepare yourself for their reactions.

The second thing you need to determine about those you want or need to tell about the problem is how much they really need to know. Most often, family members only need to know generalities. Remember, details make the emotional impact of truth much greater. And if someone asks for details, your response should be, “I don’t think you need to know that” or “I’m really not comfortable answering that question.” Be as specific as you can to avoid confusion or unnecessary fears, but limit what you tell your family in order not to expose them to more than they might be able to deal with. Keep in mind that you have a support group and probably a counselor to talk to. Most of your family members will have to deal with the bad news without that kind of support.

Please understand; I’m not trying to give you a script to follow. I just want you to think about what you say to other people and how it is going to impact them. The goal is to speak with both grace and truth. Be as honest as you can without causing your family or your husband or yourself any more pain than is necessary.

Of course, there are times when a family member is safe and healthy enough to really share your heart with. You may have a sibling who is a counselor and understands the dynamics of sexual addiction. A family member may have walked through the same thing and be able to identify with your struggles completely. Just be wise.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Other Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Trusting God In Uncertainty

Finding Freedom for Yourself

Five Guys and Addiction

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

Journey – Week Forty-Three

Moving On After Betrayal

Finding out about a husband’s sexual sin and betrayal is one of the most painful things that can happen in the life of a woman. I think it is probably even more painful than the death of a spouse. Denial, anger, bargaining, and despair are all part of the natural process of grieving the great losses that result from a husband’s struggle with sexual addiction. And as long as you are moving through grief without getting stuck somewhere along the way, eventually you will come to accept the losses and be able to move on.

Moving on may mean you and your husband are able to deal with your own issues and come back together as two broken people growing daily in relationship with God and depending on Him instead of each other to meet your deepest needs for love and acceptance. This is my prayer for every woman who comes to Journey. I want you to heal. I want your husband to heal, and I want your marriage to become everything God intended it to be.

Sometimes, though, moving on means an extended separation or even divorce. This may happen if a husband refuses to work on his stuff. It can also happen if you refuse to work on your stuff. In rare cases, both the husband and wife may deal with their brokenness but be unable to reconcile because too much damage to the integrity and trust of the relationship has been done to salvage the marriage.

And I do want to make one more comment before we take a look at God’s heart. If your husband is pursuing God and allowing the Lord to replace lies with truth and learning how to let God fill up the empty holes in his heart—if he is sincerely and consistently working on his stuff—then the success of the relationship will depend on whether or not you take your own recovery seriously. Susie Sunshines, we need to take two steps away from our husbands, put up some boundary markers, and surrender our need to be loved to the only One who can truly love us. Stormy Sues, you need to take two steps toward your husbands, lay down your weapons, and surrender your need to control to the only One who has the right to rule and reign in your marriage. Remember, dear sisters, your responsibility is you.

Proverbs 19:5 (NASB) A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.

Proverbs 28:13 (NASB) He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

More About Susie Sunshines and Stormy Sues:

Journey – Week Thirty-Three-Introducing Susie and Sue

Journey – Week Thirty-Four-More About Susie Sunshine

Journey – Week Thirty-Five-More About Stormy Sue

Journey – Week Thirty-Six-Little About Both Ladies

What is Addiction?

Definition of Addiction

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addictive Behavior Can Be Characterized by 5 Specific Features:

  • Inability to Abstain
  • Behavioral Control Impairment
  • Craving
  • Diminished recognition of Significant Problems
  • Emotional dysfunction

Source, and further information: 

https://www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction

Reclaiming Families Seminar Workbook

Trusting God in Uncertainty

We’ll start this day with a question that burns in all of our hearts at some time or another.

How do I know if my husband has told me everything?

The answer to that question falls somewhere between “You can’t” and “You’ll know.”

Let me put it this way, if your husband is pursuing God and working diligently to replace lies with truth in his heart and life, then he will be completely honest with you and disclose everything you need to know.

On the other hand, if your husband is not pursuing God or working on his stuff, he is probably not going to be honest with you about everything. In that case, God Himself will show you what you need to know.

There are a number of reasons why our husbands may struggle with being completely honest about their sexual behaviors/sin. Obviously, sexual sin causes a lot of shame, and whatever sins the struggler sees as particularly shameful, he may have great difficulty sharing—even with his counselor. A man may also lie if he feels that a particular behavior will result in losses he is not ready to experience—i.e. loss of a job or marriage. If a guy knows that something is going to be particularly hurtful to his wife, he may hesitate to share it, and then there is the whole problem of black-outs. Some addicts literally cannot remember what they’ve done during an addictive cycle. (We had a good friend who would wake up in bed with someone and not remember how he got there.)

For our guys who are pursuing healing, God is always at work in their hearts and minds to renew and transform them. Many times as the Lord moves and ministers in the life of a man involved in the restoration process, He will remind him of secrets that have not been disclosed. Or, if a man has intentionally withheld information because of shame or regret, the Holy Spirit will prompt him to do the pain and be completely honest with his spouse and others. This is a good/bad thing for us as wives. It is good in that our husbands are being renewed and changed. It’s bad when we have to grieve again over things that have happened in the past.

When a husband shares additional information about his sexual sin after the time of formal disclosure has taken place, he is engaging in what I like to call the “dribble” method of disclosure… I hate the dribble method!!!!!!

And to be honest, I hate the fact that there is nothing we can do to ensure that our husbands tell us the whole truth and nothing but the truth during the initial time of disclosure.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Other Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Finding Freedom for Yourself

Five Guys and Addiction

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

Journey – Week Forty-Three

Finding Freedom for Yourself

If you are going to heal and find freedom for yourself on this journey, you need to be able to look at truth squarely in the eye and seek God’s counsel on how to respond to the reality of your situation. If you deny the truth, you may naively put yourself back into a dangerous and harmful situation, entrusting your heart and body to your husband too soon. If you try to manipulate or change the truth, you may prolong the work God wants to do in your husband’s life. If you stay angry at the reality of your husband’s spiritual and emotional condition, then you become an ally of the enemy, helping him to do his work rather than yielding to the work of God in your life.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Five Guys and Addiction

Now I do want to talk for a few minutes about five different guys. Pay attention because you are probably married to one of them. These guys have all disclosed at least some of their sexual sin and addictive behaviors to a counselor and/or their wives, but in terms of recovery and healing, they are all at totally different places. As you read, look for your husband, remembering that recognizing where he is spiritually and emotionally won’t change him. It is the work of God in his heart that will make the difference. Your job, as I’ve said before, is to pray for him and to work on your stuff. With that in mind, let’s look at the line-up. 

We’ll start with Broken Brad. Brad is serious about his healing and restoration. Disclosure was for him the first step toward freedom. He feels greatly relieved to have all of the secrets out in the open, but he is far from a carefree happy guy. The more he comes to his senses, the more pain and regret he is feeling about what he has done. He is diligently pursuing God and sifting and sorting with a counselor. Relationships with other men have become a focus in his life, and for the first time, he is experiencing real intimacy with his peers. Every day he realizes how much he has hurt his wife and family, and his love for them is beginning to blossom into a desperate desire for freedom so that he will not hurt them again. As he relates to his wife, he is very understanding and patient; he knows she needs time to grieve and to see him being consistent over time.

The second guy in the line up is Flippant Fred. Now Fred has disclosed all of his sins and is feeling quite free from all of that sexual addiction stuff. He has felt very sorrowful about his sin, and he’s made a good start in the process—getting back into God’s Word, going to support group, seeing his counselor occasionally. But Fred is getting sucked into the illusion that since he has confessed his sin, he will no longer struggle sexually. He’s not really into looking at his past. You can’t blame your past, you know. You’ve got to make choices in the present. Fred is also not very patient with his wife’s grieving process. Although he may not say it out loud, he really doesn’t understand why she can’t just get over it. Six months should be enough for her to let go of it all and let things get back to normal. 

Next in line is Red-Handed Randy. Randy got caught, and the only thing he is really sorry about is getting caught. He really doesn’t think he’s got a problem. Men just have different needs than women. It’s a guy thing. He’s told his wife as little as possible to get her off his back and made a show of getting help. Since he does care about his wife and doesn’t want to lose his family, he’s seen a counselor a couple of times and talked to the guy in charge of the support group. But he figures if he just lays low for a while, gives his wife a lot of attention and buys a few things she’s been wanting for the house, that everything will blow over and life can continue as it was. God is really not in the picture. Randy believes in Him but is unable to relate to Him on a personal level. Whenever he feels bad about himself or what he’s done, he just promises himself that he won’t do it again and escapes the pain in some way—usually by throwing himself into his work or zoning out while watching sports.

Guy number four is Blaming Bill. Bill’s not sorry he got caught; he’s mad. The only thing his wife knows about is the thing she caught him doing. And Bill isn’t planning on disclosing anything else, ever. Anytime she brings up the subject, Bill blows up and tells her either to let it go or leave him. He’s not the problem. Her lack of forgiveness is. Bill won’t take responsibility for his actions, and he habitually blames everyone else for all his problems. The inappropriate sexual behavior is his wife’s fault because she won’t have sex every time he wants to, or it’s the media’s fault because they saturate society with sexual images. Bill goes to counseling and discovers even more people to blame. It’s his dad’s fault because he demanded perfection. It’s his mom’s fault for not nurturing him like she should have. Bill, of course, is not very fun to live with. His wife’s only respite is when he is blaming someone besides her for his problem. Things are half-way bearable on those days. Anger and defensiveness are the hallmarks of Bill’s life, and he can’t heal because he can’t see that he’s the only one responsible for his actions.

Finally, we come to Run-Away Rob. Rob handles the reality of his sexual addiction by pretending that it doesn’t exist. Confronted with evidence of sexual sin, Rob admits to what he’s done and may share bits and pieces of the whole picture, but Rob doesn’t spend a whole lot of time in reality, so it’s difficult for him to be completely honest. Different Robs live in denial in different ways. Some Run-Away Robs just leave the relationship and move on to other relationships and other marriages. Others become so depressed that they are unable to feel or function normally. Still other Robs escape reality by using drugs or abusing alcohol or engaging in other addictive behaviors. Rob may have a relationship with God but since he can’t be real with Him either, Rob feels totally disconnected. The best way to describe Rob is numbed out. He can’t feel, so he can’t heal. Most Robs are really nice guys—funny, laid-back, friendly. The problem is that they can’t tolerate pain long enough to deal with the problem. It’s hard for Rob to leave the comfortable no-feelings existence he has created to insulate himself and to do the pain required to get well. Of course, watching his wife grieve is really uncomfortable, so he either tries to get her to laugh or acts like nothing has happened between them, going on with life as usual.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Other Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

Journey – Week Forty-Three

Journey – Week Forty-Three

After a time of formal disclosure has taken place—usually one or two days after the meeting and a wife has had time to process what she has heard—she oftentimes is overwhelmed by a great host of questions that flood her mind, questions she forgot to ask or didn’t think to ask or was too afraid to ask during the disclosure session. A typical response to the anxiety and uncertainty she is feeling is for a wife to corner her husband (either kindly or angrily) and shower him with all of the questions in her heart. 

Prepare yourself. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. 

If and when you experience such a time when something triggers all of those fears and doubts and questions, I want to encourage you to take a time out and process what you are feeling and thinking before you approach your husband.

I have found it to be helpful in my own journey if:

›I get away by myself to a place where I can focus and concentrate.

›I invite the Lord to join me in the painful process of fearing and doubting my husband’s integrity and love for me.

›I write down all my questions.

›I read each question and ask myself, “Why do I want to know that?”

›I cross out questions that are asking for more details about things I already know.

›I put a star by questions that seem to be valid concerns and need to be addressed.

›I call my counselor and/or friends from group and ask for feedback on the questions I have marked with a star.

›If others agree that they are valid questions, I plan a time with my husband to discuss them. (You may need to set up another counseling appointment if you have a significant number of questions or if you feel your husband has been dishonest in his initial disclosure.)

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty-One

Journey – Week Forty-Two

Journey – Week Forty-Two

The more details you know about your husband’s stuff, the harder it will be for you to let go of your hurt and pain and the more difficult it will be for you to move through the grieving process. 

Think about it. What books sell the best and are remembered the longest? The books that are written by gifted authors whose use of details enable you to actually visualize and become a part of the story. Details make things more real and more powerful. 

Which statement touches you more?

– Jesus died on the cross for your sins.

– As He hung there laboring for every breath, blood dripping down His cheeks, His jaws intermittently clenching and unclenching with the agony of the pain He felt in every part of His body, He looked out on the crowd and into eternity and cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

See what I mean? The first statement is a general statement of fact. It is a truthful and powerful statement which impacts us emotionally. The second statement, however, makes the same truth come alive. We can visualize our Lord suffering for our sakes, and it makes the emotional impact of the truth that much greater. 

The same thing will happen if you learn too much about your husband’s sin.

…So, if you don’t need to know details, what do you need to know? Generally, in a formal time of disclosure, the counselor will ask your husband to share about all of the sexual behaviors he has been involved in that directly impact your relationship. (In some instances, if a husband perceives his wife as a safe person, he may also share about some of his behaviors before the marriage and any trauma/abuse he experienced as a child that bent him toward addiction.) After your husband shares, most often the counselor will give you an opportunity to ask questions and share how what you have heard is impacting you. 

The counselor will have helped your husband summarize his sexual experiences outside of the marriage in factual but general statements. When it is your turn to ask questions, use that opportunity to clarify those facts without gaining information that will hurt you later. It’s also a great time to check out all of those intuitions and “gut feelings” you had but were either dismissed by you or rejected by your husband at the time.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Journey – Week Forty-One

Today we are going to talk about a very important subject related to disclosure. I’ve entitled today’s discussion, “What We Want to Know vs. What We Need to Know.”

…From my perspective, I see four main objectives for a time of disclosure.

  1. To give the struggler an opportunity to walk in obedience and truth as he uncovers his sin and brings all darkness to the light.
  2. To allow the struggler to see the impact his sin has had on you, the relationship, and the family and to take a first step toward reconciliation by being honest and asking for forgiveness.
  3. To allow the wife to be fully aware of the sins committed against her and the full extent of the debt she is being asked to forgive.
  4. To begin the process of removing the rubble and ruins from the old relationship destroyed by lies and deceit in preparation for the building of a new relationship built on Christ and His truth. 

Let me say quickly that whether the end result of a relationship broken by sexual addiction is reconciliation or divorce, the goals for the time of disclosure remain the same. Obviously, you as a wife may be unable to re-join your husband emotionally and sexually because of his unfaithfulness. God understands the damage that sexual betrayal does in a marriage. That being said, it is also not beyond the power of God to give you the grace to live (and enjoy life) with a man who has broken his vows to you. I am a living testimony to that grace—not only the grace that was given to me for my husband but also the grace I received for myself. 

With those goals in mind, I want to talk about the things that you need to know and some of the things you don’t need to know about your husband’s sexual sin. You’ve probably heard before that two people who really love each other should not have any secrets. And that’s true—sort of. You need to know about your husband’s secret sins in terms of the general facts surrounding them. You do not need to know details about his sexual sin. 

I define “details” as anything that would help me visualize my husband doing or participating in a sinful sexual behavior. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Forty

Journey – Week Forty

Let me make a few other comments before we take a look at God’s heart on the subject of disclosure. First, the timing of disclosure is important. If your husband is serious about his recovery, full disclosure to you should take place about a month after your husband has fully disclosed to a counselor. This gives your husband time to talk about and process his sexual history from childhood to the present and to begin to face and grieve the losses associated with his addiction. 

…Please understand me. I’m not saying that disclosure cannot happen within the first or second week after your husband is caught in some sexual sin. I am saying that it might be more beneficial to you both if he is able to talk about his past and his present with someone who understands the problem before he talks to you. Why? Because the more time your husband has to disclose and confess to another, the better he will be at fully disclosing to you. It gets easier the more he talks about it. He will remember more clearly as he talks and processes, and you both will have time to build a larger network of safe people to support you as you grieve after disclosure. 

The person you choose to mediate during the time of disclosure is also important. In my opinion, the best person to mediate is your husband’s counselor. He knows what is going on, and he will be able to intervene if your husband is dishonest about something or if emotions get out of hand. If you don’t feel comfortable being by yourself with your husband and his counselor, bring your counselor with you. I recommend a counselor because counselors are required to maintain confidentiality; friends, no matter how trusted, are not. If neither you nor your husband are seeing counselors, the second best option is to have a couple who have walked through sexual addiction and have a substantial amount (three years or more) of the journey behind them to mediate the time of disclosure. Again, in this situation, it will be necessary for the two men (struggler and mentor) to spend a significant amount of time talking and processing before the time of disclosure takes place. (It will be greatly helpful for the two women to do the same.)

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Recent Posts on Disclosure:

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Journey – Week Thirty- Nine

Journey – Week Thirty-Nine

Last week, we discussed three important elements needed during a healthy time of disclosure.

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

Let me quickly illustrate some things that can happen if you don’t have these three elements in place during a time of disclosure.

Unplanned Disclosure

›A wife nags and rages, attempting to manipulate her husband into telling her the truth. He gives in and hits the highlights, but because he has not had time to prepare, he forgets to tell her about two incidences. Now he is faced with the dilemma of bringing up the painful subject again or keeping the two situations a secret.

›The husband, tired of carrying the burden of his shame and guilt, sits his wife down and pours out his heart. She was unaware of the extent of his addictive behaviors, has no support system in place to help her, and is totally overwhelmed by his revelations. He feels great that the secrets are finally out, but his wife is having thoughts of suicide.

Unmediated Disclosure

›A husband and wife decide they can handle disclosure without the help of anyone else. They set a time and sit down to talk. The husband begins to share about sexual abuse he endured as an adolescent—a sexual relationship with another man. His wife interrupts with the comment, “Oh, God. Please don’t tell me that you have had sex with other men!” The husband, totally ashamed, is unable to continue and leaves the house in utter despair, his greatest fear realized: she really knows me, and now she doesn’t love me.

›Again, a wife and husband decide to have a time of disclosure without the presence of another person. The husband reveals that he has had sex with numerous prostitutes. (The wife was only aware of pornography usage.) Enraged, the wife begins to hit her husband and scratch his face and arms.

›Same scenario. This time as the husband shares, the wife constantly interrupts with questions about details: What turned you on? Where did you meet? What position did you use when you had sex? The husband doesn’t feel comfortable reliving all of the details, but when he declines to answer her questions, his wife accuses him of hiding things from her. The already difficult conversation turns into a disaster, and both the wife and the struggler leave the situation feeling angry and hopeless.

Unsafe Place

›A husband and wife plan a time of disclosure with their pastor at their home. Everything goes as well as can be expected but now every time the wife walks into the living room of their home, all of the painful memories of that evening are triggered for her. She no longer feels comfortable in her house and wants to move.

›A couple plan a time of disclosure at the church with another couple they love and trust. Although they have reserved the church’s conference room, in the middle of some of the most painful and graphic disclosure, two of the church gossips walk in unannounced and inadvertently hear the word “prostitute.” 

Do you get the idea? The best case scenario for disclosure, in my opinion, is a planned time with your husband’s counselor in the counselor’s office. 

Journey – Week Thirty-Eight

This (blog post) we are going to examine the dynamics of disclosure. We are going to talk about how disclosure should take place, and what you should learn about your husband’s behavior during a time of disclosure. We will take a look at how disclosure affects us and our husbands differently and also talk about a tendency strugglers have in disclosing which I call the “dribble” method. (Eventually) we will discuss disclosing to family and friends. It is going to be full and probably painful (posts). Are you ready? 

Let’s start by talking about how and when disclosure should take place.

Every couple dealing with sexual addiction needs to have a formal time of disclosure with a third party in a safe environment. Let me say that again.

Anytime a husband has been struggling with sexual addiction, he and his wife need to have a time of disclosure that is:

1.Planned and

2.Mediated in a 

3.Safe Place.

A time of disclosure needs to be planned to allow both husband and wife to prepare emotionally and spiritually for a very difficult conversation. It needs to be mediated (preferably by your husband’s counselor) so that your husband can be held accountable to tell the whole truth and so that you can have someone there to validate your pain and feelings. Having a third party in the room also helps protect you from receiving too much information and helps prevent violent outbursts or other dangerous behavior. Disclosing in a neutral/safe place is wise because it protects you from painful associations and unintentional exposure while allowing both you and your husband to be on equal ground. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Journey – Week Thirty-Seven

(Today) we are going to talk about disclosure. Any idea about what I mean by that word? 

In the context of this lesson what I mean by disclosure is the process in which a man who struggles with sexual addiction tells others about his sexual behaviors.

There are three kinds of strugglers I have experienced on this journey: a struggler who gets caught and wants help, a struggler who gets caught and doesn’t want help, and a struggler who wants help so much that he seeks it before he gets caught. In whatever category your guy falls, probably the first person he told about his addictive struggle with sex was a counselor or a pastor. And then he told you.

Right now I’m thinking back to the phone call in which I heard Troy tell me that he had been unfaithful. I remember that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach and all of the questions that came rushing into my mind. And then the ominous black hole of grief that seemed to swallow me. 

Think about that time in your life—not about when you or someone else caught him, but the first time he with his own mouth told you what he had done. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Journey – Week Thirty-Six

In future lessons, we will talk more about the family systems that birthed the Stormy Sues and Susie Sunshines of this world. Although no situation is completely identical, there are striking similarities in the stories of those of us married to sex addicts. Understanding those dynamics is interesting and helpful. Replacing lies with truth, coming to a place where you trust God completely, and experiencing His healing touch in your life can only happen through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. 

Before we look at God’s Word, I want to make one other comment about Stormy Sue. As a Susie Sunshine, I initially had a hard time accepting and relating to the Stormy women God was bringing into my life. I was both intimidated by their outward appearance and shocked by the depths of their fury. Quite honestly I thought that the sinful ways they were expressing anger should be the focus of my encouragement and teaching in their lives. The more I saw into the hearts of various Stormy Sues, however, the more I came to realize that anger wasn’t really the problem. There was something driving the anger that wasn’t touched by my counsel or prayer or Bible reading or even accountability. We’ve touched on the issue already. Stormy women are driven by fear—just like us Sunshines. The nature of the fear, however, is the challenging problem for dear Sue. You see, in order for the Holy Spirit to work in her heart, she must entrust the control of her mind, will, and emotions to the Father. She must deliberately put herself in a submitted position at His feet and relinquish all control to Him. But that is exactly what terrifies Stormy Sue the most—being controlled and being powerless. Do you see the dilemma? The only way healing can come in her life is for her to do the very thing she fears the most. 

What then is a Stormy Sue to do? We’ll look at that (later). For now, let’s turn our hearts to the Father.

Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB) If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

OTHER POSTS ABOUT STORMY SUE:

Journey – Week Thirty-Five

Journey – Week Thirty-Three

Journey – Week Thirty-Five

Let’s take a peek into Stormy Sue’s heart. (We looked at two different ladies in Week Thirty-Three) What do you think is triggering all of Sue’s anger?

Sue is terrified of losing control. To say it another way, Sue’s greatest fear is that someone will control her or that she will be powerless in a situation.

Now that presents a big problem. Why? Because Sue cannot control her husband. She is powerless to change him, and that means her anger will be continually triggered as she relates to Chad. Chad may actually be very repentant and broken. He may be hungry for God and passionate about his recovery. But Sue, because she feels she must be in control, will scrutinize him mercilessly. If he says the wrong thing or responds to her in a wrong way or, God forbid, masturbates or has some other kind of sexual slip, Sue will rage all over him again. If this dynamic continues in the relationship, Chad will either give up on his recovery (he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, so why bother) and lose the relationship, or he will remain in recovery and leave the relationship (the better-to-live-on-the-roof-than-in-the-house-with-a-contentious-woman thing). If Chad doesn’t believe in divorce, he may “leave” the relationship by sinking into a deep depression or by getting a job which forces him to be away from home all of the time. 

Unlike Susie Sunshine, Stormy Sue has a good grasp on reality and is more than able to express anger. That is where the differences end, however. Both kinds of women usually express anger in unhealthy ways.

Most Sues are very sarcastic. They are very adept at putting others down and making very cutting remarks. Even as believers they may struggle with using profanity when they are angry. And they are more likely to blame others for their anger rather than taking responsibility for their emotions. You can guess that Stormy Sues would be great at both covert and overt revenge. When a Stormy Sue is angry her primary goals are to wound as she has been wounded and to regain a sense of power and control over the situation. 

As you might expect, it is very easy for a Stormy Sue to get stuck in her anger as she grieves. Some have referred to her as an avoidant/persecutor enabler. I call her a controlling damager. Her life is spent managing and controlling situations and people in an effort to protect herself from injury and to meet her own needs for significance and worth. From the outside, she looks like a person who has it all together. People trust her to get the job done. Of course, you don’t want to get on her bad side. From the inside, she looks like a scared kid desperately trying to protect herself from getting hurt. Her motto is: I can endure anything as long as I am in control.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Journey – Week Thirty-Four

Based on the glimpse I gave you into Susie’s heart and thoughts (last week’s blog), what is Susie (Sunshine’s) greatest fear?

Susie is terrified of being rejected.

Obviously, she’s afraid of being rejected by her spouse and other people, but she is also afraid of displeasing and being rejected by God. On the outside, she looks like she has it all together. On the inside, she is dominated by fear. 

For this reason, when someone does something to offend or hurt Susie, she finds it difficult to express her anger. Perhaps in the past any expression of anger was seen as rebellion and dealt with harshly or abusively by a parent. Maybe she has been incorrectly taught that all anger is sinful. Perhaps the only anger she has ever seen was very hurtful and sinful and she has vowed never to let herself be that way. For whatever reason, even when anger is appropriate and necessary, Susie is unable to express (and sometimes even feel) anger in a healthy way. Of course, Susie does feel anger—even if she can’t or won’t identify it as anger. So how does an angry person act when she is afraid of being rejected, condemned, or hurt (physically and/or emotionally)?

The Susie Sunshines I have met typically deal with their anger with what I call the “TNT approach.” Susie will take and take and take abuse. She will be put down, belittled, controlled, manipulated, and lied to for long periods of time—always rationalizing behavior and making excuses for her husband (and others). Eventually, though, all of the anger that she has been pushing down into her soul in an effort to respond “spiritually” to her husband or to keep from getting hurt will come flying out of her in a magnificent explosion. Kaboom! The explosion usually only lasts a few minutes and is followed by an emotional meltdown complete with tears and remorse. Usually the controlling man she is married to is able to use her fear of rejection to manipulate Susie’s emotions, and she will find herself apologizing profusely for her angry outburst and doing everything she can to make it up to him.

Susie Sunshines also usually struggle with passive aggressive anger—undercover anger—because it is less intense and seems less sinful. Susie may not even be aware of passive-aggressive behavior in her life, especially if she is still denying a problem in her marriage. Susies also tend to withdraw from relationship when they are angry, and they may struggle with depression and physical ailments as their unexpressed anger eats them from the inside out. 

We’ll talk more about Susie Sunshine in future lessons. Others have referred to her as an avoidant/compliant enabler. I like to refer to her as a damage controller. Her life is spent rescuing and caring for others in an attempt to meet her own needs for love and acceptance and significance. From the outside, she looks great. Of course, she has to— since what people think really matters to her. From the inside, she looks like a scared kid desperately looking for love. Her motto is: I can endure anything as long as you keep loving me.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Journey – Week Thirty-Three

We are going to be discussing two different kinds of women. You will totally relate to one of them and the other one you will see as totally wacko. I want you to understand both dynamics because it will be helpful for you to understand how other women struggle (and perhaps your husband struggles) as it pertains to anger. Are you ready?

The first woman we are going to meet is like me. Let’s call her Susie (as in sunshine). Now unfortunately Susie has gone off and gotten herself married to a verbally abusive and controlling sex addict. When people look at Susie they see a nice, helpful, caring, sensitive, good-listening, merciful kind of person. And since it is very important to Susie that she has the approval and affirmation of others, she rarely gets angry or frustrated. Susie thinks that anger is a very immature emotion, that people who have a deep walk with Christ don’t get angry, and that the best policy is always to say a kind word instead of saying something that might hurt someone’s feelings. She isn’t exactly dishonest when someone does something inappropriate, but she isn’t completely honest either. Looking for the best in people or in a situation is one of her best traits, she thinks. She can always find the good in someone.

…The second kind of woman typically married to an addict… Let’s call her Sue—Stormy Sue. 

Hang on, Mel. That’s not fair. The other woman got a nice name—Susie Sunshine. What’s up with the storm imagery anyway? 

My codependent, people-pleasing self is trying to make a comeback, but I am going to risk your rejection and press on. Hang in there with me while I describe dear Sue.

Sue is a self-made woman. She is magnificent, really. She is the multi-tasker of all multi-taskers and always seems to be able to juggle a million things at once. Talk about your problem solvers. This gal knows how to manage people and situations. More often than not her physical appearance reflects her great ability to manage life. Usually slim, fit, and confident, Sue looks like God’s gift to everyone. (By the way, we Susie Sunshines are usually greatly intimidated by Stormy Sues. What in the world could we possibly offer someone like you who has it all together? We fear that pleasing you is out of the question, and so we tend to avoid relationship with you.) Now the only small dent in Sue’s perfectness is her temper. You see, when things get out of her control or she feels attacked or wounded, the gentle rain storm that brings refreshment to all living things turns into a raging hurricane, destroying everything that gets in its way. Sue knows she has a volatile temper and even feels guilty or convicted about it at times. Overall, however, she feels pretty good about herself and usually justified when she does get angry. When things get back to being manageable, Sue’s anger always subsides, and life is good again.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Journey – Week Thirty-Two

Today’s blog is a continuation of: Journey – Week Thirty-One

None of the types of anger I have listed will help you to connect with others. In fact, they all sabotage healthy, interconnected relationships with the people that you love. Does that mean we can’t get angry?

Of course, not! Anger happens. How we deal with that anger, however, is very important. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26 to be angry and do not sin. Is that really possible?…

If we use the types of anger I have listed above as opposites of healthy, godly anger, then we can define good anger as:

Honest“I’m really angry with you right now.”

Kind – No cutting or hurtful remarks allowed.

Responsible – You recognize that no one other than you has power over your emotions; he can’t “make” you angry.

Fair – Cruel jokes (in public and private) are off limits.

Contained – We don’t “get back” at our spouses. We trust God to deal with them.

Controlled – We invite the Holy Spirit to take control of our anger.

Interactive – Healthy anger always takes place in relationship where it can be talked through and worked out.

Outward – Again, no under-cover anger is healthy. Anger turned inward either hurts others or ourselves.

Real – It is dishonest to use your anger to manipulate your husband.

It is very important for you to be able to recognize the different faces of anger both in your own life and in your husband’s. If you can’t discern what is happening during conflict, then you will never be able to resolve problems in a healthy, healing way. 

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One

Journey – Week Thirty-One

Hello, dear sister. I just want to remind you today that you are greatly loved and accepted, that the Father delights in you and is experiencing with you every emotion and hurt in your life right now. You are not alone, and He is working all of this pain into a beautiful tapestry of grace. All of the ugliness will be hidden in His masterpiece, and all of the world will see that everything meant for evil in your life has been used for your good.

The topic of the week is anger. I told you as we studied the grieving process last week that I was going to camp out here for a few days because getting angry — but not stuck — in our grieving is so vital to experiencing healing.

There are many ways people express anger. I’ll list some of the most common here.

Passive Aggressive– I call this under-cover anger. On the outside, you look okay and compliant, but because you don’t feel safe or permitted to express anger openly, your anger presents itself in subtle ways—i.e. “accidentally” burning your husband’s food, being consistently late (especially if it bugs him), saying you will do something and then never following through.

Sarcasm – Speech designed to cut and hurt. This is another way we express anger indirectly.

Verbal Abuse – Name calling, belittling, and saying intentionally cruel things to wound another—i.e. “Can’t you do anything right?” or “You stupid idiot!”

Blaming – Everyone but you is to blame for your problems. Blaming anger says, “You make me so angry!”

Guerrilla Humor – Attacking someone verbally then smiling and saying something like, “Can’t you take a joke?” or “I was only kidding.”

Retaliatory Anger – Acting in a way to get even with someone who has hurt you — i.e. having an affair after your husband has been unfaithful or going out on a shopping spree at your husband’s expense.

Blind Rage – Intense anger that is usually acted on in some physical way—i.e. hitting someone, smashing an object.

Isolation – Anger permeates your heart and clouds your perception. You withdraw from others altogether.

Depression – Anger turned inward. It is blind rage acted out towards yourself.

Anger as an Excuse – Secretly you want to leave or act in a particular way, so you find a way to provoke a fight in order to leave or justify a wrong behavior.

–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One