Healing 6 minutes to read

Jennifer’s Story from Stories For Women

“After being drugged and raped at the age of nineteen, I decided that what I needed most in my life was safety and predictability. I married my high school sweetheart—who I grew up with and whose character I knew well—to ensure my stability and sense of shelter.

The evening that he came home and told me he had cheated on me with our babysitter, I was devastated. Being a good Christian woman, I decided to stay. We moved away to start over, as many couples do when faced with the issue of living in the same town as the other woman. It was rarely spoken of. If I brought up my wounds, I was accused of constantly throwing it in his face. I quickly learned it is best to ignore my need for asylum and just move on. As a matter of fact, I concluded that whatever needs I had, should be put on the back burner for the sake of peace in our marriage.

A few years down the road would reveal his ugly addiction to pornography that drove me deeper into emotional isolation, which I didn’t know existed inside of me. He became the picture of a good Christian husband, father, provider, and church volunteer on the outside. But his addiction lead him to a place so dark and evil, he was eventually arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for sex crimes he never dreamed of committing.

Determined to never have the wool pulled over my eyes again, I remarried two years later to someone I KNEW would not face the same issues as my first husband. His family upbringing, his track record of overcoming alcoholism, and his ability to self-evaluate and pursue personal growth assured me that he was my “reward” for enduring heartache and public scandal in my previous marriage. I was grateful I now had a man of integrity to raise my two sons.

It was the evening of December 11, 2012. In my addiction to being hyper-vigilant, I did the normal “check his phone for patterns.” I found one. I called the number from his phone as we were unloading the groceries from the back of the car. I heard a woman’s voice answer and my visible breath from the cold air disappeared as I stood in disbelief with my heart racing. This was the beginning.

As my husband poured out details of an online affair, my body began to convulse. I felt as though I was standing in an ice storm: knees shaking, teeth chattering. When I got inside the house, suddenly a wave of grief crashed so violently on top of me that I collapsed in the bathroom, where no one could see my vulnerability.

I spent much time in disbelief as the weeks and months to follow would reveal an entire life of his, which I was unaware. Revelations of affairs, hookups, porn sites, strip clubs, and the lies to cover them would come in pieces. Each of them scarred me deeply enough that I believed it was physically possible to die of a broken heart. The grief was so profound that it felt like it was clawing its way out of my body.  All I could do was lay in an emotional fetal position as I wore a mask of having it all together. His staggered disclosures decimated our marriage. This is where Pure Desire and Betrayal & Beyond made their entrance.

From the moment I laid eyes on the material, I took it in ravenously. I was desperate for answers!

What is sex addiction? How does this happen to good men? Is my marriage going to end? How will I survive this? Does God care about what happens to me and my children?

I threw myself into the material and the arms of the women who had gone before me. As I started coming out of isolation, explanations and information flooded me, and I began to wake up to the potential of hope.

My initial intentions were to give my heart something tangible to process—something to hold on to that wasn’t rooted in lies and false beliefs. I received so much more. I committed myself to sticking it out for a year. It gave me the space to embrace the changes ahead of me without throwing divorce into the mix.

In the midst of the beginning stages of healing, I struggled with wanting to make him hurt. Of course, there was the option of having an affair myself, but I reasoned that would be messy and complicate things more. His lack of emotion fueled my desire to make him feel something—anything.

I contemplated using his toothbrush to clean the dog’s mouth, or the toilet, then sit back and smile sadistically every time I’d see him use it. Because he hates pickles, I fantasized about putting pickle juice in his food, knowing his guilt would cause him to not say a word and eat the food in front of him. I figured these were relatively innocent forms of retribution compared to the darker thoughts I was having.

As I continued going to the Betrayal & Beyond group, I started to process my anger in a healthy and safe place. It was the first time in my life that I felt it was okay to not be okay. I could take off the mask of having it together—acknowledging the fact that I was enraged at the injustice of it all. What started out as the intention of supporting my husband through addiction recovery evolved into what was clearly a need to look at myself.

Surrendering to the process was incredibly difficult because it meant taking my eyes off my husband’s healing and focusing on my need to face my own demons. I had spent so much time looking at both my ex-husband’s and my husband’s issues, I sincerely believed I played no role in getting myself here. When I opened myself to examining my own heart and motives, I began to feel the shift. I remember the first time I found myself not consumed with thoughts of pain. I was going about my day when an agonizing memory came to me. I was ecstatic to realize I had been living the entire morning without the torment that would normally consume me. From there sprung hope. Living outside of post-traumatic stress was becoming a reality.

Initially disappointed with the information that it would take two to five years for a full recovery, I have found there were tremendous changes within the first year; even more the second, and year three catapulted us to a place I never thought our marriage and family could possibly be. Setbacks are no longer a sign that our marriage may not make it, but have ironically become a place to gather in vulnerability and grace, interlock arms, and move forward with confidence. I was once driven by fear, but I am now driven by faith.

Through the grace of God, Pure Desire has saved our marriage and our family and has aligned our hearts with an accurate view of God. I remember thinking, I will give God one last chance to prove He is real and that He loves me. I needed Him to show up in a very big way in my life—and when you invite God to show up, He does. It is NEVER too late with God and with Him, ALL things are possible. I now journey with my best friend, knowing that while life is hard, when you are married to someone who sees the value in hard work, beautiful things happen.”

Jennifer Howie

Jennifer is the Groups Care Coordinator for Pure Desire and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Seven years ago, she and her husband went through the Pure Desire Clinical Program. She has led several women’s groups and has served as a Regional Group Advisor. Jennifer is currently a certified Pure Desire online group leader. She is passionate about walking alongside couples, with her husband, as proof that the Pure Desire process works!

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