I promise that I have heard it all. Nothing shocks me any more. But, here is a story told by a very brave survivor, one fighting for her faith and her future. Keep my sweet friend in your prayers as she walks courageously forward.
I was the kid in school that everyone knew as the Christian. I had dreams of an ideal life: work with teenagers, marry a youth pastor, have a couple kids, lead lots of people to Christ, and implied in all of that, NEVER be a divorced woman. I didn’t want to be someone who gave God and Christians a bad reputation. I tried to always be happy and to make others feel happy because I wanted to show people Jesus in me. If I had any struggles or temptations, I tried to just pretend like they didn’t exist: maybe if I ignored them, then they’d go away. Along with that, I had a big distrust of my feelings, not that I am advocating letting your feelings be your guide. I just didn’t think my emotions had any good use; they were just a distracting annoyance.
I got married in my early twenties. My then husband, Marc (not his real name) was not a youth pastor, but he seemed to want to follow and serve Jesus. From the beginning, we had an odd relationship. First, we were polar opposites: in personalities and in backgrounds. He’s an extrovert, blunt, and sociable. I’m an introvert, opinionated but reserved, and I’m sociable when I’m comfortable (and until it wears me out). Marc came from a nominal Catholic family from Guatemala (not his real country). His parents divorced when they moved to the U.S. when he was about eight. Marc was a former drug smuggler who seemed to come to Jesus in jail when he was in his twenties. I came from a Christian home with parents who constantly fought (later divorcing when I was in my twenties). I became a Christian when I was eight, and I wanted to follow Jesus–especially from about middle school on.
Marc and I were “just friends” for quite a while, and our college pastor teased us because we were “just friends” who always hung out. When I first got to know Marc, I knew he had a crazy past that wasn’t too distant, but what I didn’t know is that he was still harboring secrets. I know it’s crazy to date a former drug smuggler, but my pastors and I all really thought he had a life change. I know God is very capable of drastic life change.
Marc and I were married for fourteen years when our divorce was finalized earlier this year. During the course of our entire marriage I saw in Marc what I now know as signs of sexual addiction. I later found out Marc was gay. During my marriage, I saw things I didn’t want to see, and no matter how many times I stumbled across the porn, my mind wouldn’t acknowledge that Marc had a serious problem. Like a true co-dependent, I wanted to protect him from getting in trouble. I assumed each thing was a one-time slip up, and I didn’t want him to be misperceived; I didn’t want to negatively affect his ministry. Marc was a sports-team chaplain, had studied to become a pastor (but stopped before finishing his degree), led small-group Bible studies, and for a few years together, we were leaders in college ministry. I took all of Marc’s addictive symptoms on as MY responsibility, when it was my husband who had a problem; he was the one who had secrets.
I began to live in a state of anxiety and depression. I ended up taking prescription anti-depressants to cope. In the spring of 2012, I took myself off of my anxiety medication. I lost about twenty pounds. And I slowly became aware of me–the me I tried hard to ignore. I was struggling with sexual temptation: men started noticing me after my weight loss, and my husband had stopped intimacy with me in 2003. I read in the Bible (1 Corinthians 7:5) that Satan used a lack of intimacy in a marriage as a source of temptation, and I was in a full-on battle that I truly thought I would lose. God provided a way out, just like He promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13. I even told Marc that it wasn’t right and that I was really struggling, but that changed nothing. So, life continued. My daughter, whom we adopted in 2010, was my reason to keep going.
Not long after my own battle with temptation, I came across the porn that led to my BIG confrontation of Marc. I was standing in our kitchen and happened to see Marc’s phone on the counter. There was a pornographic picture and a sext message. My heart was pounding so hard that I thought I would die of a heart attack. My hands were trembling. I felt sick, and I knew what I needed to do. I confronted him. I told him I didn’t want any excuses or stories this time. He started crying hard and admitted he had a problem. He also told me he was only attracted to men. I told him I would be willing to work with him because I knew God could do anything, and I knew firsthand that no sexual temptation was too big for God to help us overcome. I really thought he would be willing to fight hard.
During the months that followed, as I waited, hoped, and prayed that he would do WHATEVER it took to fight this, I met a couple of Christian women whose husbands had been deeper into gay sex addiction than Marc. These husbands overcame. I read about sexual addiction and felt shocked and angry that my pre-marital counseling didn’t talk about this. I even read Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas. I was willing to go down this road with Marc, and we even went to a Christian marriage counselor who recommended divorce after only four sessions. I was torn up inside. I was extremely concerned for our daughter, and I wanted to make absolutely sure I did everything I possibly could to save our marriage. I felt so guilty too–I made a promise, a vow, and the divorce was clearly going to be from me. Marc didn’t want to divorce, but he also wanted to keep all of this a secret. No one knew until I finally confided in a fellow believer at work. It was SO GOOD to finally tell someone.
About nine months after my initial confrontation it became clear that I wanted to save the marriage more than Marc. I came across some movies that were only about drugs and sex that were still being watched. I realized that Marc would never win this battle because he wouldn’t remove everything that fed his addiction. So, I finally asked him to leave and gave him two weeks. I told him we needed to divorce because we were not both fighting for our marriage because we were going in opposite directions. That was the most gut-wrenching decision of my life because I was so scared for our daughter–that her life would be forever screwed up, and I felt at fault because I was asking for the divorce.
At the time of this writing, it’s been six months since the divorce was finalized. Since the BIG confrontation until now, I have felt despair and disillusionment. I have felt relief and hope. I have felt enraged and betrayed. I have felt shame and utter embarrassment. Also during this time God has frequently spoken into my life. You might have heard of the idea of God winks–I have had so many that I have lost count. I feel like during this time I have really gotten a clear sense of God’s voice. God has not only spoken to me about my immediate needs, but He immediately started with a promise for my future–I was not looking for God to do that, but He chose to give me a hope for my remaining life before I die: one day I’m going to have a happy marriage. I don’t know when or how that promise will be fulfilled, but He has confirmed it so many times that I lost count.
The promise for my future has taken on even more meaning lately, and I want to preface by noting that my focus word for 2015 is HOPE. Not only does my ex-husband have a sex addiction and he’s gay, but He has continued to run farther from God. He’s exposing my daughter to New Age because he has a boyfriend who’s into that. There also seems to be a good chance that they will get married soon. This more recent information has really forced me to decide, “Do I really TRUST Jesus? I say I do, but this stuff has my head and heart spinning and fearing for my daughter. I have to daily FIGHT to trust Jesus because when I’m not fighting for faith, fighting to claim God’s promises, it’s so easy to cave to depression and despair. The future feels so bleak, but that’s not what God promised me.