Ask Us – Should we Renew our Wedding Vows?

I have been married for 18 years. I recently learned that for 14 of those years my husband was involved with porn, webcams, and had a number of on online affairs. He also went to strip clubs and massage parlours.  We’ve been working through the fallout from all of this with an addictions counsellor.

My husband regrets the choices he made, and the life he was living at that time. He has completely distanced himself from it all, and has recommitted himself to me. He would like us to renew our marriage vows – not necessarily publicly – but in a way and setting that would be meaningful for both of us. Part of me wants to say yes to this, but part of me is also hesitant. Can you help me to think this through?

I’m very sorry that this has been your story. Fourteen years of gaslighting and deception is a very long time!

From what you’ve said I have the impression that you want to rebuild your relationship with your husband (as long as he doesn’t go back to his old life again). From that perspective, I can see that it could, perhaps, make sense to formally recommit yourselves to each other. But I also sense a hesitancy on your part. And, I would argue, a legitimate and understandable hesitancy.

I’m wondering how long it is since you learned all of this. Certainly, I wouldn’t recommend any kind of formal recommitment ceremony if the time was less than a year. Even a year might be rushing things a little.

It is true that formally recommitting yourselves might provide some kind of closure on the past. It could be a point in time that you could both look back to – that helps to establish a new beginning. And that could be powerful; it could be a good thing.

But perhaps you’re also thinking that words in themselves don’t necessarily mean, or prove, anything. You’ve been here before. You’ve made promises before. And your husband broke those promises. Which means you now know he could break them again.

That is a reality you can’t ignore. You can’t, nor should you, forget the past. Remembering is protective; it has survival value.

So here are some questions to maybe think about, as you try to figure out the right thing for you:

1. If you’re being totally honest with yourself, what would you say the main reason is for your hesitancy? Can you sum it up in a sentence or two?

Is it because you don’t trust your husband fully? (Do you have major doubts about his ability to choose to stay faithful to you in the future)?

Related to this, what tells you that your husband is a different person now? What is the basis for that trust? (Try to be concrete and specific here). What do you need in order to be able to let the walls down, and to trust him more fully?

2. Do you feel your husband gets what it has been like for you? Does he allow you talk about the impact it has had, and to do that as often as you need to talk about it? Alternatively, do you feel he sometimes tries to shut you down, or discourages you from bringing the subject up (even if it’s in very subtle ways)?

3. Do you feel your husband’s remorse is genuine? Do you feel he truly wishes he had made quite different choices? Do you think he would go back to his old life again if he thought that you would ‘turn a blind eye to it’, or if thought he wouldn’t lose you (and perhaps his family)?

4. Is the recommitment something you are doing for yourself … or is for your husband … or, even, other people?  Do you feel under pressure to say “yes” to this?

5. Is it a matter of the timing being wrong? It is something you might do at a later date – but at the moment you’re not ready to take that step?

6. What would you gain by renewing your vows? How would doing this formally be meaningful to you?

Only you can decide what is right for you. And, at the end of the day, you need to listen to your heart. You need to quieten the voices and demands of other people, and do what you want, and feel comfortable with.    

Quote of the Day

“I started calling that girl back.

The girl who loved living.

The girl who danced instead of walking.

The girl who had sunflowers for eyes and fireworks in her soul.

I started playing music again, hoping she would come out.

I started looking for beautiful moments to experience, so she would feel safe enough to show herself, because I knew she was in there.

And she needed my kindness and effort to come to the surface again.”

– S.C. Lourie

Finding the Right Kind of Counsellor to Help you Cope with Betrayal Trauma

“A partner affected by intimate betrayal experiences a level of pain that is indescribable. The hurt is so profound and complex, partners often wonder if it will ever get better.” –  Shira Olsen

You’re likely in crisis if you’ve learned that your spouse is addicted to sex or pornography. It’s not the kind of news you expect to hear!  

And you know that you need help … but you don’t know where to turn. You want to find a counsellor … but who will understand?  

When you’re in a state of shock you need a crisis counsellor who knows what it is like to be completely traumatized; not someone who will offer you generic counselling.  

The Kind of Counsellor to Avoid at this Time

In the initial weeks and months, you should avoid a counsellor:

– Who wants to look at how you might have contributed to, or played a role in, your partner’s addiction (It has nothing to do with you at all. It’s your partner’s issue, not yours.)

– Who wants to examine your childhood traumas, or explore your personal family history (This is not relevant at the moment.)

– Who believes your mood swings, times of craziness, and extreme distress are indicative of you being codependent, or having bipolar disorder, or having borderline personality (The extreme distress reactions you’re displaying at this time are normal in a person who is dealing with a trauma.)  

The Kind of Counsellor who will Help You at this Time

The kind of counsellor who will properly support you is someone:

– Who understands PTSD.

– Who understands that a sex or pornography addiction is an attachment, or intimacy, disorder.  

– Who repeatedly assures you that you’re not going crazy, and who knows you’ve been blind-sided, and are in a state of crisis.

– Who repeatedly affirms how committed, loving, faithful and caring a spouse or partner you have been.

– Who validates your feelings and emotions at this time (For example, someone who will tell you that it’s healthy to feel angry, desperate, anxious, frightened, mistrusting and confused.)

– Who helps you to listen to, and trust, your gut reactions (Such as the desire to protect yourself from further harm; the desire to act like a detective, and to uncover the whole truth; an unwillingness to listen, and to believe what you’re being told … and so on.)

– Who understands the nature, and the power, of triggers.

– Who can help you to find strategies to cope with high emotions (and someone who will help you to keep yourself safe.)

– Who helps you to set boundaries with your partner or spouse.

– Who helps you to effectively structure your day (so you can cope by doing the next thing … and the next thing.)

– Who insists that you make time for, and practice, self care.

– Who helps you to keep going, and to find hope again.

The Self-Love Tree

“It might be hard to love yourself sometimes, but it is harder to not love yourself.”

The author Christine Arylo says self-love is a tree. Self-worth is the trunk, and the life-giving branches are associated with the following qualities.

– Self-awareness and self-honesty

– Self-acceptance

– Self-care

– Self-compassion and self-forgiveness

– Self-trust

– Self-esteem

– Self-empowerment

– Self-expression

– Self-respect and self-honour

– Self-pleasure, or self-joy.

Let’s unpack this metaphor a little.

The Trunk

Self-Worth is fundamental; it is absolutely crucial. It is knowing you have value because you exist and, simply, because you are you

It is something you’re convinced of in your heart, and at your core, despite what other people might think, or say, about you.

The Branches

1. Self-Awareness and Self-Honesty: This relates to wanting to know – and to own – everything about yourself. Your values, opinions, attitudes, beliefs. Who you want to be, and how you want to live your life.

It’s also being in touch with all your feelings and reactions, and knowing you’re accountable for choices and decisions.

2. Self-Acceptance: This is being at peace with, and accepting, who you are – with your personality, and your weaknesses and quirks.

Also, it’s resisting the temptation to compare yourself to others.  

3. Self-Care: This is being committed to caring for yourself, and honouring your limits, and noticing your needs (Your physical, emotional, mental, psychological, relational and spiritual needs).

Also, it is knowing when you really need to reach out for support … or when you need to withdraw from the world for a while.

And self-care is also knowing when you’re bored, or need a change, or when you need more stimulation, or a new relationship.

4. Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness: This is being gentle and kind with yourself, especially when you’re weak, or when you’ve failed, or made mistakes. 

5. Self-Trust: This is knowing you can hear and trust that quiet inner voice, and being willing to respect and listen to your intuition.

6. Self-Esteem: This is seeing you have value, and endearing qualities. It is moving through this world with a quiet confidence, believing you are able to create for yourself a life that has meaning, and is beautiful, and good.

7. Self-Empowerment: This is making the decision to fully own your life, believing you have talents, experience and strengths. It is setting your own goals, and then going after them. It is knowing you’re tenacious, and can push through trying times.

8. Self-Expression: This is being genuine and authentic in your life. It is sharing the real you, in a way that’s comfortable. It is sharing thoughts and feelings, opinions and ideas through honest self expression, and open dialogue.

9. Self-Respect and Self-Honour: This is setting healthy boundaries in every part of life, and requiring other people always treat you with respect.

Also, it is making personal choices that align with your core values, and speaking of yourself in ways that demonstrate respect.

1o. Self-Pleasure or Self-Joy: This is making time for pleasure, for the things that bring you joy. It is doing things you love; things that make you feel alive.

Also, it is nourishing your inner life, and seeking happiness – because these are important; they are things that you deserve.

Some Final Prompts and Questions

Look at your trunk … and at each of your 10 branches … then think through your answers to the following:

– How strong are each of your branches?

– Do any of them need some tending?

– Are you able to identify what has weakened or deadened some of the branches?

– What can you do to encourage new growth?

– Is the trunk the branches spring from strong, and healthy and stable?

As you do this, remember that we have all have some scars, and self-love is a journey that continues throughout life.

It’s the Little Things that Matter

Remember, today, that it’s the little things that matter.

It’s saying thank you to the sales assistant.

It’s taking the time to listen to your child.

It’s paying an unexpected compliment.

It’s checking in on a hurting friend.

It’s making the decision to do the right thing, even when you’re tired and you really can’t be bothered.

It’s choosing to be thankful when you’re feeling negative.

It’s doing one small thing which shows you’re going to love yourself.

Understanding Relapse

Relapse is commonplace when someone’s fighting an addiction; it’s something many deal with on their journey to success. Yet, Psychology Today[1] records that more give up addictions than those who stay addicted, or who constantly relapse. This should give us hope, and help stave off discouragement.

Also, relapsing is a process that’s predictable and patterned; and recognizing this can help us read the warning signs. That is, we often make decisions which can seem inconsequential … and yet they slowly move us towards a full relapse

Think of the relapse chain as a chain of decisions – made over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years- that together add up to a backsliding in one’s recovery. This makes it hard to say exactly where any one relapse begins.[2]

What are the Steps that Lead to Relapse?

The following links make up the relapse chain:

1. The recovering individual experiences a build-up of stress (related, for example, to problems at work, relationship difficulties, illness or death in the family, parenting challenges, financial difficulties, legal concerns, the resurfacing of painful memories and trauma from the past, and so on.)

2. This causes the individual to experience intense, negative and distressing emotions.

Note: This is because the build-up of stress also triggers painful core beliefs; beliefs like: “no-one will ever truly want or love me”; “no-one is there for me”; “I’m inadequate”; “I’m a failure”; “Nothing ever works out for me”; “I deserve to be rejected”; “I am going to end up abandoned and alone.”

3. When this occurs, the person immediately attempts to suppress the painful feelings (which means that they’re now living in a state of denial.) That is, instead of openly admitting their pain and distress, the person stuffs or buries these problematic feelings.

Note: Often the decision to deny and bury our pain is tied in to the faulty core belief that “others won’t like, accept, love, or approve of me if I admit to having negative emotions.”

4. However, burying their feelings doesn’t make them disappear; for all it does is push them down and hide them for a while. That is, the subconscious mind is still aware that they are there, and this leads to strong cravings as the pain and hurt is real.

5. The person starts to withdraw, and isolate themselves from others – for it’s too hard to act as if they’re “normal and OK.” Instead, they feel that they can’t cope with all the issues they are facing, and wear a mask that looks as if they’re happy and carefree. Hence, this deepens the deception, and it makes them feel alone.

6. Although the goal has been to block out and destroy their painful feelings, the net result is actually the opposite of this. That is, instead of quietening their emotions, they find that they’ve grown stronger. Thus, it’s understandable how this could lead to a relapse.

7. A complicating factor here is when they’re battling feelings – they aren’t paying attention to their real needs and concerns. (That is, the stresses they’d experienced in 1 above.) Hence, the problems are still there; the situation may have worsened; and now the person’s desperate but feels they can’t escape.

8. This knowledge leads to hopelessness and feeling trapped and powerless; but their old friend – their addiction – can promise some relief. They know that it’s effective and will bring them needed solace, and be a source of comfort when battling despair.

9. Because they have withdrawn from those who could help and support them, they find they’re now alone when they are fighting this strong urge. That is, there’s no-one there to tell them they are strong, and can resist this. There’s no-one to walk with them, to offer them their strength.

Note: This is one of the reasons why having a mentor, counsellor or belonging to a group like AA is so important for recovering addicts. 

10. The addict then relapses – and experiences relief; but then the tables turn and they feel terrible again. They wish they hadn’t fallen; they are filled with deep regret; and now they’re battling feelings of guilt, shame and remorse.

Some Thoughts on Preventing a Relapse

According to Washton and Boundy[3]:

One of the best ways to identify high-risk situations and prepare for them in advance is to imagine likely relapse scenarios.

– If you were to relapse, in what kinds of situations might your relapse occur?

– Describe how the situation might arise, where you would be, what you’d be doing, and what kind of feelings you’d be having. If you have difficulty even imagining it, review episodes from the past, when you were on the wagon and fell off, noting what high-risk factors were operating at the time.

– Once you’ve identified high-risk situations, go over the options that would be available to you today to minimize the danger.

– What is your action plan?

– Basic elements of it should be to leave the high-risk situation, talk with someone from your support team, and identify ways to lower your vulnerability immediately (eat, sleep, relax, exercise, go to a recovery meeting, meet with a friend).

– Role-playing these high-risk situations can be extremely helpful too.


[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200405/the-surprising-truth-about-addiction-0 Retrieved 13th April 2017.

[2] Washton, A.M., & Boundy, D. (2013). Willpower is not enough: Understanding and overcoming addiction and compulsion. New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks.

[3] Washton, A.M., & Boundy, D. (2013). Willpower is not enough: Understanding and overcoming addiction and compulsion. New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks.

Sometimes

“Sometimes

You’ve got to look

straight into the

tired eyes of the

woman staring back

at you in the mirror

and tell her that

she deserves the

best kind of love,

the best kind of life

and devote yourself to

giving it to her

all over again.

Worthy”

  • S.C. Lourie

Is this a message you need to hear today?

Is this a message you need to act on today?

You are worthy.

The Journey you are on Forges the Person you Become

“And they all lived happily ever after.”

At least, that’s what they had always thought.

At least, that’s what they had always expected.

But that wasn’t how this couple’s life turned out.

James and Priti both grew up in the same city. Their parents were good friends. The kids attended the same schools. And they started dating when they were only 14.

When she graduated high school, Priti moved away from home to study Law in a far-flung province.

But time and distance didn’t separate this couple, and five years later James and Priti were married. 

And so begins a wonderful fairy tale.

Then, three years later their first child was born. A boy with Down’s syndrome, and some health complications.

Then, two years later a little girl was born. A child who had autism, and some learning difficulties.

This was followed by three heartbreaking miscarriages. So much grief and heartache. So much sorrow and stress.

It takes a strong marriage to survive something like this … And one day James packed his bags, and walked away.

His wife was left alone to take care of their two kids. The fairy tale was over. There would be no happy ending.

But today, Priti works in a special needs centre. She counsels hurting parents who have children like her own. She offers them support, and she helps them to find courage. She helps them to keep going, and to find joy in the pain.

The journey you are on forges the person you become.

And Priti became someone who was beautiful and strong. A person with compassion who became a rock for others.   

“In the wounding you become the story that brings hope to others.” – Erwin McManus