the marriage fight

In November of 2013 – I wrote this. In October of 2013 – this.

You might want to reread those if you need to.

In February – I was asked to speak at our local MOPS group – on dealing with what happened a year and a half ago. Bringing mental health to light. Absolutely.

I’ve blogged about it before – about grace. And I didn’t say as much as I wanted to when I spoke – and since a few people were sad to miss – I thought I would write about it.

And you’ve seen this many times on our blogs – but here it is again. A promise. From God. Because it helps explain – everything.

You will get pregnant again. And even though you will default in your minds that you will probably miscarry – oh no. You will have a healthy child – possibly twins! It will be huge and massive BUT you must keep it to yourselves and announce at the END of the first trimester. 

This is a promise from God and you will rename the son Enoch. God is NOT done with you. He’s just starting. You need to tuck this word on your hearts and cover it. The Enoch tattoo was intended as a remembrance BUT in God’s time was a prophetic act as to your next son’s name being branded. 

It will be a massive testimony and will restore relationships, friendships, and family ties in ways you never thought possible. It’s going to be mammoth. It will be full circle. Both of your families will be remarkably astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy. BUT you MUST NOT announce it until the end of the 1st trimester. Not even to close friends or family. YOU MUST WAIT!

(Again – that word – MASSIVE. MAMMOTH. Both of your families will be astounded at what God will do through you in this next pregnancy. It will restore relationships – friendships – family ties – in ways you never thought possible. Check. Check. And check. Friendships have been repaired – friendships that I thought were beyond any sort of repair. Family relationships have been healed. Because I was in a time of absolute need? Because I was hurting – we were hurting – and really in the end – why were we having issues in the first place? Remarkably astounded. God has given me remarkable strength and grace. Strength and grace to deal with mania and depression and what comes with each of those. Things I never imagined I would encounter. Ever. Strength to be a fantastic momma to an amazing little boy. Strength to carry a miracle – a promised child of  God. Strength to stand by my husband when I wanted to run. And hide. For a long time. Grace. Forgiveness. A love that runs much deeper than romantic love. Deeper than – kiss you on the way out the door – love. Deeper than – XOXO – written on the bathroom mirror. Love that fights. Love that is ugly and beautiful at the same time. Love that makes you sob on the bathroom floor. Love that makes you pray harder than ever. Love that writes YOU CAN DO IT on the bathroom mirror. Love that fights. That screams. Love that makes you angry. Love that keeps your family together. Love that means far more than anything you could have imagined when you said your vows. Love that only Jesus can teach. Love that I was – and still am – incapable of on my own. I don’t know what I imagined those words could have meant – what God will do through this next pregnancy – but I didn’t imagine this.)

I honestly feel stronger about this than the word I gave you for Fitzy! You can’t even tell me when you first find out – I will already know. You can’t tell ANYONE! BELIEVE IT! RECEIVE IT! ACT! God is good and will be massively glorified through it. Save these messages for confirmation and documentation. Not for me – but so that we can honor Christ Jesus & God’s ridiculous faithfulness. He is good. He is really REALLY good!

That was all from an earlier blog post. But still very relevant. Especially that part about love. And about how God would be MASSIVELY GLORIFIED through it.

When I was thinking about what to say – a picture came to me. God’s grace. It’s like an iceberg – we will only ever see the part that’s out of the water. But there is SO MUCH MORE underneath the surface. Grace that we won’t understand this side of heaven.

Our lives changed. We were comfortable. Things seemed wonderful. Finally. After a miscarriage and trying for what seemed like forever to get pregnant – we had our sweet Fitzgerald. In the midst – were confessions of pornography. But he would tell me he was done. Again. And eventually – I started to believe him or just didn’t understand that it was an issue. A much bigger issue than I could ever imagine. Having Fitzy was wonderful – and brought along new challenges. Navigating friendships and establishing boundaries in ways we’ve never had to. I am a firm believer that married (or dating or engaged) men should not have really close relationships with other women. And vice-versa. It’s not a jealousy issue – but merely a precaution. For example – I have a second shooter that I take to weddings with me sometimes. He is fantastic. He’s a young guy. And if we travel to a wedding – the client has to provide two hotel rooms. Because while I completely trust that nothing would ever happen – I refuse to even put myself in that situation. Call me prude – call me old-fashioned. Call me what you will. But I won’t do it. Jared started having private (meaning hidden or purposefully keeping me out) conversations. And while nothing romantic was ever happening – just the fact that things were secret – was a problem in itself. But neither of them considered this a problem. But here’s the thing. I’ve never heard of anyone intending to have an affair. But man – my husband is really really being a jerk – and there’s this guy at work (or wherever) and he gets me. His wife is a nagging – you know what – (or he’s not married – which still doesn’t matter because he knows that you are) and it’s just nice to have an ear to listen and totally get it. He gets me. And the next thing you know – you’re lying in bed with someone that is not your husband and wondering. HOW DID WE GET HERE. When really the process started months ago. With that listening ear. Hey – text me when you need it. You know – to vent. I’m here. I can love you. Like you deserve. Um – that’s circumstance. Not love. That’s how you get there. And I would NOT be wondering how my marriage got there. So we fought. In our marriage. And for our marriage. We held onto our marriage with both hands. Tight. Made hard decisions that didn’t make people happy. But we knew that for OUR marriage to be happy and successful – they had to be made. Two more miscarriages. Then this word about Enoch – and a pregnancy – that stayed. Finally feeling secure in our relationship. And things were looking great!

And then it got strange. And things were not looking great. Scary and weird. Jared had textbook symptoms of a manic episode (which we didn’t realize until it was almost too late) – and life was about to change. And get really uncomfortable. Jared told me that God had released me from my vow to him and I needed to leave. He was at peace with never seeing Fitzy again or even meeting Enoch. He thought he could walk on water. And then he broke down. And the rebuilding started.

And I didn’t want to. I didn’t want him to hurt me. Again. His pornography addiction had reached a point that I wasn’t even aware of. Those secrets. You think that it will never happen to you. I know my spouse. There is NO WAY he could lie to me like that. Hide things. Wrong. You are wrong. We are all capable of awful things – especially when we are in awful places. He had told me so many times before that he was done. That it wasn’t an issue. And now. This. I truly believe that the severity of his addiction is what caused his breakdown. And I would not willingly go back to that life. Nope. No way.

(a quick side note – for most women that deal with pornography in their marriage – it’s a personal attack. I’m not good enough. I’ll never look like those women. He wants me to be something I’m not. He wishes I was thinner or prettier or just all together different. Not for me. And you can go ahead and roll your eyes and not believe me if it makes you feel better. But I know that I’m good enough. (except those late and early and up all nights with babies that wouldn’t sleep at night or during the day – that’s where I struggle with there must be something wrong with me – I’m not good enough – but that’s a different blog entry altogether) I’m comfortable with how I look. And you know what – even when I had an additional 90 pounds on me – I felt confident. You wouldn’t know I had 90 pounds to lose because I didn’t whine about it. I didn’t put down “skinny” girls because they looked better than me. I owned what I was. ANYWAY – I digress – again. It was never about what his porn addiction did to me. Self-esteem and confidence is a big one ladies. Own you. No one – and I mean NOT ONE person can take away your self-identity unless you allow them. And it’s hard. I’m sure you’ve all seen those awkward Harry Potter look-alike pictures I’ve posted. But own your awkward self. And knowing that I’m good enough isn’t a cocky attitude. I promise. It’s hard for lots of women to relate to me and vice-versa – because I don’t deal with self-esteem issues. I AM enough. And you are too. And I can guarantee that if you get to the heart of that issue – your perspective will change. I know that my husband’s addiction isn’t because he wishes he was with someone else. I know that he loves me and wants me. And it’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around.)

So – anyway – I didn’t want to go back to lies and promises that were broken. As a matter of fact – I made it perfectly clear that pornography would have NO place in our home. In our lives. We have two little boys to raise. In a sex-crazed world. Like it’s not hard enough. Nope. Won’t do it.

Really – I wanted to run and hide at my parents and just pretend this nightmare was really truly just a nightmare. But I had a little guy to take care of. And a growing baby inside to think about. And I photographed four weddings in the time that Jared started to spiral down and the secrets all come out.

The first one – I was furious. I wanted to run up to the altar and shake them. Scream. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?! Sure – wedding vows sound awesome right now – but what about the sickness. What about the in want. What about the poorer. What about the part when your husband becomes someone you don’t know? THINK ABOUT THIS. I was so mad.

By the fourth – I was sobbing. What about the sickness. What about the in want. What about the poorer. What about it? I said yes. That’s what it’s about. I stood here and said yes. Yes. I will. And even though the world was full of heart shaped clouds on our wedding day – the only thing we could see was the beautiful road before us – that wasn’t reality. Reality is hard and ugly and beautiful and wonderful. All wrapped into one.

So running and hiding wasn’t an option. Even though he had kept secrets that left me crying on the floor for days. Even though I couldn’t tangibly understand how trust would EVER come back in our relationship. God had to work on my heart. I was terrified that our marriage was gone. And equally terrified that it would survive. Because survival meant that I had to forgive. A lot. I had to extend a whole lot of grace. More than what I’ve ever seen sticking out of the water. More than I ever wanted to extend actually. It meant trusting my heart to this man that hurt me. And trusting that it wouldn’t happen again.

But here’s the crazy thing. Well two things.

One – we hurt each other. We let each other down. Because we’re human. Marriage – any relationship – is not perfect. Is not smooth. Is not without offense of some kind. It will happen. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift. For both parties. But it’s also scary. Because 70 x 7. And I don’t believe that means – let people do what they will and keep forgiving with a smile on your face knowing that you will get hit again and again – it does mean forgive. And in any relationship (or marriage) (especially in terms of addiction) working toward restoration and healing. And believing for that. For miracles. So sometimes my mind travels. And I’m afraid that Jared is lying to me. Again. And panic sets in. I ask. But I don’t believe. And it shows in every aspect of my life. And I have to lean on God. Not Jared. Because that trust is STILL rebuilding. I have to trust God that Jared is healed. And you know what – it’s really really hard. But points me to God – not Jared. And you might think – but don’t you want to be pointed to your husband. Yes. You do. But when the past hurts and you’re trying with all your might – it doesn’t work sometimes. And God is our ultimate trust. And hope. You hope that he’s telling the truth. You hope that your lives won’t be turned upside down again. You hope that the love and affection you once had for your husband returns. You hope. And you try. And you believe. Because God has seen your heart and your hurt. And He knows that pornography cannot have a place in our lives. And miracles do happen. Even when you’ve lost faith. Sometimes – especially when you’ve lost faith.

Two – the crazy amount of grace that God gave me to get through each moment – and still gives me – cus whoa – I need lots. And lots. That crazy amount of grace that God gave me for Jared. Jared gives it to me. For the entire time that we’ve been together. Because here’s the thing. I didn’t have a big secret. But listen. I’m kind of hard to deal with. I’m impatient and right. I have ridiculous expectations. I’m a hot mess. And he loves me. He doesn’t just deal with me. He just loves me.

He gives me more grace that I deserve. He meaning God. And Jared.

And it’ll be two years this summer since everything happened – and life isn’t perfect. Because it never will be. But it’s a whole lot of beautiful right now. And we are still working on things. Creating boundaries. Healthy friendships. Always working on things. Being honest. Always trying. A whole lot of forgiveness. Rebuilding trust. Holding onto each other and hope.

I leave you with this – the lyrics to Glorious Ruins from Hillsong – a song Jared insisted (while he was manic) would be the theme of our lives.

When the mountains fall
And the tempest roars You are with me
When creation folds
Still my soul will soar on Your mercy

I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace

Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign

And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings
I will love You forever
And forever I’ll sing

When the world caves in
Still my hope will cling to Your promise
Where my courage ends
Let my heart find strength in Your presence

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A Healthy Marriage (He Said)

Posted By on Mar 4, 2015

I recently listened to a great teaching called “Healthy Families” by Kris Vallotton. Like many of his teachings, I so much enjoyed this one. I highly recommend taking an hour or so to listen to it. During the talk he shared 4 values of healthy families, but for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on one.

Healthy Marriages have NO SECRETS.

For years I held on to a huge secret in our marriage. It was my addiction to pornography. I’ve touched on the subject on my personal site, but I’ll mention just a bit of my struggle here. My exposure began like it does for many men – as a teenager to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Over the years the content of what I watched became increasingly worse.

My addiction got so bad that it played a large part in my manic episode I detailed in a previous post. I was viewing porn (and terrible stuff at that) and I still, to this day, have absolutely no recollection of it. That is an incredibly scary thing for me.

After my manic episode I had one more relapse in my pornography addiction that was incredibly hurtful to our marriage. I confessed this relapse to Danielle, and she was devastated.

It took months to heal our marriage, and in all honesty, the healing occurs bit by bit to this day.

Pornography is an incredibly destructive force. It leads to secretive behavior. It keeps the husband from being completely honest and open with his wife. And it ends up leaving the wife feeling hurt, at best, and completely devastated and devalued at worst. It also leads to a huge lack of trust in a relationship once it has been exposed.

Fortunately for me Danielle has shown me untold amounts of grace. Firstly, she decided to stay with me during my mania even though I had told her at the time she was free to go and that God was telling me that (He obviously wasn’t).

Secondly, she stayed with me after my pornography admission bombshell. Which may have been even more difficult (you’d have to ask her). I can only begin to imagine the pain she dealt with and the anger that admission caused.

People have asked me how I got over my addiction to pornography, and I’ve told them I really believe it was a miracle. Nothing short of a miracle. Right before it ended there was a word given to me that everything would have to be torn down before it could be built back up. Our lives were “torn down” due to my manic episode (which this person had no idea about) and by my addiction to pornography. Ever since, our marriage has been built back up, although it hasn’t been easy.

So I don’t really have a good answer when it comes to getting out of the bondage of pornography. I struggled with it for YEARS. But I do know you should tell someone you trust, get help, get counseling if you need it and be open and honest with your wife.

Maybe the last part was the key that broke things once and for all. I had not been completely honest with Danielle. Once I was, and we went through the hurt and ugliness of the process, I believe that’s when I was completely healed from my addiction. But it took hard work, on both our parts, to begin the restoration process for our marriage. Nobody ever said marriage would be easy. Marriage takes a lot of work. Especially when working through such an ugly addiction. It would have been easy for Danielle to give up on me, especially since I had failed her time and time again. But she didn’t. She chose to fight for our marriage.

Pornography and sexual material seem to be absolutely everywhere it seems. You can find something attractive at your local Walmart aisle, the movies (50 Shades anyone?), or just a mouse click away. That is by no means an excuse for men. It is a reminder to us guys that we need to be ever vigilant regarding what we put before our eyes and what we allow our minds to dwell on.

Pornography can have NO PLACE in a marriage. It just can’t.  You might be able to convince yourself that it will be okay for a while, but it will blow up in the end, and it won’t be pretty. Hopefully you’ll have someone like a Danielle to help pick up the pieces of the mess you made.

Healthy Marriages have NO SECRETS.

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