Finding Hope & Freedom After Betrayal
Am I In Denial About My Husband’s Pornography Addiction?
Today I have Lynn Marie Cherry who is an engaging speaker and the author of Keep Walking: 40 Days To Hope And Freedom After Betrayal. It's a daily devotional book that helps women find a way through the pain and trauma of betrayal. She is dedicated to inspiring hope and shining light on the path to freedom. In whatever shoes you prefer--rubber, rain boots, tennis shoes, or sassy heals, she'll show you how to take a step forward today. Lynn and her husband David have been married 26 years and they have two boys. You can find more information about her and her book at lynnmariecherry.com.
Lynn: Thank you so much for having me.
Anne: So Lynn, you decided to share your betrayal story by writing a book. Why did you decide to write about your story?
Lynn: It's the book you don't dream of writing when you're a little girl in sixth grade, thinking you'd like to write someday! The book was birthed out of my journey and the pain that I experienced. It was so difficult and so altering but at the same time I felt like I found a way through. I knew it was something I had to share. I knew early on in the journey that I would share my story, that my husband and I would both talk about it. This is how the book came to be. Going back to our story, it’s the most drawn out discovery story you have ever heard.
I Knew Something Wasn’t Quite Right—Even On Our Honeymoon
We were married in 1991 and even on our honeymoon I had a feeling that something wasn't quite right. But at the same time, I was thinking it wasn't a big deal; I really didn't know what husbands were like; this was my first experience...and I did the best I could to dismiss those feelings. In 1997 I was pregnant with our first son and it happened to be the same year our home was wired for the brand new amazing thing called the internet and the world-wide web. This was a set up...I was big and tired and commuting two hours and struggling with my body image and then my husband was in the office at home and I remember thinking that something was not right…what was happening in there?...and then at the same time I was thinking that I didn't care; I was building a human, I was tired, I was working, I was commuting...whatever he wanted to do in the office, I didn't care. I told myself this for another three years. It's kind of embarrassing to recount the slow discovery.
Anne: Don't feel bad. Everyone goes through this denial and pushing away of doubts. It's totally normal! Welcome to the club!
Denial—My Coping Mechanism
Lynn: This was certainly my MO--denial! It was my coping mechanism of choice for so long. So then in 2000 our second son was born and I remember being awake in the night to feed him and I noticed the light was on in the home office and I thought, "Oh wow. My husband's awake too." I walked over and opened the door and instantly felt this horrible flood of emotion--shame and lost and it felt so tangible. I saw pornography on the computer screen. So now this thing that I think isn't quite right is right in front of my eyes. But I shut the door and walked away and continued pretending and coping for another four years.
Anne: You didn't say anything about it?
Lynn: We did not talk about it. I think there was an awareness on his part that I had seen what was happening but my mom was in town due to our new baby; she was sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room and she was with us for another week. I couldn't go there. And then really I didn't go there for another four years; I was going through the emotions and coping and existing and busy life with two little boys...it dragged on.
Anne: Did you have a religious or ethical background that you felt pornography was wrong in and of itself or was it just from the feeling you got from observing him watch pornography that made you feel horrible?
Lynn: Definitely the ethical spiritual upbringing was the first thing that made me feel uncomfortable about pornography. That feeling was a confirmation of what I believed. I didn't think pornography was okay. I remember the first time I saw it in the sixth-grade reading corner when someone flashed a magazine inside my book I was reading--I knew it wasn't right. I knew it was degrading to women and that it wasn't at all the way women should be perceived.
Coming Out Of Denial Of My Husband’s Pornography Addiction With The Gift Of Anger
Anne: So what brought you out of this denial after four years of not talking about it?
Lynn: I like to say I got a gift. It wasn't in a pretty package with a matching bow. It was a gift to me. It was the gift of anger. I ended up being a very angry woman. I lived with this constant low level irritation and blow up over little stupid things, really on the fringe with my boys, thinking I didn't like who I was becoming. This anger was scaring me. I was okay being sad and I was okay being lonely and depressed but the anger terrified me. It really was the catalyst that forced my hand and made me realize I needed help, that something had to change inside of me, that I couldn't live like this.
Anne: For our listeners, I want to know what brought you out of denial. At what point did you realize you needed help? Please comment below, we want to hear your story and your experiences just like we are listening to Lynn today.
Recognizing The Trauma
So when did you realize that what you were experiencing was trauma?
Lynn: We would never use the words "pornography addiction" until we started therapy. I never used the word "trauma" until therapy, either. It really was the working through owning the reality of my life through counseling where, suddenly coming out of denial, I began to feel the effects of the trauma. I had chest pain, insomnia, anxiety--especially at night where I would lay there and feel like my heart was going to fly out of my chest. I was feeling so anxious about the reality of my life that I had denied and stuffed and coped with for so many years. It was traumatic to pull my "ostrich head" out of the sand and it was a shock to my system.
I remember learning about pretend normal in therapy and thinking I like pretend normal. Could we go back and live there because dealing with what was actually happening in my life felt worse than pretending. It really did for a while.
Anne: Yes, I felt the same way. My most traumatic experience was after my husband's arrest. I lived with him being abusive for seven years, not feeling that much trauma because I was in denial or I was not understanding what I was living, living the "pretend normal;” after his arrest it really hit me. That's when waves of it came and it was very intense for a long time.
Tools To Help Deal With The Trauma Of Betrayal From A Spouse’s Pornography Addiction
What tools helped you deal with the trauma of betrayal?
Lynn: I did 24 weeks with a betrayed spouses group. This was a lifeline for me because there were some women in the group who had not been in denial for 8 years so they were much more familiar with what they were going through. I remember listening to them and thinking that this is how I felt. Being able to share the journey with other women was so helpful to me and really helped me deal with it. I discovered breathing; you don't think about breathing but when you do think about it, it's amazing the calming effect it can have on your body. The other thing that helped me deal with the trauma was my faith. To be honest, I was a little bit offended with God that this was my story--I didn't deserve it, I never asked for this to be in my story but here I was and how was this ok with him? So God and I were on the outs for a little while--I was on the outs with Him. The bottom line for me was that I didn't know where else to go. When I began to seek God for comfort and help, He was faithful to bring it. And so my faith really helped me to deal with the trauma as well.
Right And Wrong Reason For Staying In A Marriage
Anne: So knowing women are married to active pornography users also experience the related behaviors like lying, gas lighting, emotional abuse, and sometimes narcissistic traits...what made you decide to stay in your marriage?
Lynn: I think there are a few different reasons. Some are good and some are bad. An example of a bad reason was my thinking that if I stay, then at least I can keep an eye on my husband and I can be there to protect my boys. This became, "If I stay, I can make sure he's moving forward and my kids don't end up growing up with a pornography addict for a father”...because whether our marriage made it or not, this was a big question. Neither one of us knew the answer to that. Where there was an addict and a trauma victim trying to live together in the same house and both were walking their own recovery journeys…and then somehow considering the fact that there is recovery for the relationship...things were iffy for a long time. I was staying to keep an eye on him--not the best reason of course to stay in a marriage.
Ultimately a better reason was that I began to see the fruit of change in his life. I watched him do the work of recovery. When I made that first call for us to go to therapy, he was not happy about going but 3-4 weeks in, something shifted and I think he finally found hope and that there was a life for him without this thing that he had kept hidden. He was seven when he first encountered pornography--second grade. So he began to do the work and I saw the fruit. His behavior began to change and this is what ultimately weighed in on the decision to stay. Once he discovered the tools to break this pattern of behavior and he picked them up and used them, he realized there was hope and that he could live a life without this dependence.
Anne: In my experience as I have witnessed men in recovery who really are in recovery and their behavior proves it--they are kind, gentle, empathetic, understanding--a man really, truly in recovery is awesome! There is such a difference between a porn user who is not in recovery and one who is. It's night and day.
Lynn: I can see that. I think about the porn my husband grew up with was mainly magazines and then VHS. I look at what men and women are having to deal with now with it in the pocket--live streaming, interactive video--and I think it is a completely different based thing and harder to recover from what is happening in the brain with this kind of pornography.
Anne: Yes, with really easy access and the types of pornography that they are viewing..the content itself.
Moving Forward When Your Spouse Is A Porn Addict
So knowing all of the women who are married to porn addicts and struggling with all of the related behaviors, how can women find help in your book?
Lynn: One of the things I love is that it is a small bite-sized serving of home. It's a one-to-two page daily reading with one thought to carry you, and a couple of things to take action on or to reflect on. I love that it's manageable for women in trauma. I remember getting some books to figure out what going on in my life, wondering how I was supposed to read them while dealing with the mess in my life. My book is not about my marriage. It's really about moving forward. There is a way for every woman to move forward. It's not about whether or not your relationship is restored but knowing that there is restoration for your soul. There is peace available and regardless of what ends up happening in your marriage, there is a way for you to move forward...there is a life for you beyond the pain and trauma being experienced right now.
Anne: Absolutely. And I love that you said it's in bite-sized pieces. I have the hardest time processing written information. Many of the women who come to BTR have this same problem too which is why I decided to do this podcast because a woman can listen to something while they are folding laundry or doing the dishes or while they are waiting for a son at soccer practice. Same thing for your book: you are making hope accessible for women who have a hard time processing lots of information.
Lynn: Exactly. In the middle of the trauma of owning the reality of my life, I couldn't even read two pages. I wanted to be able to give women something they could chew and swallow that could carry them through maybe one day and maybe help them to take one step; something to hold on to for one day.
Anne: We are going to be having a giveaway for Lynn's book Keep Walking: 40 Days To Hope And Freedom After Betrayal. We have three copies she has donated to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Go to our Instagram account @betrayaltraumarecovery and enter the giveaway today!
Lynn, we are very grateful you have donated these books. Do you have any other thoughts before we conclude today?
Lynn: Sure. I just read an article this morning on Facebook by Gary Thomas that was so good. He just wrote a book entitled Cherished. I love what he said, "If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions." I think this is such a relief for a woman walking through this and not knowing the end of her story. However your story ends, there is hope for you.
Anne: Thank you so much for being here today, Lynn, and thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope through writing this book. It's very meaningful to a lot of women.
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