The Common Thread. Let’s talk about it.

Over the past few months, as I’ve written this blog and told our story, I have received many, many messages. People have reached out not only to offer their support, but to share their own stories. As we have listened to these stories, it’s become increasingly evident that a majority of the stories that are similar to ours, almost all have a common thread.

Pornography addiction.

After Jeff and I had many conversations this week on this very subject, discussing the need for people to feel safer talking about it and asking for help, a video popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was the actor Terry Crews, sharing his own personal battle with porn. That was all the affirmation I needed that it was time. It’s time to talk about it. His bravery and honesty is something we need more of. I don’t know him personally, but I couldn’t help but feel so proud of him. For putting himself out there, for risking his reputation to help others. I personally don’t believe he was risking his reputation though. If anything, in my eyes, he exponentially improved it. There is nothing more beautiful than a repentant heart that allows God’s goodness to wash over and pour out of them. But still, to put his darkest secret out there for all to see, was a scary thing. This I know for a fact.
It’s something that no one wants to talk about. They are embarrassed. They are ashamed. They are afraid of the way people will judge them, and gossip about them. They are afraid of losing people’s respect. Or maybe, just maybe, as much as they think sometimes that they wish they could be free of this dark secret, they really aren’t ready to give it up. And the women in their lives don’t want to talk about it either. Or they do but they don’t feel like they can. They are also embarrassed. They are also ashamed. They are afraid of how people will view their husbands if they knew. And they are afraid of how others will view them. “She must not be enough to satisfy her husband. If she took care of him this wouldn’t be an issue.” So many fears. So many lies. And so much destruction.

I’ve known about Jeff’s porn addiction for years. It’s been the biggest struggle in our marriage. Although up until recently, he wouldn’t have admitted that. You see, in his mind, he wasn’t hurting anyone. The porn addiction tells you that it’s normal. It tells you that how your spouse feels about it doesn’t matter, because it has nothing to do with them. It tells you that you need it. Then it tells you that you need more. As you progress in your addiction, you find that the images get less and less satisfying as you become desensitized, and so you find yourself searching further into depravity. Unfortunately , for so many, it eventually spills over into real life. You really believed you would never cross that line. But then here is someone, offering themselves up to you. The flirting, then the naked pictures. Then the proposition of a secret rendezvous. You aren’t sure how you ended up here. And you know you shouldn’t. But the addiction tells you this is what you need. You can actually partake of this fantasy world that you’ve created in your mind. You are entitled to this. Your wife will never find out. No one will get hurt. You deserve to have this.

The addiction tells you that your wife can’t or won’t keep up with these needs. The truth is, your wife feels so objectified and devalued, so insignificant and unimportant. You’ve created a world for her in which she is forced to compete with this unrealistic fantasy world of yours. You’ve created a world for her in which she is never enough.  Maybe you’re so deep in this addiction that you feel the need to look at porn before going to bed with your wife. Because the addiction has told you that she isn’t enough. And that you aren’t enough of a man without it. And so you’ve created a world where she knows that your affection is not about her. It’s about what you were looking at before you came to her. You’ve created a world where she is just the means to an end. Where she questions herself everyday:”Why am I never enough?” This is the world your porn addiction has created for her. And yet you can’t figure out why she doesn’t want to be intimate with you all the time. You are too blinded by your addiction to see how much pain you are causing. Your mind has been so inundated with unrealistic expectations and untruths that you aren’t really even capable of true intimacy anymore. And the saddest thing about that is, you don’t even realize what you’re missing.

And the lies. So many lies. Sometimes you feel bad about all the lies. Deep down, living with that deception is what causes your anxiety issues. But you’ve gotten really good at it. Every time you get caught, you get a little better at hiding it. You get a little better at convincing her that you do see that it needs to stop, and that you will. And maybe you do, for a little bit. A part of you wants to. But you never really let it go. You can’t quite let it go. It’s got you. And so you lie some more. By the time you are on the edge of an affair, the lying has become such second nature to you, that it’s really not even all that difficult. And your mind has been conditioned to believe that this is how things are supposed to be. It’s no big deal.

But it is a big deal. Pornography is a thief. It steals your time. It steals your dignity. It steals your integrity. It steals your honor. It steals your intimacy. It steals your relationships. It steals your identity, it keeps you there in its chains, so that you are unable to reach the potential of the person you are intended to be. It’s so dark there, that you can’t even see it, how bad things have gotten. You’ve filled your mind with so much trash, that you can’t see the truth anymore. You can’t see who you truly are. You can’t see the treasure that your wife truly is. You can’t see the blessings right in front of you.

It’s time to wake up. It’s time to see the damage and the toll this addiction is taking not just on you, but everyone around you.

“Oh, but I’m fine” you say. Yeah, Jeff said that too. “I know my boundaries” you say. Yep, he said that too.

Years before his affair ever happened, I found the story of a friend of a friend, named Cindy Beall. Her husband had a porn addiction too that eventually led to him having affairs. She has a blog, and has written a book about their story. I highly recommend y’all look it up. I discussed it with Jeff years ago, and told him I was so afraid we would end up there. He assured me we would not. He truly believed that he could control it. That he would never do what Cindy’s husband did. Don’t fall into that same trap. An addiction not dealt with doesn’t go away. It always, always gets worse. You may think you can control it, but the truth is that you won’t realize how far you can fall until you’ve already fallen.

I’m gonna stop right there and speak to you ladies. And this is important. You are MORE than enough. Hold tight to that, and when those thoughts of inadequacy sneak in, see them for the lies that they are and squash them. You have been and always will be more than enough. His addiction has blinded him from seeing you. From truly seeing the treasure that you are. But just because he can’t see it right now doesn’t make you any less of a treasure. You’re going to need to come back and re-read this paragraph over and over again. I know, because even though sometimes I could remember this and know it to be true, it was and sometimes still is so, so easy to let those feelings sneak back in and get the best of me. Your husbands addiction has affected you in ways you know, and in ways that you aren’t even aware of yet, and your recovery is just as important as his. It’s important that you reach out and find trustworthy people to talk to and resources to help you heal from the wounds in your heart, mind, and spirit.

It’s time that more people step up and tell their story. It’s time for us to bring what we have hidden away and put it out in the light of day. It’s time for people to know that they are not alone. It’s time to remove the stigmas and remove the shame that keeps you there, hiding in that dark place. It’s time to be bold. God doesn’t look at your past. God looks at your heart. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what matters is where you go from here. So let go of that shame. Replace it with the freedom and the happiness that comes from moving towards being the best person you can be. You are worthy of being that person. This life of bondage and shame is not what you deserve. You can have a life of freedom and joy. You can be the husband and father your family deserves. It’s going to take commitment. You have to be willing to do the work. But the rewards are endless.

It’s time to be brave. Let’s create a community where it is safe to reveal your “dirty little secret”. Where it is not met with judgement or scolding, but with compassion and love. Talk to someone. Find someone that you can trust that you can be accountable to. There are resources out there. Books, videos, websites that have a wealth of information on how to break free. And there are people like Jeff and I that are walking this road of recovery before you, who will gladly share what we have learned and are still learning. This is how we win this battle. This is how we take our lives back. This is how we get the life of freedom that God intended for all of us. This is how you become a man that is capable of truly and fully loving, that is capable of real and fulfilling intimacy and relationship.

Come and join us out here in the light. Things are so much better out here.

Amy Thurston Gordy

 

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How could I take him back?…. And other questions you’re dying to ask.

I know people have questions. I know the thoughts that run through your mind when you see me. I know because I’ve been you before. I’ve been the one that looks at that person that’s been cheated on and wondered all of those same things.

-How does she do it?

-How could she take him back after what he did?

-How can she ever trust him again?

-How can she look at him?

-How can she ever stand to let him touch her?

-How can she possibly stay in that marriage, does she have no self respect?

-Does she not know her worth? –What about that old saying, once a cheater, always a cheater?

-Why would she take a man back that did not value and appreciate her?

The answer to that last one, is, simply, that I didn’t. The man that lives with me now, that shares my days and my nights, is a very different man than the one that broke my heart. He has the same name, he looks the same, he sounds the same, but he is definitely not the same.

I chose to let him back into my life. But that decision did not come easily, and it is not the right choice for everyone. The time that I took to make that decision was critical. What happened in that in between time was a very specific set of circumstances and choices.
I will tell you the truth,…I always do..😊, I DID NOT want him back. There was no part of me in the beginning that could fathom having him in my life after what he had done. I wanted him out. I couldn’t bear to look at him. It was just too much. And if he tried to sit next to me, to touch my hand, to hug me… I literally couldn’t bear it. All I could see was his hand in her hand. His lips on hers. It was torture, and I couldn’t imagine ever getting beyond it.

Some couples that have suffered through infidelity call the day it all came out D-day,(the day of discovery), I personally think of it as D-day more in the sense that it was a day of destruction. I pretty much had some contact with him every day after our D-day. Even though he wasn’t living with me anymore, we had kids and bills and things that prevented me from being able to just push him out of my life. And on top of that I was determined to put my kids first and make sure they came through this with as few battle wounds as possible. I may have hated him at the time, but I didn’t want them to hate him. He was their Dad. And he had done an awful thing, but he was still their Dad. I wanted to make sure that they were able to have a healthy relationship with him, and it was important to me for them to know that whether we stayed married or not, we were always, always a family.
He was intent on winning me back from the get go. I mean INTENT. Persistent in a way that was nothing short of exhausting. Unhealthy even. He had hit bottom. He was desperate to get his family back. But I was no where near being ready to even hear of it. And the more I pushed him away the more desperate he became and the more he pushed in. It got to a point that I simply couldn’t breathe. I just wanted silence. Just a moment’s worth of peace. I was reeling. My entire world had been turned upside down. Nothing felt real, yet everything felt painfully real all at the same time. My mind couldn’t make sense of anything. My heart felt as if it had been literally crushed. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. I had to really push myself to keep up some semblance of normalcy. Get up, go to work, spend time with friends or family. Some days I had to just really dig deep to hold it together. Just a few more minutes, I would tell myself, just hold it together a few more minutes and then you can go home, lock yourself in the bathroom and fall apart. Then I’d pull myself back together, put on a brave face and go out and do it again. I was quickly reaching my breaking point and I couldn’t take much more. So there came a day that I asked… no, I begged anyone, everyone, to talk to him. To help him see things through my eyes. To convince him to give me some space. To take the pressure off so I could take a breath. And they did. My friends, my family, my church, they stepped up for me. And that day I remember uttering a simple prayer. I didn’t have the strength or clarity to even know what I was asking God for. I couldn’t find the words. All I could muster was a simple cry of “Help. Please, just help.”
That was the beginning of the turning point.

He stopped the constant calls and texts. Not completely, but he definitely dialed it back a notch. Instead, every day that he could, he would come over while I was at work and clean the house. And do the laundry. And fix all the things that needed to be fixed. He brought me treats, like sushi, wine, or flowers. He took Anna Kate on dinner and ice cream dates, and eventually, when she allowed it, Emily too. He wouldn’t overstay his welcome. He would leave when I asked, or sooner if he noticed I was struggling with his presence. He immediately went for counseling, and began working with an amazing life coach.

His focus went from “What do I have to do to get my wife and family and my life back? I know I messed up big time, but do I really deserve to lose everything?” …to … “What can I do to make your life easier? What can I do to show you how sorry I am? What do our kids need? What do you need?”

He went from pleading and pressuring me to make a decision and proclaiming how much pain HE was going through… to…”I want more than anything to earn your forgiveness, your love and hopefully one day, your trust. I take full responsibility for my choices and actions. I hate what I’ve done and would do anything in the world to go back and change it, to have never caused you this pain. I will accept your decisions whatever they may be, but I will always love you, and I will never stop fighting for you. And even if your decision is to never take me back, I will spend the rest of my life trying my best to make it up to you, to ease your pain, to love you the way you deserve to be loved, and to be the best man that I can possibly be.”

And that, that right there was the difference. That is what separated him from someone that was selfishly just trying to get back the life they lost without really making any changes, and someone that was authentically and truly sorry and wanted to be the man his family deserved.

Our separation was extremely important in this process. I needed the space for my sanity, and to get some clarity, and he needed the space to be able to fully see what he had risked with the choices he had made. To see clearly the bad things he had allowed in his life that had held him hostage for so long. To see what he had lost. How far he had fallen. Only then could he see everything that he was so blind to before, to see how much he had taken for granted. Only then could he see the man that he had become, and begin the journey to becoming the man God intended him to be.

Can I ever really trust him? Like fully without any hesitation or doubt? I’d be lying if I said that doubts and fears don’t creep up on me. They definitely do. But what I do know that I can fully and completely trust is who God is in him. I can believe in the work that God has done and continues to do in him. So I have to choose to push those doubts and fears aside and simply trust In that.

When I let him come back home , I still wasn’t certain that I wanted him back. I wasn’t certain I could live with any of it. But I had seen enough of a change in him to know that after 23 years, I didn’t want someone else to be the one that gets to benefit from that change. I mean really, how fair would that be?  I put in 23 years and get my heart broken and the next person that comes along gets this new and improved guy?!! I don’t think so!  And I knew that although I was completely justified in moving on, there were no guarantees of me finding an honorable trustworthy man that wouldn’t break my heart again. It kind of came to the point of knowing that the only way I will know if I can live with this, if I can live with him, is to actually live with him. He had made every effort to try and prove himself to me, and I knew I would never feel confident in a decision to end our marriage if I didn’t at least try to see if we could make it work. I needed to see for myself if this change in him was real.
So how do I do it? How do I know that this was the right choice? How do I know that I’m not setting myself up to be hurt again?

I know because I look at him, and I see it. I see that he is made new. I see the love in his eyes. I see the remorse. True and deep remorse. I see it in the way he deals with my bad days, in the way he handles my sadness. In the way he never runs from it, but instead runs to it, wanting so desperately to take it from me. I see it in the fact that he is so attentive, that no matter how hard I try to hide it sometimes, I can barely have a bad thought or a pang of sadness without him sensing it in me immediately. I see it in his faithfulness to his coaching sessions, his dedication to reading the Bible and any and every self help/marriage/positive thoughts/guarding your heart,mind,and body book he can get his hands on. I see it in the way he is no longer self serving, but looks for every opportunity to make my life easier, whether that be cleaning the house,taking care of bills, being a chauffeur to our kids, making my morning coffee, or rubbing my feet. Yes, he even rubs my feet.😍

I see it in the way he makes time with me a priority, even if that means grocery shopping. I see it in the way that when given a choice between a day of golf or a day spent with me and the girls, he always puts us first. Over GOLF, y’all. That is huge. If that doesn’t prove that he has changed, then I don’t know what would!

I see it in the way he has become an open book, never secretive, never defensive. I see it in the way he offers up every possible way to regain my trust, without having been prompted by me to do so, whether that be access to his phone, or passwords or even his location at any given time. I see it in the way he guards himself and his thoughts. I see it in his generous spirit. I see it in his desire to live a life that is pleasing to God. I see it in the way he shows and tells me daily how he treasures me, and how he will never take me for granted again. I see it in his gratitude for this second chance he’s been given.

Am I a fool to give him a second chance? You may believe I am. But I believe we serve a God of second chances. And I believe that when someone is truly remorseful and repentant and seeks God’s goodness and mercy, that they can be forever changed. So no, I don’t believe that old saying of once a cheater, always a cheater. It IS possible for a person to be made new. Isn’t that what Jesus is all about, after all?
So maybe you find yourself in the same place that I was. Sad,scared, and uncertain. Doubts and fears swirling around but also glimmers of hope, of possibility. Just enough confusion to keep you in that place of indecision, unable to move forward. My advice to you is to not rush it. I know I told people many times through this that both choices felt impossible to me at the time. Staying with him felt wrong. Moving on also felt wrong. It was hard for me to imagine a life with him or a life without him. Both paths came with its own set of difficulties. If that’s where you are right now it’s ok not to know. Take all the time you need. You will know what to do when you know. Have a little grace and mercy for yourself, because you need it. You deserve it. What you are going through is hard. It takes a toll emotionally, spiritually and physically. It’s so important to give yourself some space. To take care of yourself, and for goodness sake let others take care of you too. It’s ok to not be a pillar of strength. Did you hear that? I’m gonna say that again. IT’S OK. Take your time. And when you are ready to make a decision,if you decide to move on, that’s ok.
God will honor that.

He will honor you.

He will bless you with happiness and love.

It is scary to start over. It’s not an easy path to choose, but you will be ok.

You will have joy again.

On the other hand, if you see that your spouse has surrendered themselves to God, if you see the evidence of this change in them, (and trust me, if it’s there, you can’t miss it), and you want to give your marriage another chance, that’s ok too.
God will honor that.

He will honor you.

He will bless you with happiness and love.

It is scary to start over. It’s not an easy path to choose, but you will be ok.

You will have joy again.

See how that works? That’s how good God is. In situations such as these, you can’t make the wrong decision. You don’t have to live in fear of making the wrong decision. As long as we are seeking Him, He will always make it work for our good.
And like I said, if your spouse is truly remorseful, and truly wants to be the person you deserve, you will see it. And if they aren’t, you will see that too.

I don’t like what happened. I don’t like the pain our family has suffered because of the choices of Jeff’s former self. But I love my new husband. I love the man that he is today. I love the man that I see him becoming more of tomorrow. I love this new heart he’s been given. It is a gift, and I love that he chose to accept it. I love that we have a God that makes all things new.
So if you find yourself where I was, take a breath. Then go ahead and take a few more. Take as many as you need. God will give you the peace you need to make your decision. You will know, when you know.
Amy Thurston Gordy

There’s something about Mondays

There’s something about Mondays. I’ve noticed that I struggle more on Mondays. I get a little panicky, randomly throughout the day. I feel anxiety creeping up on me. I push it aside and try my best to just push through it.
But why Mondays? I mean, there were obviously instances of contact between the two of them in some way or another on any given day of the week, but Mondays were my girls night out. It’s the night that I meet up with my sisters and close friends every week to have dinner and watch the Bachelor. It’s the day that she would text him asking if I was gone yet. If it was safe to call. It was the night every week that they couldn’t wait for me to get out the door, because it meant they had probably at least thirty minutes to an hour of uninterrupted phone time before her husband got home from work. It’s a night that if they were both working, he didn’t have to rush home afterwards and had more time to spend with her. I had no idea what was going on at the time. But now that I know, the feelings that brings has made what is supposed to be a fun night somewhat difficult.
I know that is not how he spends his time now. So I push through those feelings and I try not to let it steal my time or my fun with my favorite ladies. Let me tell you something about those ladies. They are my constants. My supporters, my defenders, my encouragers. And they are funny, y’all. Seriously some of the best people on the planet. I am so blessed to have them. And let’s not forget the food. Because really, the food is half of the fun, right?

So I go and I enjoy my time with them, but it is sometimes interspersed with moments of this inner struggle with my thoughts, and having to remind myself that this panicky feeling is an illusion, that all that is over and he is not at home talking to her. I’m really good at holding it in and pushing it back. No one can really tell because I’m so quick to push it back, (except Jeff, he can see it, no matter how well I think I’m hiding it, he can always see it) and I think I’m handling it well, but by the time I make it home and have a shower and get in bed, the stress of fighting those thoughts all day bubbles to the surface and I end up crying it out. Purging it from my system so I can sleep. So I can keep from carrying it into the next day.
Sure, I have moments, hours even that I don’t think about it. That it doesn’t sit in the forefront of my mind, instead it stays tucked away, back in the corner where it doesn’t hurt so much. I can have days now where I almost feel normal even. Days that I can almost forget it happened. That’s progress for sure. And I am thankful for that. There are also still the moments when the reality of it hits me. That he was kissing someone else. Holding her, touching her, being intimate with her. Telling her he loved her. I think about the first time he came home late. Before all this started, he never came home late. I remember I had cooked a nice meal. I made his plate expecting him any minute. He didn’t show up and I texted him. No response. The food was getting cold. The girls and I ate without him. I remember feeling uneasy. Not that it occurred to me to worry he was with someone else. I mean, I’m sure it occurred to me, but not in a serious sense, not in a way that it was anything I actually thought he would do. Just uneasy because he wasn’t ever late and I couldn’t get in touch with him.
I wrapped up his food. In reality, he was not working late. He had walked out on time, walked to the parking lot, and instead of getting in his car and coming home to me, he made the decision to follow through with an invitation to meet her in her car. He told me his replacement showed up late so he couldn’t leave. He lied to me like it was easy. Why was it so easy? And then the why’s start pouring in. Coursing through my mind like river rapids, each turn bringing another unanswerable why. I have to be careful to not be carried away with the why’s. The why’s suck me into a dark place and if I’m not careful I could drown in them. Because there are no real answers to the why’s. And even if there were, there are no answers that would be justified, or make sense of any of it. I have to let go of the why’s. There are no explanations of why that could take away the pain, or make it hurt any less. And focusing on answering an unanswerable question brings nothing but torment. So I HAVE to let go of the why’s.
Those moments when it all catches up with me and I break down are hard. But they are also important. Important because I do get through them. Because I can beat them. Because I know God is bigger than my bad days. Because I know that I went a little bit longer this time between bad days. Because I know better days are ahead. And because every time I break down, I see my pain reflected in Jeff’s eyes. I see his remorse, I see how much his heart breaks that he broke mine. And that helps me heal.
So, yes, there’s just been something about Mondays. And I don’t like it. I don’t like where it takes me. I don’t like that it brings me anxiety on a night that is supposed to be relaxing and fun. So, from this day forward, I’m taking Mondays back. That’s how I move forward. I identify the things that bring the bad thoughts. I allow myself the necessary moments to grieve. I purge it out. I find the patterns. Then I fight. I fight to take it back. To reclaim my days. To reclaim my sanity. To reclaim my joy.
One day at a time.

Amy Thurston Gordy