Dirty Little Secrets
Today, eleven years ago, I married my best friend. As we celebrate our anniversary I (Christina) am reflective on our path, our walk with God in this marriage He blessed us with.
Three years ago we started down a path of self-awareness. Something I was used to in life being the daughter of a marriage and family counselor. I worked on my husband for years, “training” him to be more self-aware. I just knew one day all my work would come to fruition and he would be “fixed”. Funny thing, though, the more we try to fix people the less likely they are to change. Equally so, the more I try to fix people the less likely I am to change. People are funny. We think we have so much control over others, over ourselves. But the control does not lie within us.
Three years ago, we sat in church on a Sunday. This was normal. But the message for the morning was far beyond “normal”. We were in the midst of what our church likes to call CR Weekend. Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a faith based recovery group for all of life’s “Hurts, Habits and Hang-Ups”. We sat and watched person after person come to the stage and tell their story of a broken life that was restored by the hands of God. They were changed and we were moved.
That afternoon, standing in our kitchen, Nathaniel delivered life changing, marriage altering news. He was a porn addict.
I stood there watching him, listening to his words. And then I said, “Okay, what are we going to do about it?” I was fully prepared to walk this road with him. This looked like a road to self-awareness and I was well versed in this. I was ready. He was shocked. He was unprepared for my acceptance. I think he must have expected me to fly off the handle, over-react and break out into a tirade. When I reacted with the opposite response of his expectation he was thrown for a loop. Momentarily. And then he told me he wanted to go to Celebrate Recovery which gathered together the following night. I agreed to go because I was going to stand by my husband. We walked in holding hands.
Throughout these last three years people ask me repeatedly, “Weren’t you mad?” and “Didn’t you feel like he has been cheating on you?” My answer to both was and is, no. I just wasn’t. I never saw his desire to sneak peeks at dirty movies as cheating; I saw it as an addiction. Perhaps I was blessed to see it that way and not as a personal slight because my dad has been a recovering alcoholic for over 30 years. I saw Nathaniel’s porn problem as an overwhelming, life consuming, shame filled dirty little secret he was beyond pained to hold on to. But, I also saw it as an open door and humble connection he was willing to share with me. He wanted God in the lead instead of himself and he wanted me on the path with him. He did not want me to fix him; he just wanted me to hold his hand. And I did. I still do.
We have met so many couples who struggle with porn, so many bitter, angry, sad women and so many troubled, stuck, sad men. The commonality between them is not their sadness it is their separateness, neither being willing to be on the same page, with each other, and for each other, let alone with God at the helm.
God used pornography in our marriage as a conduit. God had our hearts and souls and minds. But He wanted more from us. God wanted our secrets. God wanted to be at the forefront of our self-awareness as a couple. God wanted our trust with our problems.
Through all this I have heard many stories from my sweet husband, stories that would make you blush, feel bitter, or feel angry. Mostly, I just felt sad with him. I felt his pain and embarrassment. And I also felt his desire to change. Not for me, not because I was so skilled in therapy or motivation, and not because I bullied him into change. But, I felt his desire to change because he was ready to be open and honest with not just me, but with God and himself.
He often shares his story with pornography in social settings that most would find awkward for such a conversation, like dinner parties or local baseball games. The more I watch this man share himself, the more I see God in him. My mother once had a dream that Nathaniel was a golden lion, much like Aslan in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. This dream was about three years ago. And it is with great pride that I stand side by side with my lion as he leads people to God with his tales of pornography.