Well, we’re halfway through (March 2017) the 90 day therapeutic separation. I thought it would be a good idea to give a little update because God has been doing some big stuff, moving mountains everywhere we look! We ended up changing a few of the parameters to the plan after about a week. I’d like to explain those changes and then get to telling you about some of those big ole mountains God has been moving.
Part One – Growing Faith
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold. Though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. 1 Peter 1:6-7
You Must Endure Trials for a Little While
On day one of the separation my love moved out of our house and into a spare bedroom at his parents’ house. The original plan was that we would have no contact (other than texting for things like who would pick the kids up from where and all that) for the first 30 days. Well, after only a few days we both found ourselves really questioning that particular aspect of the agreement, but because we couldn’t talk neither of us knew about the other’s misgivings.
I had started reading, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, which helped clear up a lot of questions I had been having about our situation and my role in it. At the same time, I was digging through the Word of God looking for direction, and praying like crazy for His help. I asked God to give me His wisdom and I asked for His purposes to prevail. Little did I know, my love was doing the same thing.
A few days later happened to be my birthday. It was a miserable day. All I wanted was to see my love; to talk to him. I wanted to spend my birthday with my best friend; the other half of me!
I cried to my God and told him all about my broken heart.
Wouldn’t you know, that very night, as my husband was doing his laundry (for the first time in his life) our washing machine (which had been on the fritz for a while) bit the dust. We needed to replace it as soon as possible. We considered a complicated scenario of back and forth in which we could somehow come to an agreement through text, but that was absurd.
We decided that this was an extenuating circumstance and we would just go to the store together and pick something out. We’re still a team and we needed to do this together. It was a precious birthday present from God and I cherished every second!
There is Wonderful Joy Ahead
Apart from granting my birthday wish, this also gave us the opportunity to talk about how things were going for us.
As I began to tell him about some of my concerns, such relief swept across his face. He told me that he too had been uncomfortable with our not being able to see each other, but hadn’t felt like he should say anything.
We decided to take that night and the next day to pray and seek God on our own. We decided to each make a list with the objectives we hoped to achieve as a result of the separation and whether each of those objectives would be better served if we did or did not have contact. The next evening we met again to discuss what we had come up with. It was amazing how much we had agreed upon in those lists. We both felt strongly that God was leading us to change the separation agreement, but wanted to run it by our kids and his parents and our accountability partners first.
We came up with a new plan in which we would divide the 90 days into two 45 day sections instead of three 30 day sections. During the first 45 days he would stay at his parents’ house but we would have contact as if we were dating. (Just like the second phase of our original plan) During the last 45 days he would move back into the house, but we would remain in separate rooms.
We talked to the kids that night, and the others the next day. Everyone was on board with the new plan. In fact, several of them voiced that they had been having some of the same misgivings we had. What an answer to prayer! So we changed our plan and plowed ahead.
And now, here we are, more than halfway through. My love moved back into the house on Sunday, and I am 100% sure we made the right choice!
Your Growing Faith is Being Tested as Fire Tests and Purifies Gold
So here is what God has been doing in my life over the past 45 days:
This separation was something I don’t think we would ever have done if we hadn’t gone to the particular week long Intensive that we did, and it has turned out to be one of the most healing things we could have possibly done. For that I am so grateful!
Even though we ended up disagreeing with much of the council that was given and forging our own path forward (with God’s help, of course) I still believe that God led us to that intensive and used it to accomplish His will.
I didn’t think that I wanted a separation. I didn’t think we needed a separation. I had no idea how freeing it would be for me to get a little space from my love, to get alone with God and just heal.
I hadn’t realized how traumatizing our intimacy had become for me. To not even have to think about that; to not have to worry about how I was going to keep my thoughts from all the horrors of what my love had done with others while trying to be loving and intimate with him was like taking the weight of the world from my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe again.
I spent hours every night alone with God; reading the Word and writing, writing, writing. I talked and talked to God. I cried. A lot. I read some books. I played some games on my phone. I took a bath or two and cried some more.
I started to heal.
About two weeks into the separation we finally got the results back from the Psychological Testing we had done during our intensive. These tests revealed that I had a minor case of an Anxiety Disorder I now know to be betrayal trauma induced PTSD, and a severe case of Major Depression.
The councilor strongly recommended that I get to a doctor as soon as possible and get on some medication to help break me free from these conditions. He explained that both were simply a result of the extended time I had spent under the stress of our relationship and that I would most likely only need to be on medication for 6 months to a year. This medication would help reset my brain chemistry. It would allow my body to break the destructive cycles of chemical production caused by a constant state of fear and uncertainty. I quickly made an appointment with our family Doctor and got on an SSRI.
The first week or so on the new med was rough. I experienced a lot of side effects that were pretty miserable. But I also felt something changing in me. It was really subtle at first, but with each day it grew stronger and stronger. By the end of the second week the side effects had pretty much gone away and I felt like a new person!
The sense of doom and overwhelming defeat that had been with me for so long was almost gone. I started to see glimpses of the fun, fiery, motivated, optimistic encourager I thought had died many years ago. I heard myself laugh one day and thought, “Goodness, that’s a sound that’s been missing from our home for too long!”
Don’t get me wrong, I was still sad. The things that have happened to me are sad. I am going to mourn what has been lost for a long time. But I was just sad. I was just mourning. It wasn’t WHO I was anymore. It was just what I felt.
I suddenly knew I could get out of bed in the morning and face my day. I suddenly knew I wanted to be alive and to participate in the world around me. I suddenly knew that God really was enough and that even if my marriage failed I could be okay. I could not just survive, but I could thrive in Him.
I had always known that was true, but now I really believed it, deep down in the part of myself that really matters. I honestly wish I had gone on these meds a very long time ago.
Your Growing Faith is Far More Precious than Mere Gold
As all of this was happening to me, I also had the privilege of watching God make my husband into a new man. This was a long awaited answer to hours upon hours of fervent prayer!
Over the years of our marriage, as I have slowly learned more and more of the truth about the darkness that held my love in captivity, I have fallen on my face before God time and time again. I have pleaded with Him for my love. I have shed buckets of tears before the throne of my Gracious God. I have prayed scripture upon scripture over our marriage and over my husband.
God has been so faithful in all of it and He has filled me with a supernatural love for this man that I married. A love that I believe could only come from Him, because it is a love far beyond what I am capable of. I am far too sinful.
It is the Holy Spirit within me that has produced this strong and precious faith. This faith that makes me more wealthy than any riches ever could. This faith that is healing me.
Part Two – Moving Mountains
“Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, ‘Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?’
‘You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.
Nothing would be impossible.'” – Matthew 17:19-21
Why Couldn’t We Cast Out that Demon?
Once again, I feel I must set the stage a bit to properly tell this story. As I mentioned before, back at the end of January when we did our week long intensive, we were given a few tests that would reveal whether there were any deeper psychological issues that either of us were dealing with. When the results came back we learned some pretty major things about both me and my love. I told you about my anxiety and depression yesterday. What we learned about my husband was a little more serious.
The testing showed that my love has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, (GAD) which manifests itself in him primarily through a compulsive twitch, a severe lack of focus, and obsessive compulsive thoughts and habits. It also revealed a full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (If you would like to know more about that, the Mayo Clinic’s website is a great resource.) This means, more or less, that his perception of the world is distorted to include only him. Beyond that, he also had some traits and tendencies from a few other Cluster B Personality Disorders. When we first learned this information it was kind of scary. We both felt a little overwhelmed by the information and worried about what it meant for our future.
This is where the councilor we had seen offered a great deal of help. He put these disorders into perspective in light of God’s word. He said he believes understanding our personality disorders is really just a way of pinning down our own specific sin natures.
The Holy Spirit has the power to overcome any sin nature when it is surrendered at the foot of the cross, and covered by the blood of Christ! There is plenty of hope for anyone who is seeking and following Him.
The reason these issues had become such a problem for my husband is that he was not seeking and following God. He had lived his life in rebellion; running from God far more than surrendering to Him. He’d been silencing his “conscience” or the Holy Spirit rather than obeying those urgings and convictions, preventing God from growing faith in his life. He had made a real mess!
But our God is a God of second (and third and fourth and fifth…) chances! He is slow to anger and abounding in love, not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Praise God, that is finally what happened.
My love looked honestly at his sin, agreed with God about what it was, and began the process of genuine repentance. He started doing the slow and difficult work of identifying, surrendering, and breaking old habits. It is work that he will have to continue to do for the rest of his life, but as he is obedient, God is so faithful. And as my love is overwhelmed by the miraculous work of God, growing faith in him, it gives him the motivation he needs to keep doing that work and to never look back.
If You Had Faith Even As Small as a Mustard Seed
There were two steps my husband decided to take right from the get-go of this separation that were intended to both deepen his relationship with God and tear down the massive idol of self he had built through the years. He would get up early in the morning, drive to the house, and make our kids’ lunches for them and then hang out with the two older ones until they left for school. Then he would spend the next 45 minutes before our youngest one gets up reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping God. After our youngest got up, he would spend some time with him and then take him to school.
You see, I am a night owl. We both are, but probably me more than him. I despise the morning and I love staying up late. I read my Bible before I go to bed because that is when my mind is alive and ready to engage with God. When I’ve tried to do a morning Bible study in the past it has always been very fruitless because my mind is so numb at that time.
So, when my husband started doing daily Bible study he just did it at the same time I did even though he thought morning would serve him better. As we started this separation he started to think for himself though. He started to seek God on his own and not look to me to show him the way. As he did, it became clear to him that he needed to start his day off in the Word. He realized he needed to focus his mind first thing each morning on God and on His Truth; to seek God first in order to ensure that the day progressed according to His will.
And since he also wanted to find a way to sacrificially serve me and the kids, he suggested that I start sleeping in and let him take care of getting the kids off to school. He knew how much I hate getting up early and he figured he was probably capable of making some sandwiches.
I know these two things seem like such small steps, but for my love they were huge. He was stepping out in obedience, not because I told him he should, but because God told him he should and He was finally listening. It was a mustard seed sized act of faith and it moved mountains!
You Could Say to this Mountain, “Move…” And it Would Move
Those 45 minutes alone with God each morning have been absolutely transformational to my love.
He has always been a little intimidated by my relationship with God. He knows how clearly God speaks to me through His Word and that was something he couldn’t relate to. But when his conscience was clear, and when his sins had been confessed and forgiven, he began to hear that still small voice too!
The first few tastes of that kind of a relationship ignited a hunger in him that had never been there before. He wanted to know God, to really love Him and to experience all the joy and peace that comes from a deep and intimate relationship with his Lord and Savior.
He has been devouring the Word of God and it is feeding his soul and changing him from the inside out!
What’s funny is, our Bible study plan landed us in the end of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers as well as through the gospels throughout these 45 days. Y’all those are some of the most difficult parts of the Bible to get through! And yet, for my love it came alive! With this new hunger he had for the Word, he saw things in those passages that blew me away. As he shared daily with me what God was teaching him I was overwhelmed! What an answer to prayer! (I will probably dedicate a few posts in the next few months to some of the specifics of what he has shared with me about what he’s learning. So stay tuned! It’s some good stuff!)
As I mentioned yesterday, after receiving the news about my depression I quickly went on an SSRI to help correct the physiological problems in my brain. Well, since we had learned that my love suffered from GAD he too went on the same SSRI. We were both a little skeptical about that diagnosis. He just didn’t fit the mold we had in our heads of an anxiety disorder. He had never even had a panic attack.
But just like me, after a few days on those meds he started to notice some subtle changes. His ability to focus on a given task began to improve immensely. He suddenly was getting so much work done. Where before he would find himself getting “stuck” for days as he tried to complete projects, now he could start and finish the same project in only a few hours.
But the biggest, most encouraging difference was that he felt completely in control of his mind. Gone were the overwhelming feelings of defeat when temptations entered his mind. He could confidently capture those thoughts and surrender them to Christ. He could turn one hundred and eighty degrees and think about something else. Something good.
I believe God had waited until my love was repentant and surrendered to reveal this physiological issue to us. Once his heart was seeking restoration and redemption, God opened our eyes to this problem and offered a simple answer. Had he gone on the meds years ago, before he was surrendered and repentant, I don’t think it would have offered quite the same results.
God’s timing is perfect. I am so glad He’s in control! He works all things together for our good while somehow offering us freewill at the same time. It is the kind of unfathomable power that makes Him God and us not. I am in awe of Him!
Nothing (Not Even Moving Mountains) Would Be Impossible
Friends, I do not want to minimize the mountain of work that lies ahead of us. Narcissism and the other Cluster B personality disorders are very serious, very daunting issues to overcome! The more I read about them, though, the more I am convinced that the reason secular psychology offers so little hope to those who suffer from these disorders is because without God there really is so little hope!
The only solution is surrender.
The only hope is the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit.
My love is surrendered! My love is indwelled by the One who holds that redemptive power! Those mountains are moving, and I am trusting God to throw them into the depths of the sea! We are going to spend the rest of our lives doing the work to overcome these mountains as God leads us.
We are going to heal.
God is going to make something new and beautiful out of the ashes of our marriage.
It’s going to be miraculous!
NOTHING will be impossible!
Hi Cherith. I stumbled upon your post,when I recently found out my husband has being cheating on me for years with my maids. We’ve being married 6yrs now.
The hurt and sense of betrayal is beyond words. We are about going to see my church counsellors.
I’m believing, what the devil planned for evil, My God will turn it around for good. Thankyou for sharing your experience
So sorry to hear this Chinenye. How heartbreaking! I pray first that your husband will come to repentance but even more, that God will indeed use this for good in your life, no matter what happens with your husband.
I just found your posts and they are so encouraging!
I was wondering though, with the narcissistic traits, how long did it take for your husband to become obviously repentant? Mine is doing therapies and church and making efforts to spend time with us again… but with his emotional issues, narcissistic selfishness, years of lying to us, and recovering from drug use… his lack of empathy and his defensiveness makes his repentance seem insincere. I see that he is making efforts to “fix” himself to change these learned traits… but it feels… small. Am I expecting too much too soon? Or is he just not as invested and repentant as he should be for God to heal all of this? I honestly have nothing to compare him to other than myself, and I am HIGHLY empathetic and feel/do things very differently than him!
Hi LeeAnn, these are really tough questions that can’t really be answered easily. There isn’t a set timetable. But, if there is true repentance and a person is surrendered to the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit, there will be noticeable fruit. I would be happy to talk with you personally to help you sort through this with Scripture. Feel free to contact me anytime, and we can set up a zoom or just chat through email. Contact me at email@example.com