addiction, My Story, Uncategorized

One Year Ago…

I have been a hot mess this week.  Lot’s of crying, anxiety, panic, and fear.  I feel as if I have been sent back to where I was over a year ago, to relive it all over again. I couldn’t figure out why until I stopped to think about it.  You may not remember traumatic events, but your body knows.  Your body remembers EVERYTHING that ever happened to you.  I am learning this from doing emotional healing through the “Emotion Code.” (BTW, I highly recommend it!) My body remembered it was the 1st Anniversary of my divorce long before my mind remembered it, and my body has been sending out distress signals.

“Danger! Danger!”

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This is so distressing to remember because it is something I never wanted.  I would have never imagined that I would ever file for a divorce.  Ever!  I loved my husband. I still do, the old him, anyway, the him he was before he cheated on me.

I hated it that he cheated on me and kept his addiction hidden for so long, it had been going on for over a year before I discovered it.  I hated it that he lied to me, over and over and over and over. I hated it that he pretended to be a loving husband and father when he wasn’t. I hated everything about what happened after I discovered his multiple online affairs. But I learned enough from when he did this the first time, yes it happened more than once, that he had an addiction.  So I was “prepared” somewhat, and it was always in my mindset, after I got over the inital hurt and shock, that we would work it out, and, eventually, we would be back together.  I love him.  I want him back.  I will always love him and want him back.  When I married him he was the choice of my heart and the love of my life!  He was everything to me! Not the “him” he is today, but the “him” he was before all of this happened. I want my family back.  I will never stop wanting my family back together.  That is who I am.  My family means everything to me! It always will.  If I could have my heart’s desire, it would to be with him again.  I will always wish that. He is NOT who his addiction has made him to be. I am not angry with him for having an addiction.  I am angry with him for not admitting it and getting help. I am angry he refused to fix himself! Had he done that, he would still be married to me.

This is the thing about these addicted men that I do not get!  Most wives are so willing to forgive!  Too willing sometimes. They want to work it out.  I have only personally met one woman who did not.  Guys!  Your wives are more forgiving than you could ever imagine! For crying out loud, give us a chance!  All you have to do is admit you have a problem and get help, and you could have everything you ever wanted.  Why in the world would you not choose to get into recovery and stay there?

Therein is the real tragedy of addiction! Sadly, my story is not unique.  It plays out in the same way in thousands of marriages and families all over the world.  Addicts simply do not see they have a problem! The denial is slaying the hearts of wives and destroying families right and left! My story is only one of many.  What makes me unique is that I am among the few who are willing, or able, to step out into the sunlight and expose our common experiences for all those women who cannot because of shame, guilt, or to protect themselves. their children, or their husbands.  My ex-husband lost my protection when he withdrew his protection from me.

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The two years we were separated were nothing short of a neverending nightmare I could not wake up from.  His infidelities pale in comparison to what he did to me during those next two years.  The several therapists I have seen all say, I was emotionally tortured. The same way a POW is tortured when captured by the enemy. So much so that I ended up with PTSD, or betrayal trauma.  Mine is a pretty severe case.  I suppose that is partly my fault, because I let him torture me far longer than I should have.  I wanted to give him every opportunity, every chance I could, to come back.  I wanted him to choose me.  I wanted him to fight for me, for our family.  I had EVERY faith in him that he would…eventually…If I just gave him enough time…I told myself.  Boy, was I ever wrong. This time, being wrong, nearly cost me my life.

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That is the funny thing about agency, no matter what you want, you cannot make another person want the same thing.  I could not make him choose me.  He had to decide that for himself.  And I had to decide how long I would allow him to abuse me over it. He had the power to make his own choices, but I learned that I could choose too.  I could choose how long I would allow him to continue to cheat, lie, and abuse me.  Over those two years, I begged him to get into recovery.  He would not. He said he would.  But it never materialized into anything other than words.  I used to be able to take him at his word, so it was hard for me to understand why this time was any different.  I wanted so much to believe him! I even set up appointments, I paid for his counseling,  I followed up with his Bishop, I tried talking to his counselors. I begged. I pleaded. Nothing worked.  His final analysis was that he did not have an addiction, and I was crazy for thinking he did.  He was even angry at me for trying to seek help for us, and he drug his feet and belittled me for my efforts. But, in spite of his resentment of me, I would put myself out there for him to come back to me again and again, and each time I would discover another affair.

All in all, six women, contacted me (there were others I didn’t know about at the time) during those two years to let me know he was cheating on me with them.  Why?  Because he was cheating on them too!  It seems cheaters don’t like to be cheated on, so they’ll go tell the wife to get back at them.  These contacts were humiliating and excruciating.  I learned, over time, I couldn’t trust ANYTHING he said to me.  It is horrific not to be able to trust the one man you relied on to protect you from all harm.  He became so unsafe for me because of his lying.  I could deal with the truth easier than the lies. A lie comes out of nowhere and slaps you in the face, you do not see it coming. When the truth is exposed and out in the open, you can see it and deal with it.  With truth you can fix any problem.  When there is no truth, it becomes impossible to fix anything.

My therapist told me at the time, that a man has two tongues, one in his mouth and one on his shoes. He advised me that I was to stop listening to the one in his mouth, and just pay attention to the one on his shoes.  In other words, I needed to just watch what he does.  I needed to see if his walk matched his talk.  It did not. The proof was in his actions not his words. It took paying attention to his actions, and not listening to him,  for me to really see what was in his heart. It was shocking for me to wake up to the reality that he did not really want me anymore. He liked his life of addiction more than he wanted me. That was something that had never crossed my mind before, and it was devasating to see the truth of it.

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This is where I found myself last April.  Between the man I love, and his lies.  There is no more unsettling or profound “rock and a hard place” scenario. I was already unbelievably fragile.  The October before, I was so messed up from his crazymaking that I could see no way out, other than to take my own life.  Luckily, I took myself to the hospital instead, where the doctor said I needed a long vacation, so I took a cruise.  That turned out to be the best advice I had ever gotten from a doctor.  It saved me and gave me some peace and perspective I so desperately needed. My husband never believed I was in such a dire situation.  He still doesn’t. He was mad at me for going on the cruise over his birthday. Nevermind that my life hung in the balance. He has no clue what his addiction has done to my mental, emotional, or physical health.  He doesn’t care either. Someday, probably judgment day, he will know, and he will care. That day is a day of clarity that I am looking forward to witnessing.

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The impact of the behaviors of my husband’s addiction left me in “fight, flight or freeze” mode 24/7.  I lived, trapped, in this space for those two years we were separated as I was being whipped around between lies and more lies, deceit and what someone referred to as the “mindf**kery” (sorry, there is no other way to describe it) that comes from constant gaslighting. My adrenal glands were shot.  I lived in a heightened state of danger that never eased up. Imagine being caged with a hungry lion that you know wants to eat you, it’s only a matter of time, you don’t know how or when, but you know you will be eaten alive eventually, that is the kind of fear I am talking about. “Fight for your life” kind of fear!

I never knew when another woman would come out of the woodwork. I never knew when he was seeing someone else or sleeping with them when he should have been with me. My heart raced. My mind was in hyper-drive. My breathing was shallow or heavy, my resting pulse was 107, I couldn’t eat or sleep, throwing up and diarrhea were constant companions.  In short, I was a wreck. I could not calm my body down! A person cannot survive in this condition for very long.  I am surprised I survived two years of it.  My reserves were, by now, past empty, and I knew I could not go on like this for much longer.  So I finally laid down a strong boundary.  I asked my husband to come up with a plan for how he was going to provide me with enough safety and connection so that I could move back home with him.  I knew if we were going to save our marriage and family we needed a plan. I wanted to move back in with him and it was taking way too long! He didn’t like any of my plans and refused to even entertain them, so the most logical thing to do was for him to come up with his own plan.  I was prepared to do whatever he decided, within reason. I gave him 3 weeks to come up with a plan.  If, after 3 weeks, he still did not have a plan, then I would file for a divorce. I was done being the mouse in his endless game of cat and mouse.

Three weeks passed.  There was no plan.  I knew I couldn’t keep giving him chances that he only squandered, I didn’t have the bandwidth, so I filed for the divorce.  I was heartbroken.  Inconsoleable. It is the most devastating feeling I will ever know – having my husband, with 38 years of life, love, and history together, not choose me.  I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind or rejection.  It is a betrayal of love that was worse than his cheating on me. Pure anguish of body, mind, and spirit.

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“I don’t know if I will ever get over that kind of rejection.”

Then, to my shock and amazement, he turned around and blamed it ALL on me!  He said, I am the one who wanted the divorce, I filed for it, it was my choice. He really thinks this. Talk about adding insult to injury?  How he could come to this conclusion is a mystery to me, and always will be.  All I can do is to chalk it up to “addict brain.”  Addicts have no ability to employ logic or reason, that part of their brain is swiss cheese.  You know what I mean if you have ever talked to an addict for more than 5 minutes.  Their grasp of reality is just nonexistent. It’s pure nonsense!

Not wanting to really give up on him, I continued to give him even more chances that he refused to take. There was a part of me that kept believing that he would come around. I would go through with the divorce, but I was also willing to work on our relationship while we went through the 90-day waiting period, but I needed to see real improvement! It was my intention to stop the divorce if he showed any real progress, and I told him this.  I learned later that he had already just moved on.  He was dating other women and going to singles activities before the divorce was even final. Not knowing what he was really doing, I even felt that if he got into recovery that I would, and could, marry him again! However, he never had any intention of choosing me or our family.  I was to find out how totally he was willing to toss us all aside when he remarried 6 months later.  It seems I made the right decision, as excruciating as it was at the time.  His addiction killed any love or connection he may have had for me and our children. He never really tried. It was easier for him to go find someone else than to do the work to save his life-long marriage.  Porn really does kill love. That is not some cutsie slogan.  It’s real.

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As for me, I have been in an emotional and relational “time out” for the last 2 1/2 years. I need to be healthy enough, and recovered enough, to even consider being in a stable relationship with anyone. When all of this began I believed that I would never marry again.  I still do not know if I will.  But now I am at a place in my healing where I am willing to entertain the idea.  I started going to single adult activities in my church, at least.  I even signed up for an online dating site.  I am slightly overwhelmed by the reaction I got.  Within the first 2 hours I had over 250 views on my profile and 65 messages in my inbox.  It seems that some men, think I am a catch!  It was a much-needed boost to my self-esteem.  I have yet to go on any dates, not that I haven’t been asked. ( One guy even wanted to take me to Italy to meet his Mom!)  I figure I can afford to be very, very picky.  When the right man comes along, I will know it.

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A sign that I was healing is that I have gotten my intuition back, I missed being able to trust my instincts.  It serves me well.  I am still working my recovery everyday; I see a therapist weekly, have EMDR sessions, I go to 12-steps, I attend classes, and I will continue to do so for as long as it takes.  I am moving towards becoming the person I was always meant to be.  I study my scripture daily and pray earnestly, relying solely on Him who is mighty to save.  Little by little, I am healing. (One day I will write a book about my experiences.) Sometimes it feels like I take two steps forward, and one step backward, but the direction is what matters, not the speed.  I am still working hard at self-care.  I need to be gentle with myself.  I have been in an emotional war for my heart, mind, body, and soul. I am battle weary. I still get bombed by my ex from time to time, but he no longer has the power over me he used to enjoy. I mostly feel sorry for him that he is still stuck in his unhealthy behaviors, and an unhealthy relationship.

Ultimately, what I am most proud of myself for, during this experience, is that I never lost my core values or beliefs.  I stayed true to myself.  I stayed true to the Lord.  I stayed true to the church.  I kept my covenants. And, to me, those are the greatest accomplishments of all! Too many women do not make it out of the hell-hole of addiction with their integrity intact. I am one of the lucky ones, and I understand this.  I used to want to just wash away all of the pain in drugs or drinking, but I knew if I went there it would never stop, and ultimately, it would not slove anything. But I get it. I get why addiction destroys both the husband and the wife.  It is devastating for families, and children are the ulitmate victims.

Once I realized what was happening to my body this week, I was able to employ my tools of recovery and get my emotions, and my body back on track. “Earth body – Body body – Mind body” as my yoga instructor likes to say – all in alignment. I will be forever grateful that I chose recovery for myself, and for those people who helped me, and continue to help me, you know who you are! It has made all the difference in my healing. The next step on my journey is to recover my physical health.  I am looking forward to being a much smaller, healthier version of myself this time next year!  Best of all, I have a swelling of optimism growing in my heart.  I am starting to look forward to the next day, and what the future might hold. That is a new thing for me. Good things are starting to happen! I am reclaiming myself.  I am reclaiming my life.  Addiction may have destroyed my husband and our marriage, but it did not destroy me. Here is to a better year! It is more than about time, it’s past due.

“Stay Sweet, Be Strong”

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betrayal, Trauma Recovery, Uncategorized

Everything Does NOT Happen for a Reason, So Stop Saying That!

“Well, everything happens for a reason.” My friend says with a sigh.

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I know she means well. The comment is meant to bring me comfort, and help her feel that she is connecting with my pain, on some level. It is the sort of thing people say when they don’t know what to say. But this is an assumption that doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t make someone experiencing the grief of a tragedy feel any better.

I recently read an article that more closely resembled my feelings that ‘not everything happens for a reason’ and some things are just senseless. I was able to codify my feelings in my therapist’s office last week so I will share them with you now. I told her how this comment really upsets me when anyone says it, to anyone. Her response both surprised me and helped me to connect with her. She gets me.

“I know! People used to say that to me too and it made me so mad! This did not happen for a reason!”

Yes! Bingo!

Someone cheating on you over and over doesn’t happen by some grand design meant to make you a “stronger person.” Like my therapist said, “I was a good person already, I would have ‘gotten there’ on my own! I didn’t need this to make me a better person!”

Yeah. Me too.

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Self improvement is my middle name. I am the sort of person who sets goals, and achieves them. I read self-help books. All the time. I want to be better, to do better, at my core. I believe in becoming. It’s in my DNA. It is who I am. I didn’t need some bonehead dumping my world upside down to accomplish what I was already in the process of doing. In many ways, he derailed me, and set me back…years. What I needed was a committed companion to take my hand and help me on my journey. I needed love and support. I needed to be nourished, not hit upside the head with a two by four. I needed to feel connected to my core foundation, my primary relationship attachment.  My husband. Not to suffer atrocities of his own making.

There is no doubt that I will learn some lessons along the way.  There are lessons to be learned in every experience. I do not want to discount this. But betrayal? Infidelity? PTSD? Shock? Grief? Are these the lessons I really needed to learn to grow as a person? Did I need this? Really? Was this somehow a part of God grand design for me? No. Absolutely not! I do not believe this for a minute. It is milarky.

Let’s talk about the suffering of the innocent. Shall we?

Every person on this earth will suffer needlessly at the hand of some careless idiot. Or worse. Someone who is evil at their core. We see it happen everyday. Mass shootings, betrayal, assault, abuse and exploitation, to name a few. All of these things are hideous and senseless. They should not happen. Ever!

But they do. The Lord knew this and he provided for it. Bad things happen because Heavenly Father values agency above nearly everything else. The freedom to choose is paramount to our salvation. We have to be FREE to CHOOSE HIM…or no. Because of this, some people’s choices hurt other people. Profoundly. But I do not believe these lapses in judgment are somehow part of God’s grand design. No. If it were so, I would be experiencing a crisis of faith, because that would mean that God is not loving, but punitive. He would be rightly accused of picking winners and losers among His children. Playing favorites. That is not the kind of God I could trust with my pain.

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But I have it on good authority that God is as upset as I am over the abuses I have suffered at the hands of my ex-husband. Alma teaches this principle very plainly in the Book of Mormon.

Alma and Amulek were missionaries who experienced great success. So much so, that the government rulers were angry at the faithfulness of the people Alma and Amulek converted. The rulers decided that if these new converts did not denounce their new-found religion they would kill all their wives and children, and throw scriptures in a fire with them for good measure. And to make it all the more evil, they would make these faithful men watch it all! How horrific. I can think of very few things that are worse than this. The Lord is very clear in showing this example how he feels. Causing others to suffer because of their wickedness is not acceptable to Him! It isn’t part of HIS plan! It is outrageous!

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Evidently, that is how Amulek reacted as well, and he wants Alma to stop this atrocity. He knew that the power of God could stop it! But Alma is restrained from stopping it by the Spirit, and he explains why:

“The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” Alma 14:11

In other words, the Lord allow bad things to happen to good people so that He can justify punishing the bad people. It was explained to me this way –  If someone wants to kill their brother but never does it, they could say to God at the judgment day, “Well, I never actually did it. No crime was committed.” Even if God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart, he has no proof of the desires of the wicked brother because he was never allowed to act on the intent of his heart. But, if on the other hand, the evil brother acts out his wicked desires, boom! He is so guilty! God is justified and his punishement is just.

So the awful things humans do to each other are not part of God’s grand design. They are the consequences of the agency of another person. AND it allows God to justly punish the wicked.

God did not do this to me to teach me some cosmic lesson. He allowed my ex-husband to do this to me so that He would be justified in punishing him, should my ex never repent. My ex HAS acted out the evil in his heart. Now his job is to turn away from what he did and REPAIR the damage – four fold. (See D&C 98:44-45) If he doesn’t, the consequences for him will not be pretty. Justice will be served up.  Eventually.

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As for me, Heavenly Father has my back. He is giving me all the help and comfort I need right now to get past this, not so I can learn some unfair lesson, but so I can heal from experiencing something I never deserved. Yes, I will end up being a better person for it, maybe, because that is how I roll. But too many people who go through things equally frightful, or worse, and they won’t  be better for it, because it destroys them. Utterly and completely destroyed. Being destroyed doesn’t make you a better person. Suffering at the hands of someone you loved so deeply isn’t a life lesson that improves you. It changes you. Forever.  And not always for the better.  Betrayal isn’t a classroom the Lord uses to school his children. So please, don’t say this to your family and friends who suffer at the hands of a wicked person’s heart. It’s not true. And it certainly isn’t helpful.

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

addiction, betrayal, repentance, Uncategorized

Real Men Don’t Cheat! Or How to Become a Real Man Again if You Do..

Love is a choice not a feeling.  Think about it for just a minute.  When you love someone you choose to commit to them. You choose to serve them.  You choose to have their safety and best interests at heart.  You choose to walk life’s journey with them.  Romanitic love is a flash in the pan.  It is what get’s the process of love started.  After that, love is a thousand steps through life with that person you chose to go through life with.  Like President Monson said,

“Choose a companion carefully and prayerfully; and when you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another. Priceless advice comes from a small framed plaque I once saw in the home of an uncle and aunt. It read, ‘Choose your love; love your choice.’ There is great wisdom in those few words. Commitment in marriage is absolutely essential.”
-President Thomas S. Monson.

You choose to love someone. You choose to be faithful to them, or not.  When a man chooses a woman he is taking on a sacred responsibility to care for her, to protect her, to provide for her – to love her. For his entire life. Real men know how to make important choices and how to honor them.

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I don’t buy the excuses.  “I just fell out of love.”  It is a lame excuse and is nothing more than a flimsy paper cup that cannot not hold water when these conmen have to tell it to the all-seeing gaze of the ultimate judge. God will not be mocked. Period.  The covenant of marriage is serious business, it deserves serious work and commitment. Real men do not make lame excuses.  Real men honor their covenants. Real men don’t cheat.

“I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.”
-President Gordon B. Hinckley

When a man’s focus is  on the anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of his spouse he will simply not be of a mind to stray.  It is only when he takes his focus off of her and puts it on other things, is when he allows his mind to drift into forbidden paths.

“Being happily and successfully married is generally not so much a matter of marrying the right person as it is being the right person.”
-President Howard W. Hunter

When a man cheats it says so much more about his character, discipline, and focus than it does about his wife’s.  When he cheats it says he is not a man of commitment, responsibility or integrity. Real men, above all, have  character.  They don’t take their focus off their wives and children.  They are men of honor who work consistently to be the right person for their wife and children. A real man works hard to insure he is doing his part to lead his family in righteousness.

“Some think of happiness as a glamorous life of ease, luxury, and constant thrills; but true marriage is based on a happiness which is more than that, one which comes from giving, serving, sharing, sacrificing, and selflessness.”
-President Spencer W. Kimball

Real men understand that marriage isn’t easy.  But a real man is up for a challenge and isn’t a quitter.  He will find ways to improve his relationship when things seem a little bit off or start to go wrong.  He will not refuse to do what is necessary to fix a problem.  He will work selflessly to find a solution.  Real men work on their relationships. Real men go to marriage counseling with the intent to improve, when needed.

All in all, it takes a weak man to cheat.  A selfish man cheats.  A cowardly man cheats.  If the truth is really said out loud, any man has the potential and ability to be a coward under the wrong circumstances.  We are all subject to temptation and sin.  Anyone can fall.  This is the nature of life, especially if we are foolish enough to let our guard down.  So if a man cheats does that mean he is past the point of no return?

Emphatically, NO!

The epitome of a real man, a real man that deserves our highest praise and honor, is one who has made serious mistakes, but who can own up to it! He admits his weaknesses, confessed to them, willingly, he tells all of it.  For him, there is no confession that is too hard or humiliating, because he cares more about reparing the damage than he does about his own weaknesses. If a real man can confess his weaknesses then the Lord will take his weakness and make them become strong!  His infidelity will lead him to become absolutely faithful in all things, because he will have learned how!

“Love is a fragile thing, and some elements in life can try to break it. Much damage can be done if we are not in tender hands, caring hands. To give ourselves totally to another person, as we do in marriage, is the most trusting step we take in any human relationship. It is a real act of faith — faith all of us must be willing to exercise. If we do it right, we end up sharing everything — all our hopes, all our fears, all our dreams, all our weaknesses, and all our joys — with another person.”
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Then he works hard to rebuild his breech of trust.  A real man will go to his wife and humbly seek her forgiveness. He will do whatever it takes to repair the damage he has done.  He will  identify what caused him to cheat. Often finding the cause takes working through a 12-step program and/or counseling. Then he will develop a plan for himself to make the required changes. He will set up clear boundaries for himself so that it will not happen again.  He will share these new boudaries with his wife. Then he will check-in with her everyday to let her know he is committed to her and serious about repairing the damage. She will know how he is doing in his repentance because he will tell her! She won’t need to ask him.

“Converse with each other, thereby never letting little things become big things.”
-Elder Robert D. Hales

He will do everything he can to help her feel safe and work hard to rebuild her trust in him.  He will ask her often if there is something more he can do for her. Her comfort, well-being, and safety are his primary concerns.  If he violates his own boundaries, then he will go to her immedately and confess the breech.  Then he will rework his plan to shore up the weak areas.  She won’t have to worry about relapses because he is already on top of it! He will make himself accountable to her and to others who can help him.  He will seek advice from experts. He will read up on cheating and how to avoid it.  He will educte himself and share what he is learning with wife. He will not give her cause to worry any further, because he wants to be responsible to himself and to her.

“Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity.”
-President Henry B. Eyring

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He will lead her in daily prayer and scripture study. He will make sure they do it together.  He will show her in everything he does that he has chosen her and is committed to her. Every action will But more than that, he will show he has chosen God and that he is committed in leading himself and his family back to Him.  Everything he does will reflect his committment to God.  And that commitment to Him, will show more than anything else he does, that he has re-committed to her. This is what real men do.

“Once I married her,” Elder Andersen said, “the standards in my life went way up — being totally consistent in prayer and scripture study, keeping the commandments with precision. She has a pure and disciplined faith.”
-Elder Neil L. Andersen

This is what recovery from betrayal trauma really looks like. It takes work, real work, willingly done by a real man! Incidentally, this is also what real repentance looks like as well!

This what a real man will do if he makes a mistake and cheats.

This is what cheaters do when they want to be real men again. This is how you will know you have a real man worth standing by.

Anything less than this is cowardly.

If you have cheated on your wife, it’s time to man up!

“Both men and women need righteous desires that will lead them to eternal life. Let us remember that desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.”
-Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Be Strong, Stay Sweet!

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The Cupcake Warrior

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What True Repentance Looks Like

Last night I was studying my scriptures.  And as often happens to me, one reference leads me to another and I ended up on this General Conference Talk from October 2016: Repentance: A Joyful Choice by Dale G. Renlund.  I highly recommend it to you for a clear concise explaination of what true repentance looks like.  It is one of those moments when you know the Lord is guiding you to a place you needed to go and I definently needed to go to this talk. It was so validating.  I need that.

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Lately I have been struggling mightily over my Ex-husband’s failure to repent, at least he is not doing it in the way I have been taught to understand that repentance looks like. But everytime I mentioned to him over the past two years that he is not fully repenting, I am met with a constant barrage of accusations of being judgmental, critical, nonsupportive and mean.  These kinds of accusations can take a toll on a person after a while, especially when I am already so hurt, wounded, and shattered.  His failure to fully repent has left deep wounds in our family that keep getting torn open again and again.  He doesn’t understand that if he truly repented it would provide a healing balm over the entire family, especially me.

Instead we get resistance, subborness, and stonewalling. He ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to repent. It feels like he refuses to repent so he can prove he isn’t really an addict, that he just made a few “bad choices.” So he treats his repentance as such.  He expects to just say he is sorry and we will all forgive him and that will be that. This mindset, that what he has done is not that bad (minimizing) causes him to be astonished that I would have the nerve to divorce him, because why would anyone divorce a spouse that they love over a few “bad choices?” So he is able to rationalize in his mind that I am really the bad guy. He feels I bailed on him, not the other way around, which is really the case to any other rational human being.

Don’t get me wrong, he IS sorry.  But it the “sorrow of the damned,” not “sorrow unto repentance” or “godly sorrow.”  There is a huge difference. Just being sorry doesn’t cut it in the case of adultery and infidelity, not by anyone’s standards, and certainly not by the Lord’s standards.

 “The word repent connotes “to perceive afterwards” and implies “change.”4 In Swedish, the word is omvänd,which simply means “to turn around.”5 The Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote about the need and the method for change. He noted that repentance involves “being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right,” he said, “but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”6 Changing our behavior and returning to the “right road” are part of repentance, but only part. Real repentance also includes a turning of our heart and will to God and a renunciation of sin.7 As explained in Ezekiel, to repent is to “turn from … sin, … do that which is lawful and right; … restore the pledge, … [and] walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity.”8

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“Never by simply going on!” This is exactly what my Ex wants to do!  he just wants to go on  from here!  he refuses to go back to the beginning of he errors and working forward from that point.  This is the crux of the pain he has caused and is continuing to cause within his devastated family.  He had the audacity to tell my daughter last week, that he is moving on with a different woman, in yet another relationship, because ” HE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY!”  My daughter was agasted at his extreme selfishness.  Her response; “You took a baseball bat to our family and destroyed everyone, but you deserve to move on and be happy, while everyone else is left broken and bruised?”

Does this sound like real repentance to you? No. Me either.

He will tell anyone who will listen that he is repenting.  But he is not.  It is not possible to say you are repenting, and at the same time, continuing in sin. If he were truly repenting we would all be able to tell, we would all see it, we would all know it. He would change.  His behavior would change, his words would change, his countenance would change.  The righteous can clearly judge this mighty change of heart.  It is as clear as the daylight from the dark night. Elder Runland continues:

Yet even this is an incomplete description. It does not properly identify the power that makes repentance possible, the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Real repentance must involve faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that He can change us, faith that He can forgive us, and faith that He will help us avoid more mistakes. This kind of faith makes His Atonement effective in our lives. When we “perceive afterwards” and “turn around” with the Savior’s help, we can feel hope in His promises and the joy of forgiveness. Without the Redeemer, the inherent hope and joy evaporate, and repentance becomes simply miserable behavior modification. But by exercising faith in Him, we become converted to His ability and willingness to forgive sin.

All sorts of lightbulbs went on in my head!  My Ex is just in “Miserable Behavior Modification.” He is trying to do this on his own, without help from anyone, using his own wisdom, and he is failing miserably.  He has not made his repentance real because he isn’t following the steps for real repentance laid out by our Savior in the scriptures.  With, what my therapist Home Teacher calls, “cheap repentance,” he will NEVER have joy. He can seek for “happiness” all he wants, but he will never find joy! This is the lot of the damned. No joy.

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Elder Packer explains:

“The Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.”9

He continued:

“The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, [the Savior] has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. …

“… The Atonement … can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated.”10

“The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us. As the prophet Lehi explained, after we “are instructed sufficiently” to “know good from evil,”11 we “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.”12 In other words, repentance is a choice.”

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We must choose to repent.  Stunning in its simplicty. Profound in its appliction! This was another place in the talk that struck me.  Hard.  A few months before I made the decision to divorce my husband I spent days in the temple, praying and seeking for guidance on what I should or needed to do next.  I had some very sacred experiences during this time, but one thing stands out above the others.  The Lord said to me, very clearly…”Your husband has not chosen you.” As I think back on this now I understand that the Lord was also telling me, “he has not chosen me either.”  My Ex did not, and has not chosen US; the Lord, his family and me.  He has not chosen any of us.  If he would choose all of us, everything for him would change practically overnight.  He would be a changed man, with “no more desire to do evil [to his family], but to do good [to his family] continually.” He doesn’t want to do the hard work of repentance, real repentance, so he believes it will be simpler to just walk away.  Not so.

Remarkably Elder Rutland list a few things that keep us from choosing to repent.  To my astonishment they were the same symptoms of denial! He says:

“We can—and sometimes do—make different choices. Such choices may not seem intrinsically wrong, but they prevent us from becoming truly penitent and thus preclude our pursuit of real repentance.”

  1. For instance, we may choose to blame others. But blaming others, even if justified, allows us to excuse our behavior. By so doing, we shift responsibility for our actions to others. When the responsibility is shifted, we diminish both the need and our ability to act. We turn ourselves into hapless victims rather than agents capable of independent action.13
  2. Another choice that impedes repentance is minimizing our mistakes... It would have been easy to say that there was no reason to repent. But minimizing our mistakes, even if no immediate consequences are apparent, removes the motivation to change. This thinking prevents us from seeing that our mistakes and sins have eternal consequences.
  3. Yet another way is to think that our sins do not matter because God loves us no matter what we do. It is tempting to believe what the deceitful Nehor taught the people of Zarahemla: “That all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.”14 But this seductive idea is false. God does love us. However, what we do matters to Him and to us. He has given clear directives about how we should behave. We call these commandments. His approbation and our eternal life depend on our behavior, including our willingness to humbly seek real repentance.15
  4. Additionally, we forgo real repentance when we choose to separate God from His commandments…We should be wary of discounting sinful behavior by undermining or dismissing God’s authorship of His commandments. Real repentance requires recognizing the Savior’s divinity and the truthfulness of His latter-day work.

My Ex-Husband has used all of these excuses, and others, to shirk his responsibilites to himself, to me and to his family to do the hard work of real repentance.  It is interesting that these excuses are also the behaviors of an addict in denial.

Instead of making excuses, let us choose repentance. Through repentance, we can come to ourselves, like the prodigal in the parable,16 and reflect on the eternal import of our actions. When we understand how our sins can affect our eternal happiness, we not only become truly penitent but we also strive to become better.”

When faced with temptation, we are more likely to ask ourselves, in the words of William Shakespeare:

What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?

A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.

Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week,

Or sells eternity to get a toy?17

My Ex-husband has a new “toy.” That will not bring him lasting joy.  True repentance will.  Healing the wounds of his family will.  Binding up our broken hearts will.  But he would rather play with his new toy instead of repairing a family he has spent a lifetime in building.  This makes no sense to me.

Elder Runland explains:

“If we have lost sight of eternity for the sake of a toy, we can choose to repent. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have another chance. Metaphorically, we can exchange the toy we so ill-advisedly purchased in the first place and receive again the hope of eternity. As the Savior explained, “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”18

My Ex-husband still continues to make bad choices, including refusing to do the hard work of real repentance.  It’s nice to know, I am not the only one who thinks so.

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