Friday, February 8, 2013

Why I'm not afraid...

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195 days. That's how long ago Jack and I started seeing each other. And we've seen each other every single day since.

I think it's safe to say that we are in a serious relationship. :)

The other day I was talking to someone about him, and she asked me, "Aren't you worried he will end up doing the same thing to you that your ex did?"

Nope. I don't worry anymore.

Crazy, right? But here's how I figure it ... I've lived through my own personal hell. I survived through something that I thought I never could. No, more than survived. I've thrived. When I learned about my ex's first affair, six years ago, I felt like a piece of me had died. But now, after making it through a string of affairs, a divorce, and a year of recovery, I have come out of it stronger than I was before. I guess you could say I've had a little bit of a personality makeover ... in a good way.

I stand up for myself more than I did before. When I don't like something, I speak out. I'm not as afraid of confrontations as I once was, because I've learned that being a pushover didn't get me anywhere--just cheated on, walked all over, and eventually abandoned.

I've tackled many of the mysteries of single motherhood now. I've learned how to be strong and independent, but not over the top. I still know how to ask for help when I need it. (It's a tricky balance, but I think I've done okay.) I don't mess around anymore. I know how to get the job done, and I'm not afraid to do it.

So, in short, I guess what I'm saying is this ... I've learned something in all of this: I can't control what a man does. So why should I spend the rest of my life being paralyzed about it? I'm careful. I've chosen to take what I learned from my failed marriage and learn from it. I'm wise. EYES WIDE OPEN, to be sure! I'm not in a rush. I'm feeling my way through and trusting myself. I have the Spirit as my guide. When it comes to relationships, that's enough reason for me to move on with my life past this traumatic chapter and start being happy again without fearing that history will repeat itself. And even if it does, I'm well-equipped, I've lived through it before, and I know I will make it through. I will never be able to predict or control someone else's actions, only my own.

Besides, I trust Jack. I know, right? Did I ever think I'd say that about a man again? Not in a million years!!! But I do.

Here's why...

When we had the porn talk--Of course we did! I told you, eyes wide open!--you know what his answer was? "I'm really glad you brought that up. I've been wanting to talk to you about that but wasn't sure how to start the conversation." Now, I don't think I have to go into detail about how the rest of our talk went, but suffice it to say that all our conversations about hard topics (and we have talked about LOTS of really, really hard topics!) have been unbelievably candid and open. Not necessarily happy. Not wildflowers and sunshine. Actually, sometimes very tough and emotional and sometimes heated. But that's okay. I truly believe open communication and honesty are key in a healthy relationship. Jack and I have both those things. My ex and I did not, and I'm convinced that this fact, combined with his addiction and all that came with it (financial problems, adultery, etc.) was the biggest contributor to the downfall of our marriage. If you can't talk about it, if you're not honest with each other, how are you supposed to work through it?

Another thing that is extremely reassuring is the way Jack deals with my triggers. He is still learning to read me, and that is not easy! I have always had a bad habit of staying emotionally closed. It worsened during my marriage when silence became an effective defense mechanism to avoid further trauma and conflicts with my ex. Usually, when I was upset or in pain, the ex would either miss it completely, ask what was wrong and then lose interest and quit trying to find out, or--most often--get angry and combative. Jack, however, is much different. Instead of picking a fight or rolling his eyes, he hones in on me and expresses genuine concern. If I don't want to talk, he is respectful. He waits for me to take my time. And I do. Then when I am ready, he is there. He is focused and attentive. He listens. He takes me seriously. Even when I know I am blowing something completely out of proportion, he is incredibly patient and understanding. (Remember, he has gone through similar circumstances to my own, only in reverse. His wife also cheated and left him.) Many times the understanding between us is unspoken. But talking it out is so helpful because it helps me to purge and leave my fears behind. I've also noticed that it is getting easier for me to share traumatic experiences with him as time passes--as we do this dance over and over again. I didn't trust him all at once. It has happened slowly ... one experience at a time.

Life is good. Life is very good with Jack.

But most importantly, my life is good independently of him too. ;)

Digging deep

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I've just started reading the Healing Through Christ workbook, and during my personal study this morning, I happened upon this scripture. It fits ever so nicely with my "black sludge" post in which I mourned my inability to reach into the depths of my heart and forgive my ex completely:

35 Nevertheless they did afast and bpray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their chumilityand firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation,yea, even to the dpurifying and the esanctification of their HEARTS,which sanctification cometh because of their fyielding their hearts unto God. (Helaman 3:35, emphasis added of course)

Notice something? All the verbs. These are my action words. This is my recipe for digging deep into my heart. HARD WORK! I know! I'm doing these things. Just a reminder to myself to keep on keeping on and the happy results--also beautifully outlined in this passage--will eventually come!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Beautiful words and black sludge

"May we have the Spirit of the Master dwelling within us, that we may forgive all men as He has commanded, forgive, not only with our lips but in the very depths of our hearts, every trespass that may have been committed against us. If we do this through life, the blessings of the Lord will abide in our hearts and our homes." 

~George Albert Smith, 
"Of You It Is Required to Forgive" 

During my morning devotional, I cringed a little as I read these beautiful words. Because they are so true. I know it. But because I feel so inadequate. I just haven't been able to get there ... to the "very depth of my heart" part. I've buried myself, immersed myself, drowned myself in teachings of the Atonement, healing, and forgiveness. I understand the process. I know about handing over my burden to the Savior. Why can't I do it?

I wish I could wrap it all up into a giant black ball of muck--the porn, the fake identities, the profiles on dating sites for married people, the erotic massages, the women sleeping in my bed, the mysterious missing grocery money used for who-knows-what, the years of adultery, the lies, the neglect, the terrible things my sweet children have had to go through and continue to go through--put it in a huge basket and send it away. But there are holes in my basket. It leaks and leaves streams of muck behind. I follow after it, trying to scoop it up and put the greasy sludge back in the basket, but it keeps coming through. I turn my back away from it, trying not to watch the enormous load travel away, but my ex is approaching with two buckets in his hands, full of more steaming black sludge. He holds the buckets out to me. I don't want to take them, but I must. I have our children, so I still have an obligation to deal with his filth. If I don't, the kids will have no one to teach them the difference between what is right and what is wrong. They will only see the filth without an explanation. Straining under the weight of the buckets, I turn back again and run toward the huge basket desperately trying to dump the new load into the pile. The burden is so heavy. I'm covered in the stuff. My knees are weak, but I stand, determined. I continue to fight. I want to give the burden away. But it keeps coming. I'm so tired.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Talk to the kids about it

Isn't that what you talk to your kids about while they are snacking after school? During dead time in the car? For bedtime stories? At FHE? If not, then when?

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Does this sound ludicrous to you? Maybe it does. But ...

Maybe you feel like I did--you don't know how to talk to your kids about porn.

There are tools out there, though. And we can help each other find them. Below is a short, non-overwhelming list of materials that I've found so far. Preview some of them. Take a few moments to read an article with a child. Maybe even use one of these materials as a ready-made family-home-evening lesson for a mature enough audience (after discussing with your spouse, of course). Have something to add that's geared toward a juvenile audience? Let's say ... for ages 18 and under? Leave it in my "comments" section! By all means!

For Young Children:
"The Decision" - The Friend, 1994
Safety Kids, Volume 3, "Protect Their Minds"
(I will be doing a spotlight on Safety Kids soon.)

For Teens:

Think your children are too young? Don't "KID" yourself! Children are never too young to teach basic principles like "Keep your mind clean," and "Tell your Mommy if you see something that makes you feel bad inside." Keep it simple, people. You have to start somewhere. Start now.

If you don't bring it up first, maybe Bobby on the playground will. Or maybe his big brother will try to show him porn on the bus. Just a thought.

"My parents have taught my little brother and sisters and me about what President Hinckley said about pornography. He said we should avoid it like the plague. On my way home from school one day, two of my friends sat by me on the bus. One boy had his phone, and he got on the Internet to find pictures of girls who were not dressed. I told him I would not look at the pictures. He tried to sneak the phone in front of my face. I said, 'No!' and closed my eyes. The rest of the way home I looked out the window. I know I did the right thing that day."