Realizing the depth of brokenness in our marriage brought me to the end of my denial and the beginning of personal healing. I had to admit that our relationship had been broken for a long time. My husband had chosen his addiction over me. I had served him divorce papers and we no longer lived together. I had allowed myself to be emotionally manipulated by denying my own needs and thoughts in order to please my husband. If I shared my thoughts and they were different from his, he would become angry, impatient and try to control my thinking for me. He often told me he would rather live under a bridge than put in the work necessary for a marriage relationship.
I felt rejected and went into emotional hiding by no longer sharing my thoughts. If I didn’t talk, I wouldn’t have to feel pain. In the silence of being alone with God, He began to work on my heart and show me my true condition. It was easy to see my husband’s dysfunction. He had grown up with abandonment from his alcoholic father. God began to shift my focus from what was broken in my husband and my marriage to what was broken in me.
I too contributed to our broken marriage by reacting to my internal brokenness. I shut my emotions down and closed my heart as a way of coping. Growing up, my father would punish me for feeling sad or angry because he didn’t want this “weakness” in me. As a result, I denied these parts of me and had no idea how to handle anger or sadness in others. Both of my parents were emotionally absent. My own father had an alcoholic mother and his father had abandoned him. My mother did not know how to connect in relationships because of her own parents’ dysfunctions. I began to understand that my own ability to trust, connect and love did not properly develop in childhood. This realization brought me to a new place in relating to God. Intellectually, I realized I was a child of God, but I did not have a heart-to-heart relationship yet.
In learning to let go and trust God, I had to let go of blame, submit to the reality of my life, and commit to the healing process. In order to work through my present life, I would first have to understand my patterns of behavior from the past. God wanted to change these patterns in me and in my children too! He began to show me my own blind spots and places where I was broken. I had tried to control others by giving unasked for advice, rescuing and caretaking. I believed I could fix my husband if he took my advice. I disengaged by focusing on electronics or school work, so I wouldn’t feel the pain of not bonding. I would either fight or run away from conflict out of fear of rejection. I dismissed my own feelings and needs to win love and approval from others. I was self-centered, expecting others to meet my needs instead of relying on God to care for me.
I had to ask, “Where have I placed God in my life?” This is a long, deep process. God showed me areas of brokenness when He saw I was ready. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)
During this time, I learned about the Karpman Triangle through Patrick Carnes research. There are three roles in this triangle based on shame and self-doubt. I played all three roles during my husband’s sexual addiction. Victim role: I felt like a victim in our marriage, as my husband blamed me for what made him angry. Rescuer role: I attempted to rescue my husband by enabling him to continue without setting boundaries around how he treated me. I advised him to read specific marriage books with me, which I was sure would fix him. Victimizer role: I felt resentful because he didn’t change as a result of my advice, and I lashed out in anger.
Then my husband would play the roles as well. For example, my husband would play the victim role when he became angry or withdrew because he felt controlled by me. We got caught up in this cycle, playing all three roles together. This cycle of relating will destroy a relationship. I finally learned to take responsibility for myself and my own responses in counseling.
I have believed lies from childhood and took them into my marriage. These became strongholds in my life and it took much prayer and fasting to work through them. I believed I was not good enough to love, and love and acceptance must be earned. As a result, I was focused on constant perfection. I often measured my self-worth through others’ reactions towards me. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).
The brain develops larger areas as a result of repeated patterns. Harmful behaviors are difficult to unlearn and replace. “But Jesus looked at them, and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26). Choosing to trust God and His Word instead of rescuing and controlling what is not mine to control meant facing fears and letting go of coping patterns. God desires to heal emotional wounds and meet all our needs for love and acceptance completely. Learning this over time empowers me to break free from a place of endless taking to being able to give back through His love. This was when I really felt God bringing me out of the battle of confusion and hopelessness.
Commitment to personal healing is a lifelong journey of holding God’s hand and walking with Him through the ups and downs. I leave you with this encouraging Scripture meant for our hearts: “These things have I spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11)