I’ll never forget the first time my husband, Jason, and I had the opportunity to speak together to a group of couples at a retreat deep in the mountains of Colorado. We were there to share our story and more than that, how God was saving our marriage after porn, affairs and everything in between had taken us down for the count. I could barely sleep the night prior and my heart’s strong beat was a constant reminder – as I lay there sleepless – of my real fear of talking in front of others.
When I think about that event, my most poignant memory was the tall woman standing in the back of the room with her arms crossed. As she catapulted a question my way, her tone revealed my story had hit close to home. Sternly, she asked, “After everything Jason has done, and given your struggle with anorexia, how can you possibly have sex with him?”
Time slowed. I’ve never been a quick processor. How in the world do I answer that question? So I mustered up the courage to tell her the truth. My answer: “In the dark.” In other words – the lights were off because even a small amount of light was too uncomfortable for me.
That was five years ago. We were seven years into our healing process. Seven years!
And what I knew back then and still know today is this: Healing the broken pieces of sexual intimacy has taken longer than any other area that needed mending. In fact, our work in this area is not complete. Sometimes I feel we have a long way to go. And other times, I think we might have turned the corner for good.
For women with a similar story to mine, sexual intimacy simply looks different. For us, our husband’s have shared the most sacred part of themselves with others – whether people in the flesh that they shared their sexuality with or people on the computer screen – something meant only for us was given away to others.
For many of us, going back to that place of fully giving our sexuality to our husbands takes a lot of time, a lot of tears, a lot of grieving, a lot of conversation and a lot of trust.
For myself, I’d never fully given myself sexually to Jason. I held back before I knew Jason’s ugly truth. It’s as if my body knew what my heart and mind couldn’t conceive. So giving myself fully to him was completely foreign to me.
As we started the process of healing our sexual intimacy, we realized it didn’t start with sex. It started with being fully known and fully knowing the other at a heart level. Not only that, but it also started with Jason coming to terms with the fact that he couldn’t continue to use his sexuality to manufacture feelings of love and want anytime he so pleased (“on demand”).
You see, porn and affairs are not about sex. They’re about using and abusing sex to manufacture feelings of love and want and acceptance in order to cover up the feelings of abandonment, rejection and pain. Think about it – will the computer screen ever reject a person? No.
So we had to wipe the slate clean.
Jason had to work on being fully known in a real relationship (with me) where there was a high risk of being rejected. I, as well, had to work at being fully known in a relationship where I felt completely rejected.
We needed to share our hearts with each other – our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams, our fears. We worked at holding each other right there. Right where we were at.
All of this has taken years to figure out – and it’s laid the foundation for sexual intimacy.
Because what Jason and I believe today is that sexual intimacy is the culmination of being fully known at a heart and soul level. It’s not the means by which we connect, it’s the capstone or celebration of our connection.
And this is really, really hard work.
So if you are reading this and you share a similar story to mine – if you find that picking up the broken pieces of sexual intimacy has been really challenging for you – first, know this: you are not alone. Me too. It’s been really hard and sometimes, it still is.
Second, if you haven’t given yourself completely to your husband since you found out about his sexual integrity issues – give yourself permission today to sit in that. To recognize that there is still more work to do to fully trust, fully grieve, fully come to terms with this part of your story. Depending on where you are in the process, it might be beneficial to plug into a support group or find a counselor.
And third, recognize that healthy sexual intimacy doesn’t start with sex. If you or your husband think or say out loud, “I don’t feel connected, let’s have sex.” You’ve got it all backwards. It starts with fully knowing your husband and him fully knowing you – at a heart and soul level. For us, it starts with sitting with eyes locked, sharing heart and soul, working at hearing one another and giving each other a safe place to be.
As always, I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions for me or simply want to share your story. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Jason’s porn addiction and Shelley’s battle with anorexia in this honest interview. You can also read more from Shelley about how she faced the realization of her husband’s porn use and infidelity, then how she bravely confronted the issue despite fear and uncertainty.
For more resources check out:
Redemptive Living for Women: This is my website where you’ll find a helpful workbook, weekly blog posts and support.
Redemptive Living: My husband Jason’s website where you can find the book he wrote about his journey, free resources for men and more.
Kitchen Convos: This is a series of conversations that my husband, Jason, and I put together to help couples find redemption after betrayal. There is a fee associated with this, but if you choose to participate, we will donate 15% of the proceeds back to MOPS International.
Fight the New Drug: An edgy non-profit that advocates for the fight against porn.
This Christianity Today article shares eye-opening recent stats on porn use in Christian circles.
Shelley Martinkus loves to encourage women and has a special place in her heart for women with a similar story to hers. She is a blogger, speaker and writer. Her first book, Rescued, was released in 2015 and is a guide to help women survive and thrive after sexual betrayal. She is proud to call Denver home where she lives with her husband, Jason and their three young boys. Some of the things that help Shelley survive are comfy pants, running around Wash Park and long talks with Jason after the boys are in bed. You can connect with Shelley at rlforwomen.com.