I really didn’t know what it was like to suffer from heart break until I was in my mid to late-twenties. Sure, life hadn’t been perfect before then — I had felt pain before.
But this was different. This was a kind of pain I never expected to feel. The kind of pain I thought for sure I was protected from. I’d been through a hardship already — an eating disorder. So I assumed I’d earned my badge of honor: how a painful experience builds character and changed the way I saw the world. I really thought I was good to go.
Enter the fall of 2003 when my husband told me his ugly truth. That he was addicted to porn and as his addiction escalated, his behaviors became riskier. To the point of having affairs with other women. And I had no idea. I thought he was faithful to me alone. That’s really when life took a turn for the worst. That’s when the suffering began.
My heart shattered into a thousand little pieces. Picture a beautiful full-length mirror. Now picture my husband taking a sledge hammer to it. Shattering it all around.
That was me.
That was my life.
I could go on and on about the pain and yet, I know I don’t need to. Many of you know what that pain feels like. I’ve heard from you and you share a similar story to mine: betrayal.
You get my pain, I get yours.
Sitting in the pain — truly, sitting in the pain and allowing it to wash over me was so incredibly hard to do.
But something unexpected happened as I sat in that pain. (Truth be told, there has been a multitude of good that has come out of the suffering.) I noticed my heart started softening to those around me. It’s almost as if I was given a different lens to look through. The blinders fell from my eyes and I was able to see suffering in those around me in a new way. Because finally, I got it.
I knew what it was like to suffer deep and I knew I wasn’t alone. Part of our humanity is to suffer. To experience the deep shattering pain that takes our breath away.
I yearned to connect with others — even strangers. To understand their stories. To feel their pain. To allow myself to grieve for them. Empathy started to bloom. I became kinder and gentler.
My suffering humbled me. In a healthy way, I came to terms with the fact that I was just as susceptible to pain and suffering as the person next to me. I looked around and realized, we are all in this together. Nobody is better than the other. In my pain, I was able to connect with others in theirs.
I found the antidote to my pain was kindness, gentleness and grace. Not just for others, but also to myself.
So if you, my friend, are reading this today and you are experiencing that take-your-breath-away kind of pain, I encourage you to reach out and connect with someone around you. There’s something about being in pain that allows us to hear with new ears and see with new eyes. It gives us permission to be fully present.
The experience is sacred and special and one of the many benefits that can come from suffering.
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.
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.