After the traumatic discovery of your partner’s sex addiction, you are likely to become consumed with your significant other. You suddenly feel very unsafe and feel like you don’t know this person with whom you have been sharing your life. You may become an excellent detective as you desperately seek out the truth—your own reality.
You are probably reading, watching, and listening to everything you can get your hands on about sex addiction, in an effort to understand what is happening in your relationship. Although these behaviors are often pathologized, making you feel as if something is wrong with you, safety-seeking behaviors are normal.
You are not crazy! I do not discourage my clients from these things, as I have been there, and I get it. I consistently see that partners who are validated in their need to seek out their own reality will eventually get to the point, on their own, where they are tired of the time and energy it takes. This will happen much more quickly if the unfaithful spouse gives the partner full access to their electronic devices, location, accounts, etc.
That said, it is too common for us to neglect ourselves in the process. We may isolate, for fear that no one will understand. We may keep our partner’s secrets, falsely believing it is their story to choose to share or not. My counselor at the time, Marsha Means, taught me something that was very helpful, and when she explained it to my husband, he got it too. She said, “This is your story too.” It is a confusing, scary, and painfully lonely place to be. But caring for yourself is more important than ever right now.
Shock, fear and depression may leave us feeling paralyzed, but there are things you can do to help yourself heal as you go through this agonizing journey.
Soul Care vs. Self-Care
The term self-care has become so overused that it has grown quite convoluted. Self-care has become almost synonymous with the modern self-love movement. All you have to do is do a web search for self-love and mixed in with some helpful advice, you’ll find tips like, “Put yourself first,” “Celebrate yourself,” “Be true to yourself,” and “Have high regard for your own happiness.” Hmmm…what’s missing here? I can promise you that focusing on ideas like these will never bring you joy or satisfaction.
I remember a couple I worked with a few years ago. Every week he came in carrying a binder with the words written on the cover, “I am enough”. He said his therapist told him to do this.
I never said it, but every time I saw it, it bothered me. Why? Because he was not enough and he never would be. He could look himself in the mirror every morning and say those words, but he would never believe them deep down, because it wasn’t true. Instead he was creating a dissonance between the lie which he was trying to convince himself to be true and the reality that would quickly slap him in the face the next time he made a mistake. This would cause his self-esteem to plummet even more and allow his shame to flourish. Newsflash: you are not enough either, and neither am I.
In the book, You’re Not Enough (And That’s Ok): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love, Allie Beth Stuckey states, “The truth is that we can’t find satisfaction inside ourselves because we are the problem. We struggle with feelings of inadequacy because we are inadequate. Alone, we are not good enough, smart enough, or beautiful enough. We’re not enough—period. And that’s ok, because God is.”
I see Godly self-care as the most selfless thing we can do because it equips us to be who God created us to be. This kind of self-care will increase our capacity to love others. The difference between the destructive self-love movement and my definition of self-care, is that one has Christ at the center of it. The essence of self-care must be to care for ourselves like God wants us to, with a goal of becoming who God created us to be. Ultimately, it is inviting God in, to care for us and guide us to care for ourselves in His way. The Bible is filled with scriptures about how much Christ adores us and cares for us and desires for us to cast our burdens upon Him so that we may receive “the peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:6). This is why I have come to the conclusion that our focus should not be on the secular view of self-care as much as it should be on soul care.
In the article, Soul Care VS Self-Care: The Differences and Similarities Explained, Shyann Swearingen explains, “The view point of self-care is that you can care for yourself by yourself. You do not need to seek others or anything else. You can achieve joy and rest through your own ability. You can do this by engaging in whatever brings you joy. Ultimately though you are the one who knows yourself best, so you know what will bring you joy. Soul care is the realization that we cannot give anything to ourselves on our own accord. We desperately need God. Through Him alone is how we can achieve peace and complete restoration.”
When we try to do life alone, instead of choosing to surrender to God, and allow Him to show us how to care for ourselves, we will hit a wall and crash. Or we’ll succumb to the waves of life crashing over us.
I love the ocean—the sound of the waves, the smell of the salt air, the feel of the sun on my face and the salt water on my skin. Most of all, I love its vastness. Sitting on the sand, watching the waves and gazing out at the horizon feels like I am watching God. As peaceful as being near the ocean makes me feel, that same ocean is powerful beyond measure and that power must be respected. If it was my choice, I’d live by the sea. I love it so much that more than once I’ve waded out too far, basking in the exhilaration of no longer being able to feel the ocean floor beneath my feet and allowing the waves to toss me to and fro. There have been a couple occasions, however, where it got a little too intense and I was afraid I might not make it back.
Do you ever feel like this? Like you can no longer feel the ground beneath you and life has thrown impossible obstacles at you that you feel like you can’t overcome? I know I have. In those instances in the ocean, I had to remember what my husband taught me about not trying to swim against the current, but to swim with it until I got to a spot where it felt calm enough to head back toward the shore. Part of soul care is not trying to escape the pain, but to go with it, allowing yourself to feel it. This can feel like you are moving farther away from safety instead of toward it. But only then will you be able to heal and return to solid ground.
Many of us go through life feeling overwhelmed, used, empty, depleted, and exhausted. We feel like we’re barely keeping our heads above water as the waves are crashing over us. We aren’t intentional about taking care of ourselves. We often experience ourselves violently crashing into obstacles that we don’t know how to handle. When we don’t do good self-care, or soul care, we have little capacity for managing stress and triggers, setting and enforcing boundaries, or being the best we can be for loved ones. Before the end of the day, we can feel like we are going to crash and burn. Stop neglecting yourself, your relationship with God, and giving yourself away.
Become a CRASHER and crash the crash!
“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:29).
How do we do this? Instead of crashing through life and dealing with hurdles as they come, we become intentional. I have developed an acrostic to help you to create your own Divine self-care, or soul care, plan. With this plan, instead of crashing into that wall or yielding to the waves that are trying to crash over you, you can receive God’s mighty power and become a CRASHER.
Use the following to help guide you through creating and committing to a concrete and realistic plan for regular soul care practices:
Connection (How you will develop and nurture relationships with safe people)
Relaxation (Rest and restoration)
Acknowledgement (Recognition of God’s presence, His beautiful creation, and gratitude for His blessings)
Spirituality (Regular spiritual practices)
Health (Caring for the body God gave you)
Exercise (Our bodies were meant to move)
Recreation (Taking time for fun and escape)
Register here for my upcoming Spring 2022 Retreat for Partners that will offer you opportunities for all of the above soul care elements.
Watch for Part Two of this article next month, where Ella explores each CRASHER component in depth.