Bringing a marriage back from the dead was hard work. We tried lots of stuff that worked, and lots of stuff that didn't. Looking back, there were a few things that dramatically changed our marriage and made it incredible.
My husband started the new chapter of our marriage in several ways. He attempted to love me unconditionally - probably for the first time. In the immediate wake of our disaster, I was too angry to talk to him much. I wasn't giving him the silent treatment, I had just made the decision to avoid speaking anything out loud that I would regret later in my marriage. That left me with very little to say. So Shawn began loving me by writing long love letters to me every morning on our bathroom mirror with a bar of soap. He figured that if I was getting ready in the bathroom, I would have to read what he'd written.
One of the most important things that Shawn did was get up early so that he could spend time with me in God's Word. We started reading the Bible together. It took us nearly 5 years to finish. We read a chapter or two every morning and prayed together. I could pray with him long before I could talk to him again. It was as I heard him pray, that I began to believe his heart was changing. As long as Shawn sat by me on the couch every morning for that quiet time, I knew that he loved me and wanted to work things out. Now that I am commuting, and getting up at 5:00, he no longer gets up for that. I will say that I desperately, hungrily miss our time together every morning.
Shawn made the commitment to date me. He tried all kinds of dates. We went to the movies, we had dinner at home, we did a fondue picnic in our bedroom, we went to a variety of events, we took ballroom dancing lessons, he bought me gifts, and sang love songs to me in public places. In fact we did anything that he could find that he thought I might possibly enjoy. He even bought a box at a bookstore called, "Simply Romantic Nights." It had date ideas inside....and he needed all the help he could get. I will say that my favorite date from that time was the night he surprised me. A babysitter arrived, I got into our truck, and he drove out to a beach at the lake. He built a bonfire with the firewood he had brought. He spread out a quilt and opened a carefully packed picnic basket. He fed me a huge variety of specialty cheeses, breads, and grapes. We had sparkling grape juice to drink in fancy glasses. We laid on the quilt and watched the stars come out one by one, and talked about a future together. I will remember the beauty of that night for the rest of my life. Maybe the most special part of that night was that he deliberately planned it for a time of the month where he knew he would receive nothing in return. So that way I knew that it was just because he loved me....no strings attached.
We made some other immediate changes. We cancelled our cable for nearly 2 years. I owned the internet password, and if Shawn was on the internet, I was in the room. I no longer went to bed alone. He went to bed when I did, whether he was sleepy or not. He carried a list in his wallet of all the reasons he wanted to be married, to help him avoid temptation on the go. He met faithfully with our counselor for accountability, and learned to cope with and find healing from his addiction.
On my side of things, I took up running. If I was running, I was not able to think, and the picture seared into my mind of the look on his face as he was enjoying the porn was erased for a few minutes. One day as I was running, I heard God speak through Chris Tomlin's song, "More than Enough." I began to realize that God was my "Enough." For way too many years, I had expected my husband to complete me and fulfill me. I came to understand that my God is the only One capable of filling me up. I began to more fully understand God's love and His faithfulness. God also used "Shout to the Lord," to teach me that He was still in the business of moving mountains out of my way. I knew I didn't have the strength to climb this mountain, but I began to believe that God had the power to move it.
I began to practically apply the Bible to my marriage to the best of my ability and understanding. I began to unconditionally respect my husband based on reading Eph. 5. In the past, I showed my husband respect when he earned it. However, I came to a point where I began to demonstrate respect and honor to my husband just because God asked me. I began to treat him as a man capable of great and mighty things, not because I believed in him just yet, but because I believed that God was capable of doing those things in his life. I encouraged him and began to speak positive words into our relationship. I saved my venting for my girlfriends and for God. (Remember that my girlfriends listened, never said a negative word back, and prayed for my husband because they loved him and thought he would someday become a great man.)
Immediately after the addiction came out, I was horribly self-conscious. Like most women in that situation, I thought it was all my fault. I was not air brushed, and most certainly had the body to prove I had given birth many times. I think some of my stretch marks are at least 3 feet long - no lie! So in my head I thought that if only I was skinnier, hotter, more attractive, with bodacious ta-tas, maybe a tan..... And so I began to undress and change clothes in my walk-in closet with the door locked. Then I read I Corinthians 7:4. I became convicted to use my body as a way to love my husband. Not for my own satisfaction, but to unconditionally meet my husband's needs. I was not excited about this. I had enjoyed sex at times in our marriage, but after the addiction came out, I felt very used. Honestly, I did not ever want him to touch me again.
I had always viewed sex as proof that my husband wanted to be married, and I used it to try to fulfill my need for approval and love. If my husband was happy, then I was worthy. But I no longer needed him to find me worthy, because God found me worthy. So I was now set free to just love him in a very tangible way that he could understand. I finally accepted that men are wired up to understand love through their physical relationship with their spouse. That's why over the last several years, I have made it my goal to become an expert on how to love my husband in the bedroom. I have read books, asked happily married friends lots of personal questions, and studied the Song of Solomon in great detail. I even frequently pick up Cosmo to see if I can find a new position or idea that I haven't tried before. My goal is to have at least one new idea every week. Some of my ideas have turned out amazing and, well, some have given us YEARS of good laughs....did I say YEARS......and YEARS.......in fact, I'm laughing now.....
In short, I have made it my goal to far surpass any pleasure he ever had in his addiction. To quote a famous pastor's wife, Joyce Rogers, "I wanted to make sure my husband had steak at home so he wouldn't be tempted to stop off for bologna on the way." I knew that I could not cure his addiction, but I wanted to make it as easy as possible for him to turn down temptation. In so doing, I have discovered pleasure beyond any I ever dreamed.
Bottom line - the secret to the redemption of our marriage can be summed up like this - Both of us reached the conclusion that marriage is not about me. We BOTH made it our goal to unconditionally love the other person in ways that they understood. Shawn loved me with absolute showers of romance. He tried continually to find new ways to show me how much he adored me. In return, I loved him with unconditional respect and with frequent, good sex. Along with treating each other with unconditional love and respect, we were spending time together in God's presence every morning ....which was the secret to saving our marriage. The marriage did not heal overnight. It did take about 6 months before I began to feel any positive emotions for Shawn again, and it was years before he regained my trust. But today our marriage is absolutely beautiful.
One last thing: I hear couples say some variation of this same thing all the time. They feel like their needs are unmet and so they are waiting for the other person to love them first. They don't want to be the one in their marriage getting screwed over and used, and so they will not be the first to love their spouse unconditionally. Instead they cling to resentment and bitterness. ('Cause that's working well?) I am living proof that living for the other person in your marriage leads to a marriage that will set your soul on fire with love and passion. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?