Every 'Fuck It' is Worth a Thousand Words


“Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it! Just Fuck it!”

        Thus began Friday morning of a marriage intensive with a tentatively hopeful couple. The husband started the morning with his F-bomb proclamation. I looked around to see if somebody in charge would know what to do. My face looked calm while my insides freaked as I realized the person in charge was me.

The intensive began Wednesday night with Ann and I sharing our story and answering questions from this couple. Thursday we taught on betrayal, grief, guilt and shame. You know, the lighter stuff to ease them in. Interspersed in each topic are reflective exercises to ponder, write and then share their thoughts. We chiseled into some longstanding walls separating these two. Thursday evening as they left the 1930’s vintage Rocky Mountain cabin I felt tired. It was a good tired. A hopeful tired. Friday morning after enjoying the cool of the morning and peaceful gurgling of the backyard brook the F-bombs snapped Ann and I out of our overconfidence.

For over a year I met weekly with this man and later in our time his wife joined us. He has a hard story. A story he knew was hard but also denied the extent of the difficulty on his soul as a boy.

After charming the boy’s mom his father charmed the world as a charismatic salesman. They moved thousands of miles away from family and support. Before the boy would carry his backpack on a yellow bus to kindergarten Dad bolted from the family. How does this type of abandonment pound the heart and soul of a little boy? Security and safety vanish. Innocence lost. A world with mom and dad and a cocoon of love leaves the little caterpillar exposed to harsh elements before his butterfly wings form. He has no ability to fly through and above storms.

Mom was left with two small boys in an unfamiliar state. She leaned into her nonexistent friends and crashed to the ground. She drifted and numbed her pain with substances and younger men. The little boys grew into tweens with immature men only a decade or so older ‘guiding’ their paths.

Once, my f-bomb man got into big trouble for stealing the pot stash in mom’s bedroom. The boyfriend of the time erupted in acidic shame pouring it on my guy. What is wrong with this picture? I could go at it from 50 different angles but suffice it to say nothing of substance about being a man was being passed down. He learned that he had to take care of himself; he couldn’t count on the adults in his life and began to act accordingly.

A couple older girls in the apartments enticed him into sex before he was in high school. At the time this seems like such a thrilling triumph. Damage goes unnoticed.  The illusion cemented into the boy is that closeness and safety only happened during sex.  He carried this tilted view of life and love into marriage.

We tend to marry another at the same emotional level as our current state. This couple was no exception. They didn’t realize the wounds and immaturity of their souls when they pronounced their vows of fidelity in perpetuity. Why would they? Life seemed to progress in good order as a decent job allowed mom to stay home with the kids.

But remember that myth that closeness and safety are only found during sex. The boy who carried this deception into manhood demanded more and more sex. The girl who carried her lack of sense of solid womanhood partly due to a demeaning mother determined that she had no other course than to submit to his sexual demands.

She wore the color of underwear he wanted. Awoke at the time he wanted. Went to sleep when he wanted. She offered her body to him morning and evening, every day. Fourteen times a week they had sex. The man concluded he had hit the jackpot; his lotto numbers matched up and he had the wife of all wives. All the sex he wanted to support his myth. He was a real man. But like all idols eventually this one falls in on itself after satisfying for a time.

The woman eventually shared her story to a newfound friend. The friend informed her that her husband was abusing her.  After a time of gaining strength the woman left for a shelter. The man was pissed! Who did she think she was to leave him like this?!

Somewhere about this time I began meeting with him. He was angry at her, didn’t want to look at his past (“I’ve left all that behind me”) but also wanted her home. For a year they lived separately. She healed and grew stronger while he and I met with some progress in owning how he had hurt her. But deep inside he wanted things to go back the way they were.

He did grow but occasionally the myth broke through the surface. This husband voiced demands but the wife now had the strength of NO. Fights ensued.  Enough positive occurred for her to move back home. We decided on a marriage intensive to power through what continued to snag their ankles as they reached for freedom.

Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it! Just fuck it!! He was stuck. He realized he can be an ass but didn’t know what else to do. He still wanted lots of sex but also was tired of the stress around it. He knew his past ensnared him but hated to admit it. Then he screamed words of hope. “I don’t know what else to do.”

He was done scrambling, done trying to do it in his power. He found the end of his self-centered self. His myth shattered and crashed like a glass shower door. He put more trust in us and importantly more trust in God.

A month ago the four of us met. I saw a new man. He relaxed into the couch. Fear didn’t control him. Instead of intensity I saw security. He didn’t need to prove himself or vigilantly scan the room to stay safe. He rested as the tender, strong man who was finally able to fly. 

Barriers to Intimacy

You're frustrated. A deep longing pulses from inside to connect in safety and security with your spouse. When pursued these longings seem to bring more pain than joy, more fights than comfort, more disconnection than closeness. Below are some questions to ponder that will provide a pathway to healing and take a giant step towards a an over the moon relationship. 

What are your barriers to Intimacy (intimacy that is not just sexual, but emotional, spiritual, recreational and includes non-sexual touch too)?

1) Busyness--Do you guys have plenty of unplanned time together in your schedule?

2) Inefficient conflict skills--How do you do talking about sex when you aren't having sex? Can you discuss difficult issues without getting defensive or shutting down?

3) Didn't learn to do intimacy from family growing up--What were your homes like growing up? Were there lots of hugs and tenderness? Distance and shallow talk? Feelings of safety or always on guard? Loud fighting? What were the attitudes about sex?

4) Kids under 5--They are adorable and wonderful and take a lot of energy. Many marriages experience their low points during this time. It's important to be as intentional as possible about your marriage during this time. Does any struggle with closeness and/or sex go back before your children was born?

5) Hightened fear of rejection--Is there deep shame for either of you? Feeling less than or defective? What is being vulnerable and open like for each of you? Do you have negative thoughts about yourself during sex? What are they? Are they true?

6) Self sufficiency--Does your spouse feel needed by you? Do each of you tend to do things on your own or do you work well together?

7) Past Abuse--Was there any unwanted sexual touching pre-puberty? or anytime? Any experimenting sexually with friends during puberty? What is your sexual history? Feelings about it? Any same sex experimentation or abuse? Any same sex attraction today? Have you talked about it with your spouse?

8) Were there other addictions in your family growing up like alcohol or drugs? Any other dysfunctions in your relationships with parents, siblings or others in your home? What do you feel the impact has been on you? Addictive families teach us to hide and wear masks.

9)Pornography and masturbation--At what age were you exposed to pornography? What has your porn use been like throughout the years? Recently? How often do you masturbate? Is spouse aware? What generally triggers the desire to masturbate? What impact do you feel porn and masturbation has had on your life?

10) Has their been any past abandonment in your life?--Death of loved one? Perceived abandonment such as a parent working long hours or several jobs to provide for the family? What feelings emerged with the abandonment?

11) Shame/Low self-worth, Was it easier to have sex outside of marriage before you were married? What is your general view of yourself? Do you feel different from others in feeling like you don't measure up? Do you feel like you have to perform in any way or nobody would want to be your friend? Are you able to experience God's acceptance, pardon and grace?

Take your time to respond to these questions. What new realizations are there about your story? About your spouses story? What do you perceive needs further exploration for healing?

Me Too



Ann Wilson

“You too? I thought I was the only one.” If I could count the number of times I have heard this phrase from women in groups I have led, I would be counting long into next week. Women share their trauma, their pain, their longings, their desires and gain assurance from others in the group they are not alone. Many touch points exist that connect women to each other. We just have to muster up the courage to reveal them.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, shame thrives on secret keeping. But as shame researcher Brene Brown says, “Shame is a social concept-it happens between people-and also heals best between people.” If we can connect to one another in the midst of our shame, pain and trauma we can also experience healing in the midst of our shame, pain and trauma.

I like to call part of this healing the ‘Me Too’ principle. When I share my story of adultery and shame, it is rare that a woman doesn’t come to me after and essentially say, “Me too.” She may not use those words, but she always thanks me for being bold enough to speak what she hasn’t been able to. In many ways, connecting through our stories gives her hope that she is not the only one attempting to erase the scarlet letter from her soul. She now knows that someone else understands her story, her pain and her shame.

Empathy takes place when we gain the strength to be authentic with our stories and our lives. If you’re not familiar with empathy, it is the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else. It is the ability to say, “Me too” when you hear another’s story because you’ve been there. You can identify with and understand the shame, pain and trauma. And let me tell you this: shame hates empathy. Shame despises empathy. Because shame and empathy cannot coexist. 

Shame loathes empathy as it connects us to one another. Where shame attempts to isolate, empathy solidly connects.  When we listen to another share their pain, shame loses its grip on their soul. Accepting another’s story without judgment speaks volumes to them of their worth and value, unlike shame that speaks volumes to them of their insignificance and inferiority.  

We essentially communicate to one another, “You’re not alone. You’re not the only one.” You no longer have to hide under your shame. You no longer have to fear total rejection. You no longer have to wonder if others think your soul is ugly. You can join me in saying, “Me, too.” I have hidden. I have feared. I have wondered. No longer. As long as we stay connected, shame cannot live in our hearts. So my friends, stay connected. Stay connected. 


Betrayed and Betrayer by Ben and Ann Wilson coming in 2015

I Do Not Like The Cone of Shame




Shame is a Tough Old Bird 


I’ve just returned from a missed breakfast with a new friend from church. Missed because I misread my appointment reminder. Totally my fault. I stepped out of my car to head into the restaurant and checked my calendar and was stopped in my tracks when it said 8:30. You see, it was 9:30.

I called and left a message apologizing immediately. Then I sent an email apologizing. I am hopeful we will still get a chance to break bread together. Now I fight the shame welling up in my soul because I left this new friend hanging at the restaurant.

You see, shame is a tough old bird and she just won’t leave me be. She got her claws in me pretty deep after my affair was revealed, and I keep throwing her off; yet she keeps settling back on. My soul is pocked with her claw marks, mostly healed over, but every now and then she reminds me of her powerful presence and how she enjoys seeing me shrivel in my shame.

But shriveled I won’t stay. No. Because a more powerful presence has settled on my soul. More powerful than that foul-feathered fiend called Shame. It is Grace. Grace gives me the courage to call my friend and apologize. Grace gives me the strength to toss that tough old bird. She is not welcome. She will not stay.  

She is no longer welcome because Grace has come to stay. Grace leaves no space for her to roost. And even though shame causes me to fear rejection and disconnection, Grace offers me the one thing I need most: the gift of being accepted before I become acceptable. Grace looks at my ugliness (my forgetfulness, my clumsiness, my haughtiness) and embraces me in the midst of it. So even if my new friend doesn’t return my text…or my call…or my email, I do not have to succumb to shame. Rather, I will give in to Grace. Beautiful Grace.



An Antidote to Shame


An Antidote to Shame


One doesn’t usually think of being broken as a powerful state. Author and therapist Dan Allender says that “brokenness is an antidote to shame.” An antidote is very powerful indeed as it is defined as ‘anything that counteracts or relieves a harmful or unwanted condition.’ I know of few conditions more harmful or unwanted than shame. In the case of shame, brokenness carries great power.

What exactly is brokenness? What does it look like? What does it feel like? I found myself face down on the floor unable to move or speak. My heart felt as though it weighed two tons, full of shame and the horror of what I had done. My eyes dared not look at the One who loved me and who had the power to lift me up, out of the heap of bones that lay on the floor.

Gratefully, Christ looks past our sin and shame to our brokenness. He saw the way of lies and deceit I walked. But then He looked past that path to the broken mourning and wailing of my heavy heart. He heard my brokenness even when I couldn’t utter a word. He saw a humble heart that knew it was no longer worthy of His love. He then did what He always does. He poured Grace.

When we are broken, when we have these gaping cracks in our souls; this Grace He pours has greater access to all the darkness, filth and pain. So while you may think that those huge chasms are something to cover and close, these are the gaps where Grace finds its way in.

As Grace seeps into every fracture in our souls, we begin to gain strength. Not strength of the usual kind. This is the strength found only through the power of brokenness. It is not strength that can hoist the world on its shoulders, but strength that can lift my broken soul from the soil and give it the courage to move and to speak. It is not strength that can throw stack upon stack of stones, but strength that can cast the heaviness of my heart aside. It is not the strength that adds muscle to my frame, but strength that held me in a tender embrace as I began to gaze into the eyes of the Lover of my soul.

Betrayed and Betrayer: Rescuing your marriage after the affair. 

By Ben and Ann Wilson coming in 2015


Shawshank and Affairs


Are you willing to stay in the prison of a marriage with little or no intimacy, or are you willing to pay the price-even if it is costly?

Consider Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption.  Andy lived in prison for nearly 20 years for murders he didn't commit. He lived in a situation that would seemingly never end. That’s how dealing with an affair felt to me. I wasn’t sure how I would ever get through the crap to live happily with Ann again.

Eventually, Andy used a small geologist's hammer to tunnel out of the limestone prison.  His friend, Red, said, "I remember thinking it would take a man 600 years to tunnel out of the wall with it. Andy did it in less than 20." Red continued, "Andy loved geology...geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really. Pressure and time."

Like Andy we have a choice. We can play it safe and go back to our prison cell or we can risk crawling through a pipe of crap that goes on longer than we ever imagined we can endure to emerge in freedom. Pressure and time are part of affair recovery.

Keep going. Be willing to keep going, even if it hurts so bad you want to stop, even if the crap stinks so bad you want to vomit. When almost every ounce in you wants to turn around, keep going. As long as you keep moving, if both spouses are moving, even if at different paces, there is hope.

Don’t give up.

We’ve seen this process of redemption in our lives. When other couples seek our guidance, trapped in pain following an affair, we help them experience the rescue and deliverance to freedom that filled our souls.

You really can do this even if you don't see the way out of the prison cell right now. Know that God sees you. He sees ahead beyond the pain that obstructs your vision of the future.

For Ann and me it was worth going through all the crap to find freedom in our relationship with God and in our marriage.  At times all we can do is raise our hands in worship to the mystery of a God who redeems the mess of our greatest wounds and our greatest sins.

Keep moving forward.