Friday, February 10, 2023

The Death of a Relationship

In re-reading my journal recently, I found this old entry that I want to share; maybe it will mean something to you, my readers.

What is it like when a relationship dies?

When love turns to apathy

When passion quietly flickers out?

Can you point to a specific day

or catalog one event that hammers the final nail in the coffin?


Maybe sometimes this is the case.


But it seems more often the effects

of many days and nights spent alone

of responsibilities and interests that take priority.

The culmination of fights and disagreements over petty things

While the elephant in the room is overlooked.


He wants solitude; she wants intimacy.

He wants words of affirmation; she wants quality time.

He focuses on work and career; she focuses on hearth and home.

The kids grow up and leave the nest.

Life doesn’t change for him; it changes radically for her.


All those years of runny noses, dirty diapers, squabbles and money woes;

One thing kept her going:  they would one day return to a world of two.

One day the house would be theirs alone once more.

One day there would be time to rediscover what drew them together in the beginning.

One day they would have the time to fall in love all over again.


Maybe sometimes this is the case.


But not if he wants solitude and she wants intimacy.

She can’t affirm and speak lovingly when her heart is breaking with loneliness.

His focus is still outward looking; but while she surveys the horizons of possibilities and potential, her heart is still anchored to home and hearth—to him.

The kids are gone, making lives for themselves.

She desperately wants life to change for them but he is content with the life he has created for himself.


What is it like when a relationship dies?

Death. Solitude. Aloneness. Loneliness. Sadness.

There is no body to lovingly put to rest and memorialize—no closure.

There is no date to mark the end, just an endless maze of days trying to breathe, trying to survive the crushing grief.

And not being able to talk to the one person you want most to talk to:  the one who has been the most significant person in your life; the one you are used to going to with joys and sorrows.


How does one move forward while still tethered to deadness?

How does one learn to live as a single while still married?

How does one create a new life when the old one is what you want?

How does one survive emotionally when reminded daily of what has been lost?

I don’t know, do you?



Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Keep Going!

My father died near the end of 2020 and my mother's grief was incalculable.  When she lost him, her will to live died and was buried with him.  They spent 66 contentious years together in a marriage marked by anger, recrimination, and abuse.  She married my dad when she was 15 and was so conditioned to the dysfunction and violence of their relationship that she did not know what to do without it.  She died ten months to the day after his death,

Patrick Carnes coined the phrase "betrayal bond," to describe the relationship between someone who experiences trauma at the hands of a trusted other and the perpetrator.  The term is used to describe the negative bond and strong attachment that develops between an abused person and their abuser or between an individual and a toxic system or process that is harmful to them.  A betrayal bond can be very difficult to break free from because the experience with the toxic person or system is not continually negative--there are kindnesses or positive aspects to the relationship.  My mom certainly had a betrayal bond to my dad and the toxic system they created.

My siblings and I were not immune to the toxicity of my parents' marriage and all four of us became trauma-bonded to the process and to them. The system demanded that we choose sides between our parents.  Allegiances were drawn based on who we supported at any given point in time.  After dad's death there was hope that the system could be destroyed but the patterns of behavior were too entrenched.  By the time my mother died, all hope of vanquishing the toxic process was gone and I found myself standing alone after my siblings made hurtful and destructive decisions.  Thankfully, years of therapy had helped me to break my own trauma bonds but her funeral was still shocking and shameful.  Unfortunately the estrangements between my siblings and I continues unabated.

Mom was the youngest in her large family as well as the youngest of dad's siblings; she was the last woman standing in both families.  She was the end of an era--the last of her generation.  She often spoke of her intense loneliness, lamenting "they all left me."  I understood what she was saying but simply could not reframe it to her satisfaction. She had children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren along with nieces, nephews and friends.  But she was so lonely.  In spite of the best support we could provide, she felt abandoned by those of her generation who preceded her in death.

While I am grateful to no longer be the prisoner of a toxic system, I confess to a level of loneliness and like my mother, lament the loss of sibling relationships.  It is a bittersweet experience--gratitude for freedom, and grief that I am left alone.  I do not think these competing emotions are exclusive or unique to me.  Freedom often creates loss, and we grieve.  Freedom and loss are really two sides of the same coin.  I'm reminded of Harriet Tubman's urging escaping slaves to keep going, no matter how frightening or dangerous their journey. Her message is appropriate to those of us running away from toxic or hurtful relationships:  "If you hear the dogs, keep going.  If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. Don't ever stop.  Keep going.  If you want a taste of freedom, keep going."

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Life After Loss

To my readers:  it has been a while since I have paid attention to this blog and for that, I apologize. Life has been busy with a move to the Pacific Northwest, which entailed a new job, house and lifestyle.  Oh, and we did have a pandemic, which disrupted much of life for all of us.  I’m happy to be back and with my impending retirement from full-time employment, look forward to being more active in the things I care deeply about. Thanks for reading and commenting on this blog--I really appreciate it.

Two years ago this month, life as we knew it ended.  A virus that originated in a lab in China swept the globe, killing over six million people worldwide, to date.  “Normal” disappeared and we were forced to adapt to life during a global pandemic. We wore masks, went to school and work from home, streamed a lot of TV, disinfected everything and became reacquainted with our homes and families.  We were isolated, stressed and anxious and many of us lost loved ones and were not even able to say a proper goodbye or celebrate their lives with our community.  We are cautiously optimistic that the pandemic is nearly over, although there always seems to be another variant that could create another surge and further restrictions in order to contain it.

There is a four-letter word that completely describes what the world community has experienced over the past two years: LOSS.  Loss is almost always unexpected and intrudes itself into our lives in many forms—betrayal by a loved one, illness, financial difficulties, a global pandemic, war, death—to name a few.  So, what do we know about this dreaded four-letter word?

Loss is grievous:  when we lose someone or something, we grieve, we lament. To “lament” simply means that we cry out in grief over the thing/person that was lost.  It is our legitimate reaction to the sudden absence of someone or something that was dear to us.  But some of us fear grief—we just want to pretend that we are not saddened when we are deprived of someone or something dear, so we gloss over it, stuff it or simply refuse to acknowledge the loss.  Failure to process through a loss will compound our reaction to future losses—ungrieved losses stack up and will accompany any new losses we may experience.

Loss changes everything:  whatever form loss takes, it will change everything in our life, whether we want it to or not.  It does not ask our permission before it marches in and disrupts our lives.  Both of my parents died within ten months of each other during the pandemic (though not from Covid).  No one can be fully prepared for the experience of losing one’s parent(s) until it happens.  It changes the rhythm of family interactions (no more morning talks with mom while commuting to work), our relationship with our past and creates a vulnerability for our future.  We suddenly become the next generation likely to die—the layer of protection from death that we foolishly believe our parents provided is gone.  Any opportunity to resolve conflicts, get vital health or family history or have just one more conversation is permanently gone.

Loss disrupts “normal” if there is such a thing.  We are creatures of habit—most of us enjoy the familiarity of our daily routines, we feel secure when life hums along as we believe it should.  When loss marches into the front door of our lives, “normal” exits through the back.  We are forced to grieve the original loss along with the loss of life as we knew it.  The pandemic certainly changed everything that was normal in our lives--the way we worked, shopped, socialized, worshiped, vacationed, dated and even how we conducted funerals. Covid caused us to fear each other and to distance ourselves (quarantine as well as maintaining a safe distance) at a time when we most needed each other, when we desperately needed the comfort of human touch or human presence.  My uncle died from Covid and like so many others who succumbed to this dreaded disease, he died alone in an intensive care unit hooked up to machines.  There is nothing “normal” about that!


Loss forces us to reevaluate our priorities:  have you heard about the Great Resignation?  Many in the workforce decided to either change careers or drastically change the way they participate in the workforce as a consequence of the pandemic.  Some of us loved working from home and cherished the additional personal time that not commuting provided.  Parents spent more time with their children (although juggling remote work and online school has been chaotic for many) and discovered that they enjoyed having more family time.  After the death of my parents and my return to in-person work, I realized that my priorities had shifted.  I’m having a very significant birthday this month and now knowing how my parents died and how old they were at the time of their death gives me a glimpse of what my future might look like.  How do I want to spend the remaining time I have on this planet?  What do I want to contribute or what brings me joy?  What do I need to change now as a result of the losses I have experienced?

Loss brings opportunities:  If you have read much in this blog, you know a bit about my story.  When  my marriage exploded in scandal, arrest, and the diagnosis of pedophilia, the grief and terror were real.  But this huge relationship loss presented opportunities for growth and changes that I could not even dream about while still tied to a perpetrator.  My life has expanded in so many amazing ways.  I have been given the opportunity to journey a bit with other partners who are struggling with their own losses, I have remarried and cherish a companion to journey with me, my family has expanded and I delight in three little girls who have captivated my heart, my kids are doing well and we regularly enjoy wonderful family times together.  None of these good things would have happened had I not experienced the loss of my first marriage.


More than anything, however, loss teaches us that we need each other.  The pandemic kept us from one another in tangible ways but we found ways to stay connected and my hope is that we will continue to look for healthy ways to connect, to support and to love one another as we embrace the numerous losses we have all experienced together—our common trauma. May we focus on what unites us rather than what divides and may we see and cherish our common humanity.


Monday, December 16, 2019

Tis the Season for Joy (and Sorrow)

A few days ago, my son was regaling his daughters with stories of Christmases past, particularly in the last home his father and I shared.  It was a splendid home, large, warm and welcoming in an upper middle-class neighborhood in the Midwest.  It was a consummate “holiday” house because it lent itself so well to wonderful holiday decorations and large parties.  But it was also the house whose front door was broken down one cold morning as police executed a search warrant. The memories I have of the house brings joy but also sorrow—bitter and sweet.

Temple Mount, Jerusalem
I was recently reminded of a story from the Old Testament that is kind of strange to read during this season of the year but maybe not so strange.  The temple in Jerusalem—that center of worship—had been destroyed by the Babylonians and many of the land’s residents had been carried into exile.  Seventy years later, the new king of the land decreed that the exiles could return to their native country and commissioned them to rebuild the temple.  When the builders laid the foundation of the temple, the people threw a party to celebrate but not everyone felt joyful—those who remembered the glory of the old temple were sorrowful because they knew that the rebuilt temple would not equal the majesty of the destroyed one.  There were shouts of joy and sounds of weeping that were so loud that one could not distinguish the sounds of the joy from those of the weeping.

Ancient Judean ruins
Those of us who have experienced the trauma of relationship betrayal probably understand better than most the season of joy and sorrow.  Like the exiles, we may have been kicked out of our lives or sat in the ash heap or ruins of what once was trying to find a remnant of the joy we once knew.  We may long for the life we once had while also being greatly relieved and joyful in this new normal of a life we have built.  While we are so grateful to have survived, like those exiles, we still bear the scars of the traumas we have experienced.  We still feel the pain of wounds that are healing but still hurt enough to remind us that something went very wrong in our lives and in our relationships.

There is an odd sentence in the Biblical narrative of the exiles returning home. It describes the returning exiles as being in dread of the neighboring peoples.  Not all of the Judean inhabitants had been carried into captivity.  The elite of the community were taken first but many “commoners” were allowed to remain in the land.  The elite were religious and civic leaders who were probably the wealthier inhabitants.  Their land and possessions were taken by those who remained.  So, there was a loss of status and economic security for the exiles.  In their former lives, they were esteemed as leaders and upstanding citizens; their captivity ended that identity and their return threatened the new lives the remaining inhabitants had created.

How many of us can fully identify with the fear and trauma these returning exiles experienced?  We too once had an identity, reputation and status that was ripped from us by the actions of our betrayer.  We still feel the sting of that loss and maybe still feel the fear that we will be judged guilty simply by our relationship with a perpetrator.  We sometimes fear the dread of our neighbors—not because of our actions or behavior but because of what the addict, pedophile or abuser in our lives has done.

Western Wall--Wailing Wall
Joy and sorrow—two ends of a spectrum of emotion that we are capable of experiencing as humans created in the image of God.  The holiday season presents so many opportunities to experience both, and that is ok.  Life is not black and white nor is it a Hallmark movie.  Stuff happens, we break and we hurt.  Sitting with both emotions is a healthy and appropriate response to the season, particularly in light of loss.  

My hope and prayer for you is that you experience the gift of presence as you navigate these days of joy and sorrow—that you embrace the paradox of both emotions and celebrate the gift that you are.  You are who you are today precisely because of all that you have experienced and you have so much to offer a hurting world.  Relish the joy and welcome the tears—they both are a reflection of the journey that has brought you to this day.  Merry Christmas and may the New Year bring more joy than sorrow!

Monday, May 27, 2019


Today is Memorial Day--a day to honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our freedoms.  War and conflict serve as a sober reminder that actions have consequences--some of them fatal.  Tensions and disagreements between countries are escalated by their leaders' war of words and violence erupts.  Words and actions have consequences and it is often the innocent who pay the price.

Six years ago this weekend, a woman walked into three banks with checks she had counterfeited and with my forged signature and cleaned out my bank account.  A month later, in spite of my having changed the accounts and taken all the necessary precautions, she did it again.  In order to protect myself, I purchased a credit monitoring service and placed a fraud alert on my credit with all three credit-reporting bureaus.  She was never prosecuted, even though the bank had her picture and thumb print but the consequences of her actions continue to reverberate through my life.

This past month, I have been denied a credit card twice and turned down for a loan, in spite of a very high credit score.  I have spent hours of my time trying to contact the very insulated credit bureaus to remedy the situation but all of my efforts have been in vain.  The level of sadness that I feel, while understandable, points to something deeper so I'm taking a deep dive this morning.  Care to join me?

Because my identity theft occurred in such close proximity to my ex-husband's arrest, the sense of vulnerability I felt was incredibly exacerbated by having my bank account broken into and cleaned out. It was a triggering event that I was powerless to prevent or contain.  My efforts at self-protection also failed and the remedy I wisely chose (fraud alert) continues to have repercussions in my life.  These are the primary players in this ongoing saga:

The perpetrator:  Her initial actions were in secret, much like the pedophile secretly seeking out sexual gratification through the exploitation of children.  She secretly stole a check I wrote to her employer and creatively counterfeited it and mastered my signature.  She waited for an opportune time to attempt to steal from my account and chose the Saturday before the Memorial Day weekend, when bank employees were most vulnerable.  Pedophiles begin in secret and then seek out vulnerable children to groom and molest.  They are incredibly good at reading people and identifying those who are most likely to either not see or to look away.  Both the identity thief and the pedophile see people as targets, not as humans.  They care not for the pain they cause and believe that they are entitled to their elicit gain.

The credit bureaus:  These agencies are huge, non-personal and have incredible control and power.  I was happy to learn that there is now a governmental oversight bureau and spent time this weekend filing complaints against all three bureaus.  The service they provide is protective when you are a victim of identity theft but they seem to operate with impunity and are a formidable "enemy."  I appreciate law enforcement as a citizen and am grateful for the protection they provide. But when my ex-husband was under investigation and then arrested, law enforcement became frightening.  The power they held over our lives was horrifying and we were powerless against it.

The bystanders:  Bystanders are the ancillary individuals who intersect with the repercussions of the crime you have experienced.  Each time I have been told that my application for a loan/credit card was denied I have experienced intense shame and humiliation.  Even though I know the shame does not belong to me and that I did nothing wrong, it is still huge.  Does the loan officer believe me or does she think I am making up a story to cover some sinister aspect of my credit history?  When my ex-husband was arrested I felt shame as well.  I know, all too well, that many do not believe the wife of a pedophile does not know what her husband is doing!  I've read the articles from "experts" who allege that the wife always knows.  The bystanders are either supportive or cynical and the truth of the matter often does not matter or change their opinion or actions.

Actions have consequences and it is often the innocent who pay the most.  The repercussions of one person's choice(s) continue for a very long time and there are no "do-overs."  The word that has often come to mind while writing/processing today is "powerlessness."  Innocent civilians are powerless to prevent war coming to their land; family members of the fallen were powerless to prevent the death of their loved one; victims of identity theft are powerless against the aggressor or the "protectors" and partners of perpetrating pedophiles are powerless against the urges that drive the addiction.  We did not cause it, cannot contain it nor cure it.  What can we do?

We can begin to take back some of the power we lost--small steps to assert our independence and autonomy.  For me, it was filing a complaint--using whatever tool I can find to begin to fight and to take back what was stolen from me. We fight back against paralyzing power of powerlessness!  We speak the truth to power and stand in that truth.  Sometimes that means we walk away (divorce or ending the relationship) and sometimes that means we take a defensive stand but we cannot and must not wallow in powerlessness!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Refocus for 2019

It has been seven years since my life shattered through an event that seems both very far away and as memorable as today's lunch.  A lot has happened since that cold February morning but this seventh year invites a special season of reflection and expressions of gratitude.  And as is my custom, I've been contemplating my name for the year.

The number "7" has great significance in a number of cultural and religious contexts.  It typically signals that something is finished, completed, released or fulfilled.  Old Testament Law required that all debts be cancelled every seven years and that the land be given a rest from agricultural cultivation.  I can imagine that for the one whose financial debt was forgiven, the year was one of great joy and freedom, but maybe not so much for the one who was required to forgive the debt.  In an agrarian society, a cessation of cultivating the land meant that there was little food to eat but God promised that if the Israelites would observe this principal, he would increase their harvest.

The seventh year was an invitation to take a break and refocus.  It offered a challenge to trust God to provide rather than one's own efforts and to concentrate on spirituality rather than material pursuits.  It was a reset button, of sorts.  So, in the spirit of the number "7," I have chosen to name 2019 "A Year to Refocus."  As is often the case, I have no idea how this will work out throughout the year, but look forward to exploring it as the year progresses.

2018 was a transition year for me in that I experienced a milestone birthday, which was ushered in with discontent, impatience and malaise.  It took a while for me to identify the source as similar to something that I experienced 30 years ago with another milestone birthday.  My husband and I took a cross-country trip in the latter months of 2018 which further solidified some things for me that I hope to share in future posts.

In many ways, 2018 has mirrored 2011, when it was clear my marriage was over.  I knew that one major part of my life was ending but had no clue to what lie ahead, which is probably a very good thing!  I'm looking at my final push towards retirement and there are potentially big changes coming that offer a new and different perspective and way of living.  It is an exciting time and there is much to look forward to and to anticipate.

The past seven years have been full of changes--some imposed and some chosen.  So it is entirely appropriate to pause and reflect but also to hit a reset button--to refocus on what is most important to me during this season of life.  Life is no longer driven by the urgent challenges of life explosions, criminal cases and survival.  It has settled down into "normal," which offers a wonderful opportunity for contemplation.

My word for 2018 was "Enough," and several pivotal personal decisions have come as a result of choosing that declarative word.  What will "Refocus" mean for 2019?


  • How can I further release the pain and trauma of relationship betrayal?  What would that look like?  What would it mean?
  • What further work in the area of forgiveness do I need to do so that I can walk into this new season of life without baggage?
  • Is it possible to complete or finish a recovery process from relationship betrayal or is it a lifelong journey?  What would it mean to take the good (?) from the experience of having married a pedophile and leave the rest behind?  Is that possible?
  • What do I need to do to cultivate a deeper spiritual connection to God?  How am I doing with trust?
Thanks for journeying with me through the past six years of blogging.  I'd love to hear about where you are in your own journey towards wholeness and healing.  One of the best things to come from my personal devastation is this blog and the relationships with so many wonderful women who have contacted me through this venue.  My prayer is that you enjoy a wonderful and full year free from pedophilia and relationship betrayal!  Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Cross-Country Trip

I've moved across the country three times and made numerous road trips between Southern states and the Midwest but this fall was a first.  My husband and I set out on a three-week cross-country camping trip.  We planned the details of the trip for well over a year, packed and repacked and made a lot of campsite reservations.  Our trip of a lifetime included scenery too stunning to describe or take in, precious reconnections with friends and family, fun museums and attractions and learning more about two ministries to women.

My husband and I share several common traits, one of them being a propensity to obsess on detailed planing when undertaking a project or a trip.  But unlike me, when he gets behind the wheel on a road trip, he becomes the best traveling companion!  It is all an adventure and he relishes it to the maximum. We had maps, cell phones and our car GPS systems but still made several wrong turns.  We discovered, however that wrong turns may not be wrong after all.

Two memorable "wrong turns" come to mind.  The first was on our trip from Georgia to Nashville, TN.  We made a wrong turn and ended up in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park on a rainy day.  As we climbed and climbed into the clouds on the mountain, we saw wild turkeys and elk and beauty beyond description.  Another "GPS glitch" occurred in Utah when we were driving to Bryce Canyon National Park.  At the last minute our GPS instructed us to take a road we had not planned on taking, so we obeyed.  We climbed to 10,000 feet above sea level and were surprised to see the ground covered in snow.  The aspen trees dotting the landscape were in their full golden glory and their color against the deep green of the pine was astounding.  My eyes well with tears as I exclaimed, "I don't think I can stand any more beauty today!"

We planned for the unexpected, which included purchasing a second roadside assistance plan specifically for campers.  We were fortunate in that we had no unexpected glitches in our truck or camper but we did learn that pigs can turn up in the most unexpected places.  While driving through the hills of Missouri, we decided to stop at a small barbecue place for lunch.  As we bit into our wonderful sandwiches, I heard squealing coming from the corner of the restaurant.  I was stunned to see a young piglet playing in his pen!  No explanation--just a pig in the most unexpected place--kind of a metaphor for life, I'm thinking.

As we left the plains of Kansas and began the ascent to the Rockies, my anxiety level rose with each mile.  Would our rig handle the rigors of the Rockies?  Would we find enough gas?  Really, would we be enough for the road ahead?  My husband, on the other hand, was entirely confident that we would be ok and could not understand my concern.  He has learned that embracing adventure makes life more interesting while I still struggle with the "what if's."  Our rig did fine, we did fine and it was an amazing adventure.  And it occurs to me that his approach to travel and life is probably the healthier one.  Regardless of what comes, we will be ok so I'm trying to learn to relax and enjoy the ride.

Check out Thistle Farms for your Christmas Shopping!
My family of origin is quite fractured with deep and enduring divisions.  But family is who you make it and our family of choice may be entirely different from our family of origin.  I'm fortunate to have some adopted "sisters" that I was able to spend time with on our trip.  But we also were blessed to visit with two special non-profit organizations whose missions involve reaching out to our sisters on the street and in prison, to those who struggle with addiction and trauma.  It was a special joy to sit in a meditation circle with some of the women at Thistle Farms and realize that while we may be miles apart, metaphorically and geographically, we are kindred spirits and as such are part of a great big family.

Shirley Combs opened a small store-front restaurant in Toccoa, GA a number of years ago.  Shirley's Soul Food quickly became the go-to place for a real Southern home-cooked meal.  Shirley's purpose in starting the business was bigger than simply making a living; she was on a mission to do something about a problem in her community.  After the noon lunch hour, she invited the community's homeless into her dining room and fed them.  As her business grew and prospered, she turned her sights towards providing transitional housing and has opened a shelter.  One woman with a heart as big as Texas, doing something substantial in her community--it was a joy to visit with her and to enjoy her famous cooking!

Twenty-one days, 5,583 miles through 19 states, 4 national parks, numerous museums and attractions, family and friends, amazing scenery and the companionship of a man I dearly love.  Our cross-country trip typifies what I'm learning life is all about, especially during recovery from relationship trauma.  A wrong turn may not be a wrong turn after all but create an opportunity for discovery, growth and joy.  Expect and accept the unexpected because pigs turn up in the most unusual places and embracing the adventure makes life more interesting and less stressful.  Connecting with kindred spirits, whether we are biologically related or not, is the key to living fully as a part of the human family and is a critical component of recovery.  While our journey through life and recovery is a solitary one in that no one can do it for us, we do not travel alone (or at least we shouldn't).  We join with others and it is through those connections that we find the deepest healing.