Marsha Means, MA
Looking back across the years of my life, I know it is not by accident that I now help women hurting from the pain marital infidelity brings. This is the path that brought me here….
Each of us has a story to tell; a story made up of all the big and little things that have happened to us in life. As we grow up and move into adulthood, we all endure the inevitable emotional wounding that comes with life on planet Earth. And just as inevitably, these wounds generate responses and behaviors in us. As children, and often even as adults, we remain completely unaware of the interaction between life’s circumstances and our own emotional development. Metaphorically, it’s as if from the moment we are born, our stories spin reams of yarn—some of it plush and soft, some coarse and rough to the touch, some fine and delicate—but all of it spun from the moments, the times, and the days of our lives.
This yarn, when woven together, forms the fabric of our very beings. It also holds the secrets to how we came to be the way we are. If we take the time to study the threads that run through the fabric of our lives—to revisit the history that spun out the coarse, rough yarn—to find and remember the origin of the fragile, delicate strands, then we can turn the coarse parts, and the fragile parts, into a soft, yet strong and durable, cloth of beauty. When we offer it as a gift to God, this cloth becomes highly useful and valuable. He then can use it—by using us—to bind the wounds of His brokenhearted children.
Coming to know our own stories well, and taking the time to emotionally “re-work” their painful parts, takes courage, insight, and hard work. It usually requires help, as well. I would like to share some of my story with you. I hope it builds a bridge between your heart and mine, and enables us to connect, even though we may never have the opportunity to meet and exchange our stories in person. Perhaps you will find brief glimpses of my mistakes and lessons in life somehow helpful as you work through the many strands of your own.
My story began when my 17 year old parents, who were poor children of the great depression of 1929, fell deeply in love and married. Neither of them had a personal relationship with God, but they had each other, and they were ready to tackle the world and life.
I was born one year later to an18 ½ year-old mom and dad.
During my early childhood I was sexually abused several times by people who lived near me. This factor set up the stage of my life, and like a character in a play, I lived out my role automatically. It also shaped how I thought, acted, and felt about myself, about men, and about the meaning of male/female relationships as I grew up.
My parents also became Christians during those early years of my life. When I was six, we—there were now three children, and soon to be four—moved from our little farming community in Washington state to the Bay Area in northern California in the United States. There my dad began Bible college to train to become a minister.
For the next three-and-a-half years, and far beyond, my parents battled major health problems. At one point during those college years, my still young, but physically weak, mother was fighting for her life. And she was far too sick to take care of four young children. So my younger sister and two very little brothers and I had to be sent back to Washington to live with relatives temporarily. Later, my mother contracted tuberculosis and was placed in a TB sanitarium. This time my maternal grandmother—who was not fond of young children—came to care for us. From these separations, major abandonment issues and painful reactions to being “left” began to spin inside me. It would take forty years and much hard work to un-knot the tangled strands that life spun out during those growing up experiences.
Dad also pastored his first church while still in college, so my life as a minister’s daughter began when I was seven. Being a “preacher’s kid” as some call it, also played an enormous role in shaping who I grew up to be. My young, idealistic parents became rigid fundamentalists, and by the time I was 12, I started to rebel. The older I grew, the more rebellious I became. Simultaneously, life in our parsonage home began to fill with multiple stresses, from both church problems, and pain in my family.
I’m not proud of my behavior during those teen years. I fought the rules my parents set, and lived my life on two levels. On the first level, God was an important part of my world. I loved my parents and my noisy, demonstrative family. I was a busy teen-ager, active in school functions, and had an after-school job. But on the second level, I lived an entirely different secret life style. I rebelled by becoming promiscuous, sneaking out, and centering my life around boys. Sadly, I can honestly say that I am lucky to be alive because of major risks I took during that teenaged acting out years. Subconsciously wanting to end my risky behavior and the difficulties at home, I married a man seven years my senior shortly after graduating from high school. Although my actions were self-imposed, I think God used that act to protect me from myself and what could have happened through my dangerous, rebellious behavior, had I gone on to college at that time.
At 18, I was oblivious to the fact that I was designing my future from the story spun from my childhood. I was also unaware that with my marital choices I was creating a garment that would not fit, and one I could never grow into. The unfinished fabric woven from my married life would become a heavy cloak that often weighed me down, drug in the mud, and caused me to trip and get emotionally scared along the way.
During the 23 years that followed my first wedding, we were blessed with a wonderful son, and two years later, a delightful daughter. Despite those blessings, for me, many of those years were troubled and lonely, and filled with marital problems and deep depression. I’m sure they must have been equally difficult for my husband, in his own way. But with no emotional intimacy between us, I would never really know.
But all the while, God was there. He didn’t abandon me, in spite of my teen rebellion, though at times my heart ached until I thought it would break. Yet in His love and faithfulness, God continued to work in my aching heart, turning it back toward Him. I didn’t know that the pain I often felt would one day become a rich resource and provide me with an ability to understand and empathize with thousands of other hurting women around the world.
When my first marriage ended after 23 years, I reconnected with my childhood sweetheart. We shared three years of our childhood history, many of the same interests, and our love seemed magical. I felt like Cinderella. After a brief, super-charged courtship, we married. I felt certain that sharing a life with this wonderful man whom I absolutely adored would put an end to all of my problems.
But life and time have taught me differently. I’ve learned that every marriage has its difficulties; its seasons; and its challenges. I’ve also learned that many of the problems were there because of the knotted strands of my early history, which were yet to be untangled. Even at mid-life, I discovered I still had lots of emotional and psychological work to do before any marriage would hold the potential for on-going joy and continuing friendship.
Life also taught me something else: men—even Christian men in ministry, like my second husband—men who look very good on the outside—can hold dark and painful secrets on the inside. I soon discovered that my perfect Prince Charming was among them. He, too, had tangles and knots that he needed to work out. One of those knots was a tangle that produced sexual addiction.
When I recognized my reality, I felt furious and shattered at the same time. How could this man whom I thought really loved me betray me this way?
I frantically searched for understanding and help. I desperately tried to control his addiction and behavior, along with what he chose to expose himself—and our marriage—to. In my search for answers, I soon discovered that very little was available for wives of sex addicts at that time.
Several difficult years of counseling & in-patient treatment for my own issues that stemmed from my life events followed. And through that personal work I grew to understand that my own rebellious, promiscuous youth very much resembled sexual addiction. This humbling awareness would in the end produce great empathy in me for all who struggle with promiscuity and sexual addiction.
All the while, I continued my search for resources to help me heal from my husband’s sexual addiction. And as I grew and regained equilibrium, I sought further education, earning my MA in psychology, specializing in Marriage & Family Therapy. Writing and teaching were to follow.
But the most difficult lesson I had to learn also felt the most devastating. That is that I am completely and utterly powerless to change my husband or any other human being. That is work that each of us must choose to do if we want to change.
As I passed through the sometimes dark and difficult times that came with being married to a sex addict, I learned anew that life is not as clear and simple as I once thought it was. There are no perfect marriages, and Cinderella and Prince Charming only exist in storybooks. I also learned that even when we strive to grow—and to continue to grow—new losses and pain will continue to emerge in our stories. That became painfully clear when sex addiction eventually put an end to the marriage that I believed would last forever because of the power of our love. That loss produced the most wrenching pain I’ve ever experienced. But it did equip me to fully understand what many women I serve are experiencing as I walk with them on their journeys.
Amidst the new lessons life continues to teach me I am discovering wonderful new joys and benefits—all because I’ve been forced to grapple with the dark and agonizing world of sexual addiction. These newfound joys produce benefits unavailable to me without the earlier heartache. I’ve discovered the joy of being bonded to a large number of amazingly strong and beautiful women, women who walk the same path I walked; who bear the same pain I bore. They are friends whom I deeply treasure, and who treasure me. They are sisters who let me know that I am loved by women who understand my pain, and who reflect back to me my worth and value as a Precious Daughter of the King of the Universe. These are friends who won’t forsake me for someone younger or more beautiful. These are women whose hearts mirror the love and acceptance of our Heavenly Father. And most, like Him, will not abandon me, no matter how rough the journey may become.
In this wonderful environment, it became possible to let go of the shame I felt as a child and young adult, and to accept each thread of the fabric of my life, knowing God can—and does—use each strand to wrap someone else in his love. And I’ve learned deep down in my heart of heart’s that a husband’s addiction has nothing to do with me, or you, or any woman. And I’m learning that each and every one of us is a cherished daughter of our heavenly Father, and each of us is endowed with gifts that only we can develop and use to reflect his glory and to help others.
Life is full of surprises, isn’t it? Sometimes we find its greatest gifts in the most unexpected places. It is my prayer that this web site will be such a discovery for you. That here you will touch, and be touched by, the hearts of sisters who share your pain. Who care. And who understand. It is also my prayer that you will find courage, direction, healing, and joy as we share our experience, strength and hope with one another.
We’re not glad you’re here because it is your pain that brought you. But we are glad that you found us. It is our prayer that you will never again feel as if you are all alone in this unplanned journey of recovery.