Modern Day Pioneer Women
Survivors of Marital Infidelity
There is a group of pioneer women among us for whom I have grown to have deep respect and compassion. Sadly, these are the women who, like those who were forced out of their dream homes in Nauvoo, are being forced out of their dream marriages by the significant mis-behaviors of their husbands.
You see, I am a professional counselor who specializes in working with LDS marriages, primarily those affected by the sexual indiscretions of the husbands. Commonly, the wife I meet has a history of trying to be a righteous woman. She followed all the rules that were supposed to “guarantee” a good husband and a good marriage. She tried to be a good wife by meeting all his needs. But nonetheless, he stepped out of the marriage through pornography, masturbation, an affair, or anything like unto such.
The shock of discovering what their Priesthood holding husband has done, throws them into a state of confusion and pain. After enjoying the comfort and safety of a good marriage, they are thrown out in the cold, on their own, many with varying numbers of children. Even if the husband tries to sincerely repent, the broken trust eliminates him as a source of strength and comfort.
These women have no instruction manual. Their priesthood leaders desperately want to be supportive, but are at times unsure how to help. Often, so much attention is given to helping the husband repent of his sins, the wife is left without sufficient care. Loving ward members are pioneers as well; it is new territory for them. Not only is she a pioneer, so are all others involved.
After years of being exposed to this dynamic, and having several clients currently in this situation, I find myself playing the role of a trail blazer. I hope what I have to share today will help all involved.
To the Ecclesiastical Leaders: Please, respond to these women as you would to those who were kicked out of their homes in pioneer days. Often these cases are like unto the pioneers who were stranded, resourceless, along their way to the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young called his people to action, “I will tell you that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains.” He asked for every resource available to help.
Also, be aware that many of these women feel an increase in pain as they watch families enjoying each other at church and Sunday lessons on eternal families.
Attending church can become very emotionally difficult. Many cannot sit through 3 hours of this each Sunday. Spend individual time with these women. Their testimonies of the love of God are going to be challenged during this process.
Finally, I give you a caution. In many cases I have seen smooth tongued men convince church leaders and other professionals that the wife is to blame for their situation. Please keep your Spirit of Discernment at its peak and never make a decision without interviewing both parties before making any decisions.
To the ward members and extended family: Please, I beg of you, withhold judgment! Also, withhold curiosity and gossip! Withhold premature counsel! In many cases, the best you can do is “…mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” . Don’t pressure the woman to tell you the whole story. It is very painful to re-live the details of her experience. A simple thing to do is offer to watch her children from time to time. It is very difficult for her to remain up-beat for her children all the time, and she needs time to grieve, heal and strengthen her connection with God. Invite her to do activities that can be a distraction from what she thinks about all day long. Keep such activities low key and with minimal socialization. Do not take it personally or stop offering just because she says “no” a few times.
And now, to the woman who has been thrown into the loan and dreary world. First, my heart goes out to you with tears of sadness, and deep anger for the unfairness of your situation. Be prepared to experience each of the emotions Kubler-Ross refers to in the Grief Cycle .
• Denial -“This can’t be happening to me.” “He would never do such a thing.”
• Anger – “I might have to kill him!” “No man can be trusted!”
• Bargaining – “Maybe if I…” “Maybe if I had…”
• Depression – “It’s all for naught.” “I didn’t even matter to him.”
• Acceptance – “I guess this is the way it is going to be.”
In my experience, women do not visit these emotions in any specific order, and I have never seen one visit each emotion less than 10 times. I refer to this phase of the experience as the “Spinning” or “Reeling” phase. Like being forced to sit on a playground merry-go-round, they get very dizzy and nauseated.
As the spin starts to slow down (This seems to greatly depend on the stability of the man involved. If he is either consistently repentant, or consistently unrepentant, she seems to recover more quickly.), she can start to access resources that will help her recover. While family, friends and church leaders can be a support, most of what she needs comes from within and from her Father in Heaven.
I was raised to believe that women were the weaker sex and should be cared for with kid gloves. I have since learned, with the help of my wife’s example and research of pioneer women, that women, when necessary, can really buckle down and handle very difficult situations. They don’t want to, and will do all in their power to avoid it, but once a woman finds herself on the plains pulling a hand cart with children sitting inside, she can walk many miles, barefoot, singing happy songs of hope and faith to her children and skinning buffalo with her bare hands. Women, when you find reprieve from the spinning, I encourage you to tap into this power within. Recognize the devastating situation you are in and approach it as a challenge to be conquered. Remember your strength and intelligence. You are a problem solver. You are brave. You are strong. Make a plan, and make it happen!
At last, the most important thing women in these situations can inherit from their pioneer ancestors is the discovery of a type of relationship with their Father in Heaven they never before thought possible. The relationship you have with your Father in Heaven will go through a rebirth similar to what is symbolized when we are baptized. The relationship you once had with God will die in some ways, but will be born again at a depth like unto what was experienced by your pioneer predecessors. Please, ladies, no matter what you experience with your relationship with the church and its people, please do not ever let go of the hand of God. He shares in your grief. He feels all the same emotions you feel, including the anger. He and his Son have prepared a miraculous healing for you. I do not know when it will come, or how long you will have to wait, but it will come. You are definitely not forsaken. Hold on through prayer and the words of the prophets, both modern and ancient, and the day will come when your wounds will heal.
Finally, Brethren. I beg of you, do whatever it takes to keep from hurting your wife in these ways. It always takes at least 10 times longer for a woman to recover from such mis-behaviors as you think. No amount of “pleasure” is worth the pain both you and she will experience. If you have already caused such damage, get the training you need to make sure it never happens again. If you cannot live up to your own value system, get professional help now! Stay in contact with your Bishop, he will help you see through the mist of darkness until you can see for yourself. Write down the whole truth about what you have done. Let your wife decide how much of it to read and how fast to read it. She needs to know that you are willing and ready to be completely honest. You will not be able to know when the best time for disclosure is, so just write it all down, and make it available for her to read when the time is right for her. Don’t withhold information or lie. Don’t withhold information “for her sake.” Every time a new disclosure surfaces, it re-traumatizes her all over again and her healing starts over. As mentioned above, she will visit all the emotions of the Grief Cycle repeatedly and unpredictably. Sink your roots deep in your relationship with God, because you will not be strong enough to handle her emotions without it.
Ideally, you will never have to go through anything like what I have described above. I pray that each husband out there will nurture his relationship with God to the strength that it will keep him from ever hurting his wife. Brethren, never underestimate how much Satan hates you and your happy marriage. Sisters, trust your good husbands, but trust God even more. When you feel peaceful but urgent promptings to confront your husbands, do so. Listen more to the Spirit than you do to his words. When you got married, you were not required to relinquish the strong personal connection you had with God. I have learned to be greatly benefited by my wife’s fine spiritual sensitivity. She can tell when Satan is messing with me on more subtle levels than I can discern. All she has to say is, “Something is wrong.” Without fail, if I look more closely at my thoughts, feelings and actions, I find something that needs attention, and I become a better man for it.
I thank pioneer women both modern and old. I am grateful for the legacy of the latter and for the inspiration of the former. We are all better men because of our good women.
The WOMEN’s MARRIAGE REPAIR WEBINAR WORKSHOP
For the women who are looking for extra support and training to address marital issues, we now offer the Women’s Marriage Repair Webinar Workshop. Specialist, Maurice W. Harker, Director of Life Changing Services, will be discussing the work women need to do in order to do their part of helping a traumatized marriage recover. This class will cover different, related topics every week. For Details go to: http://www.lifechangingservices.org/2016/02/womens-marriage-repair-webinar-workshop/
If you would like to read more writings of Maurice W. Harker, Director of Life Changing Services, read his powerful eBook on marriage and relationship recovery and repair called, “I’m Not Okay, You’re Not Okay, But That’s Okay!” For more information, CLICK HERE.
At Life Changing Services, for women no matter where you live, we offer a free service called: “Women of Rebirth: Therapeutic Healing”, otherwise known as, “The WORTH Group”. For more information on how to join the therapeutic group, lead by our skilled clinicians, CLICK HERE.
For the Men who are ready to be trained on how to overcome destructive patterns of sexual misbehavior, we have created Men of Moroni. For more information: CLICK HERE.
Maurice also now offers an inexpensive Men’s Marriage Repair Workshop In-Person as well as On-Line for those who live too far away. This Workshop gives you direct access to the Spiritual and Scientific interventions Maurice uses in his therapy techniques for less than 1/4th the cost of therapy! For more information: CLICK HERE