One of our greatest needs is to be fully seen, fully known and fully loved. It’s really tough to do that if you’re not certain that you have anyone safe to share vulnerable moments and your ugliest struggles with. This is all so much more important and difficult if you have recently found out that your spouse is using pornography.
If you are feeling alone and weary of having to maintain appearances, and you’re looking for some support, how do you know who your safe community is?
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Deb Laaser defines safe community this way:
“It is a place where you can open your heart, admit your inadequacies, own your mistakes, share your anger and grief, or just vent. You can be you, with all of your flaws, and still be accepted and encouraged and loved. In return, safe [people] will also share their stories, be vulnerable, and not try to fix you. They will listen to you, comfort you, and encourage you. That is safe community.”1
Melissa Haas, author of The Journey, notes that during this time, most family members are probably considered “unsafe” because they will often either blame you or try to eliminate your pain, potentially encouraging you to leave the relationship immediately.2
Melissa’s indicators of safe people and unsafe people are adapted below, for our discussion:
1. Cannot keep confidences.
2. Condemn you or blame you for your spouse’s pornography problems.
3. Deny or minimize the impact of your spouse’s problematic behavior.
4. Try to fix you or your spouse (for example, by suggesting things you should do or not do).
5. Are only comfortable with you when you are happy and hopeful. They are too uncomfortable with or embarrassed by grief and anger to let you feel negative emotions and to mourn.
6. Are arrogant and self-righteous.
7. Are undiscerning and lack insight.
1. Accept and support you unconditionally.
2. Are comfortable with grief. They don’t try to lighten the mood, distract you, or do something to stop the tears. They offer a shoulder and they are willing to cry with you.
3. Hold your story carefully. They don’t gossip about you or your partner with others.
4. Simply listen and encourage you. They don’t try to fix your problems or offer overly simplistic solutions.
5. Have a healthy sense of self and can handle angry outbursts and stormy emotions. You can be imperfect or even disagree and they can still be okay.
6. Are aware of their own brokenness; humility and integrity are hallmarks of their character.
7. Are more concerned about relating to you and caring for you than about giving you advice.
8. Are wise and discerning.
Finding a safe person to be authentic with is often a real challenge. If you are hard-pressed to think of a “safe” friend in your life right now, building a safe community and honest spaces for sharing struggles may be slow-going at times, but it’s certainly an essential and powerful part of the path to healing. If you’re lacking in this area, we want to help you find safe people with whom you can share.
1 Debra Laaser, 2008, Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed, p. 52
2 Melissa Haas, 2004, The Journey, Book One, p. 26-28.
Written By: Mindy Pierce, MA, LPC