“You’re having an affair, aren’t you?” my husband demanded as he slammed the door to our two-bedroom apartment in Kansas City. He pounded his clenched fist against the wall. The oriental print hanging above the entry table swung back and forth a few times before it stopped off-center.
Panic whipped through my stomach.
“Aren’t you?” he yelled, louder this time. His face was rage red.
I froze, not even looking up from my newspaper.
Tom grabbed the paper and threw it aside on the couch. “I’ve been wondering why you’ve been out of town so much.”
“Whatever,” I scowled as I jerked away from his domination. “And what are you doing at home? You’re supposed to be out looking for a job.”
Tom bent over to get eye level with me. His breath reeked with a familiar chemical smell and his speech was slurred. I could tell he had been using drugs again. “Get out of my face. You’re messed up again.”
“Now it all makes sense,” he said, moving closer. “There’s someone at work, isn’t there?”
“If you weren’t so messed up all the time, maybe we could have a decent conversation.”
“You can deny it all you want, but I asked Pastor Dan.”
I stood up and looked straight in his face. “Oh, right,” I said, laser-locking my eyes with his. Pastor Dan wouldn’t betray me. He promised that our counseling sessions were confidential. “You’re lying! He didn’t tell you that.”
“Actually, he didn’t say a word. But if it weren’t true, he would have defended you. Just admit it!” Tom ripped his coat off and flung it on the wicker chair. The metal zipper grazed my arm before it landed.
“Watch what you’re doing!” I picked up the newspaper that had been strewn all over the couch. “If this marriage—if that’s what you even want to call it—has a problem, it’s not an affair. It’s all your empty promises and lies.”
Trying to avoid his unrelenting glare, I picked up a few scattered toys on the floor and put them in the basket by the television. He crouched down and locked eyes with me. “You’re cheating, aren’t you?”
Chilled blood pumped through my veins. There was no escape.
I gazed at the beige carpet. A purple stain begged to be blotted. “If you weren’t such a lousy husband, I wouldn’t have needed anyone else,” I sobbed. “The past due bills. Your drug addiction. It’s too much. I can’t take it anymore.”
Busted and Disgusted
Throughout our marriage, issues in our relationship strangled me. Because of my own brokenness, however, I thought all the problems were my husband’s fault. After years of futile attempts to change him, I had given up. Instead of the happily-ever-after I’d dreamed of, I settled for pain relief in the arms of another man. Even though Tom and I were going to marriage counseling, I was oblivious to my own invisible prison of bitterness. I thought my happiness was tied to my husband—if only he would change, I could be happy.
I had yet to learn, broken people attract broken people and broken people hurt each other. Until the brokenness is fixed, an invisible vacuum sucks us into a merry-go-round of chaos sprinkled with just enough temporary peace that momentarily deceives us into thinking that everything is going to work out after all.
In a way I found relief that day. My secret was out. Even though I had nowhere else to run, at least I no longer had to hide behind my lies.
My problems started long before I met Tom. In high school, I spent every Friday night glued to the television. Truly, everything I learned about romance I learned from The Love Boat. By the time I figured out that real devotion comes from a friendship, not a cruise ship, it was too late—I was already hooked. Turns out I got old too soon and smart too late.
By the time we were engaged, I had made Tom responsible for my emotional welfare. My heart was in his hands, and like a sports fan on Super Bowl Sunday, he controlled the remote. His actions dictated whether or not I was happy. He controlled whether or not I was depressed. His behavior monitored my peace. I gave him my heart and threw away the key. At one time, I thought this sounded romantic.
I’m not alone. Countless women everywhere are hurting in the hands of love, misguided by romantic notions based on fantasies and fairy tales. Emily tends to rush into relationships, believing what men tell her instead of taking the time to watch their actions. After her divorce from Ron, who had a gambling addiction, she rushed into a relationship with Michael, who was a workaholic. He was responsible with money, but she never saw him.
Cheryl is naïve. She falls for smooth talkers and phony profiles. Two men she dated recently turned out to be married. Erin puts her own needs in her marriage last. Even though she’s tried to change, she always puts her husband’s needs first, not out of respect but out of her own insecurities. She is constantly compromising, even though it makes her angry. Keisha struggles with infidelity in her marriage. For her, it’s easier to have an affair, even if it’s an emotional affair, than to expect an improvement in her marriage.
I’ve had my own shares of affairs, both physical and emotional. I’m a happily married woman today, but I wasn’t always so lucky in love. Like the woman at the well, I was a big-time loser when it came to relationships. I was a love junkie, and men were my drug of choice.
Some women are born with the ability to choose men wisely and have successful relationships. Not me. My picker was busted. For starters, I was so naïve that I couldn’t distinguish the guy from the lie. And because I was so needy (that sounds better than desperate), I looked for acceptance, worth, validation, and approval in my relationships with men. Since I had no real identity of my own, I saw no other choice. Besides, relationships were a clever cover up—the perfect disguise for my addiction.
Until an encounter with Jesus changed my life.
Oh, I had met Jesus before. I gave him my heart at summer camp in high school. My relationship with Christ was very important to me, but even after I accepted his gift of salvation my insecurities caused me to discount his love for me. Deep inside I doubted I deserved the type of love I longed for. I struggled to believe I was worthy. My fears and inadequacies compelled me to seek false approval and camouflage my pain. On the outside, I looked happy and whole, but on the inside, I was desperate for love. So, over and over I ran from relationship to relationship to relationship. The counterfeit approval I found from men always left me wanting more, but it was better than nothing.
Three years into my first marriage, my husband and I separated. I was afraid and alone. I didn’t know how to be alone. In the past I dealt with my loneliness by looking for love. The anticipation of a new relationship masked the pain. But now, I was in a different place emotionally and spiritually. After affairs in my marriage nearly destroyed my life, I was committed to dealing with my demons and the bondage that my addiction to relationships previously held me in.
I sat in my living room one afternoon. My fingers tingled as I rubbed them against the fabric of my couch. Why am I like this? I wondered. Why have I always needed a man to feel complete? I had never contemplated this question before. I had never allowed myself to be alone long enough to consider it. I wasn’t expecting an answer, not from myself or anyone else, yet an answer came. It wasn’t audible, but I knew it was from God.
“Because you’ve never believed you were worthy to receive what you really wanted, you settled for less in relationships.”
Suddenly, the tingling in my fingers crept throughout my entire body. I sensed His presence in the room. “To you, less was better than nothing. But because one relationship was never enough to fill the void, you always had another relationship on the side.”
I glanced at the antique footstool beneath my feet. The finish was worn off on the corner, but to me, the distressed edges only added to its character. “Just like that footstool, Christy, I love you just the way you are. What you’ve perceived as flaws actually add to your beauty. I celebrate every part of you.”
I felt God’s love wrap around me and the weight of performance slither to the ground. All my life I had performed for others in order to gain their approval. No more! For the first time in my life, I was alone, but I didn’t feel alone. In an instant, the revelation of how much Christ loved me and approved of me became so real that the thought of accepting anything less nauseated me. I became repulsed at the thought that I had used men for approval and affirmation. In that moment God liberated me from the opinions of others and I accepted his freedom to be the unique woman he created me to be.
I began my journey of recovery from relationship addiction that day. I was still married, but little by little, day by day, I laid down my need for approval from my husband and transferred it to Christ. It was a long journey. As liberating as the freedom was at times, there were also many days of pain and sorrow. I’d take two steps forward and one step back, but the net effect was always progress. I’ve never regretted the choice I made to surrender my trust to Christ and allow him to restore my soul.
He wants to restore your soul, too. Will you let him? That’s what this book is all about—a healing journey of transforming liberty for love junkies. From one love junkie to another, I’ll take you by the hand and show you how to navigate past the pain and hang on to Jesus. This is not a book from someone who has no clue. I’ve lived in the pit and know what it’s like. I’ve been distressed and now I’m blessed and because of that, my hope is overflowing for you. I’m convinced that if this love junkie found liberty, you can too!
The Least Likely to Succeed
I’m certain that there are others more qualified to write this book, but I’ve noticed something about God. He often picks the least likely to succeed. At least this is true in my case.
A couple of months after I repented of my marital affairs and left the wilderness of my own relationship addiction, I had my first vision. I had never heard anyone talk about visions before, but I instinctively knew that what I saw was from God. When God reveals Himself to you, whether it’s through a dream, a divine encounter, or a vision, you don’t need an introduction—you just know it’s Him.
Moses did. He took off his sandals.
The woman at the well did. She ran back to town to tell everyone.
Gideon did too. But not until after he questioned the Lord’s angel. “Me? You want to use me? Are you sure you have the right guy? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
I felt like Gideon. God could not have chosen a more unlikely candidate for the job he was giving me.
I had barely begun my own journey of recovery. Why God chose to reveal this to me then, I’m not sure. He gave Joseph a dream, years before Joseph became second in command over Egypt. He anointed David when he was a teenager, years before David was appointed king. And like Gideon, He called me long before I was capable of the assignment to which He was calling me.
In my vision, I saw myself standing on top of a mountain in a desert. A single-file line of women were making a journey toward me. The line of women spiraled around the mountain numerous times and off into the desert as far as I could see.
I couldn’t image what all the women were traveling to see and why I was on the top of the mountain. “Lord, what does this mean?” I asked.
“These are the women you will help.”
“Me? Are you kidding? I’ve just barely begun to trust you, Lord! Plus, don’t you remember speech class in junior high? I was the one who needed CPR after delivering my monologue.”
“I will equip you. And you will help women come out of the wilderness of relationship addiction and take the journey to the top of the mountain, into my presence.”
I didn’t want to speak to women. I just wanted to be whole. I never could have imagined how God could cultivate influence in an invalid. But God is the restorer of our souls. He saw something in me long before I could, and He must have known—without a vision to press toward, I might succumb to the challenge of adversity and remain trapped in the wilderness, ordained by Satan to live a dry and bitter life.
God spoke to me before I fully experienced my freedom from relationship addiction. Interestingly, I wasn’t a writer at the time, but the multitude of women that God was telling me I would help were in a single file line—like the women reading this book. Love Junkies may have been published for the masses, but as you read, I speak to each of you one by one.
God longs to speak to you too. He wants to bind your hurts and heal them. He wants to restore your soul from the bondage of relationship addiction. If you surrender your life and your relationships to him, he will make you whole and complete and lacking no good thing.
As you read this book, my prayer is that Jesus will restore your soul—and that you will never encounter the dying thirst of an unhealthy relationship again. I’ve found that freedom in Christ, and I long for you to experience it too.
There would be no greater joy for me than to see my sisters take their own journeys out of the wilderness of relationship addiction and into the presence of God. May we all be like the woman at the well who encountered the hope of Christ. She ran to grab her sisters and bring them all to see the man who promised a life of freedom. And now, as I look out from the top of the mountain toward the horizon, I see that line of women forming!
Out of the wilderness—one by one, and into the presence of God.
So, come on, girlfriend! Won’t you join me at the top of the mountain? He’s got a place reserved just for you. And I promise, once you meet Jesus there, you’ll never settle for less than his best again.