We highly recommend you watch these two clips before reading through this amazing interview.
Years Married: 17 in January
Location: Orem, Utah
Kids: 2 girls
Occupations: Coby mentors those in recovery from addiction & Ashlynn runs Mamabear.Fitness (both work from home) Coby used to travel the world for corporate jobs & Ashlynn was a kitchen designer.
Hobbies/Interests: Hike, concerts with the kids, cook/bake, travel & Disneyland!
Favorite flavor of ice cream: Coby always chocolate & Ashlynn always vanilla
Q. What have you guys learned about forgiveness through this process, and how has that been vital in nurturing your marriage?
C: I’m the receiver of forgiveness, as the recipient of Ashlynn’s forgiveness. It is something that is not given in a moment. It’s something that is earned. It’s earned by doing a handle of various small things over and over and over again every single day - things that demonstrate change. That’s when forgiveness, for me, has come. I was committed to being consistent over time. I knew that when you are on a path to change, time will work with you when you are consistent. And I was determined to be consistent because that is something that I had never been.
Forgiveness from Ashlynn was the most important thing that I’ve received. Second to that was forgiving myself - that came after being forgiven from Ashlynn. Forgiveness of self is the hardest thing for anybody who is an addict - it doesn’t matter if it is gambling, porn, drugs, whatever - because the depth of betrayal that you have caused and the lies that you have told. The narrative in your head is that you will never be forgiven and you aren’t good enough. So, what preceded forgiveness of self for me, was rebuilding my self worth. I learned to rebuild my self worth by being consistent every day in changing my behaviors. By doing those small, and simple, and measurable things.
A: I get a lot of questions about “How do you forgive again?” and I really do feel that it seemed impossible when we were at our worst. It just seemed like, “How am I ever going to trust him? How will we get over this and live a happy marriage and not just survive?” I didn’t want to be in survival mode my whole marriage, I wanted to thrive.
A: I think Coby hit it on the head. It wasn’t just me choosing to be better every day, and sitting back and saying, “I hope he is doing the work.” For me, I had to ask the Lord, and I had to do my part. Coby had to forgive me, too, because I definitely wasn’t the perfect wife during all of this. Suffering from betrayal trauma, I was mean. Forgiveness went both ways.
A: Time worked with us, for sure. I remember, just a year into recovery, thinking “How has it already been this long? It seemed like it would never come.” We went to Disneyland this last month, and the last time we went to Disneyland…
C: Was two days after I disclosed the second affair. So it was not even close to the happiest place on earth. Not even a little bit. We were walking through the park and Ashlynn was connecting dots right and left. She was looking at her watch and calendar and thinking, “Oh, that was, oh...that was what you were doing when this took place.” It was horrific.
A: It was hard.
C: So this was our Disney do-over.
A: Yeah, even being at Disneyland then, I remember thinking, “How will we ever come back and enjoy it?” We didn’t go last year, and it was the first year we had never gone, and so we were so excited to go this year. It’s different because it is a happy place, and we are in a happy place. So, it’s cool. We’re choosing to make it a happy memory instead of a sad one.
Q. You’ve overcome a huge challenge. Will you maintain these daily efforts for the rest of your lives?
A: We get asked that a lot, “When are you going to stop calling your sponsor every night? When are you going to stop?” Coby’s response is, “I’m not. It works for me. So why would I stop? This is what keeps us in a safe place for each other. So why quit doing what feels good and keeps us super consistent?” We both have daily things we do each day to keep us connected and in the right frame of mind, and we’ve been really, really diligent about doing those things the last 28 months.
C: I would say that I have forgiven myself and Ashlynn has forgiven me. What is closely related to that is our daily efforts to remain focused on what keeps us both safe and trusted. So, forgiveness was this journey, but becoming safe and trusted is now an ever-living endeavor for me, and for Ashlynn. What keeps me safe are my dailies: I work out thirty minutes a day; I listen to a talk by my church leaders every day; I listen to one chapter of scripture a day; and I check in every night with my sponsor. I stay focused from day-to-day on keeping my boundaries. I stay focused on my emotions. And I stay focused on the things that have been triggers for me emotionally. If I stay focused on my dailies, I stay trusted and safe.
A: It’s definitely an ongoing process.
C: It’s just a focus, a never-ending focus for me, of just being mindful. I spent 31 years on mental and emotional cruise-control, and I’m done with that.
Q. How often do you have discussions with each other about these things? You check in with your sponsor everyday, but do you check in with each other?
A: We do emotional check-ins. He doesn’t share things with me unless he needs to.
C: What I share with her are things like if I have any relapses, or if I look at porn, masturbate, or have inappropriate conversations with somebody else. Outside of that, I’m accountable to my sponsor.
C: Ultimately, the catalyst for all unhealthy behavior, whether individually or with partners in a marriage, are emotions. Unreconciled emotions are always the catalyst for unhealthy behaviors. Whether you are short and impatient so you snap or bite at someone, emotions precede those little things. If those emotions are unchecked, then they will just build until they blow. What works for us is staying emotionally connected and aware of what the other is feeling. That always diffuses the emotions that otherwise become toxic.
A: Right. For years I didn’t know when Coby was stressed at work, or stressed about money, or any of those things, because we just didn’t talk about them (we thought that was better). Those things are definitely helpful to know in a marriage. Now we both work from home and we see each other most of the day.
C: No, that would be 24/7.
A: So, as far as checking in, it used to be that we would check in every night, but now it is pretty much whenever one of us feels the need to check in during the day.
C: And that’s based on emotions. For example, if I just went to therapy today I may call Ashlynn on the way home and say, “This is what I’m feeling. Just give me a few minutes when I get home to think and process. It’s not that the sky’s falling, it’s just that emotionally I need time to think and process.”
Photo Credit: Ashlynn & Coby
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