I met my current husband 15 years ago. I was, at the time, a single mom of two, a graduate student, and had not dated anyone since before my second child’s birth. He was also a graduate student, younger than me, and the kind of man you can not only bring home to your parents, but trust your children with. We dated, including 9 months of long distance dating while I was overseas doing research and he was in his first teaching job, and married after I returned.
One of the key things I felt good about with him was that he was not at all attracted to pornography or the pornographic images around us 24/7. I, like many women, had been so hurt by the ongoing objectification of women, it was truly only with Dave that I felt I could just be me and not an object in competition with fantasy. Dave wanted a child of his own in addition to the two I brought to the marriage, and we got pregnant rather quickly after our marriage. We were both smokers and casual drinkers, but I was determined to give up both in my pregnancy as I had with my other two. It was difficult, though, because he said he would join me in quitting, but kept sneaking them.
When I was about 8 months pregnant we all went to a beach, and there I got my first glimpse of the secrets that Dave held. I was stunned to notice him openly gawking at a woman as she lit and smoked a cigarette. I was completely floored and not a little angry. In my understanding at the time the primary deceit was that he wanted me to quit smoking because of the pregnancy, but for some reason was attracted to this woman having a cigarette. I wasn’t able to wrap my head around what that attraction was or what it meant.
I think at the time the hardest thing I was dealing with was wanting to smoke and feeling betrayed about that. After the baby was born and he was still smoking I didn’t make it very long before I started again (and had to wean my daughter early as a result). I blamed him for that, feeling like it was impossible to stay strong on not smoking with him smoking, as well as the image of him looking at that woman in my head. We had never smoked in the house, but we started playing with smoking in the bedroom. He bought me cigarette holders, and wanted to watch. Around the same time I found that he was sometimes going on line to sites that had pictures and chat about watching smoking women and I vacillated between incredulous curiosity and intense anger and pain. When I tried to approach him about it he minimized and denied, and deflected all the attention back onto me.
At the time I didn’t understand what he was doing, and just felt crazy. I found myself drinking more and more when I thought about it and simply did not understand. The women were not naked, but it was clearly a sexual fetish that not only he had, but others as well. We stopped completely incorporating any of this in our sex life at his insistence. I had felt pretty confused, upset, and objectified when it was occurring even though I got into some of the role play aspects, and he said that it should just stop.
Over the next five or six years I would occasionally find traces of his visits to smoke fetish sites and stew with it, not sure if I should say anything or not. My drinking also increased until my alcoholism was full blown and I was clearly the problem of all things, even if he continued to deflect and deny and the rest of it. Finally, after just about destroying the family I was able to quit drinking with the help of God, and have been sober for the past five and a half years. During that time I completely stopped looking for any sign of Dave’s internet activities. In fact I believe I had blocked it all from my memory. My focus was on me. Get sober. Stay sober. Take care of my kids. Do my work.
I saw a counselor at various times, and the few times I brought up Dave’s issues they were pretty clear that it was innocent and nothing to be concerned with. Dave and I started sleeping separately because, he claimed, he had too much trouble getting to sleep. We still were intimate occasionally, but it was more of a housemate marriage for several years. At the time I mourned the intimacy that was lost, but thought that was just the way our marriage was going to be. All the fighting and insanity had come to an end. I was controlling depression with antidepressants, and things were calm.
Then, a year and a half ago, I found by chance that he had a yahoo email account, and was engaging in intimate chat with a young woman about her smoking for him. I kicked into high intensity investigative mode, found what I could, contacted a friend to verify my reaction, and went home to approach him. He crumbled and admitted that he had contacted her and she was sending him pictures, but that was all. It took several months to get the “rest of the story” out of him. That when I had been out of town for work he had traveled out of town himself to visit hired prostitutes who he had smoke for him while he masturbated. That he had graduated from pictures of smoking women to pornographic pictures of smoking women. That he had been masturbating to the mental tapes he made of these women as well as the memories of actual women smoking almost every night. That he had been planning on continuing the arrangement with the last prostitute (the one he had been chatting with and paying for pictures) even thinking of making it a long term situation. That he sat in his office everyday looking out the window at all the smoking coeds (Kentucky – lots of smoking), and then going online.
There is a part of me that feels this is not a story that will win me any sympathy from others at your site. So what? You might say. At least he wasn’t having actual sex with them. Not only that, but he found a counselor that deals with sex addiction, and then found SA meetings and a sponsor. He has been working his steps, has written repeatedly to me, wants to move past this.
But I am still so hurt and confused I don’t know what to do. I have had some counseling, I do have a few people I can talk to about this. I think it would be so much easier if I just left him, but that doesn’t seem to be the right thing to do.
Probably the last thing that anyone who is new in discovering their husband’s addiction wants to hear that I still feel crazy a year and a half later, but I do. The unstoppable crying ended long ago, but still comes back sometimes. We have had more good moments than I think we had in the 13 years prior, but they are all tinged with my sadness.