Here is my story. It is exhausting to tell. I feel like I need to tell it though, because for the first time in my life my silence and shame about being married to a sex addict is ending and I am opening up to sharing and hence, erasing the fear. Forgive me if my details are confusing at any point. I have large portions of memory/time that are lost to me. I guess we can experience something like PTSD when we have internalized being married to an addict for so long. What do you think? I am intelligent, capable and loving, from a loving childhood home, yet I have not escaped the pain of sex addiction in my marriage.
I met my husband when we were both 18 at a private college. We immediately liked one another. He was and is incredibly intelligent, attractive and capable, yet from a down-to-earth background. We were fast friends and then dated, eventually exclusively. We married in our last year of college; both finished early and moved out of state at that point so he could attend graduate school to earn his Masters Degree. I worked, and he worked and his education was always paid for through scholarships. A few years into school came an admission from him that he had used pay-for-sex phone-lines a few times. The bill was (I still remember) for $400.00-a huge amount for us at that time. He apologized and tried to explain, and my 23-year-old self honestly believed at time, he wouldn’t do anything like this again. Interesting to share is that outside of counseling costs, this really was the only financial burden that his addiction has ever put on us in 15 years of marriage. The rest of the burden has been psychological. A few years and internship later came confessions of chatting on the Internet (netsex). This confession also was unprompted so I chose to see the good, forgive and let go. My initial reaction of anger prompted him to begin withdrawing from me (according to him, because I did not remain “calm” he didn’t want to trust me with any further disclosure. We would fight often as I attempted to “understand” him and his actions. I would pursue conversations that would only end in frustration. Eventually things calmed down and we would move to new place and he would work on his next degree, him still working as was I and we would struggle as he fell into late-night chatting (likely porn as well) and would often be gone from bed if I woke during the night. When I would call from work (in the dial-up days) the phone would always be busy. There were continued fights, attempts to hide behavior, my own pursuit of “understanding” like a naive “good wife” etc. One of my most painful moments, was a lie, when he had been on the Internet, that he was planning a surprise for me. I hoped with all my heart that he was being honest, but this was the really ridiculously first bold-faced lie and one that is most burned into my memory. Things eventually improved enough again that I saw hope…we bought a home and had a baby. There was the downloading of porn at one point after moving to the new home, which I caught once (I’m sure there was more) and the explicit chatting I am sure continued. These lead to my insisting that he find counseling. He would journal as a matter of habit and a part of therapy and in my desperation to understand something about him, I would look for them when he was gone and read them. In them I see/saw a very compartmentalized and divided individual. One who would do what was “right” and had a great desire to do so and one who would fail miserably and then cry out to God to help him stop. I chose to have faith that the good would prevail. We tried some therapy together and had a terrible experience. The counselor was inexperienced and, as I was too, I was too angry at the situation with her when it went bad, to look for another one. My spouse had his own therapist too, and would share with me some of his experience. Eventually, the counselor, after over a year of work, thought they could move toward stopping therapy and eventually did. This seemed to disappoint even my husband. Things were going pretty smoothly again.
After finishing an additional degree my husband and I moved again into a new home he began work while I stayed at home with the first child. I stumbled upon chat with a girl that at one point admitted in their correspondence that she was under-aged. He ended the correspondence (I know this because I read it all before he knew I had discovered it). I confronted him, time passed again and things leveled out. A new counselor was seen and we had another child. Nothing stopped him from chatting and viewing/using porn (I now see this as I have come to recognize that my fear at this time was denial). I should have paid heed to my instincts much earlier. He even found ways around the filters installed on computers at home and at work. I am not so naive now, and I understand I likely still don’t know all of what has gone on with him and his addiction.
Now (present time), we are seeing sex therapists (separately and together) with addiction treatment specialties. I see more hope now than ever….some honest disclosure of emotion for the first time and he is seeking me out to talk with etc. write to….yet, so much damage has been done that I don’t know how we can survive. He is still deluding himself, I am fairly sure, that the counseling means we will survive, but only into it a few months I can’t really speak for anyone but myself.
It is interesting to me that my husband can be so kind and gentle, and (except for a short-lived period about 10 years ago) or so, has not been directly cruel or tried to blame me for any of his addictive behavior. He seems genuinely sorry (even expressing a desire to apologize but a recognition that it might mean nothing to me) but has never been able to actually stop his compulsivity. He is a divided individual and has admitted as much. In the comments posted on your site about sex with an addict, it appears that many addicts are especially selfish where sex is concerned, which my husband is not in any obvious way. Never would I have suspected, just because of his behavior with me “in the bedroom” that he was an addict. Clearly, however he is. It is hard, when one sees so much good and potential in their spouse, and sees a good father, a man with potential, to think that because of the addict in him, so much will be and has been lost. I can never get the things I read or pictures of girls posing topless in their homes etc. out of my mind. I cannot forget a MySpace page (a short-lived thing strangely enough) where he marked himself as single. I get that the addict is not trying to be malicious to his or her spouse but there is still great pain, which precludes real intimacy for me! So, for anyone who has read Patrick Carnes, I am giving this situation one year. This takes the pressure to react quickly off of me and hopefully helps me to make fewer errors if we divorce, which seems likely as I have explained, due to the compounding of pain and feelings of betrayal that I think will make any real future a near impossibility. In my case, I believe that this is best…. getting myself together, taking the “small gift” of counseling (some self-recovery) and figuring out what to do for a living on my own. I have a degree, but have been a stay-at-home mom for several years now….time for an additional degree I suspect. Isn’t it like looking up at a mountain when we must readjust the lives of the rest of the family in response to effects of SA? I will likely have to move in with my parents, who bless me by being understanding and non-judgmental to both of us. I am grieving my younger years, lost to addiction and what should-have-been but wasn’t. I get that my husband is hurting too (and soothing it with compulsive sexual behavior) but that doesn’t take away my pain or shame right now and it won’t put our family back together or give my little children 1 & 6, their dad back if/when we part ways. I am so angry that he “lives” this addiction over our family and even over his own authentic self. Ironically, he has indicated his serious lack of trust in others and NOW his own behavior has now caused me to have the exact same problem (typical I realize). I don’t want to pass this legacy down to my kids, so I am navigate some rough waters as I figure out just how to take care of ME now….I have come so far and yet the hardest may be yet to come. I alternate between feelings of personal power and hope, and grief mixed with lack of self-worth. I fear a life without knowing true intimacy and I admit to fear of being a single parent. When this comes out (if a divorce occurs) it will be a total shock to most who know us (also not a surprise with SA, I know!) and I want to handle that with strength and dignity. I am sure this story is missing much of what I could share, but I feel good about what I put down, and much of the remainder is lost to my bad memory.
Health and Peace to all!