After dating him for three years, which I thought was time enough to really know him, I married SAH (Sex Addict Husband) in 1999. It felt like a risk, because I’d been married before to a man who had a secret life, who kept a family only to make himself look good. I’d had three beautiful children with that man, but he didn’t care about any of us.
SAH was fun, sexy, thoughtful, and kind. Six months into dating, he asked if I’d consider having another baby. He had a plan: to get married around 32 and have a family. He took my kids camping and built them a treehouse. He listened when they talked, treated them as though they were valuable, important, something their biological father never did.
I remember there was an old man in his neighborhood who we’d see occasionally. SAH would get this wistful look on his face and say how sorry he felt for the man. “He must not have any family,” he’d say, “He’s going to die all alone.”
Shortly after we married, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I was so excited, believing I was in for a wonderful experience, a real partnership full of joy and plans for the future. From the beginning, things were different. He was put off by my being tired, sick, and moody with hormones. He was turned off by my growing body. I was disappointed, but I figured I could live with it, that things would go back to normal after the baby was born.
When my daughter was five months old, in May, I caught SAH having cybersex. At the time, he denied it being a habit or pattern. He claimed it was “just once.” But I saw in the computer history that it had been going on since at least November. I was crushed to discover that while he had been rejecting me, he’d been getting off on faceless, bodiless women.
Quite a blow. He didn’t appear to be very sorry, either, and minimized what happened. It wasn’t so much the cybersex as it was the lying. I’d never thought of him as being capable of such dishonesty. I believe I would have left him then, I was so devastated, but because of the baby and my kids, I felt trapped. I was on my way to a bitter bout with postpartum depression.
I went back into therapy. My therapist, who knew my entire history–my dismal childhood, my sister’s death, the awful marriage– told me, “Just because someone tells one lie, March, it doesn’t mean he’s a liar.”
SAH and I started seeing her together a couple of years later, when stress over the house and kids overwhelmed us. The counseling was a not-so-successful enterprise overall, but positive in one regard: At one point, she suggested that both of us were spending so much time blaming each other, neither of us had bothered to examine our own part in the problems.
I made up my mind, then, to let the past go and do my part to make things better. That was in October of that particular year, and by the following March, I was back to my old self, feeling good about life and my marriage. He started looking for a new job and I helped him with his cover letter and resume. We went suit shopping, shopping for ties. The night before my birthday, on a Sunday, we went to my mother’s for dinner. SAH and I sat on the couch and held hands. I felt happy and at peace for the first time in years.
Later that night, I noticed SAH checking his cellphone and smiling. It didn’t really register at the time, but the next morning, my birthday, while he was in the shower, I had a weird feeling and looked at his emails. I discovered an exchange between him and his assistant at work that would undo and unravel, everything I had worked so hard to regain.
They wrote about how he was going to let her use his credit card to go shopping and how he’d come over and let her try things on for him. That morning, on my way to work, I had to pull over in a church parking lot and cry. Then I went to his office. I needed to see the two of them together. I thought I’d be able to tell if they were having an affair. She made some comment about my coming there being inappropriate. He just stood there like a deer in headlights.
Because his current employer offered him more money to stay, SAH ended up passing up the new job offer. This was difficult for me because it meant he’d continue working with that woman every day. He assured me it had been nothing but a flirtation; that I had nothing to worry about.
Every day he left the house for work, I felt ill. I tried to believe that he hadn’t crossed the line. In my gut, maybe I knew, but I wanted to believe him. Part of me still held out that he wasn’t capable of cheating, but I had constant nightmares and couldn’t let it go.
My questions led to my being subjected to months of verbal abuse and gaslighting; he often resorted to screaming and breaking things. He called me “relentless” for begging him to tell me the truth. He accused me of loving drama. We went for more couples’ counseling, where I was told I was hyper-vigilent, unreasonable. Three therapists later, we were still fighting in the parking lots afterward, he so resented having to go. I just wanted to fix things, wanted everything to be okay.
Mostly, I wanted the truth.
Eventually, I came across a quote on a friend’s Facebook page. It said, “I’d rather be made a fool of than be suspicious all the time.” I did what I’d done before: made a conscious effort to move forward. This time, it took the help of antidepressants. They kept me from obsessing.
The assistant landed in a mental hospital for a while and then moved back to her home state of Michigan. I was glad. I began to “behave.” I was pleasant, more easy-going. I started liking my life again. I looked for ways to connect with my husband, took up mountain biking, played racquet ball.
Meanwhile, he planned wonderful trips for us–cabins in the mountains, camping, vacations at the beach. We took my daughter and her friend to the Apple Festival. We took my daughter and my son to Disney World. I was enjoying my life again.
My husband was home by 5:30 every evening. He coached our daughters’ sports teams. We went to high school football games and watched my son in the drum line. We both loved the smell of the grass on the field and the way it took us back to our own marching band days.
We stopped fighting. We’d have arguments, but we’d somehow turn them into jokes. We could agree to disagree. If I had a question about anything he did, he answered calmly, wasn’t defensive. I kept a blog during these years of rebuilding. It was hilarious. My family and friends looked forward to reading it every day; they got mad if I didn’t post. This was a time of personal growth for me, of processing my past in a new way, of reframing my life story. I was happy again.
Then, one day in early December, 2009, SAH went to an SEC championship football game and I attended a poetry reading at GA Tech. When I returned home that evening, he was already in bed. I climbed the steps up to our room, and about halfway up, detected an odor that turned my stomach, one that reminded me of my first marriage.
It was the unmistakable smell of stale cigarettes and money, the smell of a strip club. “Where have you been?” I asked him, feeling sick. He was half passed out, though, wouldn’t answer clearly. I picked up his cell phone from the bedside table, found text messages between him and that same assistant, who had come back to Atlanta unbeknownst to me. They were chatting about lap dances. I wanted to die.
The next day, SAH admitted he was a sex addict. I learned about this in the parking lot of the local park where I took my daughter to play. Little boys and girls played on the swings, slid down the slide, as I heard about porn and sex chat lines and surfing Craigslist.
It would be nearly a year of incremental disclosures. About chat lines on the way to and from work, all night during business trips, about hooking up with the assistant on his lunch hours. Finally, the biggest blow–that he’d taken the assistant on his most recent business trip. He had been “acting out” for our entire marriage.
Everything changed. My whole life for the past ten years became a lie. It was all taken from me. All that time and effort–all the love I could throw at the problems, for nothing. All of it a sham.
Who was this man? What had I done? What was wrong with me, that God would punish me this way. I’d followed all the rules, kept my promises. I’d endured so much for so long, and for what? I was in shock. For me. For my children. And for my husband, who was so damaged, so sick, and, I hoped, redeemable.
I set my sights on getting through Christmas. First, was my daughter’s birthday. I didn’t want the kids to suffer. All I could do was go to work, come home, and try to stay alive until 8 o’clock, when I’d let myself go to bed.
Sleep was my only relief. My heart raced mercilessly, my skin tingled constantly, I lost weight. I had to go to the doctor and get tested for STDs, HIV. I had to change antidepressants. I still can’t look at family pictures from over the years without thinking about what he was doing during all those times of school plays, and ballgames, and vacations, and Christmases, and birthdays…
He promised to change, promised he’d do whatever it took. It was the first time he’d ever taken responsibility; the first time I’d ever seen him genuinely sorry.
He found a counselor who specialized in sex addiction. He attended SA and worked through the 12 steps. I tried to make it easy for him by letting him stay in the house, keeping the family intact. But living with me wasn’t easy. Not for him and not for me.
Trauma on top of trauma on top of trauma becomes complex PTSD, and therapy, medication, and EMDR can only do so much. What I needed was safety. I needed to know he was safe. And for me to know this, he’d have to talk to me, let me in; let me know his thoughts and who he really is. For a while, there was progress. We’d have interesting discussions about God. I learned the truth about his childhood, that it was not so unlike my own, though he’d always thrown mine in my face. He became humble, reflective. He would think before he spoke. He was slower to anger. He seemed grateful for small things.
But how do you recover from this if you are me? While I was planning a big production with Baton Bob to surprise him with for our anniversary, he was making plans to meet his secretary. While I was making reservations to take him skydiving for his 40th birthday, he was on a plane to Boca Raton to spend the night with her. He was with her in the morning and sex with me the same night.
How does someone reconcile this? I did it by reminding myself how sick he was—by looking at the reams of paper with the call history, by reading every book on the subject I could find. I did it by watching him closely, everything he said and did. I tried everything, but my heart was so broken this time, the ground sinking beneath me, nothing solid I could count on. Everything was up for grabs, nothing was real. Life was a fiction. I was just a bit character in his private story, part of a subplot.
And somewhere along the way, he started doing less. He hated the meetings and didn’t go as often. He cut back on the therapy. This made me nervous. He took a polygraph, though, and passed with no problem. It was a huge relief. But after that, even less walking the walk. There was only talking the talk.
Once a month became not at all. I told him I couldn’t live with a recovering sex addict who didn’t go to meetings or therapy, threatened to leave him if I couldn’t SEE him doing things. I was emphatic that I could no longer simply believe what he said.
I didn’t follow through. I consoled myself that he’d take another polygraph and I’d know then whether it mattered that he went to meetings etc.
Then he failed the second polygraph.
Now I have nothing but my fear and his word. Unfortunately, my fear trumps his word. I don’t have the luxury of believing him anymore. He risked my life, he stole so many years. A man who marries a woman with three kids, has a child with her, and singlehandedly brings his family down this way is capable of anything.
No matter how much I want to believe the best of him, trust that his Better Self has triumphed over the evil, I need more than words to stick it out. If he can’t appreciate this, can’t understand it, doesn’t want to give me what I need, then, no, he doesn’t love me. Or, I don’t feel loved.
I have done and done and done and done. I have endured years of treachery. I asked for something I can see, point to. I asked him to start going to meetings again–and to get back in therapy. Who can blame me for that? Who can fault me for doing the only thing I know to do to protect myself, as small and impotent as that thing might be?
I don’t think my children will. I don’t think God will. But SAH does, and he refused.
So I have filed for divorce.
It seems like no one comments here anymore, but I am sure March would like some feedback, and even if it is being discussed on the other website, I am not a member as I cannot afford it, so I will offer some support here.
March, you made my whole body shudder when I read the commonalities between my story and yours; Craiagslist, strip clubs, porn, chat… It hurts so bad and it is so sickening to know that the life you thought you were living was a facade. The deception is worse than the acting out. For me it didn’t matter what was done (and I got no confession, only denial) as much as was the deception that was unacceptable.
You have done the right thing in filing for a divorce and consider yourself lucky to be one of the few that can move ahead without getting sucked back in time and time again on promises of change etc.
I cannot imagine having to go through this twice. I hope you will take plenty of time to recover, heal and get yourself some help in processing it all so that you can find someone real who won’t hurt you. I did! And you deserve it too!
Hang in there!
Thank you for your story. I love the affirmations that divorcing my soon-to-be ex-SAH was the BEST decision!!!! Your husband sounds so much like my soon-to-be-ex (I love saying that!)…He GUSHES over our kids, shows so much compassion for people FROM AFAR ONLY…Everyone who knows him thinks he is a GREAT GUY…but it’s such an act…an OVERCOMPENSATION for the sick (evil?) man he knows he is…
I hope you find your strength and commit to your self-love!!! And to the future happiness of your children. THEY deserve better too My soon-to-be-ex is great with our 2 girls (1 and 3 years old) but that’s only now that he is a part-time Dad…and as they get older and learn what relationships are and are suppose to be, I’m SO glad he won’t be around every day to show them awful and damaging examples of manhood, of how men treat women, etc.
You are doing the right thing by filing for divorce. Stay strong! Don’t let FEAR and HOPE cause you to second-guess yourself!!!!
Big hug to you!
I cried the whole way through your story. It sounds so much like mine, but I am 22. I am still at the stage wondering how on earth one can reconcile these heart-stab wounds. I wish I had the strength to end it now…I don’t know if the 5% chance of success is worth continuing the suffering and daily reminders of being betrayed.
Take it from one who is soon to be 50 and has been married to a sex addict for 25 of those 50 years….
RUN! NEVER LOOK BACK!!!! NEVER THINK FOR AN INSTANT THAT LIVING WITH A SEX ADDICT WILL SOMEHOW WORK OUT. It won’t.
They are pathological liars and sociopaths. He will use you and discard you when you’ve served his purpose.
For the love of God, please leave him now while you are still young and you have your whole life ahead of you.
My best, Betty
i know this is about 3 years too late, but please leave this person, RUN AWAY. you deserve to be respected and honored and treated with integrity. People who lie to you will never really be able to love you or understand what it means to be loved. Get out while you can.
good luck young lady.
Your story is eerily familiar. I thought I was going to read a final sentence that said something like: “And what should I do now?” I was so relieved to read: “So I have filed for divorce.” GOOD FOR YOU! ATTA GIRL!
None of us deserve this. I’m sure you’ve made the correct decision. Hang in there. I’m sure there will be tough times, but never, never, never doubt your decision. I’m sure it’s the right decision.
My best, Betty
Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Betty, I’m 48. Wow, to start over now…But you’re so right. I’d like to have the past three years back that I’ve spent waiting for him to turn this around–to no avail. LX, you are my middle daughter’s age. If this were happening to her, I’d say RUN! He will never be worth it.
It’s really scary to read stories about SA sometimes – there are some many similarities running through them. My SAH is following a very similar path to yours. He was heavily involved and committed to attending weekly meetings and seeing his counselor…for about six months. It has now tapered off to barely anything. I can’t even remember the last time he went to a mtg. He uses an array of excuses to explain away his lack of involvement. It has been over a year since I found out, and I feel like nothing is going to change. My girls are 8 & 4 and they deserve so much more, and so do I. I am giving him until the end of the year to ‘put up or shut up’. I do not want to waste any more time waiting and hoping for something that may never happen. Ten years of living a lie is enough for me.
I am so glad you filed for divorce. After 5 years of what I thought was a great relationship, I found out that I was with a sex addict. He posted and answered ads for both men and women. I found out three weeks ago, and he is begging for me back, but I am over the bullshit. Now I am just looking forward to moving on and learning to trust again.
Thank you for this helpful article and comments. I have been in relationship with a man I just discovered is a SA. I have been confused and upset after seeing is on Craiglslist personal ads for casual sex. He prides himself on never wearing a condom. I had no idea anyone could be so selfish and cruel as to endanger a woman who loves him so deeply. The day I discovered his open gmail account and had seen he was sending a photograh I had taken of him to other woman, he seemed vulnerable to be exposed, though he denied any wrongdoing. Now he is back peddling, pleading me to stay. I feel it is to keep me under his wraps because I know his dirty secret. God help us all!
wow. me too. how do you know? how could we have known sooner. I have a husband that sounds like the ones you all talk about. So so nice–to everyone. After the porn, craiglist, the affair, he pledges over and over again that he’ll never do anything again. Then a couple of months go by and I find porn, 2 more months go by and I find him checking her twitter, a couple of more months and there’s now mild porn, then 2 months and craigslist scanning, then 2 more months and he’s looking at a sex fantasy blog. Each time he claims that he didn’t realize what he was doing was bad, or was porn or was offensive. The counselor keeps encouraging me to trust and hang in there. Do you know he’s never told anyone except the counselors we’ve been to? He minimizes, to himself and to me. He really wants to stay married. He really wants our lives to stay the same. After this latest blog discovery, I’ve asked him to leave everyday. At least he’s left the bedroom, but he won’t leave the house. Just continues along like nothings wrong, apologizing and promising change a couple of times a day. Does anyone change? Are we ever safe? Can we ever trust again? We’ve been married 25 years.
I find it interesting there seems to be a pattern of these men being extra “nice” guys. Everybody loves them! They are kind, helpful, and deeply disturbed! Another pattern I see is that they apologize and minimize, but nothing seems to change! My guy wants to keep me close now that I know his secret. We met in church, for God’s sake! He is terrified I will tell others. I was told by someone with experience in these matters, that if I stay I will get sicker and he will not have a chance to get better. All I know is it has been two weeks since the truth was revealed to me, and I feel more normal than I have in months. This disease/addiction is crazy making.
I appreciate knowing I am not alone and learning more about these patterns of behavior. Want to be sure to have the heads up so I do not fall in love with another with such a serious affliction! I feel lucky I did not marry him, and my heart goes out to all of you who are married to a man with a SA.
Carolyn and Likeyou,
Church is teeming with sexual predators. Of course, its not everyone, but SAs DO go to Church and some even are “deeply” religious. They con themselves. They lie to themselves and they truly do not know the rules.
Likeyou, please, please fire the lame shrink. TRUST??? haha! Hang in there? For what? more abuse? No thank you!!! These men have acute BRAIN DAMAGE. They have developed “alloplastic” defenses, since their early formative years, so they truly do not understand that what they are doing is wrong, because they lack the ability to see how “this” could possibly affect you. It is all hardwired into their brain and certain parts are truly missing.
When he appears to be normal is an act. Its not that he isn’t a “nice” guy. He knows that by being “nice” he can better manipulate people. But, he has know compunction about being an asshole behind your back— lying, deception, betrayal.. He knows that they’re not right because he’s been told, but he does not and cannot feel it.
And yes, you will go down the tubes with him if you stay… but leaving him doesn’t afford any opportunity for him to get well. The chances are overwhelmingly in favor of his not recovering and the only possibility is if he truly does not want to be THAT man anymore. But you see the conundrum– which is he doesn’t see ANYTHING wrong with the way he is right now!
They do want to stay married because they hate being alone, and need a cover and also want the “normal” life and all that comes with it. In other words, they want a maid, a cook, a baby sitter, and someone to go out with on New Year’s Eve.
They can go and check the air in your tires and to see if you need to put some oil in your car and then tell you that they are off to do some errands, or even better– the gym– and come back three hours later, all freshly fucked…
“hey hun… I had a great workout; gonna hit the shower and then I have to go mow the lawn.”
Yes, indeed… they are wonderful, kind, “giving” men.
My h needs to go too, but its slow going; his “budget” is enough to cover a mediocre dog house.
perfect for him.
Dear Lexie, et al,
you make a good point about these “nice” guys. They don’t have a problem anyway, right? It’s scary how similar our stories are. I have always wondered what are the daily “errands” that he does on a daily basis? I do think these guys are psychically split. They do seem to believe they are “normal”. The CL sex ad I discovered even stated, “51, normal, two teens” etc. This guy is FAR from normal, but I am learning this is a norm in the world we live in. I’d like to open this dialog to discuss the danger to our health (STD’s HIV). What are the ramifications of his dangerous behavior? Is everyone getting tested? and what about Evil? Seems to me these guys are giving demons a feast to live on with all the twisted lies,deceit, secrets, booze, drugs etc. And he calls himself a Christian and reminds me how so many others know and love him. As if this is just my problem because I am puritanical (which I am not!) I do believe all things are possible with God, but it seems to me he’s batting for the other side!
I know these posts were put on here several months ago however, I was thinking about this story and like so many of the other women, it is my story as well. The only thing different was I did divorce and a few months later tried to work on the relationship. What I received was his inability to be compassionate, tolerate my painful spells, get irritated about the negative response of his lies and my interrogations. Also found myself lecturing him because his reponse didnt seem as if he thought it was all that bad! (Lexie’s comment below nailed it on that issue) He said he changed but felt he owed me no truth and expected me to just start over regardless of countless sexual encounters, countless sex on the internet and countless porn. My delsuion was the assumption that once the truth came out he would be repentive, mend what was broke and stand on a solid firm ground of integrity once his darkness was revealed. I know…I know..Fairytell story right! What I did not consider was how a man who could lie, cheat and deceive for so many years, could change, be honest, live a life of integrity when deception was all he knew. IT is NOT love ladies!! I broke it off, begged for compassion, begged for him to reach out for help more then a month and relized as soon as he resumed back online (dating sites) chatting with women, it was a nightmare that was never going to end, until I took control and GOT OUT!! This isnt a life you want your children to live in. This is not the learned behavior you want your children to adopt. This isnt the life you want and yes, it will harden your heart living in a paranoid state with PTSD struggling to maintain the constant battle of fight or flight. Without God healing is impossible. That goes for the SAH as well. But beware, its by their fruit you see a genuine change. NOt because they go to church once a week, listen to ministry on the radio, and can still come home and lie to your face.
Was with a SA for 11 years. Over the course of that time I lost my career, an apartment, he destroyed my credit, my relationship with my mom, my savings and 2 cars. He hid everything! I just found out about the addiction involving escorts, porn, and sexual incounters at work and everywhere else, he had since we met. His friends and family knew about it and said nothing to me. He discarded me and it’s the best feeling ever…. I finally understand why I couldn’t succeed and look forward to a brighter future…..I feel free.
Happy for you! Now you can begin to fully live. SA suck all the light and joy. Sending love and support as you continue the journey in freedom.
How do you ladies find out about the sites your SA husbands have been on? Ive separated from mine but trying to see if he’s been telling me the truth as he’s asking for another chance with counseling. Our story is the same as most I read here- I want proof to set myself free from him and thus marriage.