Did Ashley Madison ruin your week? What do you do now?

I was going to entitle this “did ashley madison ruin your life”.  But I can’t manage to give this company that degree of power.  That being said, I’m guessing that more than one wife found out recently that their husband had sought an affair.  That’s a tough blow for even the strongest marriage to take.  Overnight there is anger, anxiety, fear, shame, disgust and a million other emotions swirling.

I’ve written about this site before because my husband had signed up for it once a number of years ago.  From the ‘history’ it seemed pretty clear that nothing amounted from it and truth be told I think he found it incredibly boring and he likely never accessed it after his initial ‘sign up’ high.  I’m sure he found the site ‘boring’…but that’s because he spent a few years acting out A LOT sexually – visiting chat sites, frequenting massage parlors, having sex with a couple women he knew – lots of horrible and unacceptable behavior.  I think the ‘vanilla’ nature of A.M. didn’t capture his interest as much as his other activities.

So you’ve just found out that your trusted mate has an Ashley Madison account.  Now What?

I think that most men on that site fall into 3 different categories.

  1.  The most harmless category will be the one that everyone is claiming to belong to.  The “I was just curious what it was but never sought an affair”.  A prurient interest can get the best of anyone and lead them to explore a website like this.  Someone sees a commercial – can’t believe what is being advertised – types in the URL and next thing you know the company is charging a monthly fee and you just wish you had never heard of the thing.  Honestly, I think this is probably true for some people.  I believe it because I am one of those people.  I saw a billboard and thought, what is that? A movie ad? A TV show? I searched the site – was pissed off it existed – and emptied my history.  OK, I never made an ad or paid for the service but men can be pretty dumb about these things and I don’t put it past someone to go that far down the path of fantasy only to realize they have no interest in being there.  So if your husband is claiming that this is his story then maybe it is.  Ask him to share his password – go to the site – see how much activity he has and go from there.
  2. A truly repentant man.  Let’s face it – people screw up.  A man can stray for any number of reasons but it doesn’t always make him a horrible or unloving person.  Marriages get over infidelity (or attempted infidelity) all the time.  Tust gets rebuilt.  Scars heal. Take for instance a man like my husband – a sex addict who has struggled for years with maintaining honest and loyal boundaries with me.  He is fully accepting of his mistakes and seeks every day to be a better man.  He shares his ‘slips’ and takes total responsibility for his actions.  In my situation, I knew long ago that there was an AM account so when this leak happened I just made sure that we cancelled the credit card he used to use for his secret activities so the info doesn’t get into the hands of hackers.  I don’t know if my husband was one of the people leaked, or if his account was even still active (I think we cancelled it but sites like this make that really hard so it may have still been up) but it doesn’t matter as I knew all about it and he has long since been forgiven.  As hard as it is to learn that your mate was seeking sex outside the marriage… if he seems truly remorseful and willing to be truthful and honest then try to remember who he really is as a person before throwing him to the curb.  He might deserve one more chance.
  3. The last group is of course the guys who cheat but have no guilt, no remorse and no interest in changing.  This is the guy who swears it will never happen again only to turn around and do it the next day.  This person may be an addict, or a disrespectful person or no longer in love, or maybe he is just a jerk – but this is the danger area.   He probably blames everything and everyone externally and doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions.  He is the kind of guy who thinks he deserves more than the rest.  You know the type.  Maybe you are married to him.  In this case there are a lot of decisions to make – but it’s important to not delude yourself into believing his words.  If you do, chances are you will just be hurt again and again.  You may decide to stay with this person for your own reasons…children, money, familiarity…but try to protect yourself and understand that another woman/women are just going to be a part of your life.  He may change eventually – but if not, just know your own limits.

All 22 million people (if that is the current number) on that AM site aren’t horrible people.  Some are.  Try to know who you are dealing with before taking the next step.

A blog for both the cheater and the cheated upon.

I certainly don’t claim to be an authority on the subject of marital infidelity, but I do think I offer a unique perspective on the subject.   My understanding arrived first as the unknowing wife who was cheated on – repeatedly – by her sex addict husband.  Second, as the lonely, confused woman who sought comfort in an affair in order to escape the pain of my husbands actions.

Many of those who follow my blog are women who themselves have experienced the unimaginable pain of discovering their husband has been unfaithful.  Another significant group of followers are men who are married but cheating on their spouse.  Interestingly, I also have women following my blog who are the the mistresses of married men.  I appreciate that there are people from all sides of this complicated subject reading my posts.   I have no ill will toward any of these people and I sincerely hope that once in a while something I say resonates with each one of you.

This diverse audience is the reason that I write in equal parts from the viewpoint of both the hurt wife and the cheating spouse.  It’s natural to just want to read the parts that you personally relate to – this selective reading provides support through familiarity but not necessarily any growth.  I encourage everyone to read both sides of my story, perhaps by doing so one can begin to find some empathy or understanding toward the other parties involved.  Trying to understand isn’t the same as condoning lying and betrayal  – but by examining the flip side of the situation I believe we can start to move closer to the goal of healing.

Here are some of the feelings that I have experienced over the past 10 years through my discovery of my husbands addiction, his acting out, his relapse, my affair and our recovery.   If you have felt any of these feelings then I suspect many of my blog posts could be of interest to you – no matter which side of the affair you fell on:

Humiliation, disgrace, embarrassment, denial, apathy, pity, anger, hatred, loathing, rage, contrition, revulsion, guilt, superiority, shame, wrath, resentment, pity, indifference, compulsion, disgust, preoccupation, fixation, anxiety, obsession, passion, longing, craving, desire, loneliness, controlling, fearful, comprehending, powerlessness, forgiving, compassion, understanding, gratitude, empathy, tolerance, trust, love.

Ashley Madison is just another distraction. You can do better.

My mom still occasionally recounts a story about being in the basement in our family home and hearing a ruckus on the 2nd floor.  It was my older sisters who had started a screaming match.  My mom ran up the stairs toward the bedrooms.  As she passed by the kitchen she suddenly stopped and backed up.  She needed some m&m’s before she could emotionally deal with whatever was happening on the floor above her.  She jokes that she is a chocolate addict.  Who’s to say she isn’t.

We all use distractions as a coping mechanism.  When we are stressed at work we mindlessly eat some chips.  When we get home to a house full of needy family members we tune out with the tv.  Our boss criticizes our work and we have an extra drink at dinner.  Cigarettes, food, tv, internet, exercise, shopping, drinking – and porn – are all forms of distraction.  Some of these distractions are obviously more harmful to our health and/or relationships than others.

Lets take Ashley Madison for instance.  I remember the first time I saw a billboard for this website.  It said “Life’s short – have an affair”.  I thought it was an advertisement for an upcoming movie or tv show.  More and more of these ads started to pop up around town and one day curiosity got the best of me.  I went to the website and learned it’s purpose.  It scared me.  I knew my husband was a sex addict and I thought ‘oh great – it just keeps getting easier for him’.  The truth is, if someone is an addict – or if they are just a jerk looking to cheat – no one needs Ashley Madison.  They will find a way.  History has alway had an Ashley Madison – Los Angeles had Heidi Fleiss, Chicago had Iceburg Slim,  “Gone with the Wind” had Belle Watling.  Of course the internet has made it easier to procure a lover.  It’s also made it cheaper and more legal.  In the past, men went to prostitutes to fill their sexual needs.  Now people of both genders go to Ashley Madison – maybe for sex – but more often to temporarily cure their loneliness.  I’m not sure what percentage of people actually have physical affairs as a result of that site.  Probably less than you would suspect.  The thrill of the online profile and an occasional email is probably enough to bring people back to the present and out of their bubble of obsession.  But this porn has destroyed plenty of marriages.  Even if the person who paid for the website never had an affair, the trust was destroyed when the spouse found out and a marriage and family fell apart.  It’s really sad.

Here is a bit of advice/warning for anyone looking to join this site.  Ashley Madison is evil.  Not because of the ‘service’ it provides – but because of the greed it displays.  Ashley Madison claims to put charges through to your credit card under a benign name.  That benign name is ADL media.  Ummm, not that hard to figure out if you just google that term (adult dating life).  If/when you realize it’s mostly fake ads and sex workers and you wise up and decide to cancel the account they charge you to do so.  Here is the kicker – the cancellation charge is listed under ASHLEY MADISON on your credit card statement.  It may show up as ‘AM media’ or some such thing – but regardless of the wording, what they do is make it completely obvious what the payment is for and as a result many relationships are destroyed.  The irony is that it’s when someone decides to do the right thing and remove their profile that their behavior is usually discovered by their spouse.  Damn.  That’s harsh.  Of course you can get around this – use a prepaid c/c or whatever.  Where there is a will there is a way.

I may have digressed in this post.  So back to the topic.  Ashley Madison, like any other version of porn, is a distraction from our daily stress.  If you’re drawn to these sites they become addictive.  It’s a thrill to get a secret email from an admirer.  Doesn’t make you bad to have that feeling – it’s human.  But it would make you a better human if you could try to find a different method of obtaining your thrill and validation.  There are a lot of distractions to chose from in the world – would be nice if you could choose one that won’t destroy the worlds of those you love.

Why do feelings hurt so much worse than flesh?

Everything that is hurt needs to heal.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a stubbed toe or an ego.  Scientists have proven than emotional and physical pain are both centered in the same part of the brain, so why is it that feelings – which exist only in our brain – can take so much longer to heal than an actual flesh wound.

I watched my mastectomy scars improve every day when I first had surgery.  I was amazed by how quickly my body rallied to heal itself.  Within weeks they looked pretty amazing.  They still exist, and always will, but they don’t hurt when I touch them. When I look at the scars, there is nothing triggering.  I don’t feel the pain of the surgery or the anxiety surrounding it.  They are just a lasting but benign result of an incision which may have saved my life.

How funny that our bodies can recuperate so completely and swiftly – but when our feelings are hurt the pain is so much more intense – and hangs on for what seems to be forever.  Even when the feelings start to heal, one wrong reminder can reopen the emotional wound and we are right back where we started feeling all of those hurt feelings again like they just happened.

When I first found out that husband was unfaithful the number of physical symptoms that went along with my hurt was shocking.  The lump in my throat, the nausea in my stomach, the uncontrollable shaking, the weight loss, the fear.  I even got a fever the night I found out.  I knew that it was just my feelings reacting to the stress in my body but I didn’t have any tools that could control it.

I think that part of the difference, and one reason why old emotional wounds are so easily accessed, is because we don’t tend to emotional pain in the way we do physical pain.  With my mastectomy I started taking supplements a month prior to surgery so my body would have the vitamins and minerals it needed to heal.  I cut out wheat, sugar and alcohol to eliminate inflammation and added in white chicken meat to up my protein level.  I made sure everything I ate and drank was organic and fresh.  I consulted with many surgeons to make sure I had the right team of doctors.  I read books and researched how to heal quickly and painlessly.  After the surgery I rested and slept and saw my doctors for lots of check ups.  I was tended to night and day by my husband and mother.  I was prayed for by countless friends and strangers.  I listened to healing meditations at least 4 times a day.  I repeated mantra’s to tell my body to heal.  I applied creams and salves and had physical therapy for weeks.  All this to recover from a surgery.

By comparison, the first time I found out about my husbands infidelity I cried alone, I yelled at him and then ignored him.  I didn’t tell any friends and didn’t have a therapist.  I refused to hear about – much less learn about – sex addiction.

I think it’s obvious why my body healed better than my feelings.  I helped my body in every way I knew to heal itself.  But when I was emotionally hurt I didn’t tend to my feelings with the same commitment. My feelings didn’t heal and I suffered for many years with insecurity, anger, confusion and suspicions.

Cut to the discovery of my husbands relapse 2 years ago.  That time, the initial pain was equally as horrible as the first time around.  All the symptoms that were there the first time – the shaking, the nausea, the tears – were all present.  But this time around I healed.  Instead of getting angry and yelling at my husband I held him and comforted him and helped him.  Instead of keeping it all to myself I shared it with other wives of addicts who I had met over the years.  This time I attended and shared at S-Anon meetings.  This time I found an amazing therapist who deals specifically in this area and I committed to letting her help me.  I journaled a lot.  I read lots of books on the subject of sex addition.  I talked to my husband for countless hours sharing every feeling and fear with my husband.  And like with my mastectomy, I can still see the scars, but they don’t trigger me the way they did the first time around.  I took care of myself – and it shows.  I am working on my meditation practice (I wish this came easier to me!) so it is in place the next time I have an emotional or physical trauma.  It’s life.  Things happen.  We need to prepare.

I’m sure there is an entire scientific study about physical versus emotional healing which would be way over my head.  But I am pretty sure that taking care of our emotional wounds with the same care and gentle touch that we do our physical wounds will help them heal better.  At least it can’t hurt.

Remembering D-Day

I follow a lot of other women who, like me, had their worlds turned upside down due to infidelity and/or sex addiction.  Many of these women regularly talk about and refer to “D-Day”.  From what I gather, this is the day that they found out about the transgression(s) of their spouse.  I suspect that “D” stands for “Discovery”.

My D-Day is coming up sometime in the next week or so.  I don’t remember the date exactly, though I could look it up by checking my old emails.  I’m not sure the exact day matters, but I will pick a day later this month and my husband and I will celebrate.

In U.S. history D-day was the beginning of the end of the Nazi invasion of Western Europe.  There was a lot of loss during the invasion of Normandy, but yet we celebrate the day as it was the beginning of the end of a horrible time in world history.

I think of the day 2 years ago when I discovered my husbands unbelievable behaviors as the beginning of the end of a horrible time in my marital history.  The details of the day would certainly be painful if I chose to dwell on them.  But the longterm growth and benefits that resulted from that day have made the pain worth it.  Had the discovery not happened, we would have both spent the last two years in the limbo that was our relationship.  We would have been perfectly amicable with one another, but not intimate.  We would have cared about one another, but not loved unconditionally.   If D Day didn’t happen, he would still be acting out with strangers and I would still be cheating on him with my ex.  We would be sharing the same house, but not sharing our truest selves with one another.  We would be lying to each other as well as to ourselves.  We would be lonely and unfulfilled.

We have both grown and changed so very much in the last 2 years.  We love one another with transparency and respect.  We communicate with our hearts, not just our minds.  We can count on each other with a confidence that I have never felt before.  This wouldn’t have happened without the discovery.

I’m not sure how other’s get through their “D-day” but I will call is “Devotion Day” or “Determination Day” or “Damn it if we didn’t make it Day”.  I will dress up and wear expensive perfume and hold my husband tight and celebrate all that we have endured – together.

Post Mastectomy update

I expected to have had some depression by this point…or at least a touch of sadness or loss.  My bilateral mastectomy was 2 weeks ago.  Leading up to the operation, I had heard that the weeks afterward would be a physical and emotional roller coaster.  It’s not.  I am so filled with gratitude and relief I couldn’t imagine fitting in any negative emotions.  I understand that everyone’s road is unique – and I certainly understand why so many women experience depression after this type if surgery – I’m just saying that it’s not a rule, as I am an exception.

During the time I was in the hospital and recovery center, I had no time for self pity as 3 of my friends had worse things happen to them.  One friend’s wife was diagnosed with an invasive breast cancer, another was assaulted at gunpoint, and a third dear friend was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.  It’s hard to feel sorry for myself while others who I love are experiencing equal or worse pain than I.  In fact, every floral arrangement that arrived or prayer that was said on my behalf made me feel a bit guilty.

My recovery so far has been comfortable.  I didn’t need my pain meds (other than tylenol), early to tell but it seems that the implants look acceptable and I’m already able to drive and get around.  I get tired easily as my body works to put itself back together so I give myself lots of naps and leisure.

Since the subject of my blog is about life with a sex addict I will address that aspect in relation to this experience.  My breasts are taped up and bruised and need soiled bandages changed daily, my bowel movements are an actual topic of conversation and I haven’t shaved in about 2 weeks.  Those temporary unpleasantries aside these past weeks have been incredibly stressful for my husband.  He is swamped at work, having to take days and hours away from the office to be with me, worried about me when he isn’t with me, sleeping on the sofa since my mom is here to help, etc ,etc.  I know that stress is his trigger and in the past it’s this overwhelming stress that led him to the beds of other women.  I sat him down a couple days before surgery and asked him to make me a promise.  I made the request that if he has a ‘slip’ while I am undergoing or recovering from surgery that he please not tell me until I am fully recovered.  I asked him that under those circumstances that he please tell his sponsor or therapist but to keep it from me until I am healed.  My body needs every ounce of energy to recover from surgery.  What it doesn’t need is a detailed confession of an addicts slip or relapse.  It’s just another example of how I can care for myself at times when I am not 100% confident that my husband will have the power to do so for me.

When being grateful comes easily

48 hours from now, I will be waking up in the recovery room following my bilateral mastectomy.  For an entire year now I have been consumed with fear, doubt, denial, confusion and stress.  When I finally made the decision (literally 5 minutes before surgery #1) I felt an unexplainable certainty.  When the pathology results of the samples they took during that surgery came back a few days later I knew I had chosen well.  I am so grateful that I pushed through my fear of surgery in order to get this information.

Doctors today let their patients make their own decisions.   I’m sure their insurance companies insist on that.  But putting such a complicated decision upon someone with no medical knowledge is absolutely harrowing on the patient.  Even so, I am grateful that my doctors (all female and in their 40’s) would say “you can’t make a wrong decision” but each would then follow up with “if it were me, I would do the mastectomies”.   Legally, they can’t be held accountable for telling me what they would do if it were them.  For that unofficial advice I am grateful.  I live in Los Angeles, and have many cutting edge, experienced doctors to choose from – in the end going with female surgeons with excellent credentials – I am grateful to have such choices.

As much as I am grateful for early detection and my medical team – it doesn’t begin to compare with how grateful i am that I am with my husband.  He has been an absolute rock every minute of the past year.  When I was afraid he held me, when in pain he helped me, when I was in denial he would gradual nudge me back toward reality.  He prayed for me and with me.  He taught me to meditate and to release my emotions.  He finds me beautiful even when my breasts are bruised, scarred and swollen.  He loves me and gives me so much to fight for.

The fact that I almost left him – twice – seems surreal to me now.  The first time was when I found out how out of control his sex addiction was, that he had cheated on me just a year or so into our marriage.  The second time was when my ex boyfriend was offering an escape to an old life with a long history.  Words can’t express how grateful I am that I could see the bigger picture:  That these sexual and addictive parts of our lives were opportunities to grow – both as individuals and as a couple.  When we both disclosed the complete truth to one another a year and a half ago we knew we were both finally in it for real.  The love I feel for and from my husband every minute of every day tops my gratitude list.  I couldn’t imagine experiencing all the joys and pains of life without him by my side.

Even with his flaws – he is a good, good man.  If you have one of those as well, but are rightfully confused about how to react to his infidelity and/or addiction I suggest trying to get beyond his past actions and start forgiving.   Then hopefully one day in the not so distant future, you too will get to a place of true love, compassion and – of course – gratefulness.