Telling and hearing the truth

I was talking to my friend Lisa – the one with the husband who keeps getting caught with emails and texts from some woman he has been in some way involved with for maybe a few years.  All we know is what she has found – graphic photos and highly sexual texts and emails between her husband and another woman who he knows from work.  Her husband has never come clean with any information about the relationship.  Every time Lisa finds an email or text chain he says things like this:

“That was the last time I texted her.  I called and ended if right after sending that one”

“I never have touched her – it’s only emails”

“I swear it’s over and will never talk to her again”

You get the drift.  You probably won’t be surprised to know that he has never kept his word to end it.

When Lisa found the latest slew of intense emails, I suggested that the first thing she should do is have him get a full STD check.  It’s easy to do in big cities, it can be done anonymously, but she will be putting her needs first by protecting her own health and also making him have a consequence to his actions.  It’s not therapy, it’s not divorce, it’s not a decision about anything other than making herself a priority.  Her response is that she really believes he hasn’t ever been with this woman!!

Listen…I get wanting to trust the man she is married to.  But if he has never – not once – come clean about ANYTHING – or provided a detail that she didn’t know about BY CHOICE then I really think that she needs to do a reality check.  She can’t believe a single word from him as it relates to this other woman.

It’s hard to tell the truth.  It’s also hard to hear it.  All of it raises fears.  But if a relationship is going to work, then both parties need to start coming clean about their actions and feelings – and both parties need to know it’s safe to do so.  Being honest and telling the truth are skills that need to be learned – especially after a relationship has been upended by betrayal and infidelity.  It’s not easy – but it’s doable.  And until your partner can  be honest – you best do all you can to protect yourself.

How you handle difficult times is what sets you apart

Infidelity in a marriage isn’t easy on anyone.  It hurts, it triggers fears, it ruins the status quo, it just totally and completely sucks. Once it enters your world you will never be the same.

I wonder then why some people are able to move beyond a betrayal to rebuild a stronger relationship or to at least improve their own character – and others never do.   Some women just get stuck.

I read some blogs recently that were posted on a ‘divorced moms’ site.  I think what struck me most is the self-righteousness of the author and the anger that lurked behind every word.  One blog in particular was fueled by a belief that simply by kicking her husband to the curb that she had somehow become a stronger, better person.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t take a degree of strength to kick your spouse out of your life – but in the case of this particular woman that act alone didn’t seem to change her.  Years after the divorce she was still experiencing the same degree of hate and anger – but now she was doing it alone.  The hatred that seeped into her words were heartbreaking.  Hatred for her husband, for men in general, for women who sleep with married men…it was pretty upsetting.  This woman has children with her ex – I can’t help but wonder how much of that hate is felt by those kids – and what happens when one day those children are old enough to read their mom’s blog.  Ugh.

I do understand when women decide to divorce their husband because of infidelity.  As much as I’m a believer in staying, I do think there absolutely are cases when leaving is the best thing to do.  But it doesn’t negate the need for those women to try to move beyond the anger, to deal with the pain, to forgive rather than hate, to own up to their own patterns and to open their hearts.  These things that need to be done whether you stay or you go.  There is no sense in dwelling in the pain.  It’s needless suffering.  Holding onto that hatred and all the feelings that go with it can never benefit anyone and won’t prepare you for the possibility of a healthy future relationship.

If you are struggling with the idea of forgiving an ex or a current partner who betrayed you – maybe you can start by praying for that person.  Perhaps that can be the first step down a lighter more positive path.  A path that is lit by empathy, caring and love.

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.

How badly we crave what we don’t really have…the allure of our lovers

I am always astonished by my mom’s insightfulness.  We were speaking recently about how desire inevitably ebbs and flows in long term relationships.  During the conversation I mentioned that in my relationship with my ex-boyfriend the physical desire for him never wavered.  In fact, I said, it grew and grew over the years and when we finally broke up it was at it’s height.  I used this personal example to ‘prove’ that the curse of long term relationships to destroy passion wasn’t always the rule.

Once I finished telling her my thoughts she responded with an observation that had never crossed my rose colored mind.  She said “the passion lasted because you never really had him”.  Wow.  That is absolutely true and it took me over 20 years to learn it.

This is the ex I have written of before.  We met when I was 23 and were together off and on for 12 years.  We were serious for long stretches of time, then would break up, and eventually would find our way back to one another.  Sometimes the break up lasted a day, sometimes a few weeks, and once it lasted almost 2 years.  This is also the ex that I had an affair with once I learned of my husbands infidelity.  This “affair” was mostly emotional since he lives in another state but it had it’s physical moments as well.  I finally ended it for good almost 2 years ago.  21 years after I met him.  But my mom was right – I never really had him.  I always knew that he could walk out the door the next day.  I felt insecure in the status of our union and anxious about our future.  I never truly was able to depend on him and when I did he usually let me down.  It was that thrill and that uncertainty that kept the flame alive.

I think this is the case with most affairs as well.  We feel a heightened sense of passion because we know at any time the person is going to be pulled from our grasps.  We desperately cling to the moments we can hold them, touch them, see them.  And we are left longing for him/her in those long lonely nights when they are not with us.

This is a horrible way to live.  Always worrying that it’s the last time you will be together, wondering if the feelings are true, imagining them with their spouse and their families, knowing deep down that if they really wanted to be with us they would be.   We go days without hearing from them and our anxiety builds with each hour -then comes the thrill when they reach out again and this act calms all of our insecurities while setting us up for yet another round of passion followed by loss.  It’s a painful cycle.  We want so badly to believe in the fairy tale ending.  But at some point in our adult lives we need to accept that fairy tales are not true.  We do not have them.

Cheating on my spouse: He did it first, but I did it worse.

When I was a college sophomore, I started dating a real scumbag.  Ron had the slick tongue of a used car salesman (warning # 1) and was 9 years older than I (warning # 2).  Within a month I tried to stop seeing him but he threatened to kill himself (warning # 3).  Being 19 and naive, his pathetic manipulation worked and I stayed with him for 3 more years. Every once in a while, I would work up some courage and try to break up with him again.  These attempts usually ended with him putting a knife to one of our throats.

I’m not sure if it was his unpredictable bursts of violence or his puppy dog eyes when he asked for forgiveness  – but eventually I gave up on getting free of him.  I felt trapped, I hated him and I wanted to ruin him.  He was an abusive, arrogant piece of shit, definitely a liar, likely a cheater.  My competitive nature wouldn’t let me risk looking like a fool if and when the truth came out so I decided that it was fair – heck, it was absolutely necessary – for me to cheat on him.  If I ever found out that he had cheated on me with someone else, I wanted to be able to say “Ha! I cheated on you! TWICE!!”.   I was a hostage in the relationship and cheating was the only arena where I felt I could regain some power.

I started acting like a single, slutty sorority girl.  I fooled around with dozens of guys – anyone I wanted – whenever the opportunity arose and without an ounce of remorse.  Ron was suspicious and jealous and would sometimes wait on the sorority steps for me to get home on nights I went out with friends.  I’ll never forget a particularly warm morning when a very good looking guy named David walked me back to my house after he and his roommate fucked me until dawn – Ron was waiting for us.  David went his way and I spun an impressive lie about why a hot frat guy escorted me home and why my socks were on inside out.  After an hour long interrogation, Ron finally bought my story.  We moved on and I swelled with pride at this grand new skill I had developed to protect myself.  Lying.

As the years went by I got stronger and the short term affects of Ron’s escalating abuse started to fade – with that, he lost his power over me.  I managed to break up with him about a year after graduating.  Ron was devastated by the break up and used every trick in the book to try to get me back.  To get him to give up, I finally told him about my years of cheating.  I came clean primarily so he would stop harassing me – but also because I wanted the satisfaction of causing him a fraction of the pain he had caused me.  With no emotion on my face I said to him “I cheated on you”.  He started to cry and guessed a name “Brent?”.  “Oh yes” I said.  “Anyone else?  Ben?” he asked.  “Yep” I replied with a bit of pride.  “Is that all?” he asked.  And I told him in a tone that sounded oddly like I was bragging. ” Ted, David, Ian, Todd, Todd’s little brother, Chris, John, Aaron, Matt, some Fiji who lived by the bar, Jeff, Gordon, his friend Nick, the other John, Jonah, Thomas….”  Ron lay on the floor in a fetal-esque position sobbing and begging me to stop.  The power I felt in that moment was immense.  We were even and I was free.

It’s unfortunate that my validation was derived thru fucking random guys to get even with my abusive boyfriend.  But I will leave that dissection for another day’s post.  By the way…I know from friends who still live in my college town that Ron remains a horrible person, that he still lies and definitely cheats, and has a wife who is trapped. I think of her often and consider reaching out to her, to tell her it’s OK to walk out.  To let her know that there is, indeed, life after Ron.  But I digress.

The most natural thing for me to do when my husband first cheated on me would have been to get even with an affair of my own.  But I felt better than that – better than him – and I didn’t want to stoop to his level.  I wanted to hold this over him so he would spend his life making it up to me.  With my husbands knowledge I reached out to an ex for support, as a friend, but I didn’t cross that line to cheating with him for many years.  Cheating on Ron had given me a warped sense of equality and satisfaction.  But when I was unfaithful to my husband, there was no satisfaction, no sense that I had won and it didn’t ease any of the pain he had caused me.

My husbands cheating was unemotional and usually with nameless strangers.  He loved me deeply through all of it, he never wanted to hurt me and never considered leaving me.  He was sick.  My affair was somewhat physical but very emotional.  I had moments when I wanted to leave my husband for my boyfriend.  I was being selfish and vengeful.  So was my affair worse?  Maybe.  But despite the differences in relationships or who did what first, there is something about the experience that puts us on even playing ground now that we are recovering together.  I don’t have the self righteous stick of fidelity to wield over him.  We are both in pain, we were both wrong, we are both equal.

It would be unwise to believe with utter certainty that my husband isn’t currently cheating or won’t do so in the future.  That being said, my personal experience with being unfaithful wasn’t the experience I expected it would be.  With Ron, I felt fully justified and vindicated through it all.  With my husband I just felt guilty and unworthy of love.  I am grateful that my affair didn’t go any deeper than it did as it would have hurt all 3 of us even more.   Although I believe this isn’t a road that I will ever revisit, I know how tricky the disease of sex addiction can be and I fully accept the risk that my husband could slip or relapse again.  I just hope that he now has the tools to get help faster than he did in the past.  At this point, that is about the best I can hope for.