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.

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Meetings of Two – rebuilding after an affair.

My husband and I have a weekend ritual when we sit down for a ‘check up’ with one another.  During this time we talk about how we are feeling about our relationship and ourselves.  We tell one another if we have struggled with trust, anger or resentment.  We announce the thing we did during that week that most improved our relationship and on the flip side the one thing we each did that hurt our relationship.  Sometimes the conversations are stimulating and go on forever – other times they are a little lackluster and neither of us have much to talk about.   I never know where these meetings will take us.

We like to go to our favorite coffee shop for these weekly discussions – it makes it feel more like an event or a date.  Since we had brunch plans with friends later this morning we decided to hold this weeks meeting at home, giving us the perfect opportunity to watch Esther Perel’s TED talk entitled “Rethinking Infidelity” about why people cheat.  This talk was such a great catalyst to conversation.  Both my husband and I found so much of what she said to be of interest.  It raised incredibly interesting points and questions and led to another very honest discussion about my husbands addiction-related infidelities as well as my own affair and what the two had in common.   We talked about how we felt during and after our trysts, we talked about the fantasy aspect of our actions, we talked about the power of our disclosures, we talked about anxiety and longing and desire and regret and sex.

Seeking out sources of smart, insightful information is so important when confronted with an issue such as marital infidelity.  I have gotten a lot of help from books and therapists in the past – but somehow, Eshter Perel can cut to the quick in a riveting 20 minute video.  If you haven’t already seen it, and are in a relationship, it’s worth watching.  I highly recommend watching with your spouse and see where the conversation takes you.

The incomparable attraction to a lover or a mistress

I follow some blogs written by “the other woman” or by people who are in affairs outside of their marriages and there is one common chord which almost always underlies the writing.  Loneliness.  It’s rarely the topic of discussion – unless it’s a holiday or other special event and the lovers aren’t together – but it is a constant feeling that something is missing from their world.

A quick history if you haven’t followed my blog – my husband started cheating on me about a year into our marriage, he is a sex addict. I reached out to an ex boyfriend who I had dated for over a decade for friendship and familiarity.  My ex and I eventually became physical/romantic.  My husband and I were concurrently cheating.  We both came clean and our relationship is now filled with love, honesty, compassion and I am completely grateful and satisfied.

When I was in the midst of my affair I spent my days longing to be with my ex.  I woke up thinking of him, went to bed missing him.  We would text how much we missed one another – how we needed to be together – how ridiculous it was that we weren’t.  We were constantly planning our next rendezvous (though in actuality they were very rare).  But now that I have stepped away from the fire and look back on that time, I see that that the relationship was actually just a fantasy to distract myself from the incredible pain of being in a marriage which lacked honesty and passion.  It wasn’t that I actually wanted to be with my ex – it was that I couldn’t bear to admit that there was nothing better in my future than a marriage to someone who could cheat and lie as my husband had.  I imagined that the ex would give me something else, something better, something to look forward to.  Of course he wouldn’t have.  I know that now.

I read words from women who are married but keeping a boyfriend – or single women who have fallen for a married man – and I remember those feelings so clearly.  The longing, the passion, the desire, missing him all day and all night, heart racing when you get a text or an email, relief when you are finally in his arms, tears when you say good bye.  It’s like a hollywood movie with all of it’s emotion and drama.  But for me, all of those feelings were simply a romanticized distraction to protect me from looking at my real life.  If I did look at my life then I WOULD HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT.  The relationship was a fantasy which helped me get through the day and ignore my reality.  The truest feelings during my affair were actually guilt, sadness, disappointment, fear, fear, more fear and loneliness.  I wasn’t physically with my lover and I wasn’t emotionally with my husband.  I was nowhere.

The remarkable thing about an affair is that both sides are so good at playing their roles in it…and when they do, love is actually never exchanged.  I didn’t REALLY expect my ex to give into his feelings because I knew he felt it would always be better if he remained alone, a hope that justified his inability to actually take me away.  And I could in return profess my love for him knowing he would never ask me to prove it. 

Hi, I’m married to an addict….this is my story

It’s impossible to know where to start something like this – something as complex and confusing as being in love with a sex addict.  There is no way to pin down a theme in my day to day emotions in order to devise a simple introduction to you about who, why, what, where, and how I ended up here, on this blog, writing to you.  All I can do is put pen to paper and watch where it goes.  I know it will help me and I very desperately hope it can help you.  None of us are alone on this windy path of recovery.  We may feel alone and isolated temporarily, but I have found that if I keep moving forward that I end up side by side with someone else who understands.  I don’t want to alienate any men who are struggling with sex addiction in their partner – but I suspect that most people who find themselves on this page will be women.  That being said, I have to recognize that the unbelievable power of our shared sisterhood can take on an entirely new meaning when we are brought together through this heartbreaking addiction.  I started this blog because I want to reach out to other women who are in pain – especially those who have just discovered a betrayal.  But sadly, since this is a pain that we tend to keep secret from those around us, I don’t know who you are.  So I will pretend that you are the co-worker sitting in the office next to me.  I will imagine you are my neighbor who walks her dog late at night.  I will consider that you might be a family member who has never had the courage to tell the rest of us about your daily pain.  I so want to know who you are.  I so want my experience, story and friendship to reach you.

Where do I begin to tell my story so you can know me?  What should be the my first words?  Perhaps this should start with the words I said to my husband when I learned about his relapse.  As far as I knew, he had been sober for 5 1/2 years.  All signs made me believe it.  Or did they?  I was home on a sunny June afternoon this past summer and had a sudden and overwhelming feeling that I should place an ad on a popular adult site just to see what happens.  I followed my instinct and placed an ad as a woman named ‘Tammy’ and said that I was looking for an NSA affair.  I placed the ad almost without thinking….it was out of the blue and robotic.  Within moments of placing the ad the replies started pouring it.  It disgusted me to see all of the men who wanted what Tammy was offering.  I was moments away from pulling down the ad when I opened an email from my husband, photo and all, asking to meet “Tammy”.  I was shocked and numb.  I returned to the email a dozen times to double check that the photo was really him – each time foolishly thinking the photo would change to a stranger.   My “Tammy” persona emailed back and forth with him a couple times.  I was sick to my stomach as I wrote words to entice him to the next step.  I was shaking uncontrollably but managed not to cry.  Somehow, I managed to hide my feelings when my husband got home from work.  While I sat a few feet away from him on the sofa he wrote to
“Tammy” and asked for a meeting for the following day.  As Tammy, I replied and accepted the offer.  When he left for work in the morning I called his therapist and told her what was happening.  I said that I set up a meeting time and I intended to go meet him.  Then I called his sponsor and asked him to go to the meeting with me.   All day long, my husband was needy and missing me.  He wrote to me at one point saying he wished we could just ‘run away’.  I could feel that he was lost and I comforted myself by thinking that explained some of what he was doing with his on line activities.  I tried repeatedly to convince him to come home to me – but the pull of an anonymous woman waiting at a bar at 4 in the afternoon was too strong.  When the time of the meeting rolled around his sponsor and I drove into the bar parking lot.  I prayed the entire way that my husband wouldn’t be there – but as we entered the driveway I saw my prayers weren’t answered this time.  My husband was sitting in his car waiting for “Tammy” to show up.  We pulled up next to him and shame overtook his face.  I let his sponsor get out of my car to speak with him first.  I couldn’t wait very long to join them, so after about 5 minutes I got out of the car – walked toward my husband’s open window – gently touched his arm and said “I’m Sorry”.

No one, including myself, expected these to be my first words.  I was sorry that I had to catch him the way I did.  I was sorry that his addiction was so strong that he was sitting in a parking lot on Sunset Boulevard at 4 PM on Wednesday waiting to meet a figment of his imagination.  I was sorry for anything I did that enabled him to be there.  I was sorry that I was in pain.  I was sorry for all of it.  And I am sorry that you have gone through a similar pain to mine.