My last post itemized all the shit that has gone on since our marriage four years ago. Some of it is undoubtedly real, some of it may be my imagination. But that is the soul sucking part of being married to a sex addict. You lose all sense of what is true and real and what is lies and deception. Which brings me around, again, to the obvious question. It is a question I know you are asking, one which I have asked other women in my situation, and one that you may be asking yourself if you have recently discovered that you have hitched your star to a sex addict. Why did you stay then and why do you continue to stay now?
I know that, to someone looking in from the outside, the solution is obvious. If you can’t trust him, leave him. From the inside, though, the solution is anything but simple. It is painfully complex and gut wrenching.
Everyone’s list will be different but I suspect the partners of sex addicts will identify with many of my reasons for staying with a man who has been leading a double life for the entire history of our relationship.
- I love him deeply. He is a kind and gentle man who in every other sense has treated me with respect. He is intelligent, articulate and funny. We enjoy the same things and can sit and talk for hours. We can laugh and be silly together. He has always supported me and my decisions without judgment. He drinks only occasionally and never uses drugs. He has a deep an unconditional love for his children and has always been there for them. It turns out he even likes cats although he always said he didn’t. He is good at almost everything he turns his hand to and is an accomplished athlete, yet very humble about his achievements and eager to work with others, regardless of their abilities. His patience is almost limitless. He is lean and strong and handsome. When we first started dating I told him he was perfect and he got almost angry with me, saying he was anything but perfect. It has taken me 16 years to figure out what he meant.
- He is an excellent liar. If there were an Olympic medal for lying, I’m pretty sure it would go to a sex addict. To indulge in all these dark vices – pornography, masturbation, hookers, adultery – over a period of 40 years – requires A LOT of deception. I still do not understand how or when he pulled it all off. But when I am feeling like a nob for not putting things together much sooner, I remind myself that he had two other wives who never figured it out at all. I guess that makes me a winner of sorts.
- I didn’t get the sort of cues I would have expected from an adulterous spouse. No lipstick on the collar, no strange perfume (except once in his car, and he blamed that on his daughter), no strange hang-up phone calls, no incriminating texts, no long unexplained blocks of time. He was (as far as I knew) at work, or training, or driving home or with me. We were together every evening. I remember thinking that if he was seeing another woman she certainly wasn’t very demanding of his time. The thought of afternoon hookers never entered my head. Which brings me to….
- The things he was doing were just simply not in my realm of experience. I live a world away from hookers and frankly had never given them much thought. Sure, I had caught glimpses of girls in impossibly short shorts and stilettos and I knew what they were doing on the street. But they weren’t part of my personal experience and, until Rob was arrested on the stroll I never gave them a second thought. I tucked them safely away as something that other people had to deal with. I pitied their situation while simultaneously inwardly judging their choices. There were so many things I didn’t know. I didn’t know sex could be an addiction. I didn’t know hookers worked during the day, I knew there were massage parlours that perhaps offered other, less legitimate services but had no idea who might access those services. The result was that I couldn’t even imagine him doing the things he was doing. Seriously? Stopping on the way home for a hand job the way you would stop for a loaf of bread? How could I know that?
- Like all addicts he is a manipulator. He is good at turning things around to make me feel like I am over reacting, or being a jealous spouse or being just plain crazy. In the end I no longer trusted my own instincts. This is a process called gaslighting which I didn’t even know was a thing until recently, though I have been it’s victim for years.
- Hindsight is 20/20. When I go back and itemize all the things that have happened it seems so obvious. But the reality is that these things happened over a period of years, and most seemed relatively trivial. Do you ask your husband for a divorce because the phone was placed upside down on its cradle? Or because you found a 1.98 charge on his credit card bill for a dating site? Any one incident wasn’t enough, especially when he so adeptly talked his way out of every situation. Up until finding the hooker list I had no proof of anything. All I had was the nudging of an instinct I no longer trusted.
- Yes, we had a normal sex life. It wasn’t as frequent as 20-somethings. But, after all, sixty is in the rear view mirror for both of us. But it was, at least for me, plentiful and satisfying. I have read that sex addicts often pull away from their spouses physically, but I can’t say that was true in our case. I will say that he was rarely the instigator of any sexual contact, it was always me. I always got the sense that he would be too embarrassed if I said no, so he left it up to me. In hindsight I probably just wasn’t as much of a turn on as the hooker fantasy he had going on in his head.
- Our marriage was and is wonderful. I know this sounds wacky, given the subject matter of this blog, but, aside from that niggling feeling that things were going on that I couldn’t get a handle on, our marriage was fabulous. We have travelled to amazing places and had adventures that many can only dream of. We have an lovely home in a beautiful location. Most importantly he is home with me, every night, without fail. We cuddle, we chat about each other’s day, we have our favourite shows that we watch together, we compete fiercely at board games, we are financially stable and we are surrounded by family that love us. We are each other’s best friends and confidantes. We have only had one mildly physical disagreement, years ago, in which I was the aggressor. He is the calm gentle one. All of that is an awful lot to give up. In balancing the “do I stay or do I go” equation, the quality of the rest of our relationship weighs heavily in favor of staying.
I may stay, or I may go. I don’t know yet. It depends on whether I feel he is making an honest effort at recovery. Currently the signs are good but it is very early. He is in a 12 step program but struggling with the steps and the many references to God. But he is going to the meetings. He has a supportive counselor and some friends that he can call on if he is feeling overwhelmed. He has “come out” to these friends as well as to one of his daughters and with each telling I feel like the shadows are lifting and the secrets are being swept away. It means that I have people that I can talk to who know the story (maybe not the whole story but the essentials) and that makes me feel a whole lot better. Meanwhile his recovery is his stuff, and my recovery is my stuff. More on that in a future post.