“One lie is enough to question all truths.” ~ anonymous
Will I be happy in this marriage, to this man, if he never cheats again?
This is the million dollar question. For me, unfortunately, the answer was a resounding “no”, but arriving at that answer was a grueling process that took years and required me to fully analyze the marriage, understand personality disorders, and take responsibility for my part in the mess – all without then blaming myself for his addiction.
The answer is so obvious to those around us. We hear a chorus of things from “I would have left immediately” and “I told my husband if he ever cheats I’ll cut his penis off” to “I always sensed your husband was creepy” and “why didn’t you just do x in the bedroom so he didn’t have to cheat?”
Wow. With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Looking back at my marriage, I’ve come to realize that I’d been lonely from very early on. Once I became pregnant, this new life and I had needs which were wholly inconvenient, messy, and burdensome.
I didn’t have a life partner or a father for my children, I had a roommate who paid the bills – loudly and begrudgingly – yet wouldn’t let me take over that task as I was regarded financially stupid. (Of course, I would later learn that control over the money was merely a way of hiding his spending on sex services.)
The abuse – spiritual, emotional and financial – was insidious, particularly because he continually told me what a great guy he was. He assured me that other men would beat me because I was so unreasonable. I could never be thankful enough and was chastised for spending on things as small as an ice cream treat.
He sometimes neglected to pay my cell phone bill, telling me it would do me good to be without my cell phone because I talked too much anyway. I was told I’d be living in a cardboard box on the outskirts of heaven because I was such a terrible person, but he’d let me visit him in his mansion.
Once his sexual addiction was outed, the full gravity of the abuse became apparent. In order to protect his double life, and feel good about his wretched self, he had gaslighted me to keep me in the dark while slowly chipping away at my very core. That’s not just mean, it’s systematic evil.
Was I thankful enough? Perhaps not – or was it that I learned there could never be enough thanks or praise, so I gave up?
Did I contribute to the dysfunction? Absolutely ……. or was I responding to his inability for true intimacy?
Did I throw myself into my friends and my children and focus more on their needs than his? I did …… or was this a response to a marriage void of intimate connection?
Was I unable to recognize a lack of true intimacy when I met and married him? Sadly, absolutely, yes! Or was I simply fooled like so many others in his life?
Are you starting to understand why unraveling the knots is so difficult when you discover that your partner is a sex addict? Every question becomes a chicken-vs-egg thing and must be analyzed under the new “he’s a sex addict” filter.
Taking responsibility for our mistakes can easily become “his addiction was my fault” – particularly if your addict, friends, family, or counselor are reinforcing that message.
Ours was a sick marriage, but I didn’t have the luxury of knowing why it was so sick. He blamed me, and without solid evidence to the contrary – and with a heaping dose of insecurity – so did I.
With visible addictions, one can point clearly to the problem, measure success in overcoming the addiction, and move on with concrete answers. With sex addiction, not only are you up against the “great guy” image, fostered by so many of these little-boy men, but you may never really know if he’s cheating again.
Are you willing to spend years of your life choosing between denial and subjecting yourself to repeated trauma as he undergoes routine lie detector tests?
I couldn’t forget, that at the end of the day, many of these men care so little for their wives and children that they think nothing of snagging a quick blow job when you send them to the store for diapers. You know, because they feel so sorry for themselves – like a 4 year old when you make them clean up their toys.
And because I couldn’t forget that, or the nearly 20 years of being duped, my answer was “No” – but it sure as hell wasn’t easy getting there, and to this day it grieves me.