One Shot at Truth

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” ~ Winston Churchill

From talking to dozens of wives of sex addicts, I’ve come to a conclusion: you are likely to get exactly one shot at truth. Even then, you must remember that this “truth” has likely been decorated like a Christmas tree – all shiny and pretty, but underneath all the glitter, the tree is actually dead.

I remember insignificant details from that day; it was midday -cloudy and cool. He wore a blue plaid shirt and a tan jacket. I sat alone on the sofa. He sat across from me on the leather chair I’d purchased with my tiny inheritance from my mom. I worried that if he cried he would stain the chair with his tears, and it made me mad.

I wanted my dad, who had died when I was young, to hold my hand and look this man in the eye. I felt so very small and alone, and would later come to understand that it had been orchestrated that way – there would be no witnesses to this truth.

And so it began. He read, without emotion, a long list of his deviancies, starting from early childhood and cruising thru to the present. I went numb. My head buzzed and I couldn’t move. I didn’t cry; I just sat there. The depth of the betrayal was beyond anything I could imagine – he’d been playing in an underworld I didn’t even know existed, then coming home to perfect his hypocritical role as “Godly man”.

I asked only one question: “How do you find these people/places/things?” to which he replied “I just have to show up.” Those words chill me to this day. He left quickly, taking with him his notes – and leaving behind a traumatized woman with a broken soul and no trace of his having been there.

I instinctively knew I hadn’t gotten the whole truth, but I mistakenly thought I would get another chance. I thought once he opened up, he would continue to be honest. I  was wrong. I also knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I was married to a very sick man.

You, too, may only get one shot at truth. Here’s what I wish I’d have done:

  • Have a witness, preferably a counselor trained in PTSD and knowledgable about the damage done to spouses of sex addicts. I could never have imagined that he would spill these truths, then later call me a liar for even saying he was a sex addict. I had no idea he could and would, for years, confuse my children by denying even the simplest of truths.
  • Consider a lie detector test. Remember, these men are gifted liars, and you will need the test administered by someone who knows the word games played by sex addicts. They often use the old Bill Clinton “it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” thing.
  • It is his responsibility to tell the children, appropriate to age and with counselor’s help, that he broke the marriage. It’s part of owning what he’s done. If he doesn’t do this in the immediate aftermath of disclosure, don’t expect it ten years later. Ain’t happening. To take this responsibility on yourself is to cast yourself as the whistleblower – and if history has taught us anything, it’s that whistleblowers don’t fare well. I should know, I am one.

Pain and Truth

Pain reaches the heart with electrical speed, but truth moves to the heart as slowly as a glacier. ~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Nothing in my life has rivaled the instantaneous pain of that night. My kids were away at camp when my world fell apart in the dark, previously safe haven of my master bedroom as my then husband revealed “I might be a sex addict”. Nothing would ever be the same.

That night, he admitted to several extramarital partners over the course of our marriage and, with incredible lack of self-awareness or empathy, spun even more lies. Little did I know that more tidbits of truth would eventually come, and each time they would roll over me like a freight train, decimating yet another level of safety, peace, and predictability of my world.

My personal favorite lie from that night is his tale of falling innocently into sex addition at the hands of a wily masseuse. I should have recognized then his uncanny ability to sincerely believe himself to be the victim in this hell he created. I guess when someone has lied to cover deep shameful secrets long enough, lying becomes as natural as breathing.

The problem with his continued lies was that my truth compass had been shattered, so I had no way to get my bearings. With each new lie, he further raped my mind. I no longer trusted anything or any one, least of all myself. If I could fall victim to a man who systematically hid a double life while I raised his children, what else was being done to me without my knowledge?

With each passing month he lightened his own load by revealing more and more sick, illegal, and deviant acts. Needless to say, with each new tidbit of supposed “complete truth”, I sank deeper into the abyss, my reality again shaken. Each time I had tried to grieve and understand, a new level of hell was released upon me.

Eventually, it was as if my brain gave up the fight – I could no longer process any more revelations. It took years to fully grasp and accept the truth of what he had done, though I long ago gave up trying to understand it.

I spent that first year bouncing unpredictably between a complete numbness in which I mechanically went thru the motions, and a pain that enveloped me completely. At night I often lay awake sobbing – literally groaning in emotional pain. During the day, it was as if I was watching myself walk around with a gaping hole in my chest, struggling to function in a world I no longer trusted.

I lost weight and withdrew into a world of pain, eventually driving away 2 very dear friends as they simply couldn’t watch me come undone. By then, I was using wine to kill the pain and try to sleep, as I’d gone months with little sleep; what sleep I did have was interrupted by nightmares so intense I would wake up screaming.

I felt utterly alone, and without appropriate professional help I was drowning. Not only did I not have any idea how to help myself come up for air, the trauma based life raft had not yet been created for the spouses of sex addicts. I felt completely isolated from anyone, as I could not convey the depth of my despair in a way that could be understood.