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Can Cheaters Love?

I asked my husband last night if he thought it was possible that men who cheat on their wives also love their wives. He quickly said “Yes.” Inside I recoiled at such a statement. I already wrote about how love and attachment are two different things, but I wanted to explore this idea further. How is it he and I have two completely definitions of love?

If a man can love his wife and simultaneously cheat on her, then I need to define love because the kind of love I believe in doesn’t allow real true human intimacy and betrayal at the same time. Impossible.

you are loved

Scripturally speaking, love is long-suffering. It is gentleness. It is meekness. It is kindness, it is pure knowledge, it is without guile.

I think we would all agree love is gentle, meek and kind, but what about this “pure knowledge” business? What’s that all about? If I love someone what exactly do I have a pure knowledge about?

love is

Pure knowledge of someone is knowing her intimately. You know her deepest joys and her deepest fears. Actually it is even more than just knowing. It is allowing those deepest joys and fears to change you.

Pure knowledge is knowing her and also acting on that knowledge.

Pure knowledge is being known as an individual. It is to be known by ourselves and by others. That  is my definition true love. And i feel pretty good about it seeing as it is rooted in scripture. 🙂

In this article about the difference between affection and love, the author says, “I get very jazzed about the fact that we are the final arbiters of the love we receive. If you say you love me and I don’t feel you know me, are interested in me, hold me in mind or engage with me, I get to decide the issue, get to say whether or not your love is valid. There is no other judge or jury. And if you really love me and I’m just not perceiving it for some reason, then you need to communicate your love to me again. If it’s genuine, then I’ll likely feel it.”

Did you catch all those actions words? Know, engage, hold.

love is not

When I bristled at my husband’s belief that cheaters can love their wives it is for this reason–the cheater did not have a pure knowledge of his wife. He was not engaged with nor did he act on any knowledge he did have. Quite the opposite. He was engaged with his own selfish interests and her psychological well being was about as far from his mind as the moon.

Love is a discipline that requires learning, development, commitment and sacrifice.  When someone has a pure knowledge of me I do not feel alone nor unknown.

When I found out my husband was a cheater I have never felt more alone in my whole life. I felt unloved and unknown and invisible. I realized there was much about him I didn’t know. I tried in vain for years to get this man to open up to me, to let me really know him, but to no avail. He couldn’t. His addiction prevented him from curating real true intimacy.

So can a cheater love? I don’t believe he can. He can financially support, admire, and desire. But no, I don’t believe he can love.

The Marriage of Silence

Before I knew my husband was an addict, I thought he was simply a man of silence. He is a doer, not a talker. He never opened up his heart to me, instead, he would give me a foot rub or do the dishes to say he loved me. Every woman loves a foot rub, no complaints there. But most women want a companion as well–someone she can share her heart with.

After nearly two years of sobriety, my husband is still a man of silence. Oh, he says he is trying to open up more, and once-in-a-blue-moon he does, but he stopped checking in with me long ago. He said because every day to him is the same–he just goes to work, is still doing well managing his addiction, so what else is there to say? He still is the man who can spend hours in a room with me and never speak to me. It’s terribly lonely.

I have told my husband that our marriage of silence sort-of-worked in the past, but now I need more. I need a true companion to repair my broken heart. I need someone who is willing to try and earn my trust back, one heartfelt conversation at a time.

We have this conversation about silence over and over, just the two of us, and also with our therapist. I feel like we walk into the therapist’s office, and recently our ecclesiastical leader’s office too, and need to press play on the tape recorder because the message is always the same. My tape-recorded message:

“I am lonely, I don’t trust him, he won’t talk to me.”

And my husband has his tape-recorded message as well–

“I am trying”, “Old habits die hard”, and “Most days are just days, there is nothing to talk about.”

He’s good, he’s really good. He is kind, quiet, and says this so convincingly, with a soft voice that it really seems genuine. You feel sorry for him. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with those explanations, not really. But I can read between the lines. And the real message is–

“I don’t want to talk, please leave me alone” or

“I am tired of talking about this addiction that is way in the past” or

“This is my personality, she needs to get over this.”

If he does try to talk to me it is always after we turn the lights out and go to bed. I guarantee I would fall off my chair with shock if he ever said “Hey Lorena, can we talk for a few minutes alone in the bedroom?” Our broken marriage is simply an afterthought at the end of the day, a way to break the awkward silence between a man and woman who have shared the same bed for 21 years before they fall to sleep.

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I really don’t know what to do about this marriage of silence. It’s the definition of loneliness. I feel like I am walking at dusk on this semi-dark road. Heading down the road only leads towards something harder to walk–these cold and snowy mountains. Either way I am cold–either on the road (staying married) or divorced (cold mountains). Do women really walk away from marriages where he is kind, quiet, and does the dishes?

I think loneliness can make a woman do crazy things.

Shock was a gift

I actually told someone just 2 months after D-day “I am beginning to feel happiness again.” And I had it planned out one Friday night to tell my husband that I had forgiven him! (Thankfully I didn’t.) That was shock, not happiness and forgiveness.

I believe now shock was a gift from God. Spencer W. Kimball taught that God “will not ask us to bear more than we can bear nor thrust upon us that for which we are not yet ready“. Once I was ready to absorb the enormity of my husband’s choices the shock went away.  In some ways this trial has gotten worse, the gravity and enormity of it has sunk in slowly as I have been given more tools to handle the problem. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I was not ready those first few months, but slowly with added tools and knowledge I became ready.

Had shock not been present I would have kicked out my husband, hands down. In some ways I wish I had, at least for a few weeks but I didn’t want to scare the kiddos so I let him stay.

Had shock not been present I would have called my husband worse things than ‘you lying bastard’.

Had shock not been present I would have taken a baseball bat to his car or to him. (Shock was a gift to my husband as well, ha ha!)

Had shock not been present I think I would have run away.

Had shock not been present I think I would have followed through with the revengeful thoughts I had–betraying him because he betrayed me.

But luckily, or rather blessedly, God shut my body and brain down. I laid on the couch all day watching TV, reading novels, eating bad food, and no exercise for months. I was able to function in my busy calling and even show kindness towards my husband. When the shock ebbed and anger and confusion took over, that’s when I was ready to ask for help, get counseling and begin my education on addiction and what I would personally need to heal. God is indeed merciful.

One Year of Sobriety

It’s been a whole year now. A year since my amazing life was shattered like a vase dropped on concrete. The shards of glass went everywhere; some pieces may be gone forever and I am not sure yet if the vase will ever be like new again.

My husband knows better to approach me with a celebratory smile and say “I have a year of sobriety!” He did that at month 10 and it ruined my day and led to a fight. I told him that would be like me coming home and saying “I haven’t robbed a bank in year!” He would rightfully look at me and say, “You shouldn’t have been robbing them in the first place. This is no celebration, it’s a time for quiet reflection.”

So on the eve of my husband’s year of sobriety, here’s what I am “celebrating”.

1. It’s been a whole year of tears. Tears on my bathroom floor, tears in the shower where I can wail and my children won’t hear me, tears on my pillow, tears on my knees, tears of anger towards my husband’s lies. Tears at church, tears at the temple, tears as I told my parents, tears as I yelled at my Bishop for letting my husband off Scot-free.

2. It’s been a whole year of waking up and remembering, “Oh yea, this is my life now.”

3. It’s been a whole year of education and learning a whole new vocabulary to words like boundaries, triggers, betrayal trauma, etc.

4. It’s been a whole year of going to church and trying not to cry at all the lessons on sin, priesthood, and forever families.

5. It’s been a year on my knees pleading and begging God to please heal my heart now and wondering why healing is so very slow from one who is perfect and omniscient and omnipresent.

6. It’s been a year of making up excuses for the kids as to why dad is gone so much every Tuesday and Wednesday night now.

7. It’s been a year of mourning the loss of my marriage. The marriage I thought I had for 19 years has been replaced by a broken one.

8. It’s been a year of mistrusting my best friend.

9. It’s been a year of praying for the gift of discernment, telling God that obviously my liar meter is broken so I need discernment, I need a spiritual gift, if I am going to stay in this marriage.

10. It’s been a year of avoiding most friends and acquaintances and slowly deciding to confide in a few.

11. Its’ been a year of crying with my new friends, my fellow sisters whose hearts have been broken as well. The “sobbings of their hearts ascending up to God against (their husbands.)….hearts dead, pierced with deep wounds.” (Jacob 2:35)

12. It’s been a year of looking in the mirror and saying “I’m still standing, I am strong.”

13. It’s been a year of realizing that true peace comes from trust in God and in his timing and knowing that my future is bright, no matter my husband’s choices.

14. It’s been a year of counting my big and little blessings. From realizing I have amazing supportive parents and siblings to thanking God for a jacaranda tree in all its glorious purple blooms.

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14. It’s been a year of realizing that as humans we can sure mess up our lives and the lives of innocent and knowing that Jesus Christ is our only hope. Only he can fix the messes we make.

Love Shouldn’t be a Homework assignment

I have tried to get to the root of why my hubby’s addiction has been so traumatic. I mean, I know why, it’s kind of obvious, but what is it about the betrayal that hurts me, personally? I have been praying and asking God to help me sort out my feelings. My therapist has helped me see that when we can name the pain, we have power over it. It took me a while to believe that, but I think I’m on board with that philosophy. I’ve been able to name a piece of this heartbreak.

In a quiet moment of pondering I finally had this thought come to me to help me understand my pain: Exercising love for me shouldn’t be such an exercise. I want his love for me to come easily; I don’t want it to be a homework assignment. That’s why this has crushed my  heart. I don’t want it to be such hard work to only have eyes for me. I want it to be easy to avoid lust because at home he has love. After all, that has been my experience and it crushed me to learn that was not his experience.

When I shared these ground-breaking thoughts with my husband he quickly said, “It’s always been easy to love you.” To which I said “Actions speak louder than words.”  Acting out on his addiction, coupled with lies, for twenty years showed hatred towards me. Hatred and disrespect.

paul newman

Years ago I heard Paul Newman explain why he never cheated on his wife. “Why go out for hamburger when I have steak at home?” Despite the metaphor using meat, it’s beautiful. Mr. Newman got it and I want my husband to get it. I want it to be easy to turn away from lust because he has love at home. Maybe someday it will come easy for him.

our 20th anniversary: what’s to celebrate?

When my husband told his therapist that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary this year, the therapist was surprised. After all, that’s why I stopped going to therapy, I was doing so much better and didn’t need his weekly help. But doing somewhat well as an individual and wanting to celebrate our anniversary as a joyous occasion are two different things. I am pleased at the progress my husband is making, but I don’t feel a party-like atmosphere is in order. I am pleased at how well I am healing, but I don’t feel the need to exchange gifts. I told my husband that what I want can’t be purchased.

So my 20th wedding anniversary came and went quietly last week without a trip to Europe like I always thought we would take. We were out of town, at my parents’ home in sunny southern California. I had told my husband all month long that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary. I didn’t want a gift, didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want it mentioned really. (I was afraid my parents would wonder why we chose not to celebrate it so I did bake a cake in our honor, or at least that’s what I told them.)

Since our anniversary is at the very end of the year it’s always been kind of a ‘reckoning’ moment for me. Usually on my anniversary I look back on the last calendar year and think about all the great things that my husband and I were able to accomplish. I like to think about all the blessings we have and how we have grown as a couple. We always talk about our wedding day in Los Angeles. How hot it was for December; how there were 29 other couples on school break getting married that day; how we were the last couple to get married at high noon; how they closed the temple and I had to change out of my wedding dress in the visitor’s center tiny bathroom; how fun it was to go out to lunch, all alone, as husband and wife in Puente Hills while our families got the church ready for our reception.

But not this year’s anniversary. This was the year where I was robbed of all those good memories. This was the year where I stopped saying, and will never say again, “we really do have the best marriage, we are the best of friends.” I really was looking forward to turning 40 in the year 2014; it seemed like a hallmark of all the good in my life. But then in June it all shattered and I learned my husband had been a porn addict our entire marriage. All of it.

And as 2014 came to an end and all my friends who also married in December wrote lovely tributes on Facebook to their spouses I thought of my own imaginary post. “Happy 20th anniversary to my sweetheart; marriage is indeed hard but we love each other and we aren’t divorced yet.” But who wants to read that.

Here’s to my 21st year of marriage. May it be just a smidge better.

i know he loves me but i need respect

Over the last six months my husband has told me countless times how much he loves me and how sorry he is for his years of lies. And several of those times I have said back to him, “I know you love me but I need respect.”

I have no doubt that my husband loves me. I have no doubt that he feels attached to me; that he is fond of me. But is love enough? Hell no, it is not.

Grungy Brick Wall

I need respect. And love without respect is dangerous; it can crush someone as the last six months have taught me. A person who is respected is seen as her own unique individual self; with the right to make decisions for herself, based on reality, not some fantasy façade of what he thinks would make her happy. My husband admits he never once told me the truth of his problem because he loves to make me happy and knowing this wouldn’t make me happy. That’s so sweet right? Not wanting to hurt someone is true love, right? Wanting to spare them any pain is love right? Maybe, but it is NOT respect. And if I had to choose between love and respect I would choose respect.

I suppose I am splitting hairs here because I do believe true love encompasses respect. But I know now that it is totally possible to love someone, to feel attachment and fondness, but not to respect them. A man who truly loves his wife respects her enough to be completely honest even if it paints him in a bad light; respects her enough to be truthful even though it may cause her pain; and respects her life decisions once she knows the full truth.

Years ago when Robin Givens talked about her abusive marriage to Mike Tyson she told a story I will never forget. She talked about how he would beat her and then within a few hours they would be hugging, cuddling, holding hands, and crying together. What the hell kind of nuttiness is that? I remember at the time thinking, “If he loved her he would’t have hit her in the first place!” Well, now my 40-yr old self gets that story. I so get it. Mike Tyson was indeed crying because he felt shame and remorse for what he did to someone he was attached to and fond of (love). So now I would say, ‘If he respected her he wouldn’t have hit her.” Huge, huge difference.

My husband never told me when we were engaged that he had a 10-year problem with porn/masturbation/lust. If he had respected me he would have known that nobody has the right to make decisions for somebody else’s life. And after a few years of marriage when I discovered part of his problem, he lied to me some more about the rest of the story because he didn’t respect me enough to think I deserved the truth. When my husband objectified me (and countless other women) as sex objects he did so because he didn’t respect me as a smart, educated, hard-working woman with her own ambitions and life dreams. It’s so patronizing and patriarchal to assume I need to be protected, coddled, and kept in a fantasy world of lollipops and sunshine. Thankfully with 6-months of sobriety he is beginning to respect me. The haze of addiction has subsided and now when I tell him I need respect more than love, he can see the difference and progress is being made.

Many thoughts in this post came from this amazing article.

sin is never ever a good idea

One of thee worst phrases in all of Mormondom is “You chose this trial.” I have heard this phrase many, many times from well-meaning but ignorant people–especially when we found out we couldn’t have kids. Somehow assigning some nobility to my suffering made them feel better. Well, that stupid phrase never made me feel better. Someone has watched Saturday’s Warrior one too many times if they believe we chose everything before we came to mortality. I don’t even care if it is (I doubt it) true because that doesn’t help me get through today’s troubles. It’s akin to rubbing my face in a bowl full of pain.

The second worst phrase in all of Mormondom, the one that makes me bristle because it is so common, is: “I am grateful for my trials.” Now I believe you can be grateful for the lessons you learn from trials; I believe you can be grateful to feel God’s love for you so acutely in your moment of suffering that you can never again doubt His, or your divinity. And maybe when the trials are just a part of everyday life you can be grateful for the actual trial, but I do not believe for one minute I need to be grateful for the sin that, unbeknownst to me, has been a part of my 20-yr marriage.

I will never, ever be grateful to know that my husband is capable of lying to me.

I will never be grateful to know that my husband has seen and lusted after thousands of naked women.

Sin is never a good idea and we don’t have to go looking for it, nor love it to prove that the Atonement works. As Elder Holland has said, “We don’t have to look for sorrow. We don’t have to seek to be martyrs. Trouble has a way of finding us even without our looking for it.”  Bingo Elder H.

men are that they might

To be grateful for this filthy trial that my husband chose (God did not send this to me) would be to be a martyr, happily suffering because of his misuse of agency. We just read this scripture from 2 Nephi 2:27 with my children the other night “…..men are that they might have joy.” We are supposed to have joy in this life–we are not here to embrace suffering as martyrs because of someone else’s sins. The Gospel makes me happy, sin does not.

Martyrdom is overrated.

what recovery looks like in my home

It’s been over five months since I caught my husband with porn. Since I unraveled his 20 years of lies. Thankfully he’s been “sober” since that day I caught him last June. Here’s what my life looks like now and why I have peace about staying in this marriage.

Here’s what he is doing outside the home for his recovery:

1. Once a week he attends the 12-Step support group sponsored by the LDS church. (I know lots of other addicts prefer Sexaholics Anonymous, (read one opinion here) but so far my husband prefers the church’s program.) He doesn’t just attend the group, he loves the group. I really think it’s his favorite part of the week. This has blown me away as my husband is shy and introverted but he loves attending and receiving strength and, yes, sharing his own journey with recovery with the other men. He prays for those in his group and really worries about them too. He also is actively working on the 12-steps. Currently he is on step 4. I wish he were further along but I have heard it should take about a year to complete the steps so I guess he is only a little behind. He is working on them, and progressing, so that is what I try to remember. I went with him 5-6 times to the women’s support group that meets at the same time in a different room, but that got difficult leaving the kids alone on a school night. Someone has to help with the algebra! I don’t really feel like I need to attend the group right now for spouses, but that could change.

2. My husband also sees a therapist through LDS Family Services. He was going weekly but the therapist said he is doing so well that now he is only going every other week.

3. He also meets weekly with our Bishop. I have no idea how long the weekly meetings will continue with the Bishop but for now this is what the Bishop wants. I am the only one who finds those weekly meetings burdensome as I get stuck cooking dinner Sunday night without any of his help so that’s getting old. (We have late church this year and I am usually exhausted after my primary calling and not getting home until 4pm.) But recovery is more important than nice dinners so too bad for me.

Here’s what’s going on inside the home.

1. He reads the Book of Mormon and prays daily, every morning. That’s his devotional time. He does this on his own, I do not remind him. He wants this and knows he needs this.

2. He checks in with me daily at night, usually when we are going to bed. He tells me if he has had any struggles, usually with his thoughts, but even those are getting better he says. He describes it as things “being quiet in his head.” To be honest if he were acting out (viewing pornography or masturbating) he would have to move out. I am not saying we would divorce, although he knows that is an option, but he knows that those things are not welcome in our home ever again. Ever. Again. I have a right to have a Gospel-centered home and those things can no longer be in my home if I am going to stay married. It’s just not negotiable. Unbeknownst to me I lived with filth in my home for 20 years and this year, 2014, is where it ends.

3. Honesty and patience is a huge part of our marriage right now. I have told my husband it is going to take me years to get over this betrayal and he is just going to have to be patient. He will have to listen to my fears. He will have to listen to my cries and my anguish. He will have to listen to my concerns about trust, love, forgiveness, etc. And thankfully he has. He recognizes that every crappy thing I am going through right now is his fault. And he is doing his best to say those words, sometimes daily, and also show me through his actions he wants to ease my suffering; suffering that he caused. Like is mentioned here “this problem hurts you more than anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. It cuts to the very center of what it means to be a woman, a friend, a wife and a mother. Sometimes you cry yourself to sleep because of it.” Thankfully my husband gets this and it is really helping my recovery.

4. Little extras. He makes the bed every morning as a small sign to me that he is changing. He does even more around the house than he used to; all in an effort to say “I am so sorry, what else can I do to make your day a tiny bit easier.” He calls me everyday from work now, something that rarely if ever happened before. Usually he doesn’t have much to say other than thank you for sticking this out with me. But sometimes that’s all I need.

My husband gets it. Thankfully he gets it, or I would be gone. He is doing his best to fix something almost unfixable, at least in my mind. If you haven’t read this post from Row Boats and Marbles, read it now. (In fact, read his entire e-book) I copy a bit of it here because thankfully this has been my husband’s reaction as well.

I have been reminded that she is still hurting on some (perhaps many) levels because of what I’ve subjected her to. This isn’t what she signed up for. Nevertheless, she is healing and she is doing so on a timeline that she is working out with her Father in Heaven, not me. My job is to stay in recovery……and to remember with some humility that I cannot fathom the pain I have inflicted on my wife because of my sex addiction. For the rest of eternity, everything I say or do should reflect two guiding truths to her: “I’m sorry” and “You’re more important to me than breathing.”

Like Alma the younger and Paul the apostle, he will have to spend the rest of his life proving that he is serious about changing, about putting off the natural man. Ironically, when we were dating, the one and only scriptural discussion we had was the story of Alma the younger and his conversion. I remarked that his 3-days of suffering and quick forgiveness seemed to be pretty darn easy compared to what he had done. My husband remarked, 20 years ago, that although God may have been quick to forgive Alma, that Alma in turn spent the rest of his life proving he would keep the commandments and love God above all else. And in a weird twist of fate, that scripture story is being lived out in my home. But if Alma, the vilest of sinners, can change, so can my husband. We will see.

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refining myself

A few years ago I decided I wanted to accept my husband for who he is and not who I think he should be. (I didn’t know about his addiction then.) It took me over 15 years to decide that I could love him just the way he is, which, considering I am very independent I’m surprised it took me that long! I wanted to stop trying to change him. To make him into a man who would share his feelings. And to turn him into a romantic who would plan weekend getaways. He is never going to do that. Accept him for all his goodness and move on lady! After all, he listens to my feelings as I am the talker. He doesn’t like to talk about his feelings so get over it!

And as far as planning romantic getaways or even dates, he is willing to do anything that I plan. So plan it, quit being resentful that he never has and maybe never will, and move on. I have an amazing life and knew it was time to let some things go. I think infertility taught me that. That I can be completely devastated that Plan A didn’t work out but happily move on to Plan B. That’s what I was trying to do.

Then about a year ago I decided I didn’t want to be angry at him anymore. I am terribly impatient and highly driven. My hubby is calm, relaxed, and he will admit, a bit lazy. So I would often find myself getting angry at him because he wouldn’t mow the lawn when I asked; wouldn’t get out of pajamas before 10am on a Saturday; wouldn’t offer to do any DIY project around the house unless I got going on it first. He was my sweetheart, my eternal companion and I wanted to rid my heart of anger towards him. Not necessarily because he deserved it, but because I deserved it. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be resentful. So I found myself saying “This isn’t worth getting angry over. Calm down and move on.” And guess what? It was working. I was finally controlling my patience and my temper. Hooray!

Here I was polishing a beautiful car, rubbing out the dings, making the chrome shiny and beautiful. Basically, putting on the final touches to really make the car what it should be. And then I found out the car never had an engine. Or rather that my husband was daily taking an axe to the engine. I was spending loads of time and energy refining myself and guess what, I don’t regret it at all. Even if hubby didn’t deserve it, I deserved it.