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.
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.
I have decided that I simply don’t understand addiction and I never will. I do not understand the desire/need/urge to do something compulsively, day after day, year after year, for one’s entire life.
In my “regular” brain, addiction seems so foreign because who wants to eat cereal for breakfast every day, year after year? Sure you can vary between Cheerios and Cornflakes, but I can’t imagine the compulsive need to eat cereal everyday. Give me scrambled eggs! Give me pancakes! Who compulsively wants cereal everyday? I’m sure this is a totally flawed analogy thus proving I just don’t understand addiction.
More specifically, here’s what I don’t get:
1) I don’t understand the need to look at naked people, or to imagine people naked. I really don’t think there is anything that beautiful about a naked person. Now a woman with a crisp button down shirt, a cashmere sweater and colorful scarf, leather boots and a handbag? That’s beautiful! A man with a finely tailored Italian wool suit? Handsome! Everyone looks better with clothes. Everyone!
2) I don’t understand the fetish with breasts. A friend of mine caught her husband ogling another woman’s chest. She would say to him, “You know they’re just milk producing mammary glands. Half the population has them.” Bingo! I mean I don’t have a fetish looking at a man’s butt or crotch. Or elbows. Or knee caps. (My friend is now divorced by the way.)
3) I don’t understand the need to masturbate. In fact, I had no idea porn and masturbation were linked together until a few months ago. Yea, I know, how did I not know that. Naive! I’m 40 years old for crying out loud! In my defense, nobody talks about it. (My hubby sure never mentioned it!) I never heard it mentioned at church as a teen, I was never asked by a Bishop if I do it, I don’t talk about it with friends when we’re at the park pushing our kids on the swings. Why would anyone do that? I’ve heard all the jokes about it on sitcoms but they always refer to masturbation as something you do when you don’t have a significant other to be sexual with. Not that it is ever okay, but I never thought married men (or women if I am being fair) do such a thing. I told my husband when he finally started confessing his double life to me that I would rather chew glass than touch myself sexually. I can’t even give myself a foot rub or a shoulder rub–it just doesn’t work, I would be doing all the work, I wouldn’t enjoy it. I simply don’t get masturbation. I never have, I never will. I can’t even type about it anymore. Foreign!
I don’t think my failure to understand addictive behaviors affects my ability to be a supportive spouse. At least my husband hasn’t said so and we communicate about everything these days. I love his guts and even though I didn’t ask for this problem, I am sticking it out, helping him, as best as I know how, through this very enigmatic addiction.
Jeffrey R. Holland, in this BYU sppech, The Will of the Father in All Things, has really helped me to understand what it means to submit to the Lord’s will–to willingly say “thy will be done.” My will (also know as my thoughts, feelings and desires) is this pain I carry, this broken heart, this sadness, this broken-ness, this bitterness, this pride–these are my feelings and I have every right to carry them as long as I want. I have been wounded, I have been crushed, I am entitled to feel this way, it is part of who I am right now–it’s my will. But God will never force us to anything we simply don’t want to do. Well I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I really do want to give it all to God but I simply didn’t know what that looked like. Until I read this:
….Education, or public service, or social responsibility, or professional accomplishment of any kind is in vain if we cannot, in those crucial moments of pivotal personal history, submit ourselves to God even when all our hopes and fears may tempt us otherwise. We must be willing to place all that we have…..our ambition and pride and stubbornness and vanity—we must place it all on the altar’ of God, kneel there in silent submission, and willingly walk away.
I get it now. I know what I need to do. And for weeks I have been doing this very thing. I have been reading Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and he talks about visualizing (Habit #2–Begin With the End in Mind). So that’s what I have been doing every day for weeks. Here’s the visual:
I visualize myself walking into a room, nobody else is in the room, this isn’t about my husband, it’s about me only. I walk over to an altar and on that altar I lay down all my negative feelings, my sadness, my crushed dreams, my pain, in other words, my will to hold onto those things. I kneel down, I say a prayer something like “I don’t know how you’re going to take this all away. I don’t know how you’re going to make this all better. It seems impossible to me, but I know you can.” And then I walk out of the room, quietly, without looking back. That’s it, that’s the exercise.
Then Elder Holland goes on to say:
I believe what I am describing here is the scriptural definition of a saint, one who will “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” and “through the atonement of Christ . . . becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Now I don’t believe for a second the Lord is inflicting any of this upon me, sin is never a good idea in his book, I am innocent, but I do believe the principle is the same. I need to submit to Him to be healed. And let me tell you, this realization, this exercise has meant everything to me. By far it is the best tool so far in my healing. I think about it everyday, I visualize myself unloading my will on that altar everyday. And that’s how I’m finally able to apply the atonement. God’s ways are always better than my way. So I’m doing it his way.
I met with my Bishop a couple weeks ago. That’s the 3rd time I have met with him in 5 months. It went fine. It’s tough because he is a family friend. It’s tough because he is business man by day and an ecclesiastical leader by night. It’s tough because he is a brand new Bishop. (My hubby went to see him about the porn problem when the Bishop had just been called 3 weeks earlier.) It’s tough because he is so gosh darn nice and yet my Bishop’s decisions have caused me trauma. I tried to explain this to him. I actually used the word “traumatic” when describing how it felt to see my husband get his temple recommend back after just one month of not having one. One stinkin’ month. That was a blow. A traumatic blow.
I told him there are two sides to every story and that he didn’t completely know my side. That even though he sees M who is completely repentant and going through a great change, I am still suffering. M is out of the hole but I am in the dark hole, scratching to find my way out. I told him that M has abused me–has taken advantage of me sexually–a daughter of God, and I feel like he has gotten off scott-free. He has lied to every single Bishop and Stake President for 30 years about his sex addiction. Bold faced lied. But that’s no big deal because he is just so dang sorry and willing to change. And he really is! I do not doubt my hubby is sincere but shouldn’t someone have to prove they can live the commandments for a little while before entering the house of the Lord? Doesn’t a person have to pay a full tithe? Doesn’t a person have to give up beer and cigarettes for a least a few months? Doesn’t the engaged couple have to get married civilly if they get too frisky before their wedding date and then wait a year to go to the temple? WHY DOESN’T ANY OF THIS APPLY TO A MAN WHO LIED TO HIS WIFE FOR 20 YEARS ABOUT PORN, MASTURBATION, AND LUST?
He only lost his temple recommend for one month and that hurts. I told the Bishop I think M should have had to prove that he could live a worthy life for at least a few months before he would be allowed to go to the temple. I think I gave him something to think about, and yet, he did stand his ground and felt strongly that giving M his temple recommend back a few months ago was a good thing. M was changing, was repentant, and that was good enough for him. I said, “fine but it is still traumatic to realize that worthiness doesn’t really matter”.
I have gone to the temple several times with my hubby in the last few months. And I am really okay with him being there with me because this is not my problem–if the Bishop feels my man is ready, that’s on his conscience not mine. But I will always be scratching my head over this one.
Trust gives you the ability to crush someone. That’s why this problem hurts so very badly. That’s why it has crushed me and I have had to start over. I trusted my husband like I have never trusted anyone before. I didn’t just trust him, I carried a torch for him. I would never, ever do anything to betray that trust. But he has and it hurts like hell.
Elder Holland gets it. Oh boy does he get it:
“The result (of trust) is that I know much more clearly now how to help her, and, if I let myself, I know exactly what will hurt her. In the honesty of our love—love that can’t truly be Christlike without such total devotion—surely God will hold me accountable for any pain I cause her by intentionally exploiting or hurting her when she has been so trusting of me, having long since thrown away any self-protection in order that we could be, as the scripture says, “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). To impair or impede her in any way for my gain or vanity or emotional mastery over her should disqualify me on the spot to be her husband.
Indeed, it should consign my miserable soul to eternal incarceration in that large and spacious building Lehi says is the prison of those who live by “vain imaginations” and the “pride of the world” (1 Nephi 11:36, 12:18). No wonder that building is at the opposite end of the field from the tree of life representing the love of God! In all that Christ was, He was not ever envious or inflated, never consumed with His own needs. He did not once, not ever, seek His own advantage at the expense of someone else. He delighted in the happiness of others, the happiness He could bring them. He was forever kind.” (How do I Love Thee, BYU Speeches, Feb 21 2000)
I have been in that dark place the last few days. I finally came out of it yesterday. When I am in the dark place I feel all over again, how can this be my life? I never did anything wrong. I feel nothing but sadness when he is away and sometimes anger when he is near. When I am in that dark place I feel like he needs to be punished but know that will never happen. When I am in the dark place I don’t exercise, don’t eat right, sleep a lot and lay around watching TV and spend loads of time feeling very sorry for myself. The house is usually messy too. Who cares about a messy house when your heart is broken? But last night I started to come out of it. I don’t even know why. I just kinda get tired of that dark place and want to leave it. So I’m out of it today but for who knows how long, I just don’t know.
One thing that contributes to that dark place is knowing that the Savior hasn’t healed me yet. I used to think the atonement was a gift in that it was something handed to me, no effort required on my part. Now I realize that is not the case. I suffer daily and really want that suffering to end. I pray, I plead, I beg. I have small teaching moments that come from the Spirit but is this as good as healing will get? Isn’t there more I am missing out on? Shouldn’t the Atonement take away all my suffering due to my husband’s choices? Is that even possible? I want it so badly. The last four months have taught me that that dark place is always there, always waiting for my visit. But I have faith that those dark days will end eventually. I have to.
I want to feel special. I want to feel like M considers me a priority by doing something out of the ordinary. I have told him this many times over the last four months. Please, please do just something, anything, to show me that you took time out of your busy schedule to think of me. To date, he’s done nothing. Not one damn thing. I’ve even given him ideas: Flowers would be nice–and not the ugly yellow weedy flowers from Costco that he conveniently picked up as he was there anyway getting milk and eggs. Reservations at a nice restaurant or a planned outing to a special restaurant in would be nice.
Last Friday he asked if I would go out to dinner with him that night. I said, “Yes, if you will plan it.” I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. When he got home he said “I was thinking of taking you to a bbq joint or to a Thai restaurant.” Gee, way to plan. What about an invitation to lunch? Why do I always have to be the one to call him and say, “Let’s go to to lunch!” I know his time at work is beyond precious and beyond stressful and for him to do this would be an acknowledgement that I am more important that getting work done. What about tickets to a play or to a movie? An invitation to go hike in the mountains? A declaration that he would cook dinner? A card with a nice sentiment? A piece of jewelry? My favorite cake from a bakery? A surprise by coming home half a day early?
I try to just be grateful for things he does do–the laundry, the dishes, the math tutoring. You know, the boring mundane tasks that still have to get done. But when I doubt every single thing about the marriage I thought I had, I need just a tiny bit of assurance that I am special, that I am worth a few minutes of sacrifice out of his busy day to say, “Thanks for sticking with me despite me being a liar/manipulator/objectifier/lustful man who has seen thousands of naked women, yet all the while telling you that you are beautiful, and who had plans to take this horrible secret to his grave.” It would be nice, but I’m tired of holding my breath to feel special. I need to make myself feel special because no one else–not my husband, nor my teenage children–will ever do that for me.