I recently read a post on SI from a fellow Year-2-of-Recovery warrior. She put into words something that I have been feeling in the back of my mind. She said, “I am so scared of just being normal. Our marriage was OK pre-affair. We had a few issues, nothing major but we have done a lot of work and things are great now but I just can’t relax. I am just so scared that if we relax into our marriage it will go wrong again.” That is true for me as well.
Just like the author I thought our marriage/ relationship was going pretty good before my last porn discovery. The rockiest time in our relationship was at the end of 2008/ beginning of 2009. That was when the affair discovery happened (see Gaslighting for more info). After that we had a few ups and downs revolving around lies, strip clubs, and pornography. The last incident like that was around August of 2009. In April of 2010 he proposed. Just a few short months later in September we were married.
That time of our lives was really great (I thought). We were connected, we were enjoying the wedding planning, not taking things too seriously, and we had our financial situation pretty well set. He was probably more involved in the wedding planning than I was. He picked out the food, the cake, helped with deciding the decorations, and was really enthusiastic about everything. The photographer and music were really the two main areas of importance to me. I was never one of those “bridezillas,” so the entire process went smoothly with very minimal stress.
I have never been a girl who dreamed about her wedding day – in fact I would have preferred something small with no fuss. A courthouse or backyard wedding would have been just fine with me. But my mother and future husband were more set on something with a lot of family and friends, a white dress, tuxedos, and the whole 9 yards. Don’t get me wrong, I ended up loving our wedding. I’m glad now that we did things the way we did – even though it was expensive (I consider myself a very frugal person). One of my most cherished memories is the look on his face and tears in his eyes when I came down the aisle.
Our honeymoon was wonderful. We had so much fun together – in and outside of the bedroom. We picked a place that had amazing food, great music, culture, adventure, and energy. Our room was spectacular, and we spent a lot of time bonding with each other and just enjoying ourselves. The pictures from our honeymoon are full of laughter, joking, and obvious love. Even after we got back to reality that connection and euphoria stuck around. At least I thought it did.
Then about 6 months in I started getting that old familiar feeling that something was off. I followed my gut, picked up his phone, and opened his browser history. There were pages and pages of porn. Even though he had promised he wasn’t doing that anymore. Even though we had tons of conversations about how hurtful it was. Even though it was over the line of the clear boundaries we had set in our relationship. Even though our sex life was great. The frequency, concealment, and lying weren’t the only issues, though. The content of that porn was quite disturbing to me. It still is.
That’s what is so hard about being married to a sex addict. They can compartmentalized so well that everything can seem completely normal, superb even, while they are acting out in secret. I know that my husband would take that the wrong way if he read it today. It is not that I don’t have confidence in him. It is not that I don’t believe he is staying sexually “sober.” It’s not even that I have any kind of “bad feeling” about what he is doing. That is not where the fear is coming from.
I think most of my fear is coming from the fact that it is so hard to really gauge what is going on in the mind of a sex addict. The fact that my husband is generally so closed off to his emotions, especially any seemingly “negative” ones, makes it incredibly difficult for me to feel completely secure. He can so easily lie to me and just go on living his life normally as if that lie doesn’t affect him or isn’t weighing on his conscience at all. Part of that is what happens with an addicted brain. They are great at denial, justification, and keeping things separate.
One of the most difficult things for me still is how he could text her, send her messages and pictures, and call her in-between calls and texts with me or after just leaving and giving me a big kiss and “I love you.” How is that possible? How can you lie to someone that you love right to their face with no emotion or guilt? How can you be loving, funny, caring, and completely engaged one minute and just turn it off the next for a sexual fantasy with another person, pornography, or a strip club? How can you promise one thing and do a completely different thing effortlessly? It is terrifying.
Even though my husband is no longer that person it is difficult to just turn off the part of my brain that lives in constant fear and uncertainty. He makes it better every time he opens up and tells me things. He makes it better every time he goes to a meeting. Every time he goes to a therapy appointment. Every time he answers a question honestly or lets me see his vulnerability. Every time he reads a book or does an exercise with me. Every time he shares his day, calls me “just because,” holds my hand in the car, and all the other little things that mean so much when they are added together.
Those things are my new “normal.” I think to a certain extent they will have to continue to be our new normal for quite a while if not indefinitely. That’s not because I think I will never trust him fully. It’s quite the opposite. I want to keep the same level of richness, honesty, trust, love, and connection that we have now forever. I don’t want to “relax” if that means falling back into a rut where we aren’t being real with each other. I want to be able to feel completely safe and know that I can trust him because we talk, I know what’s going on with him, and we are each other’s best friend, confidant, and unconditional support.