Introspection

Since our blogs are formatted a little differently, I’m not re-blogging, but I am sharing an article that Rac (Life After His Affair) linked to on her blog this morning.

Before You Cheat On Her Know This

This piece is beautifully written and will speak, in some way or another, to all of us who have been betrayed. But, the author is theoretically speaking to the cheater. She is telling the cheater what will happen to his partner if he cheats on her. And no doubt, what does happen, what has happened to us (since a lot of my readers are betrayed wives), reiterated in the words of this article, will resonate deep.

Before you cheat, know this:

It will teach her to hear “You are beautiful,” as “but not beautiful enough.”
It will teach her to hear “You are brilliant,” as “but not brilliant enough.”
It will teach her to hear “You mean the world to me,” as “but one person is not enough.”
It will teach her to hear “You are the love of my life,” as “but I don’t love you enough.”

Much of the deep pain we endure post betrayal is universal. You will break her… shattering of glass… She will not sleep… She will not eat… She will not smile… She will cry… She will curl into a ball… She will rage… She will be numbed… You will cause her to hate… You will burn her world to the ground.

Unfortunately, as compelling as her words are, and as accurate her description of what we go through, what I have gone through as well, these words nor any others, in my opinion, will stop a cheater from cheating. From what I have learned during this process, for the most part, the reason a person cheats often has absolutely nothing to do with their partner and everything to do with what is broken inside them. They are weak and driven by selfish desires to use a short term fix on a gaping hole inside that has been growing for many years, often since childhood, and rationalizing will always be the precursor to cheating. They are neglected, their wife doesn’t love them anymore, the marriage was already broken, they didn’t think the wife would even care, my personal favorite–the wife is never going to find out so she will never be hurt. Practical words about how painful betrayal is on the betrayed spouse will not be enough to fix what is wrong with a person who is vulnerable to cheating.

I do not believe that everyone has it in them to cheat. I actually will never believe that. I also don’t believe that most of us married scoundrels, flagrant cheaters or that we knew our husband had the propensity for such hurtful behavior. I, for one, never would have married my husband if I thought so (regardless of what the media or even some therapists would have us believe). Their reasons are unique, but their rationalizations are the same. They will turn a blind eye to the potential consequences of cheating because they never learned how to self reflect. They’re going to go for the easy fix versus the introspective evaluation of why they are even contemplating a relationship outside their marriage. Why are they breaking promises and commitments so flagrantly? In the case of cheating men, they often did not learn how to be open and honest about their emotions and their needs. They don’t even actually know that their own brokenness is the reason they seek a path they never thought they would be on. It is so much easier to blame someone else. SO.MUCH.EASIER. So then it becomes about us, or the other women. The secretary came on to them. She threw herself at them. She doesn’t carry the baggage of home, family, of commitment. And we all know what we have been accused of during the discovery process. Not only will the cheater not be able to absorb the level of pain we endure from the betrayal, they will attempt to turn their bad deed around on us. Yes, true introspection is the key. If the cheater is left alone, with no one to blame, and no one to tell him it’s okay to be unfaithful, what then?

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Introspection

written by: Rajashree

In the silence of night,
Taking a stroll through the aisle of memories;
Saw a brave loner, a fighter,
Who’s an ardent, respectful lover.
With a smile muttered to self
What an Imperfectionist!
Instantly the surrounding air whispered—-
even I’m not Absolute.
With lessons gained by mistakes
And some plans in mind;
I continue the journey halted far behind…..

In a perfect world, everyone would read Kirsten’s piece (or another like it) before partnering up, absorb it, and remember it their entire relationship. Unfortunately we live in a far from perfect world and people rationalize the hell out of bad behavior every day. People will continue to cheat and partners will continue to be devastated by the betrayal.

You will burn her world to the ground, but she will pour her heart into becoming the best person she can be—and this time, it won’t be for you; it will be for her.

I will never be as innocent and trusting as I was before, but I will also not be as naive or vulnerable. I have lost something that can never ever be replaced. In ways I am weaker than I was before, and in other more important ways, I am stronger, and unfortunately, the cheating, the betrayal, my husband’s secret life, was never about me. Because if it was, I wouldn’t be here right now. I deserved loyalty, honesty, and respect. This was never about me.

Purging

Yesterday afternoon I looked at my Instagram account and realized I had nearly 3,000 photos posted. What? Too many photos. I went back to the beginning and started deleting. When I first loaded the Instagram App and began using it, I had no idea what I was doing. There were multiple pictures of the same thing (mostly from walks we took, and pics of the pets) using different filters and borders. I have always loved Instagram for the filters and generally posted the pictures elsewhere, on Facebook, on my old blog, on this blog, etc… As I scrolled through hundreds of photos (I joined Instagram in 2012), the images became less generic, and more personal.

There were pictures of trips we took, special events, our 25th wedding anniversary, my niece’s birthday party, the beginning of my never-ending selfie stage, hundreds of photos of the animals, the kids, travel, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hawaii, Paris, Hawaii again, Paris again, flowers, and of course every single stage of the building of our dream beach house.

Along with all those photos were memories. Memories of dropping The Peacemaker at college in Maine… and then taking a drive to a lake in Bridgton and just sitting there staring out at the tranquil waters with the melancholy that came with the realization that we were now, truly, empty nesters. We would be going home alone, to a quiet, childless house. Our years of watching our boys take their first steps, hit their first baseballs, go to their first dances, graduate from high school, were over. That part of our life was complete.

There were pictures of the bushels of golden plums we picked one summer weekend and then jars and jars of the finished spiced plum jam I was so proud of. There were pictures of my 50th birthday trip to France, our rented flat in the Marais, the flowers I handpicked at the local fleuriste, gathered up, and displayed on our pretty french dining table for the duration of our stay. So many photos, so many memories.

I took all those photos because I wanted to remember something. I wanted to remember those great times, and happy places and the smiling faces of my favorite people. After dday I made my Instagram private. After finding out the other woman had obsessively accessed all my social media, I didn’t want her seeing any part of my life anymore. Eventually I got over it. I don’t want to be the kind of person who runs and hides under a rock. I love to follow and share and I think for the most part, social media is fun. I made my Instagram profile public again.

As I looked through all the photos yesterday, other memories flooded my conscious. That time we dropped our son at college, and held hands by the lake in Maine… yeah, that was the time Blue Eyes arrived home alone and brought the other woman to our house. That gorgeous golden plum jam, well, while I was sweating over a hot stove preserving jar after jar for my family to enjoy, Blue Eyes was off with the other woman, a quickie at her house. And that photo of Blue Eyes and his sister in Paso Robles, all smiles and happiness, was taken only minutes after Blue Eyes was texting with the other woman and claiming it was business.

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The difference between my prior shopping trips to Pain-ville, however, is that this time, there wasn’t a sick pit in my stomach. There were no tears, no aching heart, no nothing. Just the acknowledgement that those things did happen, but those places I experienced were not changed. They were glorious. That day in Versailles with our little family, magical. The gorgeousness of the hydrangeas in my front garden, not changed, still gorgeous. That fucking spiced plum jam, still delicious. My children, my pets, my husband, still the center of my life. A good life. A great life.

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Dear Addiction, This is Goodbye

I’m sharing here a blog post written by an addict. The words, Vanessa’s adaptation of them, all of them, mesmerized me and will resonate with me for a very long time. Addiction is a powerful beast. But I have to be totally honest. As I was reading the words, I was picturing Blue Eyes’ last other woman. I was definitely picturing her as the monster who stole my husband’s time, who colluded and conspired against me, who stole something that belonged to me, who talked badly about me, stalked me, demonized ME. I pictured being able to stand in front of her and read the words written here and tell her, she is the devil.

Ah, the last vestiges of trauma have me in their grip today. I know this woman, as horrible as it was for her to use me as her excuse for behaving really badly with my husband, drawing Blue Eyes into her web over and over, and then mercilessly stalking and blaming me, is not responsible for my husband’s addiction. She was merely a prop. She was bad, but she doesn’t hold that kind of power. Addiction holds that power, but I know Blue Eyes is stronger than his addiction. I know Blue Eyes is stronger than the past that shaped him.

Free to Be V

Dear Addiction,

I am writing to inform you that I have found another way. I have built a new life, one much different than I have ever known before. A life that brings me the most honest joy and love; a life I don’t need to escape from.

What I am trying to say is…our relationship has run it’s course. This is the end.

I know what you are thinking. That by writing this letter I have found myself in a moment of weakness, but it is actually quite the opposite. You see, I am strong today. Much stronger than I ever thought I could be. Strong enough to recognize that it was you who took everything away from me. It was you who encouraged me to put my substance first and my family last.

I used to spend so much time thinking about you, and I am not so sure that…

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My relationship with s-anon

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What is my relationship with S-Anon? Well, basically, I don’t have one. In a perfect world my husband would have worked with his therapist, told the therapist the truth about his secret sex life, all of it, and then worked with the therapist on a way to more safely inform me of Blue Eyes’ sexual compulsivity. I would not have had to endure the traumatizing phone call from the vindictive other woman. I wouldn’t have had to sit and wonder for days (weeks, perhaps, months even?) whether my husband was merely a cheater who had been caught and was now pretending to be remorseful. I never believed he was hateful and mean. I was totally devastated. An expert could have explained, to both of us, how Blue Eyes fit the pattern of a sex addict, and about recovery. Instead, there was a horrifying phone call, immediate trauma, and many lonely days.

Within hours of finding out about Blue Eye’s secret life, I scoured the internet for answers. But, because I was traumatized I wasn’t looking for support groups or therapists for me, I was voraciously reading about why people cheat, while tears streamed down my face and puddled on my desktop, day after day, night after night. I had no real knowledge of sex addiction (and at the time had no idea Blue Eyes was a sex addict) other than tabloid headlines. All I knew was that my husband was messed up. He wasn’t who I thought he was. Period. The articles and blogs written by other women, mistresses if you will, that I stumbled on were so destructive to my already fragile psyche. My spirit was broken. My self esteem, obliterated.

Once Blue Eyes was officially diagnosed and he embraced that diagnosis, because without him acknowledging he had a serious problem that only he could address, our relationship was doomed, I set forth researching sex addiction, and whoa. Even as recently as January 2014 sex addiction deniers were rampant on the internet (still are, of course). So much of what I read simply made the whole thing out to be a joke, an excuse for bad behavior. Or, it was demonized. At that point I realized I could only focus on me, my marriage, and the experts who were helping us define our new reality. At first, my desire to save my marriage, and to believe my husband (that he hated himself, felt shame every day, and regretted every minute of his secret life) were based on fear. The fear of losing my best friend, and the fear of my life changing drastically from what I had known for thirty years. But that fear eventually did morph into belief. Belief that my husband is a good guy who was damaged as a child and who chose addiction to cope when he wasn’t even old enough to understand how damaged he already was, and as the addiction grew, it became unmanageable for him. I know he didn’t want to be hurting people, but hurting people was part and parcel to his survival. It just was. Hurt people, hurt people. Not always, but often.

My first introduction to the term S-Anon was while reading a book very early on in this process that had been recommended to Blue Eyes by his therapist. The book was Patrick Carnes’ ‘Don’t Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction.’ Patrick Carnes basically coined the term ‘sex addiction.’ In other words, Carnes was the first to attribute specific sexual acting out behaviors as addiction. This next bit is straight out of Wikipedia…

Carnes attributes the source of the addictions to the addict’s belief system. He believes that a fundamental momentum for the addiction is provided by “certain core beliefs” that are wrong or incorrect. “Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons. Nor do they believe that other people would care for them or meet their needs if everything was known about them, including the addiction. Finally, they believe that sex is their most important need. Sex is what makes isolation bearable. If you do not trust people, one thing that is true about sex – and alcohol, food, gambling, and risk – is that it always does what it promises–for the moment. Thus, as in our definition of addiction, the relationship is with sex – and not people.”

Patrick Carnes has basically nailed Blue Eyes to a tee in his description above regarding core beliefs. Blue Eyes truly believed he was worthless (he was trained to believe this by his parents, and he was neglected from infancy) and he flat out said to me on discovery day, “if you knew the truth about me, I knew you couldn’t love me anymore.” That was the belief (he totally believed it) that he told himself each and every day in order to keep his addiction going. And, even though it took me many months to understand this… and some days I still wonder, he had no real relationship with the people with whom he was having sex. He needed his drug, his drug escalated to sex with women outside our marriage, and he was willing to do and say anything to get that drug. I do believe he also liked the ego stroking, it temporarily filled a big gaping hole in him, but he never truly believed it. His secret sex life was built on lies and deception. How could any of it truly fill his deepest needs? (rhetorical question)

Now, I don’t agree with all of Carnes’ old school ideologies regarding partners of sex addicts, but I’m absolutely not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I believe Carnes is spot on in his assessment of the addict. In my opinion, Carnes’ attitudes towards partners of sex addicts harkens back to Alcoholics, AA, and Al-Anon. Partners, families, and friends of alcoholics often witness extremely destructive behaviors from their addicts each and every day. They live in fear and isolation and many times severe abuse. I do acknowledge that this sometimes happens in SA families as well. Al-Anon is a place of refuge.

Al-Anon/Alateen literature focuses on problems common to family members and friends of alcoholics such as excessive care-taking, an inability to differentiate between love and pity and loyalty to abusers, rather than the problems of the alcoholic.[5] The organization acknowledges that members may join with low self-esteem, largely a side-effect of unrealistically overestimating their agency and control: attempting to control another person’s drinking behavior and, when they fail, blaming themselves for the other person’s behavior. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Anon/Alateen)

Carnes discusses in his books and in interviews this concept that partners of sex addicts are co-dependent, that they are aware of the sexual acting out behaviors of their partners (I like to call this hindsight is always 20/20) and that often times they are out of control, and/or try to control the behavior of their addict (I call this trauma). In the wives of sex addicts group I attended early on, two of the wives had been married for over 30 years. They both knew early on in the marriage that their husband was cheating on them. They looked the other way. They believed somehow it was their fault that their husband sought other women. Once their husbands were diagnosed, decades into their marriages, they found solace and healing in S-Anon. There were also wives who sought out S-Anon because it was the only place they could find women who understood what they were going through. I get that too. Unfortunately, the level of my trauma at the time, coupled with my particular personality, would not allow me to embrace an organization in which I was expected to work the 12 steps myself.

Here are the 12 steps adapted for S-anon (source: sanon.org):

The Twelve Steps of S-Anon

The Twelve Steps of S-Anon are the foundation of our personal growth and recovery. The principles of the Twelve Steps are universal, applicable to all of us, regardless of our various beliefs. When practiced as a way of life, these spiritual principles help us to meet and rise above all difficulties in our lives – not just those associated with living with or having lived with sexaholism. Here are the Twelve Steps we follow which are suggested for our recovery:

  1.  We admitted we were powerless over sexaholism – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I had a commenter come on this blog a couple years ago and in a few different comments she not so subtly suggested I should start taking responsibility for condoning my husband’s behavior over the years. She is a big proponent of S-Anon and was convinced that I had subconsciously (or even consciously) known all along that my husband was cheating on me and I was in denial and that the 12 steps would help me with that. This was a huge turnoff to me. Her blog was littered with self hate, self blame, and co-dependent rhetoric. Needless to say, this did not help with my opinions of S-Anon. I do, however, realize this is one woman, and one woman’s behavior, and one woman’s opinions. I did not know my husband was cheating on me, I have never truly (outside of my sexual addiction induced trauma) blamed myself for my husband’s behavior, nor do I believe my trauma responses were indicative of me being a weak-minded person trying to control my husband’s “bad” ways. And in fact, at this point, I think what was going on subconsciously was that I always knew Blue Eyes was co-dependent. He believed that without the approval of his parents, he was nothing. Period. Blue Eyes’ parents don’t give approval. Period. I had no idea the implications of his kind of childhood wounds and that kind of co-dependency.

Even reading the 12 steps now, today, approaching four years of enlightenment and healing, I cannot rationalize working those steps for myself. They just don’t jive with who I am and my belief system and what I have been through. And at first, in full on trauma, I couldn’t imagine being in a room full of people acknowledging that I somehow needed to make amends to someone for the sheer torment I was going through. I understand Anon groups are more than just working the steps with a sponsor. I understand that when people find the right meeting for them, it can be quite healing and lasting friendships are made. I do get this. I just instinctively knew it was not the place for me. We all have choices. I merely wish partners of sex addicts had more choices. I know women who embrace S-Anon, I know women who have betrayed partner and wives of sex addicts groups that work well. I know women who have embraced religious-based healing programs. As I have said many times here, trauma therapy, this blog, a healing seminar for betrayed wives, making friends who have this in common, and building on those relationships with activities that have absolutely nothing to do with infidelity and trauma (like trips to New Zealand, and Paris) have helped me heal.

The Sexaholism version of these 12 steps that my husband worked for two years and which he continues to fine tune, embellish on if you will, work for life, have been a lifesaver. “Working the steps” provides immeasurable healing for Blue Eyes. Even though he does not associate with a God (the meetings he attends are non-religious), and he has been able to define a higher power for himself that has absolutely nothing to do with religion, finding his spiritual center is something he now realizes he desperately needed. Recognizing he was hurting people and hurting himself and acknowledging at his core that he is part of a bigger universe to which he needs to give more, and take less, has been critical to his owning his past. He’s still working on living life without shame, and addressing his childhood wounds, but that is what therapy is for. I think he might say the friendships he has made in 12 step bring him the most contentment and joy in the aftermath of his awakening, but that is purely my observation.

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In the end, reaching out is good. Having a place to go where people understand and embrace us for who we are is good. Being part of a loving community is good. No matter how we all find that place, finding it is part of the journey.

Hiding behind ‘sex addiction’

I have seen this phrase, or some form of it, many times, written on blogs, in articles, and even in books. I have heard it spoken, by sex addiction deniers, by partners, and by therapists. I understand. Those two words, separate or together, seem to harbor feelings that take us to places like fear, trauma, denial, suppression, confusion, and disgust. We tend to want to disrespect and pass judgment on things, behaviors, or frankly people, we don’t understand. We don’t want to associate with a diagnosis that has a negative reputation. We live in a society in which the press and social media would have us believe it is okay to judge everything and everyone without knowing them, without having much more than a titillating headline or a controversial selfie.

Sex addict is a label. There are other words and phrases to describe a person who compulsively uses sex as a way to deal with thoughts, feelings, and emotions instead of facing them head on. Sexual compulsivity can be driven by feelings of abandonment, entitlement, shame, loneliness, and on and on and on. Often times people who act out sexually, hide sexual behavior, deny sexual behavior, suffer damaged self esteem due to serious family dysfunction when they were young including emotional abandonment or sexual molestation, amongst many other pathologies.

The important factor here is not how others judge us, or even whether others judge us, but in fact the key to overcoming sexual compulsivity is bringing it out into the light, acknowledging when we need to change our behavior, stop hurting people we love, and stop hurting ourselves, and get help. Help can be therapy, it can be rehab for repeated behaviors we have trouble controlling on our own, it can be a spiritually based recovery program through a church or other religious organization. Many people choose the 12 step recovery route. The nice thing about 12 step is that recovery is adaptable. Those that fully embrace a 12 step group that works for them understand how versatile the program is. And for the record, 12 step is not about placing blame, it is about accepting responsibility. I have heard so many strange things about 12 step from people who have never been to a meeting, or who somehow convinced themselves that “they’re not like THOSE people.” If the program is to work, people need to make it their own and not use excuses for why it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because the person who needs it didn’t work it. And that applies to all forms of recovery.

The biggest obstacle to healing, in my mind, is denial. Denial comes with the territory. The person with the compulsive sexual behaviors has most likely been denying to themselves that they have a real problem, or they believe they have control over their behavior. They can stop whenever they want. That’s denial. Control is a big deal to most addicts. Having control over compulsive behaviors, however, is the definition of being out of control.

Control is acknowledging we have a problem. How we decide to deal with that problem is an individual journey. We don’t have to accept a label, but we do need to get help. And passing judgment on someone else’s healing doesn’t really help the situation for us or for anyone else. Partners of people with compulsive sexual behaviors have said to me that their husband was hiding behind the sex addiction label and they weren’t really an addict. That they were using it as an excuse, or attending meetings because someone was “forcing” them to, a therapist, a spouse, a family member, whatever. Well, we all know people cannot be forced into changing. We have to want to change and if we have done regrettable things and hurt ourselves, our families, friends, others… any avenue that will wake us up, help us to understand the whys of our behavior and the hows of transforming destructive behavior into positive, life affirming, and loving actions towards ourselves and others, is a good thing.

One of my least favorite sayings is that 12 step is for addicts and assholes. Recovery, in all of its forms, is for people who want to change. So if we, our partners, family members, neighbors, children, whomever, wants to change maybe we should stop judging and in fact embrace recovery in all its forms. We are all fallible human beings shaped by everything in our life that preceded today. It’s okay. We can make mistakes and learn from them.

I ran across this poem the other day and it spoke to me.

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I’m breathing deep today, my friends, and embracing the beauty that surrounds me.

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My fur babies. Bernie the Blue Merle Aussie, and Lily the Golden Retriever.

Rock bottom

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My last post, prompted by an article in which the author did very little to differentiate sex addiction from sex offending (criminal behavior, pedophilia, sex with a minor, etc…), elicited some interesting conversation in the comments. It also got me and Blue Eyes talking quite a bit about this subject of sex addicts and their escalating behavior. It is true that many addicts progress and fall deeper into their addiction until they finally hit rock bottom, but not all sex addicts continue to escalate behavior, and some addicts never do hit rock bottom. Not the rock bottom where they are discovered, or the rock bottom that has them finally divulging their secret life. And one person’s rock bottom can be quite different from another’s. Some addicts go to their death bed without ever having been found out. It has been my observation that very few sex addicts out themselves, so something they did or are doing got them caught. Sometimes this behavior is unhinged, out of touch with reality, dangerous or escalating in frequency. Sometimes they have merely tried to break it off with an acting out partner who is hell bent on the wife (or the world for that matter) knowing the truth, now. Now that they have lost.

Here are some stories of sex addiction “rock bottom” from people we know or stories we have heard first hand:

A wealthy single 30-something Los Angeles attorney is so dependent on his addiction that he is unable to carry on a lasting intimate relationship even though he desperately wants to. He has had short term relationships with many lovely women, but it never lasts because his addiction always gets in the way. He craves sex with prostitutes. He has to have it, then he feels deep shame for participating in behavior he feels is dirty. It is also illegal. He could lose his license and his career if he is caught. He does it anyway. He tries to stop and tells himself he will never seek a prostitute again. He tries to go “cold turkey.” He becomes so desperate that he leaves his downtown office in his $4000 suit in the middle of the day and heads to the nearest street where cheap prostitutes are readily available. He chooses the first woman he encounters and pays her $50 for a blow job. She does not use a condom. She is a drug addict and her face and mouth are covered in sores and it doesn’t stop him. He is not caught by the police. He returns to his office and in an act of desperation, he looks up a number for an addiction center specializing in sex addiction and he calls the number.

A 50-something man with two children has been married for 24 years. This is his second marriage. He cheated on his first wife and married the mistress. He has now cheated on his second wife (the mistress) their entire marriage. He has slept with 20-30 women, some of them being short term, others developing into longer affairs over the two plus decades of his second marriage. He has never loved any of these women. He regrets cheating, but each and every time he partakes, he convinces himself he will never do it again. That he has control. The wife is clueless. While the SA is on a business trip with his latest mistress, the wife becomes suspicious and finds proof of the affair. The wife confronts him and he lies and says this is his first affair, and that the mistress means nothing to him (this is true). The wife demands he dump the mistress and seek help and ostensibly, he does. He goes to therapy and is diagnosed as a sex addict and regularly attends SA meetings, but he doesn’t take it seriously. You know, the whole “god” thing and he’s not like those other guys, and whatever. He does not give up the mistress. Nine months later, the mistress calls the wife and informs her that they never stopped seeing each other and he will be leaving the wife and they will be married. This is when the SA starts taking things seriously. He sees 12 step in a whole new light, he doesn’t want to lose his wife, his marriage, his family. Today, he is currently more than 12 years sober and has been a sponsor for numerous men and is still married. All those years ago though, he did spend his 25th wedding anniversary with the mistress in his wife’s bed (while she was away on business) before acknowledging his addiction.

A 40-something man, married with kids, regularly sees prostitutes, and one particular prostitute is his favorite. He considers her his friend (delusional much), but he always pays her for their time together (of course). He has spent time with the prostitute in his home when his wife and kids have been away, so the prostitute knows where he lives and generally knows his schedule. He goes away with his wife and kids on vacation. There is an emergency and they must return to their house early. When they arrive home, they find that the prostitute and her boyfriend have broken into, and are robbing the house. The prostitute holds the SA and his wife and young kids at gunpoint while she proceeds to tell the wife all her husband’s dirty secrets. The family is not harmed physically. He enters 12 step and therapy. He is still married.

A retired 70 year old man, father of 4, grandfather of 11, is in his home office. The doorbell rings and his wife, taking a break from baking cookies for her grandchildren, opens the door. Standing there is a county sheriff. He has a search warrant. He proceeds to inform her that they will need to confiscate all electronics in the home, specifically any computers or devices with access to the internet. Her husband has been downloading child porn. He claims he had no idea. He is arrested on the spot. The entire family must be interviewed to make sure none of his children or grandchildren have been harmed by grandpa. He enters a mandatory rehabilitative program for porn addiction. He doesn’t return home for weeks, and once he does, he is not allowed to be alone in a room with his grandchildren. He never touched any of them, but this is the consequence of his escalating behavior into child porn. He is in 12 step recovery and is a registered sex offender.

A 30 something male, married with two young children, day job as a software engineer, night job playing in a band, has been caught cheating by his wife. Desperately trying to save her marriage, the wife agrees to an open relationship. She feels like the reason for his behavior is not enough excitement in the bedroom. The rules are, either of them can “date” and have sex with people as long as they inform each other of their plans and their whereabouts and each comes home to the other every night and they wake up together and have breakfast as a family. Both proceed to have sex outside the marriage. One evening while the wife is making dinner, she receives a phone call from a woman saying she is running late for a date with the husband. The wife has no idea who this woman is, so she asks. The woman says she has been dating the husband for six months and they have had sex since the first night, and every encounter since. She says when she couldn’t get ahold of the husband, she looked up their home number. She wants to know what the big deal is as she knows they have an open marriage. So, even though husband has an open marriage and all he has to do is tell the truth, he can’t. What he really wants is the secret. After months of fighting and husband being kicked out of the house, he enters therapy and is diagnosed as a sex addict. He struggles for two+ years and is not able to remain sober. Divorce pending.

A successful 40-something government attorney is out of control. He regularly drinks in excess, partakes in recreational drug use, and has multiple affairs. He has clandestine sexual relationships with women. He is married with two young children. He “dates” two 20-something women in his office at the same time. When one finds out about the other, she becomes unhinged. Out of spite, she accuses the attorney of rape. She has her sister call the wife. She goes to the man’s house and spray paints it with derogatory remarks about the husband. The man is an addict and although he manages to hold onto his job, and his family, he is unable to master his alcoholism and excessive drug use. It’s probably a matter of time before he loses it all. He rarely attends 12 step meetings.

A 30 something married man regularly sees prostitutes. He has maxed out his credit cards and double mortgaged his home in order to pay for his wining and dining lifestyle. He is nearly bankrupt, but decides to take his prostitute “friend” to Atlantic City for a fun getaway. While he is gone, the bank calls the wife and all is revealed. He literally loses everything, his lifestyle, his house, his job (he is so distracted by the rest of his life falling apart) his wife and of course his prostitute “friend.” He regularly attends 12 step meetings and is still hoping to build his life back, some day.

A 60 something accomplished heart surgeon, married with two grown children, has been having affairs with nurses for as along as he can remember. He slips up and the wife finds out, about one. Eventually the whole truth comes out and surgeon is diagnosed as a sex addict. Wife now hates all nurses. She never has sex with her husband again, but remains married for the lifestyle. Surgeon regularly attends SA meetings and cries because he has lost all intimacy with his wife, the only woman he has ever loved. He has 15+ years sobriety.

A 40 something married man is regularly viewing porn at work and at home, and having extramarital relationships with women he meets in chat rooms. He is warned at work to stop viewing porn on company time and company computers. He continues to view porn anyway, and is fired. He and his wife proceed to move from city to city as he is fired from jobs and also as he runs away from the angry women he pursues and then summarily dumps. A new city never does solve the problem, however, and when his wife threatens to leave him because he can’t keep a job and she is tired of moving, he comes clean, enters therapy, is diagnosed as a sex addict and attends regular 12 step meetings. He has been diagnosed for 10 years and has four years of sobriety. Sobriety is hard, people. He has a contentious relationship with his wife, but they are still together. He is one frenetic guy. ADD seems to be a common diagnosis of sex addicts.

And, the familiar story of Blue Eyes (and so many others)… middle aged man behaves badly, escalates from masturbation and porn to affairs with consenting adults, feels shame, promises himself over and over and over that he will never do it again. Never seeks to find the mystery inside of why he behaves in such a manner, so different from what he presents to the world and against his own moral compass. He really really really wants to stop the madness and he breaks things off with the angry other woman. She calls wife, secret life spanning decades is revealed. Sex addiction diagnosis. Recovery begins.

There are many many more stories I could tell, and I am very much simplifying here, but these pretty much represent the majority of scenarios we have been exposed to. There were numerous methods of meeting and grooming the partners including chat rooms, Craig’s List, Ashley Madison and other dating sites. Lots of lying about availability and lies about spouses. Sexual preferences and porn proclivities vary widely, but generally speaking, the stories are scarily similar. I did not, of course, include any stories of my readers. The included stories likewise are anonymous and are from people that were in a meeting one or the other of us attended at some point in time during the past 3 1/2 years of recovery.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that none of the behavior of these men crossed over into sex with minors, or pedophilia, except the porn addict. From the stories I have heard, quite a few porn addicts (unknowingly?) cross over into the realm of child porn. Usually the excuse is that they were downloading so much porn with diminishing returns and they completely lost control of what they were doing and stumbled upon child porn without knowing. Escalation for most often meant they were participating in the illicit activity to a higher degree than they could keep under wraps. Other women don’t like to be ignored, and they often elicit the first discovery event. Or partners just know something is wrong and go snooping. If there is something to find, perhaps the SA has gotten sloppy. I understand that sex addiction is progressive, but I don’t necessarily believe that left unattended sex addition will enter the realm of sex offending.

After listening to my husband talk about his secret life all those many months ago, and after his filling out dozens of pages with hundreds of questions, and then hours of therapy, and three separate diagnoses by trained professionals, I finally accepted the fact that Blue Eyes is an addict. He was diagnosed with sexual acting out problems, with sexual compulsivity, and finally sexual addiction. They are all the same thing. It doesn’t really matter what we call it. Blue Eyes didn’t want to be the way he was anymore. He was obsessed with shame filled behavior that he couldn’t control. He used it to cope with life. Blue Eyes defined his own sobriety and then he defined his recovery path. No one forced him to go to therapy or to go to 12 step, or to do anything really. Sex addiction is not an excuse to hide behind. Recovering sex addicts know this. Blue Eyes floundered for a while. He went to some SA and SAA meetings that weren’t for him. He didn’t want to go at all, but he did. And he kept going until he found the meeting(s) that worked for him. We have that luxury in the town we live in. There are a lot of meetings. By the time I spoke with a specialist in the field of Sex Addiction Induced Trauma (SAIT), six months into the process, my boundaries (to stay) included Blue Eyes continuing to attend SA meetings. There are many success stories there. To me, success stories are the ones where the addicts keep working towards being a better person, not perfect, but better. They don’t all have decades of sobriety, some slip up, some don’t, some have been there for two decades, some for two days. They do have one thing in common though, they admit that they need help mastering their sexual compulsivity, and they find solace in a room full of people who totally understand how that feels.

For those who have just stumbled onto this blog, when my husband was first diagnosed as a sex addict, I frantically searched for articles about sex addiction. I ended up at Psych Central and there before my eyes was a listing of what my husband described as his secret life. The thing about it though, is that Blue Eyes wasn’t escalating. He wasn’t out of control. He just was. He was participating in the same behavior and in the same way as he had been for years. Masturbation and porn, to grooming, to extramarital affairs, this was the progression, the escalation. And when he wasn’t in the throes of acting out with the other woman, he still had masturbation and porn. They were his best friends and they helped him cope with life, from a very young age. They helped him become successful, both in his partnership with me, and in his business. Blue Eyes’ rock bottom was realizing if he didn’t get help, if he didn’t come clean, he truly believed his addiction would kill him. So, although recovery is hard, it is nothing like being an active sex addict.

From Psych Central:

Symptoms of Sexual Addiction

While there is no official diagnosis for sex addiction, clinicians and researchers have attempted to define the disorder using criteria based on chemical dependency literature. They include:

  • Frequently engaging in more sex and with more partners than intended.
  • Being preoccupied with or persistently craving sex; wanting to cut down and unsuccessfully attempting to limit sexual activity.
  • Thinking of sex to the detriment of other activities or continually engaging in excessive sexual practices despite a desire to stop.
  • Spending considerable time in activities related to sex, such as cruising for partners or spending hours online visiting pornographic Web sites.
  • Neglecting obligations such as work, school or family in pursuit of sex.
  • Continually engaging in the sexual behavior despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or potential health risks.
  • Escalating scope or frequency of sexual activity to achieve the desired effect, such as more frequent visits to prostitutes or more sex partners.
  • Feeling irritable when unable to engage in the desired behavior.

You may have a sex addiction problem if you identify with three or more of the above criteria. More generally, sex addicts tend to organize their world around sex in the same way that cocaine addicts organize theirs around cocaine. Their goal in interacting with people and in social situations is obtaining sexual pleasure.

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There are no villains here

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I was recently reading an article written by a woman who is a life coach and who has spent some time counseling victims of sex crimes. The title of her article was, literally, ‘Sex Addiction.’ That’s it. She didn’t talk about the difference between an offender and an addict. She did talk about addiction in general, how it starts, heredity as a potential factor, that the act of using sex as a drug is not about pleasure, it is about pain and sadness and wounds and long nurtured and escalating habits. Then, she basically insinuates that all sexual addiction behavior escalates into crime. That’s where I started going, wait, what? She offered her help to “victims” of sex addicts, and specifically called out wives. She wants to help us. I’m not going to link to the article because I don’t think it was well written or well informed. I’m not actually the victim of a crime (although I have said many times that infidelity feels like a crime against the non-cheating spouse) and I do not feel like I have been persecuted by a villain. Blue Eyes has never forced sex on me, ever. I know this happens to some, but it does not always happen in relationships with sex addicts.

The author did talk about sex crimes and how those in the path of the sex addict are victims of crime, and in this case she was speaking specifically to what in my case is/are the acting out partner(s). BUT, she used an example of an older man who had molested his granddaughter. Okay, the man is a sexual criminal, not JUST a sex addict. He may be a sex addict, but he is certainly a perpetrator of sex crimes. The two are not necessarily the same. Yes, there are sex addicts who commit actual crimes, but there are also sex offenders who are not sex addicts, and sex addicts who never commit a crime, lots of them. For those of us in the throes of living with a sex addict, it is not appropriate for people who are not, to generalize in such a destructive manner, in my opinion.

Strangely enough, Blue Eyes was called a sex offender by the LA sex addiction specialist he saw in Summer 2014. I believe the specialist (previously referred to as The Director) did this to “scare Blue Eyes straight” so to speak. Blue Eyes did not break the law. He didn’t hire prostitutes, he didn’t force himself on any unwilling person, ever. He did not have sex with minors, or even with someone who was younger than he is. He had sex with very willing and generally older lonely and or desperate women. Although he was the secretary’s boss, she not only knew what she was getting into, she instigated it. Again, Blue Eyes was shy pulling the trigger. These women were not shy. The secretary quickly moved on and even uses Blue Eyes’ business as a reference on her LinkedIn account. Technically he had the power to take her job away from her if she didn’t “perform,” but she willingly performed, and she didn’t deserve that job in the first place. She was a horrible secretary and should have been fired on that premise alone (and eventually she was). Just because two adults (and she was five years older) have consensual sex in an office setting doesn’t make either of them criminals. Disgusting behavior, morally corrupt in my eyes, yes, criminal behavior, no.

In my trauma I have definitely villainized both my husband and his acting out partners because their behavior hurt me deeply and I needed to vent, so I vented here. But in the reality of the bigger world, they are broken people who behaved very very badly and although I do not feel better than them, I am surely glad that I do not have the kind of wounds that would allow me to participate in such vile and hurtful behavior. I have forgiven my husband for his transgressions and I stand by his side as he works towards being that better person, something most of us work towards every day. Likewise, the other women are not villains. They are sad. No one in my story set out to hurt me or anyone else (although the stalking situation wasn’t very nice–and it was definitely a consequence of Blue Eyes’ lies and SA behavior), but in their selfish pursuits of filling empty voids, and of not understanding their own pain and wounds in the process, they did hurt many people, but Blue Eyes is not a criminal, and the women are not victims. It’s not all us against them.

Feeling good

These past few days have been amazing. I am feeling good. I started up eating healthy, again, cutting out a lot of the bad carbs and red meat, and fatty dairy, again.

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Last week’s CSA farm share.

Blue Eyes and I have been doing well, together at the beach house for the past few days, having fun with the dogs. Communication is good. There are only so many times I can remind Blue Eyes that him being open and honest is a good thing. I’m not going to go running away at the next crazy thing I hear out of his mouth, so just spill it. Honestly, I think he still rationalizes that if he gives up all his secrets, life as he knows it will disappear into a cloud of smoke and he will be left with mere ashes. Those of us who learned to tell the truth early on, know that with truth comes light, and a kind of unburdening of the soul that allows space for joy. Fuck if anyone can get him to believe it.

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Cove Beach

Two years ago there was absolutely nothing on this piece of coastal property and now, we have a beautiful home. Below is one of the photos submitted to a magazine. Next month professional photographers will be here taking pictures for an upcoming issue. Exciting!

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A couple nights ago, this was my view as I prepared a late dinner.

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The sunsets never disappoint.

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Oh yeah, and the painting I commissioned from the Australian Rainforest artist has arrived safely and is currently in my painting loft waiting to be professionally hung. I could stare at it for hours.

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And if all that isn’t enough, GQ, his wife, and the Princess are arriving Portland today from Tokyo. We have a whole week of lovely activities planned including volunteering out at the farm tomorrow so the little one can see how fruits and vegetables grow (plus ducklings, they have ducklings right now along with chickens, goats, and pigs). Living in the middle of Tokyo doesn’t afford much opportunity to see farm life. We’ll also visit the zoo and The Children’s Museum and a bunch of other fun stuff. Seeing things through the eyes of a 2 1/2 year old again. So looking forward to all of it.

I’m not bipolar. My life is not all good or bad. This blog is a place for me to talk out what it is like to live with a sex addict, but my life is not all about that. Sometimes I need to remind myself of everything I have to be grateful for.

Peace. ❤

On being the wife of a sex addict

After writing my last post, two things happened. First, my husband wrote an entry on his own blog talking about misery and that he is an addict and recovery is hard, and a choice, and that he is powerless and when he acknowledges his powerlessness, he is better able to see his way out of the darkness, or something like that. He is much more abstruse than I. My immediate reaction was that he was venting. He was frustrated and tired and wanted to off-load his bad feelings regarding my feelings towards last week’s conversation. It’s his blog, he can do as he wishes. The thing is though, this whole powerless thing is, the FIRST STEP. The way I look at it, they WERE powerless to the addiction before they got help. Now, now they should NOT be powerless to the addiction. He has knowledge, awareness, tools, and consequences staring him back in the face. He was always making choices, but now, now, 3 1/2 years in and with more than three years of rigorous therapy, an intensive multi-day seminar on his addiction given by an expert in the field, and months and months and months of twelve step work, he should be able to take some of that power back. Being kind to ourselves is one thing. Letting ourselves off the hook for continued bad behavior is another.

The next thing that happened is Maggie, a reader, recovering wife of a sex addict, posted an insightful comment. Her comment is useful and thought provoking to me, and I hope it is to other spouses as well. I have included it here in its entirety.

Kat, I am sorry you are going through this. I don’t have words of wisdom or advice, but please know that I care. I am 18 months post D-Day, have been through trauma therapy and have attended two support groups for 18 mos. Although, everyone’s story is unique, I have noticed some commonalities. Here are my observations:
1. The long-standing members in my two support groups are all women who are currently married to an SA who is in recovery. Some marriages are 35 years or more and most have been through counseling. The longest sobriety is 16 years, but there are several who have SAs with 13 years sobriety. My groups each meet once a week and typically have 7-8 women present.
2. In all cases, the acting-out behavior preceded the relationship, or began very early in the relationship. In most cases, it preceded the relationship. In most cases the behavior went on for years, even decades before the wife found out. All considered that they had good relationships and happy marriages prior to D-day.
3. The long-standing members in my groups are mostly fifty or older. We have young women attend once, maybe twice, then tell us they are divorcing. Their thinking seems to be that they were unlucky and they’ll do better next time. Possibly the length of the marriage contributes to whether a wife stays, i.e. more of an investment at stake.
4. All of the women in my groups have asked their partners if they would like to have an “open relationship” where both parties are free to date, have sex with others, etc. All the women say their SA partner was adamantly opposed.
5. This leads to what I’ve learned next- The acting out behavior seems to be fueled by secrecy, and covered up by lies. The SAs are accomplished liars who lie by omission, twisting facts, spinning info, etc. Their lies are generally believable. They tend not to tell “whoppers.”
5. The wives’ biggest complaint is the lack of intimacy in their relationships. I would say there is more sadness about that than the acting out.
6. SAs tend to be very delusional. One common delusion is that they tend to believe they look much younger than they are or are still sexy no matter how old. Thus SAs in their 60s or 70s believe because a young woman in her 20s or 30s is polite to them, she’s interested in them sexually. No joke.This comes up often.
7. Those who have stayed with partners for the long haul have learned to detach. They focus on what is good in the relationship and focus even more heavily on themselves. Most have separated their finances.
8. All the wives have learned to trust their instincts and intuition. If something doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t true. All have learned to “speak their truth” and let it go. For example, saying to the SA husband, “You seem preoccupied and distant,” as opposed to observing this behavior and saying nothing, or starting a fight about “what are they thinking about.”
9. No one in either group had a voluntary disclosure of the acting out behavior. All “discovered” it in some traumatic D-day fashion such as a phone call, a text, etc.

My relationship with my husband is 33 1/2 years long, 28 years married. His addiction and behavior definitely preceded me. It escalated over time. I knew nothing about sex addiction, nor the supposed “signs.” I was 50 when I got the call from the other woman. In other words, my husband was outed.

I absolutely 100% believed I had a good, loving, happy marriage and that my husband would never cheat on me. Some of that was true.

I have been counseled by younger women to leave my husband. I have asked my husband if he would prefer an open marriage and he is adamant against it. First because he could not imagine me having sex with anyone else (oh the irony), and second because he knows he would be giving over to his addiction and our relationship would crumble.

My husband does believe that if a woman is nice to him, that she “wants him.” He doesn’t always admit it, but I know the addict in him believes it. AND, unfortunately there are a lot of women whose self esteem is built on the attention of men.

Regarding intimacy, this is a tough one. How to define it all, non-sexual intimacy, sexual intimacy, connection, communication. This is an area for us where I believe more and better communication leads to more intimacy, both sexual and non-sexual. Much of the time we communicate better now than before d-day. I took our intimacy for granted before and didn’t question our sexual intimacy. Now, I question it sometimes. We both desire both non-sexual and sexual intimacy… that is a good thing. There are times, however, when Blue Eyes gets hung up on sexual rituals, and I know this is part of his addiction. We’re working on it.

I guess, in this case, it is a bit validating that me, my husband, our marriage, coincides with nearly each and every point Maggie has made above. Why validating? Because I am not the problem, our marriage was not the problem, my husband’s addiction was nurtured long before I met him, and sex addiction has a definition, and a pattern, and a recovery path, and hope for a fulfilling long term partnership. In my little world, my husband’s recovery path needs to be diligently followed, no excuses, and open communication is a must, but I know I only have control over me.

Thanks, Maggie.