God only knows what I was going on about last night when the topic of me finding the email from the other woman on his laptop all those years ago came up. It was only last night that this conversation happened and I honestly can’t remember. My brain works in mysterious ways sometimes.
But that whole scenario did pop into my head and I mentioned to Blue Eyes what the fuck I must have been thinking when I found that sexual email on his laptop as I was cleaning up the family room for a school fundraiser meeting. I still remember it all and yet I don’t really know how I rationalized his behavior. He admitted to putting in a Craig’s List Ad saying he was lonely and needed someone to comfort him, hug him, hold him, what the fuck ever, and signed it Clumsy Nerd. This was back in 2005 (remember discovery was in 2014). He was a pathetic little boy asking someone to be his Mommy. But REALLY, he was an adult man looking for someone to control and manipulate. He found that person alright.
On that night, that I found the email on his computer about 20 years into our relationship, we had two school-age boys, a house, a golden retriever, two cats… oh, now I remember, we have been watching the British TV series Happy Valley (mostly me and my son are watching it, Blue Eyes pops in and out) and in Season Two a man with a wife and three kids is cheating, and his mistress is blackmailing him. It’s ugly and messy. Imagine that. I don’t know if this show is written by a woman or not, but there are some seriously dumb ass male characters in this show. I mean arrogant, selfish, spoiled, stupid criminal men. Anyway, when I found that email in 2005, I was devastated. I didn’t really understand. I listened to his pathetic story and somehow that was enough for me to not push harder at finding out how he could do that to me and at that point I thought it was just “a coffee date, nothing happened, there was nothing between us.” WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK WAS HE DOING PUTTING IN A CRAIG’S LIST AD IN THE FIRST PLACE… AND GOING ON A DATE WITH SOMEONE! Ugh, obviously I want to just scream this right now in my beautiful office in downtown Portland, but I can’t (people are still here), so I’m SCREAM TYPING.
What was wrong with me that I didn’t get to the bottom of this whole thing way back when. Why didn’t I follow him around, obsessively check his phone, and his emails. Why didn’t I have him followed, just to make sure he was telling me the truth? Well, this is what hurts the most… I trusted him. I believed him and I believed in him. And he fucking tore that shit apart.
It was over five years ago that I wrote the following post:
I need a place to hide
Journal Entry: October 6, 2014
It’s been a while since I talked about therapy. A couple weeks ago I decided I was ready to be done with my individual work. Basically, I was going round and round with issues with communication with my husband. I communicate, he doesn’t. Me continuing to communicate in therapy, by myself, was not really helping me anymore. It was frustrating me. I know what my issues are. I put others before myself, but it’s pretty obvious to me that I can walk away from my marriage and heal just fine. Yeah, I will have to really mourn the loss of my marriage, not just mourn what I thought my marriage was. But, I know I can do that. I know I can walk away. I don’t want to walk away right now. I want to give my husband that fighting chance, and therapy is a big part of it. Chatty Kathy and I decided I was ready for couple’s therapy. We set up a 50-minute session for me and Blue Eyes. In the meantime, The Shrink had decided it was time he met me. He and Blue Eyes have been working together for almost three months. We ended up getting in to see The Shrink before our first couple’s appointment.
I walked into The Shrink’s office with my husband and I immediately felt anxious, overwhelmed, and scared and I could not figure out why. The Shrink left the office briefly. I looked around and there was nothing scary about his office. I sat in a comfortable looking chair, my husband sat in the other, less comfortable looking chair. Our chairs were far enough apart that we could not touch, we could not hold hands. I wrapped my arms around myself and sat, waiting for The Shrink to come back. The Shrink is a gentle looking man of about 60 years old with gray hair, kind eyes, and a soft, encouraging voice. He gave me his background and told me he has worked with 28 sex addicts in the history of his practice. He asked me some questions about how I am doing with the betrayal trauma, and my self harm. He asked a little about my journey since dday. I talked about how scared I am about Blue Eyes’ addiction and his ability to recover. He asked had I ever noticed any signs of Blue Eyes’ sex addiction. Hindsight being what it is, there were lots of signs. I told him about the Craig’s List Ad in 2005. I explained how I had found the sexual email from Camilla and about how Blue Eyes talked his way out of it. How we had agreed to focus more on each other and our intimate relationship. The Shrink looked at me and gave me the look that all betrayed spouses dread, the look that says, “you should have known, deep down you knew.” He said that my experience with the email and my husband’s response was textbook sex addict behavior. They were obvious signs of a cheater.
I was so upset.
I know this man understands sex addiction, but does he understand what it is like to be a loving, trusting wife who believes in her spouse and would have no reason to think he was lying. I know my husband has self esteem issues stemming from childhood, and I truly believed, in the wake of everything going on with his family, and how busy I was with my children’s school functions. that he was lonely and that he had dabbled in a titillating scenario that had made him feel desired and validated and that he had met with this woman and realized his mistake, and had turned his attention back to his family, and to what he knows is right. After seeing the website photo of Camilla, there was no doubt in my mind that he did not have a relationship with this woman. That is what I thought my husband had done. I had no reason to think any differently. From that day forward, way back in 2005, my husband became an expert at lying and deceiving me, and everyone else around him.
I had no idea.
I felt trapped, in that office, with The Shrink and Blue Eyes. I could see my husband wanting to come over and comfort and hold me, but he didn’t. By this time I was crying, quite uncontrollably. The Shrink asked me about how I thought our marriage was progressing at this point. I said it wasn’t. That I lived in fear that my husband would relapse. That he wasn’t making progress, that he was playing at the game of recovery. That figuring out this new system, was a new element of his addiction. The Shrink asked me, “if you are so unhappy with your marriage and your husband’s progress, why do you stay?”
And I simply said, “I don’t know.”
He looked concerned and gently suggested I should not end my individual therapy. He didn’t think I was ready. I told him that in any given week, at this point, about 80% of the time I felt like what I really wanted was to stay with my husband and help him work through his recovery. To not abandon 30 years of the most important relationship of my life. That I had always loved Blue Eyes. The other 20% of the time, I desperately wanted to flee and now was one of those times. Sitting in judgment by other people, having them insinuate that you should have realized your husband was a serial cheater, and that he was traveling with another woman and telling her he loved her, that as a wife, we should have some sixth sense about where our husband’s penis is at all times, feels like shit. To have people tell you your marriage was a lie, and now you must start over, and that odds of full recovery for a sex addict without relapse are pretty damn low, feels horrible.
The Shrink turned his attention to Blue Eyes. He asked Blue Eyes questions about how things were going with him and his 12 step work, his sponsor, his daily outer circle activities, those healthy behaviors he is establishing to enhance his life and his recovery. Blue Eyes always seems so proud of himself and happy to talk about his own accomplishments. He embellishes on all he has done “good or right.” He sounds like a small child reporting on what a good boy he has been. He seeks approval and in so doing, strokes his ego, which is in my mind completely counter productive to his recovery. The Shrink explains to me that Blue Eyes’ recovery is like climbing a very tall mountain, step by step, he will make the slow climb to the top, and it takes years.
By this point in the session, I am getting angry. I watch my husband clearly manipulating his therapist. I have watched my sister do this exact thing. The manipulation capabilities of addicts is unreal. I look at The Shrink and I say,
“I understand and appreciate your ‘climbing a very tall mountain’ analogy, however, in order to make any progress at all, he has to at least be taking some steps. He is NOT taking those steps. He is manipulating the hell out of you. I have known this man for 30 years, and I can see it clearly. He is self-aggrandizing. He is sitting here, right now, boosting his own ego. Making himself feel better because the alternative, is too difficult and he does not want to feel bad about himself. He has never wanted to feel bad about himself or what he has done. It’s his self protection. That is how he has compartmentalized out everyone that cares for him and he has manipulated and abused people, and yet here he sits, talking about how great he is, how much progress he has made, and what a good boy he is. I call bullshit. In order for me to stay in this marriage, I need him to be taking real steps.”
I really do think The Shrink understood what I was saying and maybe, maybe, even agreed that he was letting Blue Eyes manipulate him.
I walked out of The Shrink’s office feeling deflated and discouraged. I know now why I was scared. I was scared of the reality that my husband was continuing to manipulate the system. He has moved on from manipulating our marriage, me, his affair partners, his children, his employees, pretty much everyone in his life in order to keep feeding his addiction, to manipulating his recovery and feeding off this new ecosystem. I was scared to face that reality, but I had to, and I did. What will happen from here forward, I do not know, but I hope I have opened The Shrink’s eyes to the fact that despite his experience with 28 other sex addicts, he may have met his match with number 29.
I want to crawl inside a little warm cocoon and hide there and not come out until things make sense. Until my world, the one that has been turned upside down and inside out, is all right again. I need a place to hide until this war is over, and I don’t want anyone to come looking for me.
Blue Eyes has made a lot of progress. He’s a good distance up that mountain now or I would no longer be a recovering wife of a sex addict. I’d be the recovered ex-wife of a sex addict, but I digress. Things make more sense now, but they still don’t make complete sense. As the wife of a sex addict things will never really make sense. Yeah, sure, we understand the sickness. We understand addiction and childhood wounds and family of origin issues and mental illness and all that, but it is still incredibly difficult to understand how they could be so cruel as to lie to us and manipulate us just to soothe their own needs. Not to mention, in my case, bring stalking (free)whores into my life that scared the bejeezus out of me!!! Their needs were so much more important than being kind to us. I think I have been pretty understanding of my husband and his addiction, but what an addict needs to understand is that betrayal is forever. It can’t be taken back. It can’t be made up for. No amount of doing the right thing will take away all the wrong things. We have had to learn to live with that (whether the marriage endured or not), and the addict has to learn to live with that too. You can’t just say, “I’m recovered and therefore, I’m not the bad guy.” Yeah, you may be a reformed bad guy, but you are still the bad guy. You can’t just say, “get over it.” Nope, perhaps we do need to work really hard to get past some of the worst of the betrayal in order to move forward, but YOU, you will never be the one to tell us that. Ever. You don’t have the right.
Blue Eyes learned these lessons a while ago (not THAT long ago though), but I do think there are a lot of addicts and cheaters out there who, because of their own need to not be the bad guy, minimize our pain. It is very true that I can try to understand the feelings of an addict, but I will never REALLY know. Likewise, a person who has not been lied to and manipulated by an addict will never know how we feel.