What was I thinking

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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.

22 thoughts on “What was I thinking

  1. Oh how I relate, I saw things and questioned him but accepted his answer. I think you’re right in that we accept because we trust, but I think we also accept because we love them SO deeply and have them on such a high pedestal that we don’t want to lose our lives or our love. Looking back for most of us, we can now say without question that all of the clues, even one clue, confirms cheating, but we just accepted their answer.

    My goodness I replay the scenes over and over from the past and the questions, probing and outcome is very very very different from reality.

    You didn’t do anything wrong. Please remember that you’re the innocent one here. You couldn’t have known because your brain didn’t even know this existed.

    Very relatable post, and now I don’t feel quite as stupid as I did 3 minutes ago xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reminding me. It’s mind boggling how easily I was manipulated. I never put him on a pedestal, I honestly just never felt he was capable of such cruelty. Boy was I wrong. As I’ve said a hundred times, I know he didn’t think of it as cruel, because I was never going to find out, therefore never be hurt, but that is such warped thinking. I frankly couldn’t have imagined how messed up he was. I used to say that I couldn’t believe he came out of his family relatively unscathed. WOW, I was so so wrong. He hid so much of himself from me for so long. I know a lot of people get so angry, but I am really really hurt by the betrayal more than anything. I hate dwelling on it because I know I deserved better. xoxo

      Liked by 2 people

      • SSA is spot on, as usual. You may find this article on betrayal blindness to be interesting: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/betrayal-blindness-how-an_b_3146159 . I find it fascinating because I’m continually stunned at how easily I was manipulated and deceived as well. If my brain thought it was doing me some kind of self-preservation favor, that wasn’t really the case. In retrospect I wish I had seen things for what they really were, in real time.
        xo

        Liked by 1 person

        • I read the article and although a part of me gets what they are saying, there is still the me that knows that my trusting nature is what allowed me to constantly believe in the best in my husband. I knew he was flawed, I didn’t put him up on pedestals, I didn’t expect him to solely support our family, I tried to understand his dependence on his parents and his desire for childlike nurturing. And although there were red flag/hindsight 20/20 signs, I honestly never believed he would do something so against who I thought he was. I never thought he would use other women as a drug. Most of the years we were together I didn’t know there was such a thing as sex addiction (and even when I did hear the term I had no idea what it meant), so I couldn’t have known there was this thing that allowed for such behavior. I never would have assumed he had a full fledged affair. So even though there were breaches, like the Craig’s List ad where he was supposedly reaching out for someone that would nurture him, I never… even after reading the sexual emails from the other woman, thought he had a relationship with this woman. In my mind there wasn’t a need. No need = no behavior. I was SO NAIVE. I also know that sex addiction is a unique beast. Although they talk themselves (or at least BE did) into the fact that the NEED this behavior, they’re not looking for a way out. They’re not building real relationships, so in ways it is a unique form of betrayal. I’m also not sure which type of cheater is more likely to do it again… the sex addict who thinks he needs the hit, or the spouse that has convinced themselves that they should have someone different (for whatever reason) than the spouse they have. Both are dangerous and goes to the fact that we can never really trust anyone. Sad and frustrating. ❤

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    • Right. Just because they’re not doing “it” anymore doesn’t mean they didn’t do it. It’s not that easy to forget cruelty and betrayal. It’s called consequences. Healing from betrayal trauma takes time AND a level of compassion and patience and understanding on their part.

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  2. My dday was a few months after yours; will be 6 years this March 15, happened at 20 years of marriage. Blindsided is not even a strong enough word for when my SAH revealed his double life. BUT, about 10 years prior to that we were at a Christmas party in a bar setting. At a certain time the private part of the party ended and general public came in. Green eyes and his buddy (who hosted the party) were at a bar table with 2 young girls (young being relative, I was probably 45) and my husband was putting the moves on them! I went up to the table and he did not stop! I was in downtown Toronto and lived way out in the suburbs. I confronted him at the table and tried to leave right away but the very kind bar owner wife thought my coat was worth something so had it tucked in office. Took 5 minutes to get it which thwarted my quick getaway. I ended up driving him home but told him I was divorcing him. Holy crap if he could be trying to pick up some young one in FRONT of me what happened behind my back. I surely was still hot the next few days and still said divorce. He convinced me it was booze talking (yes he had had lots) so I caved and stayed. You accepted Blue Eyes excuse. Why wouldn’t we? We think we are married to someone and would not think for one second about SA life/double life. In our vacuum of love and thinking others are like us whatever red flags we had could be easily discounted. When I saw the text from him to what turned out to be a stripper in a strip club my first thought was I screwed up 10 years ago by not following through on my threat. I have stayed due to poor health and sadly realize now I love him but am not in love with him.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, DSL. Isn’t it such a humiliating feeling when THEY act like fools and yet we FEEL like fools. When my husband was working with his first sexual acting out partner his behavior was kind of odd. I asked him if he was behaving inappropriately. He seemed horrified at my even asking, and yet… he did have sex with her. I NEVER even imagined SEX! I was just asking about him maybe talking about things that were too personal, or leading her on—not that he was leading her down his sick path of control and deception. The man I married would never do anything like that. I would say that I’m still in love with him, but some days it’s super hard to remember why. He is working hard at recovery, but some days I still just don’t believe he could do any of the horrible things he did. xo

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  3. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome you are. Our stories are so parallel. We found out the same time. Have been married about the same length of time. I can relate to everything you say. My heart aches reading your blog. I couldn’t take it. I gave up. My husband got so good at gaming the system he had his entire support group believing he didn’t have an addiction! So he announced to me he didn’t have an addiction. Everyone said so. I’m crazy. So it dawned on me, you can’t fix a problem that he won’t even admit to. So I filed for divorce. There was nothing more I could do. 38 years of marriage is unceremoniously dissolved in an instant. I hate addicts. I really do.

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    • Thank you so much, Debbie, for joining the conversation and sharing some of your story. Once we find out the truth, I think it has got to be absolutely soul sucking for them to deny and deflect. It’s impossible to rationalize the destruction and the heartache. As painful as it had to have been, I’m glad you are out. I absolutely would have done the same. xoxo

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  4. I completely agree Kat – and especially where you state: “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.” And I also think that unless you’ve been lied to and manipulated by an addict you’ll never really get how we feel, and what we go through. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agree about how no one can really know how it feels (even a therapist trained in SA and betrayal trauma, et. al.) unless they’ve been betrayed. They may understand it like how a person can learn about it in a textbook, but facts/info are so different from emotions. It hurts to the core when the one we trust, the one who was always supposed to have out back, was stabbing us in the back. I’ve beat myself up for that too – the “not knowing” – but I’ve met other women in real life and virtual life who are smart, educated, and have strong intuition. They really didn’t know, perhaps partly b/c they trusted? Even though it doesn’t take the pain away, I feel less alone knowing I wasn’t the only fooled by a talented liar.

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        • I wonder if these guys “hold” their separate lives in their mind to be “true” and they compartmentalize and they really think they are telling the truth at the time? I don’t know. Then it catches up with them at some point, either through discovery, disclosing it from carrying shame, or someone else tells, or… whatever. They carry a lot of pain too. I’m seeing that in my husband now. He’s letting some of it out and tears (unusual). I think that’s a good thing.

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