The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Invasive thoughts persist

They are fewer, but 3 months after finding out about Husband's infidelity thoughts of him with other women still persist. We were making love this morning and for some reason I couldn't get out of my head thinking about him with two women, which he did several times. It's one of those things I can't compete with. I will always be only one person. Maybe sex with me will never be quite as thrilling.

Another invasive thought that came into my head today was thinking about his choice of blond women, and his fan "crush" on a particular young blond actress from a favorite TV show. The fantasy blond, blue eyed cheerleader type is something else I'll never be. And though I know it's irrational based on everything he and I have talked about, my mind wonders if he's tired of my "type" and secretly wishes for something different.

I believe that these thoughts are irrational, and the fears they represent mostly unsubstantiated, but there they are. It feels childish to the point of being embarrassing, but I feel compelled to document this. After 19 years together I still worry that somehow I'm not enough. His issues have ignited my issues, and my issues are demanding to be dealt with. I think these fears and insecurities may never go away, so my peace and happiness lies in how I respond to them. Therein lies my choice and my power.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I got asked out on a date

I went to see a friend's play tonight and got asked out on a date by a guy I was sitting next to after we chatted before the show and during intermission. I was by myself because Husband was at a support group meeting. It was funny to be asked out, and touching and nice that someone took a risk and made a bold move and asked out someone he'd just met at a play. I told him I was married and thanked him for the invitation.

On my drive home I told Husband about it. He seemed a little thrown for a split second, but not angry or jealous. Sometimes he expresses fear that I'm going to leave him, so I'm sure it touched that nerve. I debated whether or not to tell him, but I've always told him everything. It was a funny and oddly inspiring moment, and those are the kinds of things I've always shared with him. I also told him that I never would have dated this guy anyway, even if I was single. He was too introspectively morose for me (a standup comic, so that kind of says it all.)

But it was a gentle reminder that I do have options in this world. Though I'm still convinced there's nobody like Husband out there for me. I now understand that Husband has more shadow than I realized, but that doesn't change the good things. Fortunately or unfortunately...I don't know which.

I have to grow up. I have to accept the darkness along with the light. That is a mature relationship. What I had up to this point was fuled by delusion. Hopefully I'm up for the gritty reality of this next phase we're facing. I still want so badly to go back to what I thought I had. And I also know how silly that is, considering I didn't really have it anymore anyway. But I did for a while...I think. For about the first 5 of the last 19 years. That's something. And I still have a wonderful, flawed, complex man who loves me deeply. So many people don't even have a partner like that. But I still want to go back.

How infidelity could be a good thing

I've been reading a lot about how difficulties can be forces for positive change in our lives. I'll post more about this later, but I just read this and think it has something for those of us trying to heal from infidelity and betrayal:

The article is from the blog Dumb Little Man: Tips for Life and it's called How to Win From a Loss.

Getting past lies (or not)

Read an article in More magazine last night that talked about over-40 people getting married after previous marriages. It talked about the difference in marrying young when you're idealistic and relatively unscathed by heartbreak and disappointment, and about bringing what you've learned, the wisdom of experience, to the new marriage.

It made me sad as I reflected on what I've learned. I began to wonder if it will ever be possible for me to get past being deceived for my entire marriage, and for part of the 9 years we were together before we were married. How do you get over, past, through being lied to for years by the one person you loved and trusted most in the world?

And I thought about starting a new relationship, and how that might be easier than building something good on top of those years of lies and deception. I don't want a relationship with someone else, but I can't picture how to build the kind of connection I thought I had with someone who has betrayed me so deeply and for years. It feels like it would be easier in some ways to deal with the death of a spouse than to deal with trying to re-create a relationship after years of betrayal.

I can feel myself holding back, not trusting when he tells me he loves me (which he does frequently.) I feel like I'm hovering, waiting to see, but I don't know what I'm waiting for. I think I just have to come to terms with the fact that I'll never have what I thought I had with Husband - a relationship based on decades of love, trust, honesty and fidelity. It's like putting food coloring into water. The water will never be clear again. It might get clearer as you add more water over time, but that color will always be there forever more. Maybe in another 20 years I'll feel something approaching the same level of trust, but I don't know. Maybe it will take less time. He said last night that the irony is that I now have in him the man I thought I had before. That's a very good thing for both of us, and will be part of the foundation for anything good we build now. But the problem is, while I have the man I thought I had, I'm not the same person I was before and I don't have the relationship I thought I had before.

This is the part where I have to be willing to die again and again in order to have the life I want. It's scary.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Wedding and An Existential Crisis

Went on vacation last week with Husband and Son. Mostly a nice time together. Husband is really doing his best to give me what I need and deal with his own issues at the same time.

He had conversations with his parents, neither of whom were very forthcoming with illuminating information about his childhood experiences. He did find out that his mother had an affair when he was young.

Attending the wedding reminded me of my own wedding, and how wonderful that weekend was, what it represented to me, and how I've held it in my life experience. Now that I know my husband had already begun keeping secrets from me before that wedding, I'll never be able to look back on those memories in the same way. For me, it was a Magnificent Beginning to the magnificent experience of being in a relationship with Husband. And I know it was something similar to him. He was present, he was not unhappy and harboring significant resentments and unexpressed feelings back then. But now it's something else - a happy day perhaps, on which two hopeful people made promises to each other that neither of them kept altogether.

I'm realizing more and more how much of my sense of self was based in my relationship with Husband. Yesterday I began to think about my life - what I've accomplished and what I haven't. I have never accomplished anything significant that was a true expression of myself. I haven't had amazing success at anything. The one area where I truly felt satisfied - like I had no regrets about any successes or failures because of what I'd created in this area - was my relationship. I was grateful for every experience, positive or negative, successful or not, because it had gotten me to where I was in my relationship with Husband. I thought we had created something strong and true, beautiful and completely authentic, a profound expression and experience of who we were in the world together and as individuals.

That no longer being the case, I'm having an existential crisis. Since I know my relationship is not the success I thought it was, the question that arises for me is what else have I accomplished with my life in areas that are important to me, that are an expression of who I am and what I bring to this world. I don't know...

My son is a joy I marvel at every day, but he's not an accomplishment. He's his own work of art, not mine. I have a good job, we have a house, I've done good work as an actor and have moved people with my performances on stage. But there is nothing exceptional that I've accomplished with all my time and energy. No summiting the Seven Sisters, no entrepreneurial successes, no lasting art.

I still have time. So what will it be? I don't know yet. I don't know.

I've been reading two great books on Buddhism which have been helping me a lot. One told me that to live you have to be willing to die again and again, and that one needs to do what one is doing as if it's the most important thing in that moment, even if it isn't really an important thing. Chop wood, carry water, right? So this is where I'll start I guess. It's a challenging task in the midst of a depressing existential crisis. But it's my path, so why resist?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Insecurities flourishing

The way my crazy mind works never ceases to amaze me. I've been feeling a gnawing, non-specific sadness today. It perplexed me, given the good couples session we had Saturday and the dynamic between Husband and me over the past days. But there it was.

Husband left yesterday after therapy for an overnight retreat with with an arts group we founded about 10 years ago. The original plan was for all of us to go but son wanted to stay. His absence doesn't make me worry that he'll be unfaithful (no prostitutes available after all.)

Saturday night we went to a birthday party for Son's preschool classmate. Starting that night or this morning, I've been feeling this non-specific pain. Today Son and I spent the day together, first meeting a neighbor and her son at the pool and then going to a good-bye party for some teachers from Son's school. As the pain persisted, I tried to figure out why I was feeling this way. I worry that it's just self-indulgent wallowing, given that I understand intellectually what has happened.

But when I see all these women whose husbands haven't lied and been unfaithful, broken vows and explicit agreements, and hurt and betrayed them, like an automatic response I wonder what is it about me that I ended with a husband who did these things. I feel isolated and separate from the rest of the world to whom these things don't happen.

The intellectual response is that it had nothing to do with me. True in a very important sense. But in another sense it had a lot to do with me. No matter the finer distinctions, husband lied to me, betrayed to me, broke our vows and agreements, was physically intimate with dozens of other women who had exactly the characteristics I fear that I lack. My deepest insecurities are born out in the women he chose. How would he feel if for years I lied and betrayed him and had sex with men that confirmed his deepest insecurities???????

The thought that came into my head at one point was "I've always felt so loved in my life." That was when I realized that part of the source of this kind of lingering pain is that I feel unloved. He says he loves me and intellectually I understand, believe etc...but I FEEL unloved. Being lied to, betrayed, disrespected, disregarded, not considered, forced to share my intimate life with so many other women does not feel loving. Intellectually I understand, believe, and all of that. But there is a part of me that can't be put into words that will take time to heal no matter what plausible explanations are offered and how much intellectual understanding I have. There is an undefinable level at which I've been damaged or compromised or something like that, and no amount of intellectualizing will ease that pain, quell my fears or dis empower the reactivated insecurities. I think I just need time - weeks, months, years - to FEEL loved again.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Better after therapy

Yesterday in our extra couples therapy session we talked about something that had been in the back of my mind. The person who has betrayed me is the person who has been there the whole time. The person I thought I was in a relationship was never there as I thought he was. I was having a relationship with this person, but I just didn't know certain things about him, for example that he was capable of betraying me in this way. I didn't know how much pain he carried around, how adversely he'd been affected by his childhood (he's always said he wasn't affected by his parents' divorce,) and how hard he found it to express himself. But this person, who seems so strange and scary now, is the person who treated me so lovingly and kindly, who was an amazing partner in raising our son for the last 5 1/2 years, who rubbed my feet, who brought me flowers, cast me in all his plays, encouraged me to live a life I love. In other words, the man I thought I was with and the man I'm with now are not two different people; rather I'm getting to know more about the man I married, and he's actually more vulnerable and authentic with me now that I see his darkness as well as his magnificence.

That doesn't excuse ANYTHING, and I still need to continue to establish BOUNDARIES, but it begins to help me reconcile my shattered reality. It gives some comfort.

So, aside from the white-noise level of general pain and anxiety I always feel now (invasive thoughts still invade regularly) today is better than the past few days.

More therapy on Saturday, and then a week off while we head to the east cost for a week to visit his family. It may be a difficult visit for him. My job will be to listen and bring love, but not fix or solve or suggest. I will practice listening so that he is heard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feeling deeply lonely

I'm feeling deeply lonely because I'm having all these feelings of pain and fear and anxiety, and the person with whom I had the deepest connection in my life is gone. I feel like he's suddenly dead. And in his place, in my bed, in my life is this other person who I'm not sure I know or can trust. He looks and seems like the man who was here before, but he has a whole different, scary aspect to him that the other man didn't. He's lied and hurt me and I don't know how to know he won't do it again. I don't know the person who did this to me, because the person I knew before would never have done that. And this person has brought me this whole unwelcome history that I now have to carry with me for the rest of my life. A history that makes me sick and nauseous every time I think of it. I'm angry because I don't know if I'll ever be able to have a healthy relationship again. I'm afraid I'll never have deep trust or deep connection with another man, because if this relationship that seemed so true and so real and was built slowly over 2 decades has turned out this way, how can I ever hope to have anything good. I don't have another 20 years to fall in love and create a love and a life with someone else. But I don't understand how to expect or want anything else. Tonight I feel lonely and full of despair. It seems like my best chance at happiness is to learn to trust this man, because somewhere in there may really be the man I used to know. But I'm really afraid it may not be possible. I'm afraid there will always be something between us that prevents the deep connection I felt before. But, as I've said in earlier posts, perhaps all that was an illusion anyway, because I don't know if he felt that connected. Actually, I'm pretty sure he felt more connected to me than anyone else in his life. So he probably felt as connected to me as he possibly could given his conscious and unconscious beliefs about himself and the world.

I think I've been drinking too much. But sometimes it hurts so much I just want to stop the pain a bit. Today I had a couple shots of coffee flavored vodka and a glass of red wine. Last night, only a glass of wine. The night before about 3 shots of vodka. But the days before that probably not much, since we didn't have anything in the house. I've stopped buying scotch as that was definitely going too fast. The last thing I want to do to myself and my son is turn into an alcoholic.

Thank god we moved up couples therapy to tomorrow night. I'm freaking out a bit I think. Can't focus at work either, and the cracks are beginning to show there. I need some relief.

Struggling today

I keep getting waves of sadness about the number of other people Husband has been intimate with. Intercourse with at least 25 prostitutes and lap dances, blow jobs and hand jobs with countless others. I feel like the intimate relationship between us has been so violated by these acts. Although I realize there are many sex addicts whose activites dwarf those of my husband, I'm finding it very hard to fit all of this into my understanding of my life.

Overwhelmed again by sadness

After my SAnon meeting last night I was feeling sad. Didn't know why. Went to see my friend Sophie as I often do on Tuesday nights. After I left I was overcome by sadness and that burning pain that feels like it's never going to go away when it settles in.

I still can't believe this is my life now. I thought I had this most beautiful, special, once-in-a-lifetime human connection with Husband, and now instead I have this painful history of Husband betraying my deepest trust by having secret sexual experiences with countless women, and I had nothing to do with creating this history but now it's mine forever and there's no way for me to get away from the pain it brings. I feel disconnected at a fundmental level from Husband, and I'm afriad that dispite everything we're both doing I'll never have such a deep connected feeling to him again, and that is a source of even deeper pain and grief.

I really felt as though I was getting past these moments of intense pain. I wonder how long these feelings will persist. I wish this was over, that we could go back in time and make it never happen so I could have the relationship I thought I had. I know that's fantasy, and doesn't address the pain and suffering Husband was going through while I was so blissful. But that's what my crazy mind wants.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Realizations about betrayal

Finding out that Husband has been seeking sexual experiences with other women since before we were married has been very painful. I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I've had a couple realizations.

We were leaving the pool after spending the afternoon there together on Sunday. Our favorite pool is right by one of the clubs where Husband has gone to get lap dances. Seeing that building where I know my husband went and had an orgasm with another woman was such a trigger for feelings of anxiety. I tried to identify more specifically what was going on for me, and I realized that I was experiencing a deep sense of loss of control. It felt like when somebody dies and there's nothing you can do. It's so final. There's no way to stop this horrible thing because it's already done. And maybe you have regrets, something different you would have done if you'd had the chance.

As I thought about it more yesterday, I realized that this must be what it feels like to get raped. You lose control over a very fundamental part of your life, then something is over and done with and you've had no say in the matter, but must deal with the emotional, psychological, physical and other consequences. That really summarizes my feeling of loss of control.

The second thing I realized over the last couple days is that my relationship with Husband was where I brought the most authentic expression of myself, and had the experience of life that felt the most real to me. I brought myself with full honesty and openness, hid nothing, and gave freely. I thought it was the one place where there was nothing between me and the experience of being alive. I wasn't playing any role (employee, parent, "good person," counselor, caretaker, smart person, ambitious person, etc), wasn't worried about "being" something that I wasn't or playing games of any kind, no testing, no passive aggressive payback, mind games, manipulation or anything like that. I was as real and honest an expression of myself as I could possibly be with Husband. To discover that what felt like the most profound experience of reality and existence for me was constructed inside a context fraught with secrets and lies has been overwhelming and traumatizing. The confusion and disorientation is pervasive, but no wonder - because my most fundamental grounding in "reality" has been severed.

I told Husband last night that I removed my ring. He was stunned and saddened, but we talked about it and I think he understands. He's scared though. He thought disclosure would give us some closure but he feels like it's just unraveling things further. I told him I wanted us to work together to help me figure out what it stands for, because to wear it when I'm no longer sure is painful. We're trying hard not to talk about things, though (on our therapist's advice), until we get back into our therapist's office on Thursday night. But I had to tell him about the ring - it just didn't seem right to wait until he noticed. Too much like a game.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Delayed response to disclosure

Starting last night I began to feel more sadness and loss about what I found out in disclosure. I'd been holding on to the time in my marriage when I thought we had no secrets between us. Now that is gone.

I'd been holding on to that precious time when I was pregnant, and those 5 months we had afer Son was born as a time when we were so blissfully happy at the experience of having a child together, and I wasn't sharing my husband with other women. Now that's gone.

To know I've never had a marriage without lies. To know that my husband has been having sex with other women (even if it wasn't intercourse) since I was pregnant...just invalidates for me so much more of my experience of life. Or at least confuses it. What was real? What does anything mean? What was valid?

I don't know.

I took off my wedding ring today. I just don't know what it means anymore, and wearing it while that's so undefined in my head is painful. I want it to stand for something, and until I know it does I don't want to wear it. I don't want to devalue the meaning of that ring any more than it has been devalued already.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

My disclosure letter to Husband

I will never know you as someone who would not betray me, someone who would never take advantage of the trust I put in you by looking into my eyes and lying. That is what you did, and you did it for years. For all of our marriage. For much of our almost 19 years together.

There are people in my life who I could say I know would never lie to me, and you are not on that list. It is an awful thing, considering what we’ve shared, and the years we’ve spent together. I was going to write “creating a life together” but at this point it’s no longer clear to me what we were doing.

What is clear is that we were doing two different things. We were in two different relationships. That makes me sad, too. I can’t believe I loved you so much and was so oblivious to your pain. Maybe that is where I will find my ability to sustain compassion and understanding and allow for new and unpredictable possibilities not based on the past, but on what we want together for out future. I hope this is the case, but for now I still find myself confronting a lot of pain and confusion, and facing my own shortcomings and issues that were brought to light by this event. The realization of my lack of awareness has created an opening for me to look at my own flaws and failings. It forces me to consider that I’m not always the “good person” I think I am.

I have learned to acknowledge that I am not blameless or without major shortcomings of my own. I didn’t listen when you tried to tell me you were unhappy. I assumed your context was the same as mine, that you were as happy as I felt. I remember us talking at times about how it seemed that nobody else could be as happy and in love as we were. At least I think we had those conversations. It’s also possible that we didn’t. It’s possible that those memories are part of the picture of our relationship that I constructed and held in my mind while you were experiencing something quite different.

And there are more failings. I didn’t always do the things I said I’d do. Didn’t handle the finances as well as I could have; didn’t do a good job on [your project that we worked on together]; didn’t make calls I said I’d make or get places on time. Worse than all of that, I didn’t let you know how grateful I felt every day for you and for the unbelievably special relationship I thought we shared. Many were the days when I wondered how I got so lucky and almost felt as if I had to hold my breath so I wouldn’t wake up in case it was a dream. Because of my own flaws, I was preoccupied with pleasing other people at the expense of being present to you. At times I was angry and unhappy with particular aspects of my life, and I expressed that by being impatient and intolerant with you. I didn’t communicate well, and that left you feeling excluded and not considered in my life. I am truly sorry for the pain I’ve caused you. You are a wonderful, kind, gentle and loving man, and you deserve to be treated with tenderness, love and respect. I think I did that, but I didn’t do it enough.

When I told you I loved you for the first time, when I accepted your proposal, when I married you – each time I said I love you - I was saying that you were the one for me, and that I was giving up all the other possibilities to be with you.

These are the promises I made to you on [our wedding day].

[Husband], I love you and I promise to cherish and respect you;
To give you kisses and hugs every day; to caress and to soothe you;
To listen to you and communicate with you; to give back rubs and foot rubs;
To be honest and tender and trustworthy and sexy;
To always laugh at your jokes;
To have fun and enjoy every moment with you;
To always look for the greatness within you;
To provide an embrace of love and confidence in which you can be exactly who you are;
And to discover you anew every day for the rest of my life.

I haven’t kept all those promises. If I were to do it again today, I’d want to promise the same things.

When I think of you having sex with at least 25 - 30 other women, and getting blow jobs and hand jobs from countless others, and letting naked women rub up against you until you had an orgasm - when I think of all that sexual activity that you had with other women and all of the lies, I feel sad, angry and afraid.

I'm afraid because the person I knew before all this would never have done those things that we’d agreed we wouldn’t do, and would never have lied to me. So who are you?

I'm afraid because I gave you the gift, the privilege of holding my happiness. I didn't give you the responsibility for making me happy, but I made the choice to entrust you with the power to break my heart. I chose to be more vulnerable with you than I've been with anyone else in my entire life, more vulnerable than I ever thought I had the capacity to be. I’ve been so trusting with you for so long that I’d forgotten how long it took me to get there. And how at one point in my life I swore I’d never give myself to anyone like that. And how for years and years I didn’t. I kept a certain amount of power from the other 2 men I’ve been in love with. I gave you that power, and you used that trust to lie to me for years. You did selfish things that put my health at risk, that broke my heart, that forever altered my view of the world, caused me to doubt my ability to trust myself, and to doubt my attractiveness, and my self-worth. You’ve reinforced my secret fear that, no matter what, in the end I will never be enough. That is a painful suspicion, and you have affirmed it for me.

But I am not a victim. I chose to give you these powers. And that choice remains with me, so I am still not a victim of your actions. But I am hurt by them. My heart is broken by them.

I’m angry about the money. Do you remember what a big step it was for me to put our bank accounts together? You spent thousands of dollars that I never was consulted about. I know we spent money on things that I did that you didn't think were wise and didn't feel consulted about. But you knew about everything. I wasn't doing the equivalent of a secret monthly trip to Seattle or a few massages at Burke Williams every month for years and years, and hiding it from you, all the while knowing you'd object, and be angry and hurt if you found out; or letting my life insurance get cancelled while I visited $500 an hour prostitutes, once again putting my family's welfare in jeopardy. These things sound petty as I write them, but they are resentments I hold and I want to get them out.

My bad listening was something we could discuss, and you tried to discuss. I never had the chance to discuss lying, secrets, betrayal and infidelity with you. The horrible things you did were not up for any kind of discussion or consideration the way my bad behavior was. I resent that. That is part of the disempowerment. I never had a chance to fight back, defend myself, or make any difference in those areas.

Our marriage feels to me like it has been inside the context of a lie - the lie of honesty, fidelity, and trust. I have pain whenever I look back on my memories of our life together, because now I understand the real context inside which I was living - a decision you made without consulting me.

I didn't relate to you as someone who would mostly tell me the truth, or probably tell me the truth. I related to you like your word, at least about the most fundamental, important things in our life together, was a constant of nature like gravity. It was a law for me, part of the context of my existence, like air. And like in science, if a law is found to be invalid, every bit of knowledge based on assuming the truth of that law is called into question. This is why my whole life since you started lying to me and keeping secrets is called into question. A fundamental law I was basing everything else on is not true.

I get scared, sad, nauseous, and angry sometimes when I'm doing something inconsequential like just sitting at my desk or driving around town. I wonder what days I was doing this activity while you were having sex with someone else. The pity is that there were so many fewer days where you were actually doing that, or even trying to do that, but because of all the lying EVERY DAY IS NOW CALLED INTO QUESTION. Every day of my life since you began keeping sexual secrets from me is a day when you could have been acting out and I didn't know it. My whole existence during those years is now suspect. That is disorienting, disturbing, and so incredibly fucked up for me.

At random times I find myself overwhelmed by the knowledge that you've held so many other women in your arms, kissed so many others, caressed and rubbed so many other bodies, shared playful and erotic moments with so many other people. It's so staggering to me it takes my breath away in the moment, and leaves me trembling and with a pit of sadness in my stomach.

So much that I wish was kept just for me, and that can never be undone. Just as those experiences can't be erased from my mind, neither can they be erased from yours. There will always be that knowledge of all those other women not just as faint memories from 19 years ago before we got together, but from during our marriage, during the same time you were holding and touching and loving me. When I look at your hands now, I see hands that have touched so many others. That is not what I wanted for our relationship, or for myself. And you took that choice away from me by being secretive for all these years.

There will always be parts to our relationship - the parts when you were lying to me and had a secret life and the parts when you weren't. I don't know if I'll ever be able to look back and not check to see what part of my life a memory falls into, and then question the validity of the experience if it fell into the lying parts.

I started feeling that jittery anxiety again over the last few days. When you touch my naked body, I can't stop thinking about you touching other women.

I'm thinner now and I wonder if you like the way I feel now better because it's closer to the way a perfect figures feels, and I know you’ve felt those kinds of bodies – many, many times. There are some ways you touch me that make me think about how you must have touched those prostitutes. That hollow right beside the hip bone that I have now. It feels nice to be touched there, but you never touched me there when I was heavier. So it makes me think you learned about that little spot from other women’s bodies. And the comments you’ve made about how shapely my butt is now. I recognize that appreciation from reviews you wrote of the prostitutes you had sex with.

Another thing I wonder is what it was like the first few times touching another woman's body. Was it exciting to be discovering someone new after all these years? Was it exhilarating and thrilling to run your hands over those women, exploring their unfamiliar smoothness, softness, and taughtness? The way they tasted and smelled? I wish I could get this out of my head, but it just shows up.

Those other women you had sex with were in their 20s and 30s, and I’m 43. Most of them were somewhere between 13 – 20 years younger than me. What does that say about me, and my desirability? You say you don’t compare, but I feel like I was placed side by side with these women, because I was. You had sex with them, and then with me the next week or next day. How could you not notice the differences?

The growing sense of ease that I'd developed over all these years with you about who I am, especially confidence in my body and how I look, has been seriously disrupted. I know one of my tasks is to rebuild my self-esteem outside of our relationship so it can stand on it's own without needing anything from you to hold it in place. That’s how it should have been in the first place.

Right now, everywhere I look I see other women’s beautiful bodies, and wonder if you’re looking at them too. In that twisted way that I used to, once again I see in those women everything that I’m lacking, and those women are everywhere. This is not your fault, but it is my experience.

Here are some of the things I read:

"I was rock hard at this point and I had to be inside this vision. She slid over and spread her legs and I slid my rock hard cock inside her. Very tight. I licked her nipples as I thrust faster and faster. I pulled out and asked her to turn around. She has the ass of an 18 year old athelete. Very round and firm. I entered again and started pounding away to completion. Cuddle. Make out. Round Two.Completion in mouth. Excellent time. Beautiful sweet girl."

And another woman: "I come out and lie down on the towel. She asks if I want the message but I just don't want to turn away from that beautiful face and body. We start rubbing each other and taking off clothing. Very Very Very hot. We stand up and I am licking her all over. She goes down and sucks my cock, slipping on the condom magically. Lots of DIY follows (no fingers in her pussy but my tongue is fine) then some missionary, DIY, CBJ, and finally Doggie. Then comes a great massage. I think seconds was possible, at least some fondling. She didn't rush me out. But that thought of I wonder if that works for her snuck back in and I left before the hour was up. Next time, and I hope there is a next time because this girl is one of my OTF, I will go for seconds even if I can't imagine going again. Wish she'd kiss me tho..."

And another: "I called Christina and she answered and was very friendly and professional. We made an appointment for 1:30 at her hollywood apt. I was a tiny bit late and she called to make sure I was on my way. I got there and was pleased to discover that Christina is the incomparably beautiful J-- who I saw a couple times last year. She has the most gorgeous eyes and smile and the lingerie she was wearing showed off her beautiful body. She is really just super beautiful and I was hard as a rock. I will be back."

Of course, what comes up for me is incomparably beautiful compared to who?

I wish I could wake up from this. I wish it would be over. But I keep coming to the realization that this isn’t going to happen. The pain, confusion, disorientation, disconnection I feel now is my actual life. And everywhere in the city I go, I have something to remind me.

In Santa Monica, I have the massage parlor where the worst part of the infidelity started. By the Grove, my office and the Page Museum where Son likes to go and roll down the hill I have the Park La Brea apartments. On my drive to my S-Anon meetings I have the 4 Play billboard. I have the whole Sepulveda corridor. By Stoner Pool I have that massage parlor we saw the other day. And finally, I have the knowledge that this city has so many other secrets about this part of my life that I’ll never know. Places where you’ve taken off your clothes and put your naked body beside another woman’s and done things I’d assumed you were doing only with me. Wherever I go I look around and wonder.

Last Monday I tried to call you and couldn't reach you at work or via cell phone. Before, that wouldn't have bothered me. I've never needed constant contact. But it triggered thoughts of times before when I called and couldn't reach you because you was holding another woman in your arms and doing some of the most physically intimate things you could possibly do with another human being with somebody else while I was thinking about you and trying to reach you.

I wondered if you’d ever finished with sex with a prostitute only to turn your phone back on and get a message that I'd left for you while you was with her. I think your response to that would be that if you did, the two things were so unrelated in your mind that you didn't think twice about it. I understand that kind of denial is how the illness of sexual addiction can manifest itself, and I don't doubt that you really didn't connect the two.

But the question that comes up for me is how could you do something so horrible and then make it possible for yourself to be so disconnected from the impact on me and from the incomprehensible nature of the betrayal that was going on?

And if this happened before how do I know or have some assurance that it won't happen again?

I believe we have the potential for tremendous growth in our relationship. But I feel like I’ve lost things that are precious and irreplaceable. Things I could maybe have with someone else but never again with you. I'm never going to be the person with whom you’ve always had an unassailable level of honesty and integrity. I’m never going to be the one woman you’ve been intimate with since we were married. I’m never going to be the one you gave up all others for. We could have that with other people, but never again with each other.

Now I understand how it feels to be treated worse than strangers. I understand what I’ve done to you and mom, but at a depth that I don’t know you could even begin to imagine. How many people are on the list of those you’ve betrayed as deeply or as ongoingly or about something so fundamental as you’ve betrayed me?

I feel like I'm never going to be special in your life the way I used to. You’ve lied to me and fucked other women behind my back – how can someone you’ve treated like that ever be as special to you as I think I was before all this began? So much disregard and disrespect.

I feel sick and anxious and sad. I think of you with others - so many others. Physically I feel like I'm part of a blur of bodies and sexual experiences. That does not make me feel special.

When I watched the movie last night I felt sad. Sad because I’m afraid I’ll never be able to give my heart completely again. Sad because I realize that that kind of love is probably a kiddish notion anyway, and that’s why they’re called fairy tales. And sad because I think I’ve learned that the only person who I can really trust to take care of me is myself, and that it’s safer to keep a small part of myself than to give myself completely in that childish fashion. What I though I had created with you by making myself that vulnerable didn’t really exist anyway. You weren’t as happy as I was, and I was oblivious to that. It feels like there’s little to be gained by giving everything and a lot that can be lost. That optimism about being so completely open is a loss that I grieve, even though it’s a lesson that was probably past due now that I’m a middle-age woman, as you’ve often called me.

Other resentments I have: You insisting that nothing had changed over the years when I asked what was different between us, why I no longer felt special to you. I guess that’s a sign that I should trust myself, because I knew something was different. I could feel something, and I think it was the distance you had to put between us to do what you were doing. I think somewhere inside you, no matter your addiction, you knew it was wrong. I resent your self-righteous outrage when I started to question the truth of what you were telling me that Friday night when I figured out what had been going on.

Other things I think about: How are we going to teach our son that women, no matter how willing, no matter how much you pay them or how kindly and gently you do it, are not objects to be fucked and discarded. And when the time comes, how will we tell him about this in a way that leaves him healthy and empowered in his own life? How will we be honest without damaging him?

As I’ve told you, for me trusting you again feels like being asked to jump into the bottomless ocean without a life preserver when I’ve just almost drowned. I’m afraid, afraid, afraid.

So those are a lot of my feelings and thoughts. The scary, angry and resentful ones that have been lurking inside and churning about. But the other things I’ve said to you are there too.

I love you and I'm sorry this is painful. As someone who loves you I'm sad to see you sad. I'm bummed to see me sad, too. A lot of this just sucks, but that's the way it is. I know you can be fine. My hope is that you will be free, full of joy and gloriously happy. Fine is not enough for you in my mind. I want you to have it all. I don't regret getting married to you. It's brought me more joy than sadness, even today. I want to fix everything, make suggestions, explore and explain, make it all better right away. What I really want to do, though, is get past all that noise – and hear you. And say nothing else but the most important thing: I love you.

I truly appreciate everything you're doing to address your addictions, and I feel joy at the thought of the freedom it's bringing you and will continue to bring. We are having a lot of pain. But our future is worth it, I know. I'm afraid we won't be able to do it, but that is just a fear. There's action to put in its place. We can reach out, we can be present, we can appreciate, we can create adventures, build trust, and live in a context of love.

My expectations are high now, because you have something to prove. Yours should be too, because I also have something to prove.

I expect that you will never forget the pain that you've caused me by lying to me throughout our entire marriage, and the feelings that realization leaves me with. I expect to be reminded daily for the rest of my life that I'm special to you, that you love me, and that you have not forgotten this betrayal and the impact. I expect to be surprised by gestures of love, large and small, regularly. I expect total and complete honesty. I expect you to communicate when you are unhappy, and to let me know in no uncertain terms when I'm not hearing you. I expect you to work out your problems with me WITH ME. I expect you to take the risk of pissing me of and me leaving, because I'm taking the risk of loving you and building trust with you and you leaving, or betraying me again.

And I want to know your expectations. I want this second chance to show you the love and support that you deserved for the last 19 years for being loving and supportive and generous and kind. I want share with you my admiration, respect and appreciation for the funny, creative, smart, talented and inspiring person you are. I want to create a relationship that rivals the fairy tale I had in my head, but with warts and all. It will be different from what we had before. It may bear scars. It may live more in reality and less in childish fantasy. But I believe it can be strong and deep and last the rest of our lives. That is my hope. Failure is my greatest fear, and I am so afraid right now. But I want you to know that I really want this. So I’m going to put myself out there with you one day at a time.

Thinking of you, feeling grateful for who you are, for your love, for all the wonderful experiences we've had together, for sitting around the piano singing songs, for hanging around Annex putting up shows, for family day at the beach, for the way you have grown to love my friends and family, for your willingness to do whatever you have to so that we can be lovers and partners for life, for you.

Love, [Woman.Anonymous7]

Disclosure went ok

I finished my letter at 5am yesterday morning. Husband had been ready since Tuesday after some final conversations with our therapist.

Following instructions, we arrived in separate cars and had plans for childcare so we could have time alone, either together or individually, after the session.

Husband was in the waiting room when I arrived right at 11am. We sat down with our therapist and she explained briefly that Husband would read and then I would read. I was able to stop and ask questions throughout if I wanted, although she said she might ask me to hold off on questions that might just result in uneraseable memories for me that would serve little purpose.

I was a little suprised at the thick sheaf of papers Husband held, wondering if I was going to get a lot more than I was expecting. I braced myself and he started reading his timeline of significant events and sexual secrets, beginning somewhere around the time his parents divorced when he was 8.

I've heard that you always find out something new, and I did. Not very much, but significant to me. Fortunately, given what I already knew, it was not overwhelming. It turns out that Husband had been seeking lap dances to orgasm at strip clubs since before we were married. It was infrequent, but still, it was jolting and disappointing to realize that sexual fidelity had never, ever been present in my marriage.

The second new piece of information I received was that Husband began getting hand jobs and blow jobs when I was pregnant with our son, and not after he was born. In fact, the incident where he invited the two women over to our apartment happend when I was pregnant. That too, was disappointing, as common as it is. Apparently the stress of pregnancy and birth is a common trigger for sexual infidelity with men.

Men are the weakers sex, no doubt about it. It makes me angry to think about the stress I was going through over the past years. Why was his reaction to go out and fuck a bunch of other women? I dealt with it and tried to be positive. Sure I was grumpy and pissed off and distracted and unhappy sometimes, but I didn't lie and throw away trust and a relationship that had been growing for almost 20 years. I need to bring this to therapy.

After he was done, I felt pretty contained. Then I read my letter. Eight pages. Husband wept throughout, as I talked about what I'd lost, my own failings in our relationship,our wedding vows, my sadness, the sudden and gripping anxiety that overwhelms me at times when I think about what he's done, my loss of self confidence, and the ways in which I and our relationship have been forever changed. At the end, he said he felt deep anguish because he really got for the first time how pervasive the impact of his lies and infidelity are in my life.

We usually go to lunch after therapy, but Husband needed time alone. I went grocery shopping.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Husband traveling

Another source of my heightened anxiety may be that Husband told me this morning that he may need to travel to Florida on business for a couple days next week. I've read some of his emails from his last trips to Florida when he tried to engage prostitutes and I know he went to strip clubs. (He even tried to get two women at once again on his last trip to Florida) So I'm nervous that this might trigger him again.

But I need to give into the fact that I can't control him. He will go and do what he does, and I will do what I do, and we'll see where that takes us I guess.

More anxiety and invasive thoughts

I started feeling that jittery anxiety again a little last night and more this morning. I think the source of it is that I can't stop thinking about Husband touching other women when he touches me.

I'm thinner now and I wonder if he likes the way I feel now better because it's closer to the way a perfect figures feels. There are some ways he touches me that make me think about how he must have touched those prostitutes.

And I wonder what it was like the first few times touching another woman's body. Was it exciting to be discovering someone new after all these years? Was it exhilirating and thrilling to run his hands over those women, exploring their unfamiliar smoothness, softness, taughtness? I wish I could get this out of my head, but it just shows up.

Maybe I'm anxious because disclosure is tomorrow.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Disclosure this Saturday

The past few days since Monday have been better. I talked with my therapist about my anxiety and by the end of the session I was feeling more relaxed again.

We talked about how for me part of this is a journey about learning to look at the darker things in life without giving up the essence of myself, which is more positive and upbeat. I need to find a balance between being empowered by being able to put things behind me to move forward and shying away from dealing with what I perceive as unpleasant, bad, negative, etc.

We also talked about possible patterns in my relationships. I've had 4 significant relationships in my life (only 3 sexual relationships): Junior high boyfriend (for a summer), high school boyfriend (2 1/2 years), college boyfriend (5 years) and Husband (19 years). I recently realized all have involved infidelity or betrayal.

With jr. high guy, after a summer of hanging out with me he came back from a vacation in Costa Rica and would barely acknowledge me. I realized later that he must have lost his virginity, and ditched me because I'd made it clear that I wasn't going to let go of mine. So that was a betrayal.

With high school guy, I was going away to college and he was staying in Seattle. I can't quite recall the details or sequence of events, but he started a relationship with another woman while we were still together. I think maybe we'd agreed that we'd date other people, but I also remember being very hurt by something that happened although I can't remember what it was. Ultimately I ended up meeting college boyfriend and breaking up with high school guy. But there was definitely some element of another woman toward the end of that high school relationship.

I found out about 10 years after the fact that college boyfriend and my sorority pledge mother had drunken sex once after I transferred to another school. This was about 2 1/2 years into our 5 year relationship. I didn't experience this as a betrayal though, because I found out about it after I was emotionally disconnected from him. But it is another instance of infidelity.

And then of course, there's Husband and all of his activity.

I don't know if that makes a pattern. My therapist feels that there's something there to explore. So we'll continue to do that. What about me do men who are prone to infidelity find attractive? What do I find attractive about men who do this kind of thing? Right now it's a mystery to me because the relationships and circumstances all seem so different. But who knows? Maybe there are insights to be had here. I'll be looking.

Some incidental notes about this process:

My appetite came back to normal about a week or two ago. I realized about 2 weeks after I found out about Husband's infidelity that I wasn't really eating anything, so I made a conscious effort to get food. But I wasn't really hungry until more recently. I lost about 12 pounds the first month partly from not eating and partly because I was exercising so much to work off the tension and anxiety (this was a very effective tool, by the way.) I was overweight to begin with, so my health was not compromised. I don't feel any urge to overeat, and I'm continuing to exercise. Partly because it gives me a sense of control. Now I'm determined to look and feel my best so that no matter what happens I'm equipped to take care of myself.

And as soon as we get our finances worked out again ($2000 a month in therapy has put us in a crunch) I'm establishing a grooming budget for myself. I think when your partner has sexual activity outside your relationship, breaking an established agreement, you are entitled to a certain amount of money each month to make sure you look and feel your best. Especially if those extramarital partners were 12 - 20 years younger, which all Husband's prostitutes were. Add to that living in a city like LA where most women groom themselves like their lives depend on it... So I've decided that my grooming budget is a household expense, and NOT something that comes out of my personal spending allowance, the way it would have in the past. If our personal allowances are reduced by 50% to accommodate my grooming expense, I see that as a consequence of all of this. Husband and I have yet to discuss this, but I think it's a reasonable request.

Disclosure is Saturday. I'm nervous. I've heard that at the least it's dreadful to hear it all at once, and at worst you find out things you didn't already know about. Both of us are queasy about it. I still need to write my letter. I've set up friends to call if I need to. And people from my S-Anon group have offered their support as well. My mom is taking Son for the day so Husband and I can have time if we need it, as our therapist advised.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Invasive Thoughts

Last night as Husband and I were making love, I began to have those "invasive thoughts" again. Images running through my head, not of what I was afraid he'd do, but what I imagined him having done with other women. How did he touch them, what did they feel like to him? What did it feel like for him to be inside them?

It really interfered with things. And it left me pretty unsettled. We talked about it a little, but we were both tired and sleep seemed to be a good choice - especially as we've been getting up and meditating.

Today I had a client meeting near the massage parlor in Santa Monica where all the infidelity began. Realizing that triggered anxiety for me (even though I go to Santa Monica regularly for therapy.) On top of that, I tried to call husband and couldn't reach him at work or via cell phone. Before that wouldn't have bothered me. I've never needed constant contact. But today it triggered thoughts of times before when I called and couldn't reach him because he was holding another woman in his arms and doing some of the most physically intimate thing he could possibly be doing with another human being with someone else while I was thinking about him and trying to reach him.

I wondered if he'd ever finished with sex with a prostitute only to turn his phone back on and get a message that I'd left for him while he was with her. I think his response to that would be that if he did, the two things were so unrelated in his mind that he didn't think twice about it. And I understand that kind of denial is how the illness of sexual addiction can manifest itself, and I don't doubt that he really didn't connect the two.

But the question that comes up for me is how could you do something so horrible and then make it possible for yourself to be so disconnected from the impact on me and from the incomprehensible nature of the betrayal that was gong on?

And if this happened before how do I know or have some assurance that it won't happen again?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A good 4 days

Things have been good the past 4 days.

I accidentally missed my SAnon meeting on Tuesday. I was on the treadmill and suddenly realized it. I think I'll call someone from the program this week just to maintain contact.

Husband has been feeling a fair amount of anxiety around disclosure. Our therapist decided that she wanted to meet with him individually this week to further prepare. So Saturday was a morning full of therapy for Husband while Son and I went to karate class and then to see Underdog (he liked it, me not so much.)

In his individual therapy Husband explored feelings of intense anxiety that seem to have been just below the surface of consciousness for him for a long time - years. And what came up for him was a house he lived in when he was six, and feeling very frightened and like there was nobody there. He feels that there's something he's not remembering about what happened there, but thinks it may have something to do with his mother. At around that time she went to see a psychiatrist in Boston, which he feels indicates something very unusal was going on given what he knows about how his parents deal with problems. As he often says, they're country folk from New England, and they don't turn to that kind of help readily or easily. He also recalls that his mom went for back surgery at around that time, which also seems anomalous. He has a feeling that there is some particular event that is the source of his anxiety, and his fears of being abandoned and of people being angry with him. He's going to talk with his parents to see if he can find out from them what happened.

I think Husband is courageous to be exploring these things. It's evident that it's very hard for him emotionally, and that he's having all kinds of feelings that he used to suppress with his addicitve behaviors. Right now, I'm happy to be feeling on an even keel so as not to add to the emotional intensity of his experience. We still have a lot to address, a long way to go on this journey, and when he's feeling less anxiety and fear I'll push to explore my feelings more deeply again. I know there's stuff in there. The other night I was thinking about how most of the prostitutes husband had had sex with are 15-20 years younger than me. That's definitely weird. I look young for my age, so I don't know that it was a reaction to me, but it still doesn't do much for my self confidence. Another indication that this kind of confidence needs to come from within me, and not have anything to do with Husband.

It's sad to me to think of being less dependent on Husband in ways. While intellectually I know that this dependence is immature, and that healthy adult women get their sense of self from themselves, the fact that I can no longer be confident that Husband will be able to be a source of that confidence because of this betrayal makes me sad. It's akin to a child separating from being dependent on a parent in some ways I guess. And when that happens, you are acknowledging that you alone are responsibile for yourself in the world. And while that is part of growing up, it's also a lonely feeling. And it frightens me a bit, because what it equals in my mind is being the kind of person who doesn't need anybody.

How can I allow myself to need Husband, yet not be dependent on him? Is need a part of the vulnerability of love? Or do I have that wrong. Is there a way to be vulnerable without need? Husband and I were discussing this in the context of Buddhism. Apparently how to be in love and be a strict Buddhist is a difficult question.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Was at Hancock Park today with my son, and realized that Los Angeles will forever have reminders for me: The Park La Brea apartments where Husband met one prostitute, the Sepulveda corridor where he met prostitutes at several different hotels, and the massage parlor right around the block from our old apartment in Santa Monica where he had his first hand job from a masseuse there.

That first hand job, by the way, was the line that he crossed that got him to intercourse with prostitutes. At some point, when I asked him about crossing these lines, he said that the rationalization was something like, "well, I've already had a hand job," then "well, I've already had a blow job," then "well I've already had sex with a prostitute once and it didn't affect my relationship" etc.

I wish I could go back in time and erase that day. But given what I know now, I know there would just have been another day like that. I think this path was somewhat inevitable for him, and I guess for us.

He got his 60 day chip from SAA last night.