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.

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]

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