An old friend who I’ve been out of touch with for years got in touch yesterday.  Sometimes things feel right in telling people and sometimes they don’t.  I’m going to write out the story of my marriage for her, so I  might as well write it here.

2003, I was 22, married 14 months when I was 3 months pregnant when I went away on business.  He had too many drinks at the bar with friends from work and had sex with some girl in the parking lot.  I was beside myself.  We’d had a good sex life, we flirted, he was sexy and cute and fun.  We laughed together, we went out on dates, we were wonderful.  I was so hurt.

We separated very  briefly, I had no support from anyone, and I had anti-support from my mom and his sister.  His mom offered support but then went crazy about a year later, saying how much she hated me.  My newlywed heart was broken.  He waited 6 weeks to tell me, which made it worse.  He sobbed, cried and apologized like no other when he told me.  I saw what I thought was true remorse.

After a few days (week?) apart, we got therapy, I gave him another chance.  Lots of therapy that was “going to therapy” but doing nothing.  The sex was reasonably good (at least he was interested) for a little while.

We moved, and moved again.   He wouldn’t kiss me, only pecks. The remorse faded, the tears I once saw when he felt bad for what he did were gone entirely, in fact he started having an I-hate-life attitude and walked around with a heavy chip on his shoulder.  I didn’t want an only child and convinced him to have another.  We had robot sex at the right time a few months in a row and became pregnant.  Eventually, he became more aloof than I’d ever experienced and I grew to loathe him.

When baby #2 was one year old, we sat on the basement couch and I told him I was done.  I’d grown so disgusted with him for not seeing me, not loving me, not responding to me, I just could not take it.  He was uninterested in sex, blamed it on everything but me.  Blamed it on work, being too tired, having to get up too early, eating too much, not eating enough, having a headache, having a stomachache, feeling fat that day, his back hurting.  I was angry, not sad.  He acted as if it really mattered to him, that he would try harder to connect with me, love me, etc etc etc. I had none of it, because I had asked for these things before- each time it resulted in a few hours or days of him being tuned in and open to me.

I was done trying.  It felt great to be rid of him.  I filed for divorce, I cried only then- it finally felt sad and real.

He was living somewhere with 5 other men in a nasty house.  He came to play dad with the children, we sat at the kitchen table and divided assets and finances.  He accepted the costs of divorce and we were satisfied, submitting the documents to the lawyer.

It was when I went to sign a lease on my own apartment that I couldn’t go through with it.  I didn’t want the house.  The landlord accepted me because despite having no income, I had enough savings to not be a risk.  Couldn’t sign.  Decided there was a chance we could make it as a family and back together we became.  More useless therapy and a called off divorce.

I did not forgive him, he did not understand anything.  I still hated him underneath my efforts to love him.

We moved again, and again again.

After baby #3 I started working out, eating well, looking good, putting effort into myself.  I was in a place where I was noticed by other men, making friends outside of my normal circle, and it felt great.  It only emphasized how much my husband did NOT see my beauty, my kindness or generosity or general awesomness.  It was during these years that it became clear.  I gave birth to his third son without much acknowledgement.  I made 160k in sales thae year I had that baby, without a hug or a smile.  Instead, he made cupcakes for me when I pressed him for some kind of acknowledgement.

He could no longer hug me, he could not kiss me.  I didn’t give up, although I knew in my bones that this was not right.  When I tried to hug him he pulled away from me, would hug me with his arms only but there had to be a space between our bodies touching.

When I tried to kiss him, he physically pulled back and away from me and started jabbering about something- kissing never went past a dry peck.

We scheduled sex for Thursday nights for a few years.  It happened most weeks because he had enough time to prepare to deal with it.  We had sex 2 or 3 times a month.  Certainly, he wouldn’t touch me when I had my period.  Or when I was pregnant, both of which happened pretty often.  He just “wasn’t comfortable” then.  Any excuse.  Occasionally we would have sex twice in a week, a Thursday and a weekend, we always laughed about this being “so much sex.”  Except that I wasn’t laughing.  He knew I had a desire for much more but would never initiate.  He never initiated anything sexual nor intimate.

Through our entire relationship, he has always been a surface-attentive dad, taking the kids to scouts, out sledding, playing ball in front yard.  Always a beautiful picture of a perfect family on the outside.  He’s had a great job, we have beautiful, healthy children.  He gets me thoughtful birthday gifts, cooks dinner, cleans up, does dishes, vacuums, takes care of all household maintenance and yard stuff, fixes toilets, leaky sinks, does all the laundry.  All great ways to look like a good man, keep up appearances, and neglect his wife.  I often referenced all this and offered to do more, but he “wanted” to do it all.  Anything to keep himself in good status in his own mind, while neglectful in the most important ways.

We moved again.  Had another baby.  Now I’m 33, baby #4 is 10 months old.  I’m an amazing wife, an amazing mom, pulling off incredible feats of awesomeness daily.  Cooking, baking, momming, working, crafting, having my own life, looking hot, working out, being fun, funny, accepting of him, having wonderful friends, encouraging him to go out and have friends, wanting sex frequently.  I was very comfortable in myself during this period, I felt great, I looked great, I was friendly and outgoing and open to the universe.  I gave off a vibe of kindness and vibrance and had a smile that glowed.  I communicated freely and happily, asking for more sex, telling him how much I would love it if he would hug me, kiss me, touch me.  He always “tried” but simply couldn’t bring himself to do these things.  I bought him books, self help books to help him learn how to initiate sex, enjoy sex, be passionate with his wife.  He “read” them but didn’t absorb anything at all.  I think he just sat and stared at pages to appease me.  Numb.

He never augured with me, never ever disagreed with me or told me no.  He still couldn’t handle bodily contact when I hugged him, always had to pull back.  I hadn’t been kissed with any wetness or tongue in 9 or 10 years.  I always tried.  I kept it playful.  I was very cognizant of not being too demanding of these things because I didn’t want to feel like the man in the relationship.  I wore skirts with no underwear, I walked around in lingerie in front of him and he acted like it was normal and didn’t ever avert his eyes to my body.  Acted like he didn’t notice these things.  Or did notice with words, but never could remotely act upon them or show any interest beyond his words.

4 days before Christmas, I went online one night when he was sleeping and found some random marriage relationship forum.  I posted what was going on.

They insisted that one of three things was happening, 1. Gay 2. Affair 3. Porn addiction

I’d never snooped before.  I went and got his phone and looked first at his texts, looking for anything mildly flirty or friendly or inappropriate with anyone, even male names.  Nothing.  Internet next.  The history- wiped clear.  Totally empty.  I found it quite curious that he had it set to private browsing.  Why would that be?  I went deeper into some archives setting and discovered thousands of image downloads (only assumed to be porn) and a website that helped people locate and find “good” prostitutes, helping hooker users search for prostitutes based on cost, location, features, type of sex, etc.

I woke him up, on a Thursday night at 12:30 am, I was 30% angry 70% scared.  He was so confused, so scared, so freaked out that I’d found out.  He immediately told me that it was porn.  I was confused.  Porn?  Why would my husband who doesn’t like sex at all be looking at porn?  I beg this man for sex, to touch me sexually, and he is looking at PORN?

I was enraged.  How often?  Not that often- once or twice a week maybe?  When??  When I went to bed early and he stayed up late.  On business trips.

I was crushed, crying for days.  He was so sorry, of course, again.

Of course, I asked, is that all??  What about that other website?  Oh, he didn’t know anything about that.  Must have been a pop up.

For days, I felt betrayed, hurt, so alone.  I was neglected sexually for YEARS, a decade really, and now I learn he is masturbating to his iphone screen?  I searched his computer- also kept on “private” browsing, which means no records are kept… which of course means it is filled with porn too.

Each night when we would lie in bed and I would cry, he would remain strong and non emotional.  I was so hurt.  He’d always say the right words, those that indicated remorse, but no emotion was ever present.

I badgered for the truth.  It came out that it was not once or twice a week, it was many many times a week.  Oh, when he travels maybe 3 or 4 times in a day.  Oh yeah, and sometimes in his, car, at work.  This is a man who can’t LOOK at my breasts, kiss me, grab my ass, (all things I’d told him would make me feel like he desires me) how could this man who can’t desire sex with me- now getting off to porn 6-10x a week?

My immediate fix was to ask him to not do it any more, immediately, the night he told me.   The website I’d been to gave me some recommendations, and one was to a great website, yourbrainonporn.com.  He immediately agreed to “give me every orgasm,” no more porn nor masturbation, but I had to go from being angry and hurt to willing to get him off frequently.  I accepted this easily and made it my mission.  Still, he did not initiate.  I had to take it upon myself to initiate sex with this man who destroyed my heart, it was my self inflicted job to do so.

Someone told me about a porn addiction intensive therapy.  A go-away retreat where he left me for 5 days to fly out and do this.  It included a polygraph.

The night before the polygraph he freaked out, telling me all the reasons polygraphs were bullshit.  No way, not buying it.  I was disgusted with him for hiding more from me.

The morning he left he confessed more, because he knew he had to.  This was 2/11, so we’d gone 6 weeks of trying to heal partial bullshit, him swearing left and right that the porn was all, the hooker website he just read for the articles, nothing else, nothing else, nothing else, nothing else nothing else.

Not so much.  Turns out he also frequented whore houses.  Most were disguised as “massage parlors.”  He also utilized craigslist for prostitution.  He had sex with prostitutes 20+ times over the course of the past 4 years.

SEX WITH PROSTITUTES.

Supposedly, it was all massage turned jacking off and blow jobs, except for “one” sexual intercourse, but it doesn’t even matter to me.  Nothing matters.  He used protection for the intercourse, that mattered.  It was a polygraph question, too.

I remember the day I went to spread my legs and get tested for STD’s.  Sobering, angering, depressing.  I was irate, and let him know.  I was still crying daily, depressed, in bed, sobbing most days.  We were talking a lot, crying a lot together.

Everything made me irate.  Every realization.  He hoarded our cash and spent it on sex with other women every month or two for years, getting by on porn/masturbation in between the hookers.  While not.giving.me.any.intimacy.

The following weeks were a blur.  A blur of me not giving up.  Giving up.  Filing for divorce.  Still not giving up.  Sorting finances and custody. Him moving out, signing a lease.  Crying, lots of crying.  Laying on the couch.  Amidst all of the blurriness though, everything seemed so easy and so hard at the same time.  Logistically, life was so freaking easy.  I didn’t have to do dishes, I didn’t have to clear off counters or get beautiful in time for him to see me.  I didn’t have to get the mail if I didn’t feel like it, no one cared how messy the house was or how much laundry was built up.  I had a lot of space in the garage, and I kept the thermostat at whatever I wanted.  I didn’t have to wait for him for dinner, I didn’t have to cringe when he opted to eat cereal instead of my home made dinner, it was just fucking simple.  Life, simplified.

Nights were easy when the big kids were home.  I had to keep my shit together.  But days were hard.  I have no memory of feeding my two young children although I know I did.  No memory of the big kids last day of school, I know I missed a couple of things I’d signed up to do, teachers were understanding though.  I have no memory of changing diapers.  I don’t even remember living during the day.  I lost a lot of weight.  I threw up and dry heaved on my empty stomach daily.  I journaled/blogged a lot when I felt the lowest.

The day he moved out was EASILY the worst mom/parenting day of my life.  It was absolutely horrific.  The children screaming, SCREAMING, hanging on him, jumping towards him off the couch, trying to hold him down, keep him home.  Running for their lives holding his coat and his shoes so he couldn’t leave.  Blocking the door, using all of their might, all of it.  Veins bulging out of their faces, broken capillaries in eyeballs from screaming and screaming some more.  Baby was in his crib, they were screaming- I couldn’t hold them all at the same time while he tried to leave, one would always break free.  They were racing from me, pulling and pushing, faces drenched from tears and snot.  Going out one door to stop him from leaving.  Hanging their bodies from his arms, holding onto his legs.

My kids aren’t overly dramatic at all, they are chill and easy.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  Neighbors heard the screaming.  Came over, concerned, after he pulled away.  I’m sure they were watching from the windows as it happened.  Maybe it’s even on youtube somewhere as the most heartbreaking parents breaking up scene ever.

I know that when I got my redhead up from his naps every day though, he held me extra tight.  I know that the Universe spoke to me through him.  I felt it all come together when I held him in my arms, snuggled and still or sound asleep.

My neighbor was over often to hug me and play with my kids.  I think we talked a lot, I know that sometimes she made me very angry and other times she was like a sister to me.  Numb.

My husband didn’t let go.  He got back from the intensive therapy retreat and didn’t give up on himself or me or us.

I communicated with him, I was still giving him a chance even though I’d given up.  I’d given up but couldn’t let go.  I was dead inside, DEAD, but couldn’t let go all the way.  I still had hope, even in the darkest moments.

So many memories of screaming on the couch, alone, in pain during the days.  I don’t know where my kids were, maybe they were asleep during the worst moments.  I don’t know how my big two got to school.  I left on Wed nights or he took them and they all went to his apartment Friday night through Sunday afternoon.

Sometimes I would call him when I truly couldn’t function as a mother.  He came from work, he always came.  The kids were always fine, but he came to help get me through the moments.  I prayed out loud when I was alone, screamed them out.

We started spending Sunday afternoons together as a family, through the evening when he left.

One Wed. when he picked them up, I had made dinner and made a container for him too.  He cried at this and thanked me profusely, shocked at how big my heart was.  I told him I had extra, that it was no big deal, and he held me, telling me how sorry he was.

I felt hope.

Through this all, I somehow still had sex with him on Wednesdays and Sundays when I saw him, I don’t think we missed a single Wed. or Sun, ever.  Despite not being present in my body, I wanted to offer *something* to our relationship.  Something to the history of our togetherness, to the good times, to help keep him from porn and prostitutes and do what I could.  All I could do was keep his balls empty.

It wasn’t out of self sacrifice or a lack of self respect, it was for myself.  The only piece I could control.  All that I had to give in any hope of saving our marriage, if it was worth an attempt to save.

Every night that he was gone, he sent me an email or a vox.  He went deeper inside of himself than he ever had before, to find a piece of him that had gone missing a decade ago.  He found a part of him that could feel, that could see, that could love.

He had been numb for so long.  The emails and voxes that I got from him were unlike anything even remotely close to HIM that I knew.  They gave me hope.  Quietly, I hoped that we could divorce and still be friendly and I could be free of any other adult in daily life.  I pictured a glorious life filled with companionship from another man, who may or may not be my sexual outlet, and then sex with some man- probably sex without commitment.  I didn’t care.  I knew I could get sex without commitment and I certainly did NOT dream of sex with commitment.  I knew I’d never likely get married again because I just imagined how great life could be without dealing with another adult stuck to me all the time, (not because then I’d lose the incoming $$, which would also happen.)  I learned to love being separated.  It was the best of both worlds.  I had weekends FREE.  Free free free.

Free to sleep in, in absolute silence.  I dreamed of this life despite knowing it would not be free of all hassles.

Until Lena wandered to our porch.  Lena, the angel.  He was over the night Lena came to us, bonded us back together.  Gave us something to work towards, talk about, someone else to help.  Lena the dog was a gift from above.  Lena brought me together with neighbors, got me out, got me moving, had me focus on something other than my pain.  I could focus on Lena’s pain.

There was some conflict here and there, but we worked through it.  There was a lot of me hitting waves of anger, after I’d started to heal.   I remember from the infidelity of 2003 that people told me, and I found to be true: When you are hurt and betrayed like that, healing will go in cycles, in waves.  You’ll be better for a few days, feel even HAPPY for a few days, be thankful for the progress… and then it will all come back, in full force, for a long time, weeks maybe.  Then a week or three may go by.  And then it comes back again, maybe a littttle less forceful and for a little less time.  And another several “good” weeks.   And then it comes back, maybe a little less severely than the last time.  And so it goes.  Eventually, the good streaks last years, and the bad moments become so weak that you can let them just pass by.

I started having good moments.  Moments of being thankful for the progress I was seeing in him- thankful to the universe.  And even in the thick of the bad waves, I still felt the presence of God/Universe in me, telling me it would be okay, that no matter what, I would be okay.

There were many events, some little, some big, that showed me that what he was doing was real, at least for now.

We started talking and crying and holding each other a lot.  I could see and feel that he had feelings.

The intensive had changed him, had opened him up to allowing himself to have feelings.

The intensive gave him so much.  He tried to hard to connect with me when I had sex with him.  He looked at me, he stared at my face.  Lights on, facing each other.  That was how we were told to have sex, if I was willing.  So he could SEE me, the real me.

We talked, we talked and cried and I had good days and bad days.

We went on a family vacation together while we were still separated.  In July, he moved back in.  We took it day by day.  It hurt me too deeply to recommit to him outloud, but we were going in that direction.  Mean people had mean things to say, even though they didn’t know the story.  Lots of people assumed that he had an affair, maybe even fathered some other children with another family I think.  People can think whatever they want.  But they didn’t stop themselves from telling me what I shouldn’t do.

I tell him often what I need, and it is up to him to decide whether it is reasonable, doable, and if he chooses to do it.  I am careful to not be demanding, because I know this is his recovery and his path.

I do not stay with him “for the kids” … that is the worst.  I do not stay with him because I think he is the best I could ever have, or because when I am with him, I am the happiest I could ever be.  I stay with him because I feel it is the right thing to do.  It is what’s meant to be for today.  It may not be the right choice for next week or next year or even tomorrow, but today it is.

I never prayed for him to get better for me, to stay with me, nothing. I only prayed for strength, to get through it regardless of outcome, to guide me.  My prayers have brought me to this place of staying, of recommitting, of choosing him for another day.  I don’t think I would be here if I didn’t see so much genuine promise.  And while I don’t trust myself to identify the truth (because I had no idea this was going on), I trust what I SEE happening in front of me.  If it turns out that he is still fucking around now, I accept it.  It will sting, but the fine part is that I know I’ll get through it.  I’ve been through the worst of it.  I’m not scared of being alone, I’m not scared of making the wrong choices.  I’m just doing what the Universe guides me to do, one day at a time.

We don’t talk about it directly any more.  We talk about the pain, the hurt, we talk about his progress, my progress, our new relationship and it’s learning curves.

Most recently, my issue is that I don’t feel that he SEES me, that he doesn’t take in the details of my awesomeness.  That I feel one dimensional to him in terms of sexuality/intimacy.  He is working on that.  I have found a new level of patience, a very very deep and heartfelt level of patience.

He was diagnosed with attachment (detachment?) disorder.  I don’t recall exactly.  And that the day he started using porn to zone out and check out of reality, he never developed much more emotionally, just learned how to get through the show of life.  He was still the age of a 12 year old sexually, spiritually, and emotionally.  He gave up on trying to relate to others with any depth at that age.  How sad for him.  I do empathize with his childhood, his life, his time up until this year because going through life numb must have been hard, in comparison to what he feels now.

Dealing with my old neighbors/friends has been hard.  Lots of them are hard core democrat feminist don’t-take-no-shit-from-no-man losers, so while I haven’t told them everything, it’s probably spread like wildfire in that absurd neighborhood, and who knows what story it has turned in to.  I don’t even care.  I refused to tell them, straight up.  So much life has happened in the past year.

I was badgered hurtfully at one girls night.  Another one I put my foot down and told them to stop asking, that it was none of their business and I handle my life privately.  These are “friends” but not at all real friends.  I’ve told several people in real life, probably a dozen, but they are chosen because I wanted to tell them, and telling each person has brought some new degree of closure or peace.

He talks to his therapist every other week now, and has a support group (from the intensive) phone call, 2.5 hours long., and a weekly mans sex addict group meeting locally.

We moved, we got out of that toxic neighborhood.  I’ve scarred many friendships with him and old neighbors by telling some of my friends in our daily lives too much, but he accepts that that is his to deal with and live with.

We’re living in a new old little house filled with joy and hope and love and tears.  More hope and love than tears, but they’re all here.

* okay, pause– way way too much to share with anyone.  Guess I can’t really handle writing out a condensed version…. maybe another time.  Today is not the day.