Friday, November 30, 2012

Divorce was not an option.

Marriage is a big deal. It means committing yourself to another person for life. It means making someone else's needs equal to your own, and compromising and loving someone else until death. This is not always the easiest thing to do. It certainly is not easy when you have just found out your husband was having sex with other people while he was unemployed and you had not only just given birth to your first child, but also were eyeball deep in trying to care for said child while you were at work so that he could concentrate at home on finding work.

My parents divorced when I was in high school. I felt as though I could stop it, and when I could not it left me very angry and upset. I escaped to college and had the added guilt of feeling as though I had abandoned my siblings. We all went through really tough times dealing with our parent's divorce, and all of us came out of the mess with the steely resolve to never ever go through it again. My faith was a part of this desire, but no more than my parent's divorce.

When I met my husband, this was something that we talked about before we were ever at a point where we knew if marriage was an option. He told me he felt the same way. If we were going to commit, it was for good.

Fast forward to our first year of marriage. To be honest, it felt as though I was doomed to live a life of misery. I was unsure of my ability to have children, and our life was incredibly chaotic. My husband seemed to have one foot out the door and told me that his feelings for me had changed. It was heartbreaking to be 22, newly married, experiencing family tragedy and feel entirely alone. At that point, the only thing keeping me from leaving suddenly was my view that our marriage was sacramental, and that I promised before God to be with him always.

I felt as though he was keeping his commitment to me because he hated to lose. Getting married young when all of your friends are telling you not to is tough. Getting divorced within a year is tougher. Going through any of the above when you hate losing or admitting you are wrong is even more difficult. My husband hates to lose and hates to be wrong. I did not feel loved or safe: I felt rejected and as though I was something to "win."

The next few years were slightly easier, but there were really tough moments. Our sex life was still mostly about him, and it was common for him to masturbate. I tried to ignore it. Our arguments would get scary. I also am not a fan of losing an argument, so I would let things bottle up and then get confrontational; there were a few moments that I was afraid he would hit me. The truth was, I knew little about his mind and what he was capable of. When I tried to get him to open up, or to talk about things when we were not upset, I was shut out and ignored.

I remember one particular incident that nearly ended the marriage long before I was aware of the affairs. We were at a party at his cousin's house. Her husband was not particularly a nice person. I was talking to him on the couch to pass the time. He was a little too drunk and pretended to accidentally feel me up. I awkwardly smiled to not make a scene, and stood up to go to the car. As I began walking to the door, I noticed my husband was coming in, and suddenly his cousin's husband rushed passed me to tell him all about how he accidentally groped me and he was so sorry. My husband looked at me and I was still a little shocked at how fast everything had happened, so I didn't look upset. So he high-fived him. When his cousin's husband left, I told him I was going home and he could stay or go, I didn't care.

He followed me out to the car to ask what had happened and explained why he thought I was not upset. The initial shock was wearing off and I was really angry. They were supposed to go to a game the next morning, and I was really furious at the high-five. I exploded in the car and things got really awful. He began screaming at me in a way I had never experienced from him. I was driving, but was fearful of violence. I stopped the car outside our home and told him to get out. When he refused, I got out and got into our second vehicle.

I had no where to go. It was late, and I had no one to call. I waited until I was sure he was asleep and slept on the couch. I heard him leave for the game in the morning and I went to our room to pack. I called the only friend I had (another of his cousins) to see if I could stay there for a little while so I could collect my thoughts. She told me no. It was hard to make the choice to leave and not be there for work the next day, so I stayed and let the matter drop.

This is one of the most extreme examples of what our marriage was facing at various points. There was a side of him that I could not fully know: there was rage, anger and events that I only saw glimpses of until After Knowing.

There were a few times that I had considered leaving the marriage, but the fact that I had put so much thought and prayer into the decision to take my vows, made life afterwards look depressing. Could I move back near family and be divorced before 25? I could not handle the separation from the Eucharist that would entail: God was all I would have left to show for my life. I did not know if a separation was easier or more difficult: it certainly seemed lonely. I missed the boy I had dated. I missed the way he looked at me and kissed me: I missed feeling as though we were meant to be together.

By the time we began to seriously figure out whether or not I could have children, things were better. We seemed happy again, and had spoken a few times about those first few years and the things we regretted about it all. There was love again, and I felt as though I was an equal again.

To be honest, I am not sure what began his search for another affair. My theory is that it had something to do with being out of work with a family to support. Or that he had too much time on his hands. To think that I was initially worried he would spend too much time looking at porn is now laughable given the reality. While I always had suspected something devious was happening during our first year of marriage, I never suspected it would happen again, let alone with the woman he chose. The betrayal is unreal to this day.

I did not want a divorce or separation After Knowing. I needed him to know that if he did not love me or wanted out, that he needed to just say so. After all, that had always been our understood arrangement: No cheating, just be honest.  I was more confused by his behavior than anything: all he had to do was say he wanted out and I would go live my very Catholic separated life and be on my way. So why didn't he just say it?

The empowerment that came with knowing that I had always done all that I could do to fulfill my vows was strong. Knowing that there was an underlying issue made me feel relieved. I did nothing to deserve this, a fact he was rather clear about. The truth is always more complicated than we imagine it to be: he did not want his marriage to be over, but he also did not want to give up casual sex. This was the moment that he full understood that he had an addiction to overcome and a choice to make, because the double life was no longer possible.

After Knowing, it took some time for me to know and feel as though he made his choice and he wanted to be married to me. I cannot tell you when exactly I began to trust it, but over the past few years I have grown to trust.

I still do not know what would happen if our marriage regressed. It seems that when I reflect on the past years of our marriage, it is hard to imagine a situation that we could not conquer, or a time when I am not called to unconditional love for him.

Every day of our marriage since the affairs surfaced, my husband has proven to me that he loves me and that his wife and children are all he cares about in this world. He works incredibly hard to make sure I know this. I do not fear him, and I do not feel rejected. Divorce was not an option.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Two Years

This past week marked quite the milestone in my family's life. My oldest child turned three, and we passed the two year mark in rebuilding our marriage.

In a way, I am surprised at how it passed so quietly. This time last year, I was anxious and untrusting. I checked all our accounts for suspicious charges and felt queasy. I had dreams about finding out new horrors, and I felt cold and detached. I was considering individual counseling because every morning I would wake up and steal a few moments to myself in the shower or getting ready for the day and the time alone would bring new questions and new things that I wanted answers to. In a way, I think I wanted to hold on to the anger I felt because I was scared of what would happen if he sensed I was not angry anymore. The anger was comforting to me and destructive to us.

Time after time I would pick an argument or blurt out honest yet insensitive things. I would talk about being happy overall, but still angry. Or how I was in love with him over all, but I was struggling to love him in the moment. After more instances of this behavior than I would care to admit, I began to see that he was staying true to his words and his promises. He truly had turned a corner and was rather patiently waiting for me to acknowledge it and be comfortable with it. He was rock solid while I was faltering.

While I was in the hospital having out first child, he was in and out: one night he did not come back at all and another night he was out until 4 am. I had called him, exhausted the second night, asking where he was as the baby was not cooperating and he told me he would be there soon and called the nurse from his cell to come and take the baby. Once I was aware of the affair that had been going on around this time, I confirmed that he was in fact where he had said he had been, but it shook my confidence in him as a husband and a father to know that there was even a chance that I was recovering from surgery and delivering a child and he was not there. After I had given birth to our second child, things were just amazingly different. We had family in town and it was difficult for him to be there the entire stay, but he was attentive and loving and just wanted to experience his newest child's first few days. In a way, the birth of our second child marked the birth of our new marriage more than the vow renewal. We started spending the nights talking about how amazing our children were rather than dwelling on the difficulties of our past. I began to see him as the devoted father that he truly is, and that he really truly did love me, but had never experienced unconditional love before.

On this two year mark, I look at him with loving eyes and a warm heart. I see an incredible man that needed the opportunity to make things right and to save his family. I also see in me a woman that needed the strength to grow patience and mercy.

I do not believe that the affairs were God's will. I believe that God's will was to allow us the free will to make the choice between good and bad time and time again. I believe that we all make poor choices from time to time. When I desperately needed God's love and strength to stay and work through the problems in our marriage, it was right there on the table. I needed only to embrace it, and it was mine. I would like to own the strength myself: to say I am a strong and brave woman, but really I just felt myself give it up. When my natural instincts were to cut and run, I stayed because I needed to, and my family needed me to.

I have never been more grateful for courage in my entire life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pornography and Masturbation

Today's post comes from a reader and her experience's with pornography and addiction. What she describes is very similar to the issues with pornography and masturbation that my husband and I went through. She has requested she remain anonymous, but feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

After I read through this blog, I just knew I had to contribute. My heart beat a little faster seeing somewhere that Catholic women can talk about these issues instead of pretending they don't/didn't exist or feeling like they are the only person going through it. I agree with the writer of this blog, that there don't seem to be places for Catholic women to turn when dealing with sexual infidelity. I'm hoping that sharing my story might help someone else to know that they aren't alone and might encourage  people going through this same issue.

My story is a bit different as it doesn't involve our marriage as much as the beginning of our relationship, and faith plays a bit of a different role. My husband, then boyfriend, and I were sexually active fairly early on in our relationship. I was a "Sunday Catholic" or "Cafeteria Catholic" at the time, and he was a non-practicing Baptist. We were both products of our messed up sexual culture. A few months into the relationship, I found out that he was using porn and masturbation. For a month or two, I told myself it was normal and that I was the one with issues. I told myself that if my self esteem was high enough, it wouldn't bother me. I told myself that this was all fantasy, and I was reality- so what was the issue? Any time I looked online for resources, most of them seemed to say that all men use porn, all men masturbate, and that women needed to accept that this was normal. So that's what I tried to do. That didn't last long though. I would use his computer sometimes when I was visiting, see porn links in the 'recently viewed' section, and felt like my heart dropped into my stomach. It made me feel cheap, cheated, and not good enough. I wondered what was wrong with me that he was turning to women on a screen. Over the next few months, I expressed this a few different times to my then boyfriend. Each time, I would approach it from a place of emotional exhaustion, which I'm sure looked like anger. I would fight myself in my head, lose the battle, and then lay it all out there for him, instead of ever approaching him calmly and lovingly. His defense  mechanisms would immediately kick in, and he would say in a huff, "I'll quit looking at it if you want me to". But I had huge fears of him resenting me, or saying he would stop and then doing it behind my back. I would respond "I want you to want to stop". And of course, that got us nowhere until the next time we had a similar conversation.

Instead of things getting better or even staying the same, they spiraled even more. I became obsessed with his use of porn and masturbation. I couldn't control it, which bothered me, and I felt it controlled him and me, which bothered me even more! I would sometimes try to initiate sex and he would admit he had just masturbated before coming to see me. To me at the time, it was one thing (though still hurtful) for him to do it when he wasn't going to see me, I was out of town, etc. and another for him to do it knowing he would see me within hours. I began putting parameters on his porn use, and I think he agreed because he thought it was a compromise, and that him giving in a little would make things better for me. We made rules that seem so insane now, like he would only do it if ________, or he would let me know every time he did it and what he looked at so I wouldn't feel he was being sneaky, or I would make him some 'videos' that he could use instead. As you can probably imagine, that was incredibly unhealthy, and that spiraled even further. We were a mess. We still had our normal life and normal dating relationship outside of this, but the longer it went, the more it started to affect our daily life. 

Right at a year after we met, we had what I refer to as "D day". I looked at his computer while he was at work and saw what he had looked at and at what time that morning, and realized that not only did he look at a LOT in one 'session', and not only did it make him late for work, but he was looking at it while talking to me online. I flipped out. I lost all composure, and called a friend (the only friend who knew all of this was happening, as she was dealing with a similar issue with her husband). She was boarding a flight for Germany and couldn't talk much. Actually, I'm really thankful for that because if she had been able to stay on the phone with me, she probably would eventually have calmed me down and made me rethink saying something. Instead, we had to hang up when I was still livid and sobbing. I ended up calling my then boyfriend at work and basically told him I couldn't do this anymore, that I felt betrayed, disgusted, and cheapened. I left his apartment and went to mine. He ended up leaving work early and came over. He was really scared that I was done with our relationship. At that point, I was thinking I might have to be. I honestly don't remember that first conversation. I'm sure I cried and yelled, and I'm sure he tried to talk in circles out of self preservation. 

Another thing I'm thankful for is that I had a work event that night. I had to leave about an hour after he got there. How I functioned that night, I'm not really sure. But it gave me 3 hours to calm down and it gave him 3 hours to really evaluate himself. He texted me about halfway through the work event and asked me to promise not to leave him. He said that he had done some research and found all these stories of porn and masturbation addiction, and he could see himself in those stories. He could see where he was in the stories, and then could see how far it took some of the men (affairs, extreme behaviors, issues with the law, etc). It scared him. It was the first time that day that I felt like maybe we would make it through this. Before that, I felt that no matter how much I loved him, I wasn't willing to go through this for the rest of our lives. So I went to his apartment after the event, and though I was still extremely emotional, we were able to have our first productive talk. I told him that just his word was not enough for me, that I needed to know he was seeking some type of help. I told him I needed something too, because my heart and self esteem were very damaged from dealing with this for almost a year. Later that night, he found a program called Recovery Nation. I credit that website as a huge reason of why we were able to salvage our relationship. There is a section for the couple to do together (unfortunately incomplete as the creator passed away and some of his files are missing, but they are slowly working to complete it), and a section for each person to do separately. We chose the separate route first, out of my insistence, because I knew we both needed to work on who we were as individuals before we tried to work on ourselves as a couple. It is very thorough, very emotionally involved, and took us quite some time to complete. If I recall correctly, doing the entire his/her sections and what exists of the together sections took us about 6-8 months or so of doing one to two lessons per week. Some people need in person counseling or therapy, and we thought about it, but felt this resource was adequate for what we needed. I am in no way paid or given any incentive to mention the site, but I do whole heartedly recommend it for couples going through similar issues. I don't think we would be who we are today, or where we are today, without it. 

We had a long road ahead of us. I still had lots of resentment and hurt feelings that we had to wade through. We had to rebuild who we were as a couple and as individuals. My self esteem was non-existent and I had to work to build it back up. My husband's entire mindset and way of living had a major overhaul. He had to find out who he was without this addiction. We had to figure out what worked for us and what didn't. We had to figure out how to meet my emotional needs (talking about it until we were blue in the face) without compromising his emotional needs (letting it go as much as possible so he wasn't dragged through the mud about who he use to be, and could become who he wanted to be). It was hard, and it was rewarding. Coming back from the depths of despair, we both began to cling to God. We added in prayer to our every day lives, and began attending Mass regularly. About 6 months after "D day" my husband decided that he wanted to join the church. His joining RCIA was the push I needed to delve further into my faith. We both jumped in head first and our relationship with God blossomed, which really strengthened our relationship with each other. When we look back on that dark time now, it is still hard and it still has emotions attached to it, but I always tell my husband to look at what God has done for us, and to be proud of where we came from. We left a sinful way of living, turned to God in our darkest hour, and He did not disappoint. We are strong Catholics now, faithful to the magesterium. Only a few years ago I was a contracepting, cafeteria Catholic and he was someone bound by sexual addiction. So there can be a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and a person can change. We owe it all to God and it did not come without a lot of hard work, but it was so worth it to be where we are today. 

Last, here are a few tips if you are going through this:
  • Don't try to talk yourself into thinking that porn and masturbation use are normal. Don't try to justify the behavior for your husband.
  • Approach it from a standpoint of love. Everyone's "D day" is different, and some people may have to have many of them. But I can tell you that any time I approached the issue from frustration or exhaustion, it got us nowhere. Had I sat down to really think it through, and then approached it lovingly, I sometimes wonder if we could have avoided "D day" all together.
  • If you turn to a friend, make sure it is someone who will uphold your Catholic beliefs and value your marriage/relationship. I felt I only had one person to turn to and, while she was very helpful in some ways, she was damaging in others. For a while, she made me think it was something I should just get used to, and so I tried to do that. She also encouraged me at one point to walk away. It was coming from a place of sincerity and concern, but it wasn't what I needed and wasn't helpful.
  • Find outside help if you need it. For us, that came in the form of Recovery Nation. My husband also reached out to a priest (though that backfired) well before he was even thinking about becoming Catholic, after hearing a homily on sexual teachings of the Church, and we did talk about getting therapy, but didn't feel the need. You and/or your  husband may need it and that's ok. It doesn't make you weak; in fact it makes you strong for recognizing it and seeking it out.

Out of respect for my husband, I have agreed to remain as anonymous as possible.  If you are going through this, have gone through this, and want someone to talk to about this topic, please email the author of this blog and she will connect you with me. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rediscovering Me

Even months before I had found out about the affairs, I was in a redefining period of my life. I was just discovering what life as a parent meant. I also had to add this new role to my life and sort of rearrange my life in a way so that everything still fit and I felt like me.

The initial six months After Knowing really envigorated this quest for me. I was getting used to my new body, and acknowledging old and new wants. I cannot say that every woman goes through this, I can only explain what it was like for me, and it was empowering.

We live in a sex-crazed world: I would bet money most women have thought about what they would do  and how they would react if they found out their husband cheated on them with multiple women. I had always expected to feel disgusted and distant. The truth is, I finally felt like we were approaching honesty. It felt as though, for the first time in a very long time that I had his full and undivided attention. Before finding out, I had all these creative plans to help me to feel less like a mom 24/7 and more like a woman. I wanted to feel sexy! These needs and wants did not fall away After Knowing, so I followed my instincts.

I did not want to fall apart. I did not want to take a single day off of work to mope; I just wanted to focus on me. So I did.

I bought new clothes, bras and underwear. I made plans to see friends I had not seen in a while. I focused on eating healthy and cooking more and being a better parent. I stopped feeling guilty for the occaisional pampering when I treated myself to something nice. For the first time in six years, I sort of went on auto pilot where our marriage was concerned and I let him lead. I stopped waiting on him and I just DID. It was so easy to be wrapped up in only making things work with him and trying not to push his buttons, that I just needed to change gears and focus on me and what I needed from our marriage.

I felt different. I felt as though he noticed me again, and like he wanted me. We were able to speak freely again with each other about what we wanted for our marriage and what we wanted out of life. It was almost as though we were meeting again for the first time in some ways. There were no secrets or lies. We spent hours talking to each other about how we wanted to raise our child, ways to feel closer, things we liked to do, our sex life... it brought me to tears on multiple occaisions when I thought about how bad things had been and how I had just accepted it for fear of rocking the boat. It was as though I had previously been swallowed up by the marriage, the pregnancy, and by him. I was slowing coming out of it when I found the text messages, and then suddenly what I needed was clear to me and he was either on board or he was not.

My parents divorced when I was in high school. I had grown in my Catholic faith throughout colllege, and these two factors made me decidedly Anti-Divorce. Back when we were dating, he had told me he was against divorce as well. Amid all our talks about our marriage and how we needed to heal and fix things, it was clear that our marriage would not survive another affair. I was confident at the time that had roles been reversed and I had cheated on him, that I would not be given the opportunity to fix things. I was not ready to give up on our life together, but if he would have been unable commit and "pull his weight", I was confident that a separation would occur. Even if I had to live the rest of his life in a legal but Catholic separation, I was willing to do it if it meant my child would be in a better environment. I struggled greatly with responding mercifully yet firm to the truth about our marriage and the sex addiction. I felt as though my God was calling me to rediscover myself, and to show my husband what unconditional love was. It is my personal goal to answer this call daily. I do not always feel I have the strength to do so, but fortunately for me, I am reminded of the amazing things our love is capable of when I look at our children.

Nearly two years after I began to include myself in my focus, I feel completely renewed. I make myself a priority the same as I do my marriage and my children. We have a balance that our life was sorely missing. When I am important to me, I begin to see how I am important to my husband and my children as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Trouble with Affairs...

The trouble with affairs, is that the more people that are in the know, the more it begins to define you. This ugly event in your life isn't something that is easily kept quiet: humans need affirmation and discussion and empathy at times, but if it becomes a public matter, you are the Woman that Stayed and he is the Man that Cheated.

We have messages in this world that are harmful to reconciliation when affairs are involved:

"Once a cheater, always a cheater."
"People don't change."
"She must have no self esteem."
"I'd cut it off..."

I submit that sexual dishonesty is more common than we want to admit. This does not make it right, but when we face a 50% divorce rate, that tells me we are slowly giving up on each other. When I asked myself if I still wanted to be married to him or if I still loved him, the answer was always a resounding "YES." I held on to this when things were really difficult.

For the first 18 months or so, cheating was seemingly everywhere to me. Every movie, TV show, magazine or book had the elements of an affair. It was difficult not to think about it every waking moment. My inner dialogue was on overdrive. "Why do people do this to each other?" "Why do we blame the spouse that did not cheat?" "Why is cheating sensationalized?" "Why do we not have respect for those that try to make things work?"

Outside of a few very close friends, I did not disclose our marital problems to others. I did not want to have the chorus of shame for staying, or the sympathetic looks that came with the standard "You are brave." responses. My closest friends were able to understand why our marriage was not over, and that my husband really needed me to stay as much as I needed for this never to happen again. I needed to talk to my closest friends about the fact that somehow my response to my husband sexually was foreign to me. I needed reality checks from people that loved us both but were not directly effected by my reactions. 85% of the Affair Chat was with my husband, but I needed the 15% Am I Crazy Chat with my friends. The fact that it was not public knowledge made it incredibly difficult to spend an extended period of time in a room with people that did not know we were struggling, and that loved him. All of this unfolded right before the holidays, and family get-togethers with his family were difficult. All "his people" love him and fancy him Superman, and I wanted to stand up at dinner and let them all know he was not perfect. I knew this was a selfish want and obviously I did not ever act on my impulses, but I really longed to be closer to "my people" during this time. I wanted to be around people that loved me and that would remind me that I am pretty amazing as well.

As I have mentioned, we have not gone to counseling. There were a few times I considered individual counseling for myself during the time of the Inner Monologue, but ultimately we were fortunate enough to create plenty of space and time in our marriage to speak honestly to one another and rebuild. A gigantic reason we have made so much progress is that the changes he decided on have stuck. I do not have to monitor him or remind him of past indiscretions: his entire attitude towards me has shifted to one of love, admiration and respect. My husband is truly no longer the person that hurt me.

I don't remember the title, but sometime in the first few months I watched a film where an adult daughter had discovered that her father had an affair and her mother did not leave. When she confronted her mother about the information, her mother said something to the tune of "I didn't want to let that one action define your father." That truly resonated with me. My husband was more that a cheater. He did not deserve to be defined by mistakes he had made anymore than  I want to be defined by the fact that I stayed. I would rather we were seen as strong and capable parents, a loving couple, and the numerous qualities that make us unique individuals.

If I would have chosen to leave, I would have missed "us" at our best and only known heartache. I am certain that we are only on the beginning slopes of marriage, but we will face it all together and there really is no one I would rather be facing it with.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How I Knew Things Would Be Different

Sometime in the first few weeks After Knowing, I called my closest friend. I asked her if she thought my husband was capable of change. She knew we had struggles, but I don't think she was expecting that phone call. It was a question that was in the back of my mind for a long time After Knowing.

I previously mentioned that he had written me a note soon after that detailed how he would begin to start over. Here are some of the ways that he began to change, and are still different to this day:

1. He did pretty extensive research on Sex Addiction, and within the first few days had deleted all pornography from the computer, and set about ceasing masturbation.

2. He began coming to Mass with his family. Raising our child Catholic was important to me, and if I had to do it alone, I was determined to do so. He came to the realization that he was not acting as though he was fully a part of our family if he was not attending Mass with us. It was the answer to a very long held prayer for me.

3. He began to let me know when he would be late coming home from work, and would send me short emails from time to time.

4. He let me be angry.

5. He accepted responsibility when he was in the wrong or if he helped contribute to a problem: it was no longer a battle of wills when we had an argument because there was some honesty again in our marriage.

6. He asked if I could arrange for us to renew our vows on our anniversary. We needed a restart button, and this was better. We renewed our vows with the priest that was at our wedding, with our child and our close friends present.

Though I still reserve the right to change my mind, we have not ever participated in or sought out marriage counseling. We agreed that if it ever became more than we could handle, if I felt we were no longer speaking honestly with each other, or if I felt as though there was any back sliding, that we would find a counselor. To date, there has not been a need.

The night of our sixth wedding anniversary was when we renewed our vows. We ate dinner with our closest friends, and had a rare evening to ourselves after attending Mass and the renewal. About a month and a half later,  it was time for the appointment my doctor had requested, and he asked that my husband come with me. It was there that God answered another prayer. It was confirmed that  we had conceived our second child the night we had renewed our vows.

Life After Knowing is not always easy, but as the two year mark draws near, I can honestly say I do not think about it every waking moment. Most days it does not enter my thoughts. For me, staying was the easy part: the difficult thing was allowing him to change and take the lead. I stayed for many reasons, but none of them would have mattered if he had not been able to make changes and accept responsibility for his actions. It may seem as though staying was a push-over move, but I assure you that nothing about it is weak. I fought for my marriage and so did my husband. We fought together for the marriage that we wanted, and the life we live now is nothing like the life we lived Before. We are in a loving and committed relationship. Our children have parents that love them dearly and that love each other.

The reason I wanted to tell my story, is because affairs are things that no one wants to talk about. They are humiliating and demeaning, and no one wants to feel as though they are a fool. I assure you that you are not alone. Sexual dishonesty such as affairs, masturbation or sex addictions is unfortunately more common than most of us want to let on. Dishonesty in marriage happens. If you have experienced marital dishonesty and would like to tell your story anonymously, please email me at

Sexually Transmitted Disease Testing

Once I was relatively certain there were no more surprises coming my way, I set about letting him fix it. The truth was, I had given my all to our marriage since day one, and I was exhausted. It was time for him to do some leg work. A raw honesty entered our marriage. It is not in me to be dishonest; I have an incredibly difficult time with it, but I felt as though I was a new person. I did not try to save his feelings when he asked me questions. I answered with brutal honesty. Before I Knew, I had been thinking about more children, and I was furious that my entire life was now thrown into this blender. Everything felt so uncertain and in a way I hated him a little for ruining things. When it was time for my yearly doctor's appointment, I asked for an STD test. My husband had planned on going anonymously into a clinic so that his work would never find out, but I needed an answer and I wanted to go to someone I trusted.

It was humiliating. My doctor was well versed in NFP and very Catholic, so he did all he could to comfort me while asking ridiculously hard questions so he could determine what kinds of tests I needed. He asked me if I was staying. I immediately responded yes without a thought. He asked if I wanted the numbers to a few NFP instructors for a refresher, and I realized that I didn't know if I could have any more children with him.

I came home in a foul mood. It was a difficult day. He was very upset that I had testing done, and I told him there was no way I was going to go to a clinic by myself, and that he had a month since I had brought it up to do something about it. he didn't, so I did. What followed was one of the most difficult conversations of the entire ordeal.

I told him that I was tired. I explained that a part of me truly needed to be able to be secure in believing I could support myself and my child if the changes did not stick. A part of me needed a back up plan, because I could not go through it all again as I was barely making it through it the first time. I told him that I did not know if I was willing to have more children with him. He asked me if I wanted to stay, and I said yes. I told him my answer is yes, but that it would take some time for me to trust him again. I asked if he could do it again, if he would have still asked me to marry him, and he said yes. He looked me in the eyes and told me that even if I couldn't trust him yet, he knows things are different and that he can change and that he would spend the rest of his life convincing me of it.

After some thought, I think I really just gave in. It had been a difficult month to say the least. I went to Eucharistic Adoration that week and I just repeated over and over "I can't do this. If it is Your will for us to have more children, then You decide. I can't do this..." I let go of that control because it was more than I could handle.

After the results of the testing came back negative, I was able to breathe a bit easier. My doctor asked that I come in again in a few months, so I set the appointment. Then my husband and I just focused on rebuilding.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

After the Initial Shock

After our guests had left and our child put to bed, my husband and I were face to face with all the chaos. I had spent the entire day sick to my stomach. I felt defeated, angry, disgusted and slightly validated.  While I truly had believed that things were on solid ground between us when I discovered the affair, There had been times in our marriage where I was incredibly insecure, and my gut was telling me there were things he was not telling me. I had always felt especially queasy around this woman that would go as far as calling me names in the grocery store if she saw me. Knowing that I was right in my instincts about her was both validating and sickening. I asked if it had happened before while we had been together and he said no. After this initial question, I suddenly felt a surge of empowerment. The things that I wanted for our life together and the things that I wanted for me were crystal clear in that moment. We had married each other with the understanding that divorce was not an option. If we were going to be married it was for our entire lives. As I considered what I called My Life After Knowing, everything felt miserable, but what I wanted and expected was very clear.

I told him that the only steps in fixing the mess that I would lay out for him, were that he cut off all contact with her, that he must tell his friend the truth, and that he answers any question that I have honestly. Sometime in the next few days I sent him an email telling him he needed to figure out the answers to the questions he wasn't answering. I wanted to know details, because my version of our time together while this was happening was not real. I unleashed nearly seven years of being made to feel paranoid and like I was not enough for him.

Our marriage was good, and we had many good times, but in the difficult times I was made to feel as though it was my fault: that I was not meeting the expectations he had for me. I bent over backwards to make our lives better in the hard times, and he was simply never at fault for our problems. Pornography and masturbation had always been a problem in our marriage. No matter how many different ways I tried to explain how it hurt me and effected us, it fell on deaf ears. I felt unwanted and unneccesary, which made me try all the more harder to be what he wanted. In the first year we were married, I had finally received some answers concerning a health matter. I was learning to manage it, and dealing with the symptoms when he told me that he no longer loved me the same way that he did before we were married. Sex was about him when we had sex. He was taking night classes after work and would be gone until nearly mignight most nights. The events of this first year strongly influenced my view of myself within our marriage. His words haunted me, even though things did get better.

After my email, he wrote out a response and read it to me. It outlined his regrets and his plans to make it right for us. He was crying so hard that he could barely get through the letter. It was the first time in seven years that he apologized sincerely.

Nearly a month After Knowing, another serious discussion culminated in him not only revealing two other affairs, but that he believed he had an addiction to sex. One of the affairs was before we were married, and one occured during our first year of marriage. He had been lying to me about how late his classes went, and instead was trolling around bars looking for casual sex opportunities. The sick feeling returned.

To pretend it was anything less than nauseatingly difficult would be a falsehood. I had flashes in my head of how much easier it would be to slap him and walk away. How I wanted to hurt him as much as he hurt me. I replayed our entire life together and nothing seemed true. I looked at photos and I hated what I saw. It was all a lie. I felt stupid, even though I had long ago convinced myself that he probably had cheated on me during the first year we were married. I felt angry.

Something interesting came with that anger: it was a kind of selfishness. I was no longer apologetic for not understanding how to make him happy; rather I was determined to give him the chance to make me happy and to treat me the way I deserved to be treated. I felt as though I had vowed to be his wife and that I was going to hold up my end of the bargain despite the fact he had failed to hold up his. I wanted a chance at happiness, and I wanted our child to have both parents in a loving marriage. I was not staying in the marriage for his sake or for our child's sake: I was staying because I deserved to be happy, and I deserved happiness with the love of my life.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Was Happy.

I was happy. My husband and I fell in love in college, we married, and a few years later, we had our first child. We certainly had our share of problems in life, but by the time our child was one, I was convinced the bad times were behind us.

Things had not always been perfect. We struggled at times. I was a good little Catholic girl: I saved myself for marriage, instisted on NFP classes, and did not want to live together until after we were married in the church. My husband was not Catholic, nor was he really raised in any kind of faith, but he respected my convictions and Catholicism a great deal. He loved me more than anyone ever had loved me, and I truly loved him as well. Our first year of marriage was trying, to say the least. I was in a bit of depression for a myriad of reasons, and we were learning how to be married. It was also when I discovered he had lied to me about some things that had happened before we had ever met. I knew that he was not a virgin, and I told him that I did not really need to know the details unless I specifically asked about something. I had suspicisions that a few women he was still in contact with were former flings, but he denied it for a long time, and did not confirm it until the evidence presented itself. One of the women had been dating his friend at the time of the fling, and was now married to him. Though I had never directly met her, she caused problems for me in a few circles of friends and family because she suspected I knew, and did not want her husband to find out. As far as I was concerned, I did not need to be the one to to tell him and had no intention of involving myself in the issue.

Slowly, the next few years of marriage became easier. We bought a house, were finishing graduate school, and finally were pregnant! When we discovered that my husband's plant was going to close in the middle of the pregnancy, we set about making a plan. We talked about our budget, how we would fix up the house and that nothing mattered as much as the fact that our family was together. I felt as though our life was making sense and that all the struggles of the past 4 years were worth it to get to this happy place.

My husband was unemployed for eight months. I had a newborn and was able to take the baby to work with me to my part-time job so he could focus on applying for jobs. When he finally found work, I put in my notice so that I could be at home. I remember feeling incredibly grateful for the timing.

About the time the baby turned one, a chain of events left every corner of my life in pieces.

I left my email account open one evening, and my husband changed the name that I had attached to his email address. One evening a few weeks later, we had a girl's night/boy's night. When the boys returned home, everyone was a little tipsy. My husband handed me his phone before he passed out, and my drunken self thought it would be funny to change my name in his phone. I was considerably technically challenged, however, and after about 20 minutes of trying to figure out how to change the entry, his text messages folder opened, and I found myself face to face with messages between my husband and his friend's wife during the time that he was unemployed.

To say that my heart was broken is an understatement. I cried all night. I kept sneaking into my child's room just to hear the breathing so that I knew something was real. The next morning, I confronted him and gave him the chance to be honest. I informed him that if he was honest with me, then I would stay. If he lied, then I had no choice but to go be with my family while I sorted things out in my head. We had company over that day, so there was little time to discuss anything. He told me immediately that he had an affair with her. He cried, I was cold, and I told him I needed to go get things ready and that we would talk later.

Over the next few posts, I will talk about how things progressed during the worst of times, and how we got to where we are now. For those of you that are just beginning to experience the pain of an affair, I want to let you know that if both people are truly committed to the marriage, there is hope. It might feel as though everything is in flames right now, but you can overcome it together if both parties commit to rebuilding.

An Introduction

I am creating this blog anonymously. No, my name is not really Sally Ash. Under pretty much any other circumstances, I would have held no reservations in talking openly about my life. Let me tell you why I chose to stay anonymous.

Nearly two years ago, I discovered that my husband was having an affair. We have spent a great deal of time rebuilding "from the ashes". It came close to destroying our marriage. When I began looking for support, I had several trusted friends, and the priest the performed our marriage ceremony to fall back on, but no one that been through what we had been through, and certainly no one that chose to stay in the marriage. I turned to the vast resources online. I specifically wanted Catholic resources on the subject and found very little. I found Catholic forums and posted questions that sat unanswered. It was a subject no one seemed to want to talk about.

Fast forward to now. Things are finally healing, and I do not think about it daily. I do, however, think about how desparately I needed to hear/see/read about someone that faced it head on and came out the other end with their marriage intact and their faith renewed.

This blog is not an excuse to relive sordid details. I want to provide a place for those that face life's rather hideous trials to vent, but also create a community so that those that have experienced can show those for whom it is fresh that it does get better.

I do not wish to do harm to those involved with my experience. Therefore, I create this space anonymously.

If you have a story you would like to share, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to email me at

I look forward to building this community!