A Reader Writes…
I have been married for 9 1/2 years. We’ve been together for 12. We met in college, both very young. I was his first girlfriend and he was the first boyfriend I had after my previous boyfriend was killed in a car accident. We fell in love quickly and married after more than two years together.
I found out quickly that marriage was not what I had expected, and I felt severe anxiety about being with only one person for the rest of my life. I began flirting with men, to get attention (I think), and soon I found myself in a very bad situation with one man that I had led on. He showed up on my doorstep and I felt that I had led him on enough that I needed to “follow through.” We slept together and it was horrible. It was awkward, shameful, guilt-ridden, you name it. I felt disgraceful. Yet when he came back the next day . . . I decided after the second time that I had to come clean with my husband and that it could NEVER happen again. I told him everything and, after a long night of talking it through, he decided to forgive me. He wanted to “forget about it and never deal with it again.”
I knew it was wrong to not deal with the situation, but since he was the one that was wronged, I felt like I needed to let him heal whatever way he needed. Weeks and months went by and he felt like a totally different person (understandably). He withdrew from me and we lost our emotional connection completely. We became roommates, living separate lives. I reached out again to someone else, but stopped short of sleeping with him. I knew it was wrong and felt shame and guilt all over again, but I decided not to tell my husband this time. Over time, I still felt the strong urge to flirt, but I knew I could never let it get physical again, so I found myself talking to strangers in chat rooms and sending them inappropriate pictures of myself. I loved the thrill of turning someone on and of them desiring my body. It became an addiction. I started sending them to people I knew, not just strangers. I began emailing old boyfriends, current friends, etc. I sent pictures, exchanged fantasies, but never let it get physical again.
My husband and I started a family and shortly after the birth of our first child, I began to feel depressed about my weight gain. Motherhood wasn’t what I had expected either, and I fell into a depression. After losing some weight and feeling good about myself again, I went right back into my addiction of talking to others. My husband found the emails and actually confronted the men, rather than me. When they retreated and stopped emailing me back, I felt rejected and begged them to keep talking to me. He read each and every word of me telling these men how much I “needed” them, but I had no idea he was reading them.
He finally confronted me and told me he knew everything. He begged me to stop and told me I was ruining our family. I tried and succeeded for a while. After the birth of our second child, we drifted further apart. He became addicted to his work and exercise, often choosing those things over us. I felt neglected and alone, and resorted to texting/emailing again. He approached me AGAIN and this time I actually justified it, telling him it wasn’t physical and never would be again. That it was just a way to get me “in the mood” for him. I look back now and see how ridiculous that was. I believe it was at that point that he stopped trying or caring. That was two years ago.
We actually continued on with a normal sex life. I continued to text, but I thought that he had no idea about it this time around. Nothing physical happened again. It was just pictures and fantasies. I was completely disconnected from my husband on an emotional level. We didn’t share anything with each other, other than day-to-day things about the kids.
In November of last year, he went into work one night and I texted him, asking what was going on with us – why it seemed we were in a funk. I often did that, and he’d respond that it was nothing. We had young kids and all married couples with young families go through this. But this time he responded with “I don’t know.” I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I finally said, “It sounds like you’re asking for a divorce? Is that what you’re doing?” He responded, “I guess I am.” That was the moment my world fell apart. He came home that night and I did everything wrong. I begged him to stay, promised I would never do the things I was doing again. I promised to be an open book – pleaded that he stay for our kids (now 6 and 4). He was cold, numb, unfeeling. He said he just couldn’t. That he had stopped caring two years ago and had thought about this ever since.
At first I thought he just wanted space. He slept on the couch (we haven’t been intimate since that time), and if he was home he would go downstairs at night, to get away from me. He started going back into work three-four times a week, once the kids were sleeping. It took 18 weeks before he finally made a decision to move out (he says now that he just needed to see that I would be able to handle it and it was at this point that he felt like I could). He’s rented an apartment just around the block from our house and he’s offered to pay two of our large bills (the house and truck), so that I can remain here with the kids. Our finances will be incredibly tight (we’ve barely been surviving before all this happened).
He told me that he will always care about me, but the deep feelings are gone and they aren’t coming back. He’s said that he just can’t be with someone he doesn’t trust. He wants to still come to the house often to see the kids and take them every other weekend. He wants to remain a huge part of their lives, but he’s told me he’s not leaving the door open for reconciliation.
I have made huge changes since he told me. I was a terrible housekeeper, never cooked or cleaned, and did little to help around the house. He came home from work and had to take out the trash, load the dishwasher and do loads of laundry. Since then I have done a complete 180. I have a hot meal waiting every night, which we eat as a family, and I keep up with the cleaning, laundry, etc. I have cut all contact with the men I was texting, and will NEVER go back. I realize what my destructive behavior has caused, and I’ve been in counseling ever since, as well.
My temper has been another huge problem. I don’t fight fair – I constantly scream, say degrading things and put him down. I have been nothing but disrespectful in our marriage. I have turned that all around too. He’s even told my Mom that he’s noticed how much more patience I have with the kids.
But it doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference. He’s planned for so many things that seem “permanent.” I really fear he’s never coming back. Please tell me there’s hope for us? What can I do when he has no interest whatsoever to try? He refuses counseling. Refuses reconciliation of any kind. Is there any hope for us at all? Any advice you could give would be wonderful. Thank you.
Yes, there is hope. That’s the good news but you have a long and tough climb back…
Your husband has been hurt many times over and he will need to feel 100% sure of the new you before he will even begin to consider letting down his guard again. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for him, reading those texts and looking at those pictures of you. On top of that, it sounds like you have been verbally abusive too.
To get a good idea of what the last years have been like for him, please read How Can I Ever Trust You Again? and when you’ve finished it, think about making a fulsome apology. (I explain it in depth in the book.)
This is more than just ‘I’m sorry’ but acknowledges what you have done and the impact it had on the other party. No explanations (because these sound like excuses) and no begging for another chance (as this will make it sound like you’re just trying to talk him round). Hopefully, it will start to draw a line in the sand.
I’m really impressed by the progress you’re making to turning round your life but you’re right it does sound like an addiction (for men’s attention, love or the sexual thrill of flattery). My concern is that willpower alone is not necessarily enough to stop texting for once and for all. You’ve promised yourself and him to stop before—but when you’re down the need to start texting has overwhelmed your will power.
So I think you need help. Firstly for coping strategies to avoid falling into the old traps (I would consider a love and sex addiction twelve step programme).
Secondly, to tackle the underlying problems: poor self-esteem, outsourcing your self-esteem to other people etc—which I think will probably go back to your childhood. So if your husband won’t go into counselling, I think you should consider it for yourself.
Alternatively, you might like to read Make Love Like a Prairie Vole as this explains the differences between using, abusing and becoming addicted to sex (and by extension love too). My other book Learn to Love Yourself Enough will explain about boosting your self-esteem.
What about getting back with your husband? Don’t put any pressure on him—as this will push him further away.
Concentrate on having family time together. Offer the hot meals and other demonstrations of the new you. You could start to atone for before by offering to do his washing. If he wonders why, it is your way of saying thank you for all the washing he did for you.
Give him time and he will slowly begin to wonder if you really have changed and finally you will be given the opportunity to try again.
To make certain that you communication will not fall into the same old holes again, please look at Resolve Your Differences.