This blog post was submitted from a friend working SAL recovery. Thanks to her for putting her heart into this post and being a voice for so many women. Please offer your comments and gratitude for her share as well.
Dear friends, family, parents, church leaders, children, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances and anyone else in my small circle: What I wish you knew…
I desperately need you to see me because I am silently drowning. I repeatedly tell you that “I am fine” whenever you ask, but there is so much more going on than meets the eye, so much I want to tell you. You may have known me for a long time: you may think you know all there is to know about me. That simply isn’t true. There is a part of me of which you have never caught a glimpse. There are things I secretly wish you could read in my eyes without me having to say anything. I don’t want you to know my story, but I longingly wish you could see the real me, including the invisible, shattered pieces of my soul. You will most likely never hear my story, but perhaps I still need to tell it.
I wish you knew that I am much more fragile than you realize, and I am also so much stronger than you might have guessed. If you knew my story, you might see me as a victim, but I feel as though I am a survivor. I am hurting, but I am getting stronger every day. I am one of the quiet ones who easily fades into the background. However, I wish you knew that I am fighting a hidden battle every moment of every day.
I carry a secret, but it isn’t entirely my secret. My husband of 31 years has been living two separate lives, one of which you would never suspect. You see, I am married to a recovering sex addict. This doesn’t mean that he is a sexual predator, but it does mean that he has been viewing pornography and acting out sexually since childhood. This addiction took on a life of its own and led him down a difficult path which ultimately led to marital infidelity. No, he never told me any of this before we were married. No, I had no suspicions, no inkling of any kind. I was absolutely blind-sided. Yes, he put me at risk for sexually transmitted disease. Yes, he finally came clean two years ago and revealed his hidden life to me. No, we didn’t tell you. Right or wrong, we thought it was best to keep our journey private. Yes, this makes me feel very lonely when I am with you. You see the same “me” you have always known, but that woman is gone. The person you see smiling back at you is the shell of someone pretending to be who you expect me to be.
I wish you knew that my journey isn’t as simple as deciding whether to stay in the marriage or get divorced. I wish you knew that it is not about choosing to extend forgiveness. Well, it is that, but it is so much more than that. I wish you knew that I was devastated, completely shattered. I have questioned everything I ever believed- about myself, about my husband, about my religion and about God Himself in the last two years. This has all taken place while I’ve continued to live my life in a world that never knew. The robotic pretending, the “going through the motions” has been most difficult.
I wish that you knew how alone and isolated I feel underneath the facade you see. I wish you knew that I am terrified of being alone while at the same time I am pushing myself further and further within my personal cocoon of safety. I do not want your pity. I cannot fathom coping with your reaction because I am still figuring out my own. I am not trying to change the view of the man you know. I don’t want you to see him differently. I am not looking for drama. I simply wish I could share this part of my life with you. I don’t know how to be authentic when there is so much unsaid. I don’t want you to “take my side”. I don’t want to throw around blame. I do not want to privately or publicly humiliate my husband. I do wish you understood that the lens which I see life through has changed. I wish you could see a slice of this world that I now live in.
I wish you knew of the silent tears I shed at night when I am alone. I wish you knew how often I am consumed with gripping fear, with anger, with despair, but I simply cannot tell you. So, if you ever wondered why I wasn’t who you needed me to be on a given day, it was because I was simply trying to survive the tsunami of emotions that come my way. I wish you knew the strength it took me to walk into my first support group. I wish you knew the distaste I felt when I first heard the term “sex-addict” and tried to make sense of what that meant. I wish you knew that the best friends I have ever met were women I met at the same support group that I resisted attending with such conviction. I wish you knew that those meetings are the only place where I feel whole, where I can at last be “me”, where I can be heard and embraced. I wish you knew how many times I wanted desperately to attend a meeting, but was unable to because you had other expectations of me. Explaining that I need to go attend a Sexaholics Anonymous spouse support group meeting never invites itself into normal conversation.
I wish you knew how many women from all walks of life are living this silent nightmare as well, women you know and respect and think have the perfect life. I wish you knew how desperately we want to talk about it, how ashamed we feel when we wonder what you would think of our family if you knew our secret. I wish it was safe to talk about sexual addiction and betrayal trauma. I wish you knew that there is not an expiration date on the pain that spouses feel. I have no desire to wallow or play the victim, but I wish you knew that even after two years, sometimes I still feel paralyzed. Unexpectedly, out of nowhere, I find myself again blindsided, enraged, broken, frozen in fear. I have irrational responses to everyday occurrences that don’t make much sense but are nonetheless real. I wish you knew about relapses, triggers and “surrendering” so we could talk about the thoughts that are constantly running through my mind.
I wish you knew that I feel incredible internal and external pressure to “get over it” and to forgive. I wish you knew how hard it is to get out of bed some mornings. I wish you knew how hurtful, how triggering some of the things you unknowingly say to me can be. I wish you knew that I am just doing the best I can. I wish you knew the tremendous guilt and shame I feel during our seemingly ordinary conversations because I know I am not being honest with you. I wish you knew that I wanted to say something so many times but I have kept it to myself.
I wish you knew that I stood next to my husband during church disciplinary hearings where the verdict was “excommunication” from the church I love so dearly. I wish you knew that while I was promised I would be married to my spouse forever, I no longer know if we will still be married a year from now. I wish I could share the pain. I wish I could share the joy. I wish you could have been there on the day he was re-baptized. I wish I could tell you how we made it a whole 28 days after that baptism before another extra-marital sexual encounter took place. I wish I could explain how the longer we go on in recovery, I feel equally hopeful and terrified.
I wish you knew that this problem most likely exists (to some degree or another) in your family as well. I want to tell you that my eyes have been opened to a world that I didn’t know existed. I wish that I could live in the world you see, but my world is much different than yours. I wish you knew that while this is the toughest life experience I could have ever imagined, it is also the catalyst I needed to finally “find” myself, to discover the beautiful, amazing, hidden parts of myself that I hadn’t noticed before. I wish you knew how many times I repeat the words of the serenity prayer in my mind every day and how often I do find serenity.
I wish you understood that while I have walked through this painful refining fire, I have experienced deeper peace than I thought was possible. I wish you knew that all of this that I desperately cling to (the 12 steps, support groups, tears, prayers, therapists, self-help books) have changed my life, given me hope, empowered me, and taught me how to walk with God. The Savior I always believed in has extended me mercy. God’s grace saved me and became very real to me. I talk to Him often, and even though you don’t see me, I know that He does. I wish you knew that in a complex way that I can never explain, discovering that I was married to a sex-addict not only temporarily broke my heart but ultimately healed my whole mind, body and soul.