It feels kind of weird being in a forum that doesn't appear to be very active. But, I thought I would post since I know I am not the only person out there dealing with this. I am a betrayed spouse (BS). My husband's affairs started out as consuming internet pornography about five years ago. As his consumption of internet pornography turned into addiction to internet pornography - he took a leap from just viewing videos to going into live chatrooms. This change unleashed a pattern of events which progressed to online affairs. It is still murky exactly what clicked in his head, but when the option came to "purchase" the phone number of one of the porn actresses to exchange text messages, he took the offer. And thus started his affairs. I call them affairs because they weren't just about secret online sexual encounters. There were "innocent" pictures - fully clothed, fun selfies and pictures in regular everyday clothing you might find one the phone of a spouse. There were "Happy Birthday" greetings that accompanied small gifts he would send them through online shopping sites. He sent them "Happy New Year" greetings and would text that he was just thinking about them if he hadn't seen them online in a while. Regardless of if the relationships were "real" in the minds of the actresses, he was getting something real, at least emotionally from them. Of course, there was the sexual component as well - sending each other nude pictures and even videos of self pleasuring - yes, he was making videos to send to them just as they were sending videos to him.
I still don't know how many women this happened with over the years. I know it was more than one. I found out because I knew something the wrong. Especially since we were married, yet hadn't been intimate in a LONG time. We got to the point where we were intimate maybe once or twice a year. But yet, he didn't seem like he was needy and never really seemed interested. I knew he was coming to bed late, often after I had gone to sleep. I wasn't sure what he was doing, but didn't really expect this. He also started changing the type of undergarments he wore - silly I know. I thought - this doesn't fit his personality at all! Especially, again - because it wasn't like we were being intimate. Why the need to be "sexy" if you aren't having sex?
I suspected something was going on, so - like many others, I became a detective. When I found some pornographic pictures on an electronic device I was shocked. However, when I saw fully clothed and "innocent" pictures of the latest woman, I was hurt. They were so "normal" I thought this had to be someone who he knew in real life. When I confronted him - he told me he started viewing pornography about five years ago and had progressed to chatting, snap chatting, and sexting with some of the women. He agreed to tell me anything I wanted to know, but after a while I stopped asking questions. I felt like I had heard enough.
He blocked all their numbers from his phone, we put filters on the computers, and he has sought counseling. He is doing all of the "right" things, but I am still fluctuating in my emotions between forgiveness and rage. It has been just over two months since "D-Day", so it hasn't been a lot of time. However, it has been hard for me to come to terms with just how strong of a bond and connection he formed with these women. There connections were just as strong, just as real as anything found in an "in person" based affair.
We tried, probably too quickly, to rebuild our marriage. He was looking to forget what he had done - including the shame of his actions. I was looking to bury the shame of losing the affection of my husband to a computer screen. Talk about feeling like a loser!
But, I have come to terms with the fact that for me, there is no skipping the stages of grief. The realization that my husband wasn't at all the man I thought he was, at least in this aspect of his life, is heartbreaking. Never in a million years would I have thought he would be the type of man running around like a fool posting naked pictures of himself or pleasuring himself on camera to send to women half his age. I would never have expected him to spend years sitting in front of a computer pleasuring himself instead of coming to bed and being intimate with his wife. I would never have expected to engage in this activities with his children in the home (although they, like I, had no idea and there is no reason for them to know it now).
It is hard because I thought I knew what I would do if my husband ever had an affair - but I never expected this type of an affair. Who in their right mind gets hooked of electronic based sexual encounters?
He is vowing to change and is putting all of his efforts into getting rid of his internet pornography addiction. He has set up real changes in his life - including not using computers alone in a room, coming to bed at the same time that I do at night. I have no reason to believe he has relapsed, and believe me - I have played detective and looked. He is taking his counseling seriously and completing any work assigned. He really is trying to start over.
But, I am still stuck. Maybe it is the shock - he knew he was doing this for five years, I have only come into this knowledge in the past nine weeks. As a result, I just don't quite know what to do. He wants to work on the marriage and has vowed to do whatever it takes. But for me, all of his efforts seem almost mechanical. In my heart, it feels like he is staying because it is the "right" thing to do. He is disgusted by his actions, but he also admits that if I had not discovered what he was doing - he would still be doing it right now. He is ready for a new start, but I am still kind of disgusted and embarrassed by it all.
I have read up and I understand pornography addiction and I know my husband had that and is working hard to break it. But the affairs are something alongside side the addiction. He has convinced himself that the affairs were a part of the addiction, just the way the addiction manifested itself. I am not convinced of that.
Right now, I feel in a bit of limbo. I don't want to end the marriage, but I also can't quite see how I will ever be truly happy with him. Five years is a very long time to keep such a secret life going and he kept it so well I only had clues, even though he was doing these activities right in the house.
Right now it feels like staying in the marriage is a compromise - my happiness for the happiness of him and the children. I know this might be the emotions talking and I am trying stay centered and let healing run its course. I guess the thing I am having the most trouble wrapping my head around is the "meantime". I get that discovery is shell shocking and hard and an emotional roller coaster of epic proportions. I understand that there can be healing and renewal and that our marriage can be better than it was before the affairs (I mean, of course something was wrong when he turned to pornography in the first place) if we are both willing to work on it. But, how do you walk the waters of the "meantime". What is the middle point like? I have decided to stay and I have hope for a better future. But, this "meantime" feels so uncertain. I don't know what I should be feeling. I don't know when I will know that we have done it; I don't know when I will know that our marriage has truly survived. I am still wondering just how much more it will cost "me". Right now I feel like I had no good choices from which to choose. I went with the one that seemed to hurt me the least. But, it still hurts and I wonder how much pain I have to endure.
When I hear stories of recovered marriages, I am left wondering if there was truly recovery - or do people just say that to make it not hurt so bad. Is the marriage truly better than it was before, or is that what people have to say to themselves to make their choice not seem like so much of a compromise? Will "better than it was before" really be enough? Will it really and truly be worth this amount of pain? Is this betrayal really what it took to get our marriage back on track? If so, why? Why was "I" the one chosen to be sacrificed on the alter of self-esteem, self worth, trust, dignity, and authenticity to get this marriage to where it needed to be? What is the reward that I should expect from staying? Is what I am truly fighting for just an "okay" marriage? Is this pieced together marriage really better than the alternative? When and how will I know that I have made the right choice? Have a sold myself short? Have I compromised too much? These are all questions I keep asking myself and right now I don't know the answer. And, I have a personality and a disposition where not knowing answers is extremely anxiety inducing. And that leads me back into the anger loop, being angry with my husband for causing all of this in the first place.
Well, I have written a lot, maybe too much. But, that is where my story is, today at least. Just wanted to share it just in case there is someone else out there who is also going through this pain that feels unique, the ultimate mixing of fantasy and reality. Where the rules feel different and no one really knows quite how to navigate these waters.