When I was a little girl all I ever wanted to be was a mom and a wife. I went to college on the hunt to find a husband. I made good friends and had great experiences along the way and in 2007, when I was 21 years old, I met the man I believed was my Prince Charming.
We were married that summer and started our adventure in married life as we moved with the Air Force to Oklahoma and shortly after Massachusetts. Married life was hard and almost immediately there was a disconnect between us. I thought at the time that it simply was the stress of so many changes happening in our lives all at the same time.
For the next 8 years we experienced ups and down, infertility, job changes, trips to other countries, multiple moves, in vitro fertilization, and 2 pregnancies resulting in 3 kids. Life was both wonderful and challenging. But throughout it all my marriage continued to stay very disconnected and we lived more like roommates then spouses.
From the outside we looked like the happy, picture-perfect family I had always dreamed of. We had the house, the kids, the cars. Beautiful family pictures. I would have told anyone that I loved my life and my family. I wanted so badly to believe that I had that life I had always dreamed of. And in many ways I did. But I also started admitting to myself that I felt trapped in a loveless and disconnected marriage. For a long time I minimized my emptiness and loneliness by compensating with the external comforts that my life provided. I thought that was enough for now and that one day my husband and I would have a strong and connected marriage.
In the summer of 2015, 3 weeks before my husband was going to deploy for 6 months I discovered pornography on his phone. I confronted him and over the next few weeks I put different pieces together and tried to make sense of my life. This knowledge completely devastated me. My world imploded and I was left trying to put it back together. For the next few weeks and months I felt like I was in a fog, I could take care of my kids but I was simply going through the motions. All my thoughts, time and energy went to trying to survive.
I connected the dots enough to understand that my husband didn’t simply have a “pornography problem” but a sex addiction that had been part of his life for the past 2 decades. I also learned he had never planned on telling me about it and truly didn’t want to give it up. He went through the motions of wanting to change and wanting recovery but it was simply to appease me. To convince me to stop talking about it and “trust” him.
I realized almost immediately that my life as I knew it was over. I could not go back to pretending things were fine. I could not unsee what I had seen. I threw all my extra time and energy into healing myself from this betrayal trauma. I read everything I could get my hands on, attending support group meetings, counseled with my church leader and started individual therapy for myself.
I knew that my old marriage was dead. I could not go back to that way of living after I learned the truth. Everything had to change. In the beginning I really struggled with finding any hope or belief that we could heal from this. I wanted my family to stay together but I couldn’t see how I could stay in this relationship and be anything but hurt and empty inside. Over time, and with a lot of work and with the grace of God hope was restored. I saw God’s power working in other couple’s lives and saw that healing was possible. I began to restore my faith that with work, boundaries and God I could build a new marriage and a experience a happy and fulfilling future.
I had set very clear boundaries about what would have to happen in order for me to feel save staying in a relationship with someone who had betrayed me in such a personal manner. The first six months after D-day my husband was out of the country on a deployment. In the beginning of that separation he tried very hard to convince me of the blame I shared, or to try to lull me back into submission. Forgive and forget. He attempted a lot of recovery behaviors but I felt very early on into them that it simply was so he could check the box and move on. When he came home I knew almost immediately he did not want anything to change. It was suffocating and I could feel my soul dying inside. I knew I could not live with him like this.
We were supposed to be moving from Utah to Virginia a month after he returned home. After two weeks of living under the same roof as him (different bedrooms) I knew I could not move. I absolutely had to see true, honest recovery behaviors to trust him enough to follow him across the country. I was not seeing any. I told him I was staying in Utah and would give him one last chance to choose recovery.
He moved a few weeks after and it was almost immediately evident that I was going to be blamed and labeled as the cause of our family’s deterioration. He referred to me as the prodigal son and convinced many friends and family members that I simply wouldn’t forgive and forget. He could say all the right things and could act the part of a changed man but it was all a facade to protect his image. Nothing was changing and in fact things had gotten much worse. He wanted me to continue on as I always had and I simply could not do that any more. I had found peace, healing and authenticity in my life without him and I could not pretend to live any other way.
I filed for divorce in early spring 2016. I am still in the trenches and heading to trial but I know with absolute certainty that I am on the right path. With time, work and perspective I have come to truly see how emotionally abusive and controlling my marriage was. I believe a lot of that is the byproduct of his addiction but he doesn’t want to see or accept any of that so I can no longer live in that abuse. Living with a sex addict who is constantly gaslighting you and blaming you is abuse. I know my loving Father in Heaven does not expect or want me to stay in that kind of relationship if my husband does not have any true desire to change.
The last 20 months have been extremely challenging and heartbreaking. I have never experienced such emotional pain, betrayal, heartbreak and grief. But I also have never felt such peace, joy and contentment in my life. God is good and his grace can change everything. I can honestly say that I love my life. It is hard and there are many daily challenges and struggle still but there is peace and joy in the mess of it all. I would not trade that for any of the material comforts that my old life could offer.
I am writing a new ending to my story. I am choosing to live a life of gratitude, service and adventure. I am building the joyful life!