38 years of a lie, please help me

I have been with my husband for 38 years, married 32 of them. We are high school sweet hearts and we lost our virginity to each other. We have had the perfect life for years. I loved my husband more than anything and I think he felt the same way.
My father had an affair when I was little and I have told my husband all these years if you want to get rid of me all you have to do is cheat. Well, I caught him in an emotional affair in October. He was in denial and it took 2 therapists and a book to make him see the truth. Then, I found out on Christmas Eve that he was still with her. He told me once he understood he was in an affair, he tried to break it off with her and she would not let him go. She even wanted to come to my home to ask me to give him up. Meanwhile, I was almost baker acted. I just wanted to die. I could not comprehend that he would do this to me. He confessed to me that while he was overseas for the last 5 years for work, he was getting happy endings at massage parlors. He befriended a bar girl and let her sleep in his bed one night when she was crying. He swears he did not have sex with her. He confessed to having a body on body massage, and then the emotional affair. He made out in a car with her 2 times, but he said that's as far as it got. It has taken me 8 months to crawl out of depression and accept what has happened to me. I am on medication now and I have a therapist. He is also seeing a therapist and we go to couples counseling.
Two weeks ago when I told my therapist that he tried to get me to have sex with a stranger a few years back, she realized he has a sex problem. She told him to get help and he got very angry. But then he read about it and he believes he truly has porn addiction. I did not realize the extent that he watched it. Finding this out has saved our marriage. I feel like I understand he has a problem and that is why he did all this to me. But now, I have one more thing to forgive, one more thing to process. I am exhausted. It has only been in the last 2 weeks that we have truly been our old selves, enjoying each other with some semblance of happiness. But now he is telling me it's hard for him to have sex with me. I just don't understand. I feel like it's another punishment and I can't control it. I am hurting again. I am trying to forgive all of these unforgivable things he has done to me and now I feel like porn is more important than I am. Why can't he have sex with me? I am not ugly, I am physically fit. I am also scared that he will slip up and watch porn again. This is the rest of my life I have to worry about. He could relapse and what am I suppose to do? I am scared and hurting. Please help me.
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  • @sallyb This will seem hard to believe at first, but in time you'll realize it's true: Whatever his addiction may be, it's not about you. None of this is a punishment against you.
    When I talk to partners of addicts in either the library presentations I give or through my RecoveringPornAddict.com or PornAddictCounseling.org sites this is always the first thing that needs to be accepted for healing to begin. You wouldn't blame yourself if he had diabetes and you wouldn't blame yourself if he didn't want a piece of chocolate cake shortly after going into insulin shock. Addiction is a disease. It's an illness and while the details you give point more to a sex addiction vs. a porn addiction, it's all the same on a brain chemical level.
    It sounds like he has a toe into recovery, but hasn't completely committed. If he does want true recovery, it takes a long time and is a frustrating, lonely, sad, anger-inducing experience. In almost two-thirds of addiction cases, there's a co-occurring mental health issue. In 94% of porn/sex addict cases, there is unresolved trauma.
    But, recovery is also an amazing experience. Understanding how you go to the point you did takes a lot of energy and involves digging deep. Most people don't understand a lot of the real reasons they end up where they did. It takes time to get there. I know that I'm 4.5 years into recovery from porn addiction and alcoholism and I still have those "a-ha!" moments now and then.
    There's a reason he got angry when the therapist said he had a sex addiction problem. People who are accused of a problem they don't have tend not to get overly defensive.
    You've got a tall, tall hill to climb, but it can be done. Make sure you're consulting with professionals and truly try to internalize this is not about you.
  • @SallyB hello and welcome. thanks for reaching out.

    joshua has given some great insight and advice.. please check out his resources..i'm sorry you've had to go through this, and i'm sure it's been quite challenging.... an emotional roller coaster to say the least.

    he'll need some help, and you will too. addiction affect everyone; ;not just the addict. so while this may feel daunting, it's an opportunity for both of you to address issues and "recover"...

    know that you're not alone and we're here for you to lean on....
  • @JoshuaShea and @dominica, thank you for your words.

    I feel like he is pulling away from me. He told me it's hard for him to have sex with me now because of the guilt and shame even when I tell him I'm not judging him. I am trying to be supportive. I feel like I can't last much longer on this rollercoaster. I don't know who he is anymore. Its' really very confusing when you have known your partner from childhood.

    He has an appt with a sex therapist next week. I think in time maybe I should go there as well. I understand none of this is my fault, but to think of him making out with that woman literally kills me.

    He told me when he is alone he gets the urge to look at porn. So far he has restrained from it but I know that won't last. It makes me scared to let him be alone, which isn't right either.

    I'm so sad.
  • @SallyB... Welcome and thanks for sharing. My heart aches for you. Definitely check out the resources @JoshuaShea shared. He has a ton of knowledge in this area.

    Sending you love, light, and hope.
  • Can forgiveness really happen? My therapist tells me that in time my pain will subside and all the things my husband has done won't be the first thing I think of when I wake up. What if I can't completely let go of the things he has done? Can I be happily married when I have thoughts of other women touching him?
  • @SallyB I'm working on a book with a therapist specifically about this aspect of porn/sex addiction -- the fallout with the partner. The reality is there is no 100% sure-fire template for your recovery. History shows your therapist is correct. Almost all women are able to achieve some level of "getting over it" in time. I will say that most never fully get over it, but do you ever fully get over anything with massive trauma, like a child dying? The world you knew died the day you found out. You're going through a grieving process that includes a heavy dose of trauma.
    Do you know who the best person to answer your last two questions are? You.
    What if you can't let go? Divorce? Living together but without the bond? Just pretend you did get over it for sake of continuity? Let's assume he never does anything bad again. Are those thoughts about women from the past touching him or women in the future? Will you be able to trust him again may be a better question to ask yourself.
    I wish I could be of more help, but this is really one of those things where you actually have to make decisions about "what happens if" and then based on the outcomes you want or don't want, you almost have to decide to behave a certain way. If you've decided to never leave, never get a divorce, and never do anything to harm the marriage....then you're going to need to get over it. If you've decided you can leave and you want to, getting over it quickly is not as important.
    You'll find a lot of answers you seek in the nearby questions you may or may not be asking.
  • @JoshuaShea, thank you for your response. Your last sentence has me confused. I wonder what questions you are speaking of that I may have already asked?

    Is it normal to sometimes look across the room at him and be disgusted or even a little grossed out by him? I am ashamed of having those feelings when I know he has an addiction. But hand jobs, kissing, viewing all the porn... its a lot and it's gross.
  • @SallyB I mean that the questions you are asking may not be the questions you actually need to answer to discover a solution. Isn't your question really "Am I the kind of person who can let go?" or "Can I be happily married if I don't know what he's doing 24/7?"

    He has an addiction...he's not mentally disabled. Yes, DNA and tattered brain chemistry play a part, but so does bad decision making. Some addicts own their behavior and some don't. I didn't have complete control when I made all of my my very poor decisions....but I had the knowledge that my mental health needed to be watched and I ignored it. If you drive off a cliff, is it your fault that gravity pulls you down? No, but you probably knew gravity existed, so to claim ignorance is wrong.

    It's OK if you think all of the things he did were gross. As long as you know it wasn't about you, that's the most important thing. Next, you have to ask if you can put the gross things behind you. If you can't, that's fine. You're free to walk. Very few will criticize that decision. If you stay, you need to process it and not allow it to take up as much of your head space and try to move on.
  • @SallyB i'm not sure i have any great insight to add here.... i do feel for you. and your feelings are normal. joshua has given great insight here...

    just want you to know you're not alone.... keep seeking support for you... your emotional recovery....
  • We're all behind you, @SallyB. Joshua has really given you some great info, I think.
  • Here for you @SallyB
    @JoshuaShea you have definitely given great advice!
    I was discussing with my step mom about how I have realized I haven’t completely forgiven my mother or my ex and she said that instead of my getting down on myself for how i do or don’t feel, why not allow myself to still feel angry & that it’s ok to not have completely forgiven her yet. In time maybe I will forgive and the anger will subside, however right now I may not be ready for this because I only recently realized the impact her alcoholism & abuse had on me.

    Allowing myself to feel how I feel and not trying to force forgiveness seems to actually have helped me feel better and have more compassion for her (as it has for my feelings towards my ex).
  • @blueorchid that's great advice from your step mom! so many don't want to feel negative feelings...and/or don't know how to feel them and deal with them.... but feeling them is ok... for a period of time. not resisting. not numbing. not running... feeling....

    i've been "noting" more lately... trying to "be in my body more" (as opposed to in my head or in lala land)... noting how it feels...speaking words like "stomach tight", "heart racing", "shoulders tense", "fear", etc.... it's helping me "feel", but not react... be present... if that makes sense. i think this will help me be more in touch with my feelings. :)

    love ya @blueorchid BIG BIG... like the sky <3
  • @blueorchid and @dominica... I'm going to give an opposite view regarding forgiveness. I hope you don't mind.

    My dad was an alcoholic and I spent my entire childhood and most of my adult life absolutely hating him. I resented him for all of the pain and suffering his alcoholism caused me and the rest of my family. I never wanted to forgive him. Ever.

    But when I started going to therapy, my therapist told me I had to. And I thought that was total bullshit. My dad had pretty much ruined my life, and she wanted me to forgive him? No thank you.

    Then my dad's health started to deteriorate. And as he got closer to dying, I knew I didn't want to carry the hatred I felt toward him around with me forever. So I forgave him. It happened in such a way that I still call it a "God moment." And when it did, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders.

    My favorite author, Anne Lamott, says that "not forgiving makes you toxic." I think that's so true. One of my favorite quotes from her is this one:

    “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.”

    Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger. At least, that's been my experience.

    So, that's the counterpoint to not forgiving. Is it okay to feel negative feelings and anger toward someone who has wronged you? Absolutely. We're human beings and we're entitled to feel all of those things. But if you let it go too long, it can eat you alive.

    Just thought I'd share those thoughts with you. And if anyone wants to read my blog post about my "God moment" and me finally forgiving my dad, you can do so at this link:

    Better Late Than Never

    By the way, my dad died 6 months later. If I hadn't forgiven him, I know I would've been trapped in the nightmare forever. Thank God I'm not.
  • @DeanD makes good sense. I believe in the power of forgiveness... i think what i was aiming to get across is that it's ok to feel feelings momentarily.... as opposed to running, stuffing, numbing, self-medicating.... feel them...feel that anger, sadness...don't let it scare you into self-destructive behaviors...

    but only momentarily......... then...as you say, let it go. forgive or release or do some sort of ritual to release the power those feelings have on you....

    and then feel free from it :)

    glad you were able to forgive your dad Dean.... and thanks for sharing and shining your bright light!
  • @DeanD @dominica @blueorchid While I picked up many useful things in rehab, one of the most useful was my ability to not even really get to the point that I need to forgive anymore. The ability to not hold resentments has done more for me that almost anything else in recovery.
    I look at it this way now: Either the other person was in a situation they couldn't control and wasn't completely their fault or they were in total control and have to live with the fact they hurt others. It's a bad thing either way and me circling it, underlining it and drawing arrows around it to call attention is just kicking dirt in that person's face.
    You should never be made a victim, but in any circumstance that I reviewed in my life where I felt that way, I was able to pause and recognize the victimizer had it as bad, or even worse than I did. It actually made me take pity on them.
    I think it's OK to have a natural reaction and have it be negative and fantasize about hurting the other person as much as they hurt you. But then get through it. You can't change the past and life is easier not carrying old resentments forward.
  • “Forgiveness is giving up on the idea that the past could have had different results.”
  • All of this is great information, but I am struggling. I try so hard to understand my husband has an addiction that led him down the path of cheating on me, but as @JoshuaShea said, he was not mentally disabled and he did have a choice. He is going to his own therapy, couples therapy with me, and seeing a sex therapist. He is working on himself trying to find out what caused all this. I am SO grateful for the choices he is now making. I know he loves me and wants a life with me, but I am so deeply hurt. 9 months of therapy now, I am doing better but I think about that bitch everyday.
  • I'm glad you're doing better, @SallyB. And I can't imagine how difficult this has been for you. It's okay to struggle. It truly is. And it's great that you're getting help, both individually and as a couple. I hope that in time, things will continue to improve.

    Sending you lots of love and hope.
  • @SallyB If it helps you to inject less anger into your thinking....that bitch was only a prop. If it wasn't her, it would have been a different one. I'm sure he'd be the first to tell you that.
    You can actually feel good in that it sounds like you have a guy trying to fix himself the right way and not just doing it for show. Although my thing was porn and not actual affairs, your situation sounds similar to the one my wife and I had. Now, 4.5 years into recovery, we're probably doing better than we ever have. It's not all roses and chocolates and whispering sweet nothings...because we've never been that. But there is trust and respect.
    Good luck. Please let us know how you progress.
  • @SallyB i too can only imagine how challenging it would be... there would be that part of us that wants to let go and forgive, and then that part of us that's truly hurt, angry, etc....

    glad you are in therapy though...i am sure that is helping some! and i'm grateful he is making better choices too!
  • How are you doing today, @SallyB?
  • I keep thinking that I'm not sure I can get over that he kissed another woman and had all those hand jobs . I know that other wives have a lot more to forgive but it crossed the line for me. I am nauseous thinking about it. I am faced with throwing away 38 years of my life because he is selfish. I look at him and can't believe he is capable of the things he did. I was blindsided and 9 months later still in shock. Im not angry, just hurt and cannot decide if I want to stay in this marriage. I hate my life right now.
  • @SallyB... I'm sorry. Just know that it's okay to feel whatever you're feeling. And if you decide to walk away, that's okay, too. You have to do whatever is best for YOU.

    Sending you lots of love, light, hope, and strength.
  • This morning I found an email from a co-worker when my husband worked overseas. She is half his age, just like the girl he cheated with. She told him she is coming here for work and could she see him while she is here. I immediatley started feeling like my heart was coming out of my chest. I was having a panic attack. Hours later my stomach feels like butterflies and I am shaky. I looked again, and he has deleted the email, I guess so I won't see it. He has said nothing about it to me so far. She will be here in 2 weeks.

    Am I wrong feeling angry about this without giving him a chance to talk to me? If he is doing nothing wrong why would he delete the email? Is it wrong I don't want him to see her even if they are only friends and nothing will happen?

    I am already having a hard time trusting him and now this has made me worse. Is this a sign I should leave him? Should I wait and see if he tells me about it a 2 weeks or should I confront him now? How in the world can he justify hiding anything else from me?
  • I don't think it's wrong to feel anything you're feeling, @SallyB. You are a human being and entitled to all those feelings and emotions. It comes with the package.

    I wish I had a solid answer for you regarding your question about whether or not you should confront him now. I can only give you my opinion, though. If it were me...and again, this is only my opinion...I would ask him about the email. I wouldn't confront him, per se, because confrontation usually only results in anger. I would just have a calm conversation with him and ask him what's up with that girl. And tell him how you feel about it.

    I think doing that would be better for your mental and physical health than waiting two weeks and seeing what happens. You owe it to yourself to feel as good as you possibly can, and you can't do that if you're struggling with panic attacks, anxiety, butterflies, etc.

    I hope others will weigh in with their opinions, too, because I am NOT an expert on relationships. Not by any stretch of the imagination. So I'm curious to see what other people think.

    Sending you love and light today. Try taking some deep breaths. And be kind to yourself today. You deserve some radical self-care, my friend.
  • @SallyB I'm not going to take your husband's side in this, but I do caution you of jumping to worst case scenarios.
    Here's what a lot of people don't recognize about addicts...they don't intentionally want to hurt anybody. In fact, a lot of their behavior is directly linked to trying to protect the other person. It just happens that an addict's mind is so fragmented that they can do more harm than good.
    Here's a scenario:
    The lady on the other side of the world did nothing wrong with your husband and knows nothing of his addiction. She is simply going to be here and she contacted the 4 people she knows here and asked to get together because it can be lonely in a country where you don't know anyone.
    He saw this, knew that it was inappropriate, figured you would jump to conclusions, and deleted it. That's the last he's ever going to think about it and since he doesn't know you looked at it, he's not going to address it.
    Is that just as possible as the doomsday scenario you've worked yourself up into believe is 100% true?
    I guess my question on how to resolve this is to ask if he knows that you read his email. It doesn't matter if he left it open accidentally or you went drilling into his inbox. I'm guessing you reviewing his email isn't something he's on board with.
    If that's the case, this conversation begins with an admission of breaking trust from you. It's not a great place to start, but if you model that behavior for him, perhaps he may be more apt to admit to things in the future.
    I would simply say that you saw an email and it made you worried since the other woman was half his age. When it was deleted later, it made you worry something was up, but you wanted to let him explain before you got too worked up.
  • @SallyB... How are things going? Check in with us if you have a chance, okay?
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