I will never forget the day when I discovered the dark secrets my husband kept away from me for many years. It was a sunny Friday afternoon in early December in 2011. I logged onto my Facebook account only to be directed to my husband’s Facebook page to discover the chat histories with two of his “affairs” from which he had forgotten to log out. When I confronted my husband, he admitted. My world as I knew it collapsed right in from of my eyes. My body shook uncontrollably and I could not breathe. I cried like I have never done before sounding like a wounded wolf. Not knowing what to do, I called a trusted friend who helped calm me down and plan the next move. This friend to this day stands by my side without judging me or my husband. With somewhat regained composure, I started to gather information from my husband. What I learned in the next few days, weeks and months was a rude awaking from my perception of nice cozy strong happy marriage of 18 years with two beautiful young children to icy cold reality of living with a sex addict.
Disclosure by a sex addict can be confusing and extremely painful. They lived in a deluded world of addiction for so long that their judgment is skewed by their addict brain. They may have no feeling of guilt nor can they recall time frames of their “acting out”. To a spouse this is extremely devastating. On top of it, the fear of losing their family often makes it impossible for them to admit their lies once and for all. Our case was no exception. Over the next few months, I slowly put each piece together through my husband’s stories. My husband’s first extra-marital affair was with a flight attendant 6 years ago when my younger child was only 6 month old. He completely fell in “love” with the affair even though it only lasted for a few months. He was “devastated” with the break-up and decided never again to fall for someone else and to work on the marriage. After some therapy sessions, he felt he was completely ready to commit to me once again. Soon however he started experimenting with prostitutes to avoid the risk of being emotionally involved. This loosening of boundaries led to a downward spiral into the destructive world of sex addiction over the next few years.
Like other addicts, my husband became extremely skilled in compartmentalizing different parts of his life. The box which had our two children and me in it was never to mix with the box with his extra-marital sexual encounters. Sometimes, he would keep multiple relationships at the same time, and he had to keep them completely separate as well. Over time, he became such a skillful liar that neither I nor any of our friends suspected that my husband was committing such awful acts of betrayal behind my back. To my old friends from back home, my husband still is the most devoted, caring and understanding husband they ever met. I do not have the heart to break the news to them and shatter their image of my husband who also became their good friend. I had no idea that something was not right until few months before the “discovery.”
Seven months before the discovery, he met a prostitute half his age in Manila whom he fell in “love” with after a few nights with her. Over the next few months, their toxic relationship grew to the point that my husband flew to Manila to bring her to Singapore, help her find an apartment and a job at a KTV lounge. Because of their huge age gap, he was contemplating to keep the relationship going for another 7 years or so behind my back so he could evaluate whether their relationship was going anywhere. He increasingly grew distant, cold and resentful towards me during this time, and I told my friends about our discords. A few weeks before the discovery, I had a talk with my husband. I told him that I was unhappy with the marriage and I wanted us to see a marriage counselor. He coldly rejected. I was so blinded with my faith in our marriage and love that I couldn’t consider that my husband could be having an affair, let alone be a sex addict. Much later, we learned through literature and the SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) support group that these types of toxic relationships are common for the sex addicts.
To stay or not to stay:
My first impulse was to divorce him as soon as possible. I told him to stop any communication with his affair until our divorce is finalized to respect me and the children. I also asked him to move out or stay in a different room. He rejected every single request I made to keep myself sane since he felt entitled to everything. In the next few days, my husband decided to leave the affair and try to work things out with me and the family. However, it took him much longer to let go of her emotionally.
During a phone conversation with the friend, she reminded me that we had been doing a lot of self development study together. She said studying through books is one thing but what I am going through is the opportunity to test whether I can really practice what I learned in theory. This helped me to realize that no matter what decision I make about our marriage, I will still need to work on forgiving my husband since holding onto resentment will only poison me. I decided that it would be easier to work on forgiveness if we are both working on the relationship. I also decided that even if my husband may not deserve a second chance, our marriage of 18 years deserved some chance. I perceived our marriage as a separate entity from my husband or me as an individual. So I made a decision to postpone the decision for one year.
During the initial phase, I experienced depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, panic attacks, fear and shame. I wondered what was wrong with me to cause my husband to seek prostitutes for years. I could not function normally. Simple tasks such as planning a meal or cooking for the family became extremely difficult. I could not eat or sleep properly. Sometimes, I became immobile. I would wake up feeling calm and peaceful as the reality completely escaped my consciousness, then I would remember everything and sob uncontrollably. Instead of waking up from a nightmare to peaceful reality, my reality became the nightmare.
I had to work on accepting the death of the relationship as I knew it. There are days that the thought of my husband with other women pervaded my mind almost every minute of the day. Sense of betrayal, disbelief and disgust were so powerful that I sometimes felt that there is no way that I want to waste my life on him. I yearned for the return of my old faithful husband but I realized that I would never get him back. What I had next to me now was a different man who was battling his inner monster. I still needed to make a choice whether I wanted to accept this new man as my lifelong partner. The man I thought I married and spent 20 years with was now a different person in my mind. Either way, I needed to mourn and accept the death of my old husband in order for me to move on. I could not keep dwelling on the past. Some days I felt hopeful and full of love towards my husband. I was happy that he was back and trying to rebuild his love towards me. I would do anything to make our marriage work. His kind gestures gave me an illusion that he still loved me the way he used to. When I remembered that he loved someone else intensely and did not care if he lost me, I felt absolutely shattered. I was on an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I felt that the only way for me to feel safe and loved again is to find someone else who would love me and cherish me the way I deserve.
I was blessed with many resources I had. My caring and wise friends were my first line of defense to battle the worst nightmare of my entire life. One of them introduced us to a very good therapist who specializes in sex addiction. He was instrumental in keeping us on track with our recoveries. The books on sex addiction and traumas of sex addicts’ partners gave me deeper understanding of this illness as well as the tools for me to survive the traumatic experience. Therapy sessions called Systemic (Family) Constellation facilitated by a Singaporean lady brought huge changes to both of us. I attended a 5-week workshop at a counseling center in Toa Payoh for people impacted by a cheating spouse. We also had a few Skype sessions with an energy healer based in Hong Kong. When my daily short meditation became impossible after discovery, it was replaced with desperate dialogue with a “Higher Being” which became my first experience with the daily prayers.
The most precious gift of all is meeting fellow members in the PoSA group. Even with all the wonderful resources I at my disposal and a husband diligently working towards his own recovery, I was still immensely miserable and suicidal at times. He reached out to fellow support group members whether any of their partners are willing to meet up with me. Only one came forward. When I talked to his wife for the first time, the relief I felt within was tremendous. I did not have to explain any of the emotions I felt. She lived through them. Within 6 months of our first meeting, our group size grew to ten. When most members were too weak and shattered to have focused minds, our first angel of the group persevered and helped us decide structure and locate a free meeting room. I am extremely grateful to our living guardian angel and her brave husband. Without both of you, none of us would be where we are right now. I am also grateful to everyone who touched my life including my dear addict husband for making me who I am today.