Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following story from a reader whom we’ll call, “Marguerite2018.”
I spent over half my life with my now ex-husband. What I’m about to share is a glimpse, as I’m sure is the case for so many of us that have stories upon stories to share of the surreal experiences that we endured with our abusers.
During the course of our relationship, from time to time, I became aware of what I believed was periodic cheating or affairs. We had been through marriage counseling a few times & after each incident, I forgave & assumed it was behind us. In between incidents, there was evidence of heavy porn use. He always hid these things & I always seemed to accidentally discover them…cleaning out vent grates & finding a stash, looking for jumper cables in the car & finding sex toys hidden, walking in on him, exorbitant phone bills from live sex talk lines in the early years & so on. It was an embarrassment for me, an opportunity to for him get angry (or gaslight, project, blame me etc.) & my naive, old self believed that maybe this was normal for guys.
The confusing thing was that throughout our entire relationship, there was never consistent or stable sexual intimacy between us. Sex for us was pretty much nonexistent. Affection & loving gestures were there but sex was not. His reasons for withholding sex were ever changing. He used excuses like he never had a high libido, his cholesterol, his weight, his work schedule, MY insecurities, MY discoveries, MY persistence … always MY fault & it never mattered what I did or didn’t do.
He would become extremely uncomfortable if I tried to discuss sex or if I brought up any concerns about the lack of it; which I brought up only maybe once a year, for fear of the same awkward conversation that often evolved into a fight that resulted with him needing to leave the house for hours afterwards. Almost childlike uncomfortable, which I always thought was strange but equated it to possibly his upbringing.
On several occasions I asked if he wanted to separate or if he wanted to continue being married to me. He would become hysterical. He reminded me of something he said on the day of our wedding & would say from time to time … ”we didn’t get married to get divorced”. Only now he was adding to it by saying “the only way either of us is leaving this marriage is in a pine box.” Begging, pleading or crying that he was happy, that he loved me, that “I” was destroying us, that “MY” insecurities were destroying us.
It never made sense to me … from the outside, we looked like a great family but from the inside, very few knew of the struggles … waking up several nights a week to find him gone, disappearing for hours at a time, money disappearing from our account with no explanation but assured to be a guaranteed fight if I mentioned it. From the inside, even I was confused.
We frequently spent quality time together & as a family. We talked often, planned our future, remodeled our house, had creative outlets & hobbies, adopted 4 special needs children, planned family events & never once, prior to 2014 did I ever think it was unmanageable … that we wouldn’t be able to work through whatever we encountered.
Still, there was something unsettling. It was as if I didn’t have all of the pieces to a puzzle. The more I uncovered, the more that unsettling feeling took over & the crazier his behaviors became … violent, threatening & frequent statements that implied suicide. During the last several years, we lost not just friends, but circles of friends due to his indiscretions … cheated with a friend’s fiancé, sexually harassing a friend’s daughter, sexually harassing 2 neighbors on our block. It was out of control & getting closer to home.
I began snooping & reaching out for help. I didn’t know what I was dealing with but something was very wrong. At the same time, it was surreal. How can someone say all of the right things, in my presence be seemingly happy but be hiding the most deviant, vile behaviors? I came across information about sex addiction & was convinced that he fit the criteria. I started attending a group for spouses of sex addicts … some stories rang familiar, some stories seemed much worse than what I was dealing with (or so I believed, at that time) & some stories gave me hope that we could get through these problems.
I was committed to help & to support him if he was willing to do his own work. He was extremely resistant, at first. After being made aware of his multiple, secret social media accounts, I decided to Google his name. The very first thing that came up was a website dedicated to trapping those that sought out prostitution. Under his profile was an image of the 2 of us (probably cross referenced from his Facebook account), his phone number & screenshots of his text messages with a prostitute (that included a symbol that was frequently used by him … so it confirmed its validity to me).
I emailed the website to remove the photo as it included me & confronted him with the evidence. I also gave him the ultimatum to seek help or move out. He started attending meetings & immediately texted me what I had suspected … that he struggled with sex addiction. I’m sure now, to keep me from discovering more if I assumed that he was actually working on his problems.
From 2014 on, I picked up more & more slack with our kids, who all had very separate, demanding needs. He became extremely vacant the more I tried to hold him accountable. He became more locked down & was not transparent at all. It was unclear as far as whether or not he was attending his support meetings but I suspected that he wasn’t.
I was taught in my own support meetings that I was not to micromanage him … his involvement in his group or lack of, was none of my business … really tough when you don’t know if you’re making progress as a couple or if my sick gut feeling that I felt was accurate. Their rules of program boundaries played right into his hands & as time went on I was convinced that he wasn’t even attending the meetings that he would leave the house for, for several hours. Cognitive dissonance was at an all time high. I wanted so badly to believe that I was wrong about my suspicions. He could be very convincing.
I started to suspect another affair after finding a handmade card from another woman hidden among some tools in our garage. He convinced me to believe that it was from long ago but I had a hard time believing that due to where it was located. He insisted that they were just friends, anyway. He again implied that I was ruining our relationship … that I was paranoid & insecure. In a very condescending way, he told me that she was married, Mormon & that she & her husband had nearly a dozen children … that I was crazy & paranoid.
I looked her up on his friends list & quickly started seeing a trend to comments, shared profile pictures, liked pictures & what appeared to be inside jokes through the comments on posts. I confronted him again & he flew into a rage. He was then blaming me for his sex addiction & told me that I was perpetuating his sex addiction, that my constant accusations were the reason he couldn’t imagine any sexual intimacy with me … that nobody likes to be micromanaged. He no longer saw me as a wife but as a “mommy” & proceeded to sarcastically call me Mom after every statement he made. He said that I turned his stomach, that I was crazy, paranoid & needy.
I now had yet another reason for the lack of intimacy throughout our relationship & again knew that it wouldn’t matter what I did or didn’t do to correct the behaviors that were offensive to him. I asked him to leave & told him that I couldn’t go on like this. He refused, telling me that he loved me & knew that he wanted to work through our problems … that he didn’t mean all of the horrible things he’d said.
I gave another ultimatum of seeing another marriage counselor. I couldn’t imagine navigating through any more grief without the support of a therapist. If we were going to salvage what was left of our marriage then we needed to seek help. He agreed. He gave the condition of choosing the therapist & I agreed.
We saw the therapist that he selected, individually, to start. He went first. My first session with her seemed to go by in minutes. I felt like I had barely touched the surface of the things that had confused me but somehow felt that she understood way more than I did about my own situation, without all of my disclosures. In hindsight, she was a blessing & the beginning of my awakening. She confirmed the need for help & ended our session with asking me why I had stayed. She had agreed to work with us but also expressed that a trial separation might benefit the situation.
I couldn’t understand that suggestion at the time. We were there to save our marriage, not end it. I get it now … almost 4 years later. She had concerns of his mounting escalation of my discoveries & his lack of transparency. She didn’t feel that he was fully on board but for whatever reason was playing the part & partially discussing his problems but with no real admission of “a” problem. She was concerned that he seemed not remorseful in the least bit but was hostile at the suggestion of separation.
He admitted to heavy prostitution use, fetish prostitution of pregnant prostitutes (Nauseatingly, I discovered that’s apparently a thing … in years past I found porn related to this, too) & numerous affairs or one night stands. He denied an affair with the current woman in question, again by stating her religious morals & large family … longevity in her own marriage.
Our first & only joint session was a complete disaster. Afterwards he was hateful & paranoid. He would bully me into promising that I wouldn’t leave him & would then flip moods & attempt to be loving … begging me to reassure him. He blamed our therapist (the one he chose) for “having it in for him,” for expecting perfection & for being against him from the start.
His rage & outbursts were worse than I had ever seen. It was like living with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. He threatened suicide & would make statements like “you’d be better off if I was gone,” “the world would be safer without me.” I secretly reached out to his family to pick up his guns. His behaviors were so erratic & I didn’t trust him.
I met with the therapist privately to express my concerns. She validated my concerns & also stated that she was confident that he had narcissistic personality disorder & possible co-occurring diagnoses. She also encouraged me to get tested for any sexually transmitted diseases & if I felt comfortable, to contact the woman that I had suspected he was having an affair with. I contacted her and a 5-year affair was immediately confirmed.
My mind was racing. We had adopted our last 2 children just 4 years prior … one year after their affair had begun. She had a 3-year-old with her husband (2 years after their affair had begun). She disclosed that she was well aware of the fetish. That her last child was an attempt to save her marriage after her own husband had discovered the affair years prior & that sex with my ex during her pregnancy was frequent & abusive…explaining the use of sex toys & nearly going into preterm labor after sex with him in her third trimester. She explained that she had tried many times to break things off but that he would stalk her, harass her & threaten to post their pictures & videos (including video of sex during her pregnancy) to shame her to her family & friends. He would race up & down her street, had her on gps location & was the reason that she lost one of her jobs. She then disclosed that during the previous weekend that he raped her.
My head was spinning. I had no idea who my husband was & was terrified. I felt numb & couldn’t even cry at that point. Completely traumatized & feared for our family. What else was he hiding? I apologized for her pain & stated that I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around her disclosures. She volunteered to send me proof of their conversations after the rape occurred through screenshots of their conversations. We promised not to disclose our conversations to him, which we both feared would escalate him further. I promised that I would be there for her & expressed that he needed more help than what any of us were capable of giving.
It was surreal … how in the hell was this my life?? I contacted the therapist after my conversation with his girlfriend. I had no idea where else to turn & was completely exhausted from weeks of fight or flight. The therapist made a stern suggestion of staging a family intervention. She stated that I needed to get him out of the house, that we were in danger. She was not surprised of the additional discoveries but more confirmed that he had multiple personality disorders. That he had used me & our good family as his shield to fly under the radar. She encouraged me to get the kids out of the house for the intervention & also encouraged the rape to be reported.
She also disclosed further concerns about the prostitution issues that we had discussed. Since he had already openly discussed it in our joint session, she felt safe with elaborating on the extent that they had discussed in their individual session. He had loosely admitted to prostitution with minors (sex trafficking) … at least by stating that he didn’t care about the age as long as they stated that they were 18 … that he had most likely been with minors & favored the younger looking girls.
I can’t even describe the fog that I was in. The 3 years & high conflict divorce/custody battle that followed that night were the most terrifying, revealing & yet empowering of my life. It’s where I learned about narcissistic personality disorder, forensic evaluations, court appointed advisors, terms like borderline personality disorder, paraphilic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder. It’s where I learned about love bombing, discarding, projection, gaslighting, triangulation & the cycles of abuse. It’s where I learned about flying monkeys & who was truly, unconditionally there for us … and who wasn’t. It’s where I learned that his disorders affected our home in the most soul crushing, secretive & destructive ways.
It’s where I discovered trauma therapy. It’s where I learned to rise from devastations that by all rights should have destroyed me. It’s where I learned how to fight & advocate for my children & myself. It’s where I learned about no contact & where I learned about strengths I didn’t know that I possessed. It’s where I learned about myself, original wounds & finally, where I found the answer to the question asked by my ex-husband’s therapist, in my very first session with her of “why I stayed.”
The events of those last 3 years are a novel by themselves. I have been no contact…actually with both my ex & his new/old supply. She continues to stand by him, for whatever her reasoning.