This Shouldn’t Happen to a Child
My life started out like so many others. I had a great early childhood and enjoyed my family and friends. But when I was 4 years old, I experienced a severe physical trauma requiring several reconstructive surgeries. Because of the trauma, my face was scarred and kids made fun of me. It was a horrible introduction to kindergarten, but not as horrible as what followed.
During this dark time, a female cousin began to sexually abuse me. Both of us were kids, and she billed this as “playing house.” She would be the “daddy” and I was the “mommy.” She would touch me in places that she should not have touched me. Because it was being stimulated, my body responded naturally. I did not know any better. After several years, I knew the play made me uncomfortable, but I was not sure what to do about it. I suspect now that she was also being abused because she was too young to do some of the things she did to me, unless it was being done to her as well.
Progressing into my early teens (the abuse had stopped at this point), I looked for anything sexual in nature, which at the time included books and an occasional girly magazine that I would come across. At the time I had blocked the abuse from my mind but I know now that my interest in all things sexual stemmed from the abuse. I had gone through my first sexual experience at a very young age albeit unwanted, yet my body craved to react as it did during the abuse. I had no conscious thought about this, mind you, but the books just were not doing the job. I needed another outlet.
The Progression of the Addiction
Flirting became that outlet for me. Speaking to boys and men in a flirtatious manner was a high for me. I learned quickly that the flirting gave me power over men. I never had the power during my abuse, so for me, power was good. Anything I wanted could be mine…all I had to do was to turn on the charm.
And I did.
In fact, over the course of 30 years, I became WAY too good at it.
Dating was very rare for me during high school, but dating picked up the first semester of college. One of my childhood friends had an older brother who showed a lot of interest in me those first few months of college. Of course this fueled my fire. I enjoyed being desired and he was quick to let me know how much he thought of me. In fact, he was the first to mention that I had “bedroom eyes”, which at the time I was not sure about. All I knew was it drove him wild, which again, was more power for me. I didn’t like him enough to continue dating him, so I moved on to dating others.
During my second semester, I met my future husband. He was a traveling musician, so our time together was limited. Our relationship started off slowly but soon progressed to a hot and heavy relationship. By the time we began having sex, our justification was that we knew we were getting married, so we just blew past our beliefs and values system. For me, the battle between my flesh and my spiritual self was in full force. As the relationship progressed, it became easier and easier to kick my values to the curb.
My husband and I did get married and frankly, I thought all was well. Marriage is open season for sex anytime you want it, so what could go wrong?
Within our first 15 months of marriage, life hit us hard with job loss for both of us, moving into both parent’s homes, getting pregnant unexpectedly, and that child being born at 25 weeks weighing just less than 2 pounds. These things, packed into a new marriage, were more than we could handle. After our son’s birth, the stress began taking its toll on the both of us.
The Beginning of the Downfall of My Marriage
While our son grew slowly in the neonatal intensive care unit, I went in to survivor mode and my husband…well, he began his turn away from God. Both of us had been raised in church, but this threw us for a loop. Our life was not supposed to be this way, because we both had been in ministry in some form or fashion and dealing with a son that may be a special needs child forever…unfair! My husband’s anger grew and as he turned from God, he became increasingly distant from me. It seemed that my continuous crying out to God did nothing. Our marriage was being affected from what was going on in our lives.
Fast forward a few years, our family grew two more times. Another son was added along with the girl we always wanted. At this point my husband had immersed himself in both work and graduate school and left me to do most of the work with the kids. I needed him to be present in my life. Three kids under age 5 and all in diapers was so very stressful to do alone. Do not get me wrong, he loved our kids and when he was home, he did well with them, but the problem was, he ran from the stress and from me. The more distant he grew, the more attention I began seeking from others.
As the children grew, we moved several times, and our address was not the only thing that changed. Our marriage began to change as well. I was getting tired of not having the emotional support I needed from him. Of course he wanted me when it came to sex, but I honestly needed much more than sex.
I wanted someone to show me that I was worth something. That I was attractive, funny, amazing, and desired.
Settling in a new home, I was able to find that person…something I thought would absolutely never happen, but when you take down your walls, anyone is subject to come in. Boundaries were not a part of my vocabulary and my main focus was to be desired and “loved” no matter what.
How My Affair Happened
My affair partner came in the form of my husband’s best friend at the time. The four of us (me, my husband, the affair partner, and his wife) spent countless hours together so naturally we became close. He thought I was amazing. Everything I said was funny and when he began flirting, of course I flirted back and quickly realized that he desired me. Since I know now that being desired is my core issue, I was hooked. The affair did not happen overnight. The more time we spent together as couples, the more attractive he became and we both began seeking each other out in situations where are spouses would not be around. I can honestly say that on my part, it was not intentional in order to have an affair, but frankly, it felt nice to be around someone that was giving me attention I was not getting at home.
The next several months we spent every moment possible together, even if it was just eating out as the four of us. Time alone was rarer than we hoped, but we managed it. For me, I became a skilled liar. I had become someone I did not know but the high received from the relationship was too big of a draw to go back to my “normal” self. Those around me thought I was depressed, and I was given anti-depressants. God made us to be as He designed and I was veering so far from God’s design I was making myself sick. I knew I was not depressed but what others did not see at the time was that I was living apart from my beliefs and values and was becoming a person no one recognized.
Our affair continued for a year, even after my husband became suspicious and moved us to another state. I now know that limerence was running high in this relationship. I rewrote the relationship history with my husband and was certain that God put the affair partner in my life because we were made for each other. We made plans for our future…what we would do, places we would visit. It was a fantasy relationship, but it felt oh so real.
After a year, time ran out for us and the affair was discovered. I grieved the relationship and was not sure how I could go forward. My beliefs and values told me that trying to repair my marriage was the thing to strive for, so I tried. After all, I did love my spouse, but felt distant from him.
The End of the Affair Didn’t Fix Anything
For 2 years, I continued flirting with others because I could not have what I really longed for, which was the affair partner. Power I had over my circumstances during the affair was no longer present and the flirting helped to restore some of that false power that I felt I had lost.
My husband had stated that there was to be no contact and for those 2 years, there was no contact. Only after an argument with my husband, I reached back out to the affair partner again and began another 5 year secretive affair via phone and email. We never physically saw each other during those following 5 years.
My situation shows just how powerful limerence can be as we continued to be very close, even though we did not see each other.
When I Realized I Was A Sex Addict
During this time, my interest in porn grew into an addiction. The affair partner liked porn as well and my use was a way to keep him interested. We talked about the porn each of us viewed. Hours and hours were spent watching porn. I even looked at porn at work, school, the grocery store, and even church. Yes, even church. (I look back now and just cannot even…)
During the 5 years, I continued my flirting but also had some questionable encounters with others, even though I was “in love” with my affair partner. Sex addiction had reached a pinnacle in my life. I was so far out of control of my life I look back now and it is so very sad. I had walked away from God inwardly, even though outwardly, I played the part well. The façade I kept up for 5 years was about to crumble and I thank God that it did.
The affair partner’s wife found an email I had sent to him and she called my husband to alert him. My husband had enough of the deception and decided we were done and would divorce. He told my children that I was leaving that night and my daughter’s primal scream flipped a switch inside of me and I realized at that moment that no matter what my husband decided to do with our marriage, I could not continue living the life of sin I was in, nor could I continue on being the person I had become. I wanted peace. I wanted to be myself again. After my parents were called the next morning by my affair partner’s wife, all my secrets were out and exposed. I was laid bare before my friends and family with no place to hide.
My Last Chance to Save My Marriage
Once my husband knew that my parents were aware of the story, he decided we could try again, but I had only one shot. Anymore inappropriate relationships with that man, or others, and it would be over. I knew he meant it, and I was not about to go there.
I knew I loved my husband but I had lost my way. Willingly, I gave my husband my passwords to my phone, email, and social media and began walking the journey of earning his trust again. Transparency is the key in reconciliation after an affair. In fact, if the partner that has strayed is not willing to be transparent for a time after an affair, you may want to be concerned.
Has it been easy? No way. Keep in mind that when the affair ended for the second time, I had been flirting for well over 30 years and that habit is hard to break. It is especially difficult when I am feeling like my core issue of being desired is not being met. However, nothing worth having is ever easy. Although it was the hardest thing we ever went through, we are the happiest and strongest now that we have ever been. We talk more and if need be, call each other out on things that we know are vital to our marriage. Perfection is not a part of our marriage but we know where we went wrong the first time (and second time) and are working on keeping on the healing path.
Hope For You
If you are a sex addict, get help. Confess to your spouse. Become accountable. You will never find the fulfillment you are looking for from sex or pornography.
If you are married to a sex addict, consider it similar to any other addiction. Encourage your spouse to seek help and realize this is something that you and your spouse will have to work on over time. Know that your marriage can be better than it was before, and you can move past this. It’s not going to get better without help and someone to guide you through where you marriage went wrong and how to make it better again. We can help you do that.