Morning friend,

I’m angry as I answer this reader’s question. I’m angry at her church and pastors for not being wise enough to know what they were dealing with and continuing to make the mistake of prioritizing the institution of marriage and a man’s sexual needs over a wife’s safety, sanity and the well-being of the children in this destructive marriage. 

Jesus teaches us that the Sabbath was created for humans to have a respite in their week (Mark 2:27). To savor God’s love, his creation, and rest from the normal everyday responsibilities of work. The Pharisees turned the Sabbath into a legalistic rule book that eventually became so oppressive that people in Jesus’ day were afraid to do good for others because they might be accused of breaking the Sabbath and be scolded and/or excommunicated. Jesus challenged that nonsense when he said to the Pharisees, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” (Luke 14:5)

In the same way, marriage was created by God for people. For their benefit and blessing. To have a loving, safe, and trusting relationship to enjoy, to have and raise children and teach the next generation about God. But our current conservative culture has made the same error about marriage that the Pharisees made in Jesus’ day about the Sabbath. We’ve made the institution (the sanctity of marriage) more important than the people in it. I don’t believe Jesus would have counseled this woman the same way her pastors did. 

Question: My husband and I have been married for 20 years. My first discovery of his unfaithfulness was in 2011. His affair partner messaged me to talk to me over a year later. My husband had already confessed it to our pastor who was counseling him to wait for the right time to tell me, but they left it too late and she got there first. 

I forgave him and reconciled to him quickly afterward with the counsel of my pastors who urged me to forgive and avoid divorce. My husband was never asked why he had an affair, I was coached on forgiveness, letting go, and giving him regular sex. I did all of this and my next discovery came in 2018 when I found he was emailing a woman he'd met on Facebook. I had been suspicious a couple of years prior to that. He was distant, cold, unloving and detached and always on his phone so I thought he was being unfaithful but I couldn't prove it. I asked him outright one time and he denied it. 

After the second discovery his behavior worsened, continual sexual dissatisfaction aimed at me, emotional and verbal abuse, stonewalling, manipulation. I stuck it out for the sake of my 3 young boys. In 2021 I found he had been watching inappropriate videos of women on his phone. I confronted him. He coldly admitted it as he could hardly deny it but showed no remorse. I stopped sleeping with him from this point onward. His hostile and contemptuous behavior toward me continued until my neighbor came to me one afternoon and showed me that he had messaged her 3 months prior running me down and telling her he'd like to get to know her a lot better. When she turned him down, he begged her not to tell me saying he had his 3 young sons to think of if she told me. I confronted him, he denied it. I told him I knew and only then did he admit to it. 

He joined MIB (Men in the Battle) 3 months earlier and he told me he was getting ready to do a full disclosure which I had no idea about. With my pastor and wife, he then disclosed his secret sexual life and all the other affairs one night stands porn and chat rooms he'd been involved with for years. One of the affair partners he brought into our lives 3 years earlier said she was an old school friend who was dying of cancer and desperate to find God, so I became her friend and prayed for her believing she was sick. She was also around my children several times. This relationship has done the most damage to me psychologically.

Since then I have joined WIB and I have a trauma coach and I have done some brain spotting which I feel has helped. I am in a good therapy group and a WIB group and I have a trauma-informed therapist I'm working with also. I feel well connected and on the road to healing. 

I told him to move out last year after his disclosure and we are separated. I feel much safer even though it's very hard raising the boys alone. I am very distressed inside. I am still processing the situation as we had the full therapeutic disclosure in May where he confessed a fair bit of new information. After this, I have tightened my boundaries because of the increased shock and trauma. 

He does not respond well to my requests, often his attitude is still negative. He has type B personality diagnosis. He is adamant he wants to save the marriage and he's trying. He says he wants to restore the family. I believe he wants to but he has such a bad attitude frequently, moody, erratic, blames me that he can't sleep over the night and be with the boys and accuses me sometimes of trying to stop him from being their dad when I have only promoted their relationship to my own detriment. 

He sees a coach once every 2 weeks online and he wants to do MIB over again. I am working towards trying to get my own income. I want to do some training at the end of year so I can work from home. I'm just trusting for the finances. I am being proactive about putting together an exit plan in case I decide I need to divorce. 

I suppose my question is, how do I stay sane and cope with his behavior in the waiting time and do you have any insight into why sex addicts behave this way? Is this common after disclosure in early recovery? He claims he is sober and that he passed a polygraph in May.

Answer: I am so sorry for what you’ve been through. It’s a terrible thing to be so deeply betrayed by someone you trusted and believed cared about you.

Over these years you have had to face some very ugly truths, not only about your spouse, but also about your pastors, and their dealing with this problem in such a biased way. While they were “waiting” to tell you, was your pastor not concerned with your sexual safety as well as mental and emotional health? Perhaps he meant well, but he too caused you harm.

You ask if I know “why” your husband behaves this way. Nope. Sin is insanity. It does not make sense. Why would humans ever believe they know better than God what is good and best? We are created to be filled by God, but addicts seek their fulfillment elsewhere. There is no explanation I can give you that can make sense of his actions. We might say, it’s because he was abused as a child. Yet many people who were abused as children do not purposely lie, cheat, use other women for their own purposes, put their spouses at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. We might say because he’s unhappy. Yet there are many people who are unhappy who do not act out like he does. He behaves this way because he can. He believes he can do what he pleases and get away with it…and so far he has. There really have been no consequences other than now you are separated from him and he doesn’t like it.

He says he wants his family and he wants to father his kids, he doesn’t like sleeping alone, and he blames you. Isn’t it interesting that he doesn’t blame himself? Pay attention. He hasn’t changed even if he’s not currently sexually acting out. He is still self-centered and self-oriented. It’s all about him. His feelings, his needs, his rights, his hurts, his desires. You have given me no indication that he has any concern for the tremendous impact his actions have caused you. He is solely focused on the pain he’s in, not the pain he has caused you and the kids. That is a huge red flag.

Your husband has serious problems. Online coaching every two weeks is not enough help for him to change. He’s going through the motions in order to look good enough to be able to come home. Even if you believe him (and why would you?) that he’s not currently sexually acting out, he is still acting out by bullying you, blaming you and making you the target of all his pain. 

Your question was how do you stay sane amidst his craziness. Here are a few things you can do: 

Have strong, clear boundaries, perhaps only communicating with him via the app Our Family Wizard. 

Practice JADE: Do not justify anything to him. Do not argue with him about anything. Do not defend yourself against his disparaging remarks. Do not explain anything. It will only end up with you feeling crazy and beaten down when you dance in his crazy dance and gaslighting. 

Detach: Stop thinking about the possibility of reconciliation. From what you wrote, that would not be in your best interests nor the kid’s best interests. Do not ask or expect him to care about you because he clearly shows you he does not. He only cares about himself.

Honor yourself: Just because your husband dishonored you and doesn’t care about you, please honor your own self. Take care of your needs, continue doing your own work to heal, grow and thrive from all your betrayal trauma. Your story is not over even if your marriage is.

Grieve your losses of a good marriage, a faithful, honest husband and father, and see him for who he shows you he is. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that love rejoices in the truth. God has shown you some very ugly, hard truths about your husband and your marriage. You must not close your eyes and return to hopium (hoping things will get better so you don’t have to live in the pain of truth). Living in the truth will keep you sane and keep you from being sweet-talked, love bombed, or spiritually manipulated into lowering your boundaries and opening your heart again. 

Friend, when you have experienced betrayal trauma, what have you done to keep yourself sane and strong?

4 Comments

  1. Pamela Reinhardt on September 1, 2022 at 1:10 pm

    Leslie’s reply is the most informed & spot on reply that I have ever heard in my life. Her insight is a path to follow that is accurate & life giving for the wife. I pray she takes heed & walks ahead in the light she has been given thru Leslie’s reply.

  2. Rose Muriuki on September 1, 2022 at 1:12 pm

    Best sober and practical advice ever.

  3. Lynn on September 1, 2022 at 1:43 pm

    I identify with this woman, as my story is similar. My ex-husband was moody, distant, and mean. I tried to be patient, loving and prayed for his salvation. I blamed his actions on a stressful job. He filed for separation in 2013, refusing marriage counseling. We had been married 32 years at that point. I was devastated. He claimed there was no one else, but insisted that “ no one knows the real you!” (Insinuating that I was miserable to live with and I was beginning to wonder if I had some sort of mental illness; it was pure gaslighting!) The ex refused to move out or file for divorce. We lived in the same house, but separate rooms . A year later, I found out the truth when his paramour’s husband called me; my ex was having a long time affair with a stripper. Mt ex had been giving her thousands of dollars each month, and I discovered that he wiped out some college accounts for our one child. The stripper’s husband was fine with her “ sugar daddy” giving her money, but only told me of the affair when he realized my ex intended to move to their area. When going back through credit card receipts the ex had, I was able to see he spent over $30k in a ten-year span in strip clubs.
    I never realized he had this proclivity! Even with this knowledge, I would have fought to save the marriage. Thankfully the ex filed for divorce, pushing me to move forward.
    We were divorced in 2016, and our home was sold. I moved to a townhouse development, and I began the hard work of picking up the pieces. As emotionally difficult it was to adjust to the loss of my home and marriage, I was also gaining confidence in my ability to provide for myself and to start new hobbies. I was involved in my church and made new friendships,
    I eventually met a wonderful Christian widower and we were married in 2020..
    I realized that my first marriage was like the biblical story of the Israelites in Egypt. God moved me through the desert to teach me to rely on Him, I feel I have reached the Promised land!
    There is a good life beyond this woman’s current marriage. Living with her children, without the heartbreak which her current husband inflicts, is reason enough to move forward. God will provide for her needs.

    • Jeanne Nixon on September 9, 2022 at 6:05 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your story of triumph despite the tragedy you experienced with your ex. I learn so much by reading everyone’s stories and especially Leslie’s solid, godly advice. Congratulations on your new marriage with someone who truly loves and values you.

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