I think part of the recovery process for me has been learning to trust my own instincts and my own judgement again. My confidence hit rock bottom after 'D' day - I could not believe I had been so blind as to not realise what was happening with my partner, and I spent quite a lot of time beating myself up for allowing myself to be deceived (as I saw it at the time). It took me a year to get past that point. I am luckier than many partners on this site in that my partner's addiction was 'only' to porn (I am not sure we would be where we are today if sex workers or chat rooms had been part of the problem), and he had come to the decision that he needed to quit (and tried to quit) long before I became aware of how severe his addiction had become. I am hoping that he continues to be able to defeat this, and that we can continue to move forwards, but I realise that a relapse is always possible, and I am prepared for that, and now feel that, if it happens, we will face it together. I can see a difference in my partner now - he is happier, his mood is more even, and I can only think this is because the addiction is no longer dominating his life. Through this whole process, I have found the words of other partners on this site to be so helpful, so encouraging and so supportive. Long may it continue!
Hi Florrie, First of all - I am sorry that you are one of the many women who are having to deal with this. There are so many of us, and we each have a different story to tell, and are finding different ways to cope with this situation. I also have adult children, a few years older than yours, who are no longer living at home. My partner's addiction has been present, to a greater of lesser extent, throughout our marriage, and so throughout our children's lives, but the extent of his addiction had been hidden until the last couple of years. These are my thoughts, and are in NO WAY meant to be advice - this is just to share what I have decided to do in my own life. I decided at the beginning that the children should be told if I ever suspected that either of them had ever been exposed to, or harmed by, his addiction. As far as I can tell, this is not the case. They are both extremely loving towards their father, and he has been (and still is) a great and devoted Dad to both of them. I know how agonising I have found this whole situation, and I see no reason to put them through the same misery. I am not sure how either of them would react, but I know that they would find it devastating. We all keep some things from our kids (as they keep things from us) - in this situation, I think that disclosure would only cause harm. I have also spent a lot of time getting to a place where I truly understand that this is my partner's problem, and it is his responsibility to fix it, and to put right the damage he has caused. If I ever felt that the children should know, then it would be up to him to tell them, and not up to me. I am not going to be an intermediary in this; I am not going to apologise for or excuse what he has done; and I am not going to put myself through the agony of telling my children. That may sound selfish, but I think when we are coming though this situation, we need to be putting ourselves and our recovery first. Finally, 18 months on from 'D' day, I am getting into a better, happier place, and my relationship with my partner is beginning to heal. If I had told my children early on, I am not sure I would then have been able to stay with my partner - I suspect once the information was out there, it would have pulled us all apart. These are just my own thoughts, but I hope you may find them useful. Thinking of you and hoping you get some good advice and find the right way through this for yourself and for your children.
A really useful contribution, Rob! I think the idea of seeing the addict as 'a good person who has done bad things' is really positive, and sums up how I try to view my partner. He has been, for much of our marriage, a loving, kind and considerate husband, and we have shared many wonderful times. That is the 'good person' who I have chosen to stay with. The 'bad things' have, at times, taken over and dominated our relationship, and that makes me sad and angry. Increasingly, as time goes on and my partner prove his commitment to beating this addiction, my anger is directed towards the pornography industry which drew him in as a teenager, and which, in one way or another, has had its hooks in him ever since. I have grandchildren, and I fear for what they may be exposed to as they get older.
Rob's perspective and experience will probably be more useful here, but it sounds as though you and your partner are both really hurting now. I read somewhere that one of the hardest things about this situation is that the person you would otherwise turn to for support and comfort when you are in pain, is the one who has caused the hurt. It takes a great deal of courage to reach out to each other, but if you feel you want to stay in the relationship (or if you feel that at the moment you are not ready to make the decision whether to stay or leave) then I think that may be what you need to do. Something I wrote on another post is that (although I am an atheist) I found the idea of 'hating the sin and not the sinner' was very helpful. Has your partner done anything other than banned himself from the internet? I think it would be reasonable for you to ask him what he is doing to help himself get clean and beat this. From my partner's past experience, it seems that just going 'cold turkey' and hoping that guilt and willpower will get you through is not likely to be successful. This is just from my own experience, and is not meant to be advice! Everyone is very different.
So much of what you have written, Nanook75, echoes my own situation - the differences being that over our more than 40 year relationship I had been aware on a number of occasions that my partner was using pornography, and on each occasion he had promised to stop. I think that each time he made that promise he meant it, but did not have any understanding of the fact that he had an addiction. It was only on the last occasion (also 18 months ago now) that I basically broke down and told him our relationship was over that he seemed to wake up to the situation. I got him to read a number of websites and articles and I think it was then the light finally dawned on him. He has told me that until then he thought he was just 'made that way' or 'a nasty piece of work'. Now he understands how porn addiction develops and what it does to the brain, he seems much more able to combat it. Because of our work situation, we need to keep our internet connection, and so I decided early on that I would have to choose to trust that he would not use the internet for porn. This has been very difficult, but part of my personal journey has been learning to stop trying to control or police his actions - this is his responsibility. What he has found to be helpful has been: Keeping talking, no matter what, and always demanding and offering honesty (even when that was painful to both of us)Recognising what made him turn to porn (stress, boredom, anxiety - there was quite a long list), and finding alternative ways of dealing with it (running, music, dog walking)Having plans in place for times when he could weaken (if he is alone in the house or away on a business trip, he plans activities which keep him busy and away from the computer and his laptop, which can be as simple as hoovering the house, or cutting the grass, or could be heading off to the cinema or meeting friends for a drink)If he is tempted, then using the RUN mantra he found in Paula's self-help guide (Remove yourself from the situation; Undistort your thinking; Never forget what you have to lose)Simplest of all - he keeps a card I sent him ages ago on his desk, right by his computer, as a reminder that this is NOT something which is unconnected to our life together (like your partner, his earlier responses were that this was somehow something separate to us as a couple). It is a reminder that everything he does impacts on me too.Dealing with the emotional anguish, the loneliness and the overwhelming sadness of this situation is exhausting and difficult, and sometimes feels just too bloody hard, but 18 months on I am beginning to feel that there may be a future for us, and that this may be something he can beat. I do hope that you and your partner will find a way through this that works for both of you. Please take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. Let yourself cry when you need to and scream when you want to!
Hope you felt able to spend some time with your friend, and that her support helped you. We've all been through those awful mood swings - one moment ready to fight and take on the world, and the next just frightened and lonely and desperately, unbelievably sad and hurt. Whatever you choose to do, and however you choose to deal with this, believe me things do get easier, and although it is a cliche, time does help to heal the wounds. This situation makes us vulnerable, so be kind to yourself and keep yourself safe. Thinking of you tonight - let us know how you get on this week xxxx
I read the postings above with tears in my eyes, Victoria and Janey. Thank you for your honesty and clarity! It breaks my heart to think that so many women are having to deal with this trauma in their lives (I recently read an article which described what we are going through as 'betrayal trauma', and that certainly made sense to me). As I have said before, there is no right and no wrong way to respond to this kind of life event. We all have to find our own paths. My partner and I have been together since we were teenagers and have children and grandchildren, and a whole web of friends built up over more than 40 years, and so walking away (or uncoupling, as Gwyneth Paltrow puts it) is both more difficult and more complex. I also suspect that I am luckier than many other women - my partner's addiction has been only to porn (and free porn at that). If he had been seeing escorts or paying for sex then I think my reaction would have been very different. The length of our relationship also means, I think, that I find it easier to take the long view and to accept that no genuine recovery from addiction can be quick - we are in this for the long haul. I am also perhaps a little further down the road than you - there had been a number of times when I had become aware that my partner was using porn in the past, and called him out on it, but only in the last 18 months have I really understood the extent of his porn use and had the courage to properly confront him over it, and he has had the courage to accept that he has an addiction and take the steps to deal with it. I am a staunch atheist, but in trying to understand the situation I find myself in, I have read a number of 'faith based' articles, and what I have taken from them is a message about 'hating the sin and not the sinner'. It has taken me some time to get to this point, where I can begin to detach the act (the porn addiction) from the man, and see them separately. I understand what Janey says about past memories being 'tainted'. Again, it has taken me time to give myself permission to look back on the good times with pleasure, and to face the bad memories head on. Trust will take time to be rebuilt, but I am willing to give myself the time to see if that can happen. I have also prepared myself for the fact that it is possible that my partner will relapse, and I have discussed with him what must happen if that occurs. None of this is meant to suggest that anyone should stay with their partner if that is not right for them. I have complete and utter sympathy (and admiration) for anyone who walks away from their partner in this situation. I absolutely feel that I am not in a position to give anyone advice! I think that recovery from this type of trauma is always a work in progress - there are good days and bad days; days when I want to scream at the world; days when I want to lie in bed and sob; days when I want to see my partner really suffer for what he has done to us. And there are days when my partner and I laugh, talk and have fun, and I am full of optimism for the future. And with each month there are fewer bad days, and more good days. All this is only possible because my partner has taken responsibility for his actions and his addiction - without that, there would have been no hope. I also wanted to thank this forum for giving us all a safe space to share our experiences, to try and make sense of what we are feeling, and to share with other people in the same situation. This forum, and others like it, have been a lifeline for me, and I hope it will be there for me and others like me for a long time to come.
As Christine says, there is no right or wrong in this - only what feels right and makes sense to you. First and foremost, take care of yourself. I am the same age as you and can understand how devastating it is to find out that your partner of so many years has been deceiving you all this time. In my case it was 'only' a porn addiction, which started when he was a teenager. There have been several times over the years when this has come to a head and he has told me he was giving it all up - only to go back to it at some time afterwards. And each time he has returned to porn, the type of thing he has been viewing has become more extreme and more at odds with the kind of man he appears to be. We had our rocky patches over the years (and looking back now, I wonder how many of those were when his porn addiction was at its worst), but despite everything I still enjoyed his company, he still made me laugh, he was a good father to our children and he was still my best friend. On the last occasion (18 months ago), I was where you are now, and had decided to end the marriage. I have since changed my mind, and would like to share my reasons with you. Firstly, I did some research into porn addiction, so that I could begin to understand why and how it comes about, and what the chances are for recovery. I reached out to other women through on-line forums (like this one), so that I felt I had some support and that someone else understood where I was coming from. Finally, I told my partner that if he wanted our relationship to continue, it was up to him to make the running. Basically, I took a step back and made it clear that this was his problem and it was up to him to fix it. His responsibility to save the marriage and not mine. He had ruined our relationship, not me. The turning point was when he decided to come clean about his porn habit - the kind of thing he was watching, when he watched, why he watched. I recognised how difficult this was for him to say (and how difficult it was for me to hear). This was the first time, in more than 40 years, that we had properly talked about it. He did some reading and spoke to some counsellors and was able after a short while to talk to me about how he was fighting this and what he was doing to stay clean. I made the decision at that point to wait six months to decide whether to go or stay (I didn't tell him this). I decided to stay, but I now feel it is my right to ask him, at any point, if he is still clean and to expect an honest answer. I make it clear to him that I expect him, from time to time, to let me know how he is doing, and the bottom line is that if I once again have to find out for myself that he is using again, then I leave. If something triggers a bad memory or a reaction in me (something he says or does, something we are watching on tv, or a news item), then I tell him, and tell him exactly why it makes me feel so terrible. He has to own this! The best thing is that on a day-to-day basis, everything is fine, and we now have a level of honesty between us that was missing before (about everything - not just the porn). My partner taking real and genuine responsibility for this situation has been key. I could not have stayed if we had continued to have that elephant in the room. The worst things are the sadness which I think will never go away and the feeling that I may never entirely trust him. Staying has not been easy, but (for me) leaving would have been harder, and I felt I stood to lose more than I would gain. Please give yourself time and space to process what has happened to you. This is not 'all about him and his recovery'. This is about what has happened to you and the impact it has had on you. Be kind to yourself, and whether you go or stay, just make the decision that is right for you.
We found some counsellors on the internet, and he rang several until he found one with experience in helping people with addiction to porn. He had several sessions initially, which helped him understand why he behaved as he did, and I think knowing he can go back if he needs to has also been helpful. He also found the self-help programme (the kick start recovery kit) you can get from this site very useful, and he keeps that to hand to go back through if things ever get tough. I've though about counselling for myself, too, but at the moment I don't think I'm ready for that.
Hi Anon123 I can identify with so much of what you are saying. I was aware of my husband's porn use over our 30 year marriage. In the first place it was just 'top shelf' magazines, and the occasional video. I was not happy about it, but accepted the received wisdom that 'all men do it', and apart from that I would have said that our marriage was relatively stable and (for me at least) sexually fulfilling. Two years ago I discovered that his porn use had escalated dramatically, and was shocked by the extreme nature of some of the things he was watching. I confronted him, he was distraught and embarrassed and promised to quit. Nine months on, and I found that he had quit for all of two months, and was viewing just as much as before. The second time was much more devastating, as he was now aware of how I disturbed and upset I was by his porn use, but he went back to it anyway, after all his promises. It felt as though I had been stabbed through the heart. He is now in a better place, and has received some help to understand and deal with his addiction (he now understands that is what it is - previously, he said, he thought he was just 'made that way'). He made what I believe was a full disclosure to me, which was hard for both of us, but was very necessary. We are both trying to be more open and honest and more supportive of each other's emotional needs. I think that it was only the second time that he really understood both the harm he was doing to me, and the harm he was doing to himself. Bizarrely, I think we are now in some ways closer than we had been for a long time. However, like you, I look back at the photos and videos of our life together, and wonder if I was just deceiving myself about this man all along. The bad patches in our marriage now loom much larger in my memory than the good times, and I am frequently sideswiped by some reference or incident which brings back to me the avalanche of grief and anger that I felt when I discovered his porn use for the second time. Will I stay with him? I am not sure. Do I trust him? Not yet. Do I still love him? Sometimes. I take each day as it comes, make time for myself, and make sure that if I am worried or concerned, I confront him with it immediately. I wish you all the very best as you move forwards, and want you to know that what you are feeling is shared by so many other women. We are strong and we can come through this!