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Snowflake

Living a double life

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Firefly, I've only been on this forum a couple of days and haven't had time to read much, but I've just seen a post you made a couple of months ago where you say: 

Why did I still do it? Well each fix led me to more shame, remorse, self-loathing and feeling that everyone would be better off without me around.

This is almost exactly something my husband has said to me.  When I said I didn't' understand, he said it got to the stage where if he didn't get his fix, he would have committed suicide because of the demons in his head.  I'm trying so hard to understand this.  You seem to have been in a similar situation where you had two separate lives going and compartmentalised each.  Do you mind if I ask you a few question?  Please don't answer if this will trigger you in any way.

A) Firstly, when I trusted my instincts and absolutely knew my husband was cheating in some way, I offered to have counselling with him - both jointly and separately - but he refused for a long time, still saying that it was all in my head and that I was ruining our marriage with my imagination.  He watched me spiral into depression believing I was going mad.  Why would he do that when it was obvious I knew and offered to help him?

B) Also, we were still having a sex life, but he kept shouting that it wasn't enough and saying he needed more and 'wasn't a monk' no matter how frequently we had sex.  (Although I must admit that near the disclosure and subsequent separation I'd really gone off him as a person because of his persistent lying and terrible moods, so it probably became obvious I wasn't really keen).  

C) How can you have over thirty years of intimacy with one person and then have an alternative sex life with strangers going on at the same time?

I may sound - and probably am - very naive, but it makes no sense.

Thank you for being so candid in some of your other posts, that's why I feel I can ask.

Take care x

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Prior to trying to answer your questions I want to state that these are my own views from my own experience. I am a recovering SA & PA but I am not a counsellor. I am a volunteer moderator on this forum by invitation, but do not work for the Laurel Centre.

My response to the question in paragraph A) also partly supports your statement in paragraph B) although in my case I became more and more distant from my partner, which is opposite behaviour, but equally has the same devastating effects within a relationship.

The overwhelming urge to act out and get my FIX overruled any impact my actions would have on my relationship? I did not even grasp or remember the incidents and in my mind, it was just a FIX.

Even when part of my behaviour was discovered I minimised the impact and convinced myself that I could sort out my life without any help.

Effectively I had pandered to the little beasts inside my head craving for a fix to numb the pain of past shame and now the additional shame of this latest disclosure. To admit I had a problem in my mind, at that time, felt like it would STOP my soothing mechanism and so it felt better (wrongly) to deny, minimise, deflect blame, etc. than admit I had a problem.

In the cold light of the day I felt even more shame, remorse, self-loathing and the feeling that everyone would be better off without me around; but this only fed the need for more soothing, acting out and so the disastrous cycle continued.

One thing is clear the addict must be the one asking for help to truly get the help they need.

One of the issues with SA & PA over other forms of addiction is there is often little evidence of “material” impact, but the mental impact is enormous. E.g. the case of a Grandson, who loved his Grandma for years, but still broke in and stole the £20 to get a quick Cocaine Fix. Here there is a lot more evidence to hold onto, with the same cognitive distortions in play by the addict.

So, this leads onto trying to answer your question in paragraph C)!! The root causes of my addiction (to which I am still discovering more) stem from childhood and teenage years. There were a number of traumas, which were not resolved at the time.

Whenever I was feeling low or depressed, under attack, bullied, feeling worthless I would bottle everything up and keep my feelings hidden. I found in my teenage years that self-soothing helped to eliminate the pain for a short time and it became a habit. In addition, I discovered other acting out behaviours as I went into my early twenties!

The problem was I did not resolve any of this, was unable to speak about it to anyone and was thus very unprepared when it came to a 1:1 relationships. It was easier to hide the truth, as I did with my bed wetting at boarding school!

I thought it would all sort itself out and was so happy to find a partner, which initially reduced the stresses in my life and thus the need for acting out. However when we got married I was suddenly out of my depth and everything compounded, and I was back to acting out and trying to keep everything hidden.

My partner knew there was an issue and we had counselling but I hid my past, because I was afraid and very ashamed (I was raped at school and never told anyone until recently) and the first counsellor 30 years ago raised the idea I was Gay and I just went along with that idea to keep everyone happy… and hide my true thoughts and feelings.

I have had much better help recently and mapped out my highs and lows to my acting out peaks and how they coincided with depression, low times at work, etc. etc.

I had over years built a very robust second life to which I became addicted, to smooth the pain of these painful events and I spent vast amounts of energy and resources keeping it hidden.

Finally everything unraveled (after too many years) and it was all out in the open for everyone (including me) to see, and I could finally feel able to ask for and get the help I have always needed. I don’t spend too much time looking back at what could have been.. I can only look forward.

One thing is that everyone has a different journey, different issues, and certainly there is not one size fits all. Thankfully there is now more knowledge and help available for sex and porn addiction than even 10 years ago.

Thankfully support for partners, who are not to blame or the reason and get caught in the crossfire, is improving. I highlight this blog which is also good for addicts to read as it highlights the pain their past and present actions cause.

https://thelaurelcentre.co.uk/blog/the-partners-journey-through-sex-addiction

If I can help just one person to reach out, get help and gain a better life then it is worth me sharing a small part of my struggle.

Firefly

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Hi Firefly.  Thank you so much for your candour and honesty.

I felt almost numb at times reading this.  The parallels with my husband's situation are striking.  Other than wanting more sex, my husband was completely distant from me.  He worked away and I discovered the porn use first but he refused to talk to me about anything; work, porn, daily life etc.  There was nothing forthcoming.  I used to have long conversations with him every night while he was away once the kids were in  bed, but even they had become non-existent.  From a brief goodnight, to a call or text earlier in the day to say he'd be working late and would either be too late to ring or too exhausted.  I know now he was clearing his entire evening for porn.  This is the stage I went to see a counsellor on. my own.  The refusal to engage on any level was heartbreaking.  No conversations even at the weekends when he was back. He'd walk through the door and pick on something (the house, the pets, the kids...) almost as though he need an excuse to be bad tempered all weekend.  Yet still complaining he wasn't getting enough sex! I told the counsellor at the time I thought I was going crazy because he seemed to hate being around me, yet when I suggested I move out for a while, told me he couldn't live without me and became genuinely really distressed at the thought.  

The similarities with your story make me so emotional.  We started going out together when we were 19 and 20, but I met him when he was 12 at my brother's boarding school.  I thought I knew everything about him as he was close to my brother and our families met up at times for school events.  He started the year before my brother at age 11.  I found out about six months ago that he had been sexually abused by a family member for many years from the age of 7 or 8.  I couldn't believe that this had happened, or that he'd kept it from me for 35 years.  He said he'd put It in a box in his head and never went there.  It was only when when he started the SA counselling that it 'came out'.  He begged to be sent away, and was then abused at boarding school too.  Again, he never mentioned this until recently.  In his therapy he was told that this is an often repeated scenario.  I.e. past traumas hidden away, rough present time (he'd lost his job and although he found another one within months he is very proud and  it hit him hard).  His PA took over.  By the time he got his new job he felt ashamed and was too deeply in to get out.  We rowed about his porn (and I only knew a fraction of it at that time), and everything just escalated.

You've answered a very important question that has been holding me back from properly moving on.  I haven't been able to really  believe that he can't remember dates, even roughly, that he visited prostitutes.  He says he'd blocked the  exact details out, but I just couldn't believe this was possible.  Obviously I have no-one I can actually ask here as no-one knows even that he's a recovering sex addict.  My family could not handle this.  I struggled too with the fact that he never told me about this family member, but perhaps that genuinely was something he couldn't admit to even to himself until therapy?  I am not sure I will bring that up again with him as it is obvious it is very painful for him.  He is on step 9 and has forgiven him.  I am on step zero and never want him in my house again.  Fortunately we don't live near so haven't had to deal with that problem since disclosure.  But that bastard (sorry - still raw on that one) has ruined my husband and damn near split up our whole family.

Thank you again for replying.  It has changed my view that my husband may just be unwilling to say these things, and may genuinely be unable to.  I hope you are well and happy, and wish you and your family all the very best. 

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Thank you so much for your posts. My husband too went to boarding school aged 8 he was flown from the Middle East to the UK and saw his family sporadically. He boxes things off in much the same way and while he says he loved boarding school I’m not convinced. He says his PA only started on retiring when I still worked full time and it was caused by boredom. I can deal with the PA which He only ever watched and never acted upon either physically ir literally ; this has stopped as I’m now retired and control the WiFi so he can’t access it. For me the worst part is that he said he preferred to watch 20-30 year olds. I’m 62 and that remark has devastated me. We’ve had a really hard weekend and I’m in the spare room now with palpitations wondering how it’s going to end.  Any advice would be appreciated. 

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This post is so useful. Thank you snowflake and Firefly for sharing your experiences, particularly you sharing your experience as a SA/PA Firefly. So many similarities with my husband. It is awful that my first reaction to my husbands explanation was disbelief, but it was.  It’s only by hearing others that I now believe him., particularly the not  remembering details of the physical acting out, and saying it did not mean anything........ I couldn’t imagine how this wouldn’t have been a huge thing, with every emotion heightened,  and other people involved, which to me would make it memorable. But then I am not an addict therefore I would think differently I guess.    I feel so sorry for everyone that gets caught up in this cycle. x

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4 hours ago, Tabs said:

This post is so useful. Thank you snowflake and Firefly for sharing your experiences, particularly you sharing your experience as a SA/PA Firefly. So many similarities with my husband. It is awful that my first reaction to my husbands explanation was disbelief, but it was.  It’s only by hearing others that I now believe him., particularly the not  remembering details of the physical acting out, and saying it did not mean anything........ I couldn’t imagine how this wouldn’t have been a huge thing, with every emotion heightened,  and other people involved, which to me would make it memorable. But then I am not an addict therefore I would think differently I guess.    I feel so sorry for everyone that gets caught up in this cycle. x

Tabs, I admire your compassion for addicts.  It's not always easy to hold on to that when we have been so abused, betrayed and hurt by them.  I find it a hard balance to tread between holding compassion and not letting that manifest as making myself more vulnerable.  I don't want to be bitter and angry, because I don't think anything positive comes from that, but equally, I want my hurt acknowledged.  

My partner too went to boarding school.  Maybe boarding school is a positive experience for some people, but in my work, I encounter many many people who are deeply damaged by the experience.  They aren't all SA, but their capacity for healthy relationships is invariably damaged.  

Anyway, Tabs, having read your story, I admire your courage, and your heart.  I try to build those qualities in myself.  Thank you for sharing your example.  x

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Thank you so much for your kind words Ann. They have really touched me. 
Right from the time that the police knocked at my door I have been searching and searching for answers, lots of reading, searching the internet and talking, lots of talking. I have always thought that I couldn’t have misjudged him. How could I have loved and lived  with someone for so long and not recognise the person that the police and public now believe him to be. So I guess I found comfort in learning about the addiction. The addiction was not all of him. He is still that original good man, but made bad choices. I understand now what an impact peoples childhoods have on them, all can go on very comfortably in life until they are put  in a stressful situation then they go back to the deep recesses of their mind. 
I have been through every emotion known, and I still hate what he did, but I can’t hate him. How can I?  However, a very important part of our relationship has been broken, trust. It is so important to me that I don’t think I can ever have him back in my life fully.  He is still very broken and isn’t able to have a real relationship I think. He has his journey to go through and I have mine. I’m just so sad. I’m just so very grateful  for the wonderful support I have been shown. That has carried me and enabled me to try and find my own strength.

I wish you all the best in your journey too. It’s a horrid thing to experience. I just wish people were able to be more open as it would actually improve many lives. 

xxx

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