First off, I found SI two weeks ago today. I have been hesitant to post for a few reasons. One, It's very difficult for me to make sense of the million different things swirling around in my brain. Hard to know which issue to focus on. An hour in my head is so exhausting and confusing and sad.
Two, the infidelity that I am dealing with is not what others that I have seen here so far are dealing with. Mine is not a story of an actual AP. My fallout is a result of my H's porn use. I hesitate because I don't want to diminish others' pain who are dealing with flesh and blood, living, breathing APs but I don't think I could handle it if someone told me I was overreacting and my pain wasnt justified.
Oct 2007 I confronted my H with evidence of his porn use. I had waited a few weeks to confront him after initially discovering that my gut instincts were right. I went to a therapist and he happened to work with men with porn issues. His advice was that generally they use it to fill a void due to depression or stress. It made me see it in a different light (I had an appt with a lawyer) and I decided I wanted to try to work things out. H initially lied about the length of time he'd been viewing but he was caught off guard and did come clean I believe. It had been 2 yrs. I felt somewhat responsible because I had been in bed for 80% of that time (since 2001) with chronic back pain and depression. Our marriage had never been very good. We married because we got pregnant (2 mos after our 1st date, I was 21) and neither of us knew what we were doing. This upset made me want to focus on loving him better and I really wanted us to be close. I was so lonely. I tried but threw my guard back up right away (within a week or so) when I perceived he was not as interested in me as I was in us. I went back to numbess and isolating myself. I couldn't be vulnerable. It didnt feel safe.
Forward to fall 2012. I heard Brene Brown speak on vulnerability and had an 'A-ha moment'. Wrote my husband a letter and committed to myself I would try to be vulnerable no matter how hard it would be and that I really wanted to have intimate love between us. Holy crap, its been ridiculously hard. I thought it would be the hardest thing I'd ever done. I cried constantly, failed many times as I withdrew out of fear that he couldn't love me that deeply. Was constantly thinking about the porn and wondering if he'd gone back to it. Had the worst self esteem of my life. I would cry every time I took a shower, every time I had to fix my hair and makeup, when we had sex, every night I cried myself to sleep. Even burst into tears a few times in public. I was sure he couldn't be attracted to me. He would tell me I was beautiful and he didnt see me the way I see myself. I continued in this way bringing us to May 2013. I had lingering fears all these months of trying to stay vulnerable that he had gone back to porn at some point. I had eluded to it in emails to him with no response. Finally I told him I had to know and he admitted he had. He had quit around the time when I wrote him the vulnerability letter. So we'd been going 8 months trying to be present, loving each other better, being more intimate when I found out. I was crushed. I had constant chest pain for 5 or 6 days. I forgave him again but it was so hurtful as he had seen me sob the last time. He had heard me say if it happens again our marriage is over and if he felt the urge to please come to me and tell me. I felt he chose porn over us, over me. He never came to me and tried to get help for us. He knew what would probably happen if he did it and he did it anyway. I did feel empathy for him. I knew loneliness and how it felt not to be wanted. He broke down and cried. Said he was an ass. Said he couldn't believe he did this to me. He was so sorry. But he also said he didn't understand why it mattered to me because I didn't seem to care about him at the time.
Forward to now, 10 months after dday#2. I am broken. This has been the most painful thing I ever could have imagined. That place that was ours, the one thing I knew was just ours despite the rocky marriage and lack of vulnerability and intimacy was not ours anymore. There had been hundreds of other woman over the course of 7 years in that sacred place. Memories of orgasms over other womens bodies, memories of body parts and faces and sex acts. Memories of fantasies that he chose and created about women with perfect parts doing things that really turned him on. I imagine him scrolling through web sites to find the perfect turn on, the perfect sex act for his mood, the body and face and body parts that are exactly what he wants to see. They aren't me. They're nothing like me. I've had two children. I'm almost 43 years old. Im not in a 20 year olds' body anymore. Not even close. There are triggers everywhere. In public it's any attractive woman. At home it's women on tv or in movies. Sometimes unforseen nudity or innuendo can trigger so much pain and ruin the rest of what could have been a good day and I end up sobbing in my room. For 8 months I apologized. I thought I was really depressed because it was so hard to be vulnerable. I was embarrassed of my pain. The constant sobbing spells, the intense fear, the deep self loathing, the chest pains, I thought I was going crazy. Many times I told him I knew there was something really wrong with me. I didn't know why I was so screwed up. I was desperately afraid my pain would drive him away. Then I found SI.
Now I see for the first time I am not crazy. The horrible mental images I have written him about so many times are not just me being crazy. The fear, the crying, the hopless feelings of never being able to feel whole or 'normal' are all over these boards.
He says he doesn't know what to say when I get that way so he just tries to hold me. I keep wondering if/when I'll ever get to experience his love in its fullness. When he says kind things to me (that I'm beautiful or sexy or that he loves me more than anything in the world, that he can't imagine life without me, that he's so glad I'm his wife) I always feel this pang of bittersweetness. Like I want that to be true. I want it so badly, but it feels like it couldn't be true about me. It makes me sad. I want to hear those things and feel great and know I'm special, set apart from everyone else, but my heart can't fully hear it I guess.
I've been afraid that this recovery is my job. Though he is sorry and he does hold me and try to be there for me, I'm afraid that it could happen again. Not just the porn but the whole empty relationship. He says it only happened because he was in a dark place and he's a different man now, that he doesn't plan on being that guy ever again but how does he know? It just seems so easy for him to know that and move on while for me everything is scary and painful and anxiety invoking and I'm having to scout the internet to figure out what's happening to me. I guess I wanted to see him take charge and do his own searching so I could see it was a really big deal to him and not just to me. Everything else indicates he wants this too but I'm so desperate I guess I need to see him desperate for some reason. Also, I don't know how much of this is porn aftermath and how much is the vulnerability I started trying to attain. After dday#1 I buried my head in the sand so quickly I was able to just be angry. I never dealt with it.
As a side not I feel I should mention his porn use was not daily or even weekly. It was from a few times in a few weeks to mostly every few months, according to my H and he said it was always very brief, only a few minutes each time. That he didn't 'need' it but wanted to see a woman's body before he relieved himself. He says he didn't mas****ate while viewing. I feel sick even typing that.
Any insight on the vulnerability vs infidelity aftermath? This feels like it will never end.