I refer to my husband as my husband on this blog because we are legally married and because I don’t want to use his real name, as this blog must remain anonymous.
But my husband is not really my husband.
You see, in order to marry a person, you need to be able to give informed consent. If that person is deliberately concealing something about himself or herself — perhaps because he or she knows you would not want to marry him or her if you knew — then no matter how sincere you were when you made your vows, or how in love you felt, you are not really married. Because you did not truly know who you were marrying.
Or, suppose you had the intention of marrying someone who possessed a certain integral quality, and only found out later that all along, your partner actually did not possess that quality. Then you would not be married, because when you made your vows, you intended to promise marriage to a person who was secretly unlike the person actually standing before you.
And of course, if your partner said the words to promise exclusive commitment and lifelong fidelity but either did not really mean it at the time or was not capable of keeping that promise because for some reason, he or she was incapable of fidelity — then those vows would also be null and void.
In my case, my husband did not realize at the time we married that he had an addiction. So he was not deliberately concealing that from me, but he did conceal details of his sexual history and did lie to hide the fact that he masturbated compulsively. He claimed not to have engaged in masturbation for the past several years, whereas in reality, he masturbated all throughout our engagement.
I definitely intended to marry someone who was both honest and sexually “sober;” a non-addict. Had I known the truth about the man I was marrying, I would not have married him. At the very least, I would have insisted on therapy and treatment prior to marrying, which would definitely have involved postponing the wedding, if not outright canceling.
And my husband, although he says he truly intended never to be sexual with anyone besides me ever again, was actually incapable of fidelity at the time he made his vows, because he was a sex addict who was not in treatment. And sex addiction cannot be overcome without professional help.
If I decide to divorce and I apply for an annulment in my church, I will almost definitely be granted one. An annulment means that my marriage does not exist, and never existed. All these years, both my husband and I thought we were married, but I am certain that we were not.
My husband has now been in treatment for about seven months, without a single relapse, according to him, his sponsor, and his CSAT.
His therapist says he does not need to abstain from sex with me. But we have not and will not be having sex anytime soon.
In the beginning, my friends cautioned me to be careful “before you’re intimate again,” and my reaction was: “Are you kidding me? I will definitely get STD testing, but don’t worry — I’m never touching him again!”
As time has gone on and I’ve learned about addiction, about sex addiction, and about who he is as a person, it’s been a tremendous relief to realize that he is not what I originally thought — a bad person, a sociopath, my enemy.
He’s just a broken person addicted to the only means of self-medicating he could find as a young, abused, neglected preteen child.
Dr. Patrick Carnes would no doubt accuse me of “withholding sex” to punish him in an attempt to regain power and control the situation or to bolster my flailing sense of self-worth or some other nonsense. Because that is, definitely, nonsense.
I love my husband. I miss sex with him. But I do not trust him. And one of my personal boundaries is that I only have sex with people I trust.
Actually, I only have sex with the one person I trust and am married to. And there is no such person in my life right now.
That person disappeared as the illusion of normalcy evaporated in a shocking burst seven months ago, the moment I saw a stranger’s name and picture attached to a sexually explicit message arrive in my husband’s cell phone.
My husband has never blamed me, never blamed circumstances, never sought to excuse his behavior, and never stopped apologizing and trying to empathize with my grief and stress. From the moment I told him his behavior and the ways he described his state of mind sounded like something called sex addiction, he’s embraced treatment. So far, I have every reason to believe that he will someday make a full recovery.
I am no longer just counting the months until it is prudent to seek a divorce. But until I can trust him, we’ll continue to live together only as friends and co-parents.
I know that in order to have a valid marriage, all we need to do is make our promises to each other and have sex again now that I know who he really is.
But in order to trust him again, I feel I need two things:
First, I need some kind of proof that he is now telling me the full truth. I still wonder if I’ve learned everything. Are there more behaviors, or more instances of the same behaviors, that I don’t know about yet? While I do get the “gut feeling” that he is telling the truth now, a therapeutic disclosure (coming up in a couple of weeks) and a polygraph test will offer the closest thing to proof of this that has yet been invented.
Secondly, once I know he has been and is being truthful, I’ll need to see him growing in self-control and integrity. And that is going to take time, consistency, and continued openness and vulnerability.
I have a right to feel safe in my primary relationship, this relationship with my supposed husband and the father of my children. A relationship of lies and repeated infidelity is an emotionally abusive relationship. Even if I did not believe my marriage was invalid, I have the right to a separation or a divorce. I am not obligated to stay with this man and try to “fix things.”
And neither are you. No religion or legal system has the right to tell you that you have no choice but to stay. Least of all does this addict to whom you are attached have any right to tell you not to leave. Please don’t let anybody (including Dr. Carnes) convince you that staying is necessarily the “right” thing to do if you don’t want to.