Breaking The Silence: Betrayal & The Truth About The Dark Days Of My Marriage (The following blog post has been shared with the prior knowledge and support of my husband. The decision to share our story was a joint decision prior to this publication.)
AWE, look another happy couple plastered all over social media. 2.5 kids, beautiful home, careers, dog in the yard, leisure time to cook elaborate organic meals then take photos of said meal to post on IG. Everything looks so picture perfect that they must have it all. They must be over the moon in-love and fulfilled with life. I thought we had it all and that we were truly happy and in sync too. That is until I learned THE TRUTH. The Truth revealed itself rather abruptly. It was 5am, I was fast asleep, as I don't typically wake up until 7am, when all of a sudden a voice said to me "Wake Up! Wake up now and check your husband's phone." I shot up out of bed and was wide awake. My husband was in the shower getting ready for work. I checked the internet on his phone and all the history had been cleared. My stomach dropped! Even as I type these words chills are sweeping over my whole body. In the moment, I knew something was off. My husband was hiding something from me. I wasn't tech savvy enough to know how to access cleared history so I laid back down and pretended to be asleep until he left for work. That day I searched the internet and figured out how to gain access to web history once it's been deleted from the browser. The following morning, again, I was fast asleep and the same voice whispered to me; "Wake Up! Now is the time." I woke and again my husband had just gotten in the shower. I took the steps to access his web browser history from deep in the depths of his phone. That was cleared out and empty too. It was a multi-step process and at this point I knew he too did research on how to cover his tracks even further. My mind began to race and my heart was beating outside of my chest. Again, I pretended to be asleep until my husband left for work. I was in disbelief. We just celebrated our 6-year anniversary. He just sent me a bouquet of roses to the beach for my birthday. We just had our second child 9-months ago. We have a great life. We are happy. What is he hiding from me? What is he hiding that he takes so many steps to cover his tracks? My mind racing of all the possible "what if" scenarios. The ConfrontationThe next morning I couldn't keep quiet anymore. I confronted my husband and asked for his phone so that I could access his history. I told him I know he has betrayed our marriage and I demanded to see the proof. The only path I left open for him was the path to the truth. That day in May, in our kitchen, my husband confessed his betrayal of our marriage. Now betrayals come in many forms and to varying degrees. Betrayal can be a white lie, emotional affairs, sexting, hiding money, keeping secrets, addictions, abuse, pornography, infidelity, and full blown affairs. There are so many ways the Betrayal Beast can break into your marriage, wreak havoc on your feelings of safety and commitment, and destroy your dreams of happily ever after. That's why it's so vital to protect our marriages from the Betrayal Beast because it's a matter of life or death of our marriages. On that day I learned the truth that The Betrayal Beast, invaded my marriage in the form of pornography. The DestructionThe Betrayal Beast was a magnitude 7 earthquake that tore the ground out from under me and our family. I was no longer standing on solid ground. Every step felt dangerous and like one false move and I would fall to my death into the center of the earth. That morning, I told my husband he had to be out of the house by the next day. I left trapped and with no way out because we have two children together and our lives will forever be intertwined in some way. No matter how much I wished, hoped, and prayed I would not be able to simple run away to escape this pain, hurt, or him. In the past, if a boyfriend betrayed me I could escape by breaking up with them. It was easier to run away from those that cut me so deep with their betrayals. In a marriage and with kids my escape button was inaccessible. That realization was suffocating. Questions rattled in my head as if I was in a pin ball game. How the hell did I get myself into this situation? How the hell did this happen to me? How the hell is this my life? How the hell do I escape this excruciating painful situation? How do I run away from the hurt, brokenness, and gaping hole in my chest? I wasn't willing to lose time with my children. I wasn't willing to be punished by not being able to see my children every holiday or any time I wanted because of the actions of someone else. I asked myself; "How can I have the same access to my children as I do now without having to keep my husband in my life?" The next uncontrolled thought that came to my mind sacred and shocked me. The voice in my head said; "Maybe the universe will have him die in a car accident and then you will be free." The thought only lasted less than a second and it made me gasp at how awful even the thought was. Wishing for someone to just disappear off this earth because they hurt you so badly and the pain is too much for your brain to handle. It scared me and my logical brain knew that if my husband wasn't around that the loss would be insurmountable for my children. In that moment, I knew I had to stay and work through the debilitating pain instead of running from it. For the first time in my life, I had to face the pain, sit in the discomfort, and find a way to grow to get to the other side of the pain and darkness. That night was the most difficult night of my life. As I laid in darkness on the bed I sobbed uncontrollably for hours. I have cried before in my life, but never sobbed. Tears that felt like lava burning my face. My body trembling and convulsing as if at any moment my bones would break. Gasping for the next breath and not trusting that the air will be there to greet me. And the sound. I remember thinking; "What is that sound?" It sounded inhuman and animalistic. Deeper like a growl or groan. Then, I realized the sound was coming from me. Everything was completely out of my control. I couldn't control the reactions of my body. I couldn't control the thoughts in my mind. I couldn't control the empty numbness in my heart. I could not control any of it. I had no control. And so I released trying to control and surrendered to it all. The AftershocksThe destruction of my husband's years of secrecy and betrayal of our vows didn't just effect our marriage and our children. There were aftershocks that rippled to extended family, friendships, and careers. Extended Family: When news got out of our separation and the reasons why, some family members felt it their place to express their opinions, judgments, and criticism. I received emails telling me that I am overreacting and that my husband doesn't beat me, doesn't do drugs, and is a good father so I have no right to ask him to leave our home. First, the fact that we set such low expectations of our men that as long as they don't beat us and our good fathers then as women we should just suck up everything else as acceptable is a whole other blog post on its own. I was vilified, blamed, and verbally attacked. Which shouldn't be surprising given the current undertone of blaming the victim which infests our culture however, it was completely unacceptable and unforgiveable to me. Relationships with certain family members were either altered or severed. Friendships: The same occurred within our friendships. Some (not all) judged me for staying and working on my marriage because they thought I should leave. It was as if there was no winning. The messages I received were that I was a bad person for staying and I was a bad person if I asked him to leave. Somehow the weight of the decisions were on me even though it was my husband's choices that created the situation. Some judged my husband which made it difficult for me to maintain a friendship with them as its hard enough to rebuild a broken marriage when you have all the support and encouragement in the world let alone when people are judging and critical. These friendships had to fall away as well. It was a circling of the wagons to preserve our family and any wagon that was not there to protect and support on this traitorous journey had to removed.It was a complete cleaning of all our relationships and interactions. The relationships that circled the wagons in unconditional love, support, and cheering for us to be victorious in the battle to save our marriage and our family were paramount in our survival and success. Career: "What the hell kind of a relationship therapist am I if I didn't even see this coming in my own marriage?" That's what I asked myself. The secrecy and betrayal that occurred in my marriage made me question my abilities and competencies as a therapist helping other couples. I honestly had no clue that deception had been happening in my marriage. There were seriously no signs. I now know that my experience in my own marriage has actually made me a better relationship therapist because I can understand the struggles and pains of both the man and women on an intellectual level as well as empathize as it is an experience that I have walked through personally. The Rebirth My marriage died that day. That day we now call D-day. Our dark days after the truth was revealed have been the most uncomfortable and aching of my life. Anyone that has ever had a baby knows that's what labor and delivery of birthing something new can be. It took a massive amount of hard as hell work, learning, consistency, commitment, patience, healing, and rebuilding of trust from BOTH OF US before we were in a place of connection and intimacy again. I know now that the marriage we had before the Betrayal Beast was a sandcastle marriage build on a facade of who my husband thought he should be in order to please me, please others, and be a success. Our sandcastle marriage could be easily washed away by the high tides of life. Together, my husband and I birthed a new marriage into life through raw, unchained truth-telling, purposeful connection, and intentional sharing of our honest thoughts, feelings, and needs. I didn't realize the depth of connection and fulfillment I was missing in our sandcastle marriage until it died and our new marriage was built. Our new marriage is a fortress marriage. A fortress that we are both determined to defend and protect from the many threats in today's culture. Lessons Learned1. There are certain things within a marriage that you do not have to compromise on. Your values and boundaries of what is okay and not okay for you within your marriage is something you DO NOT have to compromise on. What are your values and boundaries in your marriage? Because betraying yourself by compromising your values and boundaries is the most dangerous betrayal there is. When we betray ourselves we fill ourselves with self hatred and fill our marriages with resentment. If deception makes you feel uncomfortable and is against your values and boundaries of what is okay in your marriage then it is your responsibility to protect your marriage from resentment and protect yourself from self hatred by speaking your truth to your spouse. The whole concept of "pornography, that's it! At least he isn't sleeping with someone else." Or "Big damn deal every guy looks at porn. It's nothing to get upset over." is something that has been beaten into us through social media, movies, television, and jokes. If it isn't funny to you and if it makes you uncomfortable then it is your right to say something. It is your right to say you do not want that in your marriage. You don't have to live your life feeling uncomfortable with anything in your marriage. You don't have to walk around pretending to be okay with it or pretending to be in denial saying; "As long as I don't know he's doing it then that's okay with me." Those words actually mean it's not okay with you and it teaches your husband to hide things from you. If your husband cannot share it with you, talk to you about it, and be honest with you about his choices and behaviors than that is a red flag sign that the behavior is actually not acceptable to you and/or him in the marriage. Remove all secrets, hiding, and shame from your marriage. 2. What I know to be true is that sexual gratification outside of the marriage creates disconnect within the marriage. Secrecy and deception of any kind within a marriage is a disease that erodes the commitment and connection. Betrayals are earthquakes within relationships. It breaks the foundations of trust and the aftershocks impact your children, extended families, friendships, and self worth. Do you have friends that are firefighters? My friend is a firefighter and he has fire ladders in the upstairs bedrooms, fire extinguishers throughout the house, etc. because he knows of the destruction and damage fires can do because that's his job. His life experiences as a firefighter made him extra prepared as he knows the true damage and devastation in ways I never even think of. As a relationship therapist for the past 12-years, I know the destruction and damage pornography and secrecy has on a marriage and I want my marriage to last a lifetime so I want to protect it from all possible threats. 3. The death of our sandcastle marriage was a blessing. At the time, there was no way I could see that or feel this way. Now, that I am in a place of healing I can see the gifts from the tragedy. If you are in the tragedy allow yourself to surrender into the pain and discomfort instead of trying to control it. Know that once you make it through the dark days that the light on the other side holds the healing and the gifts. 4. One of the gifts was that it cleansed out the toxins in our marriage. This included not only the toxicity of pornography, but also toxic relationships with family, friends, and jobs.When the bomb goes off and the dust clears those that remain are the D-day support system and our relationships with them are stronger, deeper, and more authentic now as a result of the darkness. 5. There are 2 people in a marriage and we can only be responsible for our own actions. I cannot control my husband's actions and as such I cannot own his mistakes as mine. All I can do is stay in my own lane, make sure my actions are aligned with my values and belief, and trust that if there is something I need to know that the voice that woke me up from a dead sleep will whisper to me again. 6. My husband's choice had nothing to do with me, nothing to do with how I look or my body, nothing to do with our sex life, and had nothing to do with our marriage. His feelings of shame, keeping secrets to not disappoint others, and destructive behavior of escaping were patterns of behaviors he had since childhood and long before we got married. That's the thing about marriage, it's harder to hide once you are with someone long enough. 7. My motivation for staying in my marriage started as wanting to preserve my family because I didn't want to lose time with my children. My husband knows that if we did not have children together I would have filed for divorce and ran away from pain like I had been able to do before. That's okay that my kids were my starting point. It's okay for that to be your starting point too if you want. As long as that starting point grows and evolves into something more. Today, I am thankful that we did have children together so that I could not run away. As choosing to stay for my kids allowed me the chance to stretch myself and grow personally. I have grown as an individual throughout these dark days. I am more resilient, healing past relationship wounds, and am expanding in love and courage. If I would have repeated my old patterns of running then I would have missed the growth that has come from staying. Now, let's be clear, I am pro healthy relationships. For some people healthy relationships come in the form of the rebirth of the marriage and for some it comes through ending the marriage with divorce. Both paths are equally as difficult and equally as life changing. The choice of the path is one that we all must make on our own and it's a choice we relive over and over again every day.