Thursday, November 19, 2015

The fraught world of post-betrayal sex or "Here's what I know...and it ain't much"

One any given day, my house is filled with my three kids, ages 12 through 17, and a collection of their friends, both male and female, gay and straight. One has to almost wade through hormones in our house. The air crackles with sexual energy. 
Dinner table conversation the other night ran from masturbation to teenage motherhood and the importance of protection ("Abstinence!" insisted my Catholic-schooled husband, who never practiced it much himself). My daughter's boyfriend shook his head in disbelief. "We never have conversations like this at my house," he said, and I wasn't sure whether to feel smug or sheepish.
But while there's plenty of talk about teen sex around our house, there's far less around post-betrayal sex. 
Sex is an arena that, almost nine years after D-Day, seems still dotted with landmines. It has become easier for my husband and I to simply avoid that topic. But, as I know all too well, "easier" can mean avoidant. And avoidant can fast-track us to disengagement and detachment, two signposts on the way to cheating.
That's not to say that I think either of us plans to cheat. It's just to say we should both know better than to ignore our own discomfort.
And sex makes both of us deeply uncomfortable.
It wasn't always this way, at least for me. In fact, I considered my sex life to be a model of agency and maturity and healthy sexuality. I loved sex, which, for me, was within the context of relationships with people I felt safe with and cherished by. I felt comfortable in my body. 
Not too long into my marriage, however, I began to notice that sex with my husband sometimes Though it offered up the expected physical pleasure, on an emotional level he sometimes seemed tuned out. Somewhere else. 
I bought Mars and Venus in the Bedroom and tried to get him to read it with me. In very broad strokes, author John Gray outlined the differences between male and female sexual desires. My husband wanted rough-and-ready sex. I preferred soft and slow. I tried to talk with him about achieving some sort of compromise, along the lines of, sometimes we do it your way, sometimes mine. But not much changed.
During that time, I gave birth to one, two, three children. I was exhausted. I became resentful. He worked longer hours. I was lonely. I freelanced part-time and mothered full-time. Sex waned. I talked myself into believing this was what life with three kids and two tired parents was like. Maybe that's true.
I was happy. Mostly. I loved being a mom. My career was going great. I had deeply fulfilling volunteer activities. I had good friends. So I avoided looking too deeply at what didn't feel right. My relationship with my husband.
We all know where this is going, right?
Dec. 10, 1996, the light in my head finally went on. My husband was cheating. My world collapsed.
For six months, I continued to believe he had cheated with one person: his work assistant. I remained baffled by the affair. It didn't add up – she was so incredibly unpleasant and his relationship with her was constantly strained – but I believed him when he said that was the whole story. And then came the day when he told me the rest: He was a sex addict who was in treatment and who had been carrying on secret sexual relationships for the entirety of our relationship before D-Day. His acting out preceded me – though, without being in a committed relationship, it appeared more as just the sex life of a 20-something than the actions of an addict.
That remaining puzzle piece explained so much that had felt wrong in our relationship. It explained my sense of feeling objectified when we had sense (his sex addiction included a lot of porn). It explained his inappropriateness around sex, sometimes making frat-boy-type jokes that to him were funny but to those around us were beyond the pale. It explained my awareness that he was often elsewhere emotionally when we had sex – present in body but not in spirit. Turns out, he needed fantasy to fuel his desire. A real-life wife – and mother of his children – didn't do the job, so to speak. 
Like so many of you after learning about a spouse's affair, my sexual identity was in tatters. I was so confused about our entire relationship – what was real? what was fake? – but especially our sexual relationship. I had believed myself desirable. I had thought of sex as connection. How could I have been so wrong?
At first, I responded with hysterical bonding. For the first time since very early in our relationship, I felt that intense connection through sex. We looked each other in the eyes, we talked and talked and talked. We tried new things. Our passion was unquenchable. 
And was over. For months and even years, we barely touched. 
In the meantime, my husband was in sexual addiction therapy and learning, for the first time, what healthy sexuality looked and felt like. 
I was just trying to hold myself together. It was enough to get through the day. My bed and my pyjamas signalled to my husband that I was closed for busines. I might as well have had a sign around my neck that read, "Leave me the hell alone." 
I began to wonder about leaving. Not the "to hell with you, you bastard" kind of leaving (which, I wholeheartedly support if that's what you want) but an "I want a healthy sexual relationship with someone who doesn't carry the same baggage" kind of leaving. I toyed with the idea of having a no-strings-attached sexual relationship outside of my marriage, feeling somewhat entitled given what my husband had put me through. But I knew I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I was violating my own value system.
Eventually, we found a therapist who specialized in sex. We saw him for about six months and though we might have inched forward incrementally, he ultimately wasn't moving the needle far enough. His most frequent recommendation was "wine time", which too often turned into "whine time" during which we complained about the kids. It sure as hell didn't lead to sex.
Back to a sexual wasteland for a couple of years.
All this time, however, we were rebuilding a marriage. Though I hold that sex is an important part of a marriage, I've come to recognize that it's not necessarily the glue that I'd always thought it was.
Marriages come in all shapes and forms and I felt no less married in a sex-less relationship than I had when we had frequent sex. In fact, I felt more married because we were so committed to making it work.
And then we found our current couples counsellor. 
We continued to try and avoid talking about sex, but she wouldn't let us off the hook. 
She'd gently remind us that we were starting over with sex. Like shy teens, we had to come together in a way that we hadn't before, or at least not for a very long time. She still reminds us that it will feel uncomfortable and embarrassing at times, and she's right. I've had to do a lot of work around my own body image, especially as my former marathoner's body has settled into middle age. Long-gone are the mind movies that tormented me in the weeks and months post D-Day but I realized that I replaced them with a squeamishness around ordinary people sex, as compared to the soft-light beautiful people sex we see on TV and in movies. Both involve somehow imagining that everybody else is having better sex than you. Both involve convincing ourselves that we're somehow deficient: we have rolls, we don't moan loud enough, we accidentally fart. And both take us out of the experience itself and into our heads, where dangerous thoughts roam and threaten our pleasure.
I've learned from one incredible BWC warrior that my own sexual pleasure isn't given to me by someone else but is mine to claim, a lesson I knew in my twenties but that got unlearned in the rubble of D-Day. I've learned that sex is many things – awkward, fun, amazing, uncomfortable – and that I don't need to feel threatened by any of that. The only person who expects me to constantly delight in bed is me. I've learned that, despite my conviction that I had no sexual hangups, I do. We all do.
I'm still learning. So is my husband.
Which is why I'm not sure if have much to offer you beyond my own story about where I am right now: A middle-aged woman who's realizing that another chapter of her sex life is still being written. 


  1. Elle. you are amazing, truly. Your openness allows us all to be the same - open.
    My husband and I went through a brief period of his hysterical bonding… Actually two brief time periods,one right after D day and again after he moved back home. And now, we struggle. Struggle, hell, we don't have sex. It came to light at our last therapy session that my husband is avoiding intimacy both sex as well as signs of affection because of a fear that he is giving me hope and giving himself hope when he still feels uncertain. The therapist told him to push, one way or another, rather than live in limbo. She noted to him, "you woke up one day and were over four years into an affair "and as she said he's too good at living in limbo.
    He is definitely more affectionate since that session, which was just a few days ago. And frankly, I am much more interested in receiving affection and love then I am in lovemaking, or sex. Do I enjoy sex? Absolutely. Not for nothing, I'm pretty good at it all by myself lol. Funny, it is obviously on my husbands mind. He spoke to his father and found out that his dad and mom stopped having sex when his dad was 50. As well, he has spoken to friends of his that no longer have sex in their marriage… I didn't realize this until he brought it up to our therapist. One day, if I could ever get him to go… I would love to go to one of these intimacy retreats with a sex therapist. But that my friends, is way down the road, if ever. In the meantime, we sleep naked, we spoon, we hug and hold each other and cuddle… And this is enough. For now.
    Love you all!

    1. And you, my dear Melissa, is the "incredible BWC warrior" I cite in my post. It was your words that inspired that particular epiphany of mine.

  2. Elle, Beautifully written, I am new to your site/blog and I truly love your writing and the way you share your experiences! So much of what you write rings true to me!
    I wish I could so eloquently write what I have went through up until this point and am still going through. I am 1 year out from D-Day, but got trickle truth for about 6 months. I will share my story in time.....its so hard to write it out. It seems louder and more ugly written out and I guess I'm just not ready. Thanks for being able to share your story it helps us all!

  3. Every once in a while, Elle, you write about something that is the current topic in our recovery. Sex is it right now. After discovering my H's EA with sexual overtones (porno-poetry from the first totally sexual flirtation for two years, then buying the second OW sexy underwear and piercing jewelry for 8 years from that sexy underwear place in every mall...and sending it to her anonymously- yikes) we've been dealing with sex in our relationship one way or another. Hysterical bonding, then some health issues for me and sex fell off and hasn't recovered, and now just recently he admitting that he has sexual "curiosities" that I knew nothing about for the almost 40 years that we've been together. He kept that part of his life hidden from me because he said he knew I wouldn't like it. And I truly believe some of these repressed sexual needs came out in his affairs. First he was pursued and treated to odd "gifts" that seemed to satisfy his desires and then he treated his other AP to the same kinds of "gifts." I guess he figured what was good for the gander was good for the second goose.

    We started having sexual issues after the birth of our second child- sex became painful for me and it seemed the only time he ever touched me was when he wanted sex, so that didn't help. I tried to explain that it was painful and that I needed affection and attention during the day- not just at night, but I think he thought I was making up the painful part and that I just didn't want him, even though my OB/GYN and I kept trying different things to help me- and I told him what we were trying. He knew. He tried explaining to me how important sex was to him and to our marriage and while I heard him, I don't think I understood that part of him. We didn't like to talk about sex, either. Very uncomfortable- really couldn't communicate our needs to each other at all.
    We now know we have different views on sex, and that's ok as long as each of us understands what the other needs and wants. But we didn't for most of our relationship....and are still struggling with it. It turns out what I really needed and still need is the libido pill, but now I'm into menopause and the pill isn't marketed for me. I really have no sex drive and haven't had one for decades, and when you combine that with someone who has a healthy sex drive (coupled with these other sexual interests) what a recipe for disaster.
    I get so depressed when I think how mismatched we are for each other. And how this contributed to him not feeling sexually valued or flattered and so when this first person came along and gave him his fantasy gifts...well, I'm not surprised by what happened, but I wish he'd had his boundaries in place. But I'm also discovering that he's such a good compartmentalizer that he could totally separate his behavior from what he says was his love for me. So what boundaries? It never occurred to him that he was doing damage to us...or to him. I suppose he thought I'd never find out, but I did and I'm finding out I really never knew who my H was. At least if he'd shared his ideas about sex in our younger days, I would have had time to get used to some of the ideas, and maybe would have been able to compromise a bit- now...I think it's too late and I find I can't get used to thinking of my H as having these sexual desires and curiosities that I really don't share and that, frankly, turn me off. As many women do, I did the nice underwear thing during our hysterical bonding phases until I found out he's been buying that kind of thing for the OW. I haven't worn it since. I can't.
    So even though I'd say he had EAs, they really were about sex. I find it just so sad. What a waste of time, love and intimacy.

    1. C,
      That's part of what makes sex so fraught -- we often have different desires. If one partner likes Indian food but the other likes Thai, we can each satisfy what we want in front of each other.
      And while it's possible to have that same approach with sex (open relationships, etc.), I'm not convinced they work very often.
      Have you two had a really candid conversation about sex and what each of you would ultimately like in order to feel satisfied? I'm not sure I buy the "it's too late..." thinking you suggest. It's not too late if you're interested in creating sexual intimacy in your marriage. But he would have to abandon his conviction that sex takes place just in the bedroom and realize that it begins when he rubs your shoulders, offers to do the dishes, listens to your fears... And you would have to realize that his sexual desires are legitimate, even if they're different from yours. I think we "turn off" when we feel threatened by our partner's desires. Instead of being curious, we respond with fear. (Repugnance is, I think, fear in sheep's clothing.)
      I would urge you, C, to try and come out from your corner and talk with your husband. Perhaps with an objective therapist. I sense that you want sex with your intimacy...and I would think too that your husband wants intimacy with his sex.

  4. Thank you for this post. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to reveal so much to give us a chance to see ourselves in your words.

  5. Elle
    Your post resonates with me. My story is pretty parallel although no porn addiction.

    Early on it was sex everywhere and satisfying. Then he started having well to be subtle, the early bird got the worm. I was very dissatisfied sexually. I talked to him about it. I tried everything to help. He did not. He blamed me said I was too good at sex and he couldn't help himself. It became very frustrating for me. I was a young woman. Kids, school, job came and sex sometimes took a backseat. We had sex and we did other things to satisfy me but that waned and well, I took matters into my own hands (yes, a euphemism). It was ok, I could live with it. I thought he was happy or at the very least content. I thought it was normal. I heard lots of my girlfriends complain about their sex life and how they hated having sex. Heck I loved sex but he just didn't seem to care that I wasn't satisfied. Soon I quit bringing it up.

    So as many aging couples sex was pretty infrequent between us. Although I still continued to take matters into my own hands :) It was ok as he was very loving and caring toward me. I saw this as a normal aging process.

    Well fast forward to his 4 year affair. There was sex but not as often as I believed AND he had to take the blue pill. UGH, the mind movies could overtake me if I let them. The resentment of all the years I just accepted his sexual narcissism could make me a very bitter person.

    I've read about sociopaths and I truly believe his AP is a sociopath. Her sexual escapes are notorious around town. My H called her a pro. Her boyfriend she was dating while in the affair with my H called me and told me about the sex between him and her and that it was "mind blowing".

    So since we've reconciled we have lots of very satisfying sex. The early bird has died and matters no longer have to be taken into my own hands. Early in reconciliation he had problems maintaining the erection and I would take it personally. After talking to our MC she assured me it was natural given what we were sorting out in our relationship. He had lots of guilt and did not want to disappoint me in bed. LOL he was trying too hard and well, that's a sure way to "fail".

    So it took time to get into a good sexual place. Everything has calmed from the initial hysterical bonding but it's about 3 times per week and it's sweet and loving and satisfying for seemingly both of us? Well at least for me but I will never be sure if it is for him. I was denied for so long and now I feel it's my turn so I make sure to get what I need out of our sex life both physically and emotionally.

    Elle, have you read anything about sexual narcissism? I had no clue there was such a thing until I stumbled upon an article in Psychology Today. Well described my husband to a t during our early married sex life. I don't know if finding an answer to our early sexual problems or frustrations helpful in healing but it sure gave me some answers to problems that I thought only I had. Sometimes it pisses me off all over again. As with the affair why can't they discuss the problems especially when we see it and bring it to their attention? Same with the affair, why can't they say "look there's this woman that is showing me lots of attention and I want to be fair to you. I'm attracted to her and I don't want to be. Let's figure this out before it's too late." No they have to stick their head in the sand (and their dicks somewhere else) and pretend the problems don't exist. GGRR so pointless.

    Anyway, thanks for putting it out there Elle. I'm sure you will have many more readers who will relate than just me.

  6. Your story resonates with me so much because I am also married to a porn/sex addict. I am also a woman who loves sex. Ironically, I thought sex would be the one thing that wouldn't be a problem when we got married! He seemed like a guy who was as horny as I was, we were in love, what could possibly go wrong, right? Ha! Sex was practically the only thing we fought about, year in and year out. He starved me sexually because he was addicted to porn and felt so guilty about his secret that he couldn't be with me even when he wanted to.

    I read every manual and relationship book I could get my hands on. I felt like a freak, because so many of them act like that all men want sex all the time and women give it to men in order to feel loved. But I was the one who wanted sex all the time and wasn't getting it. My self-esteem, never high to begin with, took a beating until I had none left. I tried to convince myself this was normal, this is what marriage looks like. After all, everything else was good. We talked, were equal partners in household decisions, my husband is an involved and excellent father, all that. I felt like maybe I was being ungrateful to be so unhappy because my husband never wanted to touch me, not just sexually, but affectionately. I tried to tell myself I was too needy. I considered cheating on my husband just to prove to myself that someone would find me attractive (but I wasn't able to do more than consider it, that's just not who I am.) Even when sex didn't happen, I was left feeling strangely empty afterwards so many times. Like there had been no emotional connection at all.

    Then he finally admitted what was going on. Such a mix of emotions. So much devastation, and yet in there was a bit of relief when I finally realized: it wasn't me. It wasn't anything I was doing, or not doing. It was him.

    So much anger, because he starves me sexually for over 12 years, and then he's the one who cheats? WTF.

    Then D-day and hysterical bonding, which was amazing but also so difficult because of the horrible emotional roller-coaster of betrayal that accompanies it.

    It's been almost a year and a half. He's in recovery for the porn/sex addiction. I've finally admitted that I'm codependent and am in recovery for it. Sex is now not as fraught with landmines as it used to be, but I do wonder if it'll ever feel normal. Do we even know what that is? I don't have any frame of reference of what normal might look like, my husband is the only man I've ever been with. Things do feel different from pre D-day, and from the hysterical bonding phase. I no longer have any nights where I feel like a blow-up doll. I like to think we are learning as we go.

    1. Ack, made a typo there that totally changed the meaning of what I was trying to say. It should have read, "Even when sex DID happen..." at the end of that second paragraph.

    2. Gee,
      Yeah, I felt the same. I wondered why he didn't seem to want sex with me. I felt that we just had different appetites and that mine was stronger than his (ha! Joke's on me!).

  7. FANTASTIC!!!! The most truthful article I have ever read about the sexual relationship in a marriage! You have hit the nail on the head!
    Thank you! Thank you!

  8. Elle,

    Your courage, dignity and ability to write so beautifully and powerfully never cease to amaze me! I relate to everything being said in your post and all the comments. My heart always burns with such affection and admiration for everyone here. I believe LynnPain brought some questions recently concerning sex after hysterical bonding.... some posts back. (And also the image of becoming a powerful colorful fantastic DRAGON ha! which I have been using for weeks now).

    How can we learn or know about this ever changing subject - sex - if we are never encouraged to talk openly and HONESTLY about it? Now I have images of this article being read out loud by couples even as a compassionate means of promoting - even opening up the discussion, to our vulnerabilities around intimacy. I can't help but wonder how many men keep their real fears of 'performance,' buried for a lifetime........while we as women don't realize that we're naturally built with the equipment to be sexual maserati's! And our own sexuality remains dormant, uninspired and never fully awakened. I witness lot of gender control issues, fear of women's bodies and sexual power and this fear is as old as mankind.

    Thank you bless you again and again.......

  9. Valkyrie
    I love that. I'm a sexual Maserati!!

    Lol at 20 I had no idea about male sexual intimidation. All I knew is I was in love and I was going to have all the sex I wanted or could ask for.

    Well this girl is old but not dead!! Not putting myself on the back burner any longer. The worm has turned!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story! It is difficult to talk about, but it is such an integral part of our relationships.
    Sex was always great for us - and awful! My H loves sex, and he's very uninhibited. So - mostly at his urging - we were very adventurous. There wasn't much we didn't try! But even though I loved sex with him, I was more self-conscious. I got better over the years, but I was never as uninhibited as he was. And then there was the difference in sex drives. I'm a once-or-twice-a-week kind of gal, and he's a once-or-twice-a-day kind of fella. And with jobs, parenting, family, etc., sometimes we were lucky to score once or twice a month.
    Sex became a big issue. We talked about it a lot, and sometimes things got better, but then it would get worse again.
    What it took me a long time to realize was how very important sex is to him. When we didn't have sex a lot, he became convinced that I wasn't really attracted to him. He got tired of chasing me. He felt undesired and maybe even unloved. And from my end, it felt like I could never be sexual enough to satisfy him. we are post-EA, and we are having sex. We took some time off for a while, because after all the lies and the pain, I couldn't stand to make myself vulnerable to him. But that didn't last long, because we are trying to reforge a relationship, and sex is his love language. Sometimes it's really good, and sometimes I just can't get past the empty, unhappy place inside me, but we make love anyway. And it feels right. It feels healthy, like it's part of the healing process, even though sometimes it takes an emotional toll.
    I'm confused about a lot of things. But as long as we are trying to make it work, sex will be part of the equation.

    1. I think so many men equate sex with love. Women equate emotional support with love. Generalizing, of course. But it holds true in most relationships.
      As Dr. Phil has said, when sex is good, it's 10% of a marriage. But when sex is bad, it's 90% of a marriage.

  11. I haven't posted for a while, but once in a while I pop back on and read an article. I am post D-day by almost 3 years. Sex is still a hard subject to broach between my husband and I. If I don't bring up the subject, it doesn't get brought up. And quite frankly, I'm tired. Been married almost 40 years, and after it was all said and done and full disclosure was made, I found out that that the first time he cheated was only 9 years into our marriage...and I was pregnant with our 3rd child. Nothing else happened until year 36, but porn had been happening for 10 years prior at that point. I knew something wasn't right, but could not put my finger on it. I thought we were just going through normal stuff. Next thing I know I'm hit by a freight train. Devastation throughout, full and total. Sex is almost non existent at this point, and I really don't care. He is still shame filled and doesn't really"want" sex either... I'm tired of the struggle, so I'm pretty much done with trying to work on the sex issue.

    1. Barb,
      As you likely read in my post, I was there. I was tired of talking about it, of thinking about it, or worrying about it, of feeling bad about it. But with time, I realized that I wanted sex to be part of our marriage. Perhaps you'll get there too. If not, and he's okay without it, then more power to you. Marriage comes in all shapes and sizes.

  12. How do you get over it enough to want him to touch you again ever. Is it because I can't stop the thought of them in it my disgust, my it because to me sleeping with someone means love and I don't know if I love him anymore?? It's been two years and I recoil when he rubs against me by accident. Will it ever it because he told me she was the worlds best (in the heat if an argument) and I'm never going to live up to that...had I been all that he'd never have chanced losing me... How long do I wait for the feeling to come back or should I just call it a day?

    1. I think it's all those things. Anger is hurt and fear in disguise...and you've got both in spades. I suspect that once your work through those feelings, desire might come back. Then again, I think some people have just been hurt too deeply to feel vulnerable with their partner again (and without vulnerability, it's impossible to have true intimacy). That's something you'll have to figure out. What do you want your marriage to look like? Do you want it at all?

  13. Elle,
    Have you written anything that discusses a connection or the tie between porn use and cheating? It seems like such a common thread. I knew my husband was using it prior to the affair but, to be honest, i wasn't bothered by it and it took the pressure off me. Most of the time I was trying to avoid it or punishing him by withholding it. :-(. I didn't realize until you posted this why I always felt like an object instead of an actual participant.

    1. Mark Chamberlain's book, "Love you, hate the porn," explores this subject. He also has a blog by the same name. I highly recommend it, it went a long way into saving my marriage. In my case, my husband was willing to admit that porn was the fuel on the fire, and that he doubts he ever would have tried to cheat on me for real if his mind wasn't clouded by his addiction to porn.

      I think porn is like alcohol. Some people can handle it, some can't. If it's in the hands of someone who can't, then it can destroy lives.

      Also, please don't blame yourself. Up until D-day, I was constantly chasing my husband. I was willing to do pretty much anything in bed. He had no "need" to turn to porn, or to another woman, anything he wanted, he could have had at home. And we had a good relationship, it wasn't like we were fighting a lot and he'd have to work for it. There was nothing porn could offer him that I couldn't...except for a meaningless high. And I wouldn't want to be able to offer him that.

      I think my favorite of his blog posts is this one:

    2. Dandelion,
      There's been a lot of research lately on the impact of porn. I've actually had conversations with my kids about how porn can negatively affect their (eventual) sexual experiences because it's fantasy. The real thing can hardly compete. There have been some stories too written by young men (twenties, thirties) who acknowledge how porn made real-life sex lousy for them. And yes, I certainly felt that horrible sense of feeling like a prop to my husband rather than a flesh-and-blood partner.
      Thanks to Gee for posting that link. Here's another...but if you do a Google search of the impact of porn, you'll find a lot of information, most based in scientific research. I don't believe porn is always bad, just as I don't believe the occasional glass of wine is bad. It's when it becomes one's frame for the whole sexual experience that it creates problems.

    3. Thanks, Gee and Elle. I read both articles and will share them with my husband, too. We had a pretty open conversation about this on our way the therapist today. Fuel on the fire is an accurate description, Gee.

    4. This is a good science-based site about porn addiction:

  14. I struggle with the same question dandelion has. I don't want to be his m"mother" and forbid porn. It was also something I never had a real problem with. I don't love it, I tolerate it. We don't watch together often at all, and when we do its not movies. There is soooo much random stuff on the internet that is free and readily available and it's never a problem for me to not watch. I can take it or leave it and I mostly leave it. It's very hard to find unbiased info. It's "experts ." Who say it's harmful and demeaning or others, including MANY men who say it's nothing of the sort, and say it has "nothing" to do with real life. It's a diversion, it's fun, it's bizarre etc. I'm torn on the issue. But with this "new" honesty and reality of this relationship and much more awareness of what each other is doing l, that I am aware that it does bother me more than I actually realized before. Back in the day I always thought"it's only porn, at least he's not cheating on me ". Lol. Oh well.

  15. Elle, another amazing article. Only 3 months since d-day & wondering if I could ever have sex with my H again without thinking of the OW. In fact sex scares me so much because of this reason. We went out for dinner last night (we are living separately and have just started joint therapy) and I dissolved into tears as all I could see was him dining with her. Do you have advice about how to deal visions / flashbacks? I know it's early days for me, I guess I'd just like to know they subside and if there is a way to manage them better to be able to move on.

    1. Anonymous,
      I wish I had some secret I could impart. For me, flashbacks were a matter of trying to replace them with something (visualizing a big stop sign, for instance. Or imagining me running over her with my car. I wish I was kidding.). Each time I successfully did that, the flashbacks receded until, eventually, I just stopped thinking about her at all. Like so much around healing from betrayal, it takes time. Sigh...

    2. Fascinating Links ladies, thanks!

    3. Steam,
      There was a really amazing article written a few years ago in a men's magazine -- Esquire or GQ or something -- by a man that had a ton of scientific research noting the impact of porn on the brain. I can't seem to find it but it was fascinating. I'll see again if I can track it down.

  16. Elle,
    You are one courageous writer to even address this subject. The post was beyond awesome, very special and honestly one of the best. I have never seen this topic addressed on any other sites. You are fearless. This is probably TMI.

    Wife Sex - My view of sex was messed up. I was an inexperienced 25 year old wife with an experienced 33 year old husband. He thought I was more experienced than I actually was because I acted like I was. His view was participating in non-emotional sex. I didn't have a view. He was military, rough and non-emotional. Among my birthday or Xmas present was sex lingerie or underwear. I learned to dread sex. I noticed past anniversary cards always had something about sex written in it. I didn't know any different. I didn't think he cared about ME only getting his rocks off. He did not help at all,ever, I was exhausted all the time with 3 children. I was tired by the end of the day, when I did make an effort he would request something else, red lipstick, high heels something. When I try to get into it well it wasn't good enough he wanted more so I had no confidence in the sex department.

    What made it routine? He never made the connection what he did out of bed would fuel my desire in bed. It sounds like a you fold the wash then your reward is pussy. I started the day with so much energy and when it is gone it is gone. I can either fold clothes in the evening or make love to you but I don't have the energy or desire to do both. It physically hurt some of the time not all the time, he was rough. I didn't have enough experience to know the difference. When I said something about the result of his roughness he didn't say anything. Wow, I guess he doesn't care. I would ask can we have slow sex? Nope rarely happened. How do you think having sex is with a tired, no confidence, no tenderness and inhibited wife? I'm not totally blaming him because I had some inhibitions. Being a nurse, I allowed somethings to be registered as unpleasant. I know how that bacteria gets from one end to the other and what it can cause. I know how women get UTI's. I know what can cause yeast infections. I know as you get older your labia seems to just melt away into the sides.

    During the affair: Fast forward 35 years to routine, do-your-duty-sex so he won't be so grouchy. Then I find out he is having great sex with the OW. She is wild he says. What does she have that I don't? She wanted him maybe for the wrong reasons but she did want him. Her goal she told me was to make him feel like a man. She accomplished that however false the sex world. She told me he wasn't that great in bed but that is what it took to keep him. So there and do you want an STD with that?

  17. Post D-day: I changed about sex. I thought the worst has happened to me so I let it all go. And I mean let it go, girlfriends. I just said the hell with it. What was he going to do have an affair? Was he going to walk out on me? Bye bye. Well he cleans up the kitchen, makes the coffee, brings me a cup in bed, folds clothes and cleans up his messes. My attitude has changed about sex now that there is an emotional bond and he shows me he cares about me.

    He told me one time his view "here is sex take it or leave it" no connection or bonding (that maybe dangerous). He said sex was like that with the OW if she offered sex he took it. He never took the OW to a hotel, vacations, movies or anyplace beyond a local restaurant. He knew he had to change, he had to give up his military macho ways. Great for the troops but not for the wife. I told him how sex was terrible, rough and he was a selfish partner. He was surprised, really floored and didn't have a clue. So I started the Remember When Game. Remember when I asked for.....remember when I did.....remember when I wore....

    He said he discovered he really does love me post D-day. He says he is having the best sex in his entire life and so am I. As far as the OW he says it was disgusting now that he thinks back on it. She wasn't even anything to even compare.

    But it was like I was liberated about sex. I don't know how that works or why I felt free I just did.

    I was going through some old stuff. I found a letter he wrote me in 1981. It was absolutely lovely, intimate, teasing and romantic. He read it and said, "this is how I feel about you now. I really lost my way. What the hell happened to me?" I can tell he is thinking about this letter for several days now he is thinking.

    He struggles to keep up with me now. I have not calmed down about sex. It was like I was so hung up on that crap that doesn't really matter. We had great sex every single day the first year and a half. Now it is every other day. He had radiation for prostate cancer and is not suppose to be able to sit erect but he is. So for me the sex ending is different. The rest of betrayal sucks. Mind movies are another story.

    1. Lynn I love reading this, my story sounds like yours, I was liberated sexually post d-day. We're almost a year past and having the best sex of our lives. Betrayal was beyond terrible but the change in our sex life has been an incredible gift one I wouldn't have believed possible if I weren't living it. I too felt like you said, To Hell With It... the worst has already happened and I let go... my attitude about sex has completely changed and opened, I don't know where we will be in a few years but for now things are really good.

    2. That's so awesome, Lynn. I think it's crucial that women, as Melissa says, claim their own sexuality. Figure out what feels good (which means self-exploration, ladies). And then figure out how to communicate that to your husband. Let him know what feels good. Let him know what doesn't. It can be so hard when we hear everything through a lens of "I'm deficient, I'm deviant" but if we can try and talk about it with the same candour and matter-of-factness that we talk about our food appetites ("Love vanilla but not pistachio..." "Really? I think pistachio is interesting. But I crave chocolate.") BUT IT'S SO HARD!!!!! Still, working toward that is important. Lynn, you're an inspiration.

  18. Mind Movies are the worst. I don't have all the truth so my mind fills in the gaps. Two years out I still have mind movies about once a month. It becomes an obsession you just can't stop it. I win the Oscar for best director every time for my movies. Scene 1 action - is the comparison script. Scene 2 action- the OW is in a sexual contortions to please my husband that I didn't do. Scene 3 action - he was suppose to belong to me. Scene 4 action - take ways of love making with my husband instead insert the OW. Scene 5 action - go over the nasty details again and again. Scene 6 action the classic ending - I throw my self-esteem off the Empire State Building.
    The movie never includes a soft dick, bad breath, being drunk, grumpy, depressing attitude, worry and he gets this clammy sweat upon exertion. I never see his gut hanging over his belt. She never has to pick up his underwear or wash his socks. The scenes are in the nude, not with his pants around his ankles and he is too lazy to take his shirt off. There are no BJ's because this is not intimate enough for the movies. The most important thing left out is the OW is always better, more attractive and sexy than me.
    My mind movies are what he says before he got his head out of his butt. She was bubbly, fun, wild in bed. It was passion and lust. She was like crack. He says that lasted a very short time when she said, "look at what I do for you". Then knew he was the one being used. He was angry with the OW but she offered sex, no emotion, no connections and something to do.
    Never anything negative he says about her are in the movie. He says she whined, sex could have been phone sex and accomplish the same ending, it was mostly BJ, no love involved, her house was dirty, he dreaded her calls, no sex toys, they both said he never stayed over an hour and he refused to take a shower with her. He never spent the night.
    If I can't make sense of the affair so I just make the OW better in every way. Why else would he reject me? So the OW is always the starlet in my movies. The OW is beautiful but a psychology-bitch out to destroy my family.
    I have spent an obscene amount of hours trying to stop mind movies in therapy. Give me rubber bands, stop sign imagine, picture her as a funny character, uh, no thank you, I would rather torture myself. The only thing that helped me was that his story changed over time. After his self-justifications ended, after he stopped lying to himself, after he stopped making excuses. Once he began to tell me the affair reality unvarnished, no edits is when my head turned. When he looked at for what it was and shared that movie with me, that is when the movie changed. What else helped is when I told him what movie was playing and he would say that scene is true or what scene is total a delusion on my part and informed me of the real truth. That really helped. So we decided, he calls "bullshit" when I tell him about the mind movies which are not true but romanticized. When he says this word I internally prepare myself to hear the truth, it may hurt or not, I never know but I brace myself. I don't give him blow back, defensiveness or criticize because I want to know the reality instead of the garbage in my head.

    1. Lynn-less -

      you're one hell of a writer.

      This is an incredibly brave post, Elle and the responses are just as brave. And helpful. This is real life not the movies: it would be good if more people understood it. The OW wields sex like a power-tool, well or badly. This kind of behaviour has little to do with affection.

  19. Anon
    OMG I can't believe you said what was in my head. Sometimes when I can't sleep and all those bad thoughts are running through my head, seriously, I visualize myself going to her house pretending to be a floral delivery with a gun behind the flowers and I shoot her. I know LOL it's terrible and I don't even own a gun, don't want a gun, wouldn't even know how to buy one let alone shoot one! I hate guns, I'm seriously anti gun! But for some reason when I fantasize killing her, she goes away and so do the mind movies. It's so creepy!! I can't believe this works for someone else :) Thank God because I can't even bring myself to tell my therapist this. All I know is I'm content enough to only kill her in my fantasies :)

    1. TryingHard - don't worry, I HAVE told my therapist I fantasise about killing the OW. She asked me how & I said pushing her in front of a train! I then told her if I heard she really had died in real life, I wouldn't care and did that make me nasty? God forbid as nasty as the OW! Anyway she said it was fine to think that, whatever my thoughts are, it's all part of the process.
      I don't know if the only way to stop the mind movies is to separate from my husband for good....every time I look at him too long I see him with her....having dinner, having sex, holding hands....
      I wish I didn't know what she looks like and sounds like, only makes the movies more real!
      Still early days though and I know only time will tell. Argh, time.....

    2. I used to go running, pound the pavement and cry with rage -- and I would imagine catching her naked in my laundry room (yep, they did it in the laundry room. Least one of them could have done is throw in a load of whites while there!!), and then drive down the road with her in my headlights, with her butt jiggling as she frantically tried to outrun by car. By the end of my fantasy, I'd be giggling at the thought of it. Worked every time.

  20. TryingHard--I totally understand your bad thoughts---stuff like this actually makes me laugh sometimes because this whole betrayal thing not only brings out the worst side in us it brings up things we had no idea.even existed! I have to say I feel so effing fortunate that I rarely have had mind movies of them. My mind movies are all wrapped up in his betrayal of my trust. My H, at the time went through an extremely rapid escalation into his alcoholism. He was functional in September and then completely out of control in October,to the point that he FINALLY asked me for help. I had offered help for years and had literally just gotten to the point where I told him he had to help himself. (oh do i wish i could turn back time, but I can't so thers' that) so as he sat next to me on the couch,and for the first time ever using his tablet, i had great hope that he was FINALLY looking for help, maybe just looking for a place to start, online about rolling into sobriety. . I actually wrote that on another web board--that I thought he was looking for help, because he was SO shattered and so deep in the bottle. I had so much faith in him after he had finallly asked me for help. How horrible for me to find that he was writing and texting this whore and others, while he sat just a few feet away from me. My mind movies are all about his betrayal to me, which is bad enough. I picture him smirking while I am just to the left of him, i imagine him thinking he is "getting away with it" because I am such an idiot.

    I can't imagine the torture of mind movies involving the OW. No wonder you picture a gun.

    LLP remember his bal##z were probably sweaty and disgusting at times.. Put that somewhere in your scenes. I am so sorry for all of this pain.

  21. Elle, I just saw your comment above. "Incredible BWC Warrior" - I'll take it :-). I am grateful and humbled (a humbled warrior :-)) that I inspired you. Love & light.

  22. Replies
    1. TH,
      They're a ways up. Here they are:

  23. OMG I cannot tell you how much better I feel knowing my tribe has the same thoughts/fantasies!! Thank you so much ladies for validating me.

    I seriously thought I have gone over the edge to have such homicidal thoughts. And I must say now I will be adding to my fantasy chasing her running naked with her fat ass jiggling in my headlights!!

    So here's the reality. She has stage 4 cancer or at least is purported to have it. The docs gave her 6-8 months to live and she's now at 24 months. Although her chance of survival past 5 years is like 10%. So her days are numbered anyway. Do I feel bad. Hell no!! And I feel bad for everybody. Heck I feel bad for death row inmates that are executed!!

    I hate having this much hate for the OW. She really is a pathetic case. But she certainly had no regard for my well being so fuck her!! She can rot here on earth of cancer and in hell as well.

    You ladies are awesome. Thanks again

    1. I used to imagine killing my husband too. He would be fast asleep in bed with me wide awake and enraged beside him. I would imagine putting the pillow over his face. I remain convinced that if only I could find a judge and jurists who'd been cheated on, I'd walk... ;)

    2. I remember having this fantasy of having caught him chatting with the OW online, ripping the laptop out of his hands and beating him over the head with it until either the laptop broke or his skull did. I sometimes wonder if maybe it's a good thing I didn't catch him (he confessed), or I don't know how I would have reacted.

  24. LOL Elle!! And there in lies the rub, finding a sympathetic judge and jury :)

  25. I find this hard too. I honestly have never truly hates anyone before. I mean there are people I did not like or want to be around. Yet I truly hate these women and the person who introduced my husband to both the women. Sometimes that upsets me. I hate having that feeling. My husband said he has more respect for one than the other. No idea why but that set me off. I mean I think anyone who knowingly pursues a married man one of these women pressured him for his phone number for 3 years. And neither wanted to be married etc. he has more respect for the single mom maybe that is why. Well I went off on that. I said what kind of single mom engages in a secret affair with a married man, has unprotected sex, sneaks around having sex, begs to go on vacations and so much more. I actually have less respect for her than a single woman who has nothing to lose. To me that is a horrible way for a mother of two kids to act. I am not sure what my husband thinks since I hate these women so much. Only one lives in our area and I told him if I ever run into her it will not go well. I have a plan and a script in my head. My biggest goal is to stay calm and not get upset. I think that is the best thing to do.

    My fantasy is that their boyfriends cheat on them or that their boyfriends find out what they did. Maybe it would not affect them since they are a different breed. I guess to me I want them to feel the deep pain. I wish there was such thing as karma and that there was payback for doing the right thing.

    As far as sex goes I struggle with when life gets busy and there is less of it. Even though I am sure it has nothing to do with me or us that is when it is hardest. For some reason I think how did they not have sex all the time or it must have been so great otherwise why do it. Yet my husband said it was none of that and so not worth it. If he could go back in time he would have never done any of it and wishes it all was a bad dream. Me too! Thanks!

  26. This is my second post (I think my first was lost)

    Dear Hopeful 30: As far as sex goes I also struggle with when life gets busy and there is less of it. Even though rationally I know it has nothing to do with me or us. I had a fight with my h about it last month. He brought to my attention that every month we argue about not having sex while I have my period. Last month we didn't have sex for the 3 days after my period ended. He thinks I seek out an argument about it, perhaps to pain shop and to keep the affairs at the forefront. I told him pre d day I would have chalked it up to age, our over 20 years together, and our extremely busy lives with kids and hectic demanding jobs. But I told him now its all changed.

    When I found out about the affair from 4 years ago he actually blamed our lack of sex, because he didn't want to admit to himself and/or me what a piece of shit he was. I remember saying then you go to counseling; you don't sleep with someone else. but he told me the truth that it had nothing to do with me when he saw me blaming the kids for my being too tired and having no sex drive. I didn't believe him though, despite everything I read here and elsewhere until I found out about another affair 11 years ago before kids and our lack of sex.

    My h also says they didn't have sex all the time maybe once a week and I know he had to take Viagra so how great could it have been? he says it was nothing special, just free. He was looking for casual no strings attached sex and they offered it, though it ended up that they each pressured him to leave me and his kids. He thought when it began that they were both married so in it for the same reason as him-- just for the sex. Turns out most men think like him and most women are like them. He always wanted casual sex but the 3 women he slept with before me were all in relationships so he thought this was his last chance to fulfill his dream.

    His dream . . . my nightmare.

  27. For me, this is wasn't about the sex...there were not multiple affairs or affair, one woman.

    His straying wasn't due to lack of sex, sex for the most part was always good. Yes, at times, struggles here and there. But we were also able to talk about it.

    I've talked about this in previous posts...they were co workers. In the year the affair took place, they had sex in March, August and October.

    We grew apart...I was busy with life, running kids everywhere, working, paying the bills, just life. Apparently, I forgot to stroke the ego. He was a workaholic...his job was important to him. Where was my ego stroke? No where to be found.

    The affair was more about the compliments, not so much being together sexually. During the affair, we still had sex, maybe not as much, but we did. And it was usually good.

    After finding out about the affair, I didn't withhold, but sex, but the affair had been over for 8 months, and we had been having sex, it almost felt more meaningful at that point. But I started pointing things out that bothered me and made comparisons.

    If he didn't kiss me, I'd ask if he withheld kissing from her. If he just rolled off of me when it was over, I'd ask if he cuddled with her after. Those were things that bothered me.

    I talked to her as well, I asked questions about sex...brave I wasn't about the sex for her either, said she regretted it after it would happen, for her it was just the attention.

    The first 2xs it happened, they didn't spend the night together, they were away for work and he knocked on her door, it happened, he left, nothing special. The third time, she had to go away for work, she bought him a plane ticket and he went...that time, far tougher to handle. I asked both if they enjoyed their fuck fest vacation...both said it wasn't like that...both said it was the most uncomfortable few days. But as I said to both "you fucked, right?" I asked questions and she said again, nothing special. That was when the affair ended. They came home and it all just stopped.

    My feelings regarding sex in general...I think it's extremely our relationship anyway. We take every opportunity we can...early morning quickies, if we have an empty house, it is happening, we have a very healthy sex life, and I've never had sex just to keep him around, to make him happy, I have to be happy too...we love sex. We had good sex before d-day and I'd say better sex after, it feels like we can't get enough of it or each other.

    There used to be mind movies, but I've gotten past that, it's not worth it. And for the record, I've never wanted to kill either of them, just beat the living shit out of both ;)

  28. Just read these posts, they are old I know... I am struggling with the sexual aspect of our ,"recovery".. At first I guess I fell into the hysterical bonding. So glad I read about this term, because I felt really bad about my feelings of love, then hate for my husband. Part of what fueled that was the result of him finally sharing more affairs and pertinent details that came out AFTER I let down my guard( made love ) and actually believed his proclamations of love and total honesty. Big surprise that I hated him for taking advantage of my vulnerability at the time and using me yet again. I am not a violent person, but I have been towards him. I slapped him, and hit him when the accounts of his cruelty and selfishness have finally come to light. I was scared at my own reaction and did have thoughts of going to his office,( where the whore worked with him ) and beating the living shit out of her. I actually watched a utube video depicting women beating a known neighborhood adulterer, and didn't even feel sorry for the woman.. When I told my husband this..he was shocked. I was outraged and recalled the scenario of him lying to me on his way to meet his whore because she had set up a threesome with some skank she knew. I was suicidal that night and shared that with my husband who almost didn't answer my call, the only reason he was on his way home, was because the threesome fell though when the women's kids were at home that night,( great mother!) This is only one example of the things that finally started coming out. I think it is a double standard that men are known for beating up the man who cheated with their wife, but when a woman feels this kind of response, it is awful and she must be psycho.. I, of course, am not lobbying for the right to act violently. Makes you wonder, if things were handled this way, how many people would decide to cheat with someone who is married..

    1. Anonymous,
      I'm glad you found us. It's interesting to me that your husband is shocked at your level of anger. Makes me wonder if he really doesn't get how deeply hurt you are. Behind anger is almost always hurt and or fear. So behind your rage is really just the incredibly deep hurt you'are feeling and of course Betrayal triggers all kinds of fear. You might want to see if he'll sit down with you and really just listen to you explain how you're feeling. Without judgement from him, without shock, just really listen to how his betrayal has hurt you. He might also want to educate himself about the impact of affairs on a marriage. I think people routinely underestimate just how devastated their partner is.



Related Posts with Thumbnails