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Two years ago, my husband confessed that he had been looking at porn throughout our marriage. Immediately following his confession he basically shut me out completely. Porn had been the ONE and only thing I had ever asked him to make sure he was honest about. I was completely blindsided. I had absolutely no clue. Immediately following, he did all the “right” things. He had no problem giving me his passwords, never being alone with his phone, putting Internet software on, and so on. However, he completely shut me out emotionally and stopped talking to me.
Since his confession, I gave birth to our fourth child, which was especially hard because my husband is gone with the military and we move around a lot. I feel like a horrible mother, I hate everything about myself, and I feel so completely alone. I find myself getting more and more resentful, and so angry towards God and men, in general. My heart is constantly racing, and I feel like the more time passes, the more hurt I feel. Any little things that happen during the day just increase my pain and bitterness. It’s been dragged out so long I just feel overwhelmed and want to give up on everything.
My husband is a good man, but he refuses to talk to me. Every man in my life has betrayed me. My dad, my two grandfathers, my brothers, my best friend’s dad, and one of my church leaders have all been caught or admitted to having inappropriate sexual behaviors. So, are all men just gross, sex-crazed, weak things that have no self-control? It feels that way to me, and I don’t see the point of anything. I hate being a woman in this world. Nothing is sacred or special anymore. It just feels dirty and pointless.
It makes perfect sense that you would ask questions about the integrity and fidelity of all men. You’ve known nothing other than complete betrayal from the very men who were supposed to care for and protect you. There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do and asking the questions you’re asking. Hopefully I can help you find answers, support, and, ultimately, some healing.
I know you’re asking if there are any good and faithful men out in the world. Even though I want to reassure you that there are good men out there, this question can’t be the first priority. Instead, your biggest priority needs to be setting healthy limits so you can begin caring for yourself physically and emotionally. You’re experiencing acute relational trauma from the discovery of your husband’s secrets. And, combined with the massive amounts of betrayal you’ve already experienced from other important relationships, it’s hard for you to feel settled and secure.
The emphasis on healing your relational trauma symptoms is to help you slow down and reclaim your peace. Trauma can stop time or speed things up, so it’s important to not get pulled in either direction. Ultimately, you need to know that you are going to be safe and can protect yourself emotionally, physically, and sexually.
I recommend you immediately get some outside help. No woman can or should start her recovery journey alone. There are compassionate women, men, and professionals who have been down this same road who can help you make sense of what’s happening to you and give you the tools and resources you need. In the footnotes, I’ve listed some of the resources I’ve found helpful to women experiencing acute relational trauma.[i] You’ll find that education will help you normalize and organize your experience while support from others will help you come out of isolation and give you the much-needed encouragement you need to keep moving forward. Seek out local 12-step groups for family members of those affected by addiction and courageously reach out for support from trusted friends and family.
I also recommend you find a therapist who specializes in scientifically validated trauma-based treatments, such as EMDR and Somatic Experiencing, to help you heal from the impact of the multiple relational betrayals you’ve experienced in years past. Additionally, effective trauma treatment can help you heal with the current marital betrayal you’re experiencing.
It’s terribly disorienting to discover that someone isn’t who he says he is. This has happened to you so many times in the past that you were taking a huge risk and hoping your husband would never deceive you. In fact, my guess is that his honesty with you about his behaviors is more important to you than anything, including his mistakes with viewing pornography. Deceiving another person, especially someone who has given his or her life to you, causes deep wounds that are difficult to heal.
Naturally, you want reassurance and connection from your husband in the aftermath of betrayal. You want him to show you that he’s remorseful and wants to protect you and the relationship. So, when he’s distant and avoidant, it makes an already difficult situation virtually unbearable. This is why you can’t focus on the relationship as a source of healing at this stage of the recovery process. Your own individual connection to spiritual support, physical and emotional self-care, professional support, community support, and educational resources will give help give you back your emotional balance. You deserve to feel safe and secure, so please seek healing in these areas before trying to figure out what to do with your relationship. When the time comes to make relationship decisions, you will be in a much better place to think clearly.
As you begin to connect to a world of support where you can feel secure, it will make it easier to trust others. Right now, it’s okay not to trust your husband. It’s okay to be suspicious and careful. Even though living with mistrust of others isn’t a very satisfying way of living your life long-term, it’s a completely sensible response today. Even though trust is terrifying right now, there are resources and people who have proven track records and can give you the necessary support and guidance you’ll need to help you get back on your feet.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.