I wish some of the symptoms outlined below were obvious in my home. Perhaps that would've forced me to face reality earlier, or get help sooner. I had an idea that something was wrong, but I never could have articulated what that problem was—certainly not an addiction, and absolutely not a sex addiction. That never crossed my mind, not once, because that was a subject found only in the stories of the TV Soaps.
What I now know is that my intuition was the most pervasive symptom that a larger problem was looming in our marriage. Had I listened more closely, or investigated more thoroughly, I may have stumbled across his addiction. It was only in hindsight that all of the clues unfolded, and only when I looked backward that I recognized some symptoms.
My responses to Brian's list, based on my own experience:
- He lies all the time. I was not aware of this until my husband's 'other life' was disclosed ten years after we were married. My husband was evasive during arguments, but I never would've suspected that he was lying to me daily.
- He cheats on you. I had no idea he had been seeking out affairs for the length of our marriage. I often referred to him a 'puppy dog' who seemed to need me around for comfort, for company, for approval. I often said that if anyone were to have an affair in our marriage, it would be me because he was so loyal...and I knew how incapable I was of cheating. I trusted him implicitly.
- He has had no long-term stable relationships. This was one of the reasons I fell in love with my husband. I knew he'd been in long-term relationships, which meant he probably wasn't afraid of commitment.
- He masturbates all the time, even after sex. I have no idea. I never witnessed this, nor did I suspect it. Our sex life was not unusual, kinky, or weird. We were an average couple with a good sex life. Eventually, we were tired parents of 3 babies under five years old, also with a normal sex life. Nothing seemed abnormal.
- He's into some kinky stuff sexually. Nope. Never was. He was loving and attentive during lovemaking, and when I refused his advances, he never got upset, nor did he make me feel guilty. He did paw at my breasts and reach for my crotch when the timing wasn't the greatest, and at times I would lash out in frustration that I was not to be used as a possession, but this was not a daily thing. Weren't all husbands sometimes like this?
- He is secretive about his phone and computer use. Well, considering his story came out in 1996, cell phones were hardly popular yet. We shared a phone as big as a shoe but it was usually in my possession. He did not seem secretive about much, but yes, there were a few times I'd wake up in the wee hours of the night and storm into the living room, wondering where the hell he was. He would sheepishly and slowly shut down his computer, but I was never suspicious that he was hiding anything. It was only in retrospect that I realized what he was probably up to.
- He is extremely confident and controlling sexually. Never controlling. And while I wouldn't call him confident sexually, he was not timid or shy, either. He was attentive, loving, and yes, sometimes emotionally absent, but I never suspected a huge, glaring, sexual problem. How could I when sex addiction was not even on my radar?
- He flirts all the time. Nope. Never, at least not in my company. He was a bit shy and quiet while in a crowd. He was confident in his group of like-minded colleagues, so he was funny and engaging, but never, ever flirtatious. If anything, he'd see me from across the room and give me 'that' look that said he wanted me (what wife doesn't love that?). I knew he loved me.
- When you call him on any of his shit, he manipulates you and turns things around. He hated confrontation, he was passive-aggressive, and he needed to be right, so yes, maybe he was manipulative because he wanted out of our arguments as soon as possible. But I just thought our marital “dance” was a typical one for a couple in the middle of a fight. I also passed off his “fighting issues” as a personal quirk, perhaps a “guy thing” used to avoid any difficult conversation.
- You think he might be a sex addict. I had no idea what that was in 1996. Had anyone suggested it, I would've vehemently denied there was a sexual issue. Sex addiction was reserved for the episodes of General Hospital, not my 'normal' household.
Because the symptoms are not always obvious, my advice to those who feeeeel that something is off-kilter or odd or weird—should listen. Always listen to that small, quiet voice that is trying to get your attention.
I spent many days over several years, feeling terrible for wishing that my husband would get killed in a car accident. I knew something was not right with us, but because nothing in my world suggested he was in the middle of raging addiction, I just assumed I was a horrible wife who was never appreciative enough.
But I also felt that it was easier to wish him dead and begin anew, than to try again and again and again to decipher what the hell was wrong in our relationship. I eventually became exhausted, then despondent, then I stopped caring altogether.
Addictions create damage in relationships, jobs, finances, and/or health issues—usually far beyond anyone's control. If it could happen to me—a college-educated, world-traveling, “normal” nurse and mother of three, it could happen to anyone.