In this installment of Sisters Stories, a dear friend has agreed to share her journey through a marriage attacked by infidelity and pornography. Because of the personal nature of their story, their names have been changed to ensure their privacy.
Ben had recently shipped off. An eight month deployment. Rebecca was searching the computer for pictures of the kids when the pornographic images stopped her cold. Horrified, Rebecca wrote Ben asking him what he knew about the photos.
You see, they had switched computers so Ben could take the desktop on the ship with him and Rebecca would be left with his laptop.
She was ready to believe a lie.
She was waiting for a lie.
But he told her everything.
The next morning, Rebecca received an email that altered her world forever. Ben admitted to an entire secret life of sexual sin which included a longstanding addiction to internet pornography and incidents of physical affairs, including an affair with a woman Rebecca considered a friend.
“My biggest nightmare had just become my new reality,” Rebecca shares.
She had known about his struggle with pornography when they married. She knew that struggle continued their first two years of marriage. After their second discussion about the pornography, and Rebecca’s sadness and anger in response, the topic never came up again. She’d not considered pornography was still an issue until that day on the computer. Nearly seven years into their marriage. Rebecca says that whatever he saw on her face after that last discussion, Ben knew he couldn’t admit to pornography again and went into secrecy about his addiction.
The addiction to internet pornography then grew into more. Ben began a long-term affair with Rebecca’s friend which continued during her pregnancy. It lasted on and off for a year. During that affair, Ben had a one night stand with a stranger. Things spiraled out of control. Then they were reassigned to a station halfway across the country. Ben saw a way out of the affairs. But the pornography struggle continued, even as he shipped off two months before Rebecca’s discovery.
I would learn months later that my husband paced the ship for hours wrestling with how much to tell me. He chose to admit all the ugly. Even though that’s more of his story than mine, it’s pivotal to understanding that the Holy Spirit was working in ways neither my husband nor I knew at the time.
He vomited out everything in his response to her email (since he was deployed, there were limitations on their ability to communicate). The internet pornography revelations showed vast deception, even more than the affairs, from how he planned and orchestrated access to the lengths he went to in order to get a fix of porn. His admissions exposed a deep addiction.
After reading the email that morning, Rebecca’s mother arrived to stay with her son while she took her daughter to a doctor’s appointment for her chronic illness. At the doctor, Rebecca felt like the whole world knew. She was mortified. She had to be tested for STDs. She thought about the pastors or politicians wives that found out this kind of news and the world did know.
She was embarrassed too. People would wonder how she could NOT know. But as Rebecca told Ben, she never needed or wanted to find a reason he would be cheating on her because she simply trusted that he wouldn’t cheat. She shouldn’t be embarrassed for trusting her husband – the one person she should trust! When the real information was put in front of Rebecca, she didn’t try to pretend it wasn’t the truth. But she accepted it was okay that she hadn’t been searching for secrets.
She sat in her rental apartment, where she’d moved to be near her mother during the deployment, thankful for not having found out in their home. A place that represented their life together. Instead, she could process what this meant in a temporary place.
Well, I guess that’s what I have to do. Divorce him. It angered me because of my own parents’ divorces growing up. And divorce wasn’t going to change all of what happened. It wasn’t going to take away the pain of being cheated on. Death was the only thing that would take the pain away. A “reason” wasn’t going to help since then “I’d done something” to make him cheat. I didn’t have the emotional reserve to go there. I just let myself hurt. I couldn’t do anything – not even plan to leave.
Three months after her discovery, during which time they had each begun seeing counselors, Rebecca had emergency gallbladder surgery. The military flew Ben home for two weeks on emergency leave. They had two weeks to see each other face-to-face. To meet with the counselors in person that they had dealt with remotely. His stay brought up additional issues which could be vetted with counselors in real-time. It gave Rebecca a snapshot of what it would be like to be together: “I started to believe that all of the recovery he had been telling me about remotely was sincere.”
How could they form a life together after this earthquake cracked the ground she stood on?