A long, tall modelesque woman rises to her feet. Jet-black hair frames her ivory face. In her sleek arms lies a small baby. He fusses, but she bounces him slightly and he calms. “Hi, my name is Jane Doe,” she says. “My husband is a porn addict … and apparently I’m certifiably insane.”
The motley group of beautiful women erupts into a boisterous laugh. Then a hand flies up across the packed living room. “You’re crazy? Really? I’m crazy too,” confesses a lovely young blonde. More giggles. Heads of all ages, all colors, all races begin nodding in agreement. They whisper to each other and smile. More hands. “Hey, I’ve been told I’m crazy!” And suddenly I’m laughing with them. I wear a look of mock surprise as I raise my hand, waving crazily, “Me too!”
Well, whaddaya know? A room full of betrayed wives who all seem to have one thing in common: We’re also nuts. Every one of us.
I’ve heard it so many times. Spouses, ex-spouses, friends, relatives unable (or unwilling) to handle the reality of sex addiction, instead establish that the betrayed spouse must have a mental disorder. It’s the only logical explanation, right?
Porn addiction is a funny thing. Adultery too. The involved parties go to such lengths to cover their tracks that the betrayed spouse has very little–if any–proof of what has happened. After everything has fallen apart, two people remain. One has been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes for weeks–maybe years. He is suave and charismatic, calm and collected … and very practiced at passing off the lies needed to get the job done. The other is emotionally exhausted, haggard, shattered, maybe even frantic after discovering that everything that was once true is now a lie, and vice versa–that life and marriage as they once knew it is over. When the treacherous acts are revealed, the charming, charismatic one shrugs. “That’s ridiculous,” he says. “Look at her. She’s crazy.” Which one are you likely to believe?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Women aren’t perfect. I know it’s not always the guy’s fault. After all, I married an amazing man who happened to experience the flip side. Still … Does any of this sound familiar?
I had to chuckle the other day when I was filling out an extensive survey for betrayed spouses, and one of the questions was: “Have you ever been accused of having a mental disorder?” Is anyone else seeing a pattern here? And I don’t think it’s limited to betrayed spouses either. I’m starting to learn that it’s common for survivors of all kinds of abuse to go through this song and dance.
A few months before I left my ex, while I was grasping to hold onto my marriage, I had a thought. “Maybe it is me,” I told myself. “Maybe there really isn’t anything going on. Maybe I’m just imagining things because I’m holding on to the past and I haven’t truly forgiven him for the first affair five years ago.” And instead of dismissing that thought, I made a decision. I wanted to do something tangible to demonstrate my full forgiveness and willingness to move on. So, I got out my inch-thick file of proof from the first affair: emails, photos, phone records, you name it. And then I took it downstairs to the wood stove to burn it.
It was a chilly day, and the fire was already going full-blast. He followed me downstairs and watched me do it. He stood across the room, barring the doorway. He told the children to stay upstairs because “Mommy is doing something important.” Then I knelt there, alone on the hearth watching millions of pages glowing, blackening, and then curling one at a time in the orange flames. Okay, not millions. But sometimes it had felt like millions.
After watching the last bit of type melt into oblivion, I spun around, leaving the feathery ream of charcoal to smolder in the belly of the stove. Next, I approached the doorway, expecting some sort of reaction after this intense demonstration of trust, loyalty and undying love. But instead I met a blank stare. He looked right through me, watching the pile give way to the hungry flames. He didn’t smile. I can only imagine what was going through his head at that moment.
The next day, I penned a nonsensical poem about the papers burning and our marriage rising from the ashes like a phoenix. And I meant it. I was determined to be done with it all and move on. Ironic isn’t it? At that time, he was sleeping with a married woman that I didn’t know about … yet. And all the blips in between were real too. I know that now.
The human mind is an amazing thing. When we’re in trauma, we learn to cope. When are betrayed by someone we love, we often do our best to pretend it’s not happening. We convince ourselves to dismiss all sorts of absurd warning signs and to blame ourselves for others’ actions. People say we’re the ones who are crazy, and we might even start to believe it. That’s how brainwashing works. Tell someone a lie enough times. Couple it with severe pain and agony. Maybe they will begin to believe the lie. Maybe they’ll dismiss their previous reality and accept this new one. Anything to stop the pain.
And what about the other side? How does the offender cope? What do we learn from media, celebrities, politics, and public figures? If we’ve done something horribly wrong, what is the knee-jerk reaction? What do we expect from each other? First denial. Then lies to cover it up. Or maybe there is a semi-confession with a little justification thrown in. Voila. Blatant acts of betrayal like adultery and abuse have now become socially acceptable–at least on some level. Don’t believe me?
In the case of infidelity, it might go something like this: “I did not … have … sexual relations with that woman.” (denial, lies). Then a little later we hear someone on the street saying, “Poor Bill. It’s because Hillary is such so such a cold wench. If he wasn’t getting the attentional/sex/love he needed at home, who can blame him for seeking it elsewhere?” And in the case of abuse, have you ever heard, “Well, it’s because the offender was abused as a child.” Oh come on. It’s just the old “The devil made me do it” excuse in modern clothing. But people go with it. Society seems so twisted sometimes.
Okay. You hear me, right? Don’t worry, I’m stepping off my soap box now. Does anyone want to borrow it? Talk to me, people.
But I’ve gotten carried away. I began this piece to say something important–not to get preachy. What I really want to say is for the survivors. Betrayal and abuse so often happen in the dark. These forces, silent and destructive, unravel lives and torture souls. They leave survivors in a lonely place. Many of us don’t have a physical stack of evidence blown to smoke and ashes, but we have the emotional equivalent. Things that ‘never happened.’ Things that were ‘only a dream.’ Because we are the crazy ones, right?
Well, to all of you fellow ‘nut-cases’ out there, I just want you to know: I know you’re not crazy.
Hang on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And you are not alone.Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles