I know you’re not crazy

Stuart MilesA 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

27 thoughts on “I know you’re not crazy

  1. So how exactly do you get the straight jacket off when you’re now all alone? You KNOW you’re not crazy but they got that jacket attached to you like a pro. You go through the motions of normalcy but you know you’re all twisted and bound.


  2. When you figure that one out, let me know Kelly! I’m still in the process of reprogramming my own brain, picking apart truth from lies, and learning to look at myself in the mirror again. 🙂


  3. You’ve just got to flip your arms over your head and wiggle your way out, and have your therapist cut the straps for you. :)♡


  4. no one ever told me i was crazy. in fact, my husband (who is the addict) has always told me VERBALLY that it’s not me, it’s all him. it’s tough, hope we can make it. thank you for your candid post and i hope i can one day burn all my papers, too 🙂


  5. Hang in there, darlin’. Hey, having an addict that admits he is wrong is a huge step–something many betrayed spouses could only hope for. Keep up the good work, and way to be patient. It will all work out. 😉


  6. I have read enough books on sexual addiction to know that the addict will always turn it back on you and try to make it your problem. I lived with it for 14 years so I am well versed on the behaviour. According to him, the divorce is all my fault, but after working with a counsellor, I know better. I was so relieved to read that you had kept that proof from the first affair. I thought I was the only one and that that was part of me being crazy. I had proof as well, and I never destroyed it because I could never bear to go back and look at it or think about it again. (I’m pretty sure its still in that box that he knows nothing about) And every time he had another one, I didn’t keep the proof because I didn’t want to remember the pain, until this last time. If we are going to lawyers, I want the proof. He’s still in denial – it is amazing to me to see how delusional he is – and he will never admit it, but he doesn’t have to, because I have everything I need to make any human being see that I am not crazy.

    The smartest thing I did THIS time was to talk to someone about it. After living with it alone for 14 years, I finally shared with a friend. I asked her if I could send her what I had so that she could help me and remind me that I am not crazy, that there is no way I would have interpretted it any different than I did … She was my rock when he had me doubting. Even now I am still trying to “get the straight jacket off” like Kelly said, but as soon as he moves out of our homs I think I will find the straight jacket much easier to remove.

    I am so excited to find this blog. I wept when I was reading the above. Thank you, Thank you so much.


  7. Mamacrossroads! I am dealing with a sex addict husband too. We are separated and I do still feel crazy most days. I would love to hear thoughts on reprogramming brains 🙂 That would be super helpful 🙂


  8. Thanks for visiting! Addiction is such a nasty thing. It really turns our worlds upside-down, doesn’t it? Hmmmm … reprogramming brains … that sounds like a fun post to tackle! Thanks for the feedback!


  9. I’m so glad to have you here. And thanks so much for the detailed comment! There is such strength in finding each other and doing the sanity check. Isn’t that funny? I’m so glad you found a friend to be your rock. I, also, was silent for 10 years. It’s a lot easier to believe that you’re losing it when you only have yourself to talk to, huh? 🙂

    Want to hear a good follow-up story? On the day I discovered the affair that made me leave … I happened to discover the email and accompanying trail one hour before my regularly scheduled therapy appointment. Looking back, I’m so grateful for the timing on that! So, I print out the emails and links that he left on my computer, slip them into a folder, and then I’m off to my appointment. Still stunned. No tears. I walk into my therapist’s office, hand her the folder and say, “Is this really what I think it is? Does it sound like an affair to you or am I just imagining things and blowing it out of proportion? Am I overreacting?” My therapist glances through the papers, pornographic pictures, and suggestive emails between him and his married mistress (all of which I managed to pull up in about five minutes), squints at me and says: “Uh. No. You’re not overreacting. Yes, he’s having an affair.” I was so relieved. Isn’t that crazy? There I was holding the proof in my hand and I still wasn’t sure I could believe it. It took someone else telling me, “No, you’re not losing it. This is real,” to make it sink in. Of course, it helps that the someone was my therapist. 🙂


  10. I really enjoyed this post. I admire the women who have the strength to make it through something that I can only imagine. I agree with almost everything in this post; everything except for what you say about people who were abused as children. People who have been exposed to sexual content, whether it be through sexual abuse, rape, or pornography, as young children are damaged psychologically as well physically In a study done by The Witherspoon Institute, they found that 29 of the 30 juvenile sex offenders interviewed were exposed to pornography at an average age of 7.5 years old. Seven and a half years old–that’s absolutely absurd–and I’m sure everyone would agree with me when I say that’s not ok. Now, it is never okay to sexually abuse someone, rape someone, or commit adultery: never. But I do feel like saying that everyone who was abused as a child or exposed to pornography should be expected to act in the same manner as those who haven’t been abuses. I don’t feel like what you said about the saying: “the devil made me do it” was a very sensitive statement. There is a lot of physiological and psychological aspects which are overlooked by that statement. That being said, I understand that there are some people which hide behind that excuse, but there are a lot of people that legitimately cannot be considered ‘right in mind’ because of the abuse and exposure that they were subject to as children. Anyways I really support what you are fighting for and I believe that these types of conversations need to be more mainstream. I just have that small discrepancy of opinion.


  11. Hi, Will. Thanks for joining in the conversation and for your admiration. These are hard things to deal with and sometimes even harder to write about. Everything is so complex and it’s often hard to find the right words to communicate what I want to get through.

    I’m having a little trouble understanding what you disagree with. You are pointing out that according to the Witherspoon study, most sex offenders were exposed to porn at a young age and therefore psychologically damaged. Yes, that makes sense to me. I have personal experience with people of that nature. And as you alluded to, those people have used their own trauma as an excuse for what they did to me.

    On the other hand, I suffered exposure and abuse at a young age just like those sex offenders did. I suppose I could have used my molestation and childhood trauma as an excuse to become a monster who abuses others, cheats on their spouse, etc., in the name of what happened to me. But I haven’t. Instead, I’ve chosen to take the damage, live with it, learn from it, and change the outcome–to try to help rather than hurt. Because I’ve been through the process, I know it can be done. I’m not perfect by any means though. I’m human, and I make mistakes.

    I guess you’re right. “The devil made me do it” might not be a sensitive statement. But I don’t regret putting my opinion out there. It’s authentic. I write what I feel, not what I believe is convenient for the mainstream to hear. I didn’t set out in this post to be sensitive to abusers. In fact, I don’t really feel much pity for abusers–especially when they use their own trauma as an excuse. So if you detect a hint of insensitivity, you’re right. I’m insensitive. That’s a flaw of mine. I’m hoping that as I continue to work in this field, I will be able to really feel for both sides, but I’m not there yet. I have made connections with some recovering addicts that I really respect. I can feel for individuals. But as a whole, the idea still sickens me. Because I’ve gone through abuse and exposure and broken the cycle, I find it hard to understand how people can justify doing the exact opposite.

    I understand addiction on paper. I know it’s a chemical issue. I know addicts and sex offenders have trouble with impulse control because of what has happened to their brains. I’ve read the research. Addiction is a nasty demon. But in my heart, I still can’t understand the abuser. I’m trying. Hopefully a year from now, I’ll be able to write an authentic post in which I understand and am sensitive to the offender. I’m working on it. Bear with me. 🙂


  12. If men told you what they were really like you would never go to bed with them let alone marry them. So they like and play along with the lie society peddles about relationships. You need to realize what men are really like. And deal with the reality of that.


  13. I can respect that. I would also agree with you that there are probably a lot of people who hide behind the excuse of having been abused to do some terribly sick and disgusting things (like cheat on their spouse or abuse their own children). I guess I haven’t lived through that so I can’t really comment on how I feel about it; I know how I think I would feel, but I haven’t experienced it.

    Now my question is can we hold a person, who has been used and abused repeatedly in their younger years (i.e. three, four, five, etc…) fully responsible for their actions? I have no idea. Obviously the fact that they’ve been abused doesn’t give them free licence to do whatever they want, but at the same time that’s all they’ve ever known. I lived in Chile for two years where I talked about Jesus Christ with those who I came in contact. I came upon a circumstance where there were two small children, about ten and nine when I met them, who as infants were orphaned and then sold to someone who used them to produce child pornography. They are now significantly damaged mentally; they will probably grow up and become sex-offenders. So, I don’t know how to judge that situation. Obviously it’s not ok, but who can say they wouldn’t end up in the same place having be lived through the same situations? Is there treatment for individuals like this who have been abused repeatedly at a young age? and if there is treatment, would it be able to reverse the damage done to the children who were abused? These are all questions that I don’t have answers to that I’d like to know.

    I would like to hear what you think about this; I like to try and understand all viewpoints of an argument. And I hope I’m not coming across as hostile or insensitive because that’s not my purpose for posting.


  14. Thanks, Will, for being civil and respectful. I too have a desire to discuss these things without being contentious. Thanks for clarifying that. Sometimes it’s hard to guess the emotions behind the type. I’m glad we’re on the same page.

    I say things people don’t want to hear–I realize that. But I also come from a long, long road of first-hand experience with the things I write about. I won’t share my entire life story here, but in short, I was molested at age 3, then continually (emotionally, sexually, and physically) abused until I left for college at age 18. Four years later, I unknowingly married a porn addict–a long-time friend of 4 years (ironic timing, huh?)–and endured a difficult 10-year marriage that culminated with 5 years of adultery. The whole time, I knew at least some of what was going on, and for the entire 10 years I was silent. No one knew, not even family. But I believed in our marriage, and I stuck it out as long as I could. Those last five years just about broke me. If anyone knows about having a warped mind and dealing with that/healing from it, I do. It’s hard, but with the right tools it can be done.

    I also want to make sure my audience knows that I write to raise awareness, not to slam or judge anyone. I don’t want to come across that way. I truly believe that only God can judge someone’s heart. I know–probably better than most people–that we rarely know what is going on underneath the surface when it comes to sinister things such as these.

    At the same time I strive to be totally authentic in my writing, so sometimes my personal feelings might taint things a bit. It’s just the nature of what I’m dealing with. Like I said, I’m working on it. 🙂 I’m still only 2 1/2 years out from my divorce, and I have a lot of healing to do. And I’m also still dealing with a lifetime of abuse. Throughout the process, I’m continually discovering broken pieces of myself and attempting to fix them. That’s part of what this blog is: an authentic journey through what I am really feeling, step by step.


  15. I totally, totally TOTALLY understand the doubt. Even when it’s all there in black and white. It’s amazing what an addict can make someone else believe just to deflect what they are doing. My husband was the master. My therapist (when I finally got one – wish it had been sooner) would often ask me what I would say to a friend if she brought that evidence to me. I had to laugh to think that anyone would think anything other than AFFAIR! LOL

    Thank you again. I feel so validated to know it’s not just me. ❤️ You are a blessing to me in my pain.


  16. I could have written this blog. Everything in here is/was my life. The part that is different is the burning of the papers part. I did burn some papers, proof if you will, but kept some as “evidence” . I told him I had burned papers with his “alternate life ” in them and his response was that is kind of you. Later when ask to finally come clean , he said ” why should I, you can’t prove anything to anyone now ., I can make anything look the way I want to”. We are now divorced after 31 years. I had no clue he had a head start on his addiction.before we were married. Guess what, I’m not crazy but I do suffer from PTSD.


  17. Wow!Sounds like we are two peas in a pod, Ellen! Thanks so much for commenting.

    “Later when ask to finally come clean , he said “why should I, you can’t prove anything to anyone now ., I can make anything look the way I want to.’”

    I have been abused, molested, betrayed and cheated on. And while none of my abusers have ever told me that in words, I’ve certainly felt the meaning behind those words. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ sounds like such a good idea. But when you have been treated like we have, it takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?


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