May 12, 2008

Pornography series: Introduction

My first real encounter with pornography was a rude one. It was not, as it is with so many others, a picture in a magazine or on the internet. It wasn’t an “earthy” romance novel.
It happened one fall day, when I came home after several hours of classes and midterms, and found a half-empty house. My husband had left me, with no warning. He had been perfectly pleasant that morning. I remembered laughing about something over breakfast. He had kissed me as I went out the door to classes. I almost couldn’t believe it, looking around at the carpet-notches where furniture had been, at my baby alone in her swing. And then the clincher, as I walked into the master bedroom: his wedding ring, left on the bare mattress, on top of a neat stack of papers: the car title, the rent agreement, and divorce papers printed off of the internet.
Before this last shoe dropped in the ruin of my first marriage, things had been very confusing for me. My husband had proven himself to be utterly unpredictable. He was part amazing, hard-working, loving father, decent man and priesthood holder, and part childish, selfish, petulant, vindictive son-of-a-gun. This second side of him manifested only rarely. The first time it came out was three months into our marriage, when he took a knife with him into the bathroom and threatened suicide because I disagreed with him about how to cook biscuits. It was puzzling, confusing, scary to me. I felt disbelief, disgust, anger, fear, sadness… in that order, and in rapid succession. I could not internalize it or face it. After each of these rare encounters that seemed to occur every few months, we would talk. I would say that we need to get counseling, and he would cry, he would hug me and apologize, we would make up and forget about it. Except for the little remnants of sadness and fear that were left behind for both of us.

How does one deal with a situation like that? You love him, you are utterly bewildered by him, you realize there must be something more to it, and it effectively destroys your trust each time. You need to know what is up, but at the same time you do not want to think about what it might be. You ask him during a period of calm and trust, and he just shrugs you off and says it won’t happen again, so why discuss it further. Why even worry about it.

I’ll tell you how you deal with it: you start to feel that it must be partly your own fault. You start to think that, obviously, you’re not a good spouse or you would be able to forestall these scary outbursts. You’re also starting to wonder if something might be wrong with you, not him, because you’re becoming increasingly more paranoid and untrusting; you are starting to spy on him, to look for ways he might be lying to you. When you find what looks like might be evidence of something, you are sick inside, and also afraid, because you know you have to ask him, which means you have to admit to not trusting him, and the whole house of cards seems like it might come crashing down around you.

My husband finally confessed to the bishop. After being away for a couple of days, he rushed back, moving van and all, completely apologetic and penitent. I found out then that he had been hiding a pornography addiction from me. My feeling was almost relief. I hadn’t asked for this kind of baggage when I knelt across from the kind, soft-spoken, worthy priesthood holder I had come to love and respect. But pornography was better than extramarital sex. It was better than him not loving me anymore. It was better than the prospect of raising my baby daughter all by myself, and having to explain to her that her dad had left us.

But then he confessed to more and more… it started coming out, all the deception. He had dropped out of school and used the tuition for pornography. He had spent every day at home looking at porn instead of playing with, diapering, and feeding our child. He had gone to a strip club while I was away at a friend’s wedding (and then bought roses for me when I came home.) While I was in labor with our daughter, he left my hospital bedside, not to study for a test as I had thought, but to go play video games and look at porn. As the confessions poured out I started to wonder if I really could live with this alter ego of his. It was too much to take in… I had been so successfully deceived. How would I ever trust him again? Was it possible for him to recover? For me, it ended soon after that, when I found out that my husband had tried to poison me, three times. The attempts took place soon after one of the turbulent confrontations we had several months before.
He went to jail, and we were divorced. It was almost the easier solution, in the end, but I am still haunted by it. The only peace I found at the time was a spiritual confirmation that divorce was the right choice. I know now (with 20/20 hindsight) that divorce was the best option for my own well being, as well as my addicted, mentally-unstable husband’s.
But my case was unique. Not many husbands, entrenched as they may be in their addictions, do something so drastic that the marriage ends practically by default. There are countless spouses, fiancĂ©es, and girlfriends and boyfriends out there that have to address this issue in a situation that is not nearly so clean cut. The questions that these couples all have to face are, “is it worth it, or should I just walk away? I love her, but is love enough? What can I do to help her?” Also, “What if he never gets over this. Could I live with a spouse that has a pornography addiction?”

An addict or a habitual user often feels helpless. They realize that they are in trouble, because they feel out of control and they do not like the person they have become as a result of deception and addiction. They feel unworthy of trust and love. They feel too full of shame to seek help. Once they have gotten to the point where they realize they have a problem, they sometimes doubt that there really is a way out.

This series is an attempt help people find their own answers to these difficult questions and problems. It is also my way of trying to start a conversation that needs to be started: about pornography and LDS people. As Jodi Hildebrandt from the Lifestar program says, sexual addictions are fed by shame and silence. I hope that, in the few weeks that follow, people will speak up about pornography. I hope that people can offer one another frank feedback and support. Because Pornography is out there, and it is prevalent. Encountering it is pretty much inevitable in today’s world. And if we stay in denial, and let fear keep us from addressing it, the problem will continue to worsen and spread, and good LDS people will continue to feel hopeless and ashamed, rather than empowered, informed, and capable to overcome.

16 comments:

Lucy Stern said...

You were lucky to find out fairly early in your marriage and you are lucky to be alive. Considering what you have gone through, you are really blessed to have found a new husband that loves you and your daughter....

I feel sorry for your ex-husband because he is the one that will suffer through the eternities.

I think the problem for LDS people is that we have a really high standard of "goodness" to hold up to. You ex-husband knew that he did not prescribe to that level of goodness and he probably just couldn't admit that he had been dragged down to such a low level.

I know that you suffered a lot from all of this, but you are one lucky lady now. I wonder how many sisters have suffered and never have found their way back to a level that would allow them to enjoy happiness again. Some people enjoy in "wallowing" in self pity. I am glad that you made it and that you found your new husband.

the nice one said...

nfg- hey girl first of all I want to tell you how much I love you. I can’t even count how many times I prayed for you when you were in the depths of this awful trial. I wanted to drop everything and come running to save you. But I was terrified of what I would say to you. How I could help. I had seen you only a month before all of this came to light. This is in the past I just wanted to apologize and thank you for all you did for me later in my own trial. I am excited to continue reading this serious and pass any words of wisdom on to another of my good friends who is suffering because of the evil of porn in her own marriage. So thank you!!

Putz said...

wow, what a story...i guess i didn't know nosurfgirl did i?...what i can't understand is....why aren't you and the kids enough???

Fred said...

It must have taken a lot of courage to press the "publish" button. What an incredibly powerful post.

A priest at a local church recently admitted to a porn addiction after church employees found a picture he left on the copying machine. And recently, my pastor devoted part of a sermon to this issue. Because of the internet, I guess it's so much easier for those who are tempted to succumb.

I'll be back again tomorrow to read this again.

NoSurfGirl said...

Lucy: I feel sorry for my ex, too. I think that once you have loved someone, you can never quite seperate yourself from caring about them. You're right that it is hard not to wallow... it is easier, I think. Or at least, it seems easier. IT was with the help of a good LDS bishop that I was able to decide to date again. I interviewed him for one of my posts, actually... part one of that will be coming Thursday.

nice girl: I know that i could never have gotten through things the way I did if people hadn't prayed for me and if I hadn't had the support of my family and friends. Just knowing you guys cared was enough, thank you for that. :) I'm glad I could return the favor to a small degree... there are so many I could never return.

Putz: I think that Loli and I were enough, my first husband just couldn't handle his addiction and it made him unable to handle real life. Good thing I've got Skywalker... now... a man who will never go over to the dark side. :)

Fred: I love that you are blogging again, and I appreciate your perspective. I hope you do come back and comment as I put up the other posts. It was difficult and scary at first when everything came out in the media... I think at this point I'm just trying to say it like I think it. There's nothing like a newspaper getting all sorts of facts and even names wrong in a story about something so personal to you and your family to make you want to tell your own story, when the time is right.

J. Doug said...

Thank you for your post. I remember when things shook out. Liz and I have a tremendous amout of respect for you. I appreciated your post. I think it is well said.
-Doug
feel free to check out our blog at http://minnickfamily.blogspot.com/

Jon said...

A very big hug from me to you!

I had no idea of the depth and extent that his problem had consumed him back then. I wasn't sure how to react, how to be supportive, what to do, what to say. I remember the bishop saying that he was helping you a lot, and that I didn't need to worry myself too much, but I still wanted to help in some way. It was all quite awkward for me. I sometimes thought you might have felt like I was taking sides or avoiding you or something. If you did ever feel like that, I'm sorry.

On the upside, my favorite memory was chasing away a news crew while you snuck out the back door. LOL!

You are a brave, brave woman. I'm so glad you have found your Skywalker! I look forward to reading more of your wonderful posts on this important topic.

Jon

NoSurfGirl said...

Doug and Jon,

thanks for the comments :) I thinkt hat the only hesitation I have ever had in posting this whole thing is my ex's right to privacy about what happened... but now that he is in a good place, moving on with his life... I think the story needs to be told so that other women/men out there know they're not the only one. Also so that people can understand what this problem can lead to, in all it's sadness and ugliness. You guys were very supportive to us... and I know that he considered you friends too. That was one of the ways I was grateful for your support... I couldn't be there for him anymore but he had friends like you.

Jon: I laugh over that still, too. It was one of those hilarious moments that made life worth living when everything was so strange and overwhelming.

N.F. said...

Wow.

Thank you for sharing.

Makes me a bit nervous about the point in time when I will get married...but, it's better to be aware then naive (for me).

michele said...

I am so grateful for this post. I look forward to reading future posts and comments about the subject. Pornography addiction was never real to me until all of this happened to you. I think it really shook me up and for a while and I really didn't want to have anything to do with guys. I admire you so much for your strength. You are incredible!

kik said...

wow. Just wow.

That's an awful lot to deal with ((hugs))--even though you don't know me (found this from fmh)

Can I ask a question? Did you say that he left your daughter home alone in the swing? I don't even know what to say about that.

NoSurfGirl said...

KIK,

yes, he did. :( That is one of the issues I am still dealing with. Possibly THE issue... I still have a difficult time whenver my oldest child is in trouble for some reason, not panicking. I think partly from this experience.

It's very illustrative of how out-of-his-mind consumed he was.

Tim B said...

Sorry I'm late to the game, but I found out about this series from the fMh thread. Would you be interested in another submission with another story for the series?

NoSurfGirl said...

what ya got? Sure, I'm still looking around for perspectives. ttagoureit at yahoo dot com is the email I don't mind posting publicly :)

Tim B said...

Okay. I'll see if I can get something together before today is up.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap. I totally remember your story very clearly from when I was first married and living in Provo.

Unfortunately we joked about the situation back then, and for that I apologize.

Porn has been a huge issue in my life, and I totally agree that having the willingness to be open and talk about it will help many, many people.

Thank you!