At 19, I thought I had it all figured out.
I had fallen in love, I was working on career goals, and had everything mapped out in my mind. We would get married, I would finish school, we’d have kids, and live happily ever after.
While we were engaged, he told me he had problems with porn when he was 14. I brushed it off without too much thought. I assumed most if not all teenage boys experimented with that. I didn’t really know anything about porn other than that it involved naked pictures and my church leaders counseled that it was wrong. I told myself it had happened a long time ago, and that the man I was marrying was not the same person he had been as a teenager.
My parents didn’t want me to marry him. I said they were being overprotective. My best friend at the time was his cousin and she told me things about his behavior that I chose not to believe. He pushed me to do things physically that made me scared we wouldn’t be worthy to get married in our church’s temple. I barely held my boundaries. We fought so much during our engagement. But I loved him, in my codependent way. He needed me, or so I thought. My love would be enough. I would rescue him from all the bad. We’d prove everyone wrong. I prayed about my decision, and felt like I was making the right choice.
So we got married.
A few months into the marriage, things started spiraling downhill. He stopped doing anything spiritual or religious, with me or by himself. I was concerned because my religion was very important to me and I thought it was important to him as well. I told myself it must be a phase he was going through, and ignored the pain it was causing me. Past experiences had taught me not to confront him. It was easier to pretend everything was okay than to “make him mad” and deal with the abuse.
So I walked on eggshells.
Time passed, and nothing improved except for my ability to avoid confrontation. I took everything out on myself instead. If only I was a better wife. If only I had dinner ready for him every night when I got home. If only I lost some weight. If only I was more willing to do whatever he wanted in the bedroom. Between the pressure and blame I put on myself and the pressure and blame he heaped on me, my self-worth was crumbling quickly.
We had been married for a year when I finally admitted to myself what I had been seeing signs of for a long time – he was into porn again. It took me another six months to ask him about it. He immediately denied it and then I felt terrible for my accusations. A few weeks later, the confession came. He had been struggling with porn since he was a young teenager; it hadn’t just been that isolated “age 14 experiment.” He assured me that he would “take care of it.” I said okay, because I didn’t know what else to do or say. I did the only thing I knew what to do – pray.
The next year and a half consisted of more of the same vicious cycle. He would seem to be doing better for a little while, only to plummet soon after. Repeat, repeat, repeat. My hope would spark only to be dashed and I was left feeling betrayed, worthless, and not enough. Again.
I prided myself that no one knew anything about our problems. I kept it all inside, a disease that was eating both of us from the inside out. I was so very terrified. If I told anyone else then that made everything that much more real.
Finally, in desperation, I confided in a church leader. I wanted him to tell me what to do to “fix” my husband. Instead, he told me to do things that would make myself happy. He told me to find peace within myself instead of spending all of my energy trying to find peace for my husband. I began to spend time with friends. I joined a book club. I started a graduate degree. I found new hobbies and started a business. I found the path to becoming myself and finding an inner peace.
In the meantime, my husband’s behavior continued to get worse. Hardly a day would go by without abuse. I knew what he was doing with his computer wasn’t homework. More of his secrets came out. Eventually, I found the courage to stand up for myself. I wasn’t going to continue to live like this; to let myself be treated this way. We could go to counseling and get help, or I would leave. Sadly, he was so deeply entrenched in his addiction that he couldn’t see. He refused counseling. I refused to stay.
It sounds so simple when I write it out, but trying to make that decision was the hardest thing I have ever done. Little did I know that it was only the beginning of a very difficult journey. It only got more complicated when three weeks after I left, I discovered I was pregnant. I started going to counseling and 12 step groups. Over the past few years I have dealt with my shame and trauma, gradually healing and finding forgiveness.
My life now is by no means easy. I am a single mom. I work full-time and go to school. I still struggle with trauma from my marriage and my own codependent behaviors. But I have found peace through discovering what it really means to trust God and give all control to Him.
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