The boys and I had just returned from church — I’d taken them so my husband could work on his dissertation, an endeavor a decade in the making. When we returned, I headed into the office, where our computer lives. Sitting next to the keyboard was a bottle of lube. My heart stopped. We used lube during sex — we had a great, active sex life — but we’re also conservative Christians, and when we married in 2003, we agreed masturbation and pornography would not be a part of our marriage. Nonetheless, a quick ransacking of his desk revealed a silicone vagina sex toy, toy cleaner, and the works.
After confronting him, he claimed he’d been viewing porn for a few weeks. But after kicking him out, I dove into some master-level sleuthing and discovered we owed $17,000 on our joint credit card — a card he’d asked me a few months earlier to stop using because we could get more points using a different one. Finances were already tight with us, and my career in the arts kept us barely afloat. I shopped at Target for special occasions only.
My best friend came over with wine and we began poring over the charges. That’s when we saw them: Multiple $150 charges a day for a naked chat website. Some charges had names attached to them — Summer, Dawn. A neighbor brought me a Valium and I dug deeper, ultimately discovering more than a dozen relationships, including one with a woman named Cassy. A typical chat lasted an hour, cost (us) $250 — the boys’ baseball-gear fund — and featured her using a remote-control vibrator my husband sent her from a secret Amazon account. One of these chats took place at 6 p.m. one fall evening, as I was upstairs giving our kids a bath and reading them Corduroy.
Bottom line: He’d been masturbating and using porn regularly throughout our entire 14-year marriage. He hadn’t written a single chapter of his dissertation. We were $40,000 in debt.
Very quickly, I decided to leave. We had been deeply in love, and we had two precious little boys who worshipped him, yes — but I considered this cheating. No, he’d never actually had intercourse with a woman (at least he claims he didn’t). But he developed relationships with these women. He asked them about their favorite color, food, travel destination. They traded sexual favors. The girls would say his name as they masturbated.
There had been warning signs I’d forced myself to ignore, like when I caught him lying about his coursework a few years earlier. But he’d been game to attend therapy, and I believed we’d worked through it. My faith is against divorce; we believe in working toward reconciliation.
That said, I consider myself a fairly liberal Christian. I’ve hung out at lesbian bars with my gay and bi friends; I am pro women; and I believe love should always win. I hate porn because I believe it subjugates women, contributes to child and adult sex trafficking, and is harmful to the brain. I actually think masturbation is fine, but we had made a decision together before marriage that solo masturbation and porn were off-limits, and because of that, because of our vows to love and honor one another, I stuck to that agreement and expected him to do the same.
He was an incredible lover. We had sex multiple times a week, even with two little ones. After my discovery, he was diagnosed with a sex addiction and is receiving treatment.
I found a little solace in realizing the girls he “dated” had similar builds to me — full-figured, large natural breasts. So at least I still feel confident he was attracted to me throughout our marriage.
The second silver lining was feeling my friends and family surround me with love. My 76-year-old parents drove 24 hours straight to be with me in the immediate LubeGate aftermath. My sister invited us to stay with her at her home, and even though she lives halfway across the country, I leaped at the chance. Friends from preschool and church helped me organize a giant garage sale, where I basically sold everything we owned, including our kids’ bicycles, Spiderman toys and a framed “I Love You the Mostest” poster.
It’s embarrassing to admit I knew so little about our financial situation, but I trusted him when he said we were doing OK, and adjusted accordingly when he said we needed to spend less (including visiting food pantries on occasion). If I ever remarry, I won’t let myself be blindfolded again.
Our boys are thriving. They know Daddy made some bad choices, and that Mommy deserved better. He recently moved out to live near us and is making an effort to stay in their lives. They continue to idolize him, and I’m not going to shatter their vision. In reality, he lied, ruined our marriage and broke our vows. I know I can never trust him again. Yes, some spouses stay together for the sake of their kids, but I’d rather show our sons that women deserve to be treated with respect, and that their Momma is a strong, fierce survivor.
*Minor details, like numbers and names, have been changed.
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