My Family, Eight Years Later
Last week’s blog generated significant response. Thank you so much for letting me know when topics help you validate your experiences and ongoing concerns. One reader sent me the following piece about her family’s trauma and how they lurched along together and ultimately chose to put themselves and each other first instead of the man who continued to lie, gaslight, blameshift, and deceive them all through his fake “recovery” years.
The author and her daughters require anonymity but the daughters, in particular, want other kids to know they aren’t crazy and they deserve better from him—and to ask for counseling trauma care support! Don’t count on the treatment industry to be proactive on anything that might suggest their men called sex addicts may have harmed the family so deeply that children should receive immediate and ongoing attention for trauma care. FYI: This not an account of any father sexually abusing children within his own family.
What was supposed to be a fun weekend of relaxation was predictably spiked with hours of tears and mindfuckery. That’s what you get when you share children with a man called a “sex addict”.
He is my children’s father. For decades no one thought of him as a sex addict. In fact, at first that label seemed preposterous. He was a prude. The first guy to excuse himself when the other dads told a dirty joke. The guy who “liked” the neighbors post about girls shouldn’t post photos of themselves in bikinis on the internet. The guy who chastised me for wanting to see Private Parts (the Howard Stern movie). The family man who relished carrying injured soccer players off the field. In reality, he was what is called a sex addict since the day I met him in college, groomed by his family of origin. I had absolutely no idea until my youngest’s 11th birthday, almost 8 years ago.
My oldest daughter had gone searching for a pad of paper and something to write with in her father’s briefcase and instead found a treasure trove of porn. Always the conscientious big sister, she wanted to write down the birthday gifts her little sister was getting at the family reunion so the birthday girl could write thank you’s later. When she descended the stairs to find me she was a burning shade of pink followed by her father a ghostly, sweating white. The first words out of my mouth were “my god you look like you are having a heart attack, what the hell is wrong?” To date I can say I have never received a real answer to that question.
Later, as my daughter lay on the bed crying about the porn she had found, God gave me the grace to calm her and tell her sometimes there are things between a man and wife that needed to be discussed. She had done us all a favor by stumbling on it. In retrospect, she really did do us all a favor, but that moment was the tip of an iceberg. She later recounted the title of one of the Cd’s. It seems that when you discover your dad’s secret life the trauma can produce photographic images of specific details. Lovely.
Within hours of discovery, he told me he was addicted to pornography and strip clubs and we embarked on the strange nightmare called “sex addiction.” What he didn’t tell me and managed to hide through 6 therapists was that he frequented massage parlors regularly, paid for sex with hookers, had secret credit cards, and used his job as a cover for weekly sex adventures. I would learn we had a legal porn rider at our house, because he would consume so much porn at night (while I slept), it exceeded the legal limit. He didn’t mention that he was having sex with hookers while he was having sex with me. His words sent me over the edge into the PTSD abyss of symptoms.
After a second Dday, I made sure my daughters also had good counseling support. They were both treated for PTSD for 2.5 and 3 years, respectively. They understand that as life unfolds they may need to seek help again.
Fast forward almost 8 years to this past weekend. Since that birthday, the girls have experienced the divorce of their parents (almost 3 years ago), the nightmare of custody “mediation”, and a continual assault of lies and gaslighting that is hard to fathom for the average person.
Let me tell you about my girls. I won the parental lottery. My oldest is smart, driven, kind, and a born empath. She loves bunnies, Beyonce, soccer, and baking. Her early success in sports linked her to her father in ways the second daughter never experienced. She is a kid that habitually places herself in the shoes of others, a trait I now believe her sex addict father weaponizes against her.
My second is funny, analytical, smart, sure of her assessment of things in a way that is unusual for her age. She, too, loves bunnies, big cats, lacrosse, reading, and Taylor Swift. My girls nurture a close bond in sisterhood that serves them well. Both also have deep, sustaining relationships with family and friends.
I spent the first three years in various therapies to help him overcome “sex addiction”. The girls watched their mother lose 25 lbs twice, and for a year and a half become a shell of the woman I once was. In the end, all that therapy gave him an invisibility cloak for continued abuse. All along this journey people told me that I would know when to call it. That certainty struck like a bolt of lightning on my youngest’s homecoming night her freshman year. There were forty kids in a tent in my backyard following her first high school dance, and I suddenly knew that I wasn’t put on earth to be abused and that I couldn’t let this be the model for my girls. I changed the locks that night.
Most parents lament the trials and tribulations of having teens, I can rarely relate. I am so grateful that my children can identify and validate abuse even when others don’t care to see. My girls played a big role in me keeping my sanity. By the end I felt terrified, unsure of anything I was perceiving. For 25 years he told he loved me while he lied daily and acted in ways to undermine our safety that I didn’t know were possible. My kids’ ability to see manipulation where I couldn’t has been a reality check many times over the last 8 years.
It was my daughters who asked me not to allow him to cross the threshold of our house early on when I tried to emulate the “conscious uncoupling” I saw everywhere by doing things like having him over for a birthday. It was my daughters who asked me not to ever call him for anything house related and suggested I rely on my friends’ husbands. It was my daughters who told him they didn’t want him at their swim meets ogling their friends. They saw abuse and verbalized limits.
We support each other when needed by validating that yes, abusive and abnormal things really happen to us. This is a task made more difficult and more necessary in the face of their father re-writing history to suit his current need. Experiencing abuse in a vacuum gives kids the feeling they are imagining things. The pain is isolating and heavy. Children of sex addicts learn there are abuses unacknowledged by many that are so insidious they damage your beliefs about the safety of the world.
There is power in illuminating the abuse and damage these men inflict on children. We live in a time when partner abuse is tolerated and excused. My hope is that people have a harder time dismissing the pain and trauma inflicted on children than they seem to do on partners.
People turn a blind eye and refuse to recognize sex addiction as abuse because they rationalize it couldn’t happen to them as a partner. It must have happened to me because I was too snippy, or out of shape, not sexual enough, too sexual, too smart, too dumb, the list goes on and on. People want to believe they are insulated from abuse.
But what about kids? What did my daughter do at 11 that could justify her father lying her entire life? Is it abuse when a man hands his sixteen year old daughter a phone with a video of headless masturbating woman mixed in with his friend’s kids photos? How should a kid think of a Dad who hires a hooker hours before he shows up to their swim meet? Is it the law that emboldens a father to argue in legal mediation for the right to watch porn or hire a sex worker in an adjoining hotel room as long as the girls have their own room? Is it abuse when he sends them a text that he is proud of them for participating in the women’s march while he buys and sells young women with ease?
One of my girls created and articulates rules to enter into every exchange with her Dad.
Rule #1 – Always know you never have the full story when you talk to him.
Rule #2 – If given a choice between something he wants and something good for this family he will ALWAYS choose what he wants.
Those are the rules they use to guide any contact with him in. They remain superficial with him. He hasn’t met friends, boyfriends, and we removed him from all significant life events. My kids don’t have a father to turn to when life kicks them in the teeth. He’s off traveling the globe for business, vacationing, and now dating a single mom with 3 kids just a town away from their home.
One of my daughters is focused on the pain that lies in wait for the three girls he is pretending to be a father figure for. She said it makes her stomach turn to imagine how he is swooping in being the good guy. I get it. Who would want another teen to live through this? The truth is the current system is designed to let these people seep through. Hell… he looks great. He inherited money he kept for himself, got a promotion, and is very convincing in his tales of woe. Of course, a few miles away from the replacement family are dozens of people who could provide a correction to the delusional tales he tells. The “sealed records”, and polite society will provide the perfect camo for this to happen again…and the cycle continues on.
Thank you to the author and her (now) young adult children for the courage to write this for other women and children and share it here. If you have concerns about the impact your husband’s sexual and sexualized behaviors are having on your children, please consult a trauma therapist. If you are in a custody battle, it is possible your man called a sex addict will try to prevent this. You may need legal help to secure permission. These men often do not want any evidence revealed that suggests their secret life harmed their children in any way, including during and after discovery. If you are connected to his treatment group, program, center, or practitioner, advise them you expect your children to be assessed regularly for traumatic impact using credible assessment tools by accredited trauma therapists specializing in children. Let me know how that goes, if possible. Diane@yourstoryissafehere.com
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