It was 2017 and I had just given birth to our third child.
Over the previous two years I had gone through two pregnancies, a pilonidal cyst (cyst on your tailbone) that kept coming back, multiple procedures to remove it, and being left with an open wound for months repeatedly because it would start to heal and then open up again. It was a horrible and painful experience, and I was stuck in bed for months because of it right after my third child was born.
Our children were ages three, one, and a newborn baby. I was also in college at the time, full-time and all online. Life was hard. I depended on my husband for so much during this difficult period of our lives. Not only was my body physically failing me by refusing to heal after birth and the cyst and all it had gone through, but my mind was failing too.
I hit a deep depression and anxiety like I had never known before. I thought I would never heal and would be stuck that way for the rest of my life. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t be there for my new baby and my children like I was supposed to be. Those first few months after my son was born I missed so much because of my own health struggles. It was so hard not being able to walk over and pick up my own baby.
During this time my body was neglected.
I was unable to exercise, and at the time, I didn’t know how to eat healthy. After two pregnancies so close together my body was not in good shape. I was not happy with myself in any way. Between my physical and mental state, my husband and I went through months when we couldn’t do anything intimate together. We lost that most sacred part of our marriage.
I thought it was because of me, and the guilt was overwhelming. I sought out validation from him. He had stopped calling me beautiful or complimenting me, things he used to do daily. He either stopped touching me all together and would not be near me, or was too pushy and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was slowly pulling away from me and turning into someone I didn’t recognize and I didn’t know why.
Until the day that I finally learned the truth.
He had left his phone on the couch and the kids were trying to play with it so I took it from them. I saw that a tab was left open on his phone. You know the one. Incognito tab. It read “Do you want to close this tab?” So I clicked it. What I was met with when I opened that tab left me in shock.
Disbelief. Anger. Betrayal.
A range of emotions that my already struggling mind and body could not comprehend.
How could he do this to me? Was I not good enough? Not sexy enough? Had I not met his needs? This had to be my fault. What had I done for this to happen? I met him with his phone in my hand and my initial response of wanting to cry turned to rage. I let it all out right there. How could he do this? I was his wife. He knew my broken past and my struggles with self-esteem and trust, and yet he did the one thing he knew would break me.
And for a while it did. I cried. And cried and cried and cried. For days. Weeks probably. I couldn’t process it. The betrayal cut so deep, and I felt worthless. I felt like I would never be good enough or beautiful enough or adventurous enough for him to want me. This man I had loved so much and given everything to had turned around and broken my trust and my heart.
He broke down in tears when I first confronted him. He knew it was wrong. He knew he had hurt me. And he apologized profusely. He wanted to fix it right there and make everything better. But he couldn’t. Nothing he could say or do would be able to fix this. It wasn’t something that an “I’m sorry ” could solve.
No, this would take so much more, and neither of us knew what we were in for.
We knew we didn’t want a divorce. From day one we promised each other we would always work through our problems and would never put our children through a divorce and split parents the way we both were raised. And even though I was so broken and a part of me was screaming at me that he had crossed a line we couldn’t come back from, I decided to give it another try. So we called on trusted friends and family. The church. We started faith-based marriage counseling and individual therapy. We implemented date nights and time together to find ourselves again.
It was not an easy road. I thought after that first time it was over and would never happen again. But that wasn’t the case. We would go through this two more times before it was over. Pornography is an addiction. Like alcohol or drugs. It wasn’t something he could just stop. He needed help to do it. We had battled addictions before. Alcohol, cigarettes, and now this. It was just the newest form of addiction to battle.
Throughout this process I learned that his addiction had nothing to do with me. It stemmed from his own insecurities. From the way he was raised. From the culture we live in today. A million things that had nothing to do with me all contributed to this problem. Yet even knowing this, it still left me feeling broken and as though it was me who drove him away.
I didn’t know how all of this would affect me. I lost myself. I turned into this person who questioned everything. The one who checks his phone. Who goes through his things and his car to see if he’s hiding anything. I was paranoid. I didn’t trust a thing he said or did.
And I lost any shred of confidence or self-worth I had.
So I tried to change myself. I had finally healed physically from the cyst, and so I got to work on changing my outward appearance. I died my hair blonde. I started a diet and exercise routine and lost 60 pounds. I changed my wardrobe and how I dressed. I tried so hard to be what I thought he wanted. I thought by doing these things, he would stop looking elsewhere for satisfaction and he would be happy with me. I thought I would be happy and it would stop my worrying and how I hated myself if I did these things.
But I was wrong.
It didn’t change how I felt. I still felt ugly. I still felt worthless. I still worried my husband didn’t want me or find me attractive. I was still terrified that he would rather watch porn than look at his own wife. And that fear led to fears that he would cheat on me or leave me. Honestly, I was completely broken.
It took years and so much prayer and therapy for us to get to a place of somewhat normalcy. It’s been nearly five years since the first time I found out and three years since the last time it happened. I’m not going to lie, it has been brutal. The toll it took on our marriage, my mental health, and my self-esteem—it nearly destroyed us. To this day I still struggle with trust and with learning how to love myself again.
Porn stole my worth away from me. It stole my happiness. It stole away the sacred bond of intimacy and oneness with my husband.
Sometimes I still feel insecure and wonder if he thinks about those things he saw before. There are days when we are watching something on TV or out in public and if there is an attractive woman, I instantly feel less than and like he is thinking about how pretty that woman is.
I know he loves me. I know he repented of his sins and has done the work and accepted Jesus as his Savior. I know he saw the damage that was done and regrets it deeply. I know the man I see before me today is a completely different person than the one who caused such heartache in the past. And I’m so glad I chose to keep going rather than give in to the doubts and insecurities. Because so much good came out of all of those hardships we faced together.
But repairing myself after all we went through has been the hardest of all. The work I have to do to learn to forgive him, to trust him, and to love myself and my own body is the hardest thing I have encountered in my life.
I don’t know how long it will take to fully rebuild myself and our marriage. Nearly five years in, and it’s still something we both live with every day. But we haven’t given up. We never will. We will keep fighting. We will keep trying. We will keep praying to God for Him to heal us and help us move past our pain, anger, grief and regret and to make us one again. And no matter how long it takes, I know one day it will all pay off. Because rebuilding our marriage and my own self-worth is a much better alternative to ripping our family apart with divorce and self-destruction.