My journey through infidelity started long before I made the decision to cheat on my husband—something I’m ashamed to say that I’ve done. For me infidelity started with habits I had as a teenager, long before I was even married.
In particular, I have a long standing addiction to pornography, which in turn fueled an addiction to attention, particularly from men. If you couple the porn and attention addictions with the troubled relationship that I had with my father during my teen years, you have the perfect storm for bad decision making later on.
I had hoped that these addictions would finally be gone once I met the man that I was going to marry, but when I finally met my husband in 2003, my addictions to porn and attention from men were as strong as ever.
Unfortunately, pornography also reared its ugly head in our marriage early on. We were both unaware of our addictions at the time. We watched porn together, not really knowing what it was doing to our intimacy. It led to my husband and I being emotionally closed off from each other. It distorted our reality of what intimacy really looks like. I began to look at my husband as an object—something that would satisfy me when I needed it. Our relationship became less about our connection to one another, and more about how we made each other feel or not feel.
Eventually, I started to think that my marriage was lacking everything from intimacy to actual love. I realized I was falling out of love with my husband—or at least I thought I was at the time.
It was during that time that I had an affair. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I didn’t understand until later that part of the reason I kept making these bad decisions was due (in part) to my addictions.
The other part of my bad decisions came from a place of selfishness and self-centeredness that I didn’t want to admit was a problem for me. I could only think about what I wanted in the moment instead of taking the time to look at how everyone else was being affected.
I lived off the adrenaline of porn. For me it was a rush. Sex had become only about myself. I didn’t stop to think about how my choices would affect my husband, how it might affect my children, who saw me meet up with the man I was cheating with. They saw me hold his hand and kiss him—the things they had only seen me do with their dad. But my addiction to porn fueled a need for that rush of adrenaline. I was hooked on the desire for attention from men.
Finally, I realized that facing my addiction was the first step I needed to take towards healing. For me that healing began when I started attending my church’s Celebrate Recovery meeting. This is a 12-step recovery program designed for anyone dealing with anything from an addiction to just a hurt, hang up, or habit. While all of the steps played a part in helping me to realize how my addictions played a role in my bad decisions, it was really the first four steps that really helped me get to the root of my issues.
When I was going through the first four steps, I started to connect the dots between my use of pornography and the affair that I had. For instance, the first step says, “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”
I was powerless. Realizing that I had let my addiction control my mind and my actions was really hard for me. But once I realized that I wasn’t in control, that I couldn’t do this on my own, it built my faith to realize that God is in control and that I needed to let Him guide my steps and fix my mind.
That’s when the good started to happen. In Celebrate Recovery there are books specifically designed to go through these steps in detail, and I was working through those materials with my sponsor. Not only was my sponsor someone I could trust, but someone I could be accountable to. That made a big difference—it helped me stay focused on what I was doing and not make excuses. I had to be completely honest with her, and therefore also with myself.
This process of getting to the root cause of my infidelity helped me to find healing after the affair. Because I was forced to take a look into my deepest self in order to understand how the affair started, I now know what I need to do in order to avoid infidelity in the future. I better understand why I was attracted to cheating, and I know to avoid porn and its distorted views of intimacy that fueled my affairs. I also keep very strict boundaries with guy friends, only talk to men who are also mutual friends of my husband’s, and share my social media accounts with my husband.
My journey through infidelity was just that: a journey. It took me years and lots of work to realize how the habits I had formed when I was younger could play such a big role in my marriage. But I have learned not to dwell in regret. The things that I have been through and my past choices have made me the person that I am today, and I am a stronger, wiser, and more faithful person as a result.