In my last post, I talked about porn, cybersex, and masturbation. I don’t know that everyone who engages in these activities is necessarily on a path toward infidelity. But, they are big red flags. I see them as entry-level drugs. First, even though something like masturbation seems like a solo activity, it’s not. It includes mental or pictorial images of someone who is not your spouse. If you do masturbate to images of your spouse, maybe that’s different, as long as she knows about it. Either way, unless there is full discussion and mutual agreement between you and your spouse about these activities, they are probably something you are hiding from your spouse.
If the first problem is looking outside your spouse for stimulation without mutual agreement, the second problem is keeping a secret from your spouse. The third problem is that these activities, especially if hidden from your spouse, desensitize you to sex. You start to need harder and more bizarre porn to be aroused. You then start to lose your inhibitions about cybersex. Finally, you lose your inhibitions about real-life cheating. It is a slippery slope. Very few people try a drug with the goal of becoming addicted.
I’m not convinced that addiction is the right term for my compulsive approach to porn, masturbation, cybersex, and then cheating. But, it’s difficult to find another word in our language that captures the way I view those behaviors. I suppose one difference between my sex compulsion and an actual addiction is that you often can’t quit something cold-turkey if it’s an addiction. I did quit all these things cold-turkey. I did not experience physical, mental, or emotional withdrawals when I quit. On the contrary, I was very happy to have been liberated from the cycle of compulsion.
What liberated me? One thing was the reality of consequences on D-day. I was exposed. My marriage almost ended. TL and I talked about it every day since. I could no longer hide. And, I no longer wanted to hide. I was forced to choose between fantasy and reality, and I chose reality. I suspect an addict can’t just implement that kind of choice without clinical intervention. I was able to implement my choice, by myself. I do see a therapist to help me understand, learn new coping mechanisms, and address the root causes of my unhealthy choices. Before D-day, I had difficulty making healthy choices. I was torn between my self-pity and fantasy, on one hand, and courage and reality, on the other hand. D-day made it clear that the consequences of self-pity and fantasy were real and far outweighed the benefits.
To continue with my story, the compulsion led me to further shame. There was another woman I met in a chat room. Let’s call her CR2. The story was similar. She met me at our apartment one morning when my wife was at work and I was supposed to be studying. CR2 and I quickly got into bed, the bed I share with TL. I was nervous about getting caught, and therefore hurried. There was no foreplay. CR2 was also unappealing. This combination of factors resulted in erectile dysfunction again. I quickly and politely kicked her out, upset with my inability to perform and equally upset with my compulsive desire to try.
It got worse. The chat room environment desensitized me to a point of having cybersex with men too. I invited one man to our apartment for a real-life liaison. When he arrived, I was immediately turned off by the idea. I apologized for wasting his time and got rid of him. The compulsion was serious. The definition of insanity, I’ve heard, is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. I was, in that way, insane. I invited another man to our apartment. He tried oral sex on me. I was really turned off, afraid, and ashamed. I politely put a stop to it. Thankfully, soon after, I got a job and no longer had such periods of unaccountable time to play with chat rooms. The porn and masturbation were reduced too, but they continued.
Then came my first affair with AP1. She was a co-worker who was occasionally assigned to travel with me. The relationship quickly relaxed from professional to friendly. I knew in the back of my head that I would take it to sexual level if I had the opportunity. Sex is all I wanted from that relationship. But, I disguised it as actual friendship. We went to lunch together, alone and way too often. We worked out together. All this was my superficial strategy of spending time with her to look for an opportunity for sex.
I had worked there a year by the time we converted the relationship into a physical affair. The physical affair lasted two and a half months. The so-called emotional affair that preceded it lasted three months. I use the term “so-called” because I did not really invest any emotional capital into the relationship. It fact, I had rarely invested emotional capital in any relationship in my life. This affair was a transactional relationship for me. There were 6 or 7 physical liaisons. I would go to her place for sex after work. On one occasion I stayed the night at her place when TL was out of town. On another occasion AP1 took time off work to accompany me on a business trip when she hadn’t been assigned to join me.