We lived the next three years as a normal family in suburban America. We made a few friendships, enjoyed our favorite hangouts near the river, enjoyed activities with the kids, played as a family, and enjoyed each other as a family.
I wasn’t cheating during this time. But, I still had plenty of flaws. I still struggled with porn and masturbation. I suppose I should specify what I mean when I say I “struggled” with porn and masturbation. I looked at porn and masturbated once a day. There were days when I did not do either. But, it was as often as once a day. I would spend anywhere from five to fifteen minutes with the porn, whatever it took to get aroused. How did I decide whether to use porn and when? I did it whenever I thought I would not get caught. I have not done either for 36 months now. I have never experienced withdrawal symptoms. Faced with real consequences, I quit cold-turkey. In the 36 months since I last used porn and/or masturbated I have never thought, “Oh, that was easy.” In that same time I have never thought, “Oh, that was difficult.” Once I decided that it was very important to stop, I was no longer tempted by it.
I was still obsessive about work. My boss at the time didn’t help that. He was a pathological workaholic and a rather evil, manipulative man. But, I gave in to his guilt trips. I failed to take time off to help TL with some health issues. That was not malice on my part, but it was pretty stupid. There was a time TL travelled without me and I thought about finding a prostitute or some illicit sex. Fortunately, I was easily deterred by lack of access in that place where law and order prevailed.
We moved overseas again. In our new home we made friends together, helped the children develop, and generally enjoyed our lives together. But, my dark side started to loom larger and larger. This manifested itself in several ways. First, my obsessive-compulsive approach to my job led me to working longer hours than necessary. I really thought I was helping my career. In retrospect, I was not. And, the cost in terms of time away from my family was mounting in any case.
Second, we struggled to motivate our oldest child to be physically active and to spend less time with television and video games. TL and I did not communicate with each other constructively on that topic. I think I wasn’t taking the time to really listen to TL’s views. I think we became frustrated with each other on this issue, gave up on trying to communicate about it, and began to quietly blame each other for our difficulty resolving it. By the way, since D-day, TL and I have made great progress together on this particular issue. We’ve really come a long way as a parenting team.
Third, I continued to struggle with porn and masturbation in the same way as before. Fourth, around this time, I began secretly e-mailing AP2. She was at a safe distance, on another continent. But, the betrayal to TL was serious. AP2 and I wrote the stupidest, most childish things to each other. I wrote about sex acts that I imagined she could perform. She wrote of loving me. I replied to her talk of love with talk of sex. I e-mailed her each time she e-mailed me. It was as often as once per day, but there would sometimes be days of silence.
Here’s a really awful part of it. At the same time, AP2 was making negative comments to TL that TL simply chalked-up to cultural differences. AP2 also began an overt e-mail discussion with TL, again offering her services as maid and nanny. At one point AP2 began covertly persuading me that we should hire her. I knew that doing so was not a good financial decision for TL and I. But, I presented myself as undecided when I talked to TL about it. Worse, I advised AP2 secretly that she ought to lower her salary demands when she talked to TL. “You know how cheap she is,” I told AP2, referring to TL.
I can’t think of a more heartless, thoughtless, and unnecessary way to hurt TL. In addition to constituting a racial slur (which was never my intent), the label “cheap” was actually better applied to me than to TL. TL is, in reality, the most generous person I’ve ever known. She is thrifty in relation to her own needs and desires. But, she is extremely — even obsessively — generous in every other way. I was too cowardly to admit that I was the cheap one. Cowardice and hiding behind TL were two of my biggest sins.
This e-mail relationship ended with AP2’s death. TL wonders whether she actually died of natural causes as her relative told us, or if her husband learned of the affair and killed her? I don’t care. I never felt a thing for that woman. But, I sure as hell destroyed TL with doubts about my feelings toward AP2 and toward TL. Just writing about this makes me want to cry, for the pain I caused TL and for my stupid, hurtful actions that I will regret until the day I die.
Fifth, I started seeing prostitutes again.