Dear Chump Lady,
My boyfriend of three years told me he had a problem with porn addiction and sexual fantasizing of other women back in June. He said he had been trying his best to stop but felt controlled by it. He hated doing it. He felt unsatisfied and empty but he kept going back. Years before, he had dismissed it as “normal” or part of a high libido. Now, he knew it was a problem. He said he needed therapy and that he wanted to get better to “be the boyfriend I deserved”. I was dismayed at this news but I decided to stay because I believed and loved him.
Prior to this, we had discussed marriage extensively and had plans to spend our lives together. He was about to move out to the East Coast in September for a position and I was staying in California for school. We agreed it would be best for him to seek care once he got settled in his new home. Unfortunately, once he got there, he lacked the finances for therapy. He was helping me pay back a loan and we had absolutely no flexibility. We agreed that until we could pay it off in January, he would do his best to decrease his porn usage and continue to be honest with me about it and his sexual fantasies. It was difficult to talk about it when we did. The rest of the time I fluctuated between denial and hope given his newfound honesty.
A week ago, when I was pressing him to share any acting out with me, he cracked and told me about much more than porn and fantasizing. He had had sex with two women over the summer. He had sought sex with another in his new city. I asked him to share all his transgressions, and they are too many to count. He flirted with women at bars, followed women in supermarkets, felt women up, went to a bar alone hoping to meet someone, suggested he was in an open relationship to a woman that knew he had a girlfriend, and more. This had been going on for years.
Over many conversations, he shared every transgression he could remember. When he recalled something he forgot to mention, he brought it to my attention. I was livid, hurt, devastated. I felt used and abused.
He told me he decided to be honest because he wanted to change. He saw other men chasing after “cake” and he didn’t want that. “Having a wife that I cheat on is the last thing I would want. I want to be fully committed to you or I don’t want to be committed to anyone.” Before, he had been too scared that I would leave if he told me, but now he couldn’t bear to lie anymore. I considered ending it then and there. How could he have done this? How could he have kept this from me? I finally told him that we are separated. He should seek therapy if he so desired – or not, but I needed to recover. He could be there with me or he could choose not to be.
He has been there with me. He has found a way to seek help immediately. He has since been to three counseling and group sessions that he has sought out himself. He answers all my questions and responds to my needs. He still struggles with invasive thoughts of other women, but he tells me he is not entertaining them. He has taken full responsibility for his transgressions. And, he has begun to look for positions that aren’t as coveted, but would allow him to move back here. In these short few days, he has reprioritized his life: recovery first, me second, and everything else last. His words of “I love you, I want to get better for a better us,” are finally being accompanied by actions.
I know it’s FAR too soon to see how long this will last. Will he falter? Will I forgive? Will his priorities remain the same? Will I be able to trust? We both understand the gravity of his fucked-up-ness and the amount of therapy he will need. He has faced how much he has hurt me and I’ll make sure he continues to. But I realize he may never get past his compulsions and putting energy and attention on this is a huge time-sink. I care a lot about him, but I have seen the damage that hope can do in blinding me from seeing what is. I’m torn between “The past is the best predictor of the future,” and “actions speak louder than words.” How do I decide between the two? I love him, but I don’t want to be a lifetime Chump.
Scared to Hope
Dear Scared to Hope,
You know Scared, some boyfriends just bring their girlfriends chocolates. Or flowers. They see a movie. Life isn’t an endless confessional therapy session.
What’d you do today? Well, I fantasized six times about the interns in my office, jerked off to porn, called a sex line at noon, and felt a stranger up at a bar, and boinked my old girlfriend. Did I leave something out? Oh yeah, I wore your underwear.
Please dump this guy. He’s telling you who he IS. A guy who needs a lot of help to keep it in his pants. Who feels “controlled” by it. A guy who needs 12-step to even consider commitment.
You’re high on hopium.
In these short few days, he has reprioritized his life.
No he hasn’t. He’s given you words. You live 2,500 miles away from him. You have no idea if he’s gone to therapy three times or hasn’t. He’s made noises about taking a new job. This isn’t action, these are promises to change. I love you. So what?
I’m torn between “The past is the best predictor of the future,” and “actions speak louder than words.”
WHAT actions, Scared? His actions are that he’s been fucking around on you for three years. Those are his ACTIONS. He says he doesn’t want to be this person? Well, he IS this person. He also says it’s a big struggle to NOT be this person.
How about you just find a person who’s a better fit for you, huh? A nice guy who can be the sort of solid fellow you need him to be right out of the box. Who doesn’t need a lot of hand holding to not be a douchebag. These men exist! You’re a young woman, please direct your attentions to a more worthy suitor.
I’ll tell you something else, when he says — “Having a wife that I cheat on is the last thing I would want.” No, that’s EXACTLY what he wants. He’s grooming you. He wants to see what you’re going to do with this information, with his “transgressions.” If you’ll be with him anyway. If you’ll “try” just for him. If you’ll forgive him and bless him with your efforts. He is gaging your chumpiness.
You have no ties to this person, just a lot of dreams you’ve projected on him and a shared history. It’s time to dump him. Thank Jesus for the distance. Now go no contact and fix your picker. Why would you spend five minutes wondering about whether you should forgive him? Make him irrelevant to your life and find someone who shares your values. He’s not that guy. Wishing and hoping won’t make him that guy. Dump. Dump. DUMP.