Q&A How do I Deal with this Horrific Truth?

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Question: 

We attended the EMS Weekend in May of this year. It was extremely helpful and opened the door for us to begin our recovery. However, when we attended that weekend, my husband had supposedly disclosed his infidelity, but in reality what he told me was all made up. The D-Day was Dec. 30, 2014, when I found emails on his phone. This past June the REAL truth came out, which he disclosed to me because he said he couldn’t keep lying. The REAL truth is beyond horrific to me - for 28 years of our 36 year marriage my husband has been seeing prostitutes on a regular basis. About 28 years ago he started out by seeing prostitutes on the street, but over the years he progressed to seeing high end prostitutes costing large amounts of money. He also confessed early on he went to adult book stores to masturbate and then progressed to watching pornography regularly at work after hours to masturbate. He had quite an elaborate system going on with his acting out, even to the point of buying cashmere sweaters and outfits for the prostitutes to wear, and which he would keep clean for them. My question is, HOW in the world do I EVER get over this terrible horrific truth? The fact that he initially lied to "spare my feelings" is so devastating and diminishing to me. He is trying to show me he loves me and is remorseful, which I do believe, BUT...when I have triggers and anger he retreats into feeling such deep shame that then I END up saying I am SORRY just to make him feel better. We are both starting to see counselors, him a sex addict therapist and me a therapist for partners of sex addicts. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on how I can POSSIBLY get past 28 years of his cheating on me with prostitutes? He claims that over the years he has probably seen around 80 or more prostitutes. I feel he has totally ruined any good memories I might have had of our marriage and our life. We respect you and Affair Recovery so much and I would welcome ANY help you can impart to me. Thank you, Rick, so much.

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Manipulating With Shame

Thanks to the brave person who posed this question with very specific and painful details. It prompted a strong and clear answer from Rick about an issue that I'm experiencing, too: an unfaithful spouse who is so deeply shamed that every conversation ends up with me, the betrayed person, comforting him. The AR readings are often vague and even-handed, but here, finally Rick says it's OK to stop the shame festival mid-whine and turn it around: "This is about me, not you. What are you doing to take responsibility for your actions and help me, the betrayed person, heal?"

In my own phone support group, a couple of the men have a "poor me, I've ruined my marriage" tone. It's hard to know whether they deserve compassion or tough love. Their attitude is definitely irritating! Addiction adds another layer to the crisis of infidelity, and that's an issue in my marriage, too. For us, infidelity and horrific porn were the wake-up call for my husband to take full responsibility for his own mental health, addictive tendencies, and for fixing the damage he has caused to our marriage and our family. I'm done "helping." This has actually empowered him to feel like he really can fix the ways that he is broken and create a better marriage than ever.

I don't know about you, but I'm willing to spend a year working through the issues. I'll either have a good marriage or a good divorce and be able to move on with my life without bitterness or resentment. Especially with an addict, you can't control their behavior, you can only focus on your own life and happiness. This is a bitter pill for me... to feel no security in my life or relationship after 29 years of marriage, but people really do recover from addictions. It's just too bad that a person can't smell porn or sex on someone's breath, like alcohol! We would have addressed this issue a lot sooner.

What type of affair was it?

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