Ryan Name: RyanLocation: ArkansasOccupation: Health Information Management Spouse Testimonial: Read Christine's Story HereChildren: 4Discovery Date: July 2010Story: Even as a child I had an extreme curiosity about sex and about women’s bodies. Then as I grew up, I was not really good at sports, or building things, or all those male things. I was good at charming women. Otherwise, I was not really good at social interaction either. I only felt like I was worth something, or that I was much of a man, or that I was connecting to other people when a woman desired me physically or emotionally. I have also always had a lot of anxiety and not dealt with stress very well. I discovered that sex would mask my anxiety, at least for a time. At the same time, I was religious and didn’t want to be a hypocrite. As you can imagine, these competing thought processes led me into a cycle of sexual acting out, followed by shame and self-hatred, then attempts to repent and do better, then a buildup of anxiety and loneliness, and another round of sexual acting out. When Christine and I got engaged I was in another repentance phase. I was determined to remain faithful to God this time, and to be faithful to Christine once we were married. I did not tell her of my struggles up to this point since I believed my sins would be erased as if it never happened. What was there to tell her? Neither Christine nor I came from backgrounds that let us talk easily about things like feelings. We both tended to bottle things up until we get angry and let it blow out. Therefore, we hurt each other often. We also started having children right away, while I was in college. I went to chiropractic school, which was incredibly intense and Christine stayed home with the babies. We didn’t have any money. Needless to say, there was plenty of stress and loneliness again and I, of course, fell into some sexually acting out again in those early days of our marriage. When that finally came to light it was traumatic to both of us and the marriage, but I went to therapy and was honest with Christine about all my issues. We worked through the spiritual part, and I went to addiction recovery. I finally admitted my powerlessness to control some of those behaviors. I reorganized my life to avoid temptation as much as possible, like the alcoholic avoiding bars and liquor stores. What I still did not get is that not only could I not manage my sexual behavior; I could not manage my life at all. I still did know how to turn to God when I had anxiety or loneliness. I also did not realize that while I could stop seeking temptation; that did not mean that temptation would not come to me. We went on for 15 years without my seriously acting out, but now we realize they were not 15 years as they should have been. We still did not talk about our feelings well. The sexual relationship in our marriage worked physically, but there was not really an emotional connection there. While I didn’t act out, my thoughts were not always faithful. When I was hurt or lonely in my marriage, I didn’t talk to Christine or God about it. When I was stressed building a chiropractic practice from the ground up, I did not talk to Christine or God about it. As the years went by, Christine went to nursing school and got a job. My practice grew. We finally had some money, but of course, as those financial stresses got better, that just brought new stresses. Christine was much busier. Now my practice not only needed to be grown, but was big enough that it needed to be managed. The young children became teenagers, and everyone knows that is stress. Again, I was not good about talking to Christine or God about these things. I just tried to survive day to day on my own. Right at the end of 2009, a woman started care in my practice. She always dressed up to come see me. She always wanted me to check this and that, and to talk to me. My staff actually warned me that she was being too demanding and that I was spending too much time with her in treatment. I started to schedule her outside of hours, during lunch or on days we didn’t see patients so that I could give her the time “she needed.” We said inappropriate things to each other at the office. By April, we began to meet outside the office and began having a full blown affair. My feelings were very mixed throughout all this. I was terrified from that first time that things got inappropriate at the office that I was going to lose my license to practice and that Christine was going to leave me. I was devastated and ashamed that I relapsed and let these demons from 15 years ago back into my life. However, instead of asking for help before I got into it deeper, I tried to take care of it myself. In the beginning, I wanted to get out of the situation without making her feel like any big deal had happened or without making her angry because I didn’t want her or her husband reporting what had happened. That thinking just got me into it deeper. The deeper I went into the affair, the more shame and fear I felt. At the same time, I felt like this woman wanted me and admired me in a way that I had not felt from Christine in a very long time. That was very exciting and flattering to me. In fact, that excitement and flattery was the only thing I experienced that would cover over the shame and the fear that I was also feeling. When I was with her, I could believe the lie that this was going to work out okay, that I could actually manage this juggling act. Struggle: Then, one night, the first week in June, 2010, a severe thunderstorm awakened Christine when I had left to go see my affair partner. She did not believe my lame explanations for why I had left, so she searched my cell phone records. The next day at my office, I got a text from Christine asking who the person was who called me at midnight and who she assumed that I then left to see. I almost threw up in the office. I still tried to lie. She had already found out whose number it was. Finally, I told her that I was friends with this person and that we were just hanging out, although I knew that was not appropriate. It was not until the first week in July that I finally admitted to Christine that I had been having a full blown affair. At the end of June, I told my affair partner that we had to end it, that I was going to tell Christine and my pastor what had happened. I convinced her to go to her pastor and get help too. I told her that once I told my pastor and Christine, we would not be able to have contact with each other anymore. Christine had set up an appointment with a counselor to help her figure out what she wanted to do with the fact that I had been having some sort of relationship with this woman that she still didn’t really know the full extent of. The morning of her appointment with him, I told her the truth that I had been having sex with this other woman so she could know the truth as she discussed her plans with the counselor. For me, it was a relief to once again be out of the double life, to not have this secret. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulder. At the same time, I felt devastated because I was watching daily the terrible pain that Christine was in. I would find her in the laundry room putting clothes in the dryer just standing there sobbing. A few days after she found out, I found out that she basically had not slept or eaten in days. She had already lost several pounds. I seriously thought I was going to have to take her the hospital. I literally thought I was killing her, and I felt like the lowest scum on the face of the earth. During this time, I also was fully aware that she did not know if she was going to stay married to me, and of course this was terrifying for me. I became really depressed about this and went to see my dad, who is a therapist, at his office, and I told him what I had done. As we talked about my not knowing if Christine was going to stay and try to work through this or not, my mind started clearing up and for the first time in a long time realized how much I wanted her to stay, how much I did want her in my life, but also realized that it was not my choice anymore. I had felt in control knowing that I would not leave her for the other person, but now I realized that was only half the equation. I could not make her stay with me. Course of Action: At work, I would zone out, or be about to break down and cry myself with a patient on the table even, so I finally went to my doctor and got on some medication to help me control my emotions at work. The counselor that Christine was seeing gave her some info on the EMS Weekend in Austin. He had never sent anyone there at that point, but he had been intrigued with it, and he really felt the strongly about the help we could get there. We looked over the info and decided to go. We went to the August 2010 EMS which was an amazing experience from the moment we got there. I learned so much about myself, my wife, and my faith in that one weekend. I learned that while I thought I had given this addiction up all those years ago, I really was just counting on God to clean up the mess. I was still trying to be good on my own, and I was still trying to manage all my fears, my loneliness, my weaknesses, my career, everything myself. While I was trying to direct myself, I also was expecting Christine to nurture me. Lessons Learned: That weekend I came to accept what mere mortals Christine and I both are and acknowledged that neither one of us are superheroes and neither one of us can do everything on our own. I also learned why Christine pulls away from me when she is hurting and how passive I had been about her pain our whole marriage. I learned how to man up and reach out to her and let God help me love her even if I am hurting, and how to reconnect with her. I also learned how to show her that I understood what my actions had done to her and how devastated I was for that. All of these lessons were not pleasant to learn, but it was so great to learn them there in an environment of love and support along with hearing the hard truth. After we left EMS we participated in the weekly follow-up calls with couples we met at EMS and a group leader from AR. This really helped us to keep growing and building on what we had learned that weekend. Encouragement: As time went by, the acute pain of that time has gone away. We have a marriage now that is unlike what we had before. I feel a connection to Christine that I have never had before in my life. I would never want to be unfaithful again because, one, I know that I could not get anything out of an affair like I have with Christine, and two, it would destroy what I have with Christine. I also know when that connection with her begins to weaken even a little bit I know how to reach out to her and do something about it before it becomes a real problem. I also am very aware of when I am starting to build up anxiety about work or anything else. I got plenty of practice using what I learned after we left EMS. First of all, it took me two long years to start into a new career with fulltime work after I lost my chiropractic license. Of course, this gave me plenty of chances to feel anxiety about money and to feel worthless to my family. Also, the woman I had the affair with was consumed with rage and hatred that I dumped her to return to Christine. She went to the police and accused me of raping her. She went to most everybody in our church and told them the same. It was Fatal Attraction, only without a physical gun. That also gave me lots of practice focusing on healing with Christine. Finally, Christine got diagnosed with breast cancer two years after EMS. I felt guilty thinking that the stress of being with a dirt bag like me might have contributed to her cancer. I felt terrified that when I had just finally learned how to connect with her, I was going to lose her. I felt terrified that I might be left to care for our children on my own, after destroying my career. Through all of this, I got some really good practice at turning to God. And He was there. He led us through all that just like He had the other. I would not suggest to anyone that having an affair is the way to fix your marriage or to find God; however I cannot regret the lessons that I have learned the past four years beginning at EMS.