Let’s Talk about Time

“Ain’t it funny how time slips away.” -Willie Nelson

By Susan Kay

Most of the things my sexually compulsive ex took from me have faded with time. One, however, remained painful the longest: he took the best of my motherhood, devalued it, and tried his best to wipe it away.

The most sacred role I had in my life was being a mother. I cherished that role, I was good at it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it  ...... until all hell broke loose. Then I watched in horror as my precious years of mothering just slipped away under the waves of chaos.

My girls and I might have fared better had I not stayed in the sham marriage for another 6 years after my first D-Day. To be fair, I was told by counselors, many of whom, it turned out, were sex addicts themselves, that my marriage could be "better than ever”. In the excruciating pain of it all, I lapped up that false promise and set about doing my part.

On that very first D-day we separated for 2 years, after which my husband deemed himself well and moved back home. We’ll call that “mistake #2”. Mistake #1 was not divorcing him immediately upon that first D-Day.

So great was the chaos and trauma that I lost my way for longer than I care to admit.  There were many days I could barely brush my teeth. Things I had always done effortlessly now required enormous strength, as if I was wading thru cement. Meanwhile he focused on himself and his own (very short-lived) “recovery", leaving me to parent alone through horrific circumstances.

Me? I was meeting with other shattered women, all of us learning that sexual sobriety, as defined by sex addicts, included “slips”. What is a “slip” you ask? Well, simply put, it means he’s still allowed to screw other people but now he gets to excuse it with the harmless little word “slip”. Bonus?  These slips were to be ignored by wives, lest we shame our husbands. I kid you not. 

If that won’t erode your soul, including your ability to mother, I don’t know what will. Deep inside, I knew I couldn’t live like that.

Through it all, my mothering took a huge hit. I went through the motions, but I wasn’t really there. My mind, now disoriented and consumed with safety, was incapable of the intimate small talk I’d cherished at bedtime with my girls since their births. Bedtime stories were replaced with crying children incapable of understanding why their home had become ground zero. I held back my own tears as my youngest pounded on my chest out of confusion and despair. I watched helplessly as little hearts broke. For months, with my tearful babies tucked safely away each night, I cried alone in the dark. 

Huge chunks of time, including the entire first year after D-Day, are missing in my memories - completely wiped away by his callous disregard for me and my innocent children.

Ripped away was my girls' mother, once so light and full of humor and easy laughter.  There was no more singing. No dancing in the family room. No spontaneity. Just a gaunt depressed shell of a woman where their previously strong mother once stood.

Gone was the sense of abundance I’d planned for my children; abundance not of things, but abundance of love and the freedom from worry that only children can enjoy - a freedom they get exactly one shot at.

Rules that previously gave my children a sense of security were replaced with a burning desire that no one, including me, ever hurt my girls again. Predictably, my ability to effectively say “no” went out the window.

Preparing meals became an insurmountable task. Setting the table with one empty spot reminded me of all the time he’d spent away on business, only now I knew that instead of lonely nights in hotels as claimed, he’d been spending his time in a dark underworld of sexual depravity. While my girls and I were dining on Publix BOGO and spaghetti, he was squandering our money on countless hookers two at a time, nudist colonies, and a sick assortment of other “gifts to self". In the aftermath, our sit-down dinners gave way to drive-thrus and take-out.

The biggest loss of all was not immediate. It took years to surface. You see, when children are raised in chaos, no matter who the cause, they sometimes lump both parents into the overall “feel” of their childhood. The “feel” of my girls’ childhoods was unstable, chaotic, angry, and unpredictable. Thankfully, over time they’ve separated the wheat from the chaf, but those childhood scars remain. And that breaks this mother’s heart.

While my sexually compulsive ex was the cause, it was I who chose to stay after D-day for 6 more years of absolute hell - six years where I was fighting for my life as my health deteriorated from the stress and abuse; six years where my children withstood instability unfit even for adults. I wish I’d have listened to the Dr. Phil-ism “It’s better for children to come from a broken home that to live in one."

Always the opportunist, my sexually compulsive husband preyed on my inability to make a decision and used those 6 years to strategically regain the upper hand and prepare financially for the inevitable divorce. He alone held the knowledge that his secret life continued unabated while he claimed recovery. Looking back, it is clear that those years took the greatest toll on me as he added recovery language to his already powerful Bible-speak. Both were used as weapons to control, manipulate, and demean me. During those years I lost the ability to clearly contemplate my future as my footing was shattered with each new disclosure of even more hideous sexual activities I’d previously not even known were possible.

Before I knew it, my beautiful girls had flown the nest and it was too late - their one turn at childhood was over. Adding insult to injury, my ex was waiting with his revised history. He even stooped so low as to deny his own sexual compulsions and project them on me. By this time he had constructed a new marriage based on those lies, and thus became VERY vested in keeping my girls, and his own family, compliant, confused, and silent.  Needless to say, I am unable to have any relationships with most of the people I once called “family”. 

While I no longer give a crap what he does, the last worry to linger is the effect he might have on my adult children. Gaslighting, blame shifting, and outright lying are the tools of his trade, and he’s honed them well. Under such enormous manipulation, I know it will take incredibly tough, sound young women to stand firmly in truth. And guess what? This mama bear raised just that. Still .... I worry. 

The one thing I know for sure: my girls deserve to hear the truth from him. They deserve to be set free from the confusion he himself continues to spawn about their childhoods and what he did to destroy a family and render their mother disabled. He OWES it to them. I’m not hopeful he’ll pay that debt. And so I continue to stand in truth, knowing that lies have a half life but truth is eternal. I am a whistleblower. 

There’s an old song written by Willie Nelson and sung by just about everyone, called “Ain’t it Funny How Time Slips Away”. No, Willie, it ain’t funny. In fact, when a sexually compulsive abuser steals years of your life, it takes a long time for funny to resurface. 

When you discover that your husband is a sexual compulsive, you can’t un-know what you’ve learned. There’s no going back to who you once were. That woman is forever gone. Are you willing to waste your children’s innocent years or your precious mothering years on your partner’s quite probably feigned recovery? Are you willing to ride out repeated blows as “slips” and “D-days” become routine? Because trauma affects our sense of time, it’s pretty damned easy to let that time just slip away. I should know, I did just that.