It’s day 10 of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While men comprise approximately half of all domestic violence, they receive very little attention, support, compassion and resources. Men are the invisible victims of domestic violence.
Today’s In His Own Words is a case of “sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.” “Michael” was betrayed, violated and traumatized by his wife all so she could impress and titillate her lover and accomplice. It’s 50 shades of WTF.
Sex, Lies and Videotape
My story begins in August of 2008. After years working the same job, I decided to take a calculated risk and start a business of my own. My wife and I discussed it constantly that summer. She seemed to understand the risks involved, supported it and agreed that it was worth the risk.
Two months later, the business was up and running. In my industry, it would be difficult to find a worse day to do what I did. I struggled that year and ended up making a little less than the salary my former job provided. It had been a terrible, extremely stressful year that somehow it came together at the very end.
Sadly, the second year was much worse than the first. By the third year, things were blowing up. Adding to the extreme stress, we had two children during this three-year period. They’re both under 5 now and I love them dearly. They have been the most wonderful gift, but came at an “all or nothing” time in my life.
I wish I could have had better foresight, but on the other hand, having children was never part of the discussion about my going into business for myself. Having kids when we did was not my choice. Having children was her lifelong dream and not up for discussion.
As the daycare bills began to mount, the business fell apart. The stress became overwhelming. Before we ran out of money, I was fortunate enough to be able to go back to work for my former employer. It was still extremely stressful and we could barely afford our expenses, but I was happy we had a little stability.
Unfortunately, things at home had become very volatile despite the added financial security. I had been through stress before and felt I was holding up, but sadly I didn’t see what was going on with my wife until it was too late.
Her behavior changed. At times she would burst out at me in a rage and throw degrading insults and criticisms at me. I was worthless. She did everything and I did nothing to support the family. At one point, I literally begged her to stop insulting me.
As wonderful as the kids are, they added a lot of stress as well. Kids require everything you have. I went to bed every night feeling like I had given them everything I could. I made sure of that and always will.
Despite my wife’s overt hostility and degrading criticisms, our sex life had never been better. It was very confusing. She would scream at me one night and then I’d find myself in bed with her the next night.
I tried and tried to figure this out, and I concluded that while the stress was extreme, we were getting through it despite the hurtful things she did and said. I kept telling myself that for all the hurtful things she did, there were good things as well if I looked for them.
Also, I took my marriage vows to heart. I was committed through thick or thin and wanted to be the husband she wanted. I kept telling myself it would get better as soon as the kids got a little older. I told my parents the same whenever they voiced concern over the way she treated me. Yes, once the kids were a little older things would get better.
A few weeks after my 40th Birthday in the autumn of 2012, I was setting up a new network and logged my wife’s cell phone into it. As I did this, my thumb swiped her mail button by mistake. To my surprise, I saw an email address belonging to my wife that I didn’t recognize.
Feeling like a creep, I clicked into the account to see what was there. I found a very clean account except for about a dozen emails in the deleted items folder. My heart started to race as I saw all of the emails were from the same man.
The first email I read hurt so much. The subject line was “It’s a chilly day” and the body of the email said, “This should warm you up.” Below his words was a short porn video.
The rest of the emails were equally upsetting, but none of them explained what was really going on or how extensive their relationship was. There was a lot of talk about sex, high-heeled shoes and other “apparel,” and several emails with a link to tumblr.com. The link went straight to a page requiring an ID and password to gain access. I tried to get past that page, but couldn’t figure out the id and password.
I started to panic. I couldn’t control myself. I had to talk to my wife even though the emails really didn’t explain much at all about what was going on except that she was having sexually charged conversations with another man.
I apologized to her for accidentally discovering her new email address and the emails in the deleted items folder. My heart sank as she said in a shaky voice, “Honey, there is nothing going on at all.”
She went on to say that she and this man, a former co-worker, had somehow ended up having some fun talking about sex and how to spice things up in their love lives. She said that she knew what she was doing was wrong, but that it never went further than a little joking around about sex, things to do and wear to create excitement with each other’s spouses.
That was it. End of story, she said.
I tried to believe her and put it behind me because she seemed desperate to keep our marriage together and I took my commitment to our marriage seriously. I forgave her and tried to put things back together.
I trusted her and believed in her more than I have anyone in my life outside of my parents. I felt it was important to treat her the way I would want to be treated. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she would never do anything to intentionally hurt me.
Yet I was tortured by where all the details seemed to lead. Two things kept eating away at me. First, she said that it had gone on since February 2012, nine months. Second, she created a secret email address for him. Nine months is a fairly long time. I knew it was graphic, and she took extraordinary steps to hide it.
I couldn’t contain it in my mind and kept interrogating her. By the end of the year, I still didn’t know anything else, but I knew she wouldn’t do the things she did if there wasn’t something to hide. There had to be more to it.
Finally, one day I sent her some articles about emotional affairs. To my surprise she seemed to take what she read to heart and said that a lot of the things she was doing fit that description. She apologized profusely and said that she would be honest with me about the things they did. I started asking questions and slowly she started to unlock a little information at a time.
By Christmas, she finally admitted that she had made videos of herself for him and had sex with him on FaceTime and Skype. The next morning, I was sitting outside bewildered and wondering how I never saw any signs of what she was doing.
Then I remembered a special date night we had that past spring and my heart caught in my throat. It was one of those nights I thought meant everything was okay in our marriage despite everything. She asked my parents to spend the night with our kids and we went downtown to stay at a nice hotel.
It was a wonderful night. We had a nice dinner and some wine and went back to the room for a quiet romantic evening together. As I recalled that night, I began to feel paralyzed. That night she said she wanted to record our lovemaking. I agreed, happy and relieved that our relationship seemed to be on the mend.
We made our first sex movie that night. We recorded ourselves over and over again in the months that followed. As I remembered these moments, I realized they occurred concurrently with her “emotional affair.”
Now I wondered if my wife had been making movies of us for her lover, or whatever the hell he is, to watch? I confronted my wife again. I lied and said I knew what she had done. I told her I knew that she was recording us and sending the videos to him. She nodded her head and said she was so sorry.
She tried to explain it by saying he told her he wanted to “see her in action” before the two of them slept together. To this day, my wife is adamant that she did not have sex with this man, not that it matters. It would have been better if they’d just had sex and not used me as a prop in their sick games. It would still have been hurt and devastated, but I suspect not as much.
I believed our lovemaking was a sign we were mending our relationship. In reality my wife used me to make sex audition tapes for another man. To say I feel violated and betrayed is a gross understatement.
It is approaching a year since that day my wife told me the truth, or at least some of the truth. I am sure there is more that happened that I will never know. It’s been almost a year and the pain feels just as sharp and fresh.
I looked into filing criminal charges, but the police refused to get involved. I consulted with attorneys to try to file a civil suit against this man and my wife for damages, but none of them would take my case. I am fairly certain that if I had done the same to my wife, I would be lucky to have supervised visitation with our kids, that is, if I was allowed to see them at all.
The professionals say I am making progress since then, but I don’t feel like I am. I am still depressed. I feel like I am on the sidelines watching my life happen to me. Aside from my parents and a few friends; I don’t know whom I can trust anymore.
I feel profoundly and utterly alone. She is out of my life as much as possible and I have a 50% custody agreement for the children. What happened still occupies my mind and I do my best to get through each day. I have struggled over whether or not I should tell the other man’s wife about what he and my wife have done, and, I suspect what he has done with other women. I don’t know if this is right thing to do or not.
The financial stress is worse than ever, but I can’t really think about it right now. I wake up and desperately want the day to be over. My wife used me as a human sex toy to put a show on for her secret friend with benefits. And there seems to be no way to obtain justice or move past it.
If there is a positive side to this sordid mess, it is that Michael’s divorce attorney was able to get his wife to agree to 50% shared custody, even against her attorney’s advice. You see, she doesn’t want her digital sexcapades coming out in family court. If there are any attorneys reading this, do you know of any charges or legal actions Michael can take? If there are, maybe he could regain some semblance of control in his life and begin to climb out of the depression. While it’s true Michael is better off without his ex, it’s cold comfort in the face of the betrayal trauma he has suffered.
In His Own Words is an effort to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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