Donny's Ramblings

“Why Was I Not Enough?” – A Letter From a Hurting Spouse

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Back in May I received the email that follows.  I asked the sender if I could remove her name, post her email and answer it here.  She gave permission, so I marked it unread, as seeing it in my inbox would prompt me to write.  But I haven’t addressed it until now because I really want to do it justice, and to do so requires me to rip myself apart in my reply.  Today feels like the right day to do this.

So you know, I’m not writing from the perspective of a counselor.  I’m just going to respond from my own point of view.  I’m not going to concern myself with proper sentence structure, either.  My thoughts might not apply to other men, and might not represent her husband’s motivations.  Therefore, I invite anyone to share their own perspective.  Personally, I prefer real life stories and reasons over generalized “study results.”

First, the letter:

Dear Mr. Pauling,

You’ve probably gotten these questions before – ad nauseum.  I hope you will respond anyway.  I am in the midst of a divorce.  Addiction was a major theme in the demise of my marriage – alcohol and drugs most recently, but pornography had been a source of pain in our relationship from the beginning.  Honestly, I’m not sure of the extent because I was really naive.  Many times I thought it was no longer an issue and then I’d make a discovery that demonstrated otherwise.  I’m looking for insight.  Is there a way to make sense of this that will provide peace of mind?  I fear not, but I have to ask these things.  Although you can’t know what was going on in my husband’s mind, there have to be some commonalities among men who allow porn to wreak havoc in their marriages.

What role did I have to play in my husband’s use of porn?  Why was I not enough?  Why was I not deserving of his respect and fidelity?

The lies, my God, the lies were the worst.  The outright lies and the subtle deceptions were rampant.  Every day there was deception on some level.  You lived the ultimate lie; how did you look your wife in the face every day?  Were you snickering behind her back at how clueless she was?  Did you have any love for her at all?  Did you come to look upon her with utter disdain?  I gave this marriage everything I had – was that all part of the joke, “See how much she’ll endure before she realizes I don’t love her.  Stupid b*tch.”

When you looked at your wife, who did you see?  Knowing my husband was viewing thousands of images of other women said to me, “He wants ANYONE BUT you, *****.”  Is that how you felt?  Did you want anyone BUT your wife?  It would seem that someone with a porn addiction would have a high sex drive, but just the opposite was true with my husband – at least with me.  Was that because I fell so short of the fantasies acted out in the land of porn?  Could I just not hold a candle to the beautiful, seductive, pleasure-savvy women he would seek out wherever and whenever he got the chance?

Please help me understand.  This has ground me into the dirt.  I am working hard to overcome the sense that ‘I am nothing.’  Because rejection of this type certainly sends that message.

While I’m at it, there’s something I’d like to you to consider sharing as you talk to different groups.  Exposing children to porn – even unintentionally – leads to disaster.  You see, I was set up for this whole scenario years ago.  The fact that I am writing you as a devastated wife is almost nauseatingly cliche.

My Dad used porn heavily.  No, he didn’t show it to me and he kept it in his nightstand drawer (fully accessible, just out of sight), but he never hid the fact that he liked porn.  A lot.  He and one of his friends would laugh about jokes in the latest edition of Hustler when our families got together – right in front of the wives and children.  The wives laughed too.  I saw my stepmother reading Hustler when she was sunning herself on the deck.  I thought porn was an absolutely normal part of life.  So when I was 12 and a garbage bag full of old Hustlers ended up in a closet that also housed my toys, I took a look for myself.  I figured I had better educate myself so I wouldn’t end up divorced and alone like my mother (my Dad’s first wife, who did not like his porn use, but was of the belief that “men can’t help themselves”).  I’ll spare you the details, but it set me up for many years of abuse and ultimately the turbulent marriage that is now ending.  Children should be separated from porn as vigilantly as they are separated from guns.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  The burden of so many sharing their pain with you has to be great.  But I guess that’s why you were called to public ministry, right?  🙂

I’ve forwarded your story and video from LifeSiteNews to my Dad and brothers and I’m praying it will have an impact.

Blessings,

*****

This wife’s letter asks so much.  I’m going to take bits and pieces of it, then reply below each part from my own perspective, as if Wendy (my ex-wife) was the author, asking these questions of me (it wasn’t her, by the way).

What role did I have to play in my husband’s use of porn? Why was I not enough? Why was I not deserving of his respect and fidelity?

If Wendy had asked this, I’d have to reply, “You were enough.  I realize I complained about so many things.  I know I had the attitude that you wouldn’t just let me be myself.  I complained that you didn’t trust me.  I complained that you didn’t want to have sex often enough.  I complained about all sorts of things, didn’t I?  I don’t remember whether or not any of my complaints were even based on real reasons, because the truth is that I was just a really selfish man.  You were right not to trust me.  I used some of those things I thought were ‘valid complaints’ to justify making my own poor decisions.   That’s really what my complaints boiled down to:  trying to sell the idea to myself and to you that I had an excuse to make bad decisions.  One of those poor decisions was my use of porn.  There are so many versions of porn that every man on the planet, and most women, can be tempted by if given the right circumstances… or should I say, ‘the wrong circumstances.’  I word it that way because the circumstances are something I could have controlled.  I didn’t have to be up late, on the computer while you slept in our bed.  I didn’t need to come home and turn on the computer at lunch time while you were at work.  I definitely didn’t need to go to the seedy parts of town, sneaking in the back door – hopefully unnoticed by any friends or acquaintances – of shops that sold pornography.

“I could have controlled myself.  I could have been a man of God.  I could have fought a fight worth winning, worth bragging about, of which I could be proud.  But I didn’t.  I gave in to temptation.

“To be honest, one of the biggest reasons I looked at porn is because I had fantasies about things that I didn’t want to do to you.  I felt those things would degrade you.  I didn’t mind carrying those thoughts out in my head with someone else’s daughter as the ‘recipient’ of the actions I wanted to commit.  I had no problem disrespecting a girl on a screen.  She didn’t seem like a real person with real feelings to me.  I didn’t see her as someone’s little girl, the way I do now.  She was just an object for me to use in my ‘it’s all about Donny’ fantasies.  Regardless of the hurtful words I said, that’s what my porn use and cheating came down to:  pure selfishness.  I wanted to engage in a type of sexual release that didn’t require consideration for anyone but myself.  I didn’t want to honor my vows or consider your needs.”

I didn’t want…

*I*

That’s what it all boiled down to… a desire to receive for myself, exclusively.  A desire to consider nobody but me.

The lies, my God, the lies were the worst.  The outright lies and the subtle deceptions were rampant.  Every day there was deception on some level.  You lived the ultimate lie; how did you look your wife in the face every day?  Were you snickering behind her back at how clueless she was?  Did you have any love for her at all?  Did you come to look upon her with utter disdain?  I gave this marriage everything I had – was that all part of the joke, “See how much she’ll endure before she realizes I don’t love her.  Stupid b*tch.”

Wendy and I were asked several times by Oprah Winfrey’s people to appear on their show.  The show didn’t want to speak only with me; if they couldn’t have both of us on the show, they didn’t want to do the interview.  I desperately wanted to participate.  Over the years, Wendy has turned down numerous requests for interviews.  Those requests even included a personal phone call from a pastor whose congregation numbers more than 20,000 people.  Oprah’s people fared no better… she turned them down, too.  But she DID consider it for a few days longer than any other offer, because she knows the secular members of such an audience really need to hear about God’s love, grace and forgiveness.

During her days of consideration, she asked me if I’d be okay with her telling the audience what she really thought.  “It wasn’t the porn,” she said.  “It was the deception.”  I was a deceitful person in every way.  What you wrote in the paragraph I just quoted could have been written by Wendy, right down to that last line.

But I DID love Wendy.  I don’t fully grasp why I was so deceptive.  That part of my character still haunts me to this day.  Just a few days ago, Wendy and I had a conversation.  I was very excited about some of the things God has been doing in my life and those with whom I’ve interacted.  Wendy interrupted my joy to make sure I knew that she still considers me to be the world’s biggest liar, and she’s not sure how much of the things I was telling her were able to be believed.

NOTE: this was just days ago, almost 6 years after I left the world of pornography.

As Wendy said, porn wasn’t the root problem in our marriage.  Deception was even more damaging than pornography ever was.

I deceived myself just as much as I deceived Wendy.  I believed, about myself, exactly what I wanted to believe.  I never felt as if I didn’t love Wendy.  I felt as if I loved her very, very much.  I also tried to believe that I held myself in high esteem, while at the same time holding other parts of myself in utter contempt.  Those parts of me,  I considered to be beneath her.  I wanted to hide those parts from her.  She was too good for that part of Donny.

No, I never once thought of her as a “stupid b*tch.”  I put her up on a pedestal that I didn’t feel I deserved to stand upon.  I’m not sure if I can explain it, but I NEEDED her to be royalty, to be perfect.  My own self esteem was so low that I needed to believe I was somehow connected to something bigger than me… something that I could physically touch and see.  God wasn’t enough.  God didn’t even come close.  I needed Wendy to be that object of perfection.  But since I didn’t feel I deserved her, since I felt like I was a pathetic excuse for a man and that nobody would like me if they knew who I really was, I took out my dark areas on others I didn’t respect  such as images on a screen, and eventually real women via physical cheating.

I deceived her because I didn’t want her to know how pathetic I was.  I wanted to be more than what I felt I actually was.  I wanted to be better than I felt inside, and I wanted her to believe that of me.  Sometimes, oftentimes, that lack of confidence came out as anger towards her.  It also came out in lies to her and to myself.

My point, dear *****, is that it was all about me and never about her.  I’m sure the same is true in the case of your husband.

When you looked at your wife, who did you see?  Knowing my husband was viewing thousands of images of other women said to me, “He wants ANYONE BUT you, XXXXX.”  Is that how you felt?  Did you want anyone BUT your wife?  It would seem that someone with a porn addiction would have a high sex drive, but just the opposite was true with my husband – at least with me.  Was that because I fell so short of the fantasies acted out in the land of porn?  Could I just not hold a candle to the beautiful, seductive, pleasure-savvy women he would seek out wherever and whenever he got the chance?

I’ve answered this to some extent in previous replies.  I’ll repeat some of what I said and dig a little deeper here.

When I looked at my wife, I saw my wife.  She turned me on SO much.  When I met her in High School I’d never had a serious relationship before her, so for me she came to define all that the perfect woman embodied.  Her physical features became what I considered to be perfect.  Everything about her became my preference.

And then came porn and the girls within it.  All of those images filled my head, and each type of woman that was different from my wife fulfilled parts of my fantasy life that I didn’t want to place on Wendy.  Some of that fantasy life didn’t even exist before I saw those images and watched those videos.  Some things repulsed me at one point in time, but grew to be an interest as time passed.  As I said before, there were actions I wanted to do, sexually, that I felt degraded my wife.  Through porn, this woman with that body type will fulfill THAT fantasy for me, while this other woman with that characteristic will fulfill some other twisted fantasy.   What I did with Wendy was “holy” to me.  Our sex life was what pure sex looked like in my mind, and the rest of it was what I let myself believe I really deserved.  And when I say, “…what I really deserved,” I am stating that  from the viewpoint of a man with really low self worth.

I often didn’t want to be pure.  This became my reality more and more as I felt less and less worthy of my wife and the beautiful child she eventually bore for me.

I’m convinced satan will twist anything God intends to be pure.  That’s his nature.  The more God loves something, the more satan wants to attack it.  One of God’s first commands to humanity was the command to be fruitful and multiply.  That command had nothing to do with growing strawberries and teaching algebra, and everything to do with sex.  God loves sex.  It is a gift to us.  But because He loves sex so much, His enemy twists it into something it was never meant to be.  That’s where porn and twisted sexual fantasies come into play.  This is a spiritual battle.  As humans, sexual drive is built into us by our creator.  Satan loves twisting that drive.

To answer your question, “Could I just not hold a candle to the beautiful, seductive, pleasure-savvy women he would seek out wherever and whenever he got the chance?”, I would have to say, “In my case, Wendy was the sun to which some little candle couldn’t possibly compare… but I didn’t feel worthy of her.  I felt too dirty, and I didn’t know how to clean up, so I just gave into the dirt more and more all the time.”

While I’m at it, there’s something I’d like to you to consider sharing as you talk to different groups.  Exposing children to porn – even unintentionally – leads to disaster.  You see, I was set up for this whole scenario years ago.  The fact that I am writing you as a devastated wife is almost nauseatingly cliche.

My Dad used porn heavily.  No, he didn’t show it to me and he kept it in his nightstand drawer (fully accessible, just out of sight), but he never hid the fact that he liked porn.  A lot.  He and one of his friends would laugh about jokes in the latest edition of Hustler when our families got together – right in front of the wives and children.  The wives laughed too.  I saw my stepmother reading Hustler when she was sunning herself on the deck.  I thought porn was an absolutely normal part of life.  So when I was 12 and a garbage bag full of old Hustlers ended up in a closet that also housed my toys, I took a look for myself.  I figured I had better educate myself so I wouldn’t end up divorced and alone like my mother (my Dad’s first wife, who did not like his porn use, but was of the belief that “men can’t help themselves”).  I’ll spare you the details, but it set me up for many years of abuse and ultimately the turbulent marriage that is now ending.  Children should be separated from porn as vigilantly as they are separated from guns.

I agree 100%.  I was first exposed to porn when I was in the third grade, when I picked up a magazine that someone had left in a trash can at a local park.  I still remember those images to this very day, quite clearly.  As I’ve traveled to speak these last six years (December will mark six years since I began speaking out on this topic at venues other than this blog) I’ve heard the same things over and over and over again from person after person:  their struggles with porn began at a young age due to exposure as a child.  On October 18th, I posted this update on my Facebook wall.  The woman mentioned in that post, seeking retaliation against me, made an accusation back in December of 2010 that I showed her daughter pornography and allowed her to drink alcohol.  I would never, EVER do such a thing, especially to a child, but because of my background and public profile that relates to this topic, I’m an easy target for such an accusation.  Having personally experienced the devastation pornography wreaks in the lives of all who touch it, I’m adamant that children never encounter it.  I  regularly ask my son if he’s seen it and am thankful that thus far he has not had to encounter it.   I also speak at youth events, where I challenge young people to keep themselves pure and keep pornography out of their lives.  The average age of exposure is now 11 years old… it’s no wonder our families are falling apart.  Boys see images and videos on a screen and begin to believe they depict the realities of sex, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s my belief that your husband’s problems really have very little to do with you, *****.  He needs professional help.  Some will say, “He just needs God.”  I disagree.  In the Bible, we are told to share each other’s burdens.  We are told to confess to each other.  The point is that God instituted life to involve healings that include other people.  I’ve been seeing a Psychiatrist for quite some time now.  We’ve made a lot of progress but there is still so much work to be done.  It was hard to admit that I needed help.  It was hard to admit that God didn’t miraculously recreate me into a perfect, valiant man.  Valiance is a journey, and others are needed to complete it.  Your husband needs to be willing to start that journey, and to continue on it as long as it takes… which just might be the rest of his life.

2 thoughts on ““Why Was I Not Enough?” – A Letter From a Hurting Spouse

  1. Thank you for this…. I really needed it !! My husband and I have been going through the same thing…I so badly want him to love me for me and not feel the need to look at that stuff. I have found on numerous times that he has lied and tried to hide things . I’m being to wonder does he really even love me .. I have been so faithful and loving since day one. I try to please him every way I can but it seems it’s never enough, he’s always looking for things I feel like I can’t give him.. This helped me understand a little better, and he comes from a household where his parents watched porn. I just pray that I can stay a strong wife til he overcomes this.. Lord knows im trying so hard….

  2. This is a beautiful post. I have been struggling with my husband’s porn addiction and am hoping that he has viewed me as you have your Wendy. Your article gave me a lot of insights and I thank you for that. God Bless

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