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How do I get rid of debilitating guilt?
Family & Relationships
Jan 20 2013, 00:04
I've been married to a drug/porn addicted husband for 25 years. My husband had become psychotic on occasion and been hospitalized for it a couple of times. I was in a position of being his caregiver and fulfilling his sexual needs when he requested. He usually used porn and masturbation for this, but also used me and had me talk in detail about being with other men while he watched. He would criticize me and call me names during sex and I used to cry during and after, feeling like he had just raped me. I was also responsible for trying to make money while being available anytime he needed me to tend to his psychological needs. I was miserable and under a lot of stress (he is unable to work). Whenever I asked for a divorce he would cry and play on my sympathy and make me change my mind.
I recently had a fling with someone I worked with. I let this man manipulate me into believing and doing things that went against my personal moral standards-even though I had talked of such things to my husband, I would never act on them- I can't believe what I have done! We didn't have intercourse, but behaved very badly. I didn't realize how good it felt to be made to feel attractive and desirable and treated like my feelings mattered and I caved in.
One evening, I refused to come home from work until my husband was gone. My daughter went and told him I wasn't coming home and talked him into seeking drug treatment, which he did. He went into inpatient rehab. My kids thought all our problems were drug related at this time. They are grown and we have a 22 year old son still living with us. Anyway, I ended the relationship with the other man and quit the job. I let my husband come home to try again, and confessed to my kids and to him about what I had done. I also told my kids the things about their dad that they didn't know. Now I feel so guilty about the whole thing. I have gone through gut wrenching guilt that I didn't think I would live through. I am now trying to heal. I have explained my feelings and tried to explain how this happened to my husband. He says he understands and is trying. It's been a month now and still everyday he questions me and becomes sarcastic and makes me feel so low and filthy. I am truly sorry and it won't happen again, but I just don't know how to make it work with my husband if I keep letting him make me feel so guilty. I know it's my fault too, but is it wrong for me to also say he had something to do with it? I don't think I would have done anything like that if I'd had my husband, but he had long ago left me for drugs and porn and made me feel worthless and ugly. He says he's no longer using porn and hasn't tried to get me to entertain any sex fantasies, which, I will refuse to do ever again. He now says he never meant any of it and can't believe I did what I did as I have always taken pride in being honest and faithful, but how can I endure his questions and obsession over it and not have the guilt consume me again?
Jan 22 2013, 14:34
"but is it wrong for me to also say he had something to do with it?"
Kitten, of course your husband had something to do with it. After neglectful, irresponsible misbehavior for 25 years, he left you extremely vulnerable to anyone who would offer some positive attention.
Your marriage is, and has been, on unstable ground for years. Both of you have contributed to the situation, though I would argue that your husband has been the blatantly irresponsible party for the entire time. Your "mistake," so to speak, was that you tolerated it. It has only been though your heroic effort that your family has lasted this long. Yes, you probably should have officially ended the marriage before pursuing another relationship. But that is now history. And since your husband decided to continue the marriage, it is time to take a different approach.
Your husband, like most addicts, has been manipulating and using others (particularly you) to maintain his life and habits. His devotion is and always has been about self-preservation. His addiction renders him incapable of generosity toward other. When you threatened to leave, he did what he had to do in order to maintain your involvement in his care. However, he has most likely not become a more generous and caring person toward you. What he is doing now is using your mistake as a tool to continue manipulating you. As long as he can stoke your guilt, he knows you won't leave and he can continue his selfish and irresponsible behavior.
Rather than acknowledge and address his own vulnerability, guilt, inadequacy, addiction, etc, and, therefore, take responsibility for it, he tries to take the "superior" position and reminds you of your misbehavior. In other words, rather than work on himself, he puts you on defense.
And because you are an honorable enough person to feel guilt about what you did, this tactic works. It puts you on the defensive and no one pays attention to his misbehavior. It is a diversion from dealing with his "stuff".
So stop letting him do that to you. When the conversation is about his poor behavior and he brings up your past, keep the focus on him by saying, "I realize I made a mistake and we will deal with that later, right now the issue is that you ____________." Then stay focused until it is resolved no matter how many times he tries to put you on defense. Addicts can be expert manipulators so be strong.
I would certainly suggest family counseling. I would hope that his drug rehab involved some of that. See if you can figure out a way to continue it.
PS: You have sacrificed 25 years to this man (or, I suspect, to your children). Now that your children are adults, do you really want to spend more time dealing with your husbands problems? Consider some individual counseling to help you make that decision.
Jan 26 2013, 19:58
Thank you and I am glad it helped. What I did, though, took only a few minutes. You have worked for over 20 years to hold your family together, I assume, for the sake of your children. That is a heroic sacrifice given your husband's behavior. Should you choose to devote the next 20 years to your own personal fulfillment, don't let anyone make you feel guilty.
Feb 2 2013, 17:05
"I let this man manipulate me into believing and doing things that went
against my personal moral standards-even though I had talked of such
things to my husband, I would never act on them- I can't believe what I
have done! We didn't have intercourse, but behaved very badly. I didn't
realize how good it felt to be made to feel attractive and desirable and
treated like my feelings mattered and I caved in."
What specifically was the bad behavior?
You need to remind your husband that this is what he fantasized about, and while you were not doing it on his terms, maybe you had some fantasies of your own and acted on them.
"...everyday he questions me and becomes sarcastic and makes me feel so
low and filthy."
Tell him that if he can't get past what you did, forgive you, and cease the mental abuse, you will leave him (and make good on it if he won't or can't stop). He only does it because he thinks he can get away with it. When he is sure he can't, he will either stop or you will be free of someone who doesn't love you enough to stop intentionally causing you mental anguish and damage.
The guilt will only consume you if your husband cannot get past the things you did. Remind him that he is not perfect and neither are you. Whether you stay together or not, he and you must get past these mutual transgressions and concentrate on the future (things you can change) as opposed to things in the past that you have no control over.