This is how messed up it was...
Last night, my husband woke up and was cuddling me, then touching me, then we both were wide awake in intimacy. It was beautiful. It always is.
Then after, the doubt creeped in.
Chris lied. Chris always lied. I would wake up in the middle of the night to him touching himself to pictures on the internet. Once I woke up and he was staring at pictures of a woman naked in a bathtub. He was lying next to me in a hotel room in Philadelphia for a friend's wedding. We had just had sex earlier that night. We had sex at least twice a day on a normal day. Physical intimacy is a huge part of how I communicate love and affection and he, well... he was just a sex addict. But I awoke that night in the hotel room, saw only a glimpse of the image on the screen and said, "Christopher?" The second I spoke, he dropped the phone on his chest, turned to me, and tried to have sex with me.
It didn't feel right.
I barely registered what I saw, but it looked like a woman's bare skin. It was suspicious to me that he dropped his phone so quickly. So I asked, as lightly as I could bring myself still half asleep, "Where did this come from?" That's when he snapped.
He pushed himself off of me. "What are you talking about?"
I was taken aback at his reaction. "I'm sorry," I apologized often back then, "It just came out of nowhere, I wasn't ready for it."
"So you think it had to be from somewhere else?"
"Well, you were looking at something on your phone, so I just thought--"
And on the conversation went for over an hour until I was crying and apologizing, feeling crazy that I doubted him. He even showed me his browser that he'd had some other article pulled up. I must have seen it wrong. I was nuts. Later in our relationship, he would refer to me as a nutjob, but that name hadn't been given to me yet.
After a couple hours, as we were about to get ready for the day, I'd felt so horrible about the whole thing that I was beating myself up for being such a terrible partner and ruining an intimate moment with suspicion that I suppose he took pity on me.
"Okay, look," he began. "Don't freak out."
It wasn't the naked woman that upset me. Yes, that stung. I felt inadequate after seeing her pictures. She was young. She didn't have stretch marks from child bearing or scars and loose skin and separated muscles from c-sections. Plus, I had just given him physical intimacy earlier that night. He always said I was the best he had ever had. And then hours after our evening tryst, he was touching himself to someone else's images? She wasn't a porn star. She was a girl on Reddit. But beyond that, it was the way he made me feel about doubting him in favor of what I saw with my own two eyes. It was the fact that he lied to me about it so much so that I assumed I was insane, seeing things, and a horrible partner for doubting him out of nowhere. My gut was telling me one thing, but he was telling me another, and I felt completely off balance.
Later, I learned that the way he lied and insulted and degraded me for it is known as gaslighting and emotional abuse, but I did not know that then.
All I know is that years after that night in Philadelphia, if my husband now wakes me up in the middle of the night, no phone in hand, I have been conditioned to doubt. Steven is always patient and understanding. Thank God he is, otherwise this wouldn't work.
I never considered myself a victim of abuse until a good half a year after the time Chris busted my lip, threatened to take my baby from me, and continued to hurt me emotionally and physically, time and separation from him finally showed me how wrong the entire situation was. How wrong he was, even though he always fought to prove he was right, in every situation.
Being with a man who loves me and consistently wants the best for me shouldn't feel like such an alien concept to me. After all, I want the same for him. But nights like this make me wonder harder than ever what my abuser is doing now, with whomever he has wrapped up in his games, his lies.
And I pray to God she gets out of it quicker than I did.