Hey Shub! Sorry you had to join us :(
GMC and Ellie both made excellent points, as I would expect from both of them :)
You may also find that you end up finding a lot of camaraderie over in the Spouses of Sex Addicts thread. The 50+ number in a 14 month period most definitely qualifies as compulsive, and you say he's also admitted to a porn addiction. Unfortunately many wives of SAs end up finding out about their husband's double lives when the porn addiction escalates. There are some who never escalate past porn, but to be honest, I think I only know of one over in our SA thread, so I think it's pretty rare.
Edited to Add: Just saw that you posted the same thing over in the SA Thread. That's awesome, I think you'll find that you relate to a lot of what we discuss over there. But this thread is also full of amazing women, and it is GREAT for a laugh! Well, most days, we've been a little down in the dumps lately, understandably so considering all that is going on with the world.
Please know that ALL addicts escalate their addictions in some way, your addict just happens to abuse sex instead of drugs or alcohol. As anyone in a program would say, his life has become unmanageable. If he cannot fully own that, then he's still got a long way to go.
Like gmc said, while infidelity in general is a trauma, everybody has to eat their own particular flavor of infidelity sandwich, and some have more layers and nasty condiments than others. To you, the numbers matter because now he's your "one-and-only", but you're not his.
According to my XH before we got married, I was woman #5. I was actually the "slutty" one, having had approximately 30 total partners pre-marriage. When he said that we were the most compatible, and sex with me was the best he had ever had, I didn't doubt it. I agreed, it was the best for me too, I thought because we were so in love.
After DDay and finding out about the escorts, I literally have no idea how many there were on his end, because I figured out that his entire "I'm the good guy who doesn't sleep with people I'm not in love with" shtick was a total lie. I didn't have a lot of time to do that comparison game in my head because his was an exit A. TBH, my specific hurts lay elsewhere - more than anything else, it was the fact that he had so heavily involved our daughters in his sex addiction and his A. The rage I felt at finding out about the escorts was on a scale of 1-10, maybe about a 7. After all, I knew about his porn/masturbation addiction, so I guess I just wasn't all that surprised that it had escalated to sex workers. To me, the numbers weren't as important as the fact that he was paying for it - as a father of two daughters, I thought he had a higher moral standard than that. But after finding out how much he involved our kids (my step Ds, but still my kids), even if it was tangentially and in ways that they didn't even have direct knowledge of it? I could have ripped his testicles off with my bare hands and that still would not have even begun to satiate my rage.
Speaking of, did you know about his porn addiction, or was that brand new info that you found out after he was arrested?
I don't know how you get past feeling like he has so much to compare to now. To be honest, I had those comparison feelings when I first discovered his masturbation/porn addiction (years before I found out about the escorts and his actual exit A). A lot of the things he watched in porn were things I would never do, and women dressing and speaking in ways that I would never dream of. I'm a pretty hyper sexual person, so it wasn't that I didn't feel like I was experienced enough or anything. I guess the best way that I could describe it was that the stuff he watched was a far cry from anything that I would consider to be "me." Lots of bleach blonde hair dyed black underneath, gobs of makeup with wayyyyy too much mascara and a LOT of hot pink, screaming stereotypical things and making stereotypical noises that all sounded over the top and fake. I'm a redhead who only wears very light makeup on special occasions, and who hasn't worn pink since I was allowed to dress myself. I'm very sexual, but I'm never, ever going to go over the top in any way, at least not in the superficial way they were. So I did have feelings of "if this is what he's in to, then how in the hell is he even attracted to me?". Before my discovery of the porn, I had thought we were compatible in every way sexually, as he consistently extolled my talents and talked about how amazing it was. And I had never felt more free sexually, and completely comfortable to be vulnerable etc. But once discovered the porn I did suffer from feeling like I wasn't "right" for him for a bit.
I didn't know what Reconciliation was back then, or that that's what I was attempting, but I did a lot of things that BSs attempting R seem to do. Setting boundaries, focusing on me etc. One of the important things I did, that I think is relevant to your particular situation, is that I ended up taking back a lot of my sexuality. Focusing on him made me feel like I was competing, or trying to prove myself. At first after discovery I was "hustling for my worth" against the hot-pink-fishnet-wearing-tramp-stamp-brigade, trying to be the best at everything I did in bed, not because I enjoyed it, but because I needed to feel like the best.
But when I realized how crappy that made me feel, I quickly put an end to it. I set strict rules around sex, only having it when I felt 100% connected with him on every possible level. And honestly I made the actual act way more about me and whether or not I was enjoying it.
Where I had previously focused on mutual enjoyment, I kind of lost my original level of interest in that. I still did it, but if he was having a hard time, I stopped focusing on how that made me feel inadequate, or like it was my fault that he couldn't perform, and instead I just focused on me. I would actually spin it in my head and think well whatever he's got going on inside his brain that's making this hard for him, that has nothing to do with me. I'm an awesome person, and I'm great in bed, and if he can't get it up, well I hope he gets turned on by doing things for me, but if he doesn't well then, that's where this particular sexual encounter will end. I stopped taking responsibility for his pleasure. That's not to say that I didn't try hard to make it happen for him, but if it didn't, I refused to let my brain take the blame for it. Again, I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. But in retrospect, when I look at it through the lens of the infidelity education that I got here at SI, that's exactly what I was doing.
I'm not even saying to be intimate with him right now anyway. If you're not feeling up to it, don't. But if/when you do get around to it, try making it about you. Your wants, your needs, whatever they may be. If you enjoy doing things for his pleasure, great, do them! But you have to look at that little devil on your shoulder that's whispering to you about how you don't stack up, and tell them to buzz off.
The main questions that jumped out to me when reading your post weren't actually about the numbers and your comparisons. I was actually thinking there might be some questions you can ask yourself, mainly, how do you feel about all of this? And I don't mean how you feel about how he feels - like how we tend to feel bad that they're feeling bad. I mean how do you actually feel about it?
The main feelings are mad, sad, scared and glad. I'm going to venture a bet that you're not glad about any of it, so let's focus on the others.
Are you mad? Mad that he would put you in such danger? Not only from the potential legal and financial ramifications of soliciting sex workers, but from the physical danger he was putting you in over the course of those 14 months by risking disease? Mad that he put the lives of your children at risk by jeopardizing his livelihood, putting himself in a position where he could be arrested? Or fathering a child with another woman, a potential half sibling they would have to deal with?
Are you sad? Sad that the man you thought you could trust more than anyone in the world ended up betraying you? Sad that the life you had planned for is not your reality anymore, and never will be - you will never live in a reality where your husband has NOT had sex with 50+ sex workers? Sad that whether you R or D, you never thought you would be in a position where you would have to make that choice?
Are you scared? Scared of another shoe dropping, and finding out about even more that you didn't know about?Scared of how your feelings for your H have changed since finding all of this out, and scared those old loving feelings may never come back? Scared that you won't make the "right" choice? Scared that if you decide to R, you put yourself at risk of him doing it again, and having another DDay down the line? Scared of making a decision at all, but also scared of staying in limbo?
I would say it's perfectly normal to be feeling all of those things. And even more that I'm sure I didn't think of because I'm not the one eating your particular sandwich. You might feel them all at once, or you might cycle through them. I do think the best thing you can do for yourself, aside from all of the self care stuff that others have mentioned like meditation, drinking water, eating well etc. is to focus on identifying those feelings.
You absolutely don't have to answer any of those questions above. I'm just posing them as an exercise that might help you. So maybe think about journaling. You can answer some of those questions if any of them jump out at you. And each time an unpleasant feeling or trigger comes up, write it down. Try to figure out the source of it. And try to boil it down to one of those three main feelings - mad, sad, scared. IMO, even mad and sad usually boil down to scared in some way, at least as an underlying factor.
Re: the ideas of working through it as a loss - it is a loss, so you need to mourn it. Mourn the death of the M you thought you had. It takes going through all of those stages that you see about grief and loss, you can't skip any of them before getting to acceptance. And healing is not linear. It's more like a spiral. Kind of like the images below.
Most importantly, don't hold yourself to any kind of timeline. You will heal when you are ready to. This is true of all healing - it will take longer than you want it to, but it will end up being shorter than the scary, indefinite timeline that it feels like you're in right now.
Also, as you continue to spiral out of it, it's important to celebrate the little victories. You will wake up one day and realize that you didn't have any nightmares the night before - that is a win! Are you eating consistently again, even if it's just comfort food? Also a win! Are you able to get through a day, hell, even an hour without crying? That's definitely a win! As Ellie would say (and I'm paraphrasing), sometimes you just have to pat yourself on the back for putting pants on today.
So, what have been some of your "putting pants on" moments? What are you proud of? What are your strengths? What makes you feel confident? What makes you tick? What makes you, you?
[This message edited by HeHadADoubleLife at 3:28 AM, April 7th (Tuesday)]