When Sue Gagliano discovered that Tom, her husband of 12 years, had been cheating on her and that he was a sex addict, she faced some difficult choices. Would this be the end of their marriage? She decided to give him another chance--and in the course of his recovery and the rebuilding of their marriage, she learned a lot about herself and how she enabled him in his behavior. Today, Sue looks back with gratitude and pride at how hard they both worked to repair their relationship for themselves and for their children.
My husband, Tom, and I had been married about 12 years when one day, he told me he had made an appointment with my therapist, who I hadn’t seen in a few years. I sensed that it was going to be something important and I was not looking forward to going. I remember that as we left our house for the drive there, I looked back at our home and thought to myself, “Something dramatic is going to happen and it’s never going to be the same again.” I was right. During the meeting, Tom revealed that he’d been unfaithful.
I knew that he’d struggled with addiction. About 9 years before, when we’d been married for about 3 years, I'd learned that he’d been gambling, and that it had started soon after we were married. His father and his three brothers were also gamblers. Tom attended Gamblers Anonymous for this problem, but little did I know that he would switch addictions a few years later.
Tom revealed that the encounters were happening at work. He worked in a factory in Brooklyn, which was somewhere I never visited. When he came home, he was always a great father and an attentive husband, and he enjoyed being with his family. So while I was surprised, I did start to remember back to times when he’d acted strange. I remembered times when I’d turned to him and said, “Is everything okay?”
A private shame
When Tom confessed his infidelity, it was the most painful thing I’d ever experienced! My world turned upside down. At the time, we had four children and the youngest was only 7 months old. I did not want them to know what was going on because I didn’t want to screw up their childhoods. They only found out much later, when my husband wrote a book in which he talked about his mistakes and his recovery.
I also didn’t tell my family or friends—I didn’t tell anyone about this. I was just too ashamed, and I took on his shame. But soon after Tom’s disclosure, I did join a therapy group for women who were dealing with partners with a sex addiction. These weekly meetings with women who shared the same pain as me were life-changing and life-saving.
After the meeting with my therapist, Tom was told that had to be open and honest with me. My therapist told him that for the next 2 weeks, he had to answer every question that I asked him, no matter what it was. I also started to read a book I purchased about sexual addiction. I learned that usually when the addict discloses, they may hold something back. And that is exactly what happened: About a week later, he told me that he had another encounter with another woman at work. It was one more stab through the heart.
After falling apart, I expressed my anger, sadness, and disappointment. It was the first time in our marriage that I saw my husband cry, and I actually felt sorry for him. I didn’t want to ask him to move out. I loved him dearly but I was very confused. I became very insecure about my body and I found myself feeling unattractive. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride. There were days I wanted to get close to him again and other days when I could not stand the sight of him. I felt like I was going insane, wondering who else he was with, what he did with them, and how often he did it. That’s why I needed to talk to other people in recovery; Tom was someone I could always talk to but I had a hard time talking to him about this.
Despite the pain of everything, I didn’t consider leaving him permanently. The bottom line was, I loved him. Tom was the one of the kindest, most non-judgmental people I had ever met. I thought working through this pain with him was worth it for not only us but also our children. And Tom walked the walked and didn’t just talk the talk. He was seeing a therapist, was in group therapy, had found a sponsor, and attended 12-step meetings. He came from very dysfunctional childhood and knew he had to work on himself. That helped me feel like our family was a priority to him. Seeing him working so diligently gave me hope.
Communication is key
We started to be more honest with each other. If something were bothering us, we would talk about it rather than hold it in. When I started to become afraid, I would ask him, “Is everything okay?” and he would always calm my nerves and apologize for the pain he was putting me through.
Today, our marriage is much healthier. We are there for one another. One of the rewards we both received from this experience is that our children see their parents supporting and communicating with each other instead of one of us shutting down, running away or raging at the other. Communication was the key to building intimacy again.
To women who've just learned their husbands are cheating and/or abusing substances, I would say, regardless of whether or not you go forward in their relationship, you need to seek out your own individual support. I would recommend that they find a therapist and also attend meetings for support. Do not suffer this alone. I remember turning to my husband and saying “I am powerless over your addiction.” I love what they say in family support meetings—you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.”
I am really happy and proud that we survived this together. It wasn’t easy and it took years to regain the trust again, but the fact is, we weathered this storm together and showed our children that conflict can be resolved and that we could grow even closer. I initially thought that my husband was the only problem in our relationship. Later, I realized, through therapy and recovery, that I enabled him (especially during the gambling). I learned that by trying to control his actions, I only created pain. I started to realize what I had to work on, not only for my husband’s sake but also for my sake and my children.
Her husband, Tom, is now a life coach and published author who works to help others overcome issues ingrained in their childhood and teaches parents how to give their children positive and loving messages that they may have not had in their own childhoods.