In the beginning, my spouse and I did many loving things together as a married couple.  It wasn’t all bad, and I have plenty of pretty pictures to prove it.  But as the addictive behavior continued, the marriage deteriorated, and life got uglier.

My spouse fell asleep on the couch most nights, and when we did the deed, it lacked intimacy. It was mechanical, self-medicated, and cold.  Snuggling, pillow talk, and feeling like young lovers died. He got gussied up on Sundays going to a new church alone. He would come home 4-5 hours later for dinner, treating me like a stranger.  My spouse woke us up in the wee hours on Christmas to open gifts so he could get it over with, then leave for his AA meetings around 7 am. I enjoyed assembling toys for my youngest and watching my oldest model boots and jewelry in his absence. I hid my bitterness finishing Christmas dinner. I was preoccupied with my spouse’s whereabouts and peeked out the window, waiting until he returned at 2:37 in the afternoon. I met my spouse at the door and asked him where he’d been, and he told me: none of my business and walked past me. I was humiliated and numb. To this day, I can still see the contempt on his freshly-washed face.

I hear the echoes of past dysfunction repeating itself today. My spouse slipped up and left his mail on the table. He grabbed it before I got it, but not before I noticed the stack was addressed to his separate post office box. I wasn’t surprised because my father also kept a separate post office box. I checked my spouse’s emails and texts until he started taking his phone to the bathroom. I called the drugstore to check on my prescription, and the pharmacist said I had two ready: Two. Yes, two: Tylenol 3 and Viagra. More secrets. I knew he was cheating but didn’t know about Viagra. I’ll keep that secret to myself for now. I wondered why he wasn’t demanding sex from me lately. And that’s the good news, not worrying about being pressured. Going through the motions of dutiful sex that lacked intimacy left me feeling used, not to mention a waste of time.

I suffered in silence. Whatever self-esteem I had was gone. Money prevented me from leaving, and even though my spouse refused to leave, he checked out of the marriage. My spouse moved out of the bedroom and onto the couch in the living room. Our tax filing status is: married filing separate. We have separate bank accounts, go to separate churches, and pay bills separately since my spouse demanded we split the bills. Cheating is expensive, home repairs get neglected or abandoned, and more burdens are placed on me. The more my spouse cheats, the less financial help I get, which keeps me broke and leads to another round of fights.  My resentments grew, not for what was but for what wasn’t—a good and loving marriage.

Our bedroom is my bedroom now. We’re married but separate. It is what it is and I decided to make the best out of a bad situation. I cleaned my room from top to bottom and put-up pictures I liked. I bought flowers, scented candles, stylish new window treatments, and fresh bedding. The energy has shifted, and my bedroom has become my private, peaceful retreat amid infidelity.