How We Met
I met Ben the night before New Years Eve, 2014. I was living in Detroit at the time, but visiting my family and some friends back in the Bay Area. My friend Kate, her boyfriend Daniel and I were out one night and they mentioned how they thought Daniel’s friend Ben from college and I would get along really well. They set out to make sure we met before I headed back to Detroit.
It was a strange introduction. I knew Kate and Daniel were trying to set us up and I had no interest in meeting anyone…particularly someone who lived across the country. But I humored them because they were having fun and what was the harm? We met in the foyer of Kate’s childhood home. Right away I thought Ben was cute. I liked his curly black hair and light blue eyes. And I was into his shoes (I find that shoes tell the most about someone’s personality) and his jacket – which awkwardly was the first thing I said to him. “Hi, I’m Cassie. I like your jacket.”
Anyway, the rest of the night went fine. He was sorta quiet but made an effort to talk to me at dinner. I didn’t feel much of a spark at first. I thought we’d be friends but didn’t see the night turning into anything else. After fondue, the four of us went back to Kate’s and had some drinks and chatted around the kitchen table. Ben was funny. Really funny. And smart. And we found out we had more in common than I originally had thought. At one point I thought to myself, “Ok, I could see just spending the night and making out. That would be fun.” So…that’s what we ended up doing.
Ben and I slept in Kate’s childhood bedroom (so weird, I know) and just kissed and talked the entire night. It was so fun. We talked about everything and laughed the entire time, about I don’t even know what. And I thought he was really cool. We didn’t do anything more than kiss. I didn’t want to and Ben didn’t push it at all, which I really appreciated. He made me feel respected in a way I didn’t expect.
We kept in touch. The day after our “sleepover” he asked Kate for my number and we talked every single day. Four days after we met, he booked a flight to visit me in Detroit for a week. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. At the time, he was living in Southern California but had plans to move up to San Francisco. I didn’t have set plans to move back to California, but as time went on my job became more and more frustrating and I was feeling ready for a change. We visited each other about once a month and each time leaving felt harder than the last.
One day I made a joke that we should quit our jobs and travel. Ben said “Ok, let’s do it”. And I was like “What? Really??” We thought about it for a few days and decided, what the heck, why not? Neither of us were thrilled with our jobs, we both wanted to travel, we both wanted to be together and we both wanted to end up in Northern California. It felt right, and neither of us looked back.
Getting More Serious
We traveled throughout Europe for three months and for the most part, it went really well. We got along well, overall, and saw and experienced so many amazing things together. When we got back from our trip and moved into our parents’ houses, things started to go a little down hill. I felt so much more distant from him than ever.
About three months after being home, Ben got a job in San Francisco and he moved up to stay at my parent’s with me while looking for housing. Things felt a lot better, but something still felt off. He got his own place in the city and I basically moved in, unofficially. We weren’t planning on moving in together, but I spent so much time at his place it just happened. I got a job in the city as well and we were finally working and living in the same place.
It should have been blissful, at least that’s what I thought. I know that no relationship is perfect but there was just something off with Ben that I couldn’t put a finger on. He seemed distracted a lot. Sometimes I felt really connected with him, like it felt at the beginning when we were just spending a week at a time together. Other times I felt like he was so distant. And I didn’t know why.
Finding Out About Ben’s Porn Addiction
One night, I came home from yoga. Our bedroom door was strangely locked. I knocked on the door and Ben yelled, “one minute!” After a long 30 seconds or so he opened the door and something felt extremely weird. I asked why the door was locked and he said his pants were off because he was pooping. It made no sense to me. Why would his pants be completely off? Why would he lock our bedroom door when we have a separate door to the bathroom?
He seemed to be uncomfortable and trying to change the subject quickly. I just felt like he wasn’t being honest with me. I noticed Ben’s chest was flushed, which happens when we have sex. I asked if he was watching porn. He laughed and said something like “why are you so suspicious of me?” I just didn’t believe him. I felt like a crazy person, but my gut was telling me that he was lying. I asked again. “Were you watching porn because I’m on my period?” I expected him to deny it again but then he just blurted, “Yes. I’m sorry.”
A wave of nausea hit me. I felt so hurt and angry and gross. I stood up and got in the shower, locking the door. I didn’t know what to think, I was humiliated and felt so extremely disrespected. How could he do that to me? He couldn’t wait a few days to have sex with me, he had to go look at some other naked girls and jack off? It just felt so disgusting.
I came out of the shower feeling like I’d be slapped in the face. I didn’t know what to say to him. He tried to act like nothing was wrong but when I called him out he just sort of broke down. He told me he thinks he should talk to someone about it. I asked why and he said, “I think I have a problem.” At that moment all of the anger inside of me hushed. Things felt slow motion and still. A problem? I have a degree in psychology and I’d heard about porn addiction in school, but hadn’t learned much about it.
All of the sudden I felt overwhelmed with sadness and fear. What does that even mean? My reality felt torn right from under my feet. Everything I thought I knew about Ben and our relationship shattered. I tried to ask questions and just listen, without getting angry or attacking. I thought to myself, if this really is a problem, I have to be careful about how I handle myself. I felt like I was trying to convince a scared kitten that it was ok to come out of the bushes and eat the food I set out. If I made any sudden movements I would scare him off and he wouldn’t tell me the truth. Even though the truth was painful for me to hear, I needed to know. He told me he had been trying to stop watching porn for years. He realized it was a problem about three years prior but hadn’t been able to quit.
The rest is sort of a blur. I don’t remember all the details of what he told me. I was just trying to process the idea that my boyfriend is addicted to porn. What was I going to do? Could I handle this? Who could I talk to? I just wanted to turn everything off. The next day was April 1st. Could this be a sick April fools joke? I really wanted it to be. But he was crying. I’d never seen him cry before.
Four months later, now is the first time I’m really writing about this. It is hard for me to do. Looking back at our relationship pre learning about Ben’s porn addiction feels so foreign, like a lifetime ago. So much has happened. I am in the process of grieving what I thought our relationship was, because so much of it feels like a tainted to me now.
The night I caught Ben watching porn, I thought we would break up. I thought it was over. I could never have predicted how much we would both invest in our relationship, to heal us and to help Ben. The past four months have been some of the hardest in my life. As the partner of a porn addict, I’ve been emotionally crushed. But I could never have known how much beauty would come from the healing process. I’ve seen Ben become a stronger and better version of himself.
We have grown so much closer I’ve never felt more supported by anyone in my life. I feel a real partnership between us that I didn’t know was possible. It’s been a roller coaster, to say the least. And it still is. We are seeing a couple’s counselor and each have our own counselors to help us through it. The lack of resources for partners of porn addicts that exists has been disappointing. Through this blog, I hope to create resource for partners that helps us not feel so alone.