Pretty used to be my thing. That gives me something in common with most teenage girls, I guess. Except, no; I was just a little bit prettier than the norm. So it reads like a Shakespearean tragedy to think that less than ten years later I would be lying face down in a pool of my own tears, covering my fourteen month old stretch marks with a towel and screaming from the pain of failure. I couldn’t keep a man. And I should have been good at that.

Whenever I began posting about my failed (now redeemed) marriage, I’d get this little bug who would sit inside my ear and whisper horrible lies about why someone might actually care what I had to say. I feared you’d click over to my blog just to see what I looked like. You all want to know if I look like someone whose husband would cheat, right? Am I pretty enough, thin enough, happy enough to shatter your preconceived ideas about a happy marriage? More importantly, am I good enough to shatter my own?

For two long years after my husband embraced the title of recovering addict and stopped viewing himself as a lie, I tried, agonizingly, to redeem myself in the public eye. And it didn’t matter if said public actually knew he had strayed or not; I was branded with the face (and body) of a failure.

There’s a horrible saying in wives’ recovery circles that the wife is a salad (or some other such vegetable) and the mistress is a cheeseburger (or another fast and easy meal). It’s meant to be comforting because, clearly, the salad is better for her husband than the cheeseburger. But, seriously, what man wouldn’t prefer to get fat on meat?  I remember standing up and yelling at the last group meeting I ever attended, “I don’t care about the rest of you, but I am not a freaking salad!” I think I had fully believed the lie, that I was healthier but less desirable, until that instant when righteous anger arose and taught. That was an important moment of turning for me.

If you want to know the truth, wives, and if you happen to like food analogies, you are a fillet Mignon and she (whether person or porn) is a McDonald’s cheeseburger. And this is not about dehumanizing the mistress! She is a person, too, and probably one with far deeper scars than I bear. I honestly pray she will find someone who will see her as, ummm….a fillet. But the married man who reduces her to “mistress” certainly doesn’t see her that way.

So why is he with her when anyone in their right mind would prefer fillet Mignon to McDonald’s? You see, the problem with cheeseburgers is that they are effortless, and effortless presents itself very attractively to the wounded addict.

We’ve all driven home after a hard day, and, when faced with fulfilling our hunger quickly or waiting for a satisfying meal, chosen the fast food and almost instantly regretted our decision (not, mind you, that I’m equating the sin of fast food to the sin of adultery).

The problem with sex addiction is that is really does equate the sin of fast food to the sin of adultery. Both are need meeters…and that’s pretty much all they are. Sex addiction removes sex from the holy and reduces it to mere medicating gratification….gratification that, when needed, focuses almost solely on the kind of ready-to-order availability that only strengthens the fast food analogy.

For a sex addict, an affair (whether online or off) is about medicating and fulfilling a perceived need; it is not about the joining of two people. Where a mistress is a means to a temporary end, a wife is a woman to love (which for the addict often requires the droning monotony of reality and the weighty effort of emotion).   The recovering addict, though, the recovering addict sees this. And as a recovering spouse, I can see it too.

In other words, there is hope.


Sarah Valente