marriage: an investigation

When Paying for Sex and Using Cocaine Don’t Tear You Apart

They say you can never understand someone else’s marriage. But this week, New York Magazine and the Cut decided to try. We interrogated dozens of couples (and a throuple) to see what makes their marriages work — or not.

Anonymous, Married 7 Years, 4 Months

So he had a work event about two hours from us for his job. I had an event the next day, so he was supposed to be home to watch the kids so I could stay overnight. And I get the call and he said he was DUI. We’d already been having a little bit of trouble. He’d been on a work trip and I saw texts at 2, 3 a.m. We were already in counseling — it was clear he was holding in something bad. And I was like, What the fuck? A month before he was arrested, I’d written this long letter saying that this just doesn’t feel right anymore, there’s something going on. I was like, “I don’t feel like this little family is what you want anymore.” He was there, but he wasn’t really present.

My dad was the one who found out the real charges. He called and told me: possession of cocaine and soliciting a prostitute. I kept thinking, Is there cocaine in my house? If I’d been pulled over and caught with it with my children in the car, my kids would have been taken away. My heart dropped to my stomach. I was thinking, I don’t know him. I have two children with him, he’s always going to be in my life, but I have no idea who he is. I go out that night with a bunch of clients, and I’m thinking, I could fuck that dude. I could fuck that dude. He was in jail for three days thinking I’m gone, the kids are gone, his whole life’s gone.

I talked to him twice during those three days because I needed some answers. I was like, “How long?” He’d always talked to girls to get attention because he’s an insecure fuck, but he didn’t do anything until five years ago, when one of his friends showed him Backpage. He made the choice a hundred times to go to the strip club in the middle of the day. The sales industry is like that; there are sleazy-ass fucking people. But I didn’t know he was one of them.

He gets out of jail and he just looked like this defeated child. And he said, “I don’t know what to say, but I will answer anything you want to ask me.” And I was like, “Please don’t touch me.” He tried to hug me and I was like, “You are so gross to me right now. Why did you even ask me to marry you?” I found a credit card he’d hidden from me, and I would look at the dates of some of the parlors and it was right around the time my child was born.

He was bawling, and he just kept saying sorry and that wasn’t him. He was like, “I’m so sorry for what I did, but I can’t tell you how good it feels to just be able to get it all out.” He went to therapy for sex addiction. He said, “I’m gonna change, it’s all out now, there’s no turning back, this is my chance to feel better.” And I was like, “That’s fine, but you are my roommate in the apartment. You’re moving into the kids’ room, and you have to stay here because I won’t trust shit you’re doing outside.” I’m pushing my feelings aside to make sure my kids have a strong father, because they deserve it. I thought, Shit, if there weren’t kids involved, would I have just said fuck it and dipped and never talked to you again? Probably.

I was going into the closet and crying so the kids wouldn’t see me. I said some horrible things. One time I was with my sister and I looked at my daughter and I said, “Looking at my daughter makes me want to have sex with hookers and a do a key-load of cocaine,” and I got up and walked to the closet and started crying.

Watching him now, I can see the weight has lifted off his shoulders. That shitty posture has gone. He’s become a much better father. The amount of time he puts into them now, when I have shit to do, he’s just like, “Okay, what date?” The other day, he said, “I know how it feels to be a good, honest person, and I don’t want to go back to that life.” Now I’ll ask him a question and he’s like, “Can you give me time to answer?” And then the next morning, he’ll write me a long letter answering whatever it was that I asked.

I feel less vulnerable toward him now, but I feel more vulnerable toward life. I’m cautious for my heart. I don’t fully trust him. I haven’t told him how great it is to watch somebody change, because I don’t want to give him my full heart again. I love him. I haven’t made a final decision about where our marriage will go, but shit, if we can get through this, then I’m pretty sure we’re solid for the rest of our lives.

*A version of this article appears in the April 1, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

When Paying for Sex and Using Cocaine Don’t Tear You Apart