Sunday, January 6, 2013

How the Bleep Did I Marry a Pedophile?

In the wake of the devastation of my ex-husband's arrest for possession of child pornography and his subsequent diagnosis as a pedophile, this question has haunted me.  No one ever purposes to marry an abuser, addict or pedophile and yet it happens over and over again.  We think we are marrying our Prince Charming and are shocked when we discover that he is a frog with warts.  We feel tricked, betrayed and confused.  It is surreal; not what we signed up for, not what we expected.

Two friends and I were discussing this very question after our recovery meeting when I blurted out something that I had heard my grandmother say repeatedly of my grandfather.  And in quoting her, I realized the answer to my question.  My paternal grandparents were from the hills of Kentucky and though they moved to the Midwest, they never lost their Appalachian roots.  Grandma often said that Grandpa would "screw a snake if it would hold still long enough." I don't remember what I thought or felt about this as a child but do recall the whispers about Grandpa's other family--the kids he fathered with another woman on the other side of the mountain.

And things weren't much better on my mother's side of the family.  I recall the stories of her father's sexual exploits--his having sex with women upstairs while his wife lay dying of leukemia in the bedroom below.  My grandmother, as the story goes, would change the dirty bed linens and throw away the used condoms the morning after.  But both grandmothers stayed; both put up with men behaving badly; both wore the familiar mask of martyrdom and "suffered through."  And that's how I ended up married to a pedophile.

In a graduate class on substance abuse, I wrote a research paper detailing predictors for substance use or abuse, particularly focusing on the quality of the parental marriage as a risk factor.  I drew a genogram of both families and since their roots were in Appalachia called them the "Hatfields" and the "McCoys."  Because addictions, even those related to substance use, are often hidden I identified anyone with a smoking habit as a potential addict.  I analyzed four generations of two very large families and what I found was shocking.  There was not a solid marital relationship on either side of the family in generations one (my grandparents) and two (my parents) and those prone to addictions far outnumbered those with no visible addiction present.
The McCoys

The Hatfields

I realize that the above graphics are hard to read but suffice it to say that any red mark indicates a troubled marital relationship and any yellow indicates an addiction-prone individual.  My family tree is riddled with individuals struggling with addiction, infidelity, molestation and secret-keeping.  This is my heritage--the one no one wants to talk about at family reunions.  But it is in refusing to talk about it, in the pervasive silence on the issue that the disease is able to grow and is transmitted from one generation to another.  I am breaking the silence because I want it to stop with my generation.  I look at my precious daughter and granddaughter and want a different future for them.  In order for that to happen, though, I have to be willing to face the hard things, to speak them in the daylight, to give voice to this horrendous history.  Hear me roar, "This stops with me!"


  1. Is it possible that the man you married showed you the person he wished he could be instead of who he really was. And it was over time that trying to hide his true self became more difficult?

    1. That's a good question but one I am completely unable to answer.

  2. In August I found out my husband was a pedophile and that he had been molesting my daughter he is in jail nail and likely will be until he dies this is what I often wonder

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    I am so very sorry for you and your daughter. How are you both doing now? Is there anything we can do to help?