As I have said in past posts, I have started going back to the women’s group for spouses of sex addicts on Wednesday nights. It hadn’t met for 2 weeks because of schedule conflicts and vacations, but last night it started back up. The turnout ended up being rather small (just me and one other woman plus the couselor), but it really helped me to put things into perspective.
There is a woman who I have gotten close to that is dealing with a husband who has no real remorse, desire to change, or respect for her. He had a long-term affair with her best friend and has continued to make small forms of contact (checking her Facebook page, seeing and talking to her at their children’s’ sports events, etc). He also has tons of anger and resentment towards her and sees himself as the primary victim in the relationship because her focus has been on their 8 children for the past 20 years and not fulfilling his every whim and desire. He is resentful, unwilling to participate in regular marriage or individual counseling, and constantly defensive of himself and dismissive of her needs and feelings. His arrogance and delusions astound me. When I listened to her stories and struggles from the past few weeks I felt such anger and indignation for her. I also felt a deep respect and appreciation for the things my husband is doing right.
I really started thinking about how lucky I am that my husband is willing to put so much effort into making our marriage stronger. The last few weeks have been full of a lot of progress and successes. Sure, there have been a few low points and some disappointments – there are always bound to be some of those. But when I step back and look at where we are now compared to where we have been I feel proud and hopeful. I really have a lot of things to be extremely thankful for. That might sound a little strange given our history, some of my more painful posts, and the fact that my husband is a sex addict. It is still very true, though. Here are a few recent examples of what I mean…
Mr. Mess has been really turning a corner in his thinking. I can’t quite put my finger on what has changed, but I can see that he is actually starting to “get” the work and effort required to have a happy, healthy relationship. And he is willing to do it! That is huge! I can’t even begin to describe how safe and loved that makes me feel. This week we have had at least 3 really good, meaningful conversations that lasted for a while (over an hour). Even a year ago it wouldn’t have been possible to talk about triggers, emotions, and deep feelings without defensiveness, yelling, stonewalling or all three becoming part of the mix. I recognize that shows a real change in both of us – the way we approach each other, open up, become vulnerable, and break down our defenses and pride is paying off.
He has been very validating when I have a bad day or a trigger. He has started telling me that he is sorry for the part he played in making me feel this way. If I get angry or upset over something he is willing to empathize and tell me that he can understand why I would feel that way. It’s amazing how those simple things can just pop the balloon of anger and resentment that I feel. I am finding that I am much more willing and able to take a step back, see things from his perspective, and offer understanding and forgiveness in return. It is also becoming easier to admit my faults and the things I need to adjust in my thinking and behavior. Our communication has improved 10 fold, and so has our trust. That has been a big hurdle, and it seemed insurmountable at first. Now I’m finding that all of these little things really add up and help in ways that I couldn’t have imagined before.
Mr. Mess is finally starting to really take the initiative he needs to take. He is in individual counseling again. He went once last week and has another appointment today. He isn’t just going, though… he is really fully participating. His IC has a book that they were working through on recovering from sex addiction that has exercises and deals with all aspects of addiction like what it is, recognizing the damage it has done in your life, how to identify triggers and change behaviors, and the list goes on. He was part-way through the book when he stopped going a few months back. This time he took the initiative to say that he feels he needs to start from the beginning, give it his all, and follow through all the way to the end. He came up with that all on his own – without me even suggesting or hinting about it. That makes me feel so happy because I know he is taking the reigns of his recovery, which is the only way it can really work.
Along the same lines, he is going to SA meetings at least once a week and sometimes twice. That was something that I requested that he go back to doing, but this time around I feel like he is fully committed. Something fundamental seems to have changed inside him. He was very resistant to SA at first, and I think to an extent the entire time he was going. His therapist was insistent that recovery takes 3 prongs: individual counseling, medication (if necessary to stabilize moods, deal with depression and anxiety, etc.), and group meetings. He went for a little while and complained the whole time. In a few angry outbursts during arguments he would say that he doesn’t even think he really is a SA. Now at least he really accepts it and is giving it a real shot to see what he can get out of the program. He still struggles with some aspects of it, especially the religious stuff like prayers, “God” in the steps, etc. We have found atheist/agnostic 12 steps that he is using now. More than that, though, this time around I see a change in his overall attitude.
We are also doing marriage counseling twice per month. It has been very helpful in understanding each other. We have done the love languages, which I talked about in Physical Touch, and we both took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and talked about what our results mean (more about that later). Not only that, but he is doing some reading, he has been opening up and talking to me about it, and we have committed to doing couple’s exercises on a regular basis from a few books. One of the most exciting things, though, is that we have decided to go to Retrouvaille. It is a weekend program designed for married couples that focuses on “our emotional lives; family of origin issues; modern society’s attitudes toward marriage; managing conflict and anger; personality styles and how they influence our relationship; trust; forgiveness and healing; sexual intimacy; belonging to each other; and communication skills.” I have heard positive feedback about the program, and there is one not too far from us in July. We talked about it last night, and Mr. Mess seems very enthusiastic and more than willing to attend. Yay!
All of these great, positive things have really made me realize that I have a great man who is willing to work on himself and our marriage because he loves me. How lucky am I? We are working together to change, grow stronger, and become each other’s support. There are more great things to come. That needs to be my focus, even when I’m having a rough time or a bad day. When we have setbacks, I need to remind myself of everything we have made it past and how much farther along the road we are now. I am choosing to focus on the fact that our committment will get us through whatever comes our way. As long as we both continue giving it our all, we will be okay.