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Being Contemplative

5 Jul

I wonder all the time if there is really meaning to life. I’m not sure.  I was born.  I’m here going through the motions.  One day I will die and my life will be over.  I think meaning in life exists in those that you effect.  How you reach people.  The way you make others feel.  The creativity and ideas you leave behind.  The love that you shared.  That’s one of the reasons my marriage is so important to me.  The fact that I’m not going to discard him as if his life has no meaning to me is part of what defines who I am.

I am also learning to find meaning within myself.  All of my worth isn’t tied to the people around me.  That’s something that I’m learning every day.  Even if I’m no Shakespeare (although if you listen to some even Shakespeare was no Shakespeare), I have wisdom.  Even if I’m no Einstein, I have intelligence.  Even if I’m never famous, I have talents.  Even if I’m not a super model, I am beautiful.  Even if I never leave a lasting mark on the world, I am here now and affecting those around me in small ways every day.

I’m not really going to delve extremely far into the “meaning of life,” because everyone under the sun has already done that (so it seems).  I will say that I have vowed to really live my life fully.  I’m not even sure what that means right now, but I’m taking it day by day.  Two days ago it was about expressing myself through a new tattoo.  Yesterday it was about relaxing and letting myself enjoy some fried chicken.  Today I’m not sure what it is going to be about.  But I will make sure that I do something that brings me joy.  Because, ultimately, that is one of the most important things we can get out of life.

Back to the idea of meaning in general…  Yesterday I thought even more about the meaning behind my new tattoo.  I delved into it a bit in my original post, but there is even more symbolism behind the turtle.  After some quick research I discovered that many cultures have meaning attached to the turtle.  The symbolism that I relate the most to is a mish-mash of multiple cultures.  The overarching theme across time is that turtles represent endurance, strength, stability, and longevity (many sea turtles live for upwards of 80 years).  They are also said to provide protection, good fortune and happiness.  That sounds great!

The turtle’s careful deliberative movements are a rich symbol for inner reflection and peace.  As someone who tends toward the contemplative side of things, that definitely represents me well.  Turtles are also considered to have courage because they have to stick their necks out in order to walk.  In African fairy tales the tortoise is considered the most clever animal.  In the Aesop fable the tortoise and the hare, the determination and work ethic of the turtle makes him the winner of the race.  The turtle is part of nearly every culture in some significant way, and are involved in creation myths of various cultures including Native American, Asian, Mesopotamian, and many others.  The certainly have a lot of meaning to people other than just myself.

So, I guess if a simple animal can have that much meaning then I certainly do, too.

A Holiday, a Tattoo and a Piercing

4 Jul

Happy 4th of July to all!  It is pretty strange that the holiday falls on a Wednesday this year.  It puts a bit of a damper on the celebration since I worked yesterday and have to go back to work tomorrow.  A lot of fireworks shows have been cancelled in my area due to impending weather and the storms we had this weekend.  So what’s a girl to do in order to make the holiday special?  Get a tattoo and a piercing of course!

That’s right.  I left work, headed to the chiropractor, then went in search of a good tattoo parlor.  The first one I went to didn’t have a piercer on staff that night.  Not to be deterred, I headed downtown to a parlor I know has a great piercer and lots of choices for jewelry.  I got there and wasn’t disappointed.  Some quick paperwork and a care instruction lecture later and I had a nose ring!  Here it is:

I was debating between that and a Monroe piercing, which my friend Wendy was kind enough to tell me about.  I asked a few questions about both and decided on the nose ring for a few reasons.  First, the Monroe swells a lot more.  Secondly, I has been a little leery of a piercing through my mouth because I tend to get ulcers a lot – every time I bite my lip or the inside of my mouth.  I couldn’t imagine getting one of those on a new piercing – Ouch!  The most important reason I decided to get a nose piercing, though, is exactly what I commented to Wendy about why I wasn’t sure about it.  My comment to her was,

“I have always been a little leery of nose piercings because I have a little bump on my nose that I tend to be slightly self-conscious about.  I have come to like it and realize that it’s part of my charm and uniqueness…  But I still was never really sure about getting a piercing there.”

I decided to own my nose, little hump and all!  It’s time that I accept the things that make me different and see them as beautiful instead of a flaw (like I starting doing in What Makes Me Beautiful?).  This was a great first step to that.

I had also found a great tattoo that I wanted to get, and asked it there was an artist in that could take care of it for me.  Unfortunately, they only had one guy in yesterday and he had a line of customers waiting for him.  Oh well…  I was just about content with my nose ring.  I texted my Mom and sister showing them.  My sister had a few questions, so I called her up.  In the course of our conversation she told me about another tattoo parlor close to our house that also does piercings.  I thought they were strictly a tattoo place, but she said no.  She also told me that they had a really great artist and reasonable prices.  I decided to swing by there and check it out.

As soon as I walked in I felt at home.  The two guys there were super-cool.  I brought in the photo of what I was thinking about and we got to talking.  I had a few other photos of various other tattoos that I would like to combine the look of to make a custom one.  That is generally all they do, so they were really stoked about the idea.  They took the photos and said in a few days they will have a drawing made up for me.  In the meantime, I headed to the chair to get my turtle tattoo done.  It was pretty close to closing time – about an hour – when I walked in, but the guys there were more than happy to get started and stay a little over if they needed to.  Very cool!

I decided on a turtle again for a few reasons.  I have always loved turtles.  I can’t quite explain it, but I think they are amazing creatures.  They glide through the water with such grace and beauty.  I also love the independence that they have from the day they are born.  There’s nothing quite as difficult as being abandoned on the beach by your mother to struggle from your egg, dig up to the surface through sand, and make your own way to the ocean.  They are resilient and carry their home and protection around with them.  They aren’t incredibly social (like me).  The turtle is also a reminder to get out of my shell sometimes.  Let others in.  Be vulnerable.  Maintain my independence while not blocking others out.  It is a reinforcement of who I am and a positive reminder to keep growing.  Here’s the finished product fresh after it was done:

Keep in mind that it is a little bloody, so the colors aren’t completely showing up right.  The center is actually pink, and I will be going back in a few weeks to get it touched up and have a brighter pink added.  They are going to be ordering a special Chinese ink that is so bright it is almost flourescent.  That is the color in the original photo I brought in, and the artist was already planning to order some because it is apparently the best ink on the market.  I’m also going to get him to tweak a few things.  Overall, I love it!

The experience was very empowering.  It was great to just do something for me.  My head did start spinning at one point in the middle and I actually passed out.  It was quite embarrassing because that has never happened to me before and I have 3 other tattoos.  The reason it happened, though, is because I stupidly went in to get a tattoo when I hadn’t eaten in 6 hours.  I had lunch around 1 and walked in to get my tattoo a little after 7.  I was so busy running around town that I didn’t actually stop and eat something.  Silly girl!  They gave me a Pepsi and some M&M’s.  After a cool towel and about 5 minutes of resting on a massage table I was ready to go again.  The rest of the tattoo went really smoothly.  They are great guys there, and they kept me talking about all sorts of stuff – from zombies (we are kindred spirits) to politics to religion to redneck trailer parks at the beach.  They were my kinda people!  :)

Today I’m not sure what I’m gonna do.  Other than moisterizing my tattoo every hour and cleaning my nose ring a few times that is.  I have contemplated going shopping, but that seems like it could be a self-defeating mission.  Not only is it over 100 degrees outside (for the 10th day in a row or something like that), but I’m not sure what the department stores will look like today.  I sure do hate crowds.  Whatever I decide to do it will be something that I want to do because it makes me happy.  I hope you do the same!

Farting on the Massage Table

3 Jul Massage

See how relaxed the woman in this picture looks?  When your entire body relaxes that way, all your stress melts, and your muscles begin loosening it is a great feeling.  Until your body gets a little too relaxed.  The dim lights, soothing sounds of waterfalls, and quiet music make for such a peaceful environment.  It’s almost like being in a library, only more serene and low-key.  It’s the last place you want to let one rip.  I’ll put it out there right away that I didn’t actually fart on the massage table, but it took quite a bit of willpower not to.

Let me back up a bit.  Yesterday I had a massage.  It was part of a Groupon deal at a chiropractor that was set up about a month ago.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  After the lie discovery I could use a little quality “me time.”  I also decided to give the 180 a real try for the first time.  I found it a few months back, around the same time as our D-Day antiversary.  I wasn’t ready to implement it at the time because I still wasn’t focused on myself and my own happiness.  I was too wrapped up in everything he was doing, saying, feeling, etc., etc.  Since then I have used some of the techniques during a few arguments, but not consistently.  I had some success the times I did implement it, but ultimately I would end up losing my temper or being drawn back in far too easily.  This time I’m going to try to do it right.

So, back to yesterday.  During the day I stayed busy at work.  We didn’t have very much contact at all, and I didn’t initiate anything.  He texted me at lunch and said:

“Another in the line of the many days after I have caused in which both of us are asking ourselves why?  With no good answer to that question only more uncertainty about where we are headed.  I am afraid and angry at me.  I sit here broken and fearful that I am not fixable.  For all I have done and all the hurt I have caused us both I am very sorry.”

Normally a text like that would have caused me to gush all over him – tell him that I know he is scared, reassure him, tell him I love him, say that I think he is fixable, and try to make him feel better.  I did all of that out of a place of wanting to help.  However, it really didn’t help either of us because I can’t fix it.  It is also his job to figure out his why.  I do love him, and I don’t want him to be afraid and angry – but I can’t fix it.  I fear that he isn’t fixable sometimes, too.  I am not going to give up on him or our marriage right now, but I can’t fix it.  I want him to feel better, and I do want him to get help.  But I can’t provide that for him.  So this time I responded by saying simply:

“I can accept your apology.  I do not have the answer to the questions, though.  Those are yours to find.”

That’s it.  I had already told him that I feel like he needs to work on those issues in therapy.  I already told him that I would like him to go to SA more regularly.  I already told him that I can’t sleep in the same bed with him until I see him making real efforts and I feel safe again.  That’s all I really can do.

After work I headed over to my massage appointment.  I had told him about it back when I set it up and again last week when I remembered I would have to cancel my normal chiropractor appointment to make it.  I didn’t notify him of where I was going.  I wasn’t even planning to get in touch with him at all.  Then one of the guys I work with let me know that he would be dropping a dog house off at my house that evening.  We had talked earlier in the day and his mother, who lives in my neighborhood, was getting rid of a really nice wooden shingled dog house.  Since we have 3 dogs he asked if I wanted it.  I said definitely because I have always wanted one like that but they are expensive.  Since I was going to the massage, though, I wouldn’t be home when he dropped by.  I told him I would let my husband know because he should be home.  I then sent Mr. Mess a quick text that said:

“A___  from work will be dropping off a doghouse at some point soon.  I may not be home yet so just wanted to let you know.”

Once that was done I drove over to the massage appointment and decided to leave my phone in the car.  He hadn’t texted back yet, and I really didn’t want any distractions during my hour of being pampered.  Once the massage began I immediately felt relaxed and relieved.  I let myself drift off a bit, not think about anything, and just feel the sensation of the massage therapist kneading my muscles.  Having someone massage your neck, shoulders, and head is fantastic.  It is like the shampoo you get at the hair salon, only better.  When she turned me over and started massaging my feet, calves, and legs is when I really felt my tension fading.  It’s also when I felt the gas trying to escape.  Eeeek!

As I laid there suddenly tense again trying to hold in a fart during one of the most serene and relaxing moments I have experienced lately, I almost started laughing.  It really was funny.  I saved myself from embarrassment when the urge passed, but it got me thinking.  There really is humor everywhere in life.  Instead of getting wrapped up in the drama and pain of the lie my husband told me I was laying on a massage table holding back gas and laughter.  It really is such a better option.  My day ended up pretty darn good.  Excellent even!

After the massage was over, I headed out to my car to find several text messages from my husband.  Here they are in order:

“Ok see you when you get home.  What is the dog house for?”

“Im going to food lion to pick up a few things do you want anything?”

“Im not sure what your message means.  Are you still working or is it something else.”

“Im going to [my brother's house] you dont have to stay away from your home because of me.”

Wow…  That 180 thing seems to be working already!  This is a man who doesn’t feel the need to tell me when he changes plans.  We got into an argument recently when he came home 2 hours late from work on a night when he had school and a test he hadn’t studied for (with the books sitting on the table) and no phone call.  He thought it was no big deal and I shouldn’t have been concerned at all.  Now I can’t even be out of contact for a 1-hour massage without him becoming Mr. Needy?  I shot him back a reply that the dog house was for the dogs and I was just finishing up a massage.  I left it at that.

My plan was to swing by the tattoo parlor on my way home and look into a face piercing I think is super sexy.   A picture of the look is to the left.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind after seeing it on Avery from Around the World in 80 Plates.  I was going to stop by and ask them about the process and cost.  My plan was to just go for it.  Unfortunately, they were closed.  Apparently they have weird hours on Mondays and close super early.  Oh well…

Once I got home Mr. Mess acted like nothing had happened.  He came home from visiting his brother, who recently broke his leg, and just started making dinner.  We ate together, and I was perfectly polite.  I answered the questions he asked about my day with short, to the point replies.  I was positive and happy.  He was more than content to just pretend not a thing was different.  When it came time for bed, though, I went to the bedroom, closed the door, and he stayed on the couch.  Today we also haven’t had much contact at all.  Again, my day was perfectly happy and peaceful.  When I get home today from the chiropractor he will be off at school.  So far, I’m liking the 180 quite a bit.  He will either take care of himself, go to counseling, and SA or he won’t.  I will just keep enjoying my life in the meantime.

Note:  I looked into the face piercing today and found out it is called a microdermal piercing.  They are apparently permanent.  If you want to take them out it requires a scalpel.  As adorable as I still think they are, I’m gonna have to opt out of that one.  I’m seriously considering a nose ring, though.  I may just stop by on my way home tonight and get it done!

Setting Boundaries

2 Jul boundaries

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately.  Last week we were supposed to have marriage counseling together, but Mr. Mess got sick and couldn’t make it.  I decided to still go on my own because I really like our therapist and enjoy getting the chance to bounce things off of him.  He was running late because of a new appointment that entered “crisis mode” as he put it, so we only had about 30-40 minutes.  He asked me what I wanted to talk about, and boundaries was the first thing on my mind.  I have written about boundaries here a few times (Letting Go… Easier Said Than Done and Finishing up the Checklist among others), but hadn’t really delved into it much in therapy.

One of my first questions was how to go about setting boundaries when it comes to things like lying.  I know that I don’t want to accept dishonesty in my relationship.  However, I don’t know what a healthy response to my husband crossing that boundary would be.  I don’t want to blow things out of proportion, but at the same time I don’t want to hold my feelings back or make it such a non-issue that it seems like I’m okay with it.  He agreed that it can be difficult sometimes to determine what the proper response is to another person crossing our boundaries.  In this case he definitely agreed that I don’t want to make my husband feel like it isn’t a big deal to lie to me.

He reminded me of when we first came to him and how he felt our biggest issue – then and now – was the loss of trust.  Lying is an almost hard-coded response that my husband has been doing since childhood.  That contributed to his affairs, and it also made our recovery much harder than it would have been otherwise.  Because lying has been a constant part of our relationship it is very important that I be able to express my feelings.  My husband really needs to understand what his lying does to me, us, and the marital repairs we are trying to make.  Keeping those things in the forefront of his mind will hopefully help condition his mind that lying is NOT the easiest or best resolution to discomfort.

We have definitely come a long way since the first day we walked into his office, but the continual small lies keep breaking my new-found confidence in my husband.  We have talked through several such lying incidents in marriage counseling.  He said that he can see progress in my husband.  I agree.  For example, I explained a lying incident that happened before our last counseling session.  Mr. Mess initially lied to me about something, then when I questioned him again he admitted the truth.  This was progress for us, believe it or not, because it only took me asking “is that really the truth?” for him to be honest with me.  We also were able to talk about why he would lie and how disappointed and hurt it made me feel.

The MC told me that was a good way to handle things.  He said that in future instances I should be sure to let him know how I am feeling.  He said to try to avoid overarching “always” or “never” and “you” statements and stick to “I” statements that refer to a specific action – like “I feel shut out and hurt when you do xyz” versus “You always shut me out.”  We also talked about strategies for redirecting the conversation if it turns into a defensive, sarcastic, or unproductive argument.  He told me ways that I can refocus us – like saying “That isn’t what we are talking about here” or “Let’s get back to the main topic.”  He told me not to temper my feelings or hold back for fear of how he might respond.  My husband has to manage his own response and learn to control his anger, defensiveness, and lashing out.  If I feel uncomfortable or like we will not make any progress if things continue in a negative way, then I am free to disengage, tell him I won’t speak to him when he is behaving that way, and stop responding.

The moral of the story – if you will – was that I should be responsible for conveying my feelings in a healthy way.  That includes setting boundaries and responding with consequences (whatever they may be) if those are broken.  I should control my own response just like my husband should control his.  If something he does hurts me, I should express that.  If he responds badly, I shouldn’t reinforce that by reacting and being drawn into the drama.  If he crosses a boundary, then I need to be responsible for protecting myself and taking myself out of the line of fire.  I can only control me - what I ask for, what I accept, how I approach the situation, and how far I let him go.  What a ground-breaking concept!

Sadly, I had to put that new knowledge to use far sooner than I ever expected.  That’s because my husband lied to me again yesterday.  About something stupid that there was no need to hide from me.  Again.  Just like in my post Lessons from Judge Judy, all I needed was common sense to break through his flimsy lies.  Unlike the last time when he confessed pretty quickly, this time he reverted all the way back to the days of covering up and lying even as he was admitting part of the lie.  There were several times he lied to me yesterday, all about the same subject.

During the process I told him clearly that finding out he was keeping something insignificant from me (that he shouldn’t have any fear about telling me), makes me feel very afraid that when it matters (i.e. if he is tempted to cheat, or otherwise has something he would have fear about) he won’t tell me the truth.  I think I did a pretty good job of sticking to how I feel and not using “always” statements, although I will admit that I brought up past instances of lying as well.  I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not since I did stick to specifics.  I just felt like he didn’t understand why I would be hurt about the lies and omissions that he considered “not a big deal.”

I thought that we had things worked out, and I ended up deciding to accept his last explanation of the situation.  Until I heard his phone vibrating in the other room.  He picked it up and said he had a voice mail.  He told me what it said – in the loose way that he does  (“oh, it was xyz who said blah”).  Then he quickly said that his phone was on vibrate because he must have forgotten to turn the ringer on after work on Friday.  Okay.  Except, wait…  We lost power on Saturday and couldn’t find his phone.  He had me call it from mine, and his phone rang.  Not vibrated – rang.  Hmmm…..  That got my Spidey senses tingling.  Why the lie?  I checked his phone and once again, I had facts in my hand that directly contradicted what he told me.  Still he tried to gaslight me into thinking I was crazy and should believe him instead of my eyes.

That was it.  As I mentioned earlier, I had already decided that one of my firm boundaries is that honesty is required in my relationship (honesty is one of the most important things to me and has been my entire life – see Being Honest).  That means openness, sharing, no topic is off-limits, and no lies.  Until that moment I didn’t really know what I needed to do to enforce that boundary.  If this was a new relationship that would be it – see you later, sayonara, have a good life, but this won’t work for me.  It isn’t a new relationship, though, and we have been working on this underlying issue of his for a while.   That doesn’t mean I have to accept lies, though.  I told him he needed to sleep somewhere else.  He collected some clothes from the bedroom for work, and headed to the couch.

As I sat there in bed alone I started thinking (big shock, right?).  The more I thought about it, the more I liked my response.  At first I started to ask him why.  Then I asked how he could do that – lie to me, then “come clean” with more lies, reconcile knowing it was based on a lie, and then gaslight me when I found ultimate proof.  I felt myself starting to get worked up.  I tried to stop him from walking away from me.  Then instead I stopped myself.  I told him he wasn’t sleeping in our marital bed that night or any night until he talked to someone about this, really committed to working on it, and got back to weekly IC (his pattern is to go for a few weeks then stop).  Then I ended it.  Because it doesn’t really matter why he lied to me right now.  What matters is he did.  He needs to figure out his why.  I need to protect myself from further hurt.

Truthfully, it felt good.  It was nice to just worry about me.  I couldn’t engage further, get angry, and start a screaming match that would keep me up all night, get my emotions running crazy, and not resolve anything.  I couldn’t jump into therapist mode, and try to help him figure out his issues.  I also couldn’t sleep in the same bed with him.  I couldn’t allow our feet to brush together, feel the rhythm of his sides as he inhaled and exhaled, hear his snoring, and be woken by him rolling out of bed in the morning.  It is all too intimate.  That’s a vulnerability and closeness I can’t share with someone who has just lied to me.  So here I am – a woman who just set and enforced a boundary.  It has left me feeling peaceful.

Being Independent

28 Jun 1929696958_mmw_independent_xlarge

This topic is something that I just haven’t been able to find the right words for.  I am independent, and I pride myself on that.  So how, at the same time, can I also be codependent?  It’s something that I struggle with because the codependent side of me is not welcome.  It’s not who I want to be.

I don’t want to control other people.  Even though I am independent, and can do it all by myself, I also don’t want to feel like I have to.  Far from it!  I want someone to tell me that they will take care of things, that they will do what needs to be done, that I don’t have to do it all.  I want that person to be my husband.  At the same time I’m afraid to let go before I see that he has the wheel.  What if we crash?  He hasn’t exactly proven to be the safest driver.

History has taught me that when you rely on someone else it doesn’t work out.  I have been hurt, let down, betrayed.  Not just by my husband, either…  The only person I have been able to fully count on is myself.  My family is wonderful, don’t get me wrong.  If I was ever in a position where I needed help and support, they would be there, without a doubt.  I have worked hard for everything in my life, though, and had to prove myself to lots of people.

I was the oldest and felt like I had to take care of myself and be independent so my parents could focus on my brother and sister.  My Dad worked, and my Mom stayed home with us, and I knew how hard that must have been.  I was also smart, so I was expected to achieve great grades.  I let my Mom focus on helping my sister through school, since that wasn’t her forte.  If I got all A’s then that took the pressure off them to worry about me.  I was talented, so I was expected to perform and be spectacular.  My Dad loved sports, so I put everything into playing softball and making the all-stars team every year.  The list goes on and all.

I was also home-schooled until 6th grade, which I have talked about (See Pink), and was the odd-man-out once I got into private and then public school.  I am an introvert (See Being Complete Opposites), so I’ve never been one to have an entire gaggle of friends hovering around me at all times.  That sounds exhausting to me.  I have always marched to the beat of my own drummer, zagged when others zigged, and done things my own way.  I left home to live on my own the day I turned 18 – no free-loading for this girl!  Instead of going straight to college after high school I took off across Europe with money I had saved while working as a file clerk at a local company after school.  I still think that is one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I bought my house at 19, and established myself in a career early on.  When I did go to college 4 years after high school I still got a full scholarship because my prior academics were very strong and my essay about my world experience and desire not to just follow the pack must have impressed them.

When I met my husband I was living very well on my own, thank you very much.  I was several years into home ownership, I almost had my car paid off, and I was in a very good job.  I was nearly done with my degree, which I finished in 3 1/2 years while working full-time.  I had a 4.0 GPA, which I kept all the way through graduation.  I was comfortable.  My credit cards had very low balances or were almost paid off.  My credit score was through the roof.  I didn’t need anyone.

I think that is part of why this relationship seemed to start off on a good foot.  I’m not needy, for the most part (although who doesn’t love to feel loved?).  I was doing my own thing.  I think that was very attractive.  He wasn’t doing so well on the financial front and was just starting a new job, but I could understand that.  He was about a year out from a very bad breakup.  I was coming off a 7 year relationship.  I could definitely relate to how difficult it can be starting your life over.  Even though he wasn’t in as good of a place as me, he also didn’t seem like the clingy type.  He was sweet, but was more than comfortable taking things slow and giving me my own space.  That was what I wanted at that point, so the emotional distance was something I readily accepted.

When I look at where we are now and everything that we have come through I sometimes wonder where that independent woman went.  What happened to her?  I am still a homeowner, I still have amazing credit, and I could definitely still handle all of my responsibilities and bills by myself.  So why am I worried about rescuing him?  Why did I cling when there was barely anything in it for me?  Why did I sell myself short for those first few years when I knew something was off and didn’t demand that he get therapy?  Part of me thinks it’s because I thought we had something great and maybe we can have it again.  He does  have strengths where I am weak and vice versa.  That seems like a pretty thin excuse, though.

Another part of me wonders if my independence is just a shell, another coat of protection to shield me from being hurt.  It is easier to do it all than to open myself up to being disappointed or wounded.  It is easier to be strong than vulnerable.  It is easier to take charge than put things in another person’s hands.  It is easier to focus on someone else’s problems than my own.  I think that is really the heart of the issue.  Maybe it’s also why I love turtles so much.  Once someone has gotten through that shell to the heart of me, it is very hard for me to push them away.  It is easier to “help” than watch someone fail and reap the consequences.  I want the people I love to have the best life possible, even to the point of taking on their pain as my own and taking away from my happiness.

So here I am, a strong, independent woman who is also attached to a lying husband who has cheated on me multiple times.  I’m in a codependent relationship.  What an oxymoron!  I am starting to become more and more self-aware at the same time that he is beginning to take responsibility.  I want to continue down this path more so I can fully realize the joys of being cared for and nurtured as much as I do for others.  Letting go of that control and peeking out of my shell is a requirement that I continue to work on.  I think I’m getting better at it every day.  I look forward to truly being the independent yet vulnerable woman that I know I can be.

Choosing to Reconcile

19 Jun hand-reaching-out

I have been so caught up in the codependent characteristics list the last few days that everything else has been pushed to the side.  Today I read some questions posed by Samantha Baker of Repairing Shattered Pieces on the forum After the Betrayal that got me thinking in a different direction, though.  Here is what she asked:

What made you choose to reconcile with your spouse?
Are you glad?
Are you fearful of another affair in the future?
Do you think that choosing to reconcile was the right decision?
Do you wish you had done anything different?
Do you ever think your spouse got an “easy out”?
Do you ever wonder if you appeared “weak” by choosing reconciliation in your spouses eyes?

So, that is a lot to try to answer, but I decided to take a shot at it.  Rather than use a question/ answer format I’m just going to write down some of my thoughts on the topic and do my best to hit on each of these questions.

Why I chose to reconcile is a complicated thing.  At the beginning of this I would have told you I stayed because I really love him.  He has a kind heart, a positive attitude, and a lot of energy.  We are total opposites in many way, which means that he added things to my life.  He taught me the joys of being spontaneous, introduced me to new foods, and made me cut loose and not take myself so seriously.  I got to know him, as you should with your spouse.  I knew he had faults, and I loved him despite those.  I was able to see past what he did to all of those other things that I didn’t want to cut out of my life.

We were also recently married (the last discovery was only 6 months after our wedding), and I believe in following through with commitments.  I didn’t want to just throw him away, and our marriage along with him, without knowing that I had done everything I could.  I made a promise in front of my entire family, his family, our friends, and everyone who is important to me.  I made that promise to him, but I also made it to myself.  I promised that I would love through thick and thin, better and worse, richer and poorer, and all of that other stuff.  He had betrayed me, but did that mean I should betray him, that promise, and myself in return?  I wasn’t there.

All of those things are still true, but now I have some additional insights.  I’m not a quitter, I hate admitting defeat, and I didn’t want to be a failure.  I didn’t want to be divorced at 26.  I didn’t know what I would do without him, I couldn’t let go of the “ideal marriage” in my head yet, and I couldn’t picture life without him in it.   I was in so much pain, but I felt like making myself the main priority was selfish.  How could I just walk away from everything I had put into this relationship?  From him?  What would he do?  Plus, I told myself that I had done things wrong the last few times I found out about his infidelity and lying.  I should have set firmer guidelines, I should have checked up on him more… I should have, should have, should have.  I felt like this problem was my fault.  I couldn’t walk away and leave him with nothing.  When I saw him so broken and defeated I wanted to help him.  I wanted to fix him.  I wanted to fix us.  In short, I am codependent.

This journey that we are on has taught me that.  It has also taught me more about myself and my husband than I knew at the beginning of the process.  Am I glad I stayed with this instead of walking away?  I feel like a stronger person.  I don’t feel “weak” at all.  This is a much harder road by far than leaving it all behind.   If I kicked him out immediately, there would still be unanswered questions.  There would still be hurt.  His actions probably would have pushed me farther away from my own issues because I would have been able to lump them all together and put them in the back of some dusty closet that I never opened again.  My next relationship most likely would have been impacted, and it would always be there making me feel uncertain, self-conscious, leery, and closed off.   I wouldn’t have worked on myself nearly as much.  In that way, I am benefiting personally from taking a hard look at the ways I contributed.

As for whether he got off “easy” or not, I don’t think so.  If he wants to keep this marriage, he will need to overcome his bad habits, some of which are decades in the making.  He is learning new tools to communicate.  He is figuring out how to deal with tough emotions.  He is working a program.  He is dealing with family of origin issues, boundaries, triggers, and more.  He will have to be vulnerable.  He will have to be honest – not only with me, but with himself – maybe for the first time.

I still have fear, but I am leaving it farther and farther behind everyday.  As I heal myself, I find those paranoid thoughts are fading.  I don’t think about what happened nearly as much as I think about where I’m headed now.  I am realizing what things I can control and what I can’t.  Even if he does have another affair, worrying about it now won’t change that.  It won’t do me any good.  It won’t make him decide not to stray.   All I can do is focus on myself, set boundaries about what I will accept, and be prepared to move on if he doesn’t hold up his end of things.

I do wish sometimes that we had found our current MC earlier.  I wish I had picked up Codependent No More way sooner than 2 weeks ago.  But I’m also letting go of my wish list and “should have” or “what if” thoughts.  I am dealing with each thing that comes up as it comes up.  I am trying not to regret the past because it has brought us here.  That last one is a tough one.  I’m taking it all day by day, though.

Finishing up the Checklist

19 Jun Boundaries

Well, today I am going to finish up the checklist from Codependent No More.  It was a lot more than I remember reading when it came time to actually type it all out.  Spreading things over several posts has given me more time to really think about each list of characteristics and take the time to properly rate them for myself.  I’m really excited to keep digging into this book and see what healthier solutions she has.

WEAK BOUNDARIES

Codependents frequently:

  • say they won’t tolerate certain behaviors from other people.  (1)
  • gradually increase their tolerance until they can tolerate and do things they said they never would.  (2 – sadly, this is definitely true)
  • let other hurt them.  (2)
  • keep letting people hurt them.  (1)
  • wonder why they hurt so badly.  (1)
  • complain, blame, and try to control while they continue to stand there.  (2 – Ouch…)
  • finally get angry.  (1 – I tend to have the anger while not really doing anything about it – see above)
  • become totally intolerant.  (2 – this has been historically correct.)

LACK OF TRUST

Codependents:

  • don’t trust themselves.  (0)
  • don’t trust their feelings.  (1)
  • don’t trust their decisions.  (1)
  • don’t trust other people.  (2)
  • try to trust untrustworthy people.  (2 – not sure how this one and the one above can be true, but they are)
  • think God has abandoned them.  (what God?)
  • lose faith and trust in God.  (see above… boy do I really hope “god” isn’t the answer in this book because I will be very disappointed)

ANGER

Many codependents:

  • feel very scared, hurt, and angry.  (1)
  • live with people who are very scared, hurt, and angry.  (2)
  • are afraid of their own anger.  (1)
  • are frightened of other people’s anger.  (2)
  • think people will go away if anger enters the picture.  (1)
  • think other people make them feel angry.  (1)
  • are afraid to make other people feel anger.  (2)
  • feel controlled by other people’s anger.  (0)
  • repress their angry feelings.  (1)
  • cry a lot, get depressed, overeat, get sick, do mean and nasty things to get even, act hostile, or have violent temper outbursts.  (2)
  • punish other people for making them codependents angry.  (0-1)
  • have been ashamed for feeling angry.  (1)
  • place guilt and shame on themselves for feeling angry.  (0-1)
  • feel increasing amount of anger, resentment, and bitterness.  (0 – I am on the decreasing end of this spectrum lately)
  • feel safer with their anger than with hurt feelings.  (0-1)
  • wonder if they’ll ever not be angry.  (1)

SEX PROBLEMS

Some codependents:

  • are caretakers in the bedroom.  (2)
  • have sex when they don’t want to.  (0)
  • have sex when they’d rather be held, nurtured, and loved. (0 – usually these things go hand in hand for us)
  • try to have sex when they’re angry or hurt.  (0 – not gonna happen)
  • refuse to enjoy sex because they’re so angry at their partner.  (0 – again, it doesn’t happen if I’m angry)
  • are afraid of losing control.  (1)
  • have a difficult time asking for what they need in bed.  (1)
  • withdraw emotionally from their partner.  (1 – not so much now that we are more communicative and he is more vulnerable with me)
  • feel sexual revulsion toward their partner.  (0)
  • don’t talk about it.  (0)
  • force themselves to have sex, anyway.  (0)
  • reduce sex to a technical act.  (0)
  • wonder why they don’t enjoy sex.  (1)
  • lose interest in sex.  (0)
  • make up reasons to abstain.  (0)
  • wish their sex partner would die, go away, or sense the codependent’s feelings.  (0 – whoa… glad I don’t have this one)
  • have strong sexual fantasies about other people.  (0 – unless dreams somehow count… I’ve had a few steamy ones)
  • consider or have an extramarital affair.  (0 – huh… wonder if my husband needs to take this?)

Some people think this is healthy… It’s not. It’s also not possible!

MISCELLANEOUS

Codependents tend to:

  • be extremely responsible.  (2 – definitely)
  • be extremely irresponsible.  (0 – never been a problem for me at all)
  • become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness and that of others for causes that don’t require sacrifice.  (0 – I don’t think so…)
  • find it difficult to feel close to people.  (2)
  • find it difficult to have fun and be spontaneous.  (1 – my husband has helped me in this area a lot already)
  • have an overall passive response to codependency – crying, hurt, helplessness.  (1 – at some points)
  • have an overall aggressive response to codependency – violence, anger, dominance.  (0-1 – not really a main issue, but sometimes intense anger has come out)
  • combine passive and aggressive responses.  (1)
  • vacillate in decisions and emotions.  (1 – decisions, no.  emotions, yes.)
  • laugh when they feel like crying.  (1-2 – does smiling count?  I often have am inappropriate response to uncomfortable situations or death like smiling when I really am not feeling happy or amused in the least)
  • stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts.  (2 – yes, I am very loyal)
  • be ashamed about family, personal, or relationship problems.  (2)
  • be confused about the nature of the problem.  (1-2)
  • cover up, lie, and protect the problem.  (0-1 – I don’t remember any specific times when I have done that.  I definitely don’t lie, but I might “protect” by not telling many people)
  • not seek help because they tell themselves the problem isn’t bad enough, or they aren’t important enough.  (0 – not any more…  there was a time years ago where that was true, and I’m not going back there)
  • wonder why the problem doesn’t go away.  (1)

PROGRESSIVE

In the later stages of codependency, codependents may:

  • feel lethargic.  (2)
  • feel depressed.  (2)
  • become withdrawn and isolated.  (1)
  • experience a complete loss of daily routine and structure.  (0)
  • abuse or neglect their children and other responsibilities.  (1 – work has suffered a bit)
  • feel hopeless.  (1)
  • begin to plan their escape from a relationship they feel trapped in.  (0)
  • think about suicide.  (0)
  • become violent.  (0)
  • become seriously emotionally, mentally, or physically ill.  (0)
  • experience an eating disorder (over- or -undereating).  (1 – I wouldn’t really call it a disorder, but both of those things have happened)
  • become addicted to alcohol or another drug.  (0)

And that’s all folks!

Being Self-Aware

18 Jun

I started talking about the checklist from the book Codependent No More a few days ago (Being Self-Reflective).  I have gotten some positive responses from my followers, but the best thing is that I am feeling accomplished.  This book, this check-list – they’re making sense.  I didn’t think they would.  I fought against it.  But now that I’ve given in I feel so much relief.  So here’s a continuation of the checklist and my self-evaluation.

REPRESSION

Many codependents:

  • push their thoughts and feelings out of their awareness because of fear and guilt.  (0 – although I guess I wouldn’t really know if this was true?)
  • become afraid to let themselves be who they are. (1 – used to be true more than it is now)
  • appear rigid and controlled.  (2)

OBSESSION

Codependents tend to:

  • feel terribly anxious about problems and people.  (1 – I don’t have a lot of anxiety)
  • worry about the silliest things. (0)
  • think and talk a lot about other people.  (1 – maybe?)
  • lose sleep over problems or other people’s behavior.  (0 – I rarely lose sleep because it is very precious to me)
  • worry. (0 – nope, not a worrier.  I find it rather useless)
  • never find answers.  (0)
  • check on people.  (1 – Not so much “people” (plural), but sometimes on my husband)
  • try to catch people in acts of misbehavior.  (same as above – this has gotten much better in the past few months)
  • feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems. (1)
  • abandon their routine because they are so upset about somebody or something.  (0)
  • focus all their energy on other people and problems. (1)
  • wonder why they never have any energy.  (2)
  • wonder why they can’t get things done.  (1-2)

CONTROLLING

Many codependents:

  • have lived through events and with people that were out of control, causing the codependents sorrow and disappointment.  (2 – absolutely!)
  • become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.  (2)
  • don’t see or deal with their fear of loss of control.  (1-2)
  • think they know best how things should turnb out and how people should behave.  (2)
  • try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination.  (2)
  • eventually fail in their efforts or provoke people’s anger.  (1)
  • feel controlled by events and people.  (2)

DENIAL

Codependents tend to:

  • ignore problems or pretend they aren’t happening.  (0)
  • pretend circumstances aren’t as bad as they are.  (0-1)
  • tell themselves things will be better tomorrow.  (1)
  • stay busy so they don’t have to think about things.  (1)
  • get confused.  (0)
  • get depressed or sick.  (2)
  • go to doctors and get tranquilizers.  (0)
  • become workaholics.  (0)
  • spend money compulsively (-2 – I am so far in the other direction it’s not even close)
  • overeat (2 – check)
  • pretend those things aren’t happening, either.  (0 – I can see my flaws, I just don’t know where to go from here)
  • watch problems get worse.  (0)
  • believe lies.  (2 – in the past, but not anymore)
  • lie to themselves.  (1)
  • wonder why they feel like they’re going crazy.  (2)

DEPENDENCY

Many codependents:

  • don’t feel happy, content, or peaceful with themselves.  (1)
  • look for happiness outside themselves.  (1)
  • latch onto whoever or whatever they think can provide happiness.  (0)
  • feel terribly threatened by the loss of any thing or person they think provides their happiness.  (2)
  • didn’t feel love and approval from their parents.  (2)
  • don’t love themselves.  (0-1)
  • believe other people can’t or don’t love them.  (1)
  • desperately seek love and approval.  (0)
  • often seek love from people incapable of loving.  (0 – I don’t think “often” applies or that my husband is “incapable of loving.”  Maybe he is stunted, but he does love me.)
  • believe other people are never there for them.  (0 – I have a great family and support network)
  • equate love with pain.  (1)
  • feel they need people more than they want them.  (0)
  • try to prove they’re good enough to be loved.  (2)
  • don’t take time to see if other people are good for them.  (2 – definitely)
  • worry whether other people love or like them.  (1)
  • don’t take time to figure out if they love or like other people.  (0)
  • center their lives around other people.  (2)
  • look to relationships to provide all their good feelings.  (1)
  • lose interest in their own lives when they love.  (1)
  • worry other people will leave them.  (1)
  • don’t believe they can take care of themselves. (0)
  • stay in relationships that don’t work.  (1)
  • tolerate abuse to keep people loving them.  (1)
  • feel trapped in relationships.  (1)
  • leave bad relationships and form new ones that don’t work either.  (not sure how to answer this because I haven’t had a ton of relationships – just 2 serious ones)
  • wonder if they will ever find love.  (0)

POOR COMMUNICATION

Codependents frequently:

  • blame.  (1)
  • threaten.  (0)
  • coerce.  (1)
  • beg.  (0)
  • bribe.  (1)
  • advise.  (2)
  • don’t say what they mean.  (0)
  • don’t mean what they say.  (1)
  • don’t know what they mean.  (0)
  • don’t take themselves seriously.  (1)
  • think other people don’t take the codependents seriously.  (1)
  • ask for what they want and need indirectly – sighing, for example.  (1 – I have been known to do that sometimes, but I am usually pretty blunt.)
  • find it difficult to get to the point.  (0)
  • aren’t sure what the point is.  (0)
  • gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect.  (1)
  • try to say what they think will please people.  (0 – rarely)
  • try to say what they think will provoke people.  (1 – when in a heated argument… but who doesn’t?)
  • try to say what they hope will make people do what they want them to do.  (1)
  • eliminate the work no from their vocabulary. (1)
  • talk too much.  (2)
  • talk about other people.  (1)
  • avoid talking about themselves, their problems, feelings, and thoughts.  (1 – I am trying to get better about this… see?)
  • say everything is their fault.  (1)
  • say nothing is their fault (1)
  • believe their opinions don’t matter.  (0)
  • wait to express their opinions until they know other people’s opinions.  (0 – rarely)
  • lie to protect and cover up for people they love.  (0)
  • lie to protect themselves.  (0)
  • have a difficult time asserting their rights.  (0)
  • have a difficult time expressing their emotions honestly, openly, and appropriately. (0 – I am really pretty good at this)
  • think most of what they have to say is unimportant.  (0)
  • begin to talk in cynical, self-degrading, or hostile ways. (1 – I can sometimes be sarcastic… does that count?)
  • apologize for bothering people.  (1)

Wow…  this list is longer than I remember.  There is still a lot of it left.  I will get back to this as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I hope that you all enjoyed your Father’s Day weekend and are feeling as free and positive as I do right now.

Being Self-Reflective

16 Jun

I have been reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.  On my tablet.  That officially means I am doing two things I never thought I would be doing.  I have been adamant about my strong loyalty to paper books and my dislike of reading things on a computer screen.  However, my tablet came with a Kindle app, and I’m an Amazon freak.

So…  One night a week or so ago I was checking out a few books on Amazon that had been recommended and I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.  While I was browsing around I noticed that you can get the first chapter of most books as a free preview on the Kindle.  I figured that would be a good way to really know if the book would be a good fit for me because I could check out the first chapter and get a feel for the author and content.  I opened the Kindle app, registered it to my Amazon account, and promptly downloaded the first chapter of about 4 or 5 books.

I immediately found that I like this system!  Right off the bat I was able to eliminate two books that were far too religious and didn’t speak to me at all.  I also found a few to be mildly interesting.  I had some bad pre-conceived notions about Codependent No More from a woman in my support group, but I thought I would read the first chapter to see if I agreed.  My secret hope would be that I would find some major flaw in logic or point that I disagreed with completely so that I could justify my avoidance of the book.

Instead I found that I was devouring it.  A lot of what she said spoke to me.  I really “got” a lot of what I read.  And I wanted to read more.  I was so hooked that I went ahead and downloaded the rest right there.  Amazon made it even easier because the Kindle version was a few dollars cheaper than even the older paperback version.  I read the first 3 chapters in one sitting.

Then I forced myself to slow down.  I discussed a few things with my husband.  I told him what it had me thinking about.  I discovered the bookmark and highlighting feature in the Kindle and really started going to town.  I went back and bookmarked some things I want to think about more.  I highlighted a few passages that were especially meaningful.  I started pondering the parts that I connect with.

Yesterday I got to a list of characteristics of codependents.  She said that the first step toward change is awareness.  I agree with that.  Then I started reading the various lists.  I do identify with a lot of them.  My first gut reaction was that this list is so varied and generic that a LOT of people could identify with several things on the list.  That is true.  However, I started to realize that I agreed with more than just a few.  In fact, I identify with more things than I don’t.  The bookmarks were flying.

At the end of the chapter she suggest going through the list and rating the characteristics.  She said to rate it a 0 if it is never a problem for you, rate it with a 1 if it is occasionally a problem, and mark it with a 2 if it is frequently a problem.  The list is long, but I decided to start doing that today.  I also decided to share that list here on my blog.  I think it is something that others may relate to.  I also think that it will really force me to be completely honest with myself by having some accountability and transparency with others about the things I need to work on.  So here it goes:

CARETAKING

Codependents may:

  • think and feel responsible for other people – for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny. (2)
  • feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem. (2)
  • feel compelled – almost forced – to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings. (2 – with the caveat that my need to help generally takes the form of actions, like helping them study, doing the research or work myself, etc.)
  • feel angry when their help isn’t effective. (1)
  • anticipate other people’s needs. (2)
  • wonder why other don’t do the same for them. (2)
  • find themselves saying yes when they mean no, doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves. (3 – I know that is off the scale, but it really applies to me)
  • not know what they want and need or, if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important. (2)
  • find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves. (2)
  • feel safest when giving. (2)
  • feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them. (2)
  • find themselves attracted to needy people. (1)
  • find needy people attracted to them. (2)
  • feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help. (0-1)
  • abandon their routine to respond to or do something for somebody else. (1)
  • overcommit themselves. (1)
  • feel harried and pressured. (1)
  • believe deep inside other people are somehow responsible for them. (0-1)
  • blame others for the spot the codependents are in. (0-1 in everyday life, 2 with my husband’s infidelity and sex addiction)
  • say other people make the codependents feel the way they do. (same as above)
  • believe other people are making them crazy. (same as above)
  • Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and used. (same as above)
  • Find other people become impatient or angry with them for all the preceding characteristics. (0 except for my husband, which would be a 1)

LOW SELF-WORTH

Codependents tend to:

  • come from troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional families.  (1 – we had our share of issues, but I think I was very lucky overall to have the parents I had)
  • deny their family was troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional.  (1 – although according to this my family must have been a nightmare and I’m denying it)
  • blame themselves for everything.  (2)
  • pick on themselves for everything, including the way they think, feel, look, act, and behave.  (2)
  • get angry, defensive, self-righteous, and indignant when others blame and criticize the codependents – something codependents regularly do to themselves.  (off the charts here I have to admit)
  • reject compliments or praise.  (1)
  • get depressed from a lack of complements and praise – stroke deprivation.  (0)
  • feel different from the rest of the world.  (0)
  • think they’re not quite good enough.  (2 – absolutely!)
  • feel guilty about spending money on themselves or doing unnecessary or fun things for themselves.  (2)
  • fear rejection.  (2)
  • take things personally.  (2)
  • have been victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or alcoholism.  (1 – I think my Dad definitely could be called emotionally abusive when I was growing up, and maybe even physically abusive as well, depending on where you fall on the corporeal punishment spectrum)
  • feel like victims.  (0)
  • tell themselves they can’t do anything right.  (0)
  • be afraid of making mistakes.  (2)
  • wonder why they have a tough time making decisions.  (1)
  • have a lot of “shoulds.”  (2)
  • feel a lot of guilt.  (2)
  • feel ashamed of who they are.  (1)
  • think their lives aren’t worth living.  (0)
  • try to help other people live their lives instead.  (0)
  • get artificial feelings of self-worth from helping others.  (1)
  • get strong feelings of low self-worth – embarrassment, failure, etc. – from other people’s failures and problems.  (1 – only when that person is tied to me – like in a marriage. For instance, I still want to help my sister succeed in school, but I don’t feel personal embarrassment if she doesn’t.)
  • wish good things would happen to them. (1)
  • believe good things never will happen.  (0)
  • believe they don’t deserve good things and happiness.  (1)
  • wish other people would like and love them.  (1)
  • try to prove they’re good enough for other people.  (2)
  • settle for being needed.  (2)

Well, that’s all I have time for right now.  I will come back to this later.  Hope this gives you some food for thought.  I definitely have plenty to think about!

Being Open About Sex

15 Jun 588ca043eccd7b36_sex_xlarger

I have to warn you now, this topic is personal.  I have grappled a bit with if I should post it, but I decided to take my own advice from my last post and be honest.  I know this will probably make my husband uncomfortable, so I apologize in advance to Mr. Mess.  I just feel like I need to get this out there and talk about it so maybe someone else in a similar situation won’t feel like they are all alone.

I have heard from lots of people about their hysterical bonding after DDay.  That never happened for us.  We maybe had a slight upswing in our sex life a few months in, but nothing drastic or immediate.  Now things are back down to pre-DDay levels which is around 1-2 times per week if I’m super lucky.

I’m a very sexual woman.  I have always heard that men are supposed to have a higher sex drive than women, but that is definitely not the case in our relationship.  My husband often turned to pornography and masturbation rather than actual sex with me.  When I was interested he was always “too tired” or some other lame excuse – except for about once or twice a week (usually on the weekends) when he couldn’t think up a lie I would believe.

Like I said, there was a slight upswing in sexual activity a few months after DDay, but nothing sustained.  And nothing to write home about.  The fact is that it doesn’t take much to have an “upswing” from nearly never.  Part of the disparity in our libidos may be that I am 20 years younger than my husband.  I am 27 and he is 47.  Women are just hitting their sexual peak at my age.  If you consider his sexual addiction issues and his age I guess I can see where my sex drive might be a little higher.  But he’s a sex addict for goodness sake!  A s-e-x addict who never seems to want s-e-x!

I have voiced my concerns in the past about the lack of sex in our marriage.  That has been when some of the upswings have occurred.  He has now been on anti-depressants for a little over a year, and I know that those can effect sex drive.  However, I just keep feeling like there is something more.  I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something.  It’s just not right.  I’m here.  I want sex.  I’m open-minded and flexible (in more ways than one).  I put myself out there.  Still, when it comes to our sex life, I get crickets…

The other night my husband was ready to head off to bed early – at around 9.  He never wants to go to bed that early, and it hadn’t been a particularly long day.  His work was normal, and he didn’t have to go to school.  I was thinking that maybe I might get lucky!  Alas…. no.  He basically wanted to get in bed, put on his CPAP machine (he has sleep apnea), and go to sleep.  I was beyond frustrated.  It’s not like we don’t connect or touch.  It’s not like he isn’t affectionate.  We kiss, he slaps my butt, we hold hands on the couch, I had snuggled up to him and was wearing barely anything… but it rarely goes much further.

Wenesday night it was just too much.  I told him that I am frustrated.  He thought it was because he wanted to go to bed so early.  I told him that wasn’t it.  I can almost always sleep because I am stressed right now, plus I like us to go to bed at the same time so we can unwind, talk, and connect.  I feel like if we start going to bed without each other we may as well just get separate rooms – something I am not willing to do.  I told him straight-out that I am disappointed by how infrequently we have sex.  I told him that I am not ready to be in a sexless marriage at 27!  And to me once per week is basically that – because there is no passion, no need, no feeling of hunger or desire from him.

He was quiet for a long time.  I thought he had just decided to go to sleep and ignore me, which was making me even angrier.  Then he finally said that he can understand.  I said something like, “oh, really?” in a slightly (okay, very) sarcastic tone.  He just replied “Yeah.”  That was the extent of our conversation.  Sometimes it is like pulling teeth with that man!  I was still frustrated, but let it go for the night.

Yesterday at lunch he gave me a call.  He said that he has been thinking about what I said.  He said that he is sorry that he has been neglecting me.  Then he said that he thinks he is really just afraid.  I asked him “what of?”  He said that he is afraid that if we have sex more he will start thinking about sex more and he is worried that will lead to acting out and cheating on me again.  He was teary – I could tell from his voice – and it gave me a little pause.  I thought about it, and told him that I can see where that might cause some anxiety.

I pointed out that there is a difference between healthy sex and unhealthy behavior.  He should be able to have sex with me without that making him want to have sex with someone else, too.  He said that he does know that.  So I asked again what is it that makes him feel afraid of sex with me (the healthy, normal, necessary to sustain a marriage sex).  At first he said he wasn’t sure because he knows that isn’t the same as his unhealthy, obsessive, unsatisfying, secret porn/ chat room/ affair-driven sex life (if you can even call it that).  I asked if he really feels like he has addressed those issues.  He said yes immediately.  Then I asked him if that is really true… has he dealt with them or has he just been avoiding anything that would make him have to confront them.  He then admitted that was probably it.

He is so afraid of messing up again that rather than develop healthy coping skills, confront those triggers, and do the work to heal himself, he is just trying to avoid sex altogether.  Once it reached a timeframe where he felt like he needed sex or he should be giving it to me, he would give in briefly and have sex.  Then he would bottle up all of his sexual feelings together and store them away somewhere.  He would only allow himself to feel sexual during that hour (or whatever) he allotted for us each week, then he would lock everything down.

He told me that he knows that isn’t right.  It isn’t fair to me.  It isn’t healthy for him.  It’s not what he really wants.  He said that he wants to be more open and sexual with me.  He is just afraid that once that box is open he won’t be able to control it.  I told him that I can understand now that he is talking with me about it…  That it definitely allows me to give him more grace around this matter.

I also told him that I’m not the person who knows what the solution is.  I’m patting myself on the back for that one a little bit because in the past I would have tried to come up with some “game plan” or started researching and looking for an answer.  Today I just told him that I think he is feeling that way because he hasn’t really addressed things.  I suggested that he talk with his IC today in their appointment to get guidance.  I didn’t push.  I didn’t call and get the schedule.  I didn’t dictate to him anything that he needed to do – other than reach out and start figuring this out with appropriate people who can provide assistance.  I said that I am really glad he shared that with me, and I want him to keep talking to me about those sorts of feelings.  But I didn’t try to become the “rescuer.”  I think that is a healthy step for me.

What I am wondering is if anyone else has had a similar issue with their spouse.  I know not everyone is dealing with this kind of situation, but I am curious about if other people’s partners have fear around sex.  Do they worry that letting go in one area will cause bad habits to pop out in another?  I haven’t heard a lot about this, so I’m not sure the best way to support my husband through this.  All I know is that it’s frustrating as hell.

Being Childless by Choice

8 Jun childfree-poster

Disclaimer:  I know that many of my followers are parents.  From what I have read you all seem like loving, committed, and proud parents (thankfully for you and your children).  I think that is wonderful, and I’m glad it is fulfilling for you.  My views are in no way intended to diminish your decision, the sacrifices you have made, or your happiness.  It isn’t a choice that will work for me, though.  I’m going to do my best to explain why I choose to be childless (or childfree as some call it).  I probably won’t do a great job, but here’s my attempt.

Hopefully that little disclaimer didn’t scare all of you away.  It’s just that I don’t want to have kids.  By the reactions I get from some people you would think I just admitted to torturing puppies or declaring war on families.  So let me get a few things out of the way immediately.  I am not going through a phase, and I’m not going to “change my mind.”  I’m not anti-family.  I just think that everyone has the choice to decide whether or not they want children.  I support those who feel called to have children and are fulfilled by the role of mother or father.  I’m just not sure why it seems to be a basic assumption that anyone who is married wants kids.

Family is incredibly important to me.  I don’t think offspring are a requirement to have a family, though.  To me, what makes a family is two or more people tied together with the bonds of love.  Sometimes that is through blood, sometimes it is through marriage, and sometimes it is by something else.  There are many types of families and many ways that we can form lasting connections.  I don’t think my husband and I are any less of a family because we don’t have children.  I also don’t think that people who do have children are any more of a family.  What they are is a bigger family.

My husband definitely knows something about big families.  He is one of 7 children.  His Dad wanted 10, but his Mom put a stop to things before it got to that point.  At the Off Broad Appetit event last Saturday we ran into one of his cousins who he hadn’t seen since they were very young.  We got to talking with one of the chefs, Jennifer Carroll, about how long it had been.  When she asked why his cousin put it perfectly.  She said something to the effect of, “Well, there are hundreds of us so it’s really hard to keep in touch with everybody.”  You heard that right – Mr. Mess has hundreds of cousins.  That’s what happens when your parents both came from large families and all of their brothers and sisters had large families of their own.

My extended family isn’t quite that large, but we aren’t small by anyone’s standards.  My Mom has 3 brothers and my Dad has 2.  They all have multiple children (in the range of 2-4 each) and some of those kids have started having kids of their own.  My family is a constant, very important part of my life.  I grew up spending a lot of time with my cousins.  I saw most of them several times a week in church.  They came over to my house or vice versa all of the time.  We spent every holiday together.  We also regularly saw the family members who didn’t go to church with us.  In fact, for several years we had a weekly dinner at my grandma’s house with my aunts, uncles, cousins, Dad, sister, and various other family members from that side.  My Mom and brother even went so far as to spend some time in Guyana, South America when my uncle and his family were living there as missionaries.

I think of my Mom as my best friend.  She is the most amazing woman I have ever met.  She is smart, beautiful, confident, and incredibly supportive.  She taught me to think through things using reason and logic but also my emotions.  She is courageous.  She is outgoing and sometimes very opinionated.  She is passionate about life and learning.  She is a wonderful musician and piano player.  Most of all, though, she is loving.  I want to be just like her.  Except for the kids part.

I don’t know the best way to explain why, but I will try.  Even as a little girl in my Pink Phase I wasn’t drawn to baby dolls and playing “Mommy.”  I enjoyed my EZ Bake oven (even though that thing makes horrible cupcakes).  I loved Play-Do, drawing, pretending to be a dog or horse, collecting rocks and climbing trees, but I wasn’t interested in feeding or burping a piece of plastic.  Changing diapers never sounded appealing.  I even hated babysitting (something my sister was drawn to and LOVED).  The closest I ever came to a maternal role is when I would play teacher with my friends and brother.  I would have them pretend to sit in desks while I taught them things or asked them questions.  That was really a last resort if it was a rainy day and we were bored with hide and seek.

As I continued to grow up I never felt any attraction to parenting.  I have always thought that puppies are way cuter and more interesting than babies.  Sorry folks!  I think your newborn looks like every other newborn… small, wrinkly, drooling, and unable to support it’s own abnormally large head.  I mean no offense – really.  I just don’t get the draw.  I don’t see any reason to have children.  I know that other people MUST have reasons…  I just don’t understand them.  I have tried.  I have asked.  Most people I have talked to say that it is some innate thing inside that drives them to want children.  I don’t have that thing.

I want to be an individual person who travels, can be spontaneous, reads books in the quiet, gets massages, and spends money on me and the things I like.  I want alone time.  I want to sleep for at least 8 hours a night, every night.  I like going to the bathroom all by myself (which apparently is a luxury once you have kids according to several people I know).  I want to be able to go to a nice restaurant without worrying about a babysitter.  I also want to be able to enjoy said restaurant without being disturbed by your screaming, food-throwing kid (yes, I support the no-kids-allowed movement).  That probably makes me self-centered – but at least I’m honest with myself and I know who I am.

Probably the most important thing I want to say today is this: People who choose not to have children should be accepted as just as normal as those who do have children.  I would like people to think twice before they ask things like, “So when you are two planning on having kids?”  Why should I be expected to have a child just because you did or my Mom did or America is overflowing with children?  I want to challenge the notion that you have to have children in order to “leave your mark on the world.”  I believe I can leave a legacy without creating another human being.  I can contribute to the world in other ways.  I know that I’m missing out on an “experience,” but I can live with that because I will have a lot of other ones.

I have also heard that studies show that a child-free marriages can be more satisfying.  I know for a fact that is true in my marriage.  Not only because of all the things I listed above, but also because I can’t imagine bringing the chaos and responsibility of a child into our already-complicated situation.  If I’m 100% honest, I would never want to raise children with a sex addict.  Besides, we need to be focusing on just us and our marriage.  We need to be able to connect with each other without distractions.  We need to just enjoy life and all it has to offer without kids.  There are perks.  Dual income not stretched thin by more mouths to feed.  The freedom to explore, travel on a whim, and move around.  The ability to sleep in on a Saturday morning, cuddle up, and not worry about how much noise we make if things go farther.

There are so many other reasons I have made this decision and so many other benefits of being childless that I could list, but I’m not going to.  The truth of the matter is that I don’t have to justify my choice not to have children anymore than people with children have to justify theirs.  I did want to offer my perspective, though.  I wanted to put it out there.  It has been something on my mind, especially as we go through healing our marriage.  I have so much respect for those of you that are doing it with multiple kids involved (or even just one for that matter).  I am also eternally grateful that I don’t have that added layer of complication to handle right now.

Being a Fixer

5 Jun

I am a fixer.  When I see a problem I want to correct it.  If there is something to do, I attack it.  I am also an overachiever and a perfectionist.  I want to be the best.  I won’t accept less than what I know I am capable of.  I strive to stand out from the pack.  While these things have led to accomplishments and good outcomes in my life (full college scholarship, 4.0 GPA while maintaining a full-time job, owning a home at 19), they are not healthy traits overall.  They can lead to missed opportunities (because if I can’t guarantee success I will most likely not try at all).  They can lead to controlling behavior (if you want something done right, just do it yourself).  They can lead to frustration, stress, low self-esteem, and a host of other things.

My husband’s sex addiction is the biggest personal test of those traits that I have ever experienced because I can’t fix it.  Not being able to control that aspect of our life makes me feel helpless, useless, and deficient in some uncorrectable way.  I have to address my “fixer” urge and perfectionism head-on almost every day.  Nothing I can do will change or correct my husband’s sex addiction – now, in the future, or in the past.  It is his journey.

I am slowly accepting the fact that there are aspects of our marriage recovery that are not in my hands.  It is terrifying because the outcome doesn’t solely rely on me.  I have to put away the notion that we can have a “perfect” marriage.  I also have to challenge the idea that perfection is possible in any other aspect of my life.  That is my ongoing battle.  It is one of the major contributions I can make to our marriage.  Accepting that means I am also accepting that my husband’s sex addiction and his hurtful actions existed outside of me.   He isn’t perfect, either.  What he did wasn’t about me, I can’t control it, I couldn’t have loved him out of it, and his behavior wasn’t my fault.

That resolve is put to the test every day, though.  I often hear people parroting that an affair is just a “symptom” and the real “cause” is a bad marriage.  They point the finger back at the betrayed spouse and say that there is something more or better that we should have been doing.  They say that we failed in the marriage first by not fulfilling every need our partner had.  These people are fond of saying that affairs are wrong, but that they wouldn’t have made the wrong choice if this or that thing was better to begin with. It plays right into my “fixer” complex.

I’m not going to go into the merits of that argument as they apply to standard affairs without a sexual addiction component.  I really can’t address that because that’s not what I am dealing with.  I do understand that there are always things ANYONE in a marriage can do more of or better.  No one is perfect, and that includes me.  That admission is a hard one for me to make.  As much as I would like to do everything right all of the time, I don’t.  Even if I did and had been all along, though, the issues that I am dealing with in my marriage would still be there. Because my husband’s “cause” is deeper than our marriage. 

There are other “causes” of affairs than just “my marriage sucked” or any variation thereof (I wasn’t getting enough sex, she didn’t love or cherish me enough, etc.).  There are some people who are dealing with a pattern of sexual acting out that is a lifetime behavior not caused by the person they are with.  Sometimes affair behavior has nothing to do with their primary relationship at all – and confessed sex addicts will be the first to tell you that – at least my husband would.

Does that mean there is something fundamentally wrong with me that I picked him to marry? Quite possibly. That is part of my journey to healing.  I need to figure out why I was attracted to someone who was emotionally unavailable.  I can say that sex addicts are masters of covering up their emotions, compartmentalizing, rationalizing and denying.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I inadvertently accepted that behavior by allowing him to offer me thin explanations, bad lies, and surface emotions.  I let him give me less than I deserved, and I tricked myself into thinking I was getting everything I needed.

I know that this will sound awful, but sometimes I wish that I was just dealing with a garden variety affair. I know that they are painful and difficult to get through. But at least there is a clear path, and it is more of a partnership to find your way out.  This?  I’m not sure what it is.  Any books I read call me codependent if I try to help my husband through it.  So I have to just sit back and let him do the work.  Sure, I have things that I’m working on as well.  But none of those things will matter if he doesn’t unravel his “cause” and break his underlying patterns.

I WISH that I could do something to fix this.  I WISH that our cause really was as simple as some fundamental thing being missing from our relationship.  It just isn’t.  His sex addiction was not caused by me.  It was there before me.  The primary cause of my husband’s cheating had nothing to do with me.  It has to do with his addiction.

That means we are working not just to find the proper footing in our marriage.  We are also working to find a way to connect and get to the “real” person underneath the sex addict veneer.  I want to know my husband.  I want him to share with me.  He wants to share with me.  But his gut instinct, his default programming, is to lie, hide, and cover his true emotions with acting out behavior like porn, sex chatting, sexting, etc.  He isn’t acting out sexually anymore, but he is still lying and hiding things that he could and should be sharing with me.  He has to figure out why.  He has to get to the root of that programming, undo over 40 years of “faulty wiring,” be okay with being vulnerable, and learn to accept the love that I am offering him.

And I have to learn to let go.  I have to learn to let him figure things out.  I have to learn to keep offering love and support whether he accepts them or not.  I have to keep being vulnerable even when he isn’t.  I have to lead by example and put into my marriage what I hope to get out of it.  That is the only way that I can “fix” anything – by doing the things that are in my power and being aware of the things that aren’t.  What an easy concept that is in theory, but how incredibly difficult it is in practice.

Maybe now you understand me better.  Maybe you don’t.  I don’t know.  I just wanted to point out that not every affair has the same cause.  Maybe other perfectionists out there will be able to let go of a little bit of their guilt, feelings of responsibility, and shame regarding their husbands’ affairs.  There are more spouses of sex addicts out there than you might think.  This is written for them.  Hopefully you will be able to identify what things you can change and what things you can’t.  Maybe you will start to understand the areas where you have responsibility and the areas that are completely on your spouse.  Don’t accept more responsibility than is really yours because it will only lead you to try to change things that aren’t in your power.

Being Normal

31 May

I recently read a post on SI from a fellow Year-2-of-Recovery warrior.  She put into words something that I have been feeling in the back of my mind.  She said, “I am so scared of just being normal.  Our marriage was OK pre-affair.  We had a few issues, nothing major but we have done a lot of work and things are great now but I just can’t relax.  I am just so scared that if we relax into our marriage it will go wrong again.”  That is true for me as well. 

Just like the author I thought our marriage/ relationship was going pretty good before my last porn discovery.  The rockiest time in our relationship was at the end of 2008/ beginning of 2009.  That was when the affair discovery happened (see Gaslighting for more info).  After that we had a few ups and downs revolving around lies, strip clubs, and pornography.  The last incident like that was around August of 2009.  In April of 2010 he proposed.  Just a few short months later in September we were married.

That time of our lives was really great (I thought).  We were connected, we were enjoying the wedding planning, not taking things too seriously, and we had our financial situation pretty well set.  He was probably more involved in the wedding planning than I was.  He picked out the food, the cake, helped with deciding the decorations, and was really enthusiastic about everything.  The photographer and music were really the two main areas of importance to me.  I was never one of those “bridezillas,” so the entire process went smoothly with very minimal stress.

I have never been a girl who dreamed about her wedding day – in fact I would have preferred something small with no fuss.  A courthouse or backyard wedding would have been just fine with me.  But my mother and future husband were more set on something with a lot of family and friends, a white dress, tuxedos, and the whole 9 yards.  Don’t get me wrong, I ended up loving our wedding.  I’m glad now that we did things the way we did – even though it was expensive (I consider myself a very frugal person).  One of my most cherished memories is the look on his face and tears in his eyes when I came down the aisle.

Our honeymoon was wonderful.  We had so much fun together – in and outside of the bedroom.  We picked a place that had amazing food, great music, culture, adventure, and energy.  Our room was spectacular, and we spent a lot of time bonding with each other and just enjoying ourselves.  The pictures from our honeymoon are full of laughter, joking, and obvious love.  Even after we got back to reality that connection and euphoria stuck around.  At least I thought it did.

Then about 6 months in I started getting that old familiar feeling that something was off.  I followed my gut, picked up his phone, and opened his browser history.  There were pages and pages of porn.  Even though he had promised he wasn’t doing that anymore.  Even though we had tons of conversations about how hurtful it was.  Even though it was over the line of the clear boundaries we had set in our relationship.  Even though our sex life was great.  The frequency, concealment, and lying weren’t the only issues, though.  The content of that porn was quite disturbing to me.  It still is.

That’s what is so hard about being married to a sex addict.  They can compartmentalized so well that everything can seem completely normal, superb even, while they are acting out in secret.  I know that my husband would take that the wrong way if he read it today.  It is not that I don’t have confidence in him.  It is not that I don’t believe he is staying sexually “sober.”  It’s not even that I have any kind of “bad feeling” about what he is doing.  That is not where the fear is coming from.

I think most of my fear is coming from the fact that it is so hard to really gauge what is going on in the mind of a sex addict.  The fact that my husband is generally so closed off to his emotions, especially any seemingly “negative” ones, makes it incredibly difficult for me to feel completely secure.  He can so easily lie to me and just go on living his life normally as if that lie doesn’t affect him or isn’t weighing on his conscience at all.  Part of that is what happens with an addicted brain.  They are great at denial, justification, and keeping things separate. 

One of the most difficult things for me still is how he could text her, send her messages and pictures, and call her in-between calls and texts with me or after just leaving and giving me a big kiss and “I love you.”  How is that possible?  How can you lie to someone that you love right to their face with no emotion or guilt?  How can you be loving, funny, caring, and completely engaged one minute and just turn it off the next for a sexual fantasy with another person, pornography, or a strip club?  How can you promise one thing and do a completely different thing effortlessly?  It is terrifying.

Even though my husband is no longer that person it is difficult to just turn off the part of my brain that lives in constant fear and uncertainty.  He makes it better every time he opens up and tells me things.  He makes it better every time he goes to a meeting.  Every time he goes to a therapy appointment.  Every time he answers a question honestly or lets me see his vulnerability.  Every time he reads a book or does an exercise with me.  Every time he shares his day, calls me “just because,” holds my hand in the car, and all the other little things that mean so much when they are added together.

Those things are my new “normal.”  I think to a certain extent they will have to continue to be our new normal for quite a while if not indefinitely.  That’s not because I think I will never trust him fully.  It’s quite the opposite.  I want to keep the same level of richness, honesty, trust, love, and connection that we have now forever.  I don’t want to “relax” if that means falling back into a rut where we aren’t being real with each other.  I want to be able to feel completely safe and know that I can trust him because we talk, I know what’s going on with him, and we are each other’s best friend, confidant, and unconditional support.

Being Complete Opposites

26 May

A while ago I briefly posted about my husband and I taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  Two weeks ago we got our results and a sheet that breaks down the joys and struggles of a couple with those two personality types.  What we discovered is that we are actually polar opposites.  We literally do not have one type in common.  I am an ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) and he is an ENFP (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving).

If you aren’t familiar with the test or the concept, it uses 4 different scales to identify personality traits.  There are 16 different combinations of these 4 traits which form the basis for your overall personality.  The four different scales are (as broken down by about.com Psychology at http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologicaltesting/a/myers-briggs-type-indicator.htm):

  1. Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I): The extraversion-introversion dichotomy was first explored by Jung in his theory of personality types as a way to describe how people respond and interact with the world around them. While these terms are familiar to most people, the way in which they are used here differs somewhat from their popular usage.  Extroverts are “outward-turning” and tend to be action-oriented, enjoy more frequent social interaction and feel energized after spending time with other people. Introverts are “inward-turning” and tend to be thought-oriented, enjoy deep and meaningful social interactions and feel recharged after spending time alone. We all exhibit extraversion and introversion to some degree, but most of us tend have an overall preference for one or the other.
  2. Sensing (S) – Intuition (N): This scale involves looking at how people gather information from the world around them. Just like with extraversion and introversion, all people spend some time sensing and intuiting depending on the situation. According to the MBTI, people tend be dominant in one area or the other. People who prefer sensing tend to pay a great deal of attention to reality, particularly to what they can learn from their own senses. They tend to focus on facts and details and enjoy getting hands-on experience. Those who prefer intuition pay more attention to things like patterns and impressions. They enjoy thinking about possibilities, imagining the future and abstract theories.
  3. Thinking (T) – Feeling (F): This scale focuses on how people make decisions based on the information that they gathered from their sensing or intuition functions. People who prefer thinking place a greater emphasis on facts and objective data. They tend to be consistent, logical and impersonal when weighing a decision. Those to prefer feeling are more likely to consider people and emotions when arriving at a conclusion.
  4. Judging (J) – Perceiving (P): The final scale involves how people tend to deal with the outside world. Those who lean toward judging prefer structure and firm decisions. People who lean toward perceiving are more open, flexible and adaptable. These two tendencies interact with the other scales. Remember, all people at least spend some time extraverting. The judging-perceiving scale helps describe whether you extrovert when you are taking in new information  (sensing and intuition) or when you are making decisions (thinking and feeling).

Every person has some combination of those 4 scales.  Each combination has inherent value and its own set of positive attributes and challenges.  Here’s a quick summary of the our two personality types:

  • ISTJ (me) – People with an ISTJ personality type tend to be reserved, practical and quiet.  They enjoy order and organization in all areas of their lives including their home, work, family and projects.  Because of this need for order, they tend to do better in learning and work environments that have clearly defined schedules, clear-cut assignments and a strong focus on the task at hand.  ISTJs value loyalty in themselves and others, and place an emphasis on traditions.  ISTJs are both responsible and realistic.  They are able to ignore distractions in order to focus on the task at hand and are often described as dependable and trustworthy.  Some of the main characteristics of the ISTJ personality include:
    • Focused on details and facts
    • Realistic
    • Interested in the present more than the future
    • Observant, but slightly subjective
    • Interested in the internal world
    • Logical and practical
    • Orderly and organized
  • ENFP (him) – People with this type of personality are often described as enthusiastic, charismatic, and creative.  ENFPs are flexible and like to keep their options open.  They can be spontaneous and are highly adaptable to change. They also dislike routine and may have problems with disorganization and procrastination.  When making decisions, ENFPs place a greater value on feelings and values rather than on logic and objective criteria.  People with this personality type strongly dislike routine and prefer to focus on the future. While they are great at generating new ideas, they sometimes put off important tasks until the last minute. Dreaming up ideas but not seeing them through to completion is a common problem. ENFPs can also become easily distracted, particularly when they are working on something that seems boring or uninspiring.Some common ENFP characteristics include:
    • Warm and enthusiastic
    • Empathetic and caring
    • Strong people skills; relates well to others
    • Able to think abstractly and understand difficult, complex concepts
    • Needs approval from others
    • Disorganized
    • Strong communication skills
    • Fun and spontaneous
    • Highly creative

You can probably tell already just how completely different we are.  Now imagine making that work in a marriage.  It is hard work.  But it is also very rewarding.  We literally have the traits that the other lacks.  Here is a portion of what our marriage counselor gave us regarding a marriage between an ISTJ and an ENFP:

The Joys

Since ISTJs and ENFPs have no type preference in common, they often seem like polar opposites.  But many couples experience a strong attraction, as each has what the other lacks.  ISTJs are often attracted to ENFPs’ high energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and creativity.  ENFPs bring a fun and adventurous element to everyday living, often saying and doing things that are irreverent, clever, and original (very true).  ENFPs are often drawn to ISTJs’ steadiness, responsibility, and calm.  ISTJs have a focus and maturity that ENFPs long to have themselves, and ISTJs are generally down-to-earth, unflappable, and superdependable (also very true).

Because of these differences, ENFPs and ISTJs have a great opportunity to help each other grow and develop in important ways.  ISTJs help their partners focus more carefully on the facts, details, and individual steps of their projects so they make fewer mistakes.  ENFPs often credit their partners with helping them be more direct, assertive, and willing to confront conflicts head-on.  ENFPs also say that their ISTJ partners help them become more organized, accountable, and realistic (true again).  For their part, ENFPs often help their serious and hardworking partners relax, have fun, and take occasional risks (so incredibly dead-on).  ISTJs credit their partners with cultivating their gentler and more patient sides and with helping them be more flexible and open to new ideas.

The Frustrations

Their many differences give most ISTJ and ENFP couples sizable hurdles to clear on a daily basis, especially in the area of communication (okay, have these people been spying on us?!).  ISTJs crave structure and predictability in their daily lives and are more traditional than the nonconforming and lveral-minded ENFPs.  Whereas ISTJs are not bothered by, and are perhaps even stimulated by, the tug of a good argument, ENFPs generally avoid anything too contentious or confrontational (spot-on).  Otherwise, ENFPs typically like lots of stimulation and are always eager to meet new people and explore new areas of work and play.  Meanwhile, ISTJs are often exhausted by the high level of interaction their partners stir up and prefer to stick with established routines or to spend quiet time with their partners pursuing an interest they share (that is so me).

Generally, one of the most difficult challenges for this couple stems from their views of change.  ENFPs like and need to talk about limitless possibilities, and they love to think creatively.  Because most ISTJs find constant change unsettling and stressful, their natural reaction is to resist it.  ENFPs often feel that their enthusiasm for possibilities is being squelched by the realism of their ISTJ partners.  For their part, ISTJs find the endless chatter about things that might never actually happen and the repeated leaps in logic frustrating and even threatening to the calm they prefer (AMEN!).

During conflicts, ISTJs tend to withdraw into silence so they can carefully think through their positions, opinions, and feelings before sharing them.  By contrast, most ENFPs want to work things out spontaneously in an effort to reestablish harmony immediately (actually, these two sentences happen but in the exact reverse.  He is the one who withdraws into silence and needs time to think things out while I want to immediately talk through our various feelings).  The end result is that both partners feel misunderstood and unappreciated.  Rather than talking through issues with respect and compromise, couples tend to fall into a pattern of arguing and blaming, followed by periods of silence and distance (this part is the same).  To maintain trust and connection, it is imperative that ENFPs stay calm and focused and ISTJs commit to sharing their emotions while remaining open and supportive (again, we need to do that but in reverse).

So, now we know a little bit more about each other.  I feel like every day we are taking steps in the right direction to strengthen our marriage.  Each little step brings us closer to being able to live in peace and harmony together.  I know there will always be differences, and that’s one thing I really like about us.  We are able to force each other to grow and make changes.  Hopefully they can be positive ones.  My desire is that we will find ways to balance each other out, smooth away the rough edges, and still maintain our individuality and unique perspectives on life.  As just a little step in that direction, I asked my husband to help me pick out a good picture to add at the end of this blog.  Below is his choice.

Pink

23 May

A few days ago I changed the look of my blog to make it perkier and give it a lighter ambience.  One thing I made sure was consistent, though, is the color: pink.  I have had a love-hate-love relationship with pink throughout my life.  I thought today I would give you a little glimpse into me using the color pink as a framework.

When I was very young my parents were members of an Apostolic Pentecostal church because my uncle was a pastor there.  One foundation of that faith is that women (and girls) are required to only wear dresses and to keep their hair long.  There are all sorts of other strict rules, but the basic idea is that femininity is required – even for babies.  That means that I actually learned to “crawl” in a dress.  I put crawl in quotes because I couldn’t really use my knees like most children do since the dresses made it virtually impossible.  Picture this:  me in a frilly pink dress, hair that had never been cut, “crawling” around on my hands and feet in this weird hunched/ crouching position so that I could maneuver around without tripping myself.  I think I have a photo of that somewhere, actually.  I will have to try and find it.

It wasn’t quite like this, but you get the general idea…

In my early childhood pink was a staple.  Even after we changed churches and parted ways with the stringent guidelines I owned tons of cute outfits, hair clips, and chunky plastic jewelry that was pink.  When I was about 6 years old my parents bought 10 acres of land in the country, and my Mom started designing a new house for us.  We got to pick everything, which was very exciting for me.  I picked out pink carpet, pink paint for my walls, pink wallpaper border, and a pink bedspread.  We moved in when I was about 7 years old, and I loved my new room.

In the next few years I got more active in sports (softball and horse-back riding mostly), started exploring those 10 acres, and became a tree-climbing, tough, tomboy who loved getting dirty, didn’t mind a few cuts and scrapes, and spent more time with my horses and dogs than playing dress-up.  I started hating the color pink with a passion.  I decided orange was my new favorite color, I think mostly because it isn’t “girly” at all.  I named all of my stuffed animals “orangey,” even the ones that had absolutely no orange in them.  I also spent some time ripping the heads off of my sister’s Barbie dolls just to prove how not interested I was in being frilly and delicate.

As I changed from a pre-teen into a full-blow teenager orange was no longer my favorite color, but pink was still at the very bottom of my list.  I gravitated to blue, gray, black, and anything that made me feel tough.  I think part of that had to do with the fact that I was very picked on in school.  I was home-schooled by my Mom until 6th grade, which I thought was wonderful.  I was super-fast with my school-work, which allowed me to skip a grade and have more time to play outside.  I could finish my lessons for the day in just a few hours at home.

Then I changed to private school for 2 years.  Not only were the lessons excruciatingly, unnecessarily long (it took 3 or 4 times what I had been spending to go over things that I found incredibly simple), but the kids were mean.  Private schools sound good in theory, especially to religious parents who think their children will get the benefit of Christian teachings, prayer, and smaller class sizes.  Let me tell you something – the reality is much different.  Private schools are full of kids who have been rejected from public schools because of their bad attitudes, problems focusing, and in some cases drug habits.  Sure, there are only 15-20 students in an entire grade.  That just means you can’t get away from the bullies.  Ever.

I was very glad to switch to public school for 8th grade through graduation.  At least there I could blend in, fade into the background a bit, and hopefully find a niche for myself.  Still, I was the “new kid.”  Everyone had been together, known one another, and formed their social circles since elementary school.  I wasn’t especially popular, outgoing, or interested in the “normal” teenage drama.  I came to despise the color pink even more because it was associated with the narcissistic, cruel, and shallow group of “mean girls.”

I did end up finding my own comfort zone in show choir, academics, and a few musicals and plays (even though I never fit in with the drama crowd).  I had a few close friends, I was relatively well-liked and respected, although not popular by anyone’s standards, and I was able to avoid being ridiculed for the most part.  I graduated at the top of my class, and couldn’t have been happier to leave it all behind.

I will skip most of the stuff in between then and now because it really doesn’t relate to my journey with the color pink.  Once I became a more self-assured adult something slowly changed about my opinion of pink.  It started with just a few nice pops of pink in a pretty shirt.  I realized I was okay with being feminine – in fact, it was something that made me feel good about myself.  I bought a bright pink shirt for the summer and noticed how much it flattered my dark hair and fair skin.

Slowly pink started making its way back into my life.  Now it represented confidence.  I could own pink for myself, not as something forced onto me by religion, culture, my parents, or the “in crowd.”  I also found that since I was more confident in myself I was okay with the vulnerability and softness that pink sometimes implies.  I didn’t have to be tough all the time.  I didn’t have to be strong, invincible, and shielded from the world.  I could just be me.  And I discovered that “me” likes pink.

I have been shaped by my life experiences and have grown because of them.  I still like black and gray, but I also enjoy silver and pink.  In fact, black and pink were the colors of my wedding.  I wanted this blog to have a pink theme because it reminds me of the journey I have taken to be okay with pink.  It reminds me that I can be vulnerable.  It reminds me that I am fluid – changing and becoming a different person every day.  That is why pink is important to me.

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