Archive | September, 2012

Preparing for Full Disclosure (and a Wonderful Weekend)

30 Sep

Tuesday I am supposed to get a full disclosure from my husband at his therapist’s office.  He has been preparing for about 3 weeks.  He is going way back – from his first acting out through today.  I am nervous because I don’t know everything that is going to come out.  Our MC is back from his medical leave, so I am glad to have his support.  I have seen him for IC and I know if I need extra support he can offer it.  I have a knot in my stomach just thinking about it, though.

In the meantime, I’m trying to focus on all the positive things happening to relieve some anxiety.  Today was incredibly nice.  We slept in, had a “roll in the hay,” then my husband went out to pick up coffee and came back with flowers for me.  We went to a winery tour, tasting and picnic in the afternoon.  On the way up we talked and laughed.  We touched, kissed, and were close emotionally all day.  The weather was as perfect as it has ever been, we purchased several bottles of delicious wine from 2 wineries, and dinner was amazing.  It was a fantastic day.

For now, that’s what I’m focused on…  Our present progress and where our future will take us.  I’m hoping that the full disclosure can create closure on the past and help me feel more trust in my husband.  This entire process has been hard for him, too, I’m sure, although he hasn’t complained once.

I know I promised to give some details and pictures from our anniversary, and I will do it soon.  I just want to bask in the glow of my wonderful day for now.  Hope the rest of your weekend is great!

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The High Price of Forgiveness

27 Sep

By hang_in_there, Some Rights Reserved

This article has been making the rounds through several blogs that I follow.  I decided to share it here not because I have an aversion to Reblogging or because I somehow think my perspective on this is better than anyone else’s, but because I wanted to have these powerful words close by and easily accessible.  I wanted to have a reminder of this on my page because these words are incredibly powerful.

There is a price to forgive, and it is a high one for the spouse who has been cheated on.  It is just as high for the spouse of a sex addict.  We give up so many parts of ourselves – our expectations, our hopes, our ideals, our strong belief in fidelity above all else, our naive certainty that our life partner wouldn’t intentionally harm us, our sense of safety, our unconditional trust, our pride, our self-respect, our ability to live a normal, trigger-free life, our sanity (sometimes), and so, so much more.

Betrayed spouses and spouses of sex addicts are often advised to name their losses and grieve over them.  I have done that in small baby steps, here and there.  This article listed a lot of those sacrifices and losses in one place.  Reading the story, seeing my own losses mirrored so eloquently and poignantly, and taking a moment to grieve again was very therapeutic yesterday.

I also realized that I am at a point where I forgive my husband.  I’m not sure when it happened – I couldn’t tell you the exact moment – but it did.  I have a deep peace about what happened and what we are doing to continue making our marriage stronger.  I feel safer in my marriage right now than I have in a long time.  I am gaining back some of the pieces of myself that I had to sacrifice to stay.

I think there is another phase of forgiveness: when those things you lost begin to be restored, little by little.  I will never have the naive, unconditional trust, but I do have trust in him.  I don’t check the computer or his phone.  I don’t worry about whether he will cross our boundaries – if he does I have a plan and there are consequences – but the anxiety is far, far lower than it has ever been.  I use the “trust but verify” method, although the “verify” part is getting less and less necessary.  Now “verify” might just mean paying attention to the tone of his voice and the real sincerity behind his words.  It means listening to my gut about whether something makes sense or not, and accepting how I feel.

I have reached the point where my pride and self-respect isn’t influenced by what he does or doesn’t do.  I am realizing that my forgiveness and desire to repair our marriage is a testament to my character and makes me stronger, not weaker.  I no longer care what anyone else might think of me because of it, what society may judge me as, or even what the OW might ever have thought of me.  None of that matters because I am secure in knowing that my decision is turning out for the better.

Letting go of my ideals and expectations was so, so scary at first.  It was painful and humiliating to think that my picture of my relationship was false.  Accepting that our story wasn’t going to be neat, pretty, and the way I had envisioned in my head was a loss I had to grieve.  I can now see the value in losing my picture-perfect ideal, though.  Keeping an idealized view of a relationship is damaging.  It perpetuates delusions, it causes distance, it makes us dismiss things that don’t fit into our neat boxes, including aspects of our partner that could make us closer if we explored them.  My life isn’t perfect, my marriage isn’t perfect, and as much as we work on it I will always be married to a sex addict.  There will always be struggles.  But life always has struggles anyway.  Now we know that we are equipped to handle them.  Now we share our intimate thoughts and feelings more readily.  Now each new challenge should hopefully result in my husband and I rallying together, not drifting apart as we each try to hold onto our separate views of “how things should be.”

So, yes, there is a high price of forgiveness.  I also think that there is an equally high payout.  It just takes longer to get there, and there is a lot of pain along the way.  Some things may never come back.  Forgiveness doesn’t heal all wounds, it just makes it so the healing process can start.  I may have triggers for the rest of my life.  Forgiveness won’t take them away, but it will allow me to move farther and farther from that point of raw emotion.  Letting go of my need for “justice” is hard, but carrying it around with me keeps me on edge.  It keeps me focused on life’s unfairness.  That unfairness will always be there, though.  Just like my post yesterday, it’s about seeing the other things – the beauty and gifts that are also part of life.


Ever associated forgiveness with a big price tag?

by Rick Reynolds

What is the cost of forgiveness? What does this have to do with forgiving infidelity? We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first let me tell a story. Seventeen years ago, within the first two years of marriage, Sandra had multiple affairs. Doubts of whether she’d married the right man plagued her even before the wedding. A better man than Campbell she’d never find, but the spark was missing. She feared he’d be a Steady Freddie who was dull and commonplace. His impeccable character and undying love had captured her attention, but where was that romance of man and maid she’d so longed for? Those feelings never came.

About a year into the marriage Sandra’s boss invited her to lunch. From an innocent beginning blossomed a growing conflagration of passion. He understood her womanly need of small attentions and seemed to get her in ways Campbell never imagined. Justifying her affair was all too easy. She’d never felt like this before, confirming in her mind that she’d married the wrong person, and now she’d found the love of her life. Besides this wasn’t some spur of the moment impulsive whim, they’d spent their days at work talking about music, philosophy, religion and life. Milton knew her better in a month than Campbell had in 2 years.

For the first time in her life she felt compelled to recklessly abandon herself to another. It was like nothing she’d ever experienced, until Milton’s wife discovered their affair and filed for divorce. Milton immediately resigned his job and moved his family to another state. She was shocked; they had planned their future together and now, just like that, he was gone? He even told her he wanted nothing to do with her and to quit bugging him. The pain was unbearable, and even she was surprised at her response. Rather than grieving the loss and moving on, she numbed the pain with three more short-term affairs. What was the difference; she didn’t envision Campbell as any part of her future.

However, about a month after affair number three ended, she and Campbell conceived and life suddenly changed. She loved life as a mom and admired the way Campbell stepped up and supported the family. Over time she even grew to love her life and recognized she had indeed married well.

Skip forward 17 years when Campbell received a call from Milton’s wife. “I told him if it happened again I would no longer keep his secrets, and I just discovered he’s doing it again,” she said. “I thought that you might want to know your wife isn’t who you think she is. Why don’t you ask her about Milton?” Milton’s wife was coping with infidelity in a flurry of anger.

Initially, Sandra lied. She had decided to take the secret of her infidelity to her grave, but eventually she came clean about all four affairs before their first child’s birth. She pleaded for forgiveness; after all, it was 17 years past. But for Campbell it wasn’t seventeen years ago, ground zero was just last month. Forgiving infidelity for him didn’t seem possible. Seventeen years of faithfulness did nothing to ease the pain of her betrayal. In fact, it made it worse. She had caused him to live a lie for 17 years. He no longer trusted his current reality, his past, his future, his wife or himself. How could he have been so blind? How could he just forgive and move on?

For the sake of our discussion let me point out that there are two elements to what we refer to as forgiveness. The first is an internal matter where we choose to forgive the wrong committed against us and no longer expect justice as a result of their offense. Even more, we wish them well. The second element of forgiveness is about reconciliation. It’s where we choose to continue in relationship with that person in spite of their offense. For the sake of this discussion I’m focused on the second element, reconciliation.

All too often we talk about the high price of NOT forgiving. That forgiveness is a gift you give yourself and how failing to forgive leaves you forever a victim. We extol forgiveness as a virtue and share examples of those saints who forgave much to show forgiveness as a possibility. (Even though the fact we even share such stories indicate those people may be the exception, not the rule.) But forgiveness isn’t natural, especially when it comes to forgiving infidelity. It flows against our basic human nature. For most, our initial response to coping with infidelity is justice, not forgiveness. We want restitution, not mercy. We want the scales of justice to be balanced.

An understanding of the high cost of forgiveness seems to go missing when an offense is committed. Far too often I see an entitlement mentality when it comes to receiving forgiveness from our mate or forgiveness from God. As humans we’re supposed to forgive, right? In Christendom we teach “as God forgave us so we’re to forgive.” Isn’t that the lesson we teach our children? But we forget that forgiveness comes at a price. Even the Christian tradition teaches that the price God has paid to forgive mankind’s offenses was the life of His own Son. In the same way, the price paid by the betrayed spouse, if there is to be reconciliation, is high indeed.

What was the price of forgiveness in Campbell and Sandra’s case? Campbell had been an exceptional husband and father, not perfect by any means, but he’d lived and loved well. For him, forgiveness meant violating his personal beliefs and values. He would never have chosen to be with someone who betrayed, lied, and deceived him. He believed in the sanctity of marriage, and to choose to stay with Sandra came at the price of settling for something he never wanted.

Forgiving infidelity would mean sacrificing his dreams of the type of marriage he’d wanted. He’d never have the opportunity to brag to his children about the fidelity of their marriage. To stay meant sacrificing a marriage that was free from doubts. How could he ever again believe a word that she said if she’d been able to deceive him for 17 years? Staying meant the sacrificing of his dignity. He personally knew two of these men, and he now imagined how they’d seen him as the fool. To stay he’d have to sacrifice his rights. Didn’t he have the right to leave and find another who would be faithful to him? Staying and coping with infidelity meant sacrificing the ability to be honest with family. He couldn’t share his struggles, for fear of more complications. To stay would cost him pride. He’d always believed people who stayed were too weak to leave. To stay would cost his self-respect. He couldn’t believe things he’d said and done in his fits of rage. It would be so much easier to be away from her and not be triggered by her presence. To forgive seemed to make a mockery of all he’d sacrificed for the sake of their marriage. Instead of being proud of what he and Sandra had built, he now felt he’d been played the fool and taken advantage of.

All Campbell ever wanted was to love unconditionally and to be loved by someone special, but now his heart was so full of pain and distrust he wasn’t sure whether he could give himself to Sandra or anyone else again. Could he walk through the pain of her betrayal and face the demons he’d encounter if he ever gave himself to her again? For him, choosing to stay would cost him dearly.

Grace isn’t cheap; it comes at a high price. Failure to appreciate the high price paid by those choosing to forgive minimizes the magnitude of their sacrifice. The currencies used by the betrayed spouse to pay off the debt incurred by their mate’s betrayal are pride, ego, and suffering. Forgiving infidelity costs their dignity when they choose to stay rather than leave. It costs them their just due when they choose to forgo justice for the sake of the relationship. It costs them their sanity because they don’t control the painful thoughts invading their mind. Their present-day reality is constantly interrupted with painful memories of the past. It costs them their dreams because this road isn’t one they’d ever planned on traveling. It costs them health because the pain of the offense consumes their life. And I’m only beginning to scratch the surface.

As one who believes in the value of forgiving, I never want to be guilty of cheap grace, where I think it’s something to which I’m entitled. If justice is the standard, then the consequence of betrayal is the loss of relationship. Anything short of that is mercy, indeed. Failing to consider the price paid by others for my sake causes me to be careless with my behavior. Forgiveness and reconciliation are expensive gifts purchased through great suffering and sacrifice on the part of the offended. Failure to understand that reality makes me blind to the love displayed by those who choose to continue on in relationship…

How would you describe the cost of forgiveness from your own experience?

My Pity Party: The Importance of Taking My Antidepressants

26 Sep

Last night I was in quite an emotional state.  My husband and I lay in bed talking about a few things from the day, and I got triggered big time from the feeling that he was keeping something from me.  He kinda was.  We ended up resolving the issue, but that feeling wouldn’t quite go away.  I was incredibly overwhelmed.

The last few days were both wonderful and a blur.  My entire morning routine got messed up last week when, on a rushed morning, I forgot to take all of my pills (vitamins, antidepressant, and allergy medication).  I started taking them at lunch, instead, since I need to take them every 24 hours.  Then one day I didn’t make it home for lunch, so I began taking them at dinner.  Then we went away to the mountains for the weekend, and I left all of my medicine at home.  Last night I realized that I hadn’t taken my antidepressants for 3 days.  At least I don’t think so.  I actually can’t remember.  Did I take them when I got home on Sunday or didn’t I?  How about Monday?  Even last night I couldn’t remember if I had taken them that morning.  It’s like my brain was in a fog.

After we had our talk and connected really well, my husband was all talked out and ready to go to bed.  I didn’t really have anything else pressing to talk about, but I just couldn’t go to sleep.  We turned off the lights and I gave it a try, but my brain was swirling with everything and nothing all at once.  I didn’t want to get on the computer because I knew I would end up awake half the night, so I got up and grabbed my journal.

As an aside:  I’m pretty awful at keeping a written journal because I hate hand-writing…  It is mostly because I prefer typing and I’m faster and more efficient that way.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  I realized, though, that what’s behind that preference is the fact that I don’t like the messiness of it.  I don’t have bad handwriting, it’s just that I can’t edit, tweak, and polish what I have written.  I don’t like the rough, unfinished quality of my words right out of my head.  I don’t like the fact that I can’t rearrange paragraphs, insert new sentences, and change words without leaving a mess.  I don’t like having something that incomplete and raw sitting around, even if it is just for me.  It drives me crazy.  So, I’m going to address that irrational perfectionism head on, and share what I wrote last night.  Unedited.  Here goes:

I’m a mess.  I want to write about our fantastic honeymoon weekend.  Instead I’m feeling emotional and hormonal, sitting up at night not able to go to sleep.  I don’t think I’ve taken my ADs for 3 days.  My dog just walked in and peed on the floor out of nowhere.  Wow…  Just my day.  No ADs (my schedule got messed up), I’m starting my period, my neck and shoulders are tweaked, I’ve got a cold, and my emotions are running wild.  Now I’m cleaning up dog urine at 11:30, too.  Oh, and my husband has gout…  Yeah, gout.  Last year I was convinced that was some medieval disease that no longer existed.  Now I know better, although I’m not really all that thrilled to be enlightened.  So, I guess this is just one big bitch session.  I’m obviously feeling sorry for myself and needed to throw a little pity party.  Tomorrow I will get back on my ADs, load the beautiful pictures from Shenandoah, and get on with enjoying life.  Right now I’m just going to let this extra strength Tylenol work on my cramps & muscles, hope this cold medicine makes breathing easier, and try to get some sleep…

English: The Gout by James Gillray. Published ...

English: The Gout by James Gillray. Published May 14th 1799. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Proof that I was feeling completely out of it is the fact that I wrote “honeymoon weekend” instead of “anniversary weekend.”  I almost edited that here before I posted it because it is just so ridiculous and embarrassing that I got it wrong.  No one will probably care at all about that mistake, but I still have the urge to go fix it before I hit Publish.  How crazy is that?  I just have to breathe and accept that sometimes I really am a complete mess, and not even a beautiful one (although my husband argued otherwise last night).

Today really is better already.  I am in an amazing, feminine skirt suit set that is polished, luxurious, and was on sale at over 80% off.  I have a deep purple top on that looks amazing with my skin tone.  I’m wearing the pearls that my husband gave me at our rehearsal dinner for our wedding day.  I have on adorable Tahari heels with a bow detail and decorative stitching.  I took all of my medicine this morning.  I have my annual review this afternoon with my boss, who is taking me out to lunch where I already know I’m receiving a nice raise.  I feel like a million bucks.  Even though this head cold is being stubborn, I have a few twinges of cramps, and my neck is still incredibly tight, this is going to be a good day.

Yesterday wasn’t even a bad day.  My outlook just wasn’t right.  I let the little things overwhelm me because I wasn’t in the right head space.  I’m getting back there, and trying to focus on all of the great things that I have going for me.  Tonight we are continuing our anniversary celebration by going to a great local restaurant that I’ve wanted to go to for ages.  We were supposed to go on Friday, but I didn’t want to miss karate and my husband had a flare-up of his gout (which he wasn’t aware he had until yesterday).  Tomorrow I’m going to try to write about how our anniversary went, complete with stunning pictures of the mountains.

Today, though, I’m going to focus on noticing all the little things that I’m thankful for.  Starting with you guys.  Thanks for listening.  Thanks for helping me see my mess and giving me insight to address it head-on.  Knowing that I’m going to post my thoughts for you to comment and “like” (or not), somehow allows me to see the truth behind my words, the real reasons behind my excuses and justifications, and put my thoughts and feelings into perspective.

It also gives me the opportunity to face my demons head-on, like admitting that I make mistakes sometimes and I have off days.  It helps me to realize that it’s okay.  I will be fine.  No one is going to stop following me (hopefully) because I wrote “honeymoon” accidentally instead of “anniversary.”  Even if they do, who cares?  That doesn’t define me.  I’m more than the total of my faults and mistakes – I’m also a complicated, beautiful mess with an interesting perspective and a zeal for life who is improving every day by growing and changing and becoming a better version of myself.  Instead I could be stuck, afraid of admitting that I’m not perfect, and slowly languishing into mediocrity.  I’m glad that I’m able to recognize when I’m throwing a pity party, pick myself up, and move on.  I’m also happy that I have people along the way who can help motivate me to keep moving forward.  So, thanks!

Thank You

Thank You (Photo credit: purplekiss024)

I (Was) Married to My Polar Opposite (ISTJ & ENFP)

24 Sep

Today I wanted to share one of my previous posts about how my husband and I are complete opposites.  I find it very interesting how complete opposites can be attracted to one another and then learn to live with their differences.   I always knew that my husband and I were opposites in many ways.  I never realized that we were complete and total opposites, at least psychologically, until we took the Myers-Briggs Test together and examined our results with our marriage counselor.  What follows is a summary of our different personality types and how they mesh in a relationship.  Things are difficult sometimes, but we are making it work!

A while ago I briefly posted about my husband and I taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (See Being Thankful).  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 liberal-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.

Update: My 2013 stats summary showed that this is still my most-read post. I thought I should provide an update in this post for those that come here just to read about how two opposite types in a marriage work out. I can’t speak for every “opposites attract” couple, but mine didn’t work out well at all. We are now divorced. Our Myers-Briggs types weren’t the main reason for the marriage failure (the near constant lies did that). I do think that our vast differences contributed to the breakdown and eventual decline of our relationship, though. It got tiring being the “responsible one,” always dealing with his unrealistic ideas, and being married to someone who was so deeply conflict avoidant and approval-seeking.

Let me add at this point that I have nothing against ENFP types. I just would never be in a romantic relationship with one again. We don’t see eye-to-eye. Every little thing was more of a struggle than it should have been. We hobbled along and tried to make it work for a while, but it was like having octagons for wheels instead of circles – jumpy, bumpy, and not quite right. It wasn’t good for him or for me. Growth is inevitable, and partners should challenge one another, but things shouldn’t be that difficult. That much change and compromise isn’t healthy for either partner. Common ground is vital.

I’m now in a very healthy relationship with someone who tests either ISTJ or ISFJ, depending on the test and the day. We aren’t carbon copies of each other by any stretch of the imagination, and we don’t have a conflict-free relationship. However, things just work so much more smoothly. We have similar goals, focus, thought-processes, ideas, and philosophies about what is important in life. We are on the same team, working toward the same things instead of in a constant tug-of-war. Most importantly, our communication is clear, calm, and conflicts are resolved quickly and with maturity. It makes a world of difference.

One other small note, I really hate that picture my ex-husband chose. It’s so cheesy. Horrible, just horrible. I hated it then, and I think I hate it even more now.

Related articles

Another Reason I’m in Love with Sara Ramirez

20 Sep

Sara Ramirez (EP)

I heard Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol on the radio in the office today.  I had no idea what the name of the song was, and still have absolutely no idea who that artist is.  However, I immediately recognized the song from Grey’s Anatomy.  The Office Manager at work looked up the song and band for me, then I rushed back to my desk to buy it from Amazon.  I listened to the sample, and it’s just not the same.  The Grey’s Anatomy version is about 1,000 times better.  All because of Sara Ramirez and the wonderful producers of the show who wrote a moving story-line.  I get chills every single time I watch the video.

If you’re not convinced of how powerful and gorgeous Sara Ramirez’s voice is from that clip, then you have to listen to her singing The Story by Phil Hanseroth, sung originally by Brandi Carlile.  Again, I have no idea who Bradi Carlile is, but I listened to her version.  Not even close to a comparison.  There is a reason Sara Ramirez graduated from Juilliard, performed on Broadway, and won a Tony!  She is amazing!

Warning:  This video may make you cry if you’re anywhere close to as sentimental as I am.

I can’t say enough about her talent.  And if you are one of those people who thinks she is just lip-syncing or has been touched up vocally like crazy in the studio, watch this video, then shut up.

I really relate to this song, and I think I’m going to have to find the music so I can sing it very, very soon.  These lyrics especially resonate with me:

“You see the smile that’s on my mouth
It’s hiding the words that don’t come out
And all of my friends who think that I’m blessed
They don’t know my head is a mess
No, they don’t know who I really am
And they don’t know what
I’ve been through like you do”

Most people who work with me, see me around, and even a few people that are relatively close to me don’t see what is behind the smile on my face.  It’s not that I’m not happy, but I am much more of a mess than I appear on the surface.  There also aren’t very many people who really know who I am.  That is something I value immensely in my husband.  He knows me, all the way down to my core.  When I’m having a bad day or triggering, I can hold on to that knowledge.  We have been through worse, and we’re growing stronger every day.

I’ll leave you with one more picture of the incredibly sexy Sara Ramirez.

Sara Ramirez modeling at the Red Dress Collect...

Sara Ramirez modeling at the Red Dress Collection charity fashion show to benefit The Heart Truth. Identity confirmed through image gallery at wireimage.com (a gallery of professional photos of the same event that has the models identified). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match: From the Perspective of a Woman Who Wants More Sex

18 Sep

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...It seems the topic of sex – and mismatched libidos – is swirling around in the blogosphere today.  I feel that I have something unique to add to the discussion (or really not so unique, if you keep reading).  I have touched on the topic of sex more than a few times here since it has been an issue in our relationship and our recovery.  Even if you aren’t married to a sex addict, though, sex is a topic that you should be talking about.

I won’t waste too much time on the great importance of sex and intimacy in a relationship. There are thousands upon thousands of articles about that. I will, however, point out that sex and intimacy create a bond, a connection, between two people that can make them feel closer and carry them through difficult situations.  Intimacy and sex are incredibly important to a marriage.  It’s one of the aspects of a relationship that takes it to the next level – to the realm of romantic love versus platonic friend or family love.

So how is it that around 20%* of married couples in the United States live in what is what is defined as a “sexless marriage?”  What is a “sexless marriage,” you may ask…  It is a marriage where sexual intercourse occurs 10 times or less each year.   In marriages where sex has dried up to that extent it’s a vicious cycle, and often no one can remember what exactly came first: “lack of sexual desire, lack of trust, anxiety, financial issues, misunderstandings, pressure from children,” or a myriad of other factors.**

Even when things haven’t gotten that bad, couples can find themselves frustrated or feeling rejected from their partner when there is a difference in how much sex each person thinks is “normal.”  In the first 6 months of a sexual relationship both parties are tearing each other’s clothes off with the same intense passion and vigor. Once things settle into a comfortable place and those “lusty” brain chemicals die down, our natural preferences will start to emerge.  It’s actually common for spouses to have different amounts of sexual desire.  Sexuality is a complicated, delicate thing.  Each of us have our own ideas of how much is “enough,” and those ideas do not always mesh.  However, not addressing those differences or talking about sex with your partner can be devastating to your relationship.

Now that the groundwork is laid (haha), I’m going to jump right into the heart of my topic.  Whenever a marriage is struggling with sexual intimacy the finger is automatically pointed at the wife.  If the sex isn’t frequent enough or someone is sexually dissatisfied, it must be HER fault!  Society in general loves to joke about how once a woman gets married she stops wanting sex.  Women are overly sexualized in magazines, movies, posters, entertainment, etc., yet conversely we are told that we really aren’t very sexual beings.  When a woman is open about her sexuality, she is treated like a freak or a whore.   If you want sex more than your male partner, there must be something wrong with you.  Make up your minds people!

Women do love sex.  And sometimes we want it more than the man in our life.  In fact, as one article put it, “It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common” for a woman to want sex more than her partner.  That’s right, folks!  In many, many cases the wife is the sexually dissatisfied one in the relationship.

Our culture doesn’t want to talk about it and certainly doesn’t want to accept it, but there are a lot of us out here.  In fact, that very same article says that in about 1/3 of the cases where a couple sees a sex therapist it is the woman who wants sex more frequently.  In those cases, fighting against cultural stereotypes in addition to an imbalance in sex drives is incredibly difficult.  Here’s an excerpt that I just have to share:

“Any chronic desire difference can drive people crazy. But in our culture, when the woman wants sex more, the couple descends into a special circle of hell, the place reserved for those caught in culturally unexpected circumstances. It’s bad enough to have a chronic desire difference, but when the situation contradicts the highly prevalent assumption that women—all women!—are erotically coy, while men—all men!—are insatiable horn dogs who can never get enough, desire differences feel even more distressing.”***

The stereotypes and public perception that men should or do want sex more than their female counterpart make it more difficult for women like me to find an outlet to talk about this type of thing.  I have connected with more women than you could imagine who also have higher sex drives than their husbands.  It is very isolating because you think there must be something wrong with you…  Men are SUPPOSED to want sex more.

It’s just not true, though.  Think about it.  If the woman in 1/3 of couples wants sex more than her spouse, then the number of women like me who are left disappointed and sexually frustrated when our husbands are “too tired” at night has to be in the millions.  There are millions of us!!!  Are we still in the minority?  Maybe.  But if this wasn’t such a taboo issue, maybe more and more of us would speak up and that 1/3 number would inch up closer to 50%.  I have no empirical proof of that, but the logical, reasonable side of me is screaming that if sex and sexuality is so varied then why couldn’t that be true?

Just check out this message board on Women’s Health with 38 pages of responses to one woman who was concerned that her sex drive was too high.  Or read this response from an advice columnist to a woman whose high sex drive was causing friction in her marriage.  In the beginning of her answer she says, “You are far from being the only woman who finds that her partner’s sex-drive is way lower than her own.  I get more questions from women on this subject than from men.”  Maybe that’s because we are the ones who write to advice columnists.  Maybe it’s because we are seeking to find out whether society is right and there is something wrong with us.  Or maybe it’s because there are a lot of us out here.

I don’t deny that there are a lot of studies that point to the fact that men think about sex more than women.  That’s probably true.  I’m not sure how much any male thinks about sex because I am certainly not in their brain.  I am also not some sex-crazed woman who is lost in sexual fantasy all day.  I just love sex, and I want it frequently.  I don’t stop and think about it obsessively – I just make a move on my husband, send him a flirty text, go in for a long kiss with a little tongue, or any number of other actions.  I’m a woman of action, though.

So what about the evolutionary theory?  Men are programmed to spread their seed and all that, right?  Well, there might be more to it than just that.  In Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha talk extensively about early human sexuality.  I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if I would agree with every single conclusion they draw, but I have read several articles that touch on their findings.  Surprisingly (to some), the psychological and anthropological evidence they gathered shows that without the constraints of society women were just as sexual as men (or more so).

So what changed?  In an interview with Dr Snyder’s PsychologyToday’s blog “SexualityToday,” lead author Christopher Ryan said, “Even as we speak, clitorectomies are taking place in North Africa, women in Iran are being stoned to death, and American girls are committing suicide because their classmates call them ‘sluts’ online.  The world is hardly a safe place for women to express sexual curiosity, and hasn’t been for a very long time.”  So very true.  I really think a lot of this boils down to our society.

Today I was referred to this article about how men and women’s sex drives differ.  They conclude that “men score higher in libido, while women’s sex drive is more ‘fluid.'”  I found it very, very educational and interesting.  There were a lot of valid points made, some of which I have addressed above and some of which I am not going into.  One thing in the article really jumped out at me, though.  The #4 difference between men and women’s sex drive is that “Women’s sex drives are more influenced by social and cultural factors.”  All of the bullet points under there were spot-on, and I would highly recommend that you take a look.

This is my interpretation.  Women’s sexuality is more influenced by their peers, church, education, age, and other outside influences.  If you create a role for women like, “The wife never wants to have sex as much as the husband,” some women will go ahead and fill that role.  They will suppress their sexuality and let their husband take the driver’s seat because that’s how things are supposed to be.  If, by chance, they step out of line, another woman is more than happy to call them a “whore” to put them back in their place.  Men and women alike are there joking and whispering in their ear that men are more sexual, and they just need to accept that fact.

That bullet point also explains a bit why I might be more open sexually than a lot of people – male or female.  I am well-educated, not religious, and don’t care what everyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks is “normal.”  That makes me able to fulfill my entire sexual potential (or at least a lot of it).

When it all boils down to it, I think the baseline sex drive for men and women is more equal than people think. While men may think about sex more often and may be more direct or less complicated sexually, I think both genders equally want sex.  We both crave good sex in it’s fantastic, intimate form.  It may be a higher priority for some men than for women, especially when children enter the picture.  Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that, either.  In a vacuum, though, I think men and women’s sex drives would be very, very close (and pretty darn high).  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum.  We live here, in this society, and every single one of us has a completely different sexual experience and background.

Today I just wanted to be a voice for women like me.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are not alone.  Remember, men peak sexually at around the age of 17 while women peak in their late thirties.  It just is what it is.

As for what to do about it?  My answer, no matter which way the imbalance of sex drives goes, is to open up about sex with your partner.  We both need to be communicating about sex.  We both need to be initiating.  We both need to be finding ways to connect sexually.  We both need to realize how important it is.  We both need to make time and make sex a priority.  So go home, give your man or woman a deep, romantic, passionate kiss, and get busy!  Talking that is…  If that leads to more, then more power to you!

Footnotes:

* According to the National Health and Social Life Survey and Newsweek magazine
** From MSNBC.com, “The Big No: The truth about sexless marriage” (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32735936/ns/today-relationships)
***When She Wants Sex More than He Does: It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common. Published on December 4, 2011 by Michael Castleman, M.A. in All About Sex

Our 2-Year Wedding Anniversary…

17 Sep

… is tomorrow.  Wow!  That really snuck up on me.  I still remember last year when we took an extended weekend to a cabin in wine country.  We started a fire, lounged in the hot tub, snacked on our complimentary wine and cheese package, and visited an airplane show, a casino, and a wine festival.  It was a really nice weekend.  There was a little hitch when an airplane crashed at the airshow…

The smoke plume from the crash…

We weren’t sure what it was at first when we heard the big boom and saw the smoke cloud.  We were on the way to our car after having watched several cool planes, stunts, and lots of formations.  We had eaten all of the free food and drinks that we cared for from the VIP tent we were in, and decided to head back to the cabin.  After the boom, no one else seemed to be doing anything differently.  There were no sirens, so we got in the car and turned on the radio.  Nothing.  We proceeded to the exit, and all of the flag guys didn’t know anything.  So we just headed back.  Later that night at the little restaurant/bar run by the establishment we found out it was a plane crash, and there was a fatality.  Very sad.

Back to the wonderful recollecting.  That weekend my husband and I reconnected in a way that had been very difficult for us up to that point.  Our 1 year wedding anniversary was less than 6 months after DDay.  Still, none of that seemed to cloud us that weekend.  At least not that I can remember now.  What I do remember is rolling hills, green grass, wine, grapes, good food, snuggling up together on a cold night, the smell of the fireplace, and the super soft blanket on the bed.  I remember the warm jacuzzi tub, the woods, watching football from the casino’s sport’s bar, drinking wine out of our souvenir glasses from the wine festival, driving in the car, and just enjoying the scenery.

The beautiful area where our cabin was situated

The fireplace in our cabin, wine glasses, and a fruit and cheese plate that were waiting for us when we arrived.

In addition to all of those wonderful activities and views, we also visited one of our favorite restaurants – Bryan Voltaggio‘s Volt in Frederick, Maryland.  We don’t get there much, but I happened to get a coveted spot at his Table 21 experience!  If you aren’t familiar with the restaurant or that experience (and if you aren’t a foodie you may very well have no idea), Bryan Voltaggio is a completely A-M-A-Z-I-N-G chef and Table 21 is a 21 course tasting menu in the kitchen.  It gets booked up over a year in advance.  I happened to be a Twitter follower of Mr. Voltaggio, and swooped up a last-minute cancellation.  Fate was really on our side – we were only about 2 hours from the area and the time and date were perfect for our anniversary getaway.

We were sitting right here… just a few inches from the kitchen, everything in view, separated by just a small sneeze-guard.

A beautifully arranged beet salad. Like a cute little garden.

The experience was beyond my imagination… Spectacular.  The food was interesting, artsy, and very, very good.  The seating was unbeatable – right there in the kitchen, observing everything that goes on behind the scenes at a top restaurant.  The service was the best I will probably ever experience.  We got a new place setting and silverware between every single course.  There were 8 of us sitting around an L-shaped table, and we were all served at once.  It was like a beautiful, synchronized dance.  Each course was announced and explained in detail.  We had a private sommalier who suggested wines to pair with each dish or the overall direction of the meal.  At the end of the night we received a detailed, pretty menu that listed all of the 21 courses along with a goodie bag to go with some home-made candy and biscuits.

Just a little small visual of one of our 21 courses.

This year things won’t be as extravagant.  But I think they will be just as amazing.  We are going to a nice dinner tomorrow night at one of the first places we ever had a real date.  At least, according to my husband.  I remember several “real dates” before this particular one, but I guess he doesn’t want to count bars or friends’ houses.  It is also a restaurant that has some special memories for him over the course of our 5 years together.  Of course, they are positive memories for me, too.  Best of all, their food is so, so yummy.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.

On Friday we will be going out to dinner again.  This time to a local farm to table restaurant that has won several awards.  I have been hinting and hinting to my husband for months that I want to go there.  I finally just came right out and told him – I want to go there very soon.  He called me a few minutes ago to tell me that he got us reservations.  It turns out that when you ask for what you want, you get it sometimes.  🙂  Go figure!

Finally, this weekend we are going camping.  Yep.  Camping.  Like in an actual tent.  I’m really looking forward to it.  We are going to a national park in the mountains.  We have our camping spot reserved, our tent packed up, our sleeping bags and air mattress set aside, and a few trails picked out.  Mr. Mess actually planned and booked it all.  I didn’t have to do a thing, which is fantastic!  We plan to do some wine tastings, hiking to take pictures of a few waterfalls, and cooking out over a fire!  Yay!!  I can’t wait!  We won’t have a hot tub or fancy 21 course meal this year, but we will have each other, great views of the mountains, and a cozy place to snuggle up together.

***All photos courtesy of moi!

I’m Seriously Lacking Self-Compassion

15 Sep

Quite a few things this week have led me to examine the way that I treat myself.  My husband and I try to get together daily and spend at least an hour talking, followed by 20 minutes of dialoging.  Some days we have topics that one or both of us want to touch on, so that is what we use as our dialog question.  Other days we use questions from the Retrouvaille workbook.  I also found a great website with a huge list of questions by topic (with everything you can possibly think of organized A-Z), and a random question generator.

On Wednesday we decided to give that a try and decided on the randomly generated question, “Do I judge other people by higher or lower standards than I use on myself?  How do I feel about that?”  Below is a portion of my answer:

Generally speaking, I judge others by lower standards than I use for myself.  For example, I would only accept strait A’s for myself in college, but I don’t expect the same from you (my husband) or my sister.  I can be very proud of you when you get a B in class, whereas if I got a B it would be devastating, embarrassing, and traumatic.

I also expect perfection, or near perfection in almost anything I do.  As such, I feel less than or embarrassed (yet again) anytime I make a mistake or have to ask for help.  I put immense pressure on myself in a way I would never dream of putting on others.

At the same time, I believe even my lower standards for others are sometimes higher than they are used to.  My overall philosophy is to set the bar high and expect 100% effort.  In that way, even if someone falls a little short they still achieve more and push themself harder than they would with little to no expectations set forth.  I always responded much better to teachers and others who wanted the best out of me.  It made me feel like I was someone with value, who was special, and I want to do the same with those that I love – let them know I think highly of them and their abilities.

I have mixed feelings about my answer.  When I think of the increased pressure I put on myself, I feel sad.  This sadness is a feeling of dismay, probably a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  It feels unfortunate that I would judge myself so harshly.  The physical sensation is like a twinge or a pang of pain in a sore muscle after a few days of recuperating.  It isn’t sharp and powerful, but more of a remnant.

My second response is in response to my lowered, yet still high, expectations of others.  It seems like a more reasonable approach, and it makes me feel like an inspirational person who gives encouragement.

Keep in mind that the above was written in a 10 minute span with no opportunity to edit or review my thoughts as they were going onto the paper.  The fact that I am even posting it here, unedited, makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable.  I suppose the best way to get over my issues is to attack them head on.

After my husband and I exchanged notebooks and read each other’s answers, we started dialoging on our feelings.  The point of the 10 minutes of dialoging is to really understand the emotions of your spouse.  I actually wrote a bit too much about my thoughts and not enough about my feelings since I ran out of time.  However, when my husband and I dialoged I was able to delve into my feelings much more.  Of course, I ended up in tears.  That was the first smack in the face that my approach to myself is really not healthy.  I knew it before, but I pushed that realization to the back of my mind and never let the emotional aspect come out.

Then Friday while reviewing the blog of a fantastic writer who has done a lot of self-reflection I came across a post about self-compassion.  The words really resonated with me, even though he is far more compassionate to himself than I am.  He included a link to an online test that he took.  I decided to head over there and see how bad it really was.  Here is the scoring rubric and my scores:

Score interpretations:
Average overall self-compassion scores tend to be around 3.0 on the 1-5 scale, so you can interpret your overall score accordingly. As a rough guide, a score of 1-2.5 for your overall self-compassion score indicates you are low in self-compassion, 2.5-3.5 indicates you are moderate, and 3.5-5.0 means you are high. Remember that higher scores for the Self-Judgment, Isolation, and Over-Identification subscales indicate less self-compassion, while lower scores on these dimensions are indicative of more self-compassion (these subscales are automatically reverse-coded when your overall self-compassion score is calculated.)

My Scores:
Self-Kindness: 2.40
Self-Judgment: 4.40
Common Humanity: 2.00
Isolation: 3.50
Mindfulness: 2.75
Over-Identification: 4.00
Overall score: 2.21

So, there it is…  I’m not very compassionate to myself, and I’m extremely self-judgmental.  Sadly, that sounds about right.

This morning in my S-Anon meeting the topic chosen by the group (not proposed by me) was self-care.  Yep.  I definitely needed to hear everyone’s shares on how to take care of yourself, give yourself grace, and put your feelings and needs first.  I have been getting slightly better with self-care in areas like eating better, exercising (I absolutely love karate), and doing little things for myself every day.

I still have a very critical mindset towards myself, though.  I am still a perfectionist.  I still set myself up for failure, then beat myself up when I do fail.  Now that I am really aware of it and how it affects me emotionally, I’m going to have to find a way to contradict that voice inside that tells me I will never live up to anyone’s expectations for me, or my own expectations for myself.  I have to really accept that I am enough, that I am exceptional just the way I am.

compassion hearts

compassion hearts (Photo credit: journeyscoffee)

Breaking the Negative Codependent Cycle

11 Sep

This is something I read yesterday, and I wanted to share it here.  It really connected with me, big time.  This isn’t going to be an eloquent, well-planned post.  It is just a small snapshot of what has been bouncing around in my mind for the last 12 hours or so.  This excerpt came from a longer post on a forum.  She is talking about breaking the negative cycle with an addict.

“Somebody has to break the cycle. There’s an analogy in an Al-Anon book that helped me get this.  Imagine there’s a ladder, and the addict is in front.  We’re behind them on the ladder, pushing and prodding them to go up.  They keep falling, and each time they fall, we cushion the blow for them.

We keep doing this over and over until one day, we notice there’s a ladder next to this one–but this ladder has OUR name on it.  So we begin to climb this ladder, and leave the addict to climb their own. When they fall, we can sympathize, but we concentrate on climbing our own ladder.  This addiction has NOTHING to do with us.  We have to learn to take care of ourselves and become healthy ourselves in or out of the relationship…

In learning to focus on my own needs and learning not to enable, I have gained a life where I know I’ll be okay no matter what happens.  To me, you have to put the focus on yourself.  Whether it’s therapy, S-Anon (which saved my life) or Al-Anon, get help.  Get tools to use that will help you move up your own ladder. ”

I like this analogy.  My husband and I are both traveling up ladders that will bring us to a healthier, happier place.  We are each dealing with our own stuff that can cause us to fall.  He is struggling against his addiction and his pattern of lying to avoid his feelings.  I am struggling against my codependency, controlling personality, and perfectionism.  On any given day, one of us may slip and fall.  I am tired of letting one person’s fall cause us both to hit the ground, though.  In order to keep moving upward, we need to focus on our own separate ladders.  We have to learn how to sympathize with whoever is falling and help motivate them to keep climbing, while continuing to reach toward our next rung.

We are both moving in the same direction.  We both have the ultimate goal of being healthier individuals with a stronger marriage.  We are moving parallel with one another towards that goal, but we will face different challenges on our climb.  In the past, I have been right there underneath him, waiting for him to fall and crush me.  I have tried to hold him up, cushion his fall, and mitigate his losses as best as possible, with great personal consequences, especially to my sanity.  Now I see that I have my own ladder.  It has my name on it.  It isn’t going to be an easy climb, but it’s going to be MINE.

But what if he falls?  I still have that internal struggle that says I should try to catch him somehow.  But I can’t.  Not if I’m focused on my own climb, my own struggles.  Does that mean I won’t care if he falls?  Not at all.  It might even make me falter a bit on my climb, while I check to make sure he isn’t fatally injured.  On some occasions I may take a few steps backward.  But I won’t be down there on the ground with him.  It won’t take me to the depths of despair.  And I will eventually keep climbing, whether he catches up or not.

What do you think of that analogy?  Does it make sense to you the way it does to me?

What Will You Do Today?

7 Sep

Today I am getting inspiration from two amazing, beautiful women.  Twisted Lola originally posted the above photo and posed the question, “What’s the one thing you will do on this list today?”  I had already done some singing out loud at my desk, so I joined in on the commenting.  It really wasn’t anything outside of the box, though.  I can’t think of a single day in the past 15 years (or more) that I haven’t sung out loud at least once.  I just say 15 years to be conservative because my memory before 12 isn’t all that great.

Today I read a post from Emotional Tornado where she addressed every single item on the list.  I fell in love instantly, and decided I HAD to challenge myself to do the same.  So here goes.

Take chances.  This is a good one for me because I am usually someone who plays it safe.  I have been taking some chances with my fashion choices lately, but I’m not sure if that counts…  I hadn’t decided until this very moment, but I’m going to test for my yellow belt in karate.  I have been taking a class from a friend, and I love it!  I am also quite a fast learner, if I do say so myself, and have been picking things up very well.  Even though I am 8 weeks behind everyone else, I am going to give it a try and test with the rest of the group in a few weeks.  Maybe I’ll make a fool of myself, but so what.  The end result will be that I don’t have a yellow belt, which I already don’t have.  So, no loss and something to gain – experience at the very least and a belt in the best case scenario.

Tell the truth.  I am finally under 180 pounds as of this morning.  It looks great on me, even if I know certain people still think of a woman in the 170’s as fat.  I am beautiful and happy with myself, and I’m not going to let anyone bring me down.

Date someone totally wrong for you.  I’m married to a sex addict, so does that count?  I love him, and we are working on our marriage every single day.  So I will pass on dating anyone else.  We do plan to continue “dating” each other for as long as we are married, though.

Say no.  This is a good one.  I can’t think of a person or thing I need to say no to at the moment, but I have been working on my codependent trait of always saying yes.  I will say no to staying even one minute late at work today, though.  How’s that?

Spend all your cash.  I never, ever carry cash.  I have been doing pretty well at spending all of my extra money on clothes and shoes lately, though.  I think I actually need to reign that one in a bit.

Get to know someone random.  I have gotten to know some “random” people that I would never have connected with through my blog.  It has helped me break out of my shell.  I also talked a little bit to the new hire at work today.  I found out that his favorite football team is the Cowboys.  Does that count?  I rarely come across random people in my life.

Be random. Every day, all the time.  😉

Say I love you.  I have told my husband that today.  I think I will also make a point of calling my Mom just to say I love you later.  Thanks for the reminder.

Sing out loud.  As I mentioned above, this happens almost constantly, especially on Fridays.

Laugh at stupid jokes. So far today, I haven’t heard any stupid jokes.  I did laugh at a funny story.

Cry.  I teared up today reading a friend’s recent predicament and putting myself in her shoes.  It is nice to have that emotional release.

Apologize.  I apologized for having to cut someone off and take another call just a few minutes ago.  Other than that I haven’t done anything apology-worthy yet today.  The key word is yet.  I will keep an eye out for any future missteps as I continue my day.

Tell someone how much they mean to you.  I have tried to do that today already.  I reached out to help a friend in need who is struggling.  I also expressed my support and sympathy to my aunt (ex-aunt if she and my uncle are now divorced?) over my cousin, who is hospitalized right now due to a schizophrenic episode.  I will also do the same with my Mom when I call her later just to say “I love you.”

Tell a jerk what you think.  Thankfully, this has been a jerk-free day.  I usually don’t keep my opinion to myself in those situations, anyway.  I hate jerks and their jerky ways.

Laugh until your stomach hurts.  I’m not sure that is something you can just do on demand.  We will see what comes today, but I can’t make any promises on this one.

Live life.  I am trying to embrace this fully every single day.  Living life is harder than it sounds.  I have to fight against just existing and think about consciously living.  You know… experiencing every moment.  Revelling in the small things.  Being thankful for all that I take for granted.  Today I will live life by going to karate and spending 2 hours pushing myself to train harder, do more, keep breathing, and fight through the burn in my lungs and ache in my muscles.  I’m actually looking forward to it!

Regret nothing.  This one is probably the hardest for me.  I second-guess myself a lot and wonder how things would be if I had done something differently.  I regret missed opportunities or bad choices.  The truth is, I can’t change those things.  Today I will leave the past in the past, focus on today, and look forward to the future.

So what will I do tomorrow?

Live intentionally. Love hard. Forgive.

Sounds simple. It’s not.

(Those last 3 lines were stolen from Emotional Tornado.  I just can’t say it any better.)

Our Retrouvaille Couple’s Introduction

6 Sep

*I wrote earlier today about the process of penning our personal couple’s introduction.  You can catch up on that here if you haven’t read it yet.  The only changes I made were to remove our names and replace them with the pseudonyms I use on my blog.  Beautiful Mess is me, and my husband is Mr. Mess.  This is a fairly long introduction to who we are, how me met and fell in love, where things went wrong, and where we are now in recovery as a couple.  For that reason, I will not include a lengthy introduction.  Enjoy our story. 

I.  The Beginning

Intro (Mr. Mess):

Hello, my name is Mr. Mess and this is my wife, Beautiful Mess.  We have been together for five years, and married for the last two.  Both of us were born in Virginia.  We have no children.  We made our Retrouvaille weekend on July 13th, 2012.

When my wife and I met I was just getting back on my feet from losing my job and my prior relationship.  It was a weekend night in the fall of 2007, and I was out to celebrate my new job.  We met at a local bar, and hit it off from the beginning.  We started talking to and texting each other on a regular basis.  Our first date was at one of our favorite night spots.

We started doing a lot of things together.  Two months into our relationship New Year’s Eve was upon us, and I invited her mother to my house for a party that I was throwing for my family and friends.  I was very nervous because I knew that Beautiful Mess’s mother was religious and I was not.  Neither were the people that were going to be at the party.  To make a long story short, the party went off without a hitch, and I was given her mother’s approval to date her daughter.

Not long after that, Beautiful Mess was over my house and we were outside in my front yard.  As we were heading into the house, Beautiful Mess stepped into a hole that was concealed by grass.  I heard something crack.  I immediately got her up and took her to Patient First, where it was determined that she had severely sprained her ankle.  Prior to this we had made reservations at one of Beautiful Mess’s favorite restaurants, and I was sure that it would have to be cancelled.  However, she was determined to keep our date, and went to the restaurant on crutches.  That was special to me because it showed that she was really committed to our relationship.

Me:

The beginning of our relationship progressed somewhat slowly.  Both of us had come from long-term relationships that had ended badly, and we didn’t want to jump into anything without really getting to know one another.  We enjoyed each other’s company a few nights per week, and started opening up and having great conversations.  I was in college at the time, about 3 semesters into a demanding course of study.  I remember bringing the exam questions for my Japanese and Chinese History course over to his house, and working on all of my essay outlines and rough drafts while he watched TV.  After my spring exams were finished the two of us decided on a whim to take a weekend trip to Atlantic City as a reward for my hard work.

That trip was the first time I thought I could be in love.  It was about six months into our relationship.  I remember walking down the boardwalk as a slight drizzle started.  We huddled together on a bench and watched a street performer and an artist who were both on the other side of the street.  Even without talking, I felt close to him.  I wanted so much to tell him how I was feeling, but then the rain picked up and the moment was lost as we sprinted into a nearby casino.  There, he taught me how to play Blackjack, and we walked away with $1200.

The next weekend I finally got up my nerve and blurted out “I love you” rather unceremoniously after watching a movie together.  To my relief, he felt the same way.  He declared his love for me to his brother and best friend on a camping trip the next week.

From that point forward we spent more time together.  We shared activities and attended family events together.  Late that summer I had to attend a conference for work, and he offered to stay at my house to care for my dogs.  He did a good job, and after I returned the things he had brought over for that week never left.  Soon after, about a year into our relationship, we had a formal discussion and decided to take the next step and move in together.


II. Trouble that led you to Retrouvaille

Mr. Mess:

It was during our dating that I showed my ugly side to Beautiful Mess.  She had seen glimpses of my addictions, but I had done everything in my power to keep the real me covered and hidden.  It was after we had moved in with each other and started to combine our lives that she discovered my dirty secret.  I was an addict on multiple levels.  Not only did I use drugs and alcohol excessively, but I was also involved in pornography, sexting and online chatting with other women.

When this blew up on me I promised to stop and never do it again.  I was very convincing, and she forgave me.  We moved forward.  I was a master liar.  I lied to everyone.  I lied to Beautiful Mess, and most of all, to myself.  I did stop with the online chatting and sexting for a while.  However, I never stopped my use of porn, and I hid it from her.  Instead of being open or turning to her sexually, I isolated and pushed her away.  I even went so far as to go to strip clubs several times and spend large amounts of money, then lie about it.

I kept up the lies for many months.  It wasn’t until after we were married that my lies caught up to me and ruined my marriage.  My wife had started to suspect something was up due to my secretive actions.  As she started to investigate she found out that I had been using my phone to access online porn and chat sites and to sext other women.  When asked about it, I went straight into lying mode.  It was at this point that my new wife gave me a choice.  Get help or get out.

Out of pure fear of losing everything, I agreed to do whatever it would take.  However, I was still lying to myself and Beautiful Mess.  I didn’t believe I had a problem, so I did what I thought would make her happy while not really believing I needed to change.  It has been a long road for me to admit openly and honestly to myself that I have a problem.

When Beautiful Mess mentioned the Retrouvaille program to me, I was all for it.  I knew that I needed help with communication, and this seemed like the right start.  As the time of our weekend came closer, I started to become afraid.  Was I going to be able to share my problems with complete strangers who by their own admission were not professionals?  I remember arriving at the hotel where our weekend took place, and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Me:

Once Mr. Mess and I moved in together I started noticing a few things that made me uncomfortable.  I discovered that he was viewing pornography a lot online and then trying to hide it from me by clearing the history.  I tried to watch it with him, to have an open discussion, to figure out if something was lacking in our relationship.  He kept lying and hiding and using every opportunity to push me away.  Literally every opportunity – he would reject me in the morning, then surf porn when I ran to the store for15 minutes to pick up eggs.  When I tried to confront him about it, he denied that he was doing anything, and I chose to let it go.

After discovering that Mr. Mess was having an online, phone and text affair with another woman I was devastated.  When I realized he had stayed in her area for work several times, I felt literally sick to my stomach, helpless, inadequate and incredibly heartbroken.  I sat across the living room from him in a chair, asked a few questions, and listened to his responses in a calm, disconnected way.  I was in shock.

My reaction to the situation was to try to “fix” things.  I now realize that I was deeply codependent.  I asked Mr. Mess to go to therapy and do a few other things, but when he didn’t, I again let it go.  I convinced myself that if I were better somehow he would be, too.  I felt panicked and uncertain, but I kept those feelings contained, thinking that if I showed too much of my hurt it would drive him away.  I tried to control the situation in very unhealthy ways – like trying to monitor his phone and computer use, obsessively checking behind him, and bottling my feelings up inside.

After a while, things returned to “pretend normal.”  Our relationship seemed happy.  We went out with friends together, watched movies, and talked about all sorts of things, except the elephant in the room.  My intense fear and anxiety about his behavior started to fade over time, but I still felt a tightness inside my chest every time I thought about the possibility that he could be engaging in behavior that made me uncomfortable.  I went on a vacation with my family that August, about 6 months after the affair discovery.  I was nervous about going, but thought we had built up trust and that I should be more positive about our relationship.  I rationalized that one week away wouldn’t be a big deal.

We had talked about my feelings on strip clubs – how I was uncomfortable about him going to them and how it had hurt my feelings the times I knew he went with his friends and lied about it.  He quickly agreed that he wouldn’t go, and said that he could understand my concerns.  Unfortunately, upon my return I found a $300 charge on our bank statement from a strip club while I was gone.  On a night where he (of course) said he was somewhere else.  I was thrown back into that despair from 6 months prior, but this time I was also furious.  I woke him out of a dead sleep, and after an hour or so of screaming, yelling and crying, I threw him out.

Once things calmed down a few days later and I was more emotionally stable, he said that he had gone for a friend’s birthday.  He apologized for lying to me that night and swore that the money was spent for his friend, not for himself.  Despite my misgivings and doubt, I again pushed my feelings aside.  I let him back in the house, and continued our relationship.

About 7 months later things seemed to be going smoothly.  We hadn’t gone to counseling or really addressed our deeper issues.  However, it had been several months since I caught him in a lie, and we had grown comfortable.  Those problems seemed like a distant memory, and even if our relationship wasn’t perfect I thought we had grown from those experiences.  It was around this time that we started seriously considering marriage.  It was a topic that was brought up on more than one occasion, and in April of 2010 he proposed.

What followed was a whirlwind.  We made our wedding plans together – picking out the cake, choosing invitations and decorations, and going over our wedding vows.  Mr. Mess was very involved in the process.  We even had premarital counseling sessions with the pastor performing the ceremony.  Our wedding occurred on September 18th, 2010.  Mr. Mess cried more than I did.  Our honeymoon was fun, and we settled into marital bliss.

Or did we?  Just six months into our marriage those nagging feelings that something was off returned.  I tried to ignore them, but one night I picked up his phone on a whim.  What I found there wounded me to the core.  There were pages and pages of pornographic websites, some of them highly disturbing to me, pictures, and messages.  I felt like our marriage was hopeless and broken.  I wondered how this could be happening to me, to our marriage, after only 6 months.  I decided that I just could not go through this unhealthy cycle for the rest of my life.  This time I put my foot down.  The only way I could continue in this marriage is if he got help for himself and we sought counseling as a couple.

During the next year we both went to therapy off and on.  He found a specialist.  I found a group for betrayed wives, and started finding support.  I realized that this issue wasn’t about me, but that I did have issues on my own.  The unhealthy coping mechanisms I had developed contributed to our communication breakdown, and made my life unmanageable.  I started addressing my behavior and learning to find my confidence and self-worth.  During that time I joined an online forum dealing with infidelity, where I learned about Retrouvaille.  Although things were improving slowly in our relationship, I realized that we really needed to work on communication.  We decided together that this program was vital to the continuation of our marriage.


Life Now

Mr. Mess:

Both Beautiful Mess and I knew that we needed work on our communication.  As we settled into the first phase of our weekend we found out just how intense this was going to be.  We worked late into the night that weekend.  We were taught the process of dialoging and told that everyone is entitled to their feelings.  As we worked our way through our weekend I could feel us moving closer to each other emotionally and physically.  It was on this weekend that my wife and I started to understand how each of us was feeling about certain aspects of our marriage.

We are now doing the work needed to better our marriage.  I am now seeing an individual counselor to help me deal with my issues.  We are going to a marriage counselor to work on us as a couple.  I have become much better at communicating how I feel, even when I think I don’t deserve those feelings.  I am better able to empathize with my wife, and I think she can see the change in me.  We are still a work in progress, but thanks to this program we are on our way to a happier and more harmonious life together.

After our weekend we made the decision to go to the post sessions.  On the night of our first post session I got angry at the fact that we had to drive for hours through heavy traffic to get to the session.  Half-way through the drive I turned around to go home.  It was at that time that I knew if I did not go to this first session it would be the beginning of me reverting back to my old behaviors.  So, I turned back around and arrived at our first post session about an hour late.

As we worked through the post sessions we learned a lot about what have been the major things in our lives that have made us who we are.  We also learned how to work through our differences and find ways to accept or change whatever it is causing our difficulties.

Me:

The Retrouvaille weekend was positive experience.  We were coming off of a rather heated fight, but decided to put that aside and focus on rebuilding our marriage, connecting, and building our communication skills.  I was surprised that the first night went so long, and apprehensive about what the rest of the weekend might hold.  I have always enjoyed writing, though, so I dove right in.  Very quickly I discovered that this process made me feel closer to Mr. Mess.  I found that I understood things about him and his feelings that I didn’t know before.  We left the weekend feeling renewed hope.

Even though the post sessions were a long drive from our home – at least 2 and a half hours, but sometimes much longer in traffic – we committed to going.  It was in that part of the program that we saw progress.  Continuing to dialog and learning the additional tools from the post-sessions improved our communication skills by leaps and bounds.  Understanding the feelings behind the other’s actions diffused arguments before they began.  I could empathize with his feelings and see things from his point of view, without immediately jumping to the conclusions that I had already formed based on assumptions.

Many of our original marital problems still exist.  Retrouvaille is not a cure-all or a quick fix.  It does help us to deal with obstacles better, though.  Rather than blaming each other or getting sucked into unproductive cycles we are reaching out and supporting one another.  Learning to communicate honestly and share our feelings is the way to do that.  Who knows what may be ahead.

Last Retrouvaille Post Session – Writing to Heal

6 Sep

The writing is on the wall!
© Copyright Alan Bowring and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

I know that I have been absolutely horrible with describing our Retrouvaille experience.  So far I have only told you about our first night.  Bad me!  The main reason is that there is just so much involved with the program.  I have literally filled an entire notebook with notes, writing, and letters.  I will try to go back and give more details.

However, today I want to share a bit about the last post-session.  It was a long session that took place on August 25th beginning at 9:00 am.  Since we have a long drive to the post-session location, Mr. Mess and I had quite an early morning.  We decided that it was a good investment in our marriage, though, and worth a little lost sleep on a Saturday morning.

The entire first half of this post-session was called “Writing to Heal.”  I have pulled information from the Retrouvaille of Northern Virginia blog about what this day entails:

Purpose and Goals of the Writing to Heal Day
• Promote personal and couple healing through deeper exploration of our stories and a deeper understanding of the Retrouvaille concepts.
• Provide an environment for spiritual growth
• Experience the healing power of our unique story

The session will focus on helping couples write their Personal Introduction, but couples who are working on other presentations–including Weekend and Post Weekend Presentations–will have individual help and time to write as well.

The “spiritual growth” bullet point makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth, but the actual day was great.  There wasn’t anything religious about it at all.  In fact, it was all about coming up with your personal story as a couple.

We were asked to create an outline with one another, decide who would write what parts of our story, and work together to create a snapshot of our life together so far.  They provided us with a general idea of the various sections we should include as well as guidelines for how to write the personal introduction.  The outline they provided us with was:

Couple’s Personal Introduction

I.        The Beginning

A.    Start by telling your names, where you are from, how you met.  (Husband or Wife)
Include the number of years married, children, when you made your weekend, etc.
B.    Talk about how you felt in the beginning of your relations.  (Husband and Wife)
This could include the romantic stage

II.        Trouble that led you to Retrouvaille
Remember to be brief and to the point, but give sufficient information so that the couples can connect with you and realize you have something to share.  This is a very important part where you need to be sure to share deeply and honestly enough for the couples to get a believable connection with you.

A.    Briefly talk about how your marriage deteriorated and how you were led to Retrouvaille.  (Husband or Wife)
Remember here – the one who did it, says it!
B.    Other spouse shared how they felt about their relationship before going to Retrouvaille.
Share your feelings here and describe them fully: abandonment, devastation, crushed, etc.

III.        Life Now
Share about your weekend and post sessions.
  (Husband and Wife)
Share your vision and inspire the couples to continue working at their marriages.  Tell what you learned during the weekend and post sessions and what happened in your relationship.  Share your struggles.  What kept you going?  Share your feelings and desires. State that you will share your journey since the weekend during the rest of these post sessions.  Explain that you continue working on your relationship and remind the couples that it is a continuous journey, and the journey is made much easier with support and dialog!

The great thing about the Writing to Heal day is that we were allowed to bring laptops.  Score!  I can type waaayy faster than I can hand write.  Typing our story also meant that it would be much, much easier to blog about.  Instead of having to type and format pages of hand-written notes, I could just copy and paste.  If laptops has been allowed during the weekend and other post-sessions you would already have those details.

So, Mr. Mess and I went about the task of trying to summarize our relationship so far.  We talked about what to put in each section, and I have to admit that we had some disagreements.  He thought everything before we were married should be in “the beginning.”  I felt that since our troubles started before we were married, they should be included in Section II.  He didn’t understand me.  I couldn’t picture how we could make his idea fit into the outline they gave us.  Finally, he went and asked the instructor.  He confirmed what I thought – the point of the first section was to stick to the gushy, romantic, happy memories.  If the trouble started before the marriage, then it should be discussed in Section II, but Section I should be all about the butterflies.  Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of those.

We also had a few formatting hitches when it came to who was going to write which section.  Since the person who “did it” was also supposed to “say it,” that meant we had to work the back and forth so that he introduced the topic of his affair and addiction.  He wanted to do the very beginning of our story, so we were able to make that work pretty well by picking a half-way point in “the beginning” and having him write about everything before that and me write about everything after that up to our “trouble.”  From there the back and forth story-telling really worked itself out.

Just to make sure that this is clear, the personal story we were writing was intended to be read out loud by both of us.  It can be used if you want to be a couple who leads a Retrouvaille weekend or post-session.  It can also just be done for the two of you and kept private.  Whatever the final purpose, the initial goal is to interact with one another, collaborate, remember the positive memories and great things that brought you together, open up about what went wrong, and see how far you have come as a couple through better communication.

During our writing to heal day, I typed my section, and Mr. Mess gave me his as he finished them.  I then added them into my sections to complete the outline with indications of who wrote and was to read each part.  By the end of the post-session, we were done.  We had added all of the sections, figured out a way to make them flow, and edited it together.  All of the couples were given the opportunity to share their personal story at the end, but no one volunteered.  I was ready, but Mr. Mess felt a little more reserved, so we held back as well.

What we did do, however, was approach the lead couple at the end of the day.  They were one of our weekend presenting couples, had led a few post-sessions, and helped to coordinate the entire thing.  We had been emailing with them from the beginning.  We asked if we could email them a copy of our outline and get their feedback.  They said they would certainly be willing to do that.  In fact, they did that with most of the presenting couples before they came to the weekend, so they already had a process down for recommending edits, areas that should be elaborated on more, etc.  Mr. Mess was very willing to do that, so when we got home we sent them our personal story.

So far I haven’t heard back from them.  I’m sure they’ve been busy with the holiday and preparing for the upcoming Retrouvaille weekend.  I was going to wait for them to give their feedback before I posted it here on my blog, but I’m starting to get antsy.  You guys have seen some works-in-progress before, and I haven’t been beat up too much.  This post has already become much too long to also include our detailed personal story, but I will be publishing it very, very soon for you all to read.  I look forward to your honest opinions.

Do You Have an Addictive Personality?

4 Sep

Flickr/Jam Adams http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamadams/ CC BY-SA 2.0

I recently read a blog entry about addictive personalities.  It was published on a blog about treatment for sex addiction.  It is written by a doctor, and I find the information there very interesting and helpful.  Check it out at http://porn-no-more.com/.

In the post about addictive personalities, she quotes a study by Alan R. Lang, a psychology professor at Florida State University.  His study was about how a person’s personality plays into addiction.  What I found very interesting is the list of common personality traits shared among all addicts.  They include:

  1. Impulsive behavior, difficulty in delaying gratification and a predisposition toward sensation seeking;
  2. A sense of social alienation and a general tolerance for deviance;
  3. A sense of heightened stress;
  4. Compulsive attraction to excessive, repetitive use of pleasurable activities to cope with unmanageable internal distress, pressure and stress.  While such activity may begin pleasurably, the process of increasing activity to achieve the same effect eventually results in injury to major aspects of the person’s life.
  5. The addicted person denies that his activity is detrimental to him.  If forced to stop, he finds he suffers physical or psychological withdrawal pains and feels compelled to resume his excessive pattern.  Compulsiveness is key.
  6. Tendencies to depression, dependent behavior and difficulty formulating long-term personal goals because of a concentration on short-term gratification;
  7. The potentially addictive child may have been physically or emotionally abused by one or both parents.  The child has often been lied to, shamed, criticized or humiliated by parents who act in highly inconsistent ways, leaving the child in a helpless rage;
  8. A lack of self esteem — feelings of  low self-worth.

addiction

I can’t answer on that list for Mr. Mess, but reading it hit very close to home for me.  Out of the above list, I can put a check mark next to 6 of them.  The first one doesn’t hold true for me because I usually have no problem with delayed gratification – in fact, I think it’s the best kind.  I’m also generally not a very impulsive person.  I like having a plan, and I like to stick to it.  There isn’t a lot of “sensation seeking” going on with me for the most part, either, except for planning the occasional fun activity on vacation (like going air boat riding in Louisiana and feeding the alligators) and my desire to go sky diving.

#2 is me to a T.  I was alienated socially from a pretty early age.  As you have read in some of my past posts (Tackling My Body Issues and Pink), I was home-schooled until middle school.  I had a pretty difficult transition, and have never been a social butterfly.  My lack of popularity was also due to my introverted personality (See Being Complete Opposites), and the fact that I wore braces, thick glasses, and had a very unfortunate perm.  I was always different from other kids my age.  I was constantly reading something, I pondered bigger life questions, and I wasn’t interested in whatever the new fad of the moment was.  Once I became more confident I also embraced the weirdness in myself.  I started to think of “normal” as one of the worst words in the English language.  I would rather die than be average.  That led to a “general tolerance for deviance” because deviating from the norm was a very good thing in my eyes.

I’m not so sure about the “sense of heightened stress” described in #3.  I don’t know if that means that I have heightened stress in my life, my stress perception is heightened, or that I blow stress out of proportion.  Any of those except the 3rd definition fit me pretty well.  I do have quite a bit of stress in my life right now (lots going on at work, sex addict husband, dog with glaucoma, trying to diet, and on my period today…), I can perceive stress in others, and I sometimes allow other people’s stress to bleed over into me.  I am fairly pragmatic most of the time, though, and don’t think I blow things out of proportion much.  On the contrary, I am usually the one who helps people calm down and put things in perspective.

The concepts in #4 are things that I have been really thinking about the past few days.  I will probably go into this more soon when I talk about my most recent S-Anon meeting, but I’ll leave those specifics for another post.  Just to scratch the surface a bit, I have been able to recognize areas in my life where I use activities to cope with stress and emotions that I want to avoid.  One way I do that is by blogging.  It can be a very healthy outlet, but it can also become a refuge from dealing with hard things.  I have been guilty of spending hours writing and editing my posts, then more hours reading other people’s blogs and commenting.  Sometimes my hours of blogging have taken away from my responsibilities at work or have led me to shut out Mr. Mess or not spend the time connecting with him at night that I should be.  It didn’t start that way, but it has escalated over time as I needed more and more connection to feel the same level of support and sanity, and as I watched my blog stats climb.

The other one that doesn’t fit me well is #5.  Even when I’m engaging in an activity that is addictive and starting to take hold, I am aware.  I never deny the issue.  In fact, I am often the first to point it out.  I limit myself intentionally in areas that I can feel an addiction starting to grow because I don’t want to be that person.  There are very few activities in my life that are truly compulsive or that I don’t already make a conscious effort to control.  Blogging and shopping are my two newest “vices.”  In the past it might have been food.  No matter what, I always stay away from excessive alcohol consumption, I have never abused any prescription medications, and I don’t use illegal drugs.  At times I have been “addicted” to stupid things, like playing Farmville.  Once I realized the amount of time it was consuming, I very quickly stopped playing and haven’t looked back.  There were no “physical or psychological withdrawal pains.”  I have always been aware of this tendency in myself and worked hard to control it.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the rest of these, except to say that they definitely exist.  I have a tendency to depression and have struggled with it at various points in my life.  I am currently on an anti-depressant and intend to stay on it because it seems to be working pretty well.  I was also emotionally and possibly physically (depending on your perspective) abused by my father growing up.  I was shamed and humiliated by my Dad a lot as a means of control, he was terribly inconsistent in his behavior and rules between me and my siblings, his beliefs were often irrational, and the “helpless rage” sounds all too familiar.  It is probably obvious from some of my past posts that I have struggled with a lack of self-esteem and have often wondered if I am good enough.

I think this topic is very interesting.  I have no idea where I originally heard the term, but I know that I have thought of myself as having an “addictive personality” since I was fairly young.  Even in my early teens I remember identifying with that term intensely.  Addiction does seem to run in my family, if there is such a thing as that (I think I have heard there is).  My grandmother on my Mom’s side is an alcoholic.  She has been sober for 13 years, and still attends AA meetings every week.  Before she got sober, though, she almost lost her life because of drinking on at least two ocassions.  My grandmother on my Dad’s side is probably an alcoholic, too, although she would never admit it.  She and my grandpa used to go through a case of beer a day and a carton or more of cigarettes between the two of them.  Two of my cousins have been arrested for drug dealing (marijuana), one of my cousins has had at least 2 “crack babies” who were addicted to hard substances from birth and taken away by Child Protective Services, and I believe another of my cousins is in rehab as we speak (although I’m not sure what her drug of choice is and her health is further complicated by schizophrenia).

I think because I was aware of addiction growing up and saw its effects on my family, I also became aware of how easy it could be for me to slip into that behavior.  I have always been someone to engage completely in anything I attempt.  That is usually a good thing, but it can easily turn into an addiction that becomes detrimental to your life.  Walking that fine line is hard.  It is equally hard to be present and deal with your emotions as they come up, especially the difficult ones.  Finding a way to escape is completely normal, but it can also go too far if you have an addictive personality.  It is far too easy to be lured into the trap of addiction.  Then, before you know it, you could be caught up in something that is very difficult to get untangled from.

How about you?  Do you have any of these personality traits?  Do you think you might have an addictive personality?  If so, what do you think is your current addiction of choice (don’t limit yourself to the “traditional” hard substances alone)?

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