*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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Retrouvaille Weekend (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night Part 1 (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night, Part 2 (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Our Emotional Lives (Retrouvaille – Friday Night, Part 3) (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Last Retrouvaille Post Session – Writing to Heal (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)