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Lazy Brain and the Narcissistic Sociopath

8 Apr

This morning I was catching up on my blog reading, and I came across a post from the end of March by Paula’s Pontifications.  It is titled Lazy Brain and the Narcissistic Sociopath.  I vaguely remember seeing it when she published it, but I wasn’t up for more reading on narcissistic sociopaths at the time.  It can be very emotionally draining to re-live my time with him, as I inevitably do whenever I examine this topic.  I get flashbacks and realize how much I was manipulated.  It makes me feel like a victim, which I absolutely hate.  Sometimes it also makes me pity him and the place where he will be trapped forever – his dysfunctional mind.  When I feel sorry for him, I immediately start reprimanding myself: feeling sorry for him is part of the reason I got trapped in that vicious cycle.  I worry that I’m living too much in the past.  Then I remind myself that processing past hurts is part of healing from them.

These feelings and insights can be overwhelming when I’m not prepared for them.  However, it is also validating to read the experiences and research of others into the disorder that lived in my house, shared my bed, and gave me its last name.  Of course it wasn’t the disorder I was married to, but a man who had it.  Still, there doesn’t seem to be much of a practical difference.  The stories of others who have dealt with someone like him are all surprisingly similar.  Things they share happened to me.  They could be talking about him.  In fact, they are, even if they never met him.  Because he is a narcissistic sociopath.  This article reinforced that.  The term “lazy brain” is so perfect, as is the following description, that I had to re-post them both here.

lazy_brain

“Somewhere along the path of development, a narcissistic sociopath‘s brain ceases to grow. Instead of the circuitry inside his brain getting excited about learning something new and solving a problem in a new and different way, the circuitry opts out.

“Abort! Abort! This one is too tough to solve. Just keep doing what we always do: cry, pout, blame and run away. It works so well.”

And the sociopath’s brain keeps doing this — sending the same message. As a result, the sociopath continues to cry, pout, blame and run away regardless of age. This childish behavior is one of the reasons why so many victims initially blame his inability to communicate effectively and come to collaborative resolutions on, what they deduce and assume to be, the sociopath’s lack of life experiences. Victims assume the sociopath is so rigid in his thinking because he has never been in a situation where he has had to consider another person or a group of people. And because we are empathetic, we set aside our frustrations, and instead, we feel pity for these people who seem to have been living in a protective bubble their entire lives.

(Strike one against us and our so-called advanced cognitive thinking skills!)

After all, the rest of us (who are not pathological) experience the growing pains of our teenage years with complete immersion and energy and gusto. Our brains work overtime. We cry and battle ourselves and other teenagers and our parents. But we learn valuable lessons about respect and empathy and how to treat others as we wish to be treated. As teenagers, we experience a level of cognitive development that is so high and constant that it sometimes makes us feel like we’re losing our minds. And in a way we are. We are losing the primitive thinking patterns that guided us as infants, toddlers and children. Our brain’s cognitive development during our teenage years is life-changing. It’s a rite of passage. Once reached we are thrust head-first into adulthood and feeling empowered with the necessary brain power and thinking skills to help us take on all of the responsibilities associated with being productive, loving and kind.

The sociopath does not attain a rite of passage like the rest of us. He cheats his way into adulthood, because the sociopath spends his teenage years regressing mentally and emotionally. All problems are solved by rebelling but never facing the consequences of those rebellions. Someone is always there bailing him out and telling him it was someone else’s fault and not to worry. This “bailout” sends the message to the sociopath’s brain that says, “You don’t have to change, man. Look how easy it is to keep being an infant and toddler and manipulating everyone around you so you can have your own way in the end? Why learn how to think beyond your primitive brain? Why bother? Why be accountable? Relax. Sit back. Enjoy the ride.”

And that message keeps getting sent, which results in the sociopath’s increased feelings of entitlement and lazy, lazy thinking.

Entitlement and lazy thinking leads to lazy work ethic (or no work ethic). Many sociopaths who do not have degrees or who barely graduated high school will tell you that their life experiences make up for their lack of education. They will even go as far as putting down those with degrees and declaring them as being sheep easily manipulated and trained.

When and if you hear this, think “splitting.” This is a great example of their black and white thinking. All good and all bad. I’ve met some lazy thinkers with degrees, but also some of the most intelligent people I have met in this world do not have a college education. They are also not sociopaths. To me, if you’re going to claim your life experiences make up for any formal education you could have pursued, show me. Talk to me. Tell me what you’re passionate about and why. Sociopath’s can’t show you beyond the passion and lust they have for material possessions, and that’s just sad to me.

With his perpetual lazy thinking and entitlement, the sociopath continues living in his protective bubble of ignorance and inability to discover any real passion other than a passion for conning and abusing people and situations.

And if you start questioning the sociopath’s con, his brain will send that same and comforting message to him:

“Abort! Abort! This one is too tough to manipulate. Just keep doing what you’ve always done: cry, pout, blame and run away.”

When and if your relationship with a sociopath ends, remember that they can’t help themselves and they will never change. It’s impossible to reprogram something with defective parts no matter how much cognitive-behavioral therapy you thrust upon the sociopath. You might THINK the glitch has been fixed, but the machine has a memory, and the glitch is too comfortable and too familiar to be considered a true glitch to the machine. The machine misses the glitch and will inevitably seek out that place of comfort, like a baby seeking a nipple.

The abuse and con games never end.

Unless the sociopath has committed a prosecutable offense against you or a loved one, let the sociopath go in peace so you can find your peace. It’s better this way.”

Parts of this were so accurate that I have to repeat them AGAIN, with additional commentary.

“…because we are empathetic, we set aside our frustrations, and instead, we feel pity for these people…”  I have always felt that empathy was one of my strengths.  I constantly try to put myself in someone else’s shoes.  Maybe it is because I read so much as a child and got practice reading other people’s thoughts, feelings their emotions, getting pulled into their stories and adventures and fears and triumphs.  Maybe it is because my mother was so kind and thoughtful and always asked me to consider the feelings of others (and made me genuinely apologize with reasons and understanding of what it is I had done wrong).  No matter the reason for my empathy, I often did feel pity for his situation, his excuses, his issues, and the fact that his parents didn’t do those things for him (at least according to him).  I was constantly setting aside my own feelings, my own concerns, and my own frustrations because I was taught that love is selfless and accepting and forgiving.  So I put myself aside, I tried to accept his shortfalls, and I forgave him again and again when he lied because he was “trying to change.”

“He cheats his way into adulthood, because the sociopath spends his teenage years regressing mentally and emotionally. All problems are solved by rebelling but never facing the consequences of those rebellions. Someone is always there bailing him out and telling him it was someone else’s fault and not to worry.”  This is so accurate that it was scary the first time I read it.  He spent his teenage years selling pot, skipping school, back-talking teachers, doing drugs, drinking, partying, and being reckless, but he never had consequences.  In fact, his parents were right there fighting the school when they suspended him for selling drugs.  They defended him and made it the school’s fault.  They played right into his victim mentality by believing and reinforcing that the teachers and principal were out to get him.  I saw the below cartoon the other day.  The “today” side is exactly how they were when it came to his truancy and drug use and distribution.

unknauthor_problem-cartoon

“And if you start questioning the sociopath’s con, his brain will send that same comforting message to him:  ‘Abort! Abort! This one is too tough to manipulate. Just keep doing what you’ve always done: cry, pout, blame and run away.'”  When I finally got wise to his game and stopped accepting the constant lies and manipulation, he went right back to his comfort zone.  He cried and pouted, first to me, then to anyone who would listen.  He blamed me, called me a “nut job,” denied even cheating on me or causing any of the problems in our marriage, then ran away.  He does these dive bombs still where he swoops in to cry and blame me, then runs away again.  I just hope that the “run away” instinct extends to signing the divorce papers next week…

“When and if your relationship with a sociopath ends, remember that they can’t help themselves and they will never change. It’s impossible to reprogram something with defective parts no matter how much cognitive-behavioral therapy you thrust upon the sociopath. You might THINK the glitch has been fixed, but the machine has a memory, and the glitch is too comfortable and too familiar to be considered a true glitch to the machine. The machine misses the glitch and will inevitably seek out that place of comfort, like a baby seeking a nipple.  The abuse and con games never end. How wise.  How true.  I know that he won’t change.  Again, the empathetic side of me is sad about this.  I feel sad that he discontinued all therapy and SA meetings and that he will never get over the glitch in his machine.  The part of me that loved him, despite how screwed up he is, wishes things could be different for him, even though he will never be part of my life again.  The truth is that I never could have saved him.  He was only doing those things to appease me and as part of his continual manipulation of my emotions and empathy.  They weren’t “working.”  All I have to do is look back at all of the lies that unraveled again and again, despite his “work” and “progress.”  Nothing ever really changed.  It was just hidden a little deeper, covered with a new lie – meetings or therapy or “disclosure.”

“Unless the sociopath has committed a prosecutable offense against you or a loved one, let the sociopath go in peace so you can find your peace. It’s better this way.”  While not a “prosecutable offense,” I do have the legal matter of the divorce to attend to.  Our 6 month separation mark is coming up – April 13th (this Saturday) is it.  The date I can officially start the divorce process.  Of course the 13th isn’t a business day, so that means the 15th…  My lawyer is standing by with the paperwork, ready to serve him.  Then there is a process that can be as long as 2-3 months or as short as 20 days depending on how cooperative he is.  I can hope that he wants to get this done and over with quickly, but realistically I am going to assume that he will make things difficult just to be petty.  Either way, I have already let him go in my heart.  There’s just that little matter of severing the legal ties and getting him to stop texting me and stalking me online.  But I suppose that’s just something I’ll have to deal with and ignore since I’m done with letting him disturb my peace.  I’m not longer part of his narcissist universe.

NARCISSIST

Being with a Narcissistic Sociopath – Part 1

12 Mar

A few weeks ago I found a link to a blog written by a very strong woman.  Her goal is to create awareness of personality disorders and how these disorders destroy marriages/intimate partner relationships and are at the center of abuse/domestic violence cases.  She has a lot of great information.  One particular post, Identifying a Narcissistic Sociopath, really struck home.  I have read it many times.

I see so many characteristics of a narcissistic sociopath in Mr. Mess.  So much so that I wanted to re-post the list here with my comments and maybe a few examples from my life.  My comments are in blue.  The rest is the text of the original blog post:

Do you know what it feels like to be locked up, placed in a dungeon of a partner’s creation? If so, you’re not alone. If not, pray you never do.

Abuse comes in many forms and affects many people in the victim’s life.  Emotional, physical, and sexual abuses are equally degrading and harmful. One is not better than the other or worse than the other. They are ALL abuse.

This story is specifically about emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissistic sociopath.

According to Dr. Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door, sociopaths make up 4% of western society (Stout, 2010). That’s about 1 in 25 people walking around among us without a conscience, without the ability to measure, or care to measure, the morality of their decisions and actions. Would you know how to identify a sociopath if you saw one, met one, started an intimate relationship or entered into a business contract with one? More than likely, your answer is No, because unlike what we read on the television news or see in Hollywood movies, sociopaths aren’t just serial killers and murderers. Rather, they are members of our communities who we would never suspect of evil or wrong doing and who seamlessly blend into society with the rest of us. How? Through lies, manipulations, and more lies.  Lies, manipulation, and more lies”… Sounds familiar.

In romance, narcissistic sociopaths often appear too good to be true. They are charming, agreeable, and engaging. The narcissistic sociopath loves (or seems to love) everything about you. He hooks you. Then he breaks you. His emotional abuse is VERY subtle. The victim may not know she is being victimized until it is nearly too late.

Identifying narcissistic sociopaths

Although not all narcissists are sociopaths, all sociopaths are narcissists (Stout 2010). Therefore, if you can identify a narcissist, you’re one step closer to being able to recognize a sociopath. Below is a definition of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and a list of narcissistic traits taken directly from the website of Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-Love. (If you know someone who fits at least 5 or more of these traits, a psychiatrist could easily diagnose him/her as having NPD.)

The DSM-IV-TR defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as “an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts,” such as family life and work.  I don’t know about the sociopath part, but already the narcissist side is looking incredibly fitting…

1. Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);  This manifested itself very, very early with Mr. Mess.  He told me when we first met that he was a construction foreman.  In fact, he was a temp worker on the line at a company that formed concrete beams.  He wasn’t even an employee of the company itself (and was never actually hired on there, despite his insistence that he was the best person who worked there).  He had no supervisory duties at all.  There are so many other examples that we could be here all day on just this one point.  He always had an opinion on something, and his opinion was always right, even if it was based on absolutely nothing (no facts, no reasoning, just because he said so).  He got enraged if I ever questioned his claims or lack of proof.

2. Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;  Oh, he always had this.  He is studying to become a chef right now, and always talked about opening his own restaurant, becoming a famous chef, and all of these other things that are pie in the sky type fantasies because he had no concrete plans to make them happen (yet was convinced they somehow were going to come true).  He would watch cooking competitions and act like he could win them with his little to no experience.  He would go on about how he was the best person in his class, yet he consistently did poorly on his practical exams.  Again, too many examples to go through.

3. Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions); Hmmm… maybe not so much on this one.  He was never elitist about the institutions he was part of (his cooking school is a community college, not that he acted that way when he was glorifying his cooking abilities).  He DID always look down at others in his classes and meetings.  He thought he was soooo much better than them, and would constantly complain about the people in his groups.

4. Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);  Oh, absolutely.  That man wanted a standing ovation every time he did the slightest thing right.  He was always wanting people to tell him how wonderful he was, and would lie to get the attention and admiration he wanted.  He needed positive affirmation for every.single.thing. or he would become pouty and childish.

5. Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favorable priority treatment;  Entitled.  That describes him to a T.  He feels like he should get what he wants because it’s what he wants.  He felt like he “deserved” things just because.  Even with the tax refund, he feels like he should get part of it because he deserves it, because he “needs” it.  He fully admits that I took a loss on the car and that he is the reason all of the extra options were added that made it upside down.  He acknowledges that his “half” of the tax refund doesn’t even cover my loss and that he agreed to give me the $2K.  But somehow he STILL thinks that he is entitled.  He has always had completely “unreasonable expectations,” and his parents for sure set him up to believe that he should get some sort of “priority treatment.”  Hell, they got him out of drug charges and school suspensions, and he still laughs at how smart he was to get away with it (with their help).

6. Is “interpersonally exploitative”, i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;  Without the ability to manipulate and live off of other people, I don’t think he could even exist.  Before me, he was unemployed for several months and literally moving from couch to couch, bumming off of his friends.  He used me to buy him a car (more than one actually – the last 3 vehicles he had were either mine, paid for by me, or financed by me). 

7. Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;  He certainly was never able to accept or empathize with my feelings, needs, preferences and priorities.  He could lie and pretend for a while, but his true nature always came out.  He literally had no concern for my health, and his actions made that increasingly obvious.  I have never once seen him put himself last for anyone or put anyone else’s feelings or needs before his own desires.  I think he is probably incapable of that.

8. Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of his or her frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions as he or she believes that they feel the same about him or her and are likely to act similarly;  Reading the first half of this, I wasn’t sure…  Then I got to the second sentence and it started to make sense.  He definitely did feel like people were “out to get” him.  I think it’s part of the entitlement and the inability to take responsibility for his own actions.  Either way, things were always someone else’s fault.  If something went wrong it was because someone else didn’t want him to succeed.  Just like this marriage being over is because I didn’t give him enough of a chance.

9. Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, “above the law”, and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people he or she considers inferior to him or her and unworthy (http://samvak.tripod.com).  Oh, yeah.  His parents played a huge part in that.  They got him and his brother and sister out of all sorts of legal trouble, and he felt entitled.  He couldn’t stand being contradicted, especially when he was wrong. In fact, that was when he could get the most indignant and petty.

So yep, I was definitely with a narcissist.  I knew that much already.  It was nice to see this list here in black and white.

22 Jan

I absolutely love this post. It is raw and honest and dead-on about many of the emotions that come up when someone has lied to you and betrayed you for years. I was right there with her, reliving my own marriage, during this entire post.

When she talked about giving your everything to someone, only to have them give you barely anything except lies in return, I was nodding my head, remembering that pain. When she spoke of the embarrassment, especially this line –

“I was the blind idiot who’d made it my life’s mission to be your number-one cheerleader and help you boost your career…”

– I knew EXACTLY what she was talking about. When she mentioned second-guessing herself when she knew there was something wrong, yet being fed yet more lies, I could unfortunately relate on a deep level. When she talked about her anger and urge to break ribs and cause as much physical pain as he inflicted emotionally, since he seems to have a lack of empathy or any ability to understand what he has put her through, I wanted to cheer.  These lines are haunting:

“I need you to feel the pain that I feel, the pain that you’ve caused me — that is, if, someday, you ever become capable of feeling emotions like this. Like you’re strapped to a table, inexplicably and hideously alive, simultaneously witnessing and feeling the bloody, stabbing-death of your own happiness. And the Hollow Empty that’s left in its absence.”

And finally, the wonderful realization at the end that she needs to cut her losses and let go of that anger to finally move on… It filled me with such hope and peace for her. The reality of our situations, the truth that we have to face is that “he is not who or what I want/need him to be!” There is such freedom with those realizations. Accepting those things, acknowledging our pain and brokenness, then moving on with our heads held high is simply beautiful.

Feeling my way forward in the darkness

23 Nov

Holy shit! It’s like we’re married to the same pathetic excuse for a man. I kept holding out for so long that he would make an effort, fight for me, give this relationship his all. I am finally accepting that isn’t going to happen. I have also realized that logic has absolutely nothing to do with anything when it comes to him. It’s like it doesn’t exist. They have their own twisted up view of the world and no amount of reality will make any difference. We will move forward and have great lives. There are better men out there.

Honesty is Overrated (and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves to Get By)

22 Nov

Honesty is NOT overrated! You deserve it. I deserve it. There is someone out there who is willing to give it to us!

Broken American Dream Diaries

He’s lying. Again. So what? Honesty is overrated, right?

Isn’t keeping the family together better than breaking us up? Is my desire for honesty so great that I will end up divorcing husband?

And what if I move on, tearing our family up in the process, in the name of honesty. Will it be worth it?

Is trusting your spouse overrated? We’re not talking big lies here. Those matter. And those have been told in this house, as well. But the little things: where husband is tonight, for example. Little lies, big lies, in-between lies. They all violate our pact of trust and honesty.

Can you build a life together with scant respect for the truth?

A lie about tonight’s whereabouts leads to tension tomorrow. We told Big Bro that we would take him and Little Dude somewhere fun with the whole family. The zoo if it’s not too cold…

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Operating with integrity when it feels so good to act like an ass

13 Nov

This is something that I am working on right now – letting go of his recovery. It is on him. He needs to learn to take positive action for himself. If we have any chance of ever making this marriage work there can be no more lies. He has to take responsibility for really doing the work. If he can’t then I need to recognize that means he doesn’t want this enough. I can’t want it enough for both of us. And I have to recognize that sometimes there is a time to let go completely.

Another quote from this great new blogger also caught my eye today.  She said, “It’s up to him to grab a shovel and dig himself out now, dig this marriage out. It’s his turn to work hard and to solve things, if that’s what he wants. He caused this mess in the first place.”  It’s true.  It is up to him to prove to me that he is committed and willing to put the effort in that this marriage requires.  It’s time for him to be the pig.

Random Mental Meanderings

17 Oct

These quotes are really hitting me today. I love the examination of truth and reality, the challenge to change myself and my perception of things. I love the strength and reflection in the writer’s application of these quotes to his life. We may be in different circumstances and different places in life, but I think we could all benefit from taking in the wisdom of these great people and considering what it means for us.

divorcedandangry

How reluctantly the mind consents to reality!  ~Norman Douglas

Wow…so simple, yet so true.  We live inside our wants and desires. We hold fast to our memories and fantasies. We cling to the safety of what was.

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Why Strippers at a Bachelor/Bachelorette Party Set the Wrong Tone for Marriage

4 Oct

I found the below article yesterday, and felt so validated.  This article is a great, reasonable discussion about the stripper “tradition” at bachelor parties.  I have added some not-so-reasonable, emotion-filled commentary of my own in pink…  Sorry in advance, but I need to get it out.

What Happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas: A night of strippers may start your marriage on rocky ground

Published on September 8, 2012 by Dr. Shauna H. Springer

Despite the recent ads on TV and the age old saying, what happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas. If you know that your partner would be upset to hear that you had strippers at your bachelor/bachelorette party, this decision will affect your marriage.

I’m not speaking from any personal pain on this issue but from the distress of many a newlywed I’ve counseled who gets wind of his or her partner’s “totally wild” last night of freedom. Witnessing this time after time in my role as a marital counselor, I’ve often wondered whether there could be any wedding-related tradition more stupid than a bachelor or bachelorette night filled with strippers.

Where in the world did we get this tradition, and how has it persisted for so long?

If your goal is to kick off your marriage in a veil of secrecy and suspicion, a night of carnal pleasure with strangers would be a wonderful way to achieve it. (Thank you!)

If your goal is to undermine your partner’s sense that you only have eyes for him or her when he or she most wants to bond with you, then a trip to a few strip clubs ought to do the trick nicely.  (That’s exactly what it does.  Why am I accepting that?  His behavior shows that I don’t matter, my feelings don’t matter, and he wasn’t concerned about being close to me in a time where we should have been the closest.)

If you’d like your future spouse to see that after all that practice in high school, you still haven’t figured out how to stand up to peer pressure, then by all means, get wrangled into going to a strip club, and deflect your partner’s pain by blaming it on one of your friends (“My best man sprung that lap dancer on me unexpectedly, and she was grinding on me before I even realized what was happening”). (Really?!)  (Again….  REALLY?!?!?!?!?  I KNOW he can’t stand up to peer pressure…  How sad.  How sickening.  And what a completely bullshit excuse for a grown man!  He grinded on strippers because he wanted to – simple as that.  If it was transsexuals, shooting heroin, skydiving or anything else he DIDN’T want to do, then he wouldn’t have!)

If you want to send your beloved a message that you are entering the marriage with mixed feelings and a sense of loss, then by all means, you should participate in a custom that suggests you need to have one last go at sexual intimacy with a stranger because you’ll be deprived of such opportunities in the future. What a beautiful way to herald the sacred vows between yourself and the self-professed love of your life!  (“… one last go at sexual intimacy with a stranger…”  I’m trying not to throw up because that’s exactly what it was.)

I know that some people are more philosophical than I am about this whole stripper thing, so I’ll even take that into account. Overlooking the possibility that you could be one of the rare people who is not at all bothered by the thought of some random human potentially pressing his or her naked sexual parts against your future spouse, one question you still may want to ask is “If I told you that I have a problem with strippers at your bachelor or bachelorette party, how would you respond?”  (Well…  It wasn’t theory.  I did tell him that…)

This very telling question allows you to learn some very important things about a potential future spouse, things like…

Will you hear me and understand my concerns even if you don’t feel the same way?  NO!!!!!

Do you agree that, within reason, when one of us has a problem, it’s a problem we both need to address?  Obviously NOT!

Can I depend on you to stand up for us even if you get ragged on by some of your friends sometimes?  Absolutely, positively NO!!!!  NEVER!  (Gagging, bile rising in my throat…)

Can I depend on you to protect what we have and to treat me with respect whether I’m in the room or 3,000 miles away?  No.  I can’t.  Never could.  That simple statement is heartbreaking.

Am I, and are we, now your top priority?  Definitely not. 

Are you open to influence when I tell you about something that causes me pain?  The answer to this was obvious on so many occasions in so many ways.  Why was I too blind to see that?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of a Bachelor or Bachelorette party. In fact, my husband and I like it so much that we both took a long weekend away with our friends before we got married. When his friends have gotten married, he’s joined them for camping trips, weekends in cabins on various lakes, or time spent exploring a new city. Bachelor and Bachelorette events for us are an opportunity to spend quality time with our closest friends before the biggest transition in our lives to that point. They are a time to reflect on and get excited about what we are both about to do – a wonderful part of a uniquely memorable rite of passage.  (It’s what they should be.)

Would there be any downside to eliminating the sex-games-with-random-strangers part of this tradition? Not for us, and not for any other couples who want to start off strong by honoring the spirit of their commitment to the one they love.  (Sex-games-with-random-strangers…  What a great heading for what happened.  Gagging again.)

Being Aware of Our Vulnerabilities

2 Oct

man on a wire – by simple pleasure

Last week a blogger I follow posted about a Vulnerability Assessment from her marriage counselor.  I was instantly intrigued.  She pointed out that Vulnerability + Opportunity = Affair.  That makes sense, although the reality is probably a tiny bit more complicated.

Those do seem like the basic questions to ask yourself, though – how vulnerable are you to being led astray and what kind of opportunity do you have to act on that vulnerability.  Those two things together are important to the equation.  Having lots of opportunity to cheat doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.  Similarly, being vulnerable to an affair doesn’t guarantee you will have one.  Someone can also be vulnerable and make their own opportunity or have so much opportunity that it creates a vulnerability.  However, if you mix equal parts vulnerability to an affair and opportunity to have one, it is obviously a recipe for disaster.

That made me wonder…  Just how vulnerable am I?

If I had to guess, I would say that I probably have a fairly high score on that assessment.  My husband is a sex addict, so his cycles and behaviors have definitely put him at a high risk overall.  But what about me?

Certainly, according to the small snapshot she shared, I would answer “True” more often than I would like.  Just look at some of this stuff…  Did you know you are at increased risk of having an affair simply if:

  • you have a Facebook account?
  • you have been dealing with stress (family, illness, work, marriage, new job)?
  • you have moved?
  • you have had to deal with the loss of a parent, child, sibling, pet, close friend, family member?
  • you have dealt with or are dealing with a physical/emotional illness (stress, depression, low self-esteem)?
  • you feel taken for granted or taken advantage of at work, at home, in life?
  • you have had to deal with children that are teenagers, rebellious, or unruly?
  • you have felt self-conscious of aging, a bulging mid-section, receding hairline, sagging breasts, erectile dysfunction, major weight loss/gain?
  • you have felt sexually inadequate or second-rate in bed?
  • you confide easily in others?
  • you lack clear goals or dreams or sense of purpose for your life?
  • you have thought or spoke negatively about yourself?
  • you have a lack of self-awareness concerning infidelity, such as:
    • “This couldn’t happen to me.”
    • “I’m committed to working on my marriage.”
    • “No one would be interested in me.”
    • “I would recognize the signs.”
    • “I can be his/her friend only.”
    • “He/She is only a friend.”
    • “He/She is not attractive to me, so this is OK.”
    • “We are both married.”  [As if that totally rules it out…]
    • “This will not get out of hand.”
  • you have a high need for affirmation from others in your life?
  • you feel sorry for yourself?
  • you often see things as ALL or NOTHING?
  • you are unable to communicate your thoughts and emotions to your spouse? perhaps you have been dishonest with them about difficult issues because you fear them rejecting you or punishing you, or because you think it will protect them…”What they don’t know won’t hurt.”)
  • compared to others, you view yourself as:  morally superior, smarter than, or more self-aware?
  • your spouse embarrasses you in public?
  • your marriage is “keeping up the image” to others?
  • you have felt your sex life lacked quality, passion or adventure, and/or it has not been frequent enough?
  • you are disconnected sexually because of emotional starvation?
  • you have married friends who complain about their marriages?
  • you spend time alone?

Teetering on the brink – © Copyright John Naisbitt and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

I definitely don’t have all of them, not even half, but several of them stood out.  This is also not the entire list.  She got a HUGE list of almost 250 characteristics that can make you vulnerable to an affair, and chose just to share some of the ones that she found the most surprising or that made the most sense.

If I spent time alone I’m more vulnerable to an affair?  Huh?  If it’s on there, though, there must be a reason.  I think it is important to remember all of the little ways we can become vulnerable – to an affair, but also to drifting apart from our partner.  Each of these things is part of a bigger picture.  Too many of them together can mean that you are opening yourself up to stray, or even just to become estranged from your spouse.  The moral of the story is:

Expose your weaknesses before the lies become believable.

I am about to head into the therapist’s office to have my husband give me a full disclosure of his acting out behavior.  I am nervous.  There are all sorts of thoughts and emotions swirling around inside me.  One thing I have been keeping in the forefront of my brain is that the roles could easily be reversed.  If I had a different childhood, if I were treated or raised differently, if I had chosen to cope with sex or porn instead of shopping or eating, if any number of things had happened… this could be me today.  I am going to try my hardest to leave all judgement at the door.  We have walked down different paths.  We have experienced life differently.  The things we have been through brought us together, and we are moving forward hand in hand.

What’s that saying… “But for the grace of God go I.”  I may not believe in God, but I do believe that none of us can be positive that we aren’t vulnerable to being that person we despise, pity, hate, laugh at, etc…  I am going to try to hold onto that renewed sense of humility and self-awareness as I listen with an open heart to the things my husband has struggled with in his past.  Wish me luck.

A homeless man in Paris – work by Eric Pouhier

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?

Being Open About Sex

29 Aug

I wanted to reblog this topic today because it is still something we are dealing with, and a friend of mine is going through something similar.  Sex addicts trying to recover deal with a lot of fear around sex.  Spouses also deal with the uncertainty of not feeling wanted by the addict.  It can be a tricky time, and communication is key!

Being a Beautiful Mess

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

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

I’m a very sexual woman.  I have always heard that men are…

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I would probably deep throat it

21 Aug

Hilarious!  Saw this on another blog, and thought it was priceless.  I love a little Tuesday humor to lighten the mood.  😉

What I know for sure: Relationship Truths.

13 Aug

Wow… This really struck me hard. All of these things ARE so entirely true. What is resonnating with me the most is, “What you put up with, you end up with.” At the same time, “It’s not always rainbows and butterflies.” Where’s the balance? Pondering that a lot today.

But I Still Love You

2 Aug

“I never meant to hurt you” is such bullshit. If you are a conscious, thinking human being, then you know actions like cheating and lying WILL hurt the other person. Stop living in a fantasyland!

The Girl Next Door

cheating

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Anti-Gay Businesses Hear From Consumers

29 Jul

I am adding my voice to those of all the consumers making a stand with their wallets against hate and discrimination. You will not get my business!

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