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Solo Vacation

15 Jul

I don’t have a lot of time tonight because I have a long day tomorrow.  However, I wanted to briefly (very briefly) post about my vacation last week.

I just want to say… taking a vacation on my own was wonderful. It was so great to just do what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted.  I have always had someone else to cater to, someone else’s idea of a “good time” to consider, and/or some worry that what I wanted to do or eat or whatever wasn’t going to make the other person happy.  Only focusing on making myself happy was almost life-changing it was so peaceful and relaxing and empowering.

Some of what I did for me, in no particular order: Visited Harry Potter World, twice.  🙂  Took a trolley around America’s oldest city.  Read by the pool.  Walked almost everywhere I could.  Hit the outlet mall and went shopping.  Watched a movie, The Heat, and laughed my ass off.  Rode amazing coasters using the single riders line, which was awesome and even landed me in the front row once.  Strolled around EPCOT and visited all of the countries and their shops, taverns, and shows.  Listened to an Irish duo play music that put a huge smile on my face… for hours.  Tried new beer.  Went on a winery tour.  Ate fantastic food.  Sang along at an outstanding concert for a country star who I admire, against a beautiful backdrop.  Watched fireworks.  Bought candy.  Grinned and giggled like a little kid.

And so much more.  I didn’t have a single argument, didn’t worry once what someone else thought of my plans, and felt deep contentment.  I checked in with friends and family, but enjoyed my own company and my personal time more than I can express.

I have only had one other vacation as peaceful and restful – and that was the cruise with my Mom, my step dad (the one where they got engaged, actually), and his family.  That was another trip I took where I just owned what made me happy, even if it was reading 5 books in one week.  I guess there’s really something to this taking care of yourself thing.  😉

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The Beginning of the End of Us

2 Jul

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A year ago today I had a significant moment.  I blogged about it (of course) here.  It wasn’t incredibly dramatic, but it was the beginning of the end… The moment when my heart finally started moving on from my abusive relationship.  It was a turning point, a reclaiming of me.  That day was one of the first times I stopped reacting and engaging with Chris when he lied.  I started to, but then stopped myself.  Instead of yelling or carrying on or crying, I calmly told him that his continued lying was unacceptable and that we would not be sharing a room that evening or anytime in the foreseeable future, until I felt safe with him again.

Over the next few days, I took care of myself.  I had a massage.  I got a tattoo and a nose ring.  I stopped fighting against the truth that he is a liar.  That’s what he does, and it is what he is.  I wanted the lies to go away, but began to realize that they wouldn’t as long as he was still in my life.  So I started moving on by myself, emotionally.  I planned things just for me, I went to therapy, I went shopping with friends, and I started realizing that I’m worth it.  I contemplated my life and what I wanted, and I started making choices with those things in mind.

During that time he threw temper tantrums.  There’s no other word to describe it.  He whined about me to everyone he could, including his therapist.  He made me into “the bad guy.”  He didn’t like that I wasn’t engaging anymore, that I wasn’t rewarding his bad behavior with my attention.  He actually threw a fit that I’d gotten a tattoo and piercing, even though I had discussed both with him for weeks beforehand, because I didn’t get exactly what I originally was considering.  He couldn’t stand that I’d DARED to make a decision about myself and my body without his say, without him being there.  Which is hilarious considering all he did with his body without my knowledge while we were together.  Things that could and did affect me, unlike my choice to put something sparkly on my nose and some pretty ink on my shoulder.

Although the thing we called a marriage continued to drag on for a few months after that point, when I look back and try to pinpoint the moment where I started to really change, this day a year ago would be it.  That is when I finally accepted that I have no control over him or his decisions and started making healthy ones for myself instead.  One year ago I chose not to live the way I had been living.  He made the opposite decision – to remain in his negative behaviors and patterns, to continue lying, to keep making excuses for himself, and to keep blaming others.  I simply began to realize that those were his decisions to make, and that it would be his loss when I kept moving forward and walked right out of his life.  Or rather, no longer chose to have him in mine.

Today I still don’t have the piece of paper I’m craving that officially severs our legal bonds.  I was really, really hoping to by this point.  I tried to remain realistic about how long the process would take.  My lawyer said it should be 2-4 weeks from the date Chris signed the papers until the date a judge made the final decree.  I mentioned here that my county only has one judge and he only handles divorce cases on Friday.  So I always kept the one month figure in my head as the most likely scenario.

Unlike how long he took to sign everything for the deposition, when it came time to sign the divorce papers I kept texting him daily until he did it.  I got the letter from my lawyer at the very beginning of June (around the 4th or 5th) that it was done and in the hands of the courts.  I was ecstatic because I’ve been planning a vacation in early July for months.  I thought that because it was submitted to the court before the first Friday in June that my odds were good to be divorced before I left.  The 4 week mark (the longest estimate my lawyer gave me) would be the end of June, hopefully putting that decree in my hands at the beginning of July.

Last week I got a letter from my lawyer.  I nearly stopped breathing.  I thought it was THE letter.  I thought that the final dissolution of the marriage would come from the courts and the county, but I was hopeful nonetheless.  Instead it was a letter from my lawyer saying that their part in the process was finished, so they would be filing my case away shortly.  Hoping that meant they knew something I didn’t, I sat back and waited for the letter from the county.  Now, several days later (and the last one before I leave on vacation), I still don’t have it.

I have to admit that I’m pretty disappointed.  Not that it matters… not that it makes a big difference…  But I really, really wanted to be completely and totally done with him in every way before I left for my vacation.  I wanted this to be my first “official” vacation as a single woman once again (actually, my first vacation as a single woman, period, because I haven’t been single for more than a month or two since age 15).  Sadly, it doesn’t look like I’ll have that piece of paper in my hand.

That doesn’t mean that my divorce from him isn’t completely final in my heart, though.  If there’s anything this last year has taught me it’s how to accept the things that I can’t control.  I’ve had many, many opportunities to do that, and I’m starting to get good at it.  Or at least passable.  I certainly can’t control the pace of the court system.  I can, however, choose to be happy and satisfied despite my disappointment.  I can choose to still consider this vacation a milestone.  And I can look back with satisfaction at the journey that this last year of my life has taken me on because I’ve been true to myself.  I’m mastering change, not letting it master me.

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Moving On From a Bad Relationship

14 Jun

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On my recent post Future of this Blog? I got a request from a reader to address the topic of how to move on from the end of a relationship, especially one that ended badly.  I’ve been thinking on that topic, and considering how to address it.  Honestly, I’m not sure that I’m the best one to give advice on this topic.  I have moved on from Chris (a.k.a. Mr. Mess), and I did it pretty quickly once we were separated.  However, that is mostly because I let things drag on far beyond the point where they should have.  I was able to move on emotionally once we were officially “over” because I didn’t let go and kick him out until I was already there.

I don’t really recommend that approach.  It put me through a lot of unnecessary turmoil and angst and emotional pain.  Holding on that long when I was so obviously being mistreated, lied to, and taken for granted is a hallmark of an unhealthy person.  Some people may argue that it shows love and devotion and strength of character.  Maybe at first.  However, I endured a lot of things that a healthier person would not have accepted.  A lot of things that I would never, ever advise anyone else to put up with.  I did it out of fear and a need for a “safety blanket,” even if said “safety” was actually harming me far worse than moving on would have.

Besides being degrading, that approach is also not possible in cases where the other person leaves you.  You may want to hold on, be willing to accept terrible treatment, and desperately want to “work on” things with someone who isn’t putting forth any effort and has no desire to change (like I was), but have that person walk away.  Or reject you.  Or leave you for someone else.  Either way, you might be looking for the unhealthy “safety blanket,” too, and have it denied, ripped away.  How do you move on then?

If I could do things differently or if I could give anyone else advice who is in a bad relationship it would be to love yourself.  Take care of yourself.  Find yourself.  Put the focus where it belongs – on you, not on him or her.  I think the key to really moving on is to realize what you deserve, find the things that make you happy, and pursue them.  Do some sort of physical activity, whether it be biking or hiking or walking or dancing – something to get your mind and body working together.  Laugh as often as possible.  Watch funny movies, listen to good music, surround yourself with family and friends and people who love you.

I will share something else that has worked for me.  It may or may not work for you, depending on what type of role model you have.  I try to think about my Mom.  What would she do in this situation?  What would she accept?  Would she allow someone to treat her like this, behave this way, etc.?  If not, I ask myself why I accept it.  Then I try not to anymore.  That last part requires the answer to the question that precedes it.  A lot of the time the answer has been that I don’t think I deserve better, or that I’m afraid that I won’t get better if I don’t accept what I’m given.  In order to really move on, I need to combat that voice and find a way to know that I deserve more than what that person and that bad relationship gave me.  If your Mom won’t work, think about a friend or sister or some other person you love and ask yourself if you think they should accept that kind of treatment.  Most likely, the answer is no.

How does that help you move on?  Knowing what you were given in a bad relationship wasn’t good enough makes it easier to walk away emotionally.  When you realize how little there was to mourn and how much better is out there, it becomes easier to accept that it’s over.  Not only to accept it, but to rejoice over it.  I now feel elated that things are done with my ex, and so excited to get the divorce papers back from the judge signed that I can barely wait.  My friends want me to have a divorce party.  I still haven’t planned one, but it sure does sound like a good idea.  I’m not just moving on, I’m dancing on the grave of this terrible relationship.

That’s what you should do, too.  Dance.  Laugh.  Love.  Rejoice.  Take time to pamper yourself, lick your wounds, and realize that you deserve more, you deserve better, and you deserve real love.  The kind of love that you would hope for your Mom or sister or best friend.  The kind of love that treats you well, makes you feel like the most important person in the world, and complements your happiness.  Note that I said “complements your happiness” and not “makes you happy.”   Only you can do that.  Find your happiness inside of you, nurture it, and watch it attract the kind of people who will support it and not leach it out of you.  That’s my advice on how to move on from a bad relationship.

And just because, here’s some musical inspiration:

“I’m Moving On”

I’ve dealt with my ghosts and I’ve faced all my demons
Finally content with a past I regret
I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness
For once I’m at peace with myself
I’ve been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long
I’m movin’ on

I’ve lived in this place and I know all the faces
Each one is different but they’re always the same
They mean me no harm but it’s time that I face it
They’ll never allow me to change
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong
I’m movin’ on

I’m movin’ on
At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know there’s no guarantees, but I’m not alone
There comes a time in everyone’s life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn’t
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I’ve loved like I should but lived like I shouldn’t
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I’m movin’ on

I’m movin’ on
I’m movin’ on

You call me up to tell me that you’re sorry
But sorry is as sorry does
You can call it what you want to
But damn it, don’t you dare call it love

You’ve got the nerve to ask me if I’m okay
Boy, give it a rest
‘Cause I’m good
And getting better at being my best

They say time can heal all wounds
Well, the sooner the better for me
‘Cause a heart at war damn sure
Will make you be all that you can be

You tore me down piece by piece
But believe me, there’s plenty of me left
Boy, I’m good
Getting better at being my best

I’ve been thrown a lot of curves in this ol’ world
But it’s only made me strong
I suggest you do what I’ve done
And make this call your last one and move on

No’s my final answer
Rest assured that I’m not after anything less
Boy, I’m good
Getting better at being my best

Oh, I’ve cried a river
But you don’t remember
Let me refresh your memory
One last time

Boy, I’m good
And getting better at being my best
Boy, I’m good
Getting better at being my best

Boy, I’m good
Oh, I’m getting better
I’m good
Getting better at being my best

Progress

20 Apr

This last week has seen some significant progress in my world.  The papers were officially delivered to Chris (a.k.a. Mr. Mess).  I have an appointment for a deposition with my lawyer.  The ball is rolling, and things are going in the right direction.

School has been busy, but good.  I’m learning quite a bit and enjoying the ability to stretch myself.  There was a work trip that took me away for the weekend during a time when I had a lot of work to do for school (3 papers).  It also coincided with a surgery that my dog needed to excise a tumor and check it for cancer.  Needless to say, last week was incredibly stressful.  However, the papers got done impeccably, I generated new leads at work, and my precious Buddy is cancer-free and recovering well.

All of that has given me the ability to breathe again, and a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders now that the divorce is proceeding.  I even had the opportunity to have a little fun!  Last night I did a duet with a friend of mine who was opening a sold-out show.  We sang Jason Aldean’s song “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” featuring Kelly Clarkson.  We did an acoustic version with him, me, two stools and a guitar.  It was amazing.  We rocked the house.  If you aren’t familiar with the song, here it is:

It was so amazing to go on stage and perform again.  People were cheering and loving it.  I had so, so many people come up to me afterwards and say that they were just blown away.  I’ve missed having music be a part of my life in that way.  I also got to pick out a cute outfit and break out my pink hair extensions again.  I thought I would share some self-portraits from last night.  Pink streaks are fabulous!

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Finally, for some levity, I would like to share a little ditty from today.  I decided to treat myself to my favorite Thai restaurant for dinner tonight.  When I went by to pick it up, the owner who is an older, small-statured gentleman from Thailand, started asking me about how things are going for me.  I’m a regular there, and used to go at least once a week when I worked close by.  He said that he has noticed the man I used to bring in with me is gone.  I laughed and said yes.  He said it’s easier that way.  I told him he was soooo right.  Then, in his broken English, he told me, “Next time, you get better looking one.”  I burst out laughing!  I’m still chuckling to myself.

Yes, next time around I will get a better looking one.  More than that, though, I’ll get a better all-around man.  🙂

How Things Change in a Year

9 Apr

A year ago today, on April 9th, 2012, I wrote my first blog post.  It wasn’t especially great. However, it was the first step in a life-altering process.

This last year has brought more change and growth than I ever could have anticipated.  In the past 365 days I have shared my hopes, fears, and dreams on my blog.  I have gone through low lows and high highs. I have cried and laughed. I have felt trapped and freer than ever before.

A year ago today I was confused, hurting, and feeling very betrayed. I decided to start a blog with the intent of getting the words out of my head. I never thought anyone would read it. I certainly had no idea of the community I would find and the friends I would make.

When I started this blog I was one year past DDay. I was still feeling lost and angry. I was discovering lies and struggling with his mood swings and lack of motivation. He said what I wanted to hear, then did the exact opposite. He would rage and then “love bomb” me (another term I learned from Paula). I felt crazy.

Today I am less than a week from starting the divorce process. I feel strong and confident. I’m halfway through my first MBA class, and I currently have a 100% average. I drove around today in my car with the windows open, my arm out the window and the radio blaring. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do besides sing at the top of my lungs and enjoy the 92(!) degree weather.

This last year has been hard and wonderful and full of insights. Thanks for your part in that! Here’s hoping the next year is even better. Cheers!

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What is Your Attachment Style? I’m Secure

29 Mar

Today I found a neat little attachment style quiz thanks to fellow blogger VwoopVwoop.  She posted a very good blog about how we are raised affects the way we interact and attach to the people we are romantically involved with.  My favorite line from her post is the very first one.  She says, “Secure attachment is the outcome of a healthy upbringing, with a sense of self, good boundaries, and no anxiety about what others’ hidden motives might be.”  So true!

After reading about the various attachment styles, I started wondering where I fall on the spectrum.  I feel like I was raised in a pretty healthy environment, but my last relationship obviously wasn’t healthy at all.  Thankfully, she provided the link to the quick quiz, which is here.  I took it, and found that I fall in the “Secure” category.  That’s good news!  Here’s the pictorial representation of my attachment style:

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Here is what else the test had to say about me:

“According to attachment theory and research, there are two fundamental ways in which people differ from one another in the way they think about relationships. First, some people are more anxious than others. People who are high in attachment-related anxiety tend to worry about whether their partners really love them and often fear rejection. People low on this dimension are much less worried about such matters. Second, some people are more avoidant than others. People who are high in attachment-related avoidance are less comfortable depending on others and opening up to others.

According to your questionnaire responses, your attachment-related anxiety score is 2.64, on a scale ranging from 1 (low anxiety) to 7 (high anxiety). Your attachment-related avoidance score is 1.33, on a scale ranging from 1 (low avoidance) to 7 (high avoidance).

As you can see in this graph, the two dimensions of anxiety and avoidance can be combined to create interesting combinations of attachment styles. For example people who are low in both attachment-related anxiety and avoidance are generally considered secure because they don’t typically worry about whether their partner’s are going to reject them and they are comfortable being emotionally close to others.

Combining your anxiety and avoidance scores, you fall into the secure quadrant. Previous research on attachment styles indicates that secure people tend to have relatively enduring and satisfying relationships. They are comfortable expressing their emotions, and tend not to suffer from depression and other psychological disorders.”

I am definitely comfortable expressing my emotions.  I have suffered from depression in the past.  It may have been situational depression, though.   That situation?  My husband!  I am a little higher on the anxiety scale now than I probably was when I first met him, although 2.64 isn’t bad.  I do sometimes worry and second-guess my own judgment now.  I wonder if someone can really love me the way I love, fully and deeply.  However, I am keeping that anxiety in check because I know that I have a lot to offer.  This was a good little confirmation that I am healthy and strong, despite what I’ve been through.

On another note, I’m doing well in school.  My first week is almost done, and I’m loving it.  I feel so invigorated.  I’ve definitely missed this the last few years.  I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend and a great holiday!

Exciting News: Continuing My Education

20 Mar

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I am so excited to let you guys know that I’m starting a MBA program next week!  I’ve been waiting to officially announce this until after all of the details were completely worked out, and now they are.  🙂

I think I have mentioned before that I love learning.  I would be a professional student if it paid well enough.  I wanted to start a Master’s program after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, but life got in the way.  Mr. Mess and I were starting to get serious.  I had a full scholarship for undergrad, but those really aren’t available for graduate programs.  Not without working 30 or so hours at an internship or as a teacher’s assistant.  That really wasn’t feasible since I had to have a full-time job to pay my mortgage.  Damn responsibility.  And damn useless boyfriends who are living with you, but not contributing half of all of the bills.

So I put it off.  Then I was laid off.  Finding a job and getting back to my previous salary became a priority.  After a couple months of unemployment and a temp job, I found my current company.  They’re a great company.  It was a great opportunity.  I threw myself into it.  I advanced.  Now 3 years later I’m getting bored again.  There’s still more to learn here – there always is.  However, I don’t feel energized and motivated the way I would like to be.

Then there was the matter of all of the drama going on in my personal life.  Mr. Mess was very demanding emotionally and financially.  I spent time and energy supporting him, encouraging him to grow and change fields, and trying to help him get his credit straight.  I was the responsible one.  I always am responsible, but I also had to be extra responsible to counteract all of the irresponsible he was throwing my way.  There was no way that I would have been able to manage his mess and the sex addiction drama and therapy and my demanding job and his lies…

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Now that he’s been gone for several months and I’m focusing on myself, that urge to go back to learning has increased.  I also have someone very close to me who has been teasing me about my lack of a Master’s for a while.  I’ve been getting more and more motivated and interested.

Then last month my job started a management training series with the corporate lawyer.  The first few sessions were aimed at knowing yourself, discovering your potential, identifying talent in yourself and others, and focusing on your strengths.  They purchased us the StrengthsFinder 2.0 books and had us take the online test.  If you aren’t familiar, it identifies your top 5 strengths out of a potential list of 34.  I got mine back, and all 5 of them relate to academics.  At least in my brain they do.

Here are my top 5 strengths in order with a description of each.  See if you agree with me that at least 3 of them basically sound like the same thing:

  1. Input – You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information — words, facts, books, and quotations — or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.
  2. Context – You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present. From your vantage point the present is unstable, a confusing clamor of competing voices. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability. The earlier time was a simpler time. It was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You realize what the initial intentions were. These blueprints or intentions have since become so embellished that they are almost unrecognizable, but now this Context theme reveals them again. This understanding brings you confidence. No longer disoriented, you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time. You must discipline yourself to ask the questions and allow the blueprints to emerge because no matter what the situation, if you haven’t seen the blueprints, you will have less confidence in your decisions.
  3. Learner – You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered — this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences — yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”
  4. Competition – Competition is rooted in comparison. When you look at the world, you are instinctively aware of other people’s performance. Their performance is the ultimate yardstick. No matter how hard you tried, no matter how worthy your intentions, if you reached your goal but did not outperform your peers, the achievement feels hollow. Like all competitors, you need other people. You need to compare. If you can compare, you can compete, and if you can compete, you can win. And when you win, there is no feeling quite like it. You like measurement because it facilitates comparisons. You like other competitors because they invigorate you. You like contests because they must produce a winner. You particularly like contests where you know you have the inside track to be the winner. Although you are gracious to your fellow competitors and even stoic in defeat, you don’t compete for the fun of competing. You compete to win. Over time you will come to avoid contests where winning seems unlikely.
  5. Intellection – You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.

There it is.  I like words.  I like knowledge.  I love learning and challenging myself mentally.  I’m a hoarder of information.  I need to be growing and keeping my mind occupied or I become unhappy.

So, I finally bit the bullet and started seriously inquiring about graduate school.  I checked out two Master’s programs close to me, and learned quite a bit about them.  I then researched a few online programs.  Once I found the perfect one I didn’t delay.  My first class starts next Tuesday.  I’m registered, everything has been processed, and all that’s left is for me to actually start the first class next week.  It is an 18 month program to earn my Masters in Business Administration.  Then I can tack on another 5 or so classes to get a concentration.  I’m still debating between HR, Marketing, and Project Management.  There’s time to decide on that.

Right now, I have to say that three little letters have never gotten me so excited about the future.

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Emotional Sobriety Audio

3 Dec

I thought I would share the emotional sobriety audio that we listened to on Friday night at my retreat.  This is definitely worth downloading and listening to.

http://www.xa-speakers.org/pafiledb.php?action=file&id=2343

Step 3

1 Dec

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Step 3 is making a daily decision to kneel on air.

Changes…

8 Nov

I have never really done well with change.  Now my life is full of them.  It is a hard adjustment.  Last night I had another in the long string of recent challenges that have been coming my way.  I made mistakes, but I also made some improvements (however slight).  I’ll tell you the story, and we’ll see if you pick out the same ones that I did…

The very first challenge that I have been dealing with is my health.  Two weeks ago I had strep throat and an ear infection.  About 3-5 days after the antibiotics for that were finished I contracted a killer cold that developed into an upper respiratory infection complete with whooping cough, fever, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and the inability to breathe (okay, maybe that last one is a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear that’s how it feels).  I powered through most of the week until yesterday I just couldn’t take it any more.  I dragged my sorry ass out of work around 3:30, went to the doctor for some meds, then wiped out the CVS cold and flu aisle before heading home.

I arrived to a mailbox full of stuff for Mr. Mess, which I added to the already-impressive stack on the table by my door.  He had cancelled all 3 of the proposed “dates” he set up last week due to his own health issues (flu, maybe?).  That meant there hadn’t been an exchange of things like mail in over a week.  Here is where my first mistake appears in this tale (I’m not giving you any more freebies – from here on out, you have to identify the mistakes for yourself).  I called him and told him that he had a lot of mail here whenever he wanted to come get it.  He said he would head on over then, and I agreed.

I will pause in the re-telling of this story to recap something I learned in S-Anon that applies well in this situation.  It is the acronym H.A.L.T.  This wise slogan advises you not to act when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  I would add another letter at the end.  S for sick.  I did not need to contact my husband while I was sick.  The mail could have stayed right there.  Although I wasn’t especially hungry, angry, lonely or tired, the sick made all of those things much closer to the surface than they normally are.  It also made me more emotional than I was aiming for.

Mr. Mess arrived at my door about an hour after our phone conversation ended…  maybe 45 minutes.  I had already caught myself complaining like a whiny child on the phone about how awful I felt, so I resolved not to do that.  He walked in, and the first thing I noticed was the smell of his cologne.  I love that damn stuff.  It is probably the best smell in the entire world.  At least I thought that last night.  In retrospect, I’m surprised I could even smell it given the state of my sinuses.  Mr. Mess walked up to me, reached out to rub my arms, and said that he is sorry I am feeling so bad.  In that moment all I wanted was to curl up in his arms.

Instead, I said thank you and pointed out the stack of mail.  He went through it, throwing things away as he went, and then started looking around.  He asked if there is anything he could do for me.  I told him it would be really nice if he could take the trash can to the curb so I didn’t have to go out there in the cold (trash pickup is on Wednesday night).  He said that would be no problem at all.  Then he commented that he hopes I have been eating.  I said that I have, except for yesterday when all my cold seemed to want was chocolate.  Everything else tasted gross.  Although that was borderline whiny, it was true.  For the most part, though, I have been cooking myself quite fine meals, and I told him so.

He then walked into the den.  I asked what he was doing.  He said that he wanted to say hi to the dogs (they were in the utility room, which is connected to the den).  While he was in there I went to get the extra pair of nail clippers that he asked to borrow earlier in the week.  I also handed him his key chain, which I had found buried in the pull-out sofa bed when my sister stayed the night last weekend.  I resisted the urge to call him out on his lie surrounding those keys or ask him where he got the key he had been using since his was in the couch and the spare was where it always is.  It doesn’t matter.  Plus, I’m pretty sure he must have taken the spare and gotten a copy made in order to hide the fact that he lost his keys.  What a pointless thing to hide.  And also a pointless thing to be angry about.  So I just let it go.

My Mom and I had literally just gotten off of the phone about 5 minutes before Mr. Mess arrived, and she asked me about Thanksgiving and Christmas – whether to expect him, whether she should be buying him a gift, etc.  She is going on a long cruise very shortly and wanted to have all of the gifts purchased in the next week or so.  I took the opportunity last night to ask.  He got this strange look on his face and started stammering a bit – falling over his words, starting a sentence, then not finishing it, saying “you know” when I really did not…

Finally he said that he would feel like a black cloud hanging over everything.  He said that he feels too bad about what he has done to me to be around my family, and he wants to wait.  I asked what he wants to wait for.  He didn’t really answer.  By that point my short fuse and irritation with his beating around the bush was getting the best of me.  It really seemed like he was saying that he can never be around my family again because what he did is not going to change.  I proposed an answer to my own question – maybe he is waiting until he feels good about what he did?  He said no, and started getting emotional.  Instead of feeling compassion, a red hot anger welled up inside of me.

I don’t remember the exact words that came out of his mouth next.  It doesn’t really matter.  However, it was something about not being able to change what he did or how guilty he feels about it.  Even though that is basically the same thing I was thinking just moments before, my rage monster wanted to let out a big growl.  I told him that he COULD have changed quite a lot in the last year of false recovery.  Instead of a year that was full of lies and deceit, he could have been honest and changed where we are now.  It was up to HIM to put his all into it just like I had been.  He said that I’m right, and that he wants to wait until he has made more progress in his recovery to be around my family so that it doesn’t feel like just another lie.

With those words and that simple revelation, my rage dissipated.  That, in and of itself, is progress.  His bottom lip trembled, his eyes started to overflow, and he walked away from me – like he always does when he is feeling real, human emotions.  Or maybe because he couldn’t keep up the act much longer – it’s hard faking emotions as a sociopath.  I thought he was walking to the door, which he was at first.  Then he stopped and turned around.  He asked if there was anything else I needed besides him to take the trash to the street.  I said no.  He turned as if to go, then said that there was one more thing he needed.  Without another word of explanation, he took off down the hall toward the computer room and my bedroom.

The fleeting moment of tenderness I had felt towards him was quickly shoved aside by annoyance.  I called after him, asking where he was going and what he needed.  Without stopping, he strode into the computer room, turned on the light and called back that he was looking for his checkbook.  My annoyance turned to indignation and territoriality.  I had seen his checkbook while I was cleaning, and it was NOT in there.  The bigger point, however, is that he doesn’t live here right now to go stomping off through my house opening doors, turning on lights, and rummaging through things without asking.  I told him that his checkbook was not in there, then went and fetched it from the spot where I had seen it earlier in the week.

Still, he continued going through things in the computer room.  I asked him to tell me what he is looking for instead of going through all of my stuff.  First he got exacerbated and said nothing, never mind.  I told him that I am happy to help, but I would like to know what he is looking for.  He said he was trying to find his actual checks (which weren’t in the checkbook).  I told him that I hadn’t seen them.  I searched (pointlessly) for his checks, which were nowhere to be found.  I asked if he was sure they were even in here.  He said that he brought them with him when he moved in (over 4 years ago now).  I said I haven’t ever seen them, and showed him my checks, which I always keep in one specific spot.  I checked everywhere he suggested with no luck.

When he finally accepted that the checks were not here, he asked for the joint checking account number.  I immediately bitched at him.  He asked me over a week ago for that number while I was driving, and I suggested he call the bank (since THEY have the number much handier than I do).  I caught myself in full bitch-out mode, complaining about how he should just pick up the phone and call himself instead of asking me to do things for him.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal, though…  I took a deep breath, pulled the checkbook out of my purse, and gave him the number.  We exchanged a few more tensely polite words, and he left.

Fifteen minutes later I thought to check outside.  Sure enough, the garbage can hadn’t been moved.  Out into the cold with my cold I went.  My body shivered and I raged in my head.  I fought the uge to send him a snarky or bitchy text thanking him for doing the one thing I had asked him for.  I fought the urge to call a friend and complain.  Instead, I put my phone down.  I hooked it up to the charger, and left the room.

I might have made many poor decisions yesterday, but I have learned enough in the last few months to know that my anger at that moment would not have been productive.  It wouldn’t have accomplished anything other than to drive an even bigger wedge between us.  It would have resulted in him feeling either defensive or more guilty.  None of those options are what I’m looking for.

Somehow I was able to push aside my strong urge to punish him for his oversight, and take responsibility for myself.  It is my trash, afterall.  Sick or not, I needed to take it to the curb.  Today this seems like it could be some very deep metaphor for what we are going through in general.  Last night it was just irritating.

About an hour or so later, once I had calmed down, taken some medicine, and regained my perspective and compassion, I sent him a text.  It simply said, “Sorry I upset you.”  I am sorry.  I pushed things.  I lashed out a few times.  I made him feel back about himself when I shouldn’t have because it doesn’t move us in the right direction.  I have to work on that.  I have to learn to control my temper a little better, or at least to not make decisions when I’m feeling on edge.  I have to look inward when what I really want to do is point the finger.  At least I didn’t send him that pissy text about the trash.  Progress, not perfection, right?

After thinking on things a bit more, I realize that all of those bad reactions came from fear of change.  I don’t like that I don’t have my husband to hold me when I’m feeling crappy.  Instead of affirming myself for the positive steps I’m taking in enforcing my boundaries, I wallow in self-pity because my lying, cheating sex addict husband can’t get his shit together.  I let anger and entitlement take over because it is easier than seeing the ways I contributed to being where I am today.

Yes, where I am is separated from a husband who lied to me repeatedly , cheated on me, and is a sex addict – but I put myself here just as much (or more) than he did.  It was my poor decisions, my loose boundaries, my fear of abandonment, my low self-esteem, my repeated failure to trust my gut, and my codependent tendencies that put us here just as much as it was his sex addiction.  I have to own my shit, too.  And then I have to change it.  But changing things sucks.

Sometimes I want my fantasyland back.  I wax nostalgic about the “good old days” when I could curl up on the couch whenever I felt sick and have my husband make me dinner, bring me medicine, and rub my feet.  I want that sense of security and love.  Then I remember how false it was.  I remember how that same loving, caring man would sneak off to call, sext, internet chat, or meet another woman.  Or maybe he wouldn’t do that, but he would lie about something from his day or hide what he was feeling or thinking.  I remember how I might sense something was off, but dismiss my own instincts.  I also remember how late at night, when he was snoring beside me, I would lie awake knowing that there was something big missing in this relationship.

I say all of that to say this:  Change is painful, but it is also necessary.  I have a long way to go.  However, I am going to keep pushing forward.  I need to change for me.  As much as I hate admitting my mistakes, acknowledging my flaws, and accepting change – those things are necessary for growth.  And one thing I hate worse than change is being average.  He’s to self-awareness and change.  Those bitches.  🙂

Welcome to My Town: The Smoking Remains of My Marriage

30 Oct

I’m going to tell you a little story today.  I want to give you a tiny peek into a corner of my brain where I have been living recently.  First, though, I want to explain the catalyst to this creative inspiration.  Samantha’s post today about the grieving process made me stop and think about where I am right now.

The Five Stages of Grief include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Those “stages” are all interchangeable, and you generally don’t experience them in any particular order.  I examined each of those stages today, and considered where I might be on the spectrum.

I quickly determined that I’m not in denial.  In fact, it’s more like I am finally coming out of it.  I have lived in the fantasyland of denial and delusion and optimism for so long, hoping and hoping and hoping that my husband would change.  I have been trying not to harp on the failures and lies, instead focusing on the positive things, even if they were sometimes as small as breadcrumbs.  That denial left me thinking that although my town was far from perfect, it was like a charming, old town somewhere in the mountains that was built of stone and could weather any storm without being too much worse for the wear.

I have also bargained with myself and with my husband for quite a while – feeding my denial with the hope that THIS deal, THIS agreement, THIS conversation, THIS slip, THIS lie, THIS time would be different, enough, the last time…  However, I’m not there anymore, either.  I left the bargaining behind the same time I stopped trying to deny my reality.

Depression has also been my constant companion for quite a while.  It has been there looking over my shoulder at almost every corner of my little town.  Although my depression is still hanging around, I am not living in his deep, dark cave anymore.

After my husband left, those first 2 weeks were much different.  I started really accepting the truth that I can’t expect the truth from my husband.  During that time I felt disappointed about the lies, but I was almost resigned to the fact that this is what my life has become.  I had accepted that he had done what he had done, he had continued lying to me, and there was nothing I could do to change that or him.

I also felt such relief when he was out of the house.  It felt wonderful to reclaim my domain.  I cleaned and cooked and washed tons of laundry.  I felt accomplished and proud of myself for sticking to my boundaries.  This was progress for me!  It was the first time I have drawn a line and then left it there once he crossed over it.  I didn’t let him erase it and draw his own line farther into my personal territory, encroaching more and more into my comfort zone, leaving me backed against a corner.  That was my normal pattern, and I had broken it.

If you’ve been following along with the stages so far, we have already hit on denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  That leaves one option for my current stage of grief for the destroyed fantasy of my relationship.  I actually didn’t have to think very hard to come to this conclusion.  I am angry.  Tired.  And ANGRY!

The title of my last post said that I am “getting tired” of all the lies.  That’s actually not accurate.  I am already extremely tired of the lying.  It’s not that I’m “getting there.”  I have arrived.  In fact, I am the mayor of the town.  Or maybe the governor (inspired by the last episode of The Walking Dead).  Yeah, that sounds about right.  I feel just diabolical enough right now to have a wall of severed heads in my office.  Only every single one would belong to my husband.

That town is the setting of my story. It’s a dark and twisty place.  There are lots of dangers lurking around.  It looks like something out of the set of Revolution – no electricity, buildings in ruins, vines growing all over everything…  The current Frankenstorm that is hammering the East Cost is the perpetual weather there.

I have always been the governor of this town.  My husband was my partner – my right-hand man, so to speak.  We determined that there were issues in our town, and set about trying to fix them.  Once we had decided on something we wanted to do, we would figure out how it could be accomplished and work together to make it happen.  Or at least that’s what I thought…

Sometimes I would identify a threat to our town or the progress we were making to repair it.  In order to protect our little town, I would put a boundary around that area – complete with cones and a “Danger” sign.  He would agree, nod his head, say he completely understood and that he respected that boundary.  Then he would walk right over it.  He would demolish any signs or markers I had erected to protect myself and our town.  He would march right through without any heed to the promises he had made.

The sneaky thing is that he would do it at night, when there were no lights on that boundary and no one there to guard it.  When I eventually found the destruction in the morning light he might first say he didn’t do it.  He would say it was someone else’s fault or give an outlandish explanation.  If I found his fingerprints all over the crime scene, he might then “come clean,” apologize, and swear he wouldn’t do it again.  Alternatively, he might try to make me feel bad about where I placed that boundary.  He might blame me for putting it in his way.

No matter which option he chose, at the end of the interaction my boundary was no longer standing intact.  Sometimes he would move it.  Sometimes he would pretend to rebuild it, but leave himself a way around.  Sometimes it was so smashed up that it didn’t seem there was any way to repair it.  On rare occasions, a brick wall would be built there to block that particular boundary from being crossed again without a lot of effort.  Even on those occasions, there were always lasting remnants of the vast destruction that had occurred there.

This time I was able to stand back and survey my little town from a distance.  I saw all of the craters, demolished walls, the smoke coming out of buildings that had been set on fire, the graffiti covering the walls, the overgrown shrubbery, and the wreckage of my trust and hope and love and marriage.  For the first time I realized our town wasn’t quaint.  It wasn’t slightly flawed or full of “character.”  It was destroyed.

I realized patching up this one boundary, moving it a little farther back, letting him “get away” with another crime against me and the town was not the answer.  I decided to banish him from the town for 3 months and go about the business of cleaning up and restoring my township.  For two weeks I have been throwing away garbage, hauling away debris, and taking inventory of what was left over.  Being a governor keeps you busy, after all.

In the last day or two I realized that I had allowed him to drop bomb after bomb on my town over the years.  I stepped back again and saw that two weeks of hard work on my part had done a little bit, but the devastation was so immense that the town might never recover.  I thought about all the time I had spent on the town, how many times I thought he was there next to me building it, how I had trusted him to care about it as much as I did.

Then I recognized that while I was living in that fantasyland of denial and hope and optimism, he was stomping around wreaking havoc on everything.  He would be in planning meetings with me, talking about ways to make the town better, then leave and destroy something else.  I realized how naïve I was to keep believing that he had the town’s best interest at heart, even if he “slipped up” and lied or smashed something.  I felt guilty that I had let him stay in the town, damaging things so much that now they are in a completely ruined state.

Then the anger rolled in on a strong gust of wind.  I became indignant and full of rage for all of the broken bits of the town lying at my feet.  How dare he attack the town like this!  What a complete ass!!!  I wanted to seek him out in the desolate outer reaches beyond the town where he was banished to throw some of the ashes and rubble at him.  I wanted to scream and rage and show him just how fucked up everything was – because of him!!!

Just as quickly as that thought entered my mind, so did the anger at myself.  He wouldn’t have been able to do so much extensive damage if I had grasped earlier that this town was not what I thought it was.  If I had comprehended that I was the only one working on the town, caring for the town, nurturing and putting energy in it.  Maybe I would have left that town behind altogether and be in a new town by now where plans were kept, boundaries were respected, and there was another person just as committed to making it flourish as I am…

I’m still standing in this destroyed town.  Anger and depression are my companions while the storm rages on.  I still don’t know if the town is worth rebuilding.  I don’t know if it will ever be inhabitable again.  I don’t know if he will come back from his exile as a strong, capable, responsible, reliable, accountable man ready to actually work on making this town viable.  Or if things are past the point of that ever being possible.  I’m fairly certain it’s the latter, but only time will tell.

Our First Post-Separation Date (With Each Other)

25 Oct

image

We had our first “date” since the separation, and it was a disaster.  I have to start by saying that I looked hot. Seriously. I have battled with poor self-esteem, and even I knew I was smoking.  He didn’t say a word.  Nothing.

He ordered water and refused to eat.  He didn’t start an argument, he wasn’t sulky, and he didn’t act angry, but he also wasn’t engaging or interesting.  I think he tried to make small talk. He asked what I had been doing, told me he was doing “nothing” and shared that he has been writing and working his book.  He did say he wants me to read some of what he has written because he can’t process and articulate correctly in person.

I think he was unsure what to talk about.  Mostly we just chatted.  He asked about my work, then briefly listened.  He bitched about his work extensively.  He complained about the apartment he is renting – how it feels like a jail, how he has to lay on the bed to watch TV, how he wishes he knew earlier that his brother was out of town so he could be staying at his place, etc.  He said more than once how tired he is and how he falls asleep at 8 most nights.  He talked about HBO and two new female co-workers.

Overall I got too much of a “poor me” vibe and not enough “man of action.” Of course no STD or psychological testing was mentioned.  He was full of excuses about looking for a new job even though this one is apparently awful and pays shit (basically his assessment).  He did say he feels he is accomplishing something with his therapy to uncover his reasons for lying.  That was encouraging.  I shared some of my little personal growth moments from the last week.

Finally, near the end of our time together, after I returned from the bathroom and caught two guys checking me out, I mentioned something about his lack of notice/caring/whatever of me. I did it in a very I-know-I’m-hot-so-I-don’t-even-care-that-you-don’t kind of way, with an evil smirk on my face. He said he was just thinking how good I look, but he didn’t want me to think he was being disingenuous or trying to weasel his way back in with me. He said he was completely overthinking things.

The whole lackluster event ended at 8:30, only an hour and a half after it started, without us touching each other once. He didn’t try to hold my hand, hug me, or even really get close at all. He never ate. I paid my bill. He didn’t even walk me to my car.  If this was a first date I would not be going on a second one.

However, I know that this WASN’T a first date.  We have a lot of baggage trying to tag along.  I need to cut myself and him a little slack.  Hopefully they will get better.  For now, it’s a start.  I know my expectations were too high. It has only been 2 weeks since our separation. Change is gradual and takes time. That’s why we planned to separate for 3 months.  I have to realize things are messy and complicated right now. I need to let go of my fairy-tale, romantic-movie fantasies. I can’t change him or this night, so I have to work on changing me.  I will use this as an opportunity to make myself stronger and healthier.

Results from the Affair Analyzer

24 Oct

Today I decided to take the Affair Analyzer on the website where Rick Reynolds has his blog.  I have read quite a few of his articles, and I really thing he is insightful and spot-on.  The website has a little tool where they can give their take on the infidelity you have experienced if you answer a few questions.  I spent less than 5 minutes on it today and got the below result, which I think is scary-accurate.  I have highlighted the portions that really spoke to me the most.

Affair Analyzer

We’re truly sorry you’re going through this, but as difficult as this is, you’re the type of woman who will find a way to survive. As you’ve discovered, infidelity is totally disorienting, and one of the most difficult aspects of recovery is finding where to start in order to avoid prolonging the recovery process.

Although you are extremely hurt and shocked by your husband’s betrayal, you’re probably already exploring what needs to be done to address the situation. Your drive and resolve will likely carry you through the first portion of your recovery, but coping may become more difficult later on.

Your husband’s infidelity may have caught you off guard, especially if you assumed he was as committed as you. Conversely, you may have realized some time ago that you do the majority of the giving in your relationship. But you were hoping that he would, at some point, also realize what a catch you are and begin to put more into your relationship. You probably believed that love conquers all and because of that, your love should prevail.

Many people in your position are willing to give their mates another chance, particularly if the mate is truly remorseful and willing to address the problem. You may be questioning how you could have married someone like this since you are a woman of integrity and thought you had married someone who was also. In the long run, your ability to live well despite your mate’s behavior may be one of the characteristics that will prove crucial to your family’s recovery.

About what happened

Continuing a marriage while one mate has a sexual addiction requires commitment from both parties. Regardless of good intentions and strong desire, addicts do not overcome their behavior on their own. However, this presents a problem because these individuals usually experience such deep shame as a result of their behavior that it may terrify them to admit the problem and seek help. Instead, they will resolve to never do it again, believing they can overcome the problem on their own. In fact, depending on how the addiction came to light, this may be the first time your mate has ever really addressed their addiction. If that’s the case, then your mate may still need to discover their powerlessness over the addiction.

The Path Ahead

MarriageAs the hurt spouse, you will  likely find yourself in need of guidance on how to respond and cope with this  disruption of your life. Since you still may want the marriage you  should try to respond in a way that will cause your mate to pause and  consider well their own options. At the same time you don’t need to  compromise your own integrity. You are probably not only hurting from  the betrayal but also shocked by what happened.  You may also be  wondering how you can ever trust this individual or any person ever  again. This betrayal may have left you feeling inadequate and foolish  for even considering staying with your unfaithful spouse.

In fact, you may well receive contradictory counsel from different people.  Some will tell you to leave the marriage and others will advise you to  stay and work on the marriage. However, few of these people, if any,  have actually been in your situation and they have no idea how they  would really react if in similar circumstances.

Immediately  following the revelation of a betrayal, too many emotions, impressions, fears, and too much pain exist to make reliably good decisions.  It would likely be best to not leave your marriage until you can observe  changes in your mate that will indicate whether it is a safe and viable  option to stay in the marriage.

Exploring the motivations for both leaving and staying in the relationship may prove very helpful to you  both now and in the future so as not to repeat history somewhere down  the road. Your decision to stay or go may actually alter with time.  Frequently, the pain created by the betrayal will be the primary  motivation for leaving in the initial period after you find out.  Eventually this pain may subside and you may feel differently. Of  course, you may also notice a shift in your desire to stay if your mate  fails to make a serious effort at reconnecting in the relationship. If  you base your decision to stay on your mate’s promises to change, you  may be disappointed if their efforts to change do not meet your  expectations.

Since a part of you wants to save the relationship, you may find yourself trying to control your mate’s decisions and  manipulate them into staying regardless of whether this will result in a healthy marriage. You may start denying your own needs for healing and  safety in an attempt to save the marriage.  Saving the marriage at all costs would be unwise if the marriage in the end were not a healthy one.  Be careful not to compromise your physical or emotional health.  The  emotional pain of infidelity does not just go away; denying it will only compound the problems it has created.

Part of your uncertainty may be due to the fact that part of you genuinely cares about your mate, but another part of you wants to get as far from them as possible.  You will likely find yourself wanting the opposite of what you feel pressured to do.  If your mate and those around you encourage you too much to stay, then you will want to leave and vice versa.

Before you make a final decision to leave the marriage, consider your  motivation for leaving honestly and carefully.  If you actually want to  leave because of marital dissatisfaction, it would be best for you to admit that is the reason taking responsibility for your departure rather than putting the blame wholly on your mate.  If you are having trouble  with this decision because of your fears, it will help you to recognize  those fears and deal with them directly so that you can make your  decision based on reality.

It is important to understand each other’s recovery in order to learn to support each other.  Men typically want to compartmentalize and avoid thinking about things that are painful.  They need space to think about it on their own and in their own time.  Women, on the other hand, tend to process trauma verbally often wanting to talk about what has hurt them until they can touch the wound and not get an emotional charge.  She may actually ask the same questions over and over again in an attempt to desensitize herself from the pain.  Both spouses need to recognize that avoidance (from the men) and repetition (from the women) are just the ways that we typically deal with pain and give each other the patience and grace to handle this life-altering trauma in their own way.

Regardless of the outcome of your marriage, in order to heal, you will need to confront, grieve and release what has happened and then learn from the experience.  If  you are unable to sufficiently heal, then you may end up repeating the same pattern of hurt again. Infidelity is an emotional blow that cannot be ignored; however it is not an insurmountable hindrance to your future happiness.  You should give yourself ample time and grace to complete your essential healing journey.

About your mate

Since your husband’s position is unclear, your best course of action is to focus on your own healing. Make sure to allow him to take responsibility for his own recovery. You must be willing to let him succeed or fail in his recovery so that it will truly be his own. If your husband stays because of manipulation, you may feel successful initially, but it could lead to bitterness because he feels controlled instead of confident in his decision. Also keep in mind that if your husband is ambivalent about staying in your marriage, then he will not be wholly committed to the relationship.  Note that pressure will frequently influence people who are ambiguous to take the opposite position.

Unless your mate is willing to take responsibility for his actions and what his behavior has cost you, he most likely will not be able to participate in a healthy marriage.  You may need to be stronger than is comfortable or usual for you and create a list for yourself of your, at the very least, minimum requirements to stay in the marriage.  It may prove virtually impossible to know whether the relationship can be healthy and viable until you can witness your husband’s response to your needs.  You will need to be careful in determining if he is truly willing to do what is necessary to restore your relationship.  If your husband is not willing to help at all then you must understand that you cannot trust him with your heart.

Next Steps for Recovery

Recovery requires a safe and supportive community. AffairRecovery.com provides this community and is comprised of others who understand. Processing what happened is one of the most effective ways of dealing with healing and understanding what’s happened. Having others who can empathize and validate your experience helps the disorientation created by the attachment wound.  If at all possible try to find a therapist or program specializing in the treatment of infidelity.  Not all helping professionals are trained to address the issues of infidelity.

If discovery of the affair was in your recent past, you may have difficulty identifying any positive reason for working on the marriage. Frequently the pain of the betrayal clouds our ability to find the benefits.  Our culture is far more tolerant of divorce, where children are wounded and families separated, than we are of exploring the potential advantages and possibilities associated with recovering from an infidelity.  This leaves many believing that exploring the possibility of salvaging their marriage is a sign of weakness.  Those of us at the Affair Recovery believe it’s a sign of phenomenal strength.  If he is willing, then we’d encourage you to consider this possibility.  There is hope, and you can heal.  Your probabilities for having the relationship you’ve always wanted is far greater with this relationship than with the one that’s unknown.

The Start of Our Separation Guidelines

19 Oct

Yesterday morning my husband and I had our marriage counseling session.  He was late, and for the first time ever (seriously) our marriage therapist was running a bit early.  That meant I had about 5 minutes or so to tell our therapist the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Okay, it was more like a beam than a straw, but you get the point.

Once Mr. Mess arrived he told the therapist we had been separated since the previous Wednesday…  Really?  You can’t even remember when this all happened?  Apparently the separation seemed to have lasted longer for him than 5 days.  He was kinda sullen and frowny-faced.  We had a bit of a moment where we disagreed in the re-telling of an incident.

None of that is really the point of this post, though.  Those little details don’t matter at all.  What does matter is that we both agreed that the separation needs to continue so that we can focus on ourselves.  Our marriage counselor concurred.  He felt that at this point it was a healthy, positive decision for us as individuals and for our marriage.

Once that was decided, we set upon the task of setting a few guidelines for the separation.  We didn’t cover everything there is to cover, but we did get a good foundation laid.  He utilized the book Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage by Lee Raffel.  I have already ordered the book so I can read the rest.

The first thing our marriage counselor covered was a time limit.  He said that in a controlled separation it is helpful to have an idea of when we want to sit down, take stock, and consider moving back into the same house again.  He recommended a time limit in the 1-6 month range.  He advised that both extremes of that time limit would probably not be the best choice at this time.  We settled on 3 months.

For the next 3 months that means we will maintain separate residences.  Both of us also agree not to file for divorce or see a lawyer to move forward with divorce proceedings.  At the end of the three month period we will talk about whether we want to move back in together, extend the separation for a period of time, or divorce.  In those three months we will continue going to marriage counseling together once per week or as often as both of our schedules allow.

The next issue was to decide on our continuing relationship and contact outside of marriage counseling.  He gave us both an opportunity to offer suggestions and provide our ideas on things that we want, need, or expect during this time.  Based on my not-so-great experiences of the previous 5 days, I proposed no contact after 9 pm.  He agreed, and our marriage counselor added his suggestion that we only use texting for basic housekeeping and non-emotional topics – no strong feelings or loaded conversations allowed.  That sounded like a good idea for me.

I also asked that Mr. Mess announcement himself before entering the marital home.  In the 4 days before our counseling session there had been a few times when he just used his key to walk right in unannounced.  He would send a vague text like “I’ll be coming by at some point tomorrow for some things,” but I didn’t get any real idea of when until he was letting himself in.  I asked for that to stop, and to at least get a specific call or text with notice and a knock at the door when he arrives.  He agreed, then upped the ante by saying he will give me the key back.  Okay…  I didn’t ask for that, but I’ll take it if that’s what he wants.

Contact-wise, those were my main requests.  Then it was Mr. Mess’s turn.  He said he is fine with my requests, then said that he would like to have some face-to-face contact with me at least once per week outside of marriage counseling.  He suggested meeting at a neutral place just to talk about how we are doing in our respective recoveries, how things are going in general, and other lighter topics that we should be able to handle without a mediator.

I considered that request, and didn’t see a reason not to comply at this point.  I truly do not have animosity towards him.  I just can’t have him be a constant presence in my life while he isn’t a trustworthy person.  Always a details girl, I asked how these meetings will be coordinated.  Our marriage counselor said that he would recommend that my husband take the lead and show initiative in this area.  He (very aptly) explained to my husband that I am looking for him to step up and show me that he is invested in this marriage and willing to fight for it.  I didn’t even have to be the one to say it…  I love our marriage counselor!

Somewhat surprisingly, Mr. Mess said that was absolutely his plan (although really, how could he say anything different?).  He said that he will contact me a few days in advance with a suggestion of a time and place we can meet.  He even said that he will choose a location close to where I am since he isn’t sure yet where he will be staying.  No matter where he ends up, he said he is willing to come to an area that I am comfortable and familiar with.

In the final few minutes we decided on a basic financial arrangement for joint bills like his car payment, car insurance and our cell phones.  I include his car payment on this list only because it is in MY name, not because I will actually be putting any money towards it.  In fact, that car payment is the bulk of what he is contributing to “joint” bills – 3/4 of the amount we agreed on, in fact.

He suggested removing himself from the cell phone plan and getting his own.  That immediately triggered me.  First of all, most of these plans require a 2 year contract.  If he is going to get off of our joint account and commit himself to 2 years on his own, then my thinking is we may as well proceed with the divorce.  Suddently 3 months of separation is turning into 2 years?  Uhhh….  what did I miss?

Secondly, it made me think that he is looking to hide things from me.  Why else would he need his own cell phone plan?  Joint plans are always cheaper, and he isn’t making a ton of money.  In fact, in our financial discussion of just a few minutes prior he made a point of how little he will have left over once he puts in for the 3 joint bills he would currently have to contribute towards.  So WHY exactly would you be looking to increase one of those expenses?  His current payment for his cell phone is $50 – with unlimited texting, a decent amount of minutes, and free nights and weekends.  It is actually on the lower end of plans that Verizon offers, and I can’t imagine even on a bare bones pre-paid phone he would pay much less than that…

It just got my spidey senses tingling and made me feel uncomfortable.  The marriage counselor advised against separating things too far or making any changes that aren’t necessary, especially long-term ones.  Mr. Mess said that was “fine” with him, but never offered his reasoning for not wanting his phone connected to me.  I still find it very strange and disconcerting.  When I pair that with the fact that he changed the password to our joint account without telling me and took the checkbook and register out of the house (again without telling me), I am feeling more uneasy today than I was yesterday.

Still, I’m trying to give this separation a chance.  I committed to 3 months of the above plan.  We would have to be separated for 6 months in order to be granted a divorce anyway, so there is no use in me getting caught up in a “what if” or “what is he doing” panic.  Instead, I choose to focus on the positive, and on how I can keep my serenity during this time.

One really fantastic thing has been the support of my S-Anon group.   Tonight I went out with a few women who I have gotten to know.  We had dinner at a Mexican place, a few of the women had a margarita (me included – raspberry – yummm), and then we went to see Taken 2.  I love, love, love the first movie!  The second movie wasn’t quite as good (in my opinion), but it was just perfect for tonight.

I found myself laughing, cheering, shouting at the screen, and getting caught up in the action (yes – I am one of those people).  I wasn’t alone.  The whole theater seemed to be sucked into the storyline.  I really couldn’t believe how fast the movie seemed to end.  A glance at my watch confirmed that it had run the proper amount of time – it just flew.

I’m still on a little bit of a high from the pumped up action.  Plus, who wouldn’t want a man like Liam Neeson who is handsome, rugged, bad-ass, and who will go to any lengths for his family?  Especially when so far the man in my life has put forth a very lackluster, pitiful effort on the simplest things – like getting STD tested or telling the truth.  Maybe he should watch the movie for a little inspiration.

Forgiveness in the Face of Turmoil

13 Oct

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Today has been a very difficult day for me.  Rather than blog about that, I’m going to add my commentary to another Rick Reynolds article – Forgiving Infidelity: Practical Suggestions to Move Toward Forgiveness.  He and his wife worked together to provide their own suggestions about how to forgive.  They both have very insightful advice.  It is definitely an article worth reading in full.

However, I am not going to address the entire thing here.  The only thing I will respond to right now are the tips for the hurt spouse.  Below is an excerpt from the article.  I’m also including the portion before the tips that distinguishes between forgiveness and reconciliation because I think it is crucial.  In pink are my comments and feelings as they stand tonight.

At Affair Recovery we believe there are two components to forgiveness as it pertains to forgiving infidelity. First is the internal aspect of forgiveness, which has little or nothing to do with the other person. It is a personal choice to release the other person from retribution or harm as a result of their offence; it’s coming to the point where you can wish them well. It’s not based on their repentance or merit, since it’s an internal matter. It is a gift you give yourself, which sets you free and allows you to live at peace with your memories. The internal aspect of forgiveness in marriage where infidelity is involved is important in that failing to achieve this type of forgiveness leaves you forever the victim.

The second aspect of forgiving infidelity is about reconciliation. This component of forgiveness is primarily based on safety. Does the unfaithful spouse see what they’ve done, do they take responsibility for their actions and are they grieved over what their actions have cost others? Anything short of that response potentially makes them unsafe for reconciliation. This aspect of forgiveness determines whether the relationship will continue. If they are willing to make amends for their failure, then reconciliation might be a good choice.

Practical Suggestions For Forgiving Infidelity For The Hurt Spouse:  (These are from his spouse)

1.  Separate forgiveness from the process of reconciliation. Make reconciliation optional and forgiveness not optional. People often do this backwards, choosing to reconcile rather than forgive. This leaves them trapped in the pain of the betrayal, never able to move forward to a new life. If your mate isn’t safe don’t reconcile. In the first year of recovery don’t pressure yourself to decide about reconciliation. It may take over a year before you know whether it’s safe to reconcile. Reconciliation depends on your mate’s ongoing recovery and your ability to heal from the trauma of the betrayal.

This is something I am just realizing: forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things.  I like this concept, and it rings very true to me.  I know that I did this part backwards because I decided to reconcile before I was able to forgive.  I chose to stay with my husband and work on the marriage before he was a safe person to recover with.  I can now see the wisdom in this method.  You truly have to be able to forgive before you can know whether reconciliation is an option.

2.  Make a conscious choice to forgive. For freedom’s sake don’t hang on to bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness is always in your best interest and in the interest of those you love. Only time will tell whether reconciliation has a place in your relationship.

“For freedom’s sake don’t hang on to bitterness and resentment.”  I had to type that again.  Forgiveness, or at least acceptance, is the only way to move forward – with or without the relationship intact.  Hanging onto bitterness and resentment can eat a hole in your soul.  I don’t want to be that person.  I have to let those things go.  I don’t feel bitter or resentful towards my husband.  I sometimes feel sad.  I feel hurt, especially when he lies to me.

I am actively trying to not let those feelings run my life, though.  I don’t want to resent him for his actions.  I have been an active participant in this relationship – I stayed after I found the porn, I stayed after he lied to me about strip clubs, I stayed after I discovered his cyber affair, I stayed through more and more lies and revelations, I stayed when he was diagnosed as a sex addict, and I stayed as much for myself and due to my own issues (codependent much?) as because of his lies.

I am partially responsible for where we are.  I can’t resent him for his part unless I am also willing to resent myself – and I can’t do that.  I have to keep moving forward.  I can’t become bitter and jaded, as easy as that would be.  I can’t wallow in self-pity.  I have to heal for me.  I am worthy of healing.  It is in my best interest to let go and forgive.

3.  Choose to focus on what’s helpful. Once you know what’s happened there may be diminishing benefit in continuing to focus on the past. Have the sense to ask yourself if how you’re spending your time (conversation, thought life) is helping to move you forward in your recovery. If it’s something that’s keeping you stuck, let it go. You want to choose life, not death.

Okay, what has been helpful?  Loving myself has been helpful.  Going to S-Anon has been helpful.  Being aware of my codependent tendencies has been helpful.  Going to therapy has been helpful.  Blogging and journaling has been helpful (writing my thoughts down, commenting, stretching my view of myself and others, working to really understand what makes me tick, getting thoughts out of my head and onto a computer screen where I can examine them, etc.).   Those things have all been focused on bettering myself, increasing my self-awareness, and changing – as painful as it can be.

The things that have not been helpful – shopping, eating, obsessing about things I can’t change, fighting, yelling, arguing, threatening, trying to control.  Going around and around in circles saying the same things is also not helpful.  Holding onto anger has not been helpful.  Contacting the OW at the beginning of all this was definitely not helpful.  Thinking of myself as perfect – or at least trying to be that way – didn’t help, and actually made things worse.  I do want to choose life, not death and certainly not an excruciating limbo.

4.  Maintain an attitude of compassion. If you can look at your mate through a lens of compassion and concern you may find it easier to let go of the offence. Forgiving infidelity is not a sign of weakness and it doesn’t minimize the magnitude of the betrayal, rather it allows you to move forward, free from the hurtful actions of another. Forgiveness in marriage, even without infidelity, requires compassion.

This is something that my Mom really helps me with.  I also think that when I started feeling compassion and concern for him and his addiction I also started down the path of forgiveness.  If forgiveness truly is about wishing the other person well, then I’m definitely there.  I want him to get better.  I can imagine how horrible it must be to be trapped in lies and compulsive behavior.  My heart aches for him.

I already know that forgiving someone is not weak and doesn’t take away from what was done.  Forgiveness doesn’t negate hurt.  It doesn’t discount fear.  It doesn’t exist separately from sadness.  Instead, it coexists with them.  It dulls the pain.  It acknowledges that there is another dimension to everything.  It complicates things while also making them simpler – adding different viewpoints and angles to the situation to add clarity – much the way multiple camera views of a play can make the proper call easier to determine.  Compassion and empathy are the aspects of forgiveness that make that possible.

5.  Don’t hang on to entitlements. As Charles Dickens says, “In every life, no matter how full or empty one’s purse, there is tragedy. It is the one promise life always fulfils. Thus, happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes and to add to other people’s store of it.” Your mate may have destroyed your happiness, but life is hard and often unjust. Try to keep realistic expectations.

Here is an area where I can definitely use work.  I am very guilty of hanging on to the idea that life should be fair, that I should get what I want, and that I deserve happiness…  That quote is completely true, though.  It is profound in its honesty.  It shatters my preconceived notions about myself and about life in general.  I consider myself a realist, yet I somehow allow myself to forget the simple fact that life is hard and full of tragedy.

6.  Take care of yourself. A lack of sleep, isolation, or severe depression only makes forgiving infidelity more difficult. It’s not fair since you aren’t the one who cheated, but you’re the only one who can take the necessary steps to heal from the wounds created by others. Be willing to get help.

This is really fantastic advice for anyone going through a difficult time – betrayal, loss, sickness, or anything else you can think of.  Sleep.  Eat.  Talk to someone.  Do everything in moderation, nothing to excess.  If you are on medication, take it.  Focus on yourself.

Today I had a really rough time.  I am sick on top of a number of other things.  Still, I took my antidepressants and vitamins, remembered my cold medicine every 4 hours, put 2 different types of drops in my ear for an infection, and got a moderate amount of rest.  I ate, and although it wasn’t particularly healthy (pizza) I did limit myself to only 2 pieces.  I also made sure to have carrots and other healthy snacks throughout the day.  I didn’t isolate myself – I called a friend, talked to my Mom and Dad (separately), cuddled with my dogs, and made it outside at least 3 or 4 times.  I also cleaned the house some and took time for myself to write this.  I will be going to bed at a decent hour.

As for getting help, that is definitely a must.  I look forward to my weekly sessions with the therapist.  I enjoy my S-Anon meetings.  I am going to make time to go to the doctor very, very soon.  I am finally realizing that I can’t do it all on my own, and that is okay.  It is actually quite a relief.

7.  Be aware of your own humanity. As CS Lewis says, “All saints must keep one nostril keenly attuned to their own inner cesspool.” Be willing to consider what you’ve been forgiven. Maintaining an awareness of what others have had to forgo for your sake will help you find patience for others. A self-righteous attitude will cut you off from the very thing you seek.

I have a lot of faults.  I make a lot of mistakes.  I require a lot of forgiveness.  This list isn’t even close to complete, but I can name so many things off the top of my head that need to be improved in me.  I am stubborn to a fault.  I am competitive – I always want to win, even when it has gone past the point of being enjoyable or productive.  I am disorganized most of the time – my clothes are thrown around in piles, my shoes clutter up the house, I am horrible about leaving things sitting on any flat surface available, and when I do organize it is by my own system, which is nearly indecipherable to others.  I tend to put things off (I have several t-shirts about procrastination to proudly declare that to the world, too). 

I can be petty.  I curse way too much.  I eat unhealthy things and sabotage my own weight-loss.  I say mean things to people, sometimes aimed purposefully at what I know are their weakest spots.  I yell.  I over-think.  I am a horrible pet owner.  When I am happy I get complacent and lazy, disregarding all my other responsibilities to revel in the happiness.  I lose myself in other people, especially when I am in a romantic relationship. 

I am controlling.  I am a perfectionist.  I have a really bad image of myself.  I smile at the most inappropriate times – like when I’m uncomfortable, when I’m feeling insecure, at funerals, etc.  I cry when I get really angry, which makes me angrier, which in turn makes me cry more.

I often take a holier-than-thou attitude.  When I do that it usually indicates an area that I need to examine further in myself.  I have a lot of things to figure out.  I have started working on my issues, and I will continue to do so – maybe for the rest of my life.

So there it is…  another glimpse into my mess.  It really isn’t beautiful at all.

if ever there was a time, let it be here, let ...

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