Archive | Sex Addiction RSS feed for this section

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.

Advertisements

Delving Into My Childhood

10 Nov

In my quest to improve myself, I have come across another blogger, Peregrinerose, who is dealing with determining how her “psyche, experiences, history, etc. contributed to choosing a life as a sex addict codependent.”  I had to use her words there because they are perfect.  That is what I would really like to do as well.

She is working through some questions from a book by Mic Hunter, and was kind enough to email me a digital copy of the questions that he proposes the spouses of sex addicts ask themselves.  There are 100 of them.  I may or may not spare you my answers to them all.  We’ll see how lucky you are.  The first one is:

How would you describe your relationships with your parents and other family members as you were growing up?  Generally speaking, were these relationships characterized by feelings of: Love? Fear? Warmth? Anger?

A hard one right off the bat, huh?  Okay.  Here goes…

Maybe this is a great place to start for me.  One particular phrase from the S-Anon “Problem” has always stumped me.  It reads, “Most of us grew up in families with secrets, and we were not taught to think about our own needs and take positive action to meet them.”  I don’t really think that is true for me.  At least in all my thinking I have never been able to identify with that.

My Mom taught me to think about my needs.  She always talked through things with me.  I felt loved and supported by her.  My family also didn’t really have a lot of secrets, at least not that I know of.  My grandma is an alcoholic, but I don’t remember that being a secret.  We talked about it openly as a family, especially as she was struggling (a few falls while drunk, one of which put her in the hospital near death, a few car wrecks, etc.) and when she went into alcoholics anonymous to start her recovery.  She is now 13 years sober.

Back to the actual question at hand…  As I was growing up I would describe my relationships with my parents and other family members as close.  Both of my parents were very involved.  Most, if not all, of our extended family lived close by.  I remember regular visits to both sets of grandparents, and having lots of family time with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I would spend weekends or even whole weeks with either my Nanny and Papa on my Dad’s side at the beach or with my Ma and Pa on my Mom’s side at their horse farm.

My Mom stayed home with us kids.  We were all home-schooled, me for the longest.  I remember my Mom working very hard on her lesson plans.  I still remember the stick figure puppet things she used to teach me my numbers and sounds.  We went to story-time at the library every week, sometimes more often.  She would get all of the Newbery Metal winning books and read them to us, like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (an amazing book).  One of my favorite memories to this day is her reading The Cay to my brother, sister, and I on the couch at home.  She did all of the voices (one main character had an accent), and I can still picture the way the story came to life in my mind.

Yep, that’s us at our old house… Cute little buggers, aren’t we?

My Dad was the sole bread-winner.  I know that he worked very hard to provide for us.  We never had the best, newest, or most expensive thing but we had a lot.  More than a lot, really.  My Mom designed our house and they build it (not with their own hands, but my Dad did do some of the work) on a gorgeous 10-acre piece of land.  It was “in the country” enough that our neighbors were spaced out, but close enough to “town” that I went to one of the best public high schools in the state.  We were also only about 35-40 minutes or so outside of our state’s capital.

My Dad wasn’t one of those workaholic fathers, though.  He worked regular hours (early mornings, but no late nights and no weekends).  He attended every single one of my events.  He was the loudest one cheering for me at softball.  He was the president of the choral boosters club, calling bingo every week to raise funds.  He played with us a lot – letting us ride him like a pony when we were really young, playing catch in the yard with us as we got older, and supporting the things that we loved.  My parents gave me and my brother and sister everything they could and more.

English: An American Quarter Horse in winter. ...

This horse reminds me of my Petey.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think back to those times growing up and wonder how they did it.  One income.  Three kids.  A nice house, lots of land.  We had 3 horses and a pony.  Sure, three of them came from my grandparent’s farm, but they were not given away for free to us.  My Mom and Dad both spent a lot of time with me looking for my first horse, too.  We visited farms, talked to owners, test-rode several, and found the perfect one – Petey, an American Quarter Horse.

I took horseback riding lessons, gymnastics, played softball, sang in the chorus (and went on all of their trips, which weren’t cheap), and I wasn’t the only one.  My brother played sports, too, and was in the high school band.  He got a drum set one birthday or Christmas that was set up in the corner of our living room.  My sister tried one thing after another – violin, softball, art.  Not a lot of it stuck, but they never told her not to try something she was interested in.  Her real passion was animals.  She had a crazy cat, bunnies, a dog, and she adopted the pony that started off as mine, Blue, even though she wasn’t interested in riding him.  When I started school (and when my brother started), we were in a private school. I don’t know how much it cost, but it couldn’t have been cheap.

Not our actual van, but you get the general picture…

Lest you think we were rich or something… Did I mention that my Dad isn’t a doctor or lawyer or physicist?  He is a machinist.  It’s not working at Wal-Mart, but it isn’t raking in the cash, either.  We never had a new car.  The ones we did have were reliable and safe, but never beautiful (Cheesy 80’s van?  Check!).  We shopped the clearance racks.  My Mom sewed us some dresses, we didn’t buy a lot of new things, we did a lot of crafts and outside activities.  My Dad taught us how to balance a checkbook, put money aside to save no matter what, always pay off any credit cards in full every month, and never buy something we couldn’t afford.

Overall, it was a great life.  Certainly nothing glaring stands out in all of that.  Generally speaking, I felt love and warmth in my family.  I guess it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, though.  When I really thought about things today, I have to admit there was an undercurrent of pressure to my childhood.  I don’t remember it being something my parents overtly expressed or pushed on me.  I just always had a deep desire to give something back for all of their sacrifices.

Maybe some of it stems from the home-schooling.  My Mom taught me and my brother, then all 3 of us, at the same time.  We were all in different stages and grades, obviously.  We also had very different needs, education-wise.  I was always pretty intuitive, and could sense that my brother and sister needed more guided attention than me.  So I always did my best to do my best.  I didn’t want to distract from them – my brother was hyperactive and my sister took longer to grasp things, and when she did she might forget them again a little while later.  Neither of them were slow or stupid by any stretch of the imagination.  They just really loved using their imaginations – with their heads in the clouds, constantly moving, always more concerned with something else.

Plus, I was the oldest…  My brother is only a year and a half younger than me, but my sister is 5 years my junior.  Given that, I was obviously more capable of sitting at a table and doing my work without distraction.  Don’t mistake me for a completely benevolent child…  I mostly wanted to get outside as fast as possible to ride the horses or climb trees.  However, I do remember making a conscious effort to not ask questions unless I had to, to get everything as perfect as I could, and to not take away from other things my Mom had to do.

The other side of my Dad is that he had a short fuse.  He would often yell or snap at the drop of a hat.  It made me skittish in a way I didn’t like and tried to hide.  He also lacked some compassion.  I remember one time my Mom was away on a women’s retreat with church.  It was just us kids and Dad.  It was great fun.  We were taking a walk/ bike ride/ scooter trip down our street and up to the mailbox (which was ages away) one beautiful night.  I was speeding around on my little push scooter, loving life and showing off.  I hit a corner too fast and wiped out in a patch of gravel on the pavement.  I skinned my knees, elbows, and hands badly.  I still have scars to this day.

Of course it felt awful.  I don’t know how old I was… somewhere between 7 and 10, I think.  I was bleeding, there was gravel in my knees and elbows and hands…  My knees especially looked like hamburger meat.  My Dad got me up, helped me home, and started working on my injuries.  I know I was crying – ugly, sobbing cries – and saying I wanted Mom.  He, of course, told me that she was away and wasn’t going to be able to come home tonight.  He not so gently got the gravel out of my wounds, poured hydrogen peroxide and maybe alcohol on them, and put some Neosporin and gauze over them.  I’m sure he told me more than once to stop crying and whining and wincing and carrying on.  That wasn’t the only occasion where I learned that I should just suck it up…

The older I got, the more I realized that if my ideas and his didn’t mesh it wouldn’t be good for me.  I was a smart-alec.  I would get mouthy when I shouldn’t, and I lacked respect (or at least tact and forethought) in many instances.  But I also questioned things.  A lot.  I was always intellectual and prone to deep thinking.  When my questions turned towards the church, his faith, and the things that logically didn’t make sense the door was slammed shut in my face.  God exists, he wrote the Bible, everything in there is gold, we go to church (all the time and as a family), and the list goes on…  Think Brick on The Middle (if you have seen any of those Bible episodes).  THAT didn’t go over very well…

So, the short answer (bet you wish I had started with that), is my family relationships were characterized by all of those things – love, warmth, anger, fear, pressure, support, misunderstanding, and the list goes on.  I’m not sure where exactly I’m supposed to be looking right now when it comes to my family dynamics.  There were a lot of them.  Maybe the next 99 questions will give me some direction.

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.

Poked, Prodded and Cracking…

15 Oct

Last night I took a look down my throat with a flashlight and did NOT like what I saw…  This morning I got up and made my way immediately to the doctor’s office.  I was poked, prodded, and swabbed everywhere imaginable.  They did a strep test on my throat, diagnosed an ear infection, and I had them go ahead and run the full panel of STD tests while they were at it.  I could have gone to Planned Parenthood and probably saved some money in the long run.  I don’t care.  I just wanted it over and done with.

Only an hour later, I was walking out with antibiotics, a prescription for a yeast infection, and a little more peace of mind.  I still don’t have the STD results back yet, obviously, but having it taken care of is a relief.

On my (short) ride home I called my Mom.  She said something that really struck home.  She said as women and as wives we do our best to remain vulnerable, to give our husbands the opportunity to protect us.  We let ourselves need them.  We give them the chance to take care of us.  When they blow that chance or squander that opportunity we have to pack up that vulnerability and be strong for ourselves.  When we take that next step to care for ourselves we also end up not needing them anymore.

I tried to need him.  I tried to give him the opportunity to step up for me.  I wanted him to be a man, to protect me, to make my health and safety a top priority.  He didn’t, so I had to take the bull by the horns and take care of myself.  Once I found out he hadn’t gotten tested, it took me only until the next business day to get tested myself.  Those tests, plus the extra ones because I’m so sick, took only an hour.  One hour.

In that hour I stopped needing him.  I stopped being vulnerable.  I took back my independence.

At the same time, I feel my resolve cracking.  Last night was the first time I really started wanting him here badly.  My codependence started peeking through.  For most of the weekend after his big lie was revealed we had only minor contact.  Last night he texted me with:

Im not sure what things from the kitchen are mine to take.  I know the new cook ware is yours just wondering about the things i was given as gifts.  If you want them they are yours.

My first reaction was something like – Seriously?!?  That is what he’s worried about right now?  Then I realized that I should have been prepared for this.  It’s what I asked for.  Here are some of the other thoughts I jotted down in my journal:

  • I’m weak.  I want him here in bed with me.  I want to touch him, hold him.
  • I find myself considering an in-home separation.  I just know I can’t do that.  I’m not strong enough.  I would talk to him, laugh with him, fall into those old patterns…
  • I want to call him an ass for sticking to business (what he wants, when he can get it), but that’s what separation IS.  He is doing me a favor, really.
  • I want him to fight for me, for us, but I want him to be well first!
  • I can’t have it both ways – him now & him better because he is obviously not better.
  • I HATE THIS!!!!

Those were just my cliff notes version of the things going through my head.  I wasn’t going to respond to his earlier text.  In fact, I held out for quite a while.  Until after midnight.  Yeah… bad decision.  Nothing good comes from texting someone that late.  I engaged in a few back and forth texts, told him the gifts belong to him, and let him know about my strep.

In the morning light I realized that I need to disconnect myself from him emotionally.  Letting go of my expectations for him, his recovery, his health, his therapy, etc. is my job now.  I can’t control him.

He’s going to be coming by at some point today to pick up a few more things.  I don’t know how I’m going to react.  I don’t know if he will even try to talk to me.  I don’t even know if I want him to.

On a completely unrelated note, I now have a Twitter and Facebook account for my blog.  Check them out if you want.  I could use a little distraction.

My Internal Debate

14 Oct

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

I still don’t know where all the chips will ultimately fall, but I asked for a separation yesterday.  My husband has been out of the house for over 24 hours now.  I feel a calmness and relief that I never anticipated.

At the same time, I feel sad.  I watched the amazing space jump today, and had to fight myself not to call or text him.  It was a spectacular event to see, and I missed being able to share that with my best friend.  It’s all those small, every day moments that I will miss more than anything – sitting on the couch, holding hands, talking over dinner, cuddling up at night.  Those losses are hard to bear.

I don’t really think it matters what the long version is of why I chose separation.  The short and not-so-sweet version is that he lied to me again.  It was a pretty big lie.  It was also sustained over more than a week.  He lied about getting STD tested, even though in his disclosure he revealed sleeping with up to 50 sexual partners, some (or many) without protection.  He has endangered my health all along by misleading me about his sexual history and his STD testing status.  This last week of lying was the final straw.

The sad part is that he hasn’t acted out sexually in over a year, THAT I KNOW OF.  It doesn’t matter, though.  That inner circle lying behavior just destroys any chance that we have of becoming a healthy couple.  I can’t do it to myself anymore.  I just can’t.

The thing that sticks out in my head from this past week is how easily and convincingly he lied, over and over.  At one point last Friday I confronted him about a breach to our Boundary Agreement.  He got very emotional, said that he was going to change his way of thinking, and seemed to really “get it.”  He went to his SA meeting the next Saturday and confessed that (relatively minor) lie of omission, tears and all.  Meanwhile, he was hiding this huge lie from me and everyone else.  He lied in our last MC session.  He lied over and over during the week (“I’m just waiting for the test results to come in the mail”).  He lied straight to me, even after I had the proof that he never went to get tested.  He made a big show of going down to the clinic to “straighten things out.”  It just makes me feel sick.

That man is not my husband.  That man is not the person who cares for me when I’m sick and rubs my feet at night.  That is not the man whose smile can light up my world.  That is not the man who looked at me with such love in his eyes on our wedding day that he cried as I walked down the aisle.  That is not the person who has slept next to me at night for over 4 years.  That man is not the person I fell in love with.

The man who could lie to me over and over like that is not someone I can live with for the rest of my life.

I need to check out divorce and separation laws in my state.  I need to go get STD tested.  I need to take his name off of my bank account.  I need to look into getting his car out of my name.  I need to figure out what bills still need to be paid and determine how much money he left in our joint account.

I don’t want to do any of it.

I want him to get better.

I want him to WANT to tell me the truth.

I want my best friend back.

I don’t get what I want.

THAT SUCKS!!!

1 Other Woman Became 4…

5 Oct

That’s about all I’m emotionally able to say right now.  I’m still processing…

I am glad that I have a therapy appointment today at 11.  I really need it.

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.)

More Details About Disclosure

4 Oct

The two most shocking things from disclosure concerned his bachelor party and his history with chat rooms and anonymous sexual partners.  I am still processing some things from the bachelor party and waiting on the answer to a few questions that he was unsure of (mostly concerning the timeline, when the plan was made to do what happened, and who was involving in the planning).  His best man came to me well in advance of his bachelor party, and ask me what would make me feel comfortable and what was off-limits.  I asked that the party not entail strippers or live, naked women of any kind (you have to be specific sometimes with that bunch).   My husband was also adamant about that before-hand.  I say this to clarify that I didn’t have to volunteer the information that I didn’t want strippers – I was asked about what would make me comfortable, then promised that my feelings would be respected.

It turns out there were strippers involved with his bachelor party, complete with multiple lap dances and naked lady parts all over my soon-to-be husband.  There was a trip to the “back room.”  He said he wasn’t aware of what was going to happen until after the got there and had already been drinking.  By that point he wasn’t able (willing, whatever word you want to use) to say no.  He said if he knew ahead of time he wouldn’t even have gone to the party.  Not going at all and putting his foot down in advance would have been easier for him than saying no face-to-face with the peer pressure of his friends, especially once he was already drunk and high.  He didn’t have the balls to say no because he didn’t want to look “pussy whipped.”  Gag!

I believe him that he didn’t know in advance, but I am so incredibly hurt that he didn’t stand up for me, for himself, for the promise he made to me, for our soon-to-be marriage.  I am very hurt about all of the lies he told me afterwards, all the way up to 2 days ago.  I feel sick thinking about it.  I also get flashes of anger.  We had talked about strip clubs extensively.  He had lied to me about going to strip clubs on several occasions in the past, so it wasn’t a secret in any way, shape, or form that I already felt betrayed by him in regard to strippers.

A month or so before his bachelor party we also had a HUGE blow-up incident because he was blatantly checking out another woman at a bar in front of me in a very disrespectful way.  The wedding almost didn’t happen because of that, and we had a very long, very emotional conversation about my boundaries.  I told him then that I feel disrespected and devalued when he does those things, and I will not accept that in my relationship.  I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have married him if I was aware of what happened that night.  We aren’t in the past, though.  I think I can move beyond that now.  I am upset, though.  I don’t know what to do.

However, I would really like to know whether his best man lied to my face to give me a false sense of security, or whether the planning was done by someone else and materialized after that conversation.  That distinction is very important to me.  It doesn’t make a difference in my marriage, but it does make a difference regarding his best man, who has recently made a re-entry into our lives on a very regular basis.

He didn’t owe me anything, really – my husband was the one who made commitments and promises to me that I had the right to trust in.  Still, I always thought he was a friend of our relationship – one of Mr. Mess’s only decent friends (there is only one other friend of his that I have felt close and safe with besides his best man).  It’s possible that he didn’t plan things to go the way they did.

The best man’s younger brother has been a constant thorn in the side of our relationship since the beginning.  He was the one “responsible for” the strippers.  I have no illusions about him, and wouldn’t trust a single word that ever came out of his mouth.  He is Bad News in every way I can think of – alcoholic, drug addict, sex addict, immature, pushy, an overall bully, and someone who hasn’t had a real relationship or commitment to another person in his adult life (except for a married stripper that he was dating for a bit).

I didn’t think his best man was like that, though.  I always thought he had more integrity than his brother.  He has been married for ages, and he always struck me as an upstanding, honest person.  He is the only person who could have convinced me that my boundaries were going to be respected.  His word to me before the bachelor party is the only reason I have held onto a shred of hope that what my husband told me happened (or didn’t happen) was the truth.  At this moment I don’t know how much he knew about the strippers or when.  If he lied to my face to make me feel safe while planning all along to disregard what we talked about, I don’t know how I will react.  It may also ruin a new sport that I have grown to love.

I am trying not to live in “what ifs.”  I am trying to put my feelings in perspective.  I am trying to reconcile whether he can still be a part of our lives – whether I should let it go until or unless another situation comes up where I would have to trust him or his integrity.  I am trying to figure out why that betrayal hurts worse than anything else I heard.  I am trying, trying, trying to wrap my brain around this.  I think I will post an article later that really resonated with me on this topic.

As for the other information… I discovered my husband has been visiting chat rooms for the purpose of having sexual encounters since the invention of the internet (basically).  I also discovered that he has slept with somewhere in the ballpark of 50 women off of those chat rooms (he isn’t certain of the number).  That activity – sex chatting, phone sex, pictures, then finally culminating in an in-person encounter – was a constant pattern in his life, happening at least 2-3 times per year.  When he had slept with one woman he ignored her from that point forward and the cycle repeated itself.   That happened four times during our relationship.

After revealing his random sex partners off of the internet over the course of almost 20 years, he said that he “always” used protection with them. Later I asked what sexual activities they engaged in (just the basics, no details). When he mentioned oral and anal sex, I had to ask again… So you always used a condom with all sexual contact? He said yes. Then I clarified a third time – including oral and anal? Suddenly, the story changed, and he realized that NO, he in fact did NOT use protection every time.  He only concerned himself with condoms for vaginal sex, even though STDs can also be transmitted through other sexual contact.

In that circumstance, I needed to ask those questions to feel safe. I don’t know how long some sexually transmitted diseases can stay dormant or which ones he could be a carrier of without recent symptoms.  I do know that he hasn’t been tested since 2003, and I have never been.  That makes me worried, especially because his last sex hookup off of a chat room was 6 months before we met.  So that question was one I needed to be triple sure of.

So far, those have been the two areas of his disclosure where I asked for more details than he provided (for the most part, with the exception of basic clarification).  I really have to make the distinction – what will help me heal and what will keep me stagnant? What do I NEED to know, and what will keep me from moving forward?

There will be plenty of other details that I won’t be asking. There will be many things I don’t want to know.  There may be things that come up that I realize are important.  We shall see.  For now, I’m looking forward to getting a resolution on those few things, and to talking to the MC in an individual session tomorrow.

Gifts of the S-Anon Program

3 Oct

Today at lunch I got what I needed – time to talk with my Mom.  She is so wise.  She puts things in perspective.  She has the ability to empathize and see all sides of a situation.  I am truly lucky beyond belief to have her as my mother.  Some people never have someone so insightful, loving, encouraging, and warm in their lives.

Somewhere in the midst of my conversation with her I realized that I was hungry.  I ate an apple, cheese, and a few crackers.  It wasn’t the most nutritional thing in the world, but it wasn’t complete and utter junk, either.  My nausea disappeared.  A sense of peace came over me.  I realized that there is a lot I will have to keep processing, but I will be fine.

I have wanted to share the gifts of the S-Anon program for a while.  Today the urge was overwhelming.  I read the passages in my little green book.  I thought about what it means for me.  I am trying to hold onto those truths and let them work in my life.

In the below passage, I think of the recovery process (therapy, connecting emotionally, growing, changing, etc.) as my “Higher Power.”  Instead of “God” or some invisible entity, I think of the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before me.  I think of MY 11th step, which is – “Make a genuine effort to maintain a positive attitude and remain honest with myself when tracing the root of my troubles.  Continue to think for myself and not be easily led, but seriously consider the input of others.”

This is what I’m focusing on today:

GIFTS OF THE S-ANON PROGRAM

When we approach the process of recovery with honesty, openmindedness, and willingness to apply the principles of the Twelve Steps to our lives, we will soon begin to see the rewards.  We will become able to surrender our self-defeating behavior.  We will find that we have the strength and insight to make good choices for ourselves.  Our ability to act positively for our health, families, jobs, and bank accounts will amaze us.  We will find that others are doing things for themselves, which we though we had to do for them.  Our ability to give and receive love will expand tremendously, and we will become increasingly available for loving relationships with others.  We will recover the feeling of joy.  We will become more honest with ourselves and experience a new comfort in our intimate relationships.  We will feel the security that arises from true fellowship with others in the program, knowing that we are loved and accepted just as we are.  Feelings of failure and inadequacy will be replaced by self-confidence and independence of spirit.  We will no longer expect other people to provide us with an identity or a sense of self-worth.  We will find the courage to be true to ourselves.  We will know peace of mind and feel a stronger connection with the Higher Power of our understanding, and our Hope will turn to faith that God is really working in our lives, as we explore the wonders of serenity, dignity, and emotional growth.

Besides realizing that they really need to add more paragraph breaks to that passage, typing it out has been a great experience.  Reading it again on my own gave me a sense of serenity.  We read that and a few other readings aloud at each meeting.  I have taken more time recently to really look at what they are saying and determine how I feel about it all.  I have never been one to “follow the crowd,” I never thought slogans would be the least bit useful to me, and a younger version of myself probably would have made a gagging gesture at the hopeful, syrupy tone and promise that just following the steps could make your life better.

I still have a little of that skepticism inside me, but I also have a sense that those words are meaningful.  Syrupy or not, they have power.  I have also seen some of the gifts manifest themselves in my life already.  I want more of that serenity.

Facing Reality Sucks

3 Oct

… so I’ve been avoiding it. 

We had the disclosure last night.  I’m not going to use the word “full” yet, because I know there are some things he didn’t go over in very much detail at all.  There were a few places he skimmed a bit.  There are som things he didn’t cover in his disclosure that have already come out, which means it is at least somewhat incomplete.  We will definitely need to talk more about his feelings and thought-processes leading up to his actions.  I do think most of the layers of the onion are peeled and visible.  There was more than I thought there would be once it was all laid out in front of me.

I thought I was prepared.  I mostly was.  Then the silliest thing jumped up and ripped my heart out.  It wasn’t even about his actions per say.  I got confirmation that he has been lying to me about something that I knew he was lying about.  Being faced with that reality made me look at it in a way I never had before.  Even though I had a gut feeling that was pretty solid before the revelation, I had never let my mind process everything through to its logical conclusion.  There was always the tiniest glint of hope that what he told me was the truth.  Once the reality was staring me in the face, I was forced to see that someone else I have grown to respect and like may have been involved in a way I don’t want to face.  I still don’t have a resolution on that issue – Mr. Mess is going to get a few questions answered for clarity sake.  I fear that I may lose someone I have come to think of as a friend and an activity that I have fallen in love with.

There was also a deeper revelation about his past that I didn’t see coming.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming – in hindsight all of the signs were there, and I know that sex addiction escalates.  It still took me by surprise.  I don’t know how I feel about it.  I don’t know how TO feel about it.

So I’m not.  I’ve browsed eBay (so far, I haven’t bought anything, but my “Watch List” suddenly went from nothing to 20).  I vented my frustration in an email to a company that has been yanking me around and picked the wrong day to mess with me.  I have read other people’s blogs – more to distract myself than to offer any real support or advice.  I don’t have any of that right now.  I have cleared out my computer, organized files, and any other mindless task I can think of.

I have lost 3 pounds overnight from the stomach issues I’ve experienced.  All I’ve managed to eat so far today is half an apple, which made me feel nauseous.  I did make sure to take my antidepressant this morning, even as zombied out as I was.  I need to go to lunch now.  I just don’t know what I’m going to do with an hour alone in my house.  Try to eat something.  Probably watch something mindless from my DVR.  Maybe manage a sentence or two in my journal.  Probably call my Mom and set up a day soon to have lunch, or just come to her house and curl up on her couch.  I am seriously considering calling our MC for an individual appointment soon.  I know I need to process this, and I probably need help to do it.

I am keeping everything in mind that I said yesterday.  I’m not angry with my husband.  I’m not judging him.  I’m just numb.  This is a totally different feeling than discovering something on my own.  It is far better than THAT feeling, but it is so new that I don’t know what to do with it.

Some rights reserved by Marco Bellucci

As a side note:  How fucked up is it that when I typed “avoiding reality” into the image search engine I got tons and tons of porn images.  It just makes me feel sick and also sad.  I knew pornography was used by many as an unhealthy coping mechanism and a way to avoid reality, but to have it come up automatically with that tame, G-rated search made my heart hurt.

Preparing for Full Disclosure (and a Wonderful Weekend)

30 Sep

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

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

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

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

image

Our Retrouvaille Couple’s Introduction

6 Sep

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

I.  The Beginning

Intro (Mr. Mess):

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

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

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

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

Me:

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

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

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

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


II. Trouble that led you to Retrouvaille

Mr. Mess:

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

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

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

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

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

Me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Life Now

Mr. Mess:

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

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

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

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

Me:

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

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

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

Do You Have an Addictive Personality?

4 Sep

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

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

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

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

addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Internal Motivation

26 Jul

Image Source – Own work by Louis Waweru / CC-BY-SA-3.0

My heart is aching today for a fellow blogger and friend who is going through a really difficult time.  I won’t share what has been happening specifically since it is her story to tell.  She has shared some on her blog – Repairing Shattered Pieces.  It is almost all I can think about today.

When she described how she felt last night, it made me think of being exposed and vulnerable in a very dangerous place, like laying in the middle of the road, powerless to keep from being run over.  Again.  Because at this point she has been hit hard.  I can imagine the waves of debilitating pain and hurt washing over me again and again.  The helplessness and despair.  I feel all of this by proxy, so I’m sure it’s amplified a thousand fold for her.

The positive glimmer in all of this for me has been Mr. Mess.  I have been sharing with him what is going on as she discovers more details.  He has been incredibly supportive and insightful.  He has offered his knowledge and assistance, if needed.  More than almost anything else, the way he has been talking has caused me to realize how far he really has come.

The other night he started talking about his own journey and how that has given him so much perspective on what it takes to get well.  He went through almost a year of denial over his sex addiction.  During that time he wasn’t really addressing his issues.  Sure, he went to therapy, he attended SA now and then, he said the things he thought I wanted to hear.  But he didn’t really believe, deep down, that there was anything he needed to do.  Some days when he felt down he could accept that there was a problem, but most of the time his denial, justification and rationalization were in full force.  He did the things he did because he knew it was the only way to keep me.  That’s it.

He said yesterday that if someone isn’t doing the all of the work they should be to correct their issues, then they don’t really believe they have them.  It really is that simple.  When he wasn’t going to SA it was because he believed he didn’t need to.  When he skipped therapy and stopped going altogether it was because he wasn’t invested and didn’t trulybelieve he needed the help.  He stuck with marriage counseling because he did want to repair our marriage.  But he still couldn’t accept that there couldn’t be a stable marriage until his addiction problems were corrected.  He wanted things to work out, but his motivations were largely exterior – the pain I was in, the tension in the house after a lie, the guilt he only felt afterwards, the shame of discovery and seeing my disappointment, the regret of a poor decision, and the list goes on.  He was focusing on me – my pain, my desires, my boundaries.

The only internal motivation he had was fear:  the fear of losing his lifestyle (house, car, dual incomes), the fear of losing love (acceptance, comfort, my presence), the fear of divorce, the fear of failure, the fear of who knows…  The problem is that fear can only carry you so far.  What he didn’t have was an internal desire to change for him.  Because it would make him healthy and whole.  Because it would make him happy.  Because it would give him the marriage he wanted, the intimacy he wished for, the acceptance and love he deserves.  Part of recovering from any addiction is coming to the full realization that you are worth it.  For you alone.  That you want to change.  For you alone.  That only you can fix you.  That the motivation has to come from within.

I’m glad that he has learned that now.  I am proud of where he has made it to in his recovery.  I feel more secure knowing that he is working on recovery for himself.  It also gives me reassurance that we are on the right path.  I am working on my issues and he is dealing with his.  Is this what an adult relationship feels like?

Image Source –  Own work by Adha65 / CC-BY-SA-3.0

%d bloggers like this: