Tag Archives: boundaries

Baby, It’s a Real Fine Line

3 Nov

On my ride home from my Mom’s birthday party tonight the perfect song popped up on my radio.  It’s called Fine Line by Little Big Town.  Here’s the video:

 

I couldn’t write words more perfect than these…

Fine Line

Completely complacent,
So decidedly vacant
I keep waiting for something to give,
But that something is always me
You consume what you’re able,
I get crumbs from your table
You call this comfortably normal
But I call it getting by

[Chorus]
Baby, it’s a fine line
I’m holding on, you’re holding back
Baby, it’s a fine line
Can’t you hear me knockin at your door?
But you’re taking your sweet time
In love and out of touch, yeah
Baby, it’s a fine line
Baby, it’s a real fine line

Do you feel the distance,
like I feel resistance?
If I pull any farther away,
would you even come after me?
But the one thing I’m fearing
Is that I’m disappearing
How can I keep believing
If you won’t prove me wrong?

[Chorus]

Baby, it’s a fine line, yeah baby,
It’s a real fine line
Baby, it’s a fine line, hey baby, hey baby
Baby, it’s a fine line,
Can’t you hear me knockin’ at your door?
But you’re taking your sweet time,
Always taking your sweet time, yeah
Baby, it’s a fine line,
It’s a real fine, it’s a real fine line
Baby, it’s a fine line

The words of that song seem like they were made for me, for right where I am now.  We’re walking a tight rope, balancing on a very fine line.  I feel like I have been here holding on by my fingertips for so long while he’s been holding back – hiding who he is, lying, keeping his heart and mind from me, being complacent, and consuming everything I have to give.  Now I know that I can’t live that way, and I’m changing – what I will accept, what I know I deserve, and how much I’m willing to take, or better yet, what I know I need from a partner.

This controlled separation has been a great tool so far.  I am gaining confidence.  I am reveling in how wonderful it is to live without constant lies and the up and down, crazy roller-coaster of being in a relationship with someone who isn’t as committed as I am.  It’s like when you have intense pain – a migraine or toothache, for instance – and you finally get relief.  When the pain disappears, nothing has ever felt sweeter than those first amazing, blessed pain free moments.  They always make me more thankful and aware of the gifts that I take for granted.

The separation has been like that for me.  I am rediscovering the things about myself that I love.  I am acknowledging the things that I can do to make myself happy.  I cooked a large part of an amazing dinner tonight.  At one point I had 3 different pots going while I was prepping 2 other things.  I cleaned as I went.  I was a whirling queen of the kitchen.  Everyone said the food was delicious.  It was healthy – using whole wheat and grains and truvia and fresh vegetables.  And it was all me.  Okay, my grandma and brother and sister also contributed courses, so that’s not completely true.  However, I did 2 appetizers and 3 sides including killer macaroni & cheese and made-from-scratch cole slaw.  I’m proud of everything I put out.

I went on a little tangent there, but hopefully you’re still following me.  I believe that I am personally on the cusp of one of the best times of my life.  I am gaining clarity, feeling my inner strength coming out, and getting secure in who I am.  I am confident that I will be okay, no matter what happens with my marriage.

In the last few days it also seems like my husband has shaken some of the cobwebs out of his head.  I can’t speak for him about what has changed, but I have sensed that something is different.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is.  Our interactions are closer to what I had hoped they would be.  He seems to be stepping up in a few ways.  It’s what I want.

But now I feel uneasy.  I wonder why things are different.  I wonder if this will be just another temporary change.  I wonder how we can repair this thing we have.  I have never been a worrier, and somehow that’s what I find myself doing now.  Then I remember why I have always hated worrying.  It is crazy-making, and it doesn’t accomplish anything.  I hate not accomplishing anything.

So when I feel my mind wandering down that path, I refocus myself on something productive.  Sometimes it’s reading.  Sometimes it’s cleaning.  Sometimes it’s writing.  Sometimes it’s opening up my S-Anon daily devotional.  Sometimes it’s calling someone to talk through my thoughts.  Whatever I do, I try to keep perspective on the growth I am making and remind myself that this is a long journey.  There are at least 9 more weeks of this controlled separation and years and years of my life left.  I don’t have to do it all now.  I CAN’T do it all now.  What I can do now is keep balancing on this fine line between being married and not called separation.

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.

What Are We Doing Now Regarding Separation?

18 Oct

Like these two trees, we are separate to the naked eye, but below ground our roots are still very tangled.

I thought I had already published this, but obviously I hadn’t. I will have a more updated version of this later now that we have been to marriage counseling this morning.

A continuation of my answers to questions from a reader that I posted here.

So what are you doing now then–regarding separation? Are you waiting for counseling on Thursday to decide? Are you not in the same house now?

I’m going to answer all of these at once.  Right now, regarding separation, we are not staying in the same house.  I’m not sure where he is staying, and I have decided not to ask or go searching for the answer.  I really am waiting for counseling on Thursday to make any long-lasting, more “permanent” (to use his word) decisions.

Saturday he came by and picked up a few things.  I was feeling very sick, but got a deep urge to clean and organize.  I wanted things germ-free and more serene.  So I did about 4 loads of laundry.  I cleaned the dishes, the kitchen table, the counter-tops.  As I was doing laundry I started separating out his things because I noticed some of his work clothes.

That led to me separating all of our clothes in the massive pile of laundry I had accumulated in the den.  In order to get his stuff out of my way and make it easier for him to pick up what he needed, I put those items of clothing in the spare back bedroom.  I cleaned some of my new clothes off of the couch and chaise in the living room where they had been sitting for a few days (yes, our house looked like a clothes bomb had dropped on it before all of this organizing).  I started putting those things away.

While I was in the bedroom I got tired of his clothes that were overflowing out of his laundry basket into the floor, blocking the closet doors from opening all the way.  In my cleaning frenzy and frustration, I picked up his dirty laundry hamper and all those annoying, closet-blocking clothes and moved them to the back bedroom, too.

From there, I decided to just continue and clear out the dresser and closet of the remaining clothes that were cluttering everything up.  I figured I was killing three birds with one stone (I really am multi-talented, see?) – put everything in one place for him (how convenient), make my cleaning/ organizing job easier, and reclaim my space.  When he texted to say he needed to pick up his badge for work on Sunday, I moved that into the back bedroom with all of the other stuff, too.

By the time he came by I had also added two pictures of his parents to the pile.  I had just unpacked a Yankee Candles purchase (from weeks before – my shopping was really getting out of control), and
le looking for a place to put the new candles I decided he would probably want those pictures as well.  After all, what am I going to do with them?  I never met his parents because they passed away before I met my husband.  I also figured it might make him feel more “at home” or at least comfortable wherever he was if he had something familiar like a picture of family around.

I wasn’t angry or bitter in taking any of those actions, just in sick, cleaning/organization mode.  I was probably also trying bolster my sanity by removing his things from the bedroom I knew I was going to be sleeping in all alone that night.  Lighting a few candles, having things clean and organized, not tripping over his clothes or slippers – they all made me feel more calm and at peace.

I’m sure he probably didn’t perceive things that way.  I definitely didn’t volunteer the information.  Not my best communication ever, in retrospect.

Separation Clarification (What Did Asking For a Separation Mean?)

16 Oct

This post will continue answering the probing questions asked by a gentle reader here.  I apologize for the multiple posts tonight, but I think you will agree it is better than the mile-long single post this was turning into before.

“Were you asking for permission or agreement–did it need to be a joint decision that he could void by disagreeing?”

I don’t think I was actually asking for permission, now that you mention it.  In that moment I just couldn’t have him walking in the door spewing his lies or giving me excuses.  That seemed like an ultimate betrayal of the trust I am trying to rebuild with him.  Maybe if he had disagreed and had something genuine and heartfelt to say he could have changed that.  I’m not really sure, though.

As for it being a joint decision or not, I think I’m going to skip to another question that is a little bit out of order:

Did you or do you have a formal Plan of Action for boundary breaches?

Yes and No, I suppose.  The very first item of our Relationship Boundaries is:

“We will not tolerate lies, distortion of truth, or not being entirely up front with each other – even if we think we’re trying to protect each other in some way.  I promise not to lie to you and you must promise not to lie (or stretch the truth) to me.  Honesty is always better.  Know that lies are worse than almost anything we could ever do to each other. 

The consequence for lying will be that the other spouse will 180 to protect themself (see description of 180 on separate sheet).   We will sleep in separate rooms.  There will be no kissing or sex until the other spouse feels comfortable and safe again.  Any lie has the ability to bring us back to ground zero in the trust factor and marriage recovery; even a small lie.  If lying continues to be an issue, this will be cause for separation and potentially divorce.”

So, we have spelled out some consequences of lying.  Separation is one of those consequences.  The Boundary Agreement describes what amounts to an in-home separation (different beds, no sex, etc.), but also mentions that continuous lying will be cause for separation and potentially divorce.  The term “separation” there meant one where we do not reside in the same house.  I realize now that wording may not be specific enough.

In my mind, what he did amounts to an ongoing lie that certainly “continues to be an issue” between us.  I saw his actions over that week (and especially that day on the phone with me) as being serious enough to warrant time apart – separate from one another.  I felt he had given enough consent to that in our Boundary Agreement that he should honor my request without argument.

However, if he had fought to stay in the home and work things out I might have acquiesced.  Instead, all he sent was what I perceived to be a “poor, pitiful me” text that said “I know you dont owe me anything it will take me some time to find a place to stay.”  I responded by saying, “You have multiple family members within the area & friends so I’m sure you can find somewhere.”

What did asking for–or saying you wanted–a separation mean for that day? Did it mean he could come home, stay the night and you would talk about it? Basically, how firm was the boundary?

I made it clear that I did not want him to stay the night.  In fact, this is what I said exactly, “You can drop off the stuff & pick up what you need but I can’t have you stay.”  The “stuff” in question was some ear drops he had picked up earlier for my ear infection.  What I wanted was some space to consider what this new breach of trust meant.  I did not trust myself to be able to have any type of intelligent conversation about it, and I really wanted to be able to think about how we can move forward (if at all).

The next post will talk about my (extensive) thoughts about how we might be able to accomplish moving forward and where exactly I think we are right now.

Collective Wisdom

16 Oct

I am constantly reminded of the benefit of the collective wisdom that can be gained by sharing my thoughts and getting feedback and perspective from other people.  Today was no exception.  I decided to post some of my previously private ramblings (here) which included more details about the incident and conversation leading up to my present situation.  I received this very insightful and thought-provoking comment from a reader:

Rollercoasterider

I am so sorry. Your situation has had me concerned as it has progressed. You seem like a strong woman–not the victim type at all!

I believe in marriage, but that doesn’t mean I feel there aren’t exceptions to my no-divorce rule. Addictions is one of those exceptions–he is refusing recovery. Serial affairs are another exception–and since his addiction is sex–that’s two exceptions right there.

And you have been doing the work to earn your way either into reconciliation or out of your marriage.
I also did not think you were behaving codependently in that situation. You had a Knowing–an inuitive hit or whatever you want to call it. I discovered that if I ignore those, they bring anxiety–even if I am not mentally feeling anxious my body reacts with the physiological symptoms of panic and anxiety.

When you said you asked for a separation, what did that mean? Here’s what I mean by my question: I am a sticker for precise language. When Sweetheart asked me for a divorce, I told him ‘no.’ Hey, he was asking! Were you asking for permission or agreement–did it need to be a joint decision that he could void by disagreeing?

What did asking for–or saying you wanted–a separation mean for that day? Did it mean he could come home, stay the night and you would talk about it? Basically, how firm was the boundary? Did you or do you have a formal Plan of Action for boundary breaches?

Ex: For me it was if Sweetheart was continuing his relationship with the alienator he could not live at home and he could not be in a marital relationship with me until she was out of the picture. So when I discovered he was still seeing her (this was back in 2007), I kicked him out. I was not perfect in the boundary, he came home the first night and I packed his bags while he was at work the next day. When he got home, he entered through the back door and I walked him through the house and out the front. No explanation was necessary because Boundaries are communicated ahead of time; he knew why.

So what are you doing now then–regarding separation? Are you waiting for counseling on Thursday to decide? Are you not in the same house now? And what do you think you should be doing?

See….  THIS is why I posted my thoughts and asked for feedback.  She asked some really great questions and made fantastic points.  I had to actually step back and consider a bit before I knew how to answer.  I started answering her comment in that post, but then realized that I had so much to say that I needed to create a new post to share my answers with everyone.

In fact, my answer got so long that I’m going to be making several posts for the questions/comments that I want to address so that you can pick and choose which ones you want to know the answer to without having to sift through thousands of words (aren’t I considerate?)  🙂

Accepting the Truth

8 Aug

It is hard to feel safe when another person’s actions can rock your world, and it is out of your control.  I am struggling to find a way to detach myself, my happiness, and my feeling of safety from the actions of my husband.  It is much easier said than done, but I have realized this week that it is necessary.  I just can’t keep living the way I have been, with my emotions so tied to what he does (or doesn’t) do.  I think that means I have to accept a few things that I’ve been trying very hard not to.

For one thing, I have to accept that my husband is unreliable right now.  I have to accept that he has a lot to do before he will be.  And I need to stop treating him like he is a reliable, trustworthy person that I can depend on.  Sound harsh?  Probably because it is.  But I need to accept that harsh reality and find a way to be okay with it if I’m going to move forward, stay in this marriage, and keep my sanity.

Another thing I need to do is make my own happiness.  I have been trying.  I even thought I was making good progress.  The truth is, I still measured my happiness, at least in part, on him.  That is wrong.  I am independent of that, of him.  His progress (or lack thereof) does NOT reflect on me.  I have to keep telling myself that.  One mantra I repeat over and over is: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.”  When I think I have accepted that, reality comes back and slaps some sense into me.  If I am unhappy because of something he has done, it is my fault for trusting my happiness to someone who has done his damnedest to let me know, time and again, that he isn’t healthy enough to take on that responsibility.

How do you separate your happiness as an independent person from the actions of the man you have tied yourself to “until death do us part?”  I haven’t quite figured that out.  I am trying.  Boy, am I trying.  The way I have been doing it is to think of my feelings of disappointment, betrayal and hurt from what he did as separate from the joy I can create for myself.  That means I deal with those feelings for a particular amount of time, then set them aside and carry on with the business of living and enjoying my life.  Right now is my time to think about those things, feel the anger and fear, and get them out.  Once I’m done I am going to get my hair cut and maybe do some shopping.  I will do all of that with a genuine smile on my face and allow myself to feel how wonderful the world is and how much it has to offer.

First, the hard emotions, though.  I have been posting on After the Betrayal for the past few days to process my feelings.  One of our boundary agreements was “No angry blogging,” like after a fight, so I didn’t post at all the day this happened.  Now that I have some distance and perspective, though, I will elaborate a bit on what I told you all yesterday.  The particulars don’t really matter – the he said, then I said, then this happened, tears, yelling, tears… – so I’m going to skip over all of that.  The basics are in my post from yesterday.  The thing I am still reeling from is the discovery that he hasn’t been taking his prescription for 2 and a half months.

Mr. Mess is supposed to be on anti-depressant/ anti-anxiety medication to regulate his moods.  He promised ages ago to keep up with it and take it daily.  I stopped monitoring or asking several months ago as part of my step away from codependent behavior.  I decided to trust him to take care of that aspect of his health and recover.  Of course, he didn’t.

Additionally, he was supposed to have an ADHD and bipolar screening done at our marriage counselor’s office with a specialist.  It was brought up by our MC weeks (maybe more) ago.  After he took an initial screening (by answering some questions on a pre-diagnosis sheet that put him well within the range) he said he was going to do it.  Of course he never did.  That would entail being responsible, calling the office, talking to our therapist, and setting up an appointment with the specialist.  He would have you believe he is too stupid or helpless to do that.  I know better than that.  It is just laziness or maybe fear of finding out what is really wrong with him.  I honestly think he has a deeper mental balance issue (seriously), but I’m not a doctor, I can’t diagnose, and he has been avoiding the ones who can.

He knows about how you can’t just stop taking those types of drugs “cold turkey.”  We had an issue with him doing that early on.  This is not a new conversation.  We even read the warning together, and he said he understood how important it was.  In fact, in the one session I went to with his individual counselor he told both of us that recovery was a three-legged stool that requires individual therapy, SA meetings, and medication to stabilize his moods.  I just realized he has basically NEVER done all 3.  He started by taking the medication and IC, no SA.  Then he dropped IC.  Then he started back IC and SA the same time he dropped his meds.  What is wrong with him?!

The craziest thing is that he said he stopped taking the medication because he was feeling so good.  That’s the point of the meds, dummy!  Then he said he wants to be better without taking medication.  Too bad that’s not possible if you need them!  He also said he didn’t think the boundary we agreed on about taking prescription medication in the way in which it was prescribed meant he had to actually take his medication (what?!?!).  He just thought it meant not to abuse them, like take too many to get high.  Really?!

He also didn’t think it was lying to promise he would take his medication, then stop.  I bet he would think differently if I had promised to take birth control, then just stopped without telling him, talking to a doctor, or doing anything else medically to prevent pregnancy.  This is no different.  His wild mood swings and inability to regulate his emotions affect me.  The hugest thing is that I see a large upswing in his lying – no joke!  I can’t live like that – constantly on edge because of his shifting emotions and pathological lying.

I know that this is getting long, and I do apologize for that.  This is for me, though.  Feel free to stop reading at any point where you are bored or tired of hearing me rant.  I just need to get it out.  That is the biggest thing, but there are so many other little threads woven through this messed-up tapestry.

One is the anger he exhibited.  This, again, can be tied back to him not taking his medication.  He went from zero to sixty on the emotional scale.  He blew up, said “fuck you,” walked away, yelled, cursed, and carried on like asking for transparency was akin to assassinating his character, not something we had discussed and agreed upon – for both of us.  I wasn’t even asking anything unreasonable.  What I was asking for is basic information that any married couple would share…  As his wife I am entitled to know who is calling my husband at 2:30 in the morning and deserve to be spoken to respectfully.  Simple as that.

Someone from the forum did help me to understand it a bit more.  She is a wayward who is bipolar and acted out during a manic phase before she was ever diagnosed.  She said,

“I can say that when [my husband] questions me even the slightest, I get defensive (and hurt, and angry especially) – INTERNALLY.  I know that I made mistakes. I know that he has the right to question me whenever he feels the need to do so, and that is how we will move forward.  So I don’t let that side of me show.  It would be counterproductive.

I know that I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t do, but he doesn’t, and I have to respect that.  Even so, it’s one of the biggest, hottest angers I’ve ever felt. Probably because I have worked so hard to become stable.”

That helps me rationalize his anger, even if I can’t accept being treated that way.  I can see where that flash of hot anger could be the gut reaction.  She controls it, though.  She doesn’t let that be her ultimate reaction.  My husband doesn’t.  Maybe he even can’t.  Again, we’re back to the medication.  He needs to get diagnosed and on the proper medication to help him control himself.  I can’t control it.  I can’t cure it.  I certainly didn’t cause it.  It’s up to him to get help.

Another poster asked me a few more questions that really got me thinking.  Here are her questions and my answers (Again, please stop reading it you really wish I would just shut up already).

“He agreed to transparency right? Is his ducking around the issue normal or is it a new thing.”

Yes, he agreed to transparency.  I’m not sure how to answer your question because it depends, and I am on edge right now.  He has been getting better.  I will say that transparency is a major condition because historically he has not shared things with me.  He is also a huge secret-keeper.  Many times I have find out things the same time as casual acquaintances when he mentions them in conversations or by discovering them on my own.  He is very closed off, and he doesn’t seem to feel the need to share much with me at all.

The #1 reason transparency and truth is such a big deal, though, is because he has a habit of lying.  All the time.  Sometimes for absolutely no reason about things that don’t matter in the least.  It is by far the most difficult thing for me to deal with and the biggest obstacle to keeping this marriage working.  His medication helped with that because it balanced him out and kept him from going with his gut instinct, which is to hide and lie.

“What is your gut telling you about all of this?  Is it really work related or is he being sneaky about something else?”

That’s the hardest part.  My gut is throwing a temper tantrum because I can’t believe he keeps doing this to me.  I just want to scream.  I do think it probably was work-related (NOTE: I have since found out that he was, in fact, having an affair with a woman from work because after I kicked him out, he was suddenly in a “relationship” with her).  That’s not the point, though.  The point is that he was so secretive, that he blew up at me over something we agreed to, and that I discovered through this process that he has been lying by proxy for 3 months now about taking his medication.  It makes me feel so unsafe that I can’t trust him with such a simple thing as taking his medication like he promised.  I can’t keep living like this, and I can’t be his caretaker.  He is an adult and he needs to act like one.


So, there we are, 1,935 words later.  Back where we began.  He needs to take responsibility for himself.  I need to stop being a caretaker.  My huge fear is that when I stop caretaking he stops doing what he needs to do.  This is a perfect case in point. It’s his life, but it’s mine, too.  I have to live in a home with a man who can’t regulate his emotions or control his lying.  Actually, I don’t have to.  I’m just not ready to leave yet.  That is my choice.  I have to own it.  I’m not a victim here.  I have just been putting too much of my happiness onto him.  I am going to try not to be affected by him.  I know I won’t succeed all of the time, but that’s okay.  I’m going to enjoy life!  Here’s some inspiration:

Being Worth It

10 Jul

One of my absolute favorite bloggers – Eat My Scabs – did a post today about boundaries:  Step 2: Set Your Boundaries.  She gave a few questions and fill in the blank sentences and challenged us all to complete them.  I loved the exercise and the questions really got me thinking.  I decided to share my answers here on my blog as well as submitting them on her original post.

Introduce yourself, your current obsession and one word to describe your mood today.
I am just another person on this journey to marriage healing.  I have recently realized that I’m codependent, and I’m working to free myself from the tangles of my husband’s sex addiction and focus on me.  My current obsession is with self-expression, especially with my body.  In the last few months I have gotten fuchsia streaks in my hair, a nose ring, and a new tattoo.  I have another tattoo being drawn up right now.  My mood today is a bit morose.  The weather has been dreary, I could have stayed in bed all day, and my husband has taken my recent detachment as license to stop having real conversations with me.

The craziest reaction I got from setting boundaries was… my husband saying “I don’t know what this (gesturing toward me) is all about” and walking out of the house.  He returned home several hours later, but he was not happy with my boundaries.  He didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t going to accept his bad attitude or react by screaming and yelling back.

My favorite boundary and consequence is…  I don’t know yet.  My favorite boundary is honesty in this marriage because it is the one thing I absolutely need the most.  It is also the one my husband seems to be struggling with the most.  As for consequences, I haven’t figured it out all the way.  Right now the consequence is that I won’t share my bed with someone who continues to lie to me.  That consequence will stand until I feel safe again.  When that will happen I have no clue.

My biggest boundary failure was when…  I didn’t stick to my request for him to get individual counseling after I discovered his affair and again after I caught him breaking his word about something important.  Both times I put an expectation out there that I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who was unfaithful or who was constantly lying to me.  However, I didn’t set any real consequence (me getting mad at him, being hurt and upset obviously wasn’t enough).  Of course he didn’t go, and I just let it go.  I told myself he was doing other things.  I told myself it was okay, that he was okay.  I told myself everything except what I should have told myself – if he won’t get help then you need to get out.  I paid the price for that after we were married because his lying, hiding ways had been reinforced for years by my lack of action and follow-through.

I got in the biggest trouble when I broke this boundary…  don’t steal.  I was caught shoplifting.  It was an incredibly selfish, stupid decision that I made in a time when my life was out of control.  I had the money to pay for the stuff, I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge on myself, and instead chose to stick it in my purse.  I did pay the price.  Literally – thousands of dollars for a lawyer, restitution and court fees.  I stayed out of jail, but I have a misdemeanor record.  Stupid me!

The most successful boundary/consequence I’ve worked on is…  not doing for others what they should (and can) do for themselves.  I am at peace with saying that I will not accept responsibility for something that is his to deal with.  I am getting much better at not feeling guilty if/when he falls on his face.  I would like to be able to echo what another poster responded with:  “Being willing to say I will not accept blame, lying, anger, or victim behavior from my husband and seeking distance from him when that happens.”  I am still working on this one.  It takes real effort for me to disengage and “seek distance” rather than continuing to respond.

If I could break any social boundary it would be… the understanding that we should all keep up a façade.  Wouldn’t it be nice if “fine” or “great” weren’t the only socially accepted and expected responses to “How are you doing today?”  What if we could all just be honest all of the time?  I bet we would all feel less pressure to be perfect if we had the understanding of how imperfect we all feel all of the time.

My favorite quality in a man is…  honesty (I’m sensing a theme here) and wit.  I love a man who can be unexpected and funny just by telling it like it is.

My favorite quality in a woman is…  genuineness.  I am drawn to women who are straight-forward and confident in themselves just as they are.

If I could go back one decade and change anything is would be…  I missed this question when I was reading the original post.  If I could go back one decade and change something about my 17-year-old self I would be more confident.   I would tell my teenage self that being different is beautiful, it is just fine to be an introvert, you are NOT fat, and trust your instincts because they are good.

I’m terrified that enforcing boundaries will…  result in my marriage failing.

I’m excited that that enforcing boundaries will…  allow me to be my own person and be treated the way that I deserve.

My most elusive boundary questions is…  what is an appropriate consequence f someone breaking one of my boundaries?

Being worth it … gives me the confidence to stand strong in my boundaries.

I hope you enjoyed this little exercise.  Feel free to participate if you would like, either here or on her blog!

Photo Credit – used with permission By SuperDewa

Setting Boundaries

2 Jul

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately.  Last week we were supposed to have marriage counseling together, but Mr. Mess got sick and couldn’t make it.  I decided to still go on my own because I really like our therapist and enjoy getting the chance to bounce things off of him.  He was running late because of a new appointment that entered “crisis mode” as he put it, so we only had about 30-40 minutes.  He asked me what I wanted to talk about, and boundaries was the first thing on my mind.  I have written about boundaries here a few times (Letting Go… Easier Said Than Done and Finishing up the Checklist among others), but hadn’t really delved into it much in therapy.

One of my first questions was how to go about setting boundaries when it comes to things like lying.  I know that I don’t want to accept dishonesty in my relationship.  However, I don’t know what a healthy response to my husband crossing that boundary would be.  I don’t want to blow things out of proportion, but at the same time I don’t want to hold my feelings back or make it such a non-issue that it seems like I’m okay with it.  He agreed that it can be difficult sometimes to determine what the proper response is to another person crossing our boundaries.  In this case he definitely agreed that I don’t want to make my husband feel like it isn’t a big deal to lie to me.

He reminded me of when we first came to him and how he felt our biggest issue – then and now – was the loss of trust.  Lying is an almost hard-coded response that my husband has been doing since childhood.  That contributed to his affairs, and it also made our recovery much harder than it would have been otherwise.  Because lying has been a constant part of our relationship it is very important that I be able to express my feelings.  My husband really needs to understand what his lying does to me, us, and the marital repairs we are trying to make.  Keeping those things in the forefront of his mind will hopefully help condition his mind that lying is NOT the easiest or best resolution to discomfort.

We have definitely come a long way since the first day we walked into his office, but the continual small lies keep breaking my new-found confidence in my husband.  We have talked through several such lying incidents in marriage counseling.  He said that he can see progress in my husband.  I agree.  For example, I explained a lying incident that happened before our last counseling session.  Mr. Mess initially lied to me about something, then when I questioned him again he admitted the truth.  This was progress for us, believe it or not, because it only took me asking “is that really the truth?” for him to be honest with me.  We also were able to talk about why he would lie and how disappointed and hurt it made me feel.

The MC told me that was a good way to handle things.  He said that in future instances I should be sure to let him know how I am feeling.  He said to try to avoid overarching “always” or “never” and “you” statements and stick to “I” statements that refer to a specific action – like “I feel shut out and hurt when you do xyz” versus “You always shut me out.”  We also talked about strategies for redirecting the conversation if it turns into a defensive, sarcastic, or unproductive argument.  He told me ways that I can refocus us – like saying “That isn’t what we are talking about here” or “Let’s get back to the main topic.”  He told me not to temper my feelings or hold back for fear of how he might respond.  My husband has to manage his own response and learn to control his anger, defensiveness, and lashing out.  If I feel uncomfortable or like we will not make any progress if things continue in a negative way, then I am free to disengage, tell him I won’t speak to him when he is behaving that way, and stop responding.

The moral of the story – if you will – was that I should be responsible for conveying my feelings in a healthy way.  That includes setting boundaries and responding with consequences (whatever they may be) if those are broken.  I should control my own response just like my husband should control his.  If something he does hurts me, I should express that.  If he responds badly, I shouldn’t reinforce that by reacting and being drawn into the drama.  If he crosses a boundary, then I need to be responsible for protecting myself and taking myself out of the line of fire.  I can only control me – what I ask for, what I accept, how I approach the situation, and how far I let him go.  What a ground-breaking concept!

Sadly, I had to put that new knowledge to use far sooner than I ever expected.  That’s because my husband lied to me again yesterday.  About something stupid that there was no need to hide from me.  Again.  Just like in my post Lessons from Judge Judy, all I needed was common sense to break through his flimsy lies.  Unlike the last time when he confessed pretty quickly, this time he reverted all the way back to the days of covering up and lying even as he was admitting part of the lie.  There were several times he lied to me yesterday, all about the same subject.

During the process I told him clearly that finding out he was keeping something insignificant from me (that he shouldn’t have any fear about telling me), makes me feel very afraid that when it matters (i.e. if he is tempted to cheat, or otherwise has something he would have fear about) he won’t tell me the truth.  I think I did a pretty good job of sticking to how I feel and not using “always” statements, although I will admit that I brought up past instances of lying as well.  I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not since I did stick to specifics.  I just felt like he didn’t understand why I would be hurt about the lies and omissions that he considered “not a big deal.”

I thought that we had things worked out, and I ended up deciding to accept his last explanation of the situation.  Until I heard his phone vibrating in the other room.  He picked it up and said he had a voice mail.  He told me what it said – in the loose way that he does  (“oh, it was xyz who said blah”).  Then he quickly said that his phone was on vibrate because he must have forgotten to turn the ringer on after work on Friday.  Okay.  Except, wait…  We lost power on Saturday and couldn’t find his phone.  He had me call it from mine, and his phone rang.  Not vibrated – rang.  Hmmm…..  That got my Spidey senses tingling.  Why the lie?  I checked his phone and once again, I had facts in my hand that directly contradicted what he told me.  Still he tried to gaslight me into thinking I was crazy and should believe him instead of my eyes.

That was it.  As I mentioned earlier, I had already decided that one of my firm boundaries is that honesty is required in my relationship (honesty is one of the most important things to me and has been my entire life – see Being Honest).  That means openness, sharing, no topic is off-limits, and no lies.  Until that moment I didn’t really know what I needed to do to enforce that boundary.  If this was a new relationship that would be it – see you later, sayonara, have a good life, but this won’t work for me.  It isn’t a new relationship, though, and we have been working on this underlying issue of his for a while.   That doesn’t mean I have to accept lies, though.  I told him he needed to sleep somewhere else.  He collected some clothes from the bedroom for work, and headed to the couch.

As I sat there in bed alone I started thinking (big shock, right?).  The more I thought about it, the more I liked my response.  At first I started to ask him why.  Then I asked how he could do that – lie to me, then “come clean” with more lies, reconcile knowing it was based on a lie, and then gaslight me when I found ultimate proof.  I felt myself starting to get worked up.  I tried to stop him from walking away from me.  Then instead I stopped myself.  I told him he wasn’t sleeping in our marital bed that night or any night until he talked to someone about this, really committed to working on it, and got back to weekly IC (his pattern is to go for a few weeks then stop).  Then I ended it.  Because it doesn’t really matter why he lied to me right now.  What matters is he did.  He needs to figure out his why.  I need to protect myself from further hurt.

Truthfully, it felt good.  It was nice to just worry about me.  I couldn’t engage further, get angry, and start a screaming match that would keep me up all night, get my emotions running crazy, and not resolve anything.  I couldn’t jump into therapist mode, and try to help him figure out his issues.  I also couldn’t sleep in the same bed with him.  I couldn’t allow our feet to brush together, feel the rhythm of his sides as he inhaled and exhaled, hear his snoring, and be woken by him rolling out of bed in the morning.  It is all too intimate.  That’s a vulnerability and closeness I can’t share with someone who has just lied to me.  So here I am – a woman who just set and enforced a boundary.  It has left me feeling peaceful.

Finishing up the Checklist

19 Jun

Well, today I am going to finish up the checklist from Codependent No More.  It was a lot more than I remember reading when it came time to actually type it all out.  Spreading things over several posts has given me more time to really think about each list of characteristics and take the time to properly rate them for myself.  I’m really excited to keep digging into this book and see what healthier solutions she has.

WEAK BOUNDARIES

Codependents frequently:

  • say they won’t tolerate certain behaviors from other people.  (1)
  • gradually increase their tolerance until they can tolerate and do things they said they never would.  (2 – sadly, this is definitely true)
  • let other hurt them.  (2)
  • keep letting people hurt them.  (1)
  • wonder why they hurt so badly.  (1)
  • complain, blame, and try to control while they continue to stand there.  (2 – Ouch…)
  • finally get angry.  (1 – I tend to have the anger while not really doing anything about it – see above)
  • become totally intolerant.  (2 – this has been historically correct.)

LACK OF TRUST

Codependents:

  • don’t trust themselves.  (0)
  • don’t trust their feelings.  (1)
  • don’t trust their decisions.  (1)
  • don’t trust other people.  (2)
  • try to trust untrustworthy people.  (2 – not sure how this one and the one above can be true, but they are)
  • think God has abandoned them.  (what God?)
  • lose faith and trust in God.  (see above… boy do I really hope “god” isn’t the answer in this book because I will be very disappointed)

ANGER

Many codependents:

  • feel very scared, hurt, and angry.  (1)
  • live with people who are very scared, hurt, and angry.  (2)
  • are afraid of their own anger.  (1)
  • are frightened of other people’s anger.  (2)
  • think people will go away if anger enters the picture.  (1)
  • think other people make them feel angry.  (1)
  • are afraid to make other people feel anger.  (2)
  • feel controlled by other people’s anger.  (0)
  • repress their angry feelings.  (1)
  • cry a lot, get depressed, overeat, get sick, do mean and nasty things to get even, act hostile, or have violent temper outbursts.  (2)
  • punish other people for making them codependents angry.  (0-1)
  • have been ashamed for feeling angry.  (1)
  • place guilt and shame on themselves for feeling angry.  (0-1)
  • feel increasing amount of anger, resentment, and bitterness.  (0 – I am on the decreasing end of this spectrum lately)
  • feel safer with their anger than with hurt feelings.  (0-1)
  • wonder if they’ll ever not be angry.  (1)

SEX PROBLEMS

Some codependents:

  • are caretakers in the bedroom.  (2)
  • have sex when they don’t want to.  (0)
  • have sex when they’d rather be held, nurtured, and loved. (0 – usually these things go hand in hand for us)
  • try to have sex when they’re angry or hurt.  (0 – not gonna happen)
  • refuse to enjoy sex because they’re so angry at their partner.  (0 – again, it doesn’t happen if I’m angry)
  • are afraid of losing control.  (1)
  • have a difficult time asking for what they need in bed.  (1)
  • withdraw emotionally from their partner.  (1 – not so much now that we are more communicative and he is more vulnerable with me)
  • feel sexual revulsion toward their partner.  (0)
  • don’t talk about it.  (0)
  • force themselves to have sex, anyway.  (0)
  • reduce sex to a technical act.  (0)
  • wonder why they don’t enjoy sex.  (1)
  • lose interest in sex.  (0)
  • make up reasons to abstain.  (0)
  • wish their sex partner would die, go away, or sense the codependent’s feelings.  (0 – whoa… glad I don’t have this one)
  • have strong sexual fantasies about other people.  (0 – unless dreams somehow count… I’ve had a few steamy ones)
  • consider or have an extramarital affair.  (0 – huh… wonder if my husband needs to take this?)

Some people think this is healthy… It’s not. It’s also not possible!

MISCELLANEOUS

Codependents tend to:

  • be extremely responsible.  (2 – definitely)
  • be extremely irresponsible.  (0 – never been a problem for me at all)
  • become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness and that of others for causes that don’t require sacrifice.  (0 – I don’t think so…)
  • find it difficult to feel close to people.  (2)
  • find it difficult to have fun and be spontaneous.  (1 – my husband has helped me in this area a lot already)
  • have an overall passive response to codependency – crying, hurt, helplessness.  (1 – at some points)
  • have an overall aggressive response to codependency – violence, anger, dominance.  (0-1 – not really a main issue, but sometimes intense anger has come out)
  • combine passive and aggressive responses.  (1)
  • vacillate in decisions and emotions.  (1 – decisions, no.  emotions, yes.)
  • laugh when they feel like crying.  (1-2 – does smiling count?  I often have am inappropriate response to uncomfortable situations or death like smiling when I really am not feeling happy or amused in the least)
  • stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts.  (2 – yes, I am very loyal)
  • be ashamed about family, personal, or relationship problems.  (2)
  • be confused about the nature of the problem.  (1-2)
  • cover up, lie, and protect the problem.  (0-1 – I don’t remember any specific times when I have done that.  I definitely don’t lie, but I might “protect” by not telling many people)
  • not seek help because they tell themselves the problem isn’t bad enough, or they aren’t important enough.  (0 – not any more…  there was a time years ago where that was true, and I’m not going back there)
  • wonder why the problem doesn’t go away.  (1)

PROGRESSIVE

In the later stages of codependency, codependents may:

  • feel lethargic.  (2)
  • feel depressed.  (2)
  • become withdrawn and isolated.  (1)
  • experience a complete loss of daily routine and structure.  (0)
  • abuse or neglect their children and other responsibilities.  (1 – work has suffered a bit)
  • feel hopeless.  (1)
  • begin to plan their escape from a relationship they feel trapped in.  (0)
  • think about suicide.  (0)
  • become violent.  (0)
  • become seriously emotionally, mentally, or physically ill.  (0)
  • experience an eating disorder (over- or -undereating).  (1 – I wouldn’t really call it a disorder, but both of those things have happened)
  • become addicted to alcohol or another drug.  (0)

And that’s all folks!

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