Tag Archives: cheating

Letter from a Reader: Leaving a Cheater

30 Apr

Why You Should Leave a Cheater remains my most popular post.  I continue to get at least one or two emails a week, often more, from people who are dealing with similar situations.  The stories are always sad, heartfelt, and usually inspiring.   There are always a lot of emotions involved.  This is an issue that far too many people struggle with, sometimes after years of having the same negative behavior repeated by their partner.

They are all different, yet very much the same.  Men and women are both affected, and reach out to me in fairly even proportions.  None of them expected to be where they are.  Some of them try to hang on and fight for their relationship, others are struggling to make up their minds or seeking support and reinforcement for a decision they’ve already made to cut the cheater out of their lives.

Despite my strong personal feelings on the subject and the decisive wording of my article, I try to be an ear more than a giver of advice.  Every situation has its own complications, and I am not a trained therapist.  What I do think is that everyone should listen to their inner voice, be very cautious with someone who has already lied and cheated, and not settle for a bad partner out of fear and complacency.

Today I was contacted by a woman who very eloquently shared her story and what brought her to my blog.  I requested permission to share her story because it resonated with me.  Her story sounds like mine.  Maybe it sounds like yours.  There are many common threads in relationships where cheating is involved.  There is also power in hearing other people’s experiences.   She was kind enough to allow me to share in the hopes that someone could benefit from reading it.  Here is her personal story of leaving a cheater:

“I am a young woman from Ireland who has just discovered your blog. I just wanted to send you an email to say that your post ‘Why You Should Leave a Cheater’ is probably, no, most definitely, the best piece of advice I ever could have read.

Recently I’ve gone through a very rough patch with my partner of 1.5 years. I would consider myself a strong, confident, ambitious woman but because of him, I felt like nothing more than a few pieces of broken glass. He completely tore me apart as a person, and still, I stayed with him because ‘he needed my help’ to sort out his mess of a head. My family and friends hated him, but I thought that love conquers all, excuse the cliche.

After all my attempts to keep both of our heads above the water, I discovered he cheated on me, not physically but emotionally. Although there was no physical contact, I have no doubt that I will never feel pain comparable to that of seeing filthy pictures and messages exchanged between my partner and a woman from his past. I broke things off, and just as you described in your post, his tears started streaming, nose running, condemning himself for what he had put me through and the exclamations of how he couldn’t live with himself. And also, just like you, I felt so sorry for him. Look at this poor guy, he made a mistake, one stupid mistake and surely people deserve a second, third, fourth or fifth chance? How glad I am that I never offered that chance.

My partner was an emotionally abusive partner and it took me too long to acknowledge, accept and realise this. When I broke it off with him, I felt like I had been let out of a cage for the first time in months. I felt so free. I’m no expert, but I don’t think many people feel like that when they leave a relationship. So I was moving on, discovering new and amazing people, learning that there ARE people out there that I deserve, and yes, I do deserve better than the love he gave me. As I was moving onwards and upwards, we bumped into each other on a night out. We talked and he broke down in tears, exclaiming how losing me had opened up his eyes and changed him, making him see that he didn’t want to be THAT person. He begged me to consider giving him the chance to prove himself, and to prove that I could trust him.

After a few days consideration, it was last night that I told him I simply could not allow him the chance to regain my trust, as I had not yet accepted or moved past the hurt he caused me. Oh, and the fact that I didn’t, in the slightest, deserve any of it. Looking into his red,puffy eyes as he promised me he had been snapped into reality, and that he had changed for the better, I really did think ‘what if that is true’? He said it with such conviction that it made me think, ‘if he has changed, we could have the most perfect relationship out there’. I considered that maybe, just for the fact that he seemed so genuine about changing, we could actually be great together.

But I took a step back from my emotionally clouded judgement, and remembered the moment I found those pictures and filthy messages. I remembered the time he squared up to me and backed me into a corner. I remembered the time he told me I looked like a slut in my new top that I loved. I remembered the time he threatened to drive away in my car if I didn’t get back in it. I remembered the time he didn’t defend me when his friend called me fat. I remembered every little time that my heart twinged with pain. I looked into his eyes and told him I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t give him that next chance, because I wanted to grow and rebuild every part of me that he knocked down.

This morning, I had slight doubts and googled, ‘Have I made the right decision to leave my boyfriend’? That’s when your blog post popped up. And thank God for that. It’s so, so refreshing to know that someone ‘gets it’. Although I wish you and I had never gone through that pain, in a way, I now feel ready to offer helpful advice to others in a similar situation. I know that if my daughter one day goes through something similar, I’ll know exactly what to say and why.

Break ups, no matter what the reason, can be excruciating, especially when you feel like you’re not leaving just one person, but their whole family too. You’re cutting off what was your livelihood, love and passion for years. But when I doubt myself, and I read posts like the one you wrote, it makes me think I’m not the only one who has had to make these decisions. Thank you for taking the time to write that, because it really has cemented in my mind that this is what I want to do, this is the right decision. So thank you.

I read a quote recently that said ‘we accept the love we think we deserve’, and it’s very true. Right now, I’m certain that I deserve more, so why settle for shade when I can have sunlight?”

I hope anyone who reads her words will think about the type of love that you deserve and not accept less.

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10 Excuses People Use to Stay with a Cheater

15 Aug

I wanted to post a follow-up to my last opinion piece.  I talked about reasons to leave a cheater (or, rather, reasons to kick them out).  This one will address what I believe are common excuses that people tell themselves to stay.

1.  “I owe it to him/her to see if this can work.”  No, you don’t.  You don’t owe the cheater anything.  You’ve already given things a chance to work, and they didn’t.  Your spouse threw that away.  They chose not to work on things (themselves or the marriage, if there were marital issues before they strayed).  Instead, they caused further destruction.  Face it, your relationship wasn’t great before or during the cheating.  Communication and intimacy have to be screwed up for something like that to be possible, and your partner obviously had no concern for your feelings or, often times, health.  Now that something this huge and damaging and hurtful is added on top, what was shitty before is not going to become magically wonderful.

2.  “But he/she loves me.”  That is not love.  Someone who cheats on you does not love you enough to stay faithful.  See this post for an elaboration on this point.  It was written by a wayward spouse, with my commentary added, and it really takes a hard look at the kind of “love” a cheating partner is showing.

3.  “But I love him/her.”  I’m sure you do.  You’re not getting that love back (see above, and just look at their actions).  Love isn’t always enough, especially if it isn’t returned in equal measure.  A relationship with a cheater is incredibly unbalanced because the faithful partner obviously cares much more than the unfaithful one.  Loving someone can be a good thing, but it can also cause you to devalue yourself if it gets to the point where your love leads you to accept treatment and behavior that is completely unacceptable.  Try loving yourself first, just as much or more than you love them.
screenshot952013-08-04-18-38-17-114. “What will happen to him/her if I leave? I can’t abandon him in such a vulnerable time. What if he commits suicide? Him, him, him, him, him, ad nauseum…”   I see this so much, and I just want to grab the person, shake them, and tell them to stop making it about the cheater.  Stop expending your energy and emotions over their feelings when they didn’t care one iota about yours.  Do you need to be cruel and mean and hurt them the way that they did you?  No, absolutely not.  In fact, I discourage it because it won’t help you.

However, you do NOT need to fuss over them, or worry about the ramifications that their choices will have on their lives (it was THEIR job to do that, and they obviously decided the risk was worth it).  Believe me, they are playing that sympathy card and working you like a fiddle.  They know the more they can put the attention on their poor, pitiful me act, the more you will be distracted and the less you will focus on how you’re feeling.

Don’t fall into the trap of comforting the cheater more than you comfort yourself or looking out for their interests more than your own.  You can give them the phone number to the crisis/ suicide hotline and the yellow pages for a psychologist with emergency appointments if they really are considering that route, because they need professional help anyway.  Other than that, take care of yourself, and let them deal with the fallout from their actions, whatever they may be.  The bottom line is that you cannot live for someone else.

5.  “He/she is so sorry!” Sure they are… sorry that they got caught.  No matter sorry they claim to be or how guilty they say it made them feel, they were able to get past that long enough to cheat.  If they are one of the rare few who actually confessed what they did, it was most likely for selfish reasons.  Furthermore, being sorry does not change anything about what they chose to do.

6.  “He/she never loved the affair partner.”  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If they didn’t, that’s actually worse.  Someone who can throw away fidelity and their spouse’s trust over a person who they have no feelings or attachments to is the scariest kind of cheater.  It reeks of sociopathy.  And if they were in love?  Then there are a whole new set of problems to consider.
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7.  “I don’t have any other options.”  There are always other options.  Don’t stay because you feel trapped.  Use the law to your advantage, reach out to family or friends, find an organization that helps people in situations like that, look into pro bono attorneys, think about taking a class, even a low-cost community one, and give yourself a fighting chance at happiness.  Unless you’re kidnapped, enslaved, or chained down, there are always ways to get out.

8.  “He/she is the best I’ll ever find.”  This one makes me sad.  People who tell themselves this have had their self-esteem beaten down to the point where they feel like the poor treatment they are getting is the best they deserve.  I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  There are millions of people in the world.  There is no “the one.”  Does that mean there aren’t some people out there who will stay single forever and not find another person to fall in love with?  No, I wouldn’t go that far.  However, I firmly believe that it is better to be happy on your own than be taken advantage of by someone just to have a “partner.”  I put that in quotes because anyone who behaves that way isn’t a real partner at all.  I’d rather be in a ship alone that in it with someone who keeps shooting holes in the bottom.  Plus, when you take care of yourself and learn to find fulfilment within yourself, you will start attracting people toward you without even meaning to.

Maybe this is your longest relationship or the best, healthiest one you’ve ever been in.  Even if it’s the best you’ve ever had, it’s still not good enough. If you can’t trust your partner, you can’t build a life together. Move on. It will be hard, it will hurt, and you will grieve. But it will allow you to find someone you can trust who will be all of those things you deserve

9.  “I’m ashamed.  What will we tell our friends/family/kids?”  You have nothing to be ashamed of.  You can’t make someone cheat.  That is a decision that they make all on their own, no matter how bad the marriage was to begin with.  There are always options – talking about it, therapy, marriage retreats, plainly stating that xyz needs aren’t being met and it’s making me think about xyz, asking for a divorce, going to a pastor or religious leader (if that’s your thing), and the list goes on.  They chose not to do that.  Instead, they cheated.  There is nothing shameful about walking away at that point.  Tell people whatever you want to tell them.  The truth, if you feel comfortable, or nothing if you don’t.  It’s not their business anyway.  Now for the kids part…

10. “I can’t leave because of the kids.” I don’t have children, so I’m obviously not a parent.  I’m not a child psychologist.  Surprisingly, I haven’t even dug up a lot of research on this subject to post here (although you know that sounds just like me to do, and I have read plenty of it in my journey through this mess because of my thirst for knowledge).  Instead, I’m going to tell you a story.

My family growing up looked perfect. From the outside. My parents didn’t really fight in front of us. They didn’t really have conflicts.  My Dad had some control issues and not very much patience, there wasn’t a lot of affection, and there was sometimes tension in my household, but no one from the outside knew anything was wrong.  As I child I couldn’t point to one thing and say – “that’s really messed up” or “because of THAT my parents aren’t a good match.”  However, I remember wishing, praying, and even once begging my Mom to get a divorce.  I think she was taken aback that time, because I truly believe she thought they hid things exceptionally well.

And they did, for the most part.  There was no cheating.  No abuse.  No horrible, terrible things happening in my house.  But there also wasn’t happiness, love, or open kisses and hugs between my parents.  I had a wonderful childhood in just about every sense – I had everything I needed and more.  I had support from both parents.  I was involved in sports and they both cheered me on, I had horses, went to shows, we ate dinner as a family together every single night, and more.  But I knew.  I just KNEW that they weren’t happy.

It was in the air.  I could sense it, even if I couldn’t put my finger on it.  The relationship I had modeled for me was not a healthy one.  The marriage I watched the entire time I was growing up is not what a real marriage should be.  It was like looking at something through the bottom of a thick glass.  Or looking at your reflection in a spoon.  It was warped.  Off.  The best word I can think of to use is unfulfilling.  It was unfulfilling.  Suffocating, even.  Except that everyone thought it was wonderful.  While I was envying my friends’ divorced parents, people were admiring how great it was that my parents were still together.  If only they knew what it was really like for us kids…  It’s horrible to know something isn’t right but to have everyone around you not acknowledge that fact.

My parents stayed married until I was 18 or 19.  It wasn’t long after I left the house.  My brother and sister lived there when they separated.  My brother went off to college a year or so after, but my sister was still there through the divorce.  I remember talking to my parents, really talking to them both, for the first time in years… maybe ever.  Especially my Dad.  The honesty was so refreshing it was like a revelation.  All of the pretend and make-believe, the façade that we put up as a family… I finally got confirmation that I wasn’t imagining it.

From my Mom, too.  We were always pretty close, and she recognized my intelligence and treated me accordingly from a fairly young age.  But from that point on it was different.  She told me stories and things about their early years together, about the conflicts and family struggles that brought them together.  She told me about things that I never, ever would have imagined happened.  She told me about the pain of losing her father and having my Dad’s father be in jail.  How she thought about leaving, even back then, but never could find the “right time.”  She told me how circumstances interceded, how she got swept up in it, how we children were the best things she got out of the marriage, and other things.

We all made it through just fine.  In fact, it was the best decision, by far, that they ever made.  Hell, I remember being as young as 7 or 8 when I would wish every night that my parents would split.   Ultimately, they did, and it was the best thing for both of them.  It was a little difficult for a year or two, more for them than for us children.  Honestly, we all got it.  My sister was the youngest… 13 I think.  Even she understood it was for the best.  I recall her saying something along the lines of how much it needed to happen, and how she was glad it did.

My parents are both remarried to spouses much better suited for them in every way.  Again, there was no great tragedy, no huge betrayal.  They were highschool sweethearts who came together during difficult times for both of them and fell into marriage.  It didn’t work.  They weren’t well matched.  They should have divorced well before they did.  I was the only one who spoke up and said it to their face, because that’s the kind of kid I was, but I wasn’t the only one who thought it.  We all did.

It didn’t irrevocably damage any of us.  In fact, the most damaging things of all were the years we lived with them pretending everything was fine when we could soooo tell it wasn’t.  I have a better relationship with my Dad now than I ever had.  My sister, who was maybe the most upset in the very beginning, now lives with my Dad.  We’re all close.  We love both of our parents completely.  We know that their failure to make a marriage work did not and does not reflect on us in the least.  We always knew that.  But living in the middle of the unhappiness was far, far, far more confusing than watching them let go.

The other thing?  Having parents who you can sense are unhappy, even as they pretend they aren’t, puts a lot of pressure on a kid.  I felt like I had to be perfect.  I couldn’t screw up because I couldn’t add any more stress to their lives.  I knew they already had plenty, even if they thought they were “protecting me” from that knowledge.  My brother was the super helper.  He would try extra hard to do all sorts of extra stuff.  That was his way of relieving the tension we could all feel.  My sister was the most sensitive of all.  She would try to be the peace-keeper, between my brother and I, between the animals, you name it.  We all knew something wasn’t right, and we all tried to be “better” to “fix it.”  We got to be great pretenders, too.

It took its toll.  I don’t think it’s by chance that my brother has never had a girlfriend, my sister has been involved in a string of relationships with losers, and I was married to someone who was never there for me emotionally or otherwise.  We learned from them.  We observed.  We were taught, whether we knew it or not, that relationships did not have emotional support.  Didn’t have affection.  My sister now craves that affection and grasps onto anyone who gives it.  My brother avoids connections, partly because he’s shy but I believe largely because he doesn’t know how to interact with a woman in a healthy way.  I’m a mess.

I can’t blame my parents completely.  I’ve made poor choices.  My issues are my own.  But I did learn from them.  I learned from watching.  They taught me excellent things separately.  My Dad taught me how to play softball, how to be financially responsible, what it means to be a hard worker, and so much more.  My Mom literally taught me logical thinking, empathy, how to show people respect, how to write a great paper, how to study, how to be a woman, and so many things I could never name.  But together… they weren’t a good couple.  They weren’t a good example of what a marriage or a relationship should be.  They’re all I had to model against, though… their relationship is the only one got to see, day in and day out.

I tell you that story to tell you this – I may not be a parent, but I was a kid of parents who should have divorced long before they did.  Children deserve an example of a healthy relationship.   I know some people with children think that holding onto something broken that makes them unhappy is somehow the best choice for their kids.  It’s not.  A situation that makes you miserable is not healthy for anyone, your kids especially.  It doesn’t set a good example.  Neither does sticking around after being betrayed and lied to, over and over.  Kids seek out the type of marriage that they see their parents display.  It’s a subconscious choice that takes a lot of hard work to fight against.  No matter what you SAY to them, it is what you DO that makes all of the difference.  When you have an unhealthy example, that’s what you gravitate towards, even if you think you know better.  How do I know?  I lived it.

What other excuses do you tell yourself to justify staying in a bad situation?  If you really looked at them, these excuses that you tell yourself, how valid would they be?  How many other people deal with the same circumstances and come out just fine?

Why You Should Leave a Cheater

14 Aug

Most people say that they would leave a cheating spouse or partner when they have a clear head.  Before it has ever happened to them.

That is the right kind of thinking.  The way we think of cheating before it has happened to us is the thinking of a rational, logical brain.  It is the thinking of someone who is clear-headed, unbiased, and can see the reality of a situation.

You know how it’s always easier to give someone advice than it is to take it yourself?  That’s because when you’re giving advice you can step back and see the big picture.  You can weigh the facts and the likelihood of every scenario, and make a calculated, educated decision.  You can really see the truth of a situation as it stands.

Recently a blogging buddy (and real-life friend), Samantha Baker of Repairing Shattered Pieces, brought my attention to an article, 10 Reasons Not to Take Back a Cheating Husband.  I found myself nodding along emphatically the entire time I was reading.

I then went back to her blog and read her counterpoints to that article about why someone SHOULD stay with a cheating spouse, Reasons to Take Back a Cheating Husband.   I love my dear friend, and she made some valid points and arguments from her perspective and in her situation.  However, I have to strongly disagree.

I’m going to address things as I see them, using my own experiences as a guide.  Does that mean this will be biased?  Absolutely!  I’m now past the point where I can take an unemotional look at this topic, as is anyone who has been embroiled in any side of cheating.  It would be impossible for me not to infuse my history with a cheating, lying husband into this narrative.  So I won’t insult your intelligence as readers by pretending otherwise.

So what is it about the original article that resonated so much with me?  It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing, so I’ll take you on the journey that I went on.  I was always the strong, independent, and rather opinionated woman who stood firm in the belief that if someone cheated on me, lied to me, disrespected me, and took advantage of me, I would leave them.  Period.  Just that simple, just that easy.  I didn’t deserve it, and I wouldn’t accept it.

Then it happened to me.  My live-in boyfriend, who I had been with for over a year, cheated on me.

My world stopped.

I should have kicked him out.  I should have moved on.  I should have pictured the rest of my life unfolding with this untrustworthy person and run for the hills.

Instead, I felt sorry for him.  My empathy kicked in.  I saw him cry, snot coming out of his nose, seemingly remorseful and saying he hated himself so much that he wanted to drive his car into a telephone pole.  I listened to him beg for another chance and promise to treat me right.  I heard all of his excuses and watched him put himself down.  And I felt compassion for him.  Love and tenderness even, after everything.

I felt something else, too.  Fear.  I was afraid to let go.  I knew that it probably wasn’t the best thing for me to stay with him.  But I couldn’t bring myself to move forward.  Instead, I just stayed where I was.

Gradually, the searing pain went away.  Things got swept under the rug.  I was comfortable enough that I didn’t want to rock my world or risk not finding someone else.  I did a lot of justifying and rationalizing.  And I stayed.

It was expected that we would get married, so we did.  More “red flag” behavior popped up about a month or two before our wedding.  I almost called it off.  Again, I chickened out, caved, and did what I was “supposed to do.”

Then we went through a year and a half of therapy.  The counseling was completely worthless for our marriage because he was lying the entire time.  It helped me to start getting stronger, little by little, though.  There were hundreds of times during those 18 months when I should have been done.  Finished.  Gone.  But I wasn’t.

I had lots of great reasons to leave him, and really no reason to stay.  Oh, I had things that I thought were reasons, but they were just excuses. The things that kept me, personally, hanging on were:

  • I was codependent and wanted to “save” him.
  • I had a fantasy in my head that he would “get better,” live up to his “potential,” and be a good partner.
  • I had low self-esteem and didn’t think I deserved any more or better.
  • It felt good to feel needed.  I was the provider, the responsible one, the victim, and the selfless partner who sacrificed it all for someone who was so cruel to me. I played the part well, and I was comfortable there.  I am a giver by nature, but mostly I didn’t think I deserved better.
  • I was ashamed of what I’d been through, and I didn’t want to be a divorcé.  The stigma still felt huge (even though it turned out not to be).
  • I didn’t want to give up.  I HATE being thought of as a quitter. In fact, my marriage was the first thing I didn’t follow through to completion.
  • Promises meant something to me then, and they still do now.  I made vows that were a promise to him, yes, but also to me and my entire family and all of my friends. I felt like I owed it to THEM to try my hardest. I didn’t trust him, but I felt like just because he broke his promise didn’t mean I had to.
  • I bought into the “sunk cost fallacy” that I would be “wasting” all of the time and effort I put into the relationship if I ended it, and that if I just held on a little longer my “investment” would “pay off.”

What it really came down to, though, was fear.  I was afraid, and I scrambled to find any “reason” to hold on that I could.  Even though my reality sucked, the misery I knew seemed somehow easier to bear than the terrifying unknown.

I wanted to believe the fantasies and pipe dreams that people preach.  The “happily ever after cheating” stories were few and far between (for a reason), but still I clung to them.  Many of the people who had positive stories had seemingly fallen off the face of the planet (blogs that were discontinued, people who left the forums, or one and done articles).  Conversely, there were those who had written some book to sell to other desperate people like me so that they could make a few bucks.

I had never believed in that self-help crap before.  I used to scoff at that book aisle and feel sorry for anyone who thought that they would find the answers to life or their problems there.  Those people said what they needed to say to make money.  They polished their turds and pretended they smelled like roses, then sold them in bouquets to gullible readers.  Most of them said conflicting things – the solution was different from one to the next, but they all had the magic potion to make the marriage and cheater better.  More importantly, they were all designed to play to a person’s fears.

Suddenly, though, I was full of fear.  I rejected all of the things that I said and believed before, like “I’m worth more than this.”  Instead, I clung to false hope that somehow this person who I fell in love with wasn’t a horrible, selfish, untrustworthy, broken man who had and would stomp on my heart in a second if it got him what he wanted.

I was wrong.  He was all of that and then some.  I was kidding myself.  I was telling myself lies because those lies made me feel better.  Safer.

How ridiculous!

He continued to lie to me, and I helped him do it by betraying my own sense of what I deserve.  By accepting a cheater.  By allowing him to stay in my life.  I put myself through unneeded pain because I was afraid and because I settled.  I wanted to believe the delusional drivel of people who justified their decision to stay in marriages with crappy spouses out of codependency and fear.  I bought the façade they were selling that something terrible and deceitful and foul could be good (because the hard truth that things were still shaky wouldn’t sell books).  I watched other women in support groups bury their problems and concerns and fears under a blanket of denial, and that blanket looked warmer than cold reality.

If you’ve taken this journey with me and you’re still here, I applaud you.  I have been known to be wordy.  Now I’ll get back to my thoughts on the points in those two articles.

Here’s my (completely jaded) list of why you should leave a cheater:

  1. The relationship is broken, and it won’t get better.  Even if it does, by some miracle, who wants to settle for a relationship that’s slightly better than complete and total shit?  You will never have a relationship with true freedom, trust, and respect because at least one partner has already spit all over that (any maybe both, depending on the state of the marriage before the cheating occurred).  There’s no going back.  There’s no untainting rotten meat.  The purity, the sanctity, the sense that the other person will sacrifice for you, put you first, fight to do what’s right, and love, honor, and cherish you are gone.  Forever.  There’s no unbreaking something that’s broken.  A vase that has been smashed can be glued together again.  It can even look alright, but it will never be as strong.  Those cracks will always be there, weakening the entire structure.
  2. When you stay with someone who has already cheated on you, you will always wonder if it will happen again.  For good reason.  Someone who chooses to cheat is much more likely to be someone who takes the easy way out.  They’re the kind of person who will look outside of their marriage instead of talking and addressing concerns head-on with their partner.  They likely have deep issues that may never be revealed or fully resolved.  Generally speaking, they are cowards who would rather run from problems or pretend they don’t exist than face them.  Very likely, they have been that way for their entire lives and will continue to be conflict avoidant, withdrawing as a main coping mechanism, for the remainder of your relationship because that is their go-to.  Alternatively, they could be aggressive and entitled.  Either is a recipe for disaster, and you will likely find yourself in a place where your trust has been betrayed again.
  3. Children learn by example, and actions mean more than words.  Your children will find out that cheating tore apart your relationship.  They probably already know more than you think.  I have never been on either side of this situation because my parents didn’t cheat on one another and I don’t have children of my own.  For that reason, I will refrain from too much commentary on this subject.  I will simply said that what a child sees in his or her parents’ relationship becomes the model for future relationships.  Is this what you would want for your child?
  4. You’ll need therapy either way, but you should focus on YOURSELF.  Finding a good therapist has been a lifeline for me in this process.  Whether you stay or leave, you will want to talk to someone.  The sooner you can focus on yourself, and your own needs, fears, desires, and growth, the better off you will be.  Finding your inner strength and learning how to be independent, confident, and happy is a lot easier when you don’t have someone dragging you down into their muck.  Get rid of the baggage, and your balloon will rise a lot higher, a lot faster.
  5. You will BE safer.  No one wants to think that the person they love has exposed them to a disease.  You need a reality check if you’re with a cheater.  Likely, they have.  Whether it was a one-night stand or a long-term affair (or god forbid a string of affairs, or multiple one-night stands, or even prostitutes), your partner probably wasn’t safe all of the time.  Maybe they weren’t safe any of the time.  Someone who could risk their own health and yours like that isn’t someone you want to continue putting your trust in.  Want to keep gambling with your life?  I don’t.
  6. You will second guess yourself and your worth constantly if you stay, and your self-esteem will continue to be crushed each time you look at this person who didn’t think enough of you to stay faithful.  Not to mention the mind movies.  They will plague you.  Every time your partner touches you, you will think of the other person (or people) that they touched.  You will have flashbacks and triggers that will pop up years, maybe even decades later.  You will try to control these.  You will wish and beg and plead with yourself to get rid of them.  But they will invade at the most inopportune times – watching a movie, seeing a commercial, trying to have sex, passing an old photograph, and even attending a family event or birthday or holiday, when you suddenly remember that during a very similar event you were being lied to and betrayed.  Even if you have the best self-esteem on the planet before your spouse cheats, you will feel less than when you look in their eyes.  Will it all disappear immediately if you leave?  No, but some of it will.  And the rest can be dealt with so much more efficiently without the cause of all of those triggers and fears waiting for you in bed every night (just the thought makes me shudder).
  7. Things get better much faster when you cut the cheater loose.  This is from personal experience.  The last DDay (discovery day, when further betrayals were revealed) with my then husband was in March of 2011.  I was in a living hell, in one way or another, until September of 2012 when I kicked him out.  Small revelations and untruths were revealed during that time – too many to count.  The agony actually started in January of 2009 with the first discovery of cheating.  It took three years to get basic truths about his cheating, even just the number of women he cheated with (4, not 1).   Those three years were a constant struggle, complete with individual counseling, marriage counseling, group meetings, depression medication, journaling and blogging, a marriage retreat, many sleepless nights, and more lies than I care to remember.  He’s now been gone for less than a year and I’ve made more progress personally than in all of those years combined.  I also have more peace, happiness, joy (something I could barely fathom during those dark years), and hope for my future than would be possible if I were still with him (without a doubt).
  8. There is no “easy way.”  I do think that there is an “easier” way, and that is to face your fears head on.  Things are always scarier when you’re standing in the dark.  So turn the light on.  Really look at your situation.  And I mean, really look.  Is this where you want to be?  Will staying here make you happy?  Is holding onto something broken really your best bet?  Or are you just scared?  Confused?  Are you projecting the compassion and empathy that you wish your spouse would have given you onto them?  Are you choosing to believe them because lies are more comfortable than the truth?  Are you just making excuses?  Is your spouse REALLY going to change?  Are they putting forth honest effort and hard work, without you forcing them to?  Do they really want to be with you, or are THEY just scared and comfortable and hesitant to strike out on their own?  Is this the best you can do?  What would you tell your best friend if they were in this situation?  How about your Mom, sister, or daughter?  Answer honestly, then think about those answers, trust them, and act.
  9. Be your own partner.  Advocate for yourself.  Treat yourself with kindness.  Demand what you deserve, and don’t settle for any less.  Be as understanding of your own needs and emotions as you are of his (or hers).  Stop putting yourself last.  Stop second-guessing yourself.  Stop making excuses for the crappy partner you have, who stomped all over you.  Instead of worrying about “fixing” or “saving” or “helping” someone else, do all of that for yourself.  If he (or she) wanted to be better, they would be already.  They know right from wrong, and they always have.  If they don’t, it’s even more of a reason to run like hell.  Accept that they knew EXACTLY what they were doing, and still chose to cheat, without concern for you.  Become concerned for yourself.  Start finding your own fulfilment outside of anyone else.
  10. You deserve someone who would never intentionally hurt you.  Cheating is a deliberate act.  Either your spouse didn’t really care for you and love you, or they don’t even know how to.  Either way, you deserve more.  And there’ more out there.  In fact, being with no one is better than being with someone who harms you on purpose.  See #9.

So my advice is not really to “leave” a cheater, but rather to kick their ass to the curb with confidence and gusto!

If this article resonated with you, check out the companion piece: 10 Excuses People Use to Stay with a Cheater.

If you want more stories about what can change when you leave a cheater, read Letter from a Reader: Leaving a Cheater

Finally, I’ll leave you with this lesson from a very wise woman:

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Letting Go of False Fairytales

9 Jan

Have I mentioned lately that I love Pandora radio?  Right.  I have.  Well, today it did it again – played the perfect song.  I don’t know how it knew.  I don’t even like Taylor Swift usually.  In fact, I think I have “thumbs downed” a few of her songs in the past.  Her voice is too sweet and childish for me.  She seems to fall in love every other second.  I find her pretty annoying, honestly.  Her winning vocalist of the year is a joke.  She may be a great song-writer, but a vocal powerhouse she is not.

With all that being said, today her song White Horse came on my Pandora radio channel, and everything froze just for a second.  I have heard the song many times before, but today I really listened.  Then I looked up the below video.  I didn’t cry, but I’m certain that another day, another time I would have.  This is where I was 3 months ago (almost to the day).  Maybe some of you are there now.  Personally, I’m living in the very end of that song – the part where I know there is someone else who will actually treat me the way I deserve.  I’m glad that I let go of that false fairytale.

 Lyrics – White Horse

Say you’re sorry
That face of an angel comes out
Just when you need it to
As I pace back and forth all this time
‘Cause I honestly believed in you
Holding on,
The days drag on
Stupid girl
I should have known, I should have known

That I’m not a princess
This ain’t a fairytale
I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet
Lead her up the stairwell
This ain’t Hollywood,
This is a small town
I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
Now its too late for you and your White Horse,
To come around

Baby I was naíve,
Got lost in your eyes
I never really had a chance.
My mistake, I didn’t know,
To be in love you had to fight to get the uppper hand
I had so many dreams about you and me
Happy endings
Now I know

I’m not a princess
This ain’t a fairytale
I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet
Lead her up the stairwell
This ain’t Hollywood,
This is a small town
I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
Now its too late for you and your White Horse,
To come around.

And there you are on your knees
Begging for forgiveness,
Begging for me
Just like I always wanted,
But I’m so sorry

Cause I’m not your princess
This ain’t our fairytale
I’m gonna find someone, someday
Who might actually treat me well.
This is a big world,
That was a small town
There in my rear view mirror,
Disappearing now.
And it’s too late for you and your White Horse
Now its too late for you and your White Horse
To catch me now.

Oh whoa whoa whoa-oh
Try and catch me now
Oh
It’s too late
To catch me now

Forgiveness in the Face of Turmoil

13 Oct

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His “Rules” About Cheating

8 Oct

The last few days I have been trying really hard to process things.  I am realizing that it is harder to get into the mind of a serial cheater than the average person could ever understand.  I don’t recommend it at all, actually.

One of the things that shocked me are all of the non-sensical “rules” he had about things.  The way that he justified his behavior is absurd to me.  For instance, once he found a new woman to sex chat with online, he was only with her.  He didn’t seek out more than one sex chatting partner at a time.  He said that would have been too much for him…  Really?  If I wanted random, fairly anonymous sexual contact online, I would diversify.  Why only have one skank I could run to online?  Why not 5 or 6?  More chances to wank off!  More diversity!  More options!  Nope…  Not him.  He had exclusive, monogamous relationships with his random internet sex hookups.

He also had a fairly standard progression to things.  Go to chat room.  Seek out women to talk to.  Make sexual advances.  Attach to the first person to respond positively (yeah, that’s right… just the first sad, pathetic woman with no self-esteem and loose morals).  Escalate your chatting activity, phone sex, and virtual sexual contact for 3-6 months.  Verbally abuse the woman to the extent she would allow – the more often you could call her a bitch, whore, slut, cunt, etc. the better.  Once that got boring, choose a spot to meet up for in person contact.   Drive (sometimes hours) to see her.  Get drunk and high.  Fuck her a few times (as often as he could get it up).  Leave.  Never speak to her again.  Ignore all contact.  Repeat.

Yeah…  that was basically his pattern for 20 years.

Except… for when he was in a relationship.  Then the rules were different.  Don’t get me wrong, the above pattern was still basically the same.  Actually, exactly the same.  The only difference is that he had an “exclusive” girlfriend as well.  He wouldn’t see the girlfriend and the internet sex buddy on the same day.

So, if you keep following that logic…  He was more exclusive with them than he ever was with me!  That’s right!  He couldn’t have two internet skanks at the same time, but he could have one of them AND one of me.

Or, in fact, 4 of them and me.  Never all at once – THAT would be going too far, of course.

I discovered that the entire time we were dating he was maybe exclusive with me for 6 months.  He was involved in one of his fairly anonymous sexual “relationships” when we met.  He slept with his latest internet whore in the beginning of us dating.  That means he was probably close to the point in his cycle with the new harlot where he was getting bored.  Luckily, since he started dating me, he changed that plan and just kept cyber-fucking women in chat rooms.

When he asked me to be exclusive with him he got rid of his latest internet flavor of the month.  What followed was the 6 month period when he didn’t have a fuck buddy.  Don’t worry, though, he was still hiding pornography and jacking off to that multiple times a day while denying me sex, and there were at least one or two visits to strip clubs in there.  I still wasn’t alone in his head.

He can’t tell me a timeline for the other 3 – or at least he hasn’t tried to yet.  I do know that they followed a similar cycle to above except at some point he would realized how fucked up his action were, feel guilty, and stop.  He said the fact that he cared for me would trigger his guilt until at some point he felt worse about himself than good from what he was doing (as the buzz was fading).

Except for the last one.  Apparently there was nothing disgusting, nasty or mean enough that he could say to her.  And apparently knowing that our relationship was more solid and comfortable pushed him farther into his fantasy with her.  He thought I would forgive him if he was caught.  I’m so glad I lived up my part of that pathetic expectation.

When he made that revelation, I asked him  why feeling solid and safe with me would cause him to act out more.  He said in his mind he knew I would be there.  I had already discovered him hiding and lying about pornography, which crashed my laptop, and seen a few chats accidentally, and hadn’t kicked him out yet.  The more likely he could get caught, the more excited he was.  He also said it was easier for him to lie to me than to come to me and express any fantasies.  So in his mind, forgiveness = the ability to do anything he wanted to do and license to keep lying.

So how can I not expect the same behavior now?  How does that not mean that forgiving him won’t just lead to the same thing?  I thought I was at that point with the information I had, then all of this new information has again left me feeling devastated and on shaky ground.  My entire picture of our relationship has shifted.  Now I know that I was never his only “girlfriend,” although he never called the online skanks that.  Now I know that he has had about 5 times more sexual partners than I thought.  Now I know that only a week before our wedding he wasn’t committed to me.  He wasn’t committed to us.  He didn’t care about my feelings.  He lied to my face, and asked his best man to do the same (I just found that out last night).  If I forgive all of that am I just setting myself up for something much, much worse? (I think yes!)

To his credit, he did try to help me through this.  He told me all of the things that have changed for him from then to now.  He said that one key is that he knows he has a problem now.  Before (as incredibly difficult as it is for me to grasp), he didn’t think any of his behavior was a problem.  He would feel guilty and stop, yet somehow that wasn’t a problem.  When he started back up because he couldn’t help himself, that wasn’t a problem in his mind.  When I caught him, and he continued lying, he didn’t see the problem.  Now he does.

He also had medication to help him think clearer since he had undiagnosed mental conditions before.  Now he said he can think in the more linear process that the rest of us use.  He has accepted what he is, and he is going to therapy to correct it.  He also said that he knows forgiveness isn’t a given – that maybe I won’t be able to forgive him – or if I do that it will cause a lot of pain and hurt.

I still have a lot of concerns.  I still have a lot of fears.  I have a lot of questions, a lot of worries, a lot of problems with the things that he revealed.  I’m not sure what to do with them all right now, but I’m trying my best to hold on and keep going.

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.

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.

The High Price of Forgiveness

27 Sep

By hang_in_there, Some Rights Reserved

This article has been making the rounds through several blogs that I follow.  I decided to share it here not because I have an aversion to Reblogging or because I somehow think my perspective on this is better than anyone else’s, but because I wanted to have these powerful words close by and easily accessible.  I wanted to have a reminder of this on my page because these words are incredibly powerful.

There is a price to forgive, and it is a high one for the spouse who has been cheated on.  It is just as high for the spouse of a sex addict.  We give up so many parts of ourselves – our expectations, our hopes, our ideals, our strong belief in fidelity above all else, our naive certainty that our life partner wouldn’t intentionally harm us, our sense of safety, our unconditional trust, our pride, our self-respect, our ability to live a normal, trigger-free life, our sanity (sometimes), and so, so much more.

Betrayed spouses and spouses of sex addicts are often advised to name their losses and grieve over them.  I have done that in small baby steps, here and there.  This article listed a lot of those sacrifices and losses in one place.  Reading the story, seeing my own losses mirrored so eloquently and poignantly, and taking a moment to grieve again was very therapeutic yesterday.

I also realized that I am at a point where I forgive my husband.  I’m not sure when it happened – I couldn’t tell you the exact moment – but it did.  I have a deep peace about what happened and what we are doing to continue making our marriage stronger.  I feel safer in my marriage right now than I have in a long time.  I am gaining back some of the pieces of myself that I had to sacrifice to stay.

I think there is another phase of forgiveness: when those things you lost begin to be restored, little by little.  I will never have the naive, unconditional trust, but I do have trust in him.  I don’t check the computer or his phone.  I don’t worry about whether he will cross our boundaries – if he does I have a plan and there are consequences – but the anxiety is far, far lower than it has ever been.  I use the “trust but verify” method, although the “verify” part is getting less and less necessary.  Now “verify” might just mean paying attention to the tone of his voice and the real sincerity behind his words.  It means listening to my gut about whether something makes sense or not, and accepting how I feel.

I have reached the point where my pride and self-respect isn’t influenced by what he does or doesn’t do.  I am realizing that my forgiveness and desire to repair our marriage is a testament to my character and makes me stronger, not weaker.  I no longer care what anyone else might think of me because of it, what society may judge me as, or even what the OW might ever have thought of me.  None of that matters because I am secure in knowing that my decision is turning out for the better.

Letting go of my ideals and expectations was so, so scary at first.  It was painful and humiliating to think that my picture of my relationship was false.  Accepting that our story wasn’t going to be neat, pretty, and the way I had envisioned in my head was a loss I had to grieve.  I can now see the value in losing my picture-perfect ideal, though.  Keeping an idealized view of a relationship is damaging.  It perpetuates delusions, it causes distance, it makes us dismiss things that don’t fit into our neat boxes, including aspects of our partner that could make us closer if we explored them.  My life isn’t perfect, my marriage isn’t perfect, and as much as we work on it I will always be married to a sex addict.  There will always be struggles.  But life always has struggles anyway.  Now we know that we are equipped to handle them.  Now we share our intimate thoughts and feelings more readily.  Now each new challenge should hopefully result in my husband and I rallying together, not drifting apart as we each try to hold onto our separate views of “how things should be.”

So, yes, there is a high price of forgiveness.  I also think that there is an equally high payout.  It just takes longer to get there, and there is a lot of pain along the way.  Some things may never come back.  Forgiveness doesn’t heal all wounds, it just makes it so the healing process can start.  I may have triggers for the rest of my life.  Forgiveness won’t take them away, but it will allow me to move farther and farther from that point of raw emotion.  Letting go of my need for “justice” is hard, but carrying it around with me keeps me on edge.  It keeps me focused on life’s unfairness.  That unfairness will always be there, though.  Just like my post yesterday, it’s about seeing the other things – the beauty and gifts that are also part of life.


Ever associated forgiveness with a big price tag?

by Rick Reynolds

What is the cost of forgiveness? What does this have to do with forgiving infidelity? We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first let me tell a story. Seventeen years ago, within the first two years of marriage, Sandra had multiple affairs. Doubts of whether she’d married the right man plagued her even before the wedding. A better man than Campbell she’d never find, but the spark was missing. She feared he’d be a Steady Freddie who was dull and commonplace. His impeccable character and undying love had captured her attention, but where was that romance of man and maid she’d so longed for? Those feelings never came.

About a year into the marriage Sandra’s boss invited her to lunch. From an innocent beginning blossomed a growing conflagration of passion. He understood her womanly need of small attentions and seemed to get her in ways Campbell never imagined. Justifying her affair was all too easy. She’d never felt like this before, confirming in her mind that she’d married the wrong person, and now she’d found the love of her life. Besides this wasn’t some spur of the moment impulsive whim, they’d spent their days at work talking about music, philosophy, religion and life. Milton knew her better in a month than Campbell had in 2 years.

For the first time in her life she felt compelled to recklessly abandon herself to another. It was like nothing she’d ever experienced, until Milton’s wife discovered their affair and filed for divorce. Milton immediately resigned his job and moved his family to another state. She was shocked; they had planned their future together and now, just like that, he was gone? He even told her he wanted nothing to do with her and to quit bugging him. The pain was unbearable, and even she was surprised at her response. Rather than grieving the loss and moving on, she numbed the pain with three more short-term affairs. What was the difference; she didn’t envision Campbell as any part of her future.

However, about a month after affair number three ended, she and Campbell conceived and life suddenly changed. She loved life as a mom and admired the way Campbell stepped up and supported the family. Over time she even grew to love her life and recognized she had indeed married well.

Skip forward 17 years when Campbell received a call from Milton’s wife. “I told him if it happened again I would no longer keep his secrets, and I just discovered he’s doing it again,” she said. “I thought that you might want to know your wife isn’t who you think she is. Why don’t you ask her about Milton?” Milton’s wife was coping with infidelity in a flurry of anger.

Initially, Sandra lied. She had decided to take the secret of her infidelity to her grave, but eventually she came clean about all four affairs before their first child’s birth. She pleaded for forgiveness; after all, it was 17 years past. But for Campbell it wasn’t seventeen years ago, ground zero was just last month. Forgiving infidelity for him didn’t seem possible. Seventeen years of faithfulness did nothing to ease the pain of her betrayal. In fact, it made it worse. She had caused him to live a lie for 17 years. He no longer trusted his current reality, his past, his future, his wife or himself. How could he have been so blind? How could he just forgive and move on?

For the sake of our discussion let me point out that there are two elements to what we refer to as forgiveness. The first is an internal matter where we choose to forgive the wrong committed against us and no longer expect justice as a result of their offense. Even more, we wish them well. The second element of forgiveness is about reconciliation. It’s where we choose to continue in relationship with that person in spite of their offense. For the sake of this discussion I’m focused on the second element, reconciliation.

All too often we talk about the high price of NOT forgiving. That forgiveness is a gift you give yourself and how failing to forgive leaves you forever a victim. We extol forgiveness as a virtue and share examples of those saints who forgave much to show forgiveness as a possibility. (Even though the fact we even share such stories indicate those people may be the exception, not the rule.) But forgiveness isn’t natural, especially when it comes to forgiving infidelity. It flows against our basic human nature. For most, our initial response to coping with infidelity is justice, not forgiveness. We want restitution, not mercy. We want the scales of justice to be balanced.

An understanding of the high cost of forgiveness seems to go missing when an offense is committed. Far too often I see an entitlement mentality when it comes to receiving forgiveness from our mate or forgiveness from God. As humans we’re supposed to forgive, right? In Christendom we teach “as God forgave us so we’re to forgive.” Isn’t that the lesson we teach our children? But we forget that forgiveness comes at a price. Even the Christian tradition teaches that the price God has paid to forgive mankind’s offenses was the life of His own Son. In the same way, the price paid by the betrayed spouse, if there is to be reconciliation, is high indeed.

What was the price of forgiveness in Campbell and Sandra’s case? Campbell had been an exceptional husband and father, not perfect by any means, but he’d lived and loved well. For him, forgiveness meant violating his personal beliefs and values. He would never have chosen to be with someone who betrayed, lied, and deceived him. He believed in the sanctity of marriage, and to choose to stay with Sandra came at the price of settling for something he never wanted.

Forgiving infidelity would mean sacrificing his dreams of the type of marriage he’d wanted. He’d never have the opportunity to brag to his children about the fidelity of their marriage. To stay meant sacrificing a marriage that was free from doubts. How could he ever again believe a word that she said if she’d been able to deceive him for 17 years? Staying meant the sacrificing of his dignity. He personally knew two of these men, and he now imagined how they’d seen him as the fool. To stay he’d have to sacrifice his rights. Didn’t he have the right to leave and find another who would be faithful to him? Staying and coping with infidelity meant sacrificing the ability to be honest with family. He couldn’t share his struggles, for fear of more complications. To stay would cost him pride. He’d always believed people who stayed were too weak to leave. To stay would cost his self-respect. He couldn’t believe things he’d said and done in his fits of rage. It would be so much easier to be away from her and not be triggered by her presence. To forgive seemed to make a mockery of all he’d sacrificed for the sake of their marriage. Instead of being proud of what he and Sandra had built, he now felt he’d been played the fool and taken advantage of.

All Campbell ever wanted was to love unconditionally and to be loved by someone special, but now his heart was so full of pain and distrust he wasn’t sure whether he could give himself to Sandra or anyone else again. Could he walk through the pain of her betrayal and face the demons he’d encounter if he ever gave himself to her again? For him, choosing to stay would cost him dearly.

Grace isn’t cheap; it comes at a high price. Failure to appreciate the high price paid by those choosing to forgive minimizes the magnitude of their sacrifice. The currencies used by the betrayed spouse to pay off the debt incurred by their mate’s betrayal are pride, ego, and suffering. Forgiving infidelity costs their dignity when they choose to stay rather than leave. It costs them their just due when they choose to forgo justice for the sake of the relationship. It costs them their sanity because they don’t control the painful thoughts invading their mind. Their present-day reality is constantly interrupted with painful memories of the past. It costs them their dreams because this road isn’t one they’d ever planned on traveling. It costs them health because the pain of the offense consumes their life. And I’m only beginning to scratch the surface.

As one who believes in the value of forgiving, I never want to be guilty of cheap grace, where I think it’s something to which I’m entitled. If justice is the standard, then the consequence of betrayal is the loss of relationship. Anything short of that is mercy, indeed. Failing to consider the price paid by others for my sake causes me to be careless with my behavior. Forgiveness and reconciliation are expensive gifts purchased through great suffering and sacrifice on the part of the offended. Failure to understand that reality makes me blind to the love displayed by those who choose to continue on in relationship…

How would you describe the cost of forgiveness from your own experience?

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.

But I Still Love You

2 Aug

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

The Girl Next Door

cheating

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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

How long will I wait?

11 Jul

I don’t have a lot of time today because I will be traveling an hour to meet with my boss (our weekly meeting) and then rushing off to marriage counseling.  That should be interesting…  I’m not really sure what to expect at all.  Mr. Mess has been so distant.  Instead of taking the opportunity to step up, it feels like he is stepping back from me.  Maybe that’s his way of giving me space, I don’t know.  What I do know is that what I really need from him is honest communication and that’s the one thing I haven’t gotten all week.

Anyway, back to the point. I probably won’t have time to write something insightful today, but this blog post from yesterday really spoke to me.  I was thinking about it all night. How long am I willing to wait?  How much more am I willing to take?  When will he lose his “magic” altogether?  I wish I knew the answers.

I wonder if he is strong enough to get past his life-long bad behaviors. I am always holding out for the “light at the end of the tunnel” – the wonderful time when we will be happy and healthy.  That “one day” may never come, though.  I have been asking myself if I am getting enough right now to stay and keep holding out.  Is it crazy that I don’t even know?  Some days we connect so well and all feels right with the world, but just a few days or even hours later he can lie to me again and shatter my dream.

Check out this post.  It really is raw and insightful.

Forgiving for me

How long am I willing to wait? That’s the question.

I don’t know how many times I have thought: “that’s it! this time it’s REALLY enough!!!!”.
I don’t know how many times I have cried in the car on the way home from work. I don’t know how many hours, weeks, months I have spent consumed by rage, bitterness, temporary madness, a hurt so profound, a love unconditional, forgiveness, frustration, despair, hope, disappointment, sadness, ecstasy, weakness, impatience, only to push through a little bit more. I dont know how many times my freaking container has been full, only to find that I could make room for a little more of our story. One more round, one more chance.

I don’t know how many buckets of tears I have cried. How many hours I have curled up on the floor, how many times I have packed and unpacked my things. If…

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The Hard Way

20 Jun

I had to travel about an hour away today for a meeting.  On the drive up and back I couldn’t stop thinking.  That’s not really unusual for me because I’m a thinker, but there was something out of the ordinary.  Usually after I write a blog post it eases my mind.  The racing thoughts abate, and I’m able to put that topic behind me for a while.  Today I was still thinking about some of the questions that I answered yesterday about reconciliation.

I got a lot of really great comments after my post.  One of the things that has stayed with me is the common perception that staying to work on the marriage is “weak” or letting the wayward spouse “off easy.”  Those two things couldn’t be farther from the truth, so it blows my mind how they have seemingly become the collective cultural idea.  Usually stereotypes have some grain of truth to them, which is why they are so enduring.  This I don’t understand.  Maybe some people out there just give their spouse a pass and move on like nothing happened, but I don’t know anyone like that!  All of the men and women who I talk to on message boards and blogs are going through the same difficult journey that I’m on.  Sure, we’re all in different places, but I don’t think a single one would say this is easy – for us or our spouses.

I was also thinking about my blog in general and wondering where all the music went.  When I started this I was posting more music and using songs to express my ideas.  I still believe music is very powerful, so where did it go on my blog?  I have a pretty cool radio in my car, and I have a flash drive loaded with basically all of my music that I let play continuously instead of listening to the radio (all of the stations around me pretty much suck).  While I was driving and thinking my music was playing away.  I rolled through a few songs from various artists, then it hit the Keith Urban section.

A picture I took from one of concerts I attended. I was right up next to the catwalk he had, and actually reached up and touched him once!

I paused in my musings to remember how much I used to love his music (and still do).  He is just the consummate musician.  I have been to several of his concerts, and I really couldn’t get enough of him live.  He and his band are amazing.  At their concerts they have a big jam session on stage.  They improvise, riff, extend songs, do fun and interesting transitions, and have this rare music-driven performance that is mesmerizing.  Keith Urban himself plays the guitar, bass, drums, piano, and a few other things (I think he played the trumpet during one song).  The first time I saw him in person I’m sure my mouth was open in amazement the entire time.

Another thing about Keith Urban that you may or may not know – he is an addict.  Today as his music was filling my car I understood the deep emotions behind some of his songs for the very first time.  I heard his words from a completely different perspective.  I was amazed at how much more I liked the songs (which I didn’t even think was possible), and how they really connected with me.  One in particular started playing, and I cranked it up as loud as I could stand it.  Then I put it on repeat.  I listened all the way through at least 3 times barely breathing, then repeated it a few more times while singing along.  It was perfect for where I am right now.  It paired perfectly with my post yesterday.  It was right in line with all of the things I have been thinking all day long.  Just listen:


Combining Grey’s Anatomy and Keith Urban?  Rock on!

Here are the lyrics for the chorus:

But I do love you.
You keep me believin’ that you love me too.
And I know it’s true,
This love drives us crazy but nobody’s walkin’ away.
So, I guess we’ll have to do it the hard way.”

The whole song just really fits, but I’ve already said that.  I think my main point here is that we shouldn’t consider people who want to save their marriages “weak.”  We should be looking up to them in admiration.  Just take a hard look at the state of marriage in this country.  It seems like divorce is as common as the cold!  Love, committment, pushing through the messy stuff, and learning to change and grow is so special!  It’s definitely harder than walking away.  But it’s also more rewarding.  So, bravo everyone for sticking it out and putting your all into things!

In closing, I will leave you with this picture of Keith Urban’s cute behind.  🙂

Choosing to Reconcile

19 Jun

I have been so caught up in the codependent characteristics list the last few days that everything else has been pushed to the side.  Today I read some questions posed by Samantha Baker of Repairing Shattered Pieces on the forum After the Betrayal that got me thinking in a different direction, though.  Here is what she asked:

What made you choose to reconcile with your spouse?
Are you glad?
Are you fearful of another affair in the future?
Do you think that choosing to reconcile was the right decision?
Do you wish you had done anything different?
Do you ever think your spouse got an “easy out”?
Do you ever wonder if you appeared “weak” by choosing reconciliation in your spouses eyes?

So, that is a lot to try to answer, but I decided to take a shot at it.  Rather than use a question/ answer format I’m just going to write down some of my thoughts on the topic and do my best to hit on each of these questions.

Why I chose to reconcile is a complicated thing.  At the beginning of this I would have told you I stayed because I really love him.  He has a kind heart, a positive attitude, and a lot of energy.  We are total opposites in many way, which means that he added things to my life.  He taught me the joys of being spontaneous, introduced me to new foods, and made me cut loose and not take myself so seriously.  I got to know him, as you should with your spouse.  I knew he had faults, and I loved him despite those.  I was able to see past what he did to all of those other things that I didn’t want to cut out of my life.

We were also recently married (the last discovery was only 6 months after our wedding), and I believe in following through with commitments.  I didn’t want to just throw him away, and our marriage along with him, without knowing that I had done everything I could.  I made a promise in front of my entire family, his family, our friends, and everyone who is important to me.  I made that promise to him, but I also made it to myself.  I promised that I would love through thick and thin, better and worse, richer and poorer, and all of that other stuff.  He had betrayed me, but did that mean I should betray him, that promise, and myself in return?  I wasn’t there.

All of those things are still true, but now I have some additional insights.  I’m not a quitter, I hate admitting defeat, and I didn’t want to be a failure.  I didn’t want to be divorced at 26.  I didn’t know what I would do without him, I couldn’t let go of the “ideal marriage” in my head yet, and I couldn’t picture life without him in it.   I was in so much pain, but I felt like making myself the main priority was selfish.  How could I just walk away from everything I had put into this relationship?  From him?  What would he do?  Plus, I told myself that I had done things wrong the last few times I found out about his infidelity and lying.  I should have set firmer guidelines, I should have checked up on him more… I should have, should have, should have.  I felt like this problem was my fault.  I couldn’t walk away and leave him with nothing.  When I saw him so broken and defeated I wanted to help him.  I wanted to fix him.  I wanted to fix us.  In short, I am codependent.

This journey that we are on has taught me that.  It has also taught me more about myself and my husband than I knew at the beginning of the process.  Am I glad I stayed with this instead of walking away?  I feel like a stronger person.  I don’t feel “weak” at all.  This is a much harder road by far than leaving it all behind.   If I kicked him out immediately, there would still be unanswered questions.  There would still be hurt.  His actions probably would have pushed me farther away from my own issues because I would have been able to lump them all together and put them in the back of some dusty closet that I never opened again.  My next relationship most likely would have been impacted, and it would always be there making me feel uncertain, self-conscious, leery, and closed off.   I wouldn’t have worked on myself nearly as much.  In that way, I am benefiting personally from taking a hard look at the ways I contributed.

As for whether he got off “easy” or not, I don’t think so.  If he wants to keep this marriage, he will need to overcome his bad habits, some of which are decades in the making.  He is learning new tools to communicate.  He is figuring out how to deal with tough emotions.  He is working a program.  He is dealing with family of origin issues, boundaries, triggers, and more.  He will have to be vulnerable.  He will have to be honest – not only with me, but with himself – maybe for the first time.

I still have fear, but I am leaving it farther and farther behind everyday.  As I heal myself, I find those paranoid thoughts are fading.  I don’t think about what happened nearly as much as I think about where I’m headed now.  I am realizing what things I can control and what I can’t.  Even if he does have another affair, worrying about it now won’t change that.  It won’t do me any good.  It won’t make him decide not to stray.   All I can do is focus on myself, set boundaries about what I will accept, and be prepared to move on if he doesn’t hold up his end of things.

I do wish sometimes that we had found our current MC earlier.  I wish I had picked up Codependent No More way sooner than 2 weeks ago.  But I’m also letting go of my wish list and “should have” or “what if” thoughts.  I am dealing with each thing that comes up as it comes up.  I am trying not to regret the past because it has brought us here.  That last one is a tough one.  I’m taking it all day by day, though.

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