Tag Archives: Codependency

Delving Into My Childhood

10 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s Next? What SHOULD We Be Doing?

17 Oct

The final post in the series answering questions from a reader about our separation.

And what do you think you should be doing?

This is probably the hardest question of all.  I think I should be really thinking things out.  I have been doing that, for the most part, once my body started recovering (thanks to the amoxicillin).  I have been doing a LOT of journaling.  I’m trying to take this time to decide what it is that I want from this marriage, what it is that I need to be happy, and how I think that can be accomplished.  I definitely don’t have all of the answers.  I have started coming up with the questions, though.  That’s a step in the correct direction, right?

For example, some of the things I have written under the title Questions to Consider in my journal are:

  • Am I running and hiding from my own problem by asking him to move out?  Or am I protecting myself?
    • Can an in-house separation work or is that setting us both up for failure?
    • Is separation a way for us both to deal with our respective issues? 
    • How long?
    • End goal?
    • How much contact?
    • What terms?
    • Money?  Bills?
    • Viability of that plan?
    • Avoiding complacency – Does this force us to push ourselves out of our boxes and discover ourselves separate from one another?
    • Does that have to happen before we can work on our marriage?
  • I can’t control the outcome!!
  • Can he be honest with me?
    • What matters in order to move forward is honesty.  In fact, it’s the single most important factor in whether this marriage can continue
    • He has a choice to make – continue to be selfish and choose himself by lying to me or choose our marriage and STOP lying
    • That really determines our future
    • Choose lying & choose to stay gone and turn this separation into divorce
    • Or work on himself, really dig into the lying, solve that issue, and maybe move home.
  • I need him to FIGHT for me (bottom line)

That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my stream-of-consciousness writing.  My goal would be to work towards REAL recovery and reconciliation where we are each taking responsibility for our own healing.  I feel like that has to happen before I can say whether this marriage will ever be able to work long-term.  I want it to.  I really, really want it to.  But I’m starting to realize that may not be a possibility unless some drastic changes happen in both of us.

I know that I have made a lot of posts recently (if you were only in my brain you would really know how this is).  For that reason, I will share the things I have gained in the last few days about my own self-awareness in another post.  Probably tomorrow.  Unless something more pressing comes up before I get around to it or I get the urge to share earlier (very specific, aren’t I?)

Codependent Behavior or Simply Trusting My Gut?

16 Oct

To start with, I really appreciate the insight that several people gave me about what I thought was codependent/ co-addict behavior.  There is a fine line between that and trusting myself.  I believe in this case I was following my gut.  I think calling it a “knowing” is very fitting.  That’s what it feels like when I get that kind of intuitive premonition that something is off.

I really haven’t been checking on him otherwise – I swear I can’t even remember the last time I checked that computer history.  There have been plenty of times he has been out of the house or even in it when I’ve had the chance – we agreed to full transparency with electronic devices, after all.  He always gets home before me.  He almost exclusively uses that desktop computer now that I have a work laptop and tablet.  He is in there all the time when I get home from work.  Still, I haven’t felt the need to look.  Until that day.

It sounds weird, I’m sure.  I don’t think I’m psychic or anything.  I just know that we all pick up things that we don’t consciously process.  Little perceptions, changes in speech or behavior or even the air in our environments.  I can’t explain it, but sometimes I do just have a strong feelings that something isn’t right.  I have come to rely on those “knowings” (I really like that term).  I don’t really have to go looking for things, my instinct will tell me when something is wrong.

Similarly, I usually know when I’m feeling a need to control or an urge to “check up” on him in an unhealthy way.  It is then that I can remind myself to focus on the things that I can change – that which is in my control.  I think I have to do more to fine-tune my self-perception on this issue.  I need to find a way to ask myself is this codependent behavior or simply listening to my gut?

So, on to the challenging questions in my next post…

Breaking the Negative Codependent Cycle

11 Sep

This is something I read yesterday, and I wanted to share it here.  It really connected with me, big time.  This isn’t going to be an eloquent, well-planned post.  It is just a small snapshot of what has been bouncing around in my mind for the last 12 hours or so.  This excerpt came from a longer post on a forum.  She is talking about breaking the negative cycle with an addict.

“Somebody has to break the cycle. There’s an analogy in an Al-Anon book that helped me get this.  Imagine there’s a ladder, and the addict is in front.  We’re behind them on the ladder, pushing and prodding them to go up.  They keep falling, and each time they fall, we cushion the blow for them.

We keep doing this over and over until one day, we notice there’s a ladder next to this one–but this ladder has OUR name on it.  So we begin to climb this ladder, and leave the addict to climb their own. When they fall, we can sympathize, but we concentrate on climbing our own ladder.  This addiction has NOTHING to do with us.  We have to learn to take care of ourselves and become healthy ourselves in or out of the relationship…

In learning to focus on my own needs and learning not to enable, I have gained a life where I know I’ll be okay no matter what happens.  To me, you have to put the focus on yourself.  Whether it’s therapy, S-Anon (which saved my life) or Al-Anon, get help.  Get tools to use that will help you move up your own ladder. ”

I like this analogy.  My husband and I are both traveling up ladders that will bring us to a healthier, happier place.  We are each dealing with our own stuff that can cause us to fall.  He is struggling against his addiction and his pattern of lying to avoid his feelings.  I am struggling against my codependency, controlling personality, and perfectionism.  On any given day, one of us may slip and fall.  I am tired of letting one person’s fall cause us both to hit the ground, though.  In order to keep moving upward, we need to focus on our own separate ladders.  We have to learn how to sympathize with whoever is falling and help motivate them to keep climbing, while continuing to reach toward our next rung.

We are both moving in the same direction.  We both have the ultimate goal of being healthier individuals with a stronger marriage.  We are moving parallel with one another towards that goal, but we will face different challenges on our climb.  In the past, I have been right there underneath him, waiting for him to fall and crush me.  I have tried to hold him up, cushion his fall, and mitigate his losses as best as possible, with great personal consequences, especially to my sanity.  Now I see that I have my own ladder.  It has my name on it.  It isn’t going to be an easy climb, but it’s going to be MINE.

But what if he falls?  I still have that internal struggle that says I should try to catch him somehow.  But I can’t.  Not if I’m focused on my own climb, my own struggles.  Does that mean I won’t care if he falls?  Not at all.  It might even make me falter a bit on my climb, while I check to make sure he isn’t fatally injured.  On some occasions I may take a few steps backward.  But I won’t be down there on the ground with him.  It won’t take me to the depths of despair.  And I will eventually keep climbing, whether he catches up or not.

What do you think of that analogy?  Does it make sense to you the way it does to me?

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.

Paying Attention to My Gut

13 Aug

Since the last major discovery that fateful day in March of 2011 I have vowed to trust my instincts.  I have done well, for the most part, by using common sense and reason.  Judge Judy taught me a few lessons that served me well.  Still, I ended up in this most recent situation because I didn’t trust my gut.  My head has gotten so muddled with trying not to be codependent that I’m not sure whether to trust my initial reaction to situations for fear that it is coming from an unhealthy place.  I don’t want to be controlling, I want to let go, and I don’t want to live my life being emotionally tied to his decisions.  At the same time, I need to protect myself from further hurt.  I am living with a sex addict.  So where is the balance?

I’m obviously still trying to find it.  Where I am now is a perfect example.  Mr. Mess said he was going to take control of his recovery.  He had already been making his own therapy appointments and coordinating with me on our marriage counseling sessions.  In May things were progressing, slowly but surely.  We had one major fight, but were able to work through it in counseling and each learn a few things.  So when he said he was going to leave his medication in his car to take every morning on the way to work and keep up with the refills, I stepped back completely.  I decided that was his thing to take care of.  I felt a tad bit more healthy, and reassured that he wanted to handled one more part of his recovery on his own.

In mid-June and through July when I started noticing little changes in his behavior I attributed it to work or stress or minor annoyances… you know pretty day-to-day stuff.  He had also increased his prescription dose because he noticed it wasn’t having the same effect as before.  I figured some natural fluctuations in mood and temperament were fairly normal with changing medication dosage.  I wanted to ask if he was still taking his medication, if he had refilled it like he said he would.  But I stopped myself.  I told myself that was codependent thinking.  That he said he was going to take care of it, and I needed to let it go.  Refilling a prescription, picking it up, and taking the medication once per day is not difficult.  I have been doing it for years and years.  He is 47 years old.  He can do it.  He doesn’t need me to do it, he doesn’t need me to remind him.  Treat him like the adult he is.

So I did.  And every time I got that nagging feelings, I pushed it away.  On the weekend when I didn’t see him take anything, I told myself I wasn’t watching him every minute so how could I know?  When he had those “backward thinking” moments that were so common-place before his medication, I told myself not to worry about it.  I pointed my finger at the fact that he had finally started regularly attending SA meetings to reassure myself.  We went to Retrouvaille (which I know I never finished writing about – bad me), and were communicating pretty well in marriage counseling.  There was a big lying incident around money and he definitely didn’t handle his emotions well there, but for some reason the medication thing never popped into my head.  When he would react badly or blow up or have mood swings, the nagging feeling would pop back into my head.  But I kept telling myself not to be codependent.  Not to nag him.  To try to trust… that’s what I have been working on in this marriage, after all.

Of course, that all crashed and burned around me.  He stopped taking his medication right around the time he told me he was going to take care of it (within about 3 weeks).  So I dismissed my gut instincts as fear and trouble letting go of codependent behavior.  When they were really red flags that I should have paid attention to.  Lesson learned – trust yourself.  Don’t dismiss true gut insticts.

Telling the difference between the codependent thoughts and those flashes of concern over real issues is something I am still tweaking.  I think I will have to go with Judge Judy and Buddha on this one…  If it makes sense and agrees with reason and past history, then I will trust it.  If, instead, it is based on irrational fear or isn’t in line with common sense I will wait it out.  If it’s still there in a few days, I will take action and try to confirm or disprove it.  One way or another, I will determine what to believe.  I will not let anything cling to my mind unresolved for months ever again.

Accepting the Truth

8 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Trying to Trust Through the Fear

31 Jul

Trust is such a difficult thing for me for a number of reasons.  One is because of my personality.  I’m a very type-A, get things done kinda girl.  I’m usually firmly in the camp of “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”  My husband’s sex addiction and affair don’t do anything to help my trust.  His lying habit virtually demolished any vestiges that remained.

Despite all of that, I have come to realize that I can’t go through life without trust.  I can’t be in this marriage without being vulnerable, without giving up some control.  I have to trust him with some things, whether I really want to or not.  Whether I feel 100% confident that he will follow through and do it in a way that I would have or not…  Cue stomach knots.

I am now working on my codependence issues and learning to let go of things that aren’t in my control.  It is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  How do you all do it?  What keeps you trusting?  What helps you reassure yourself that it won’t be the end of the world no matter what happens?  How do you keep your hope?  I really want to know.

Being in this community is so rewarding because I get to connect with so many people, hear their stories, get support, and gain understanding of myself and what we are all going through in one form or another.  Reading blogs gives me a fresh perspective, challenges me, and makes me really ponder things.  At the same time, I see and hear so much disappointment, pain, fear, and oh so many lies.  It is disheartening.  Sure, there are lots and lots of stories of hope and healing.  Still, those painful ones really stick around in my gut.

Those thoughts ping around in my head and make this struggle to trust so much more difficult.  Especially after nights like last night.  Mr. Mess and I are fine – great even – so don’t worry about that.  It’s just that disappointment crept in, slowly but surely.  I was able to support a friend, but not in the way I had hoped.  Our carefully laid plans (so we thought) were blown out of the water.  I could feel how despondent she was, and there was really very little I could do about it.  I didn’t have any control over the situation, the outcome, or her feelings.

I wanted to, because boy do I hate seeing someone I care about in pain.  But I had to let go of that desire.  I had to just be there.  Just listen.  Just be supportive by caring – not by controlling the situation in any way.  I had to remind myself that I didn’t fail.  That I wasn’t the cause of the disappointment, I couldn’t have changed anything, and just being there was enough.  Even though I couldn’t have done anything to fix her situation, that was my utmost desire.

I wish I had a magic wand that could solve all of the problems in the world.  That is such fantasy-land thinking, though.  I have to let go of it.  I have to just do what I can do and be content in the knowledge that even a glimmer of normalcy, fun, comfort, validation or care does make a difference.  Small things can matter a lot.  I know that has been true for me.  Seeing that “Like” on my post, getting a response – positive or negative, just knowing that there are people out there that care enough to take time out of their day to read what I have to say, and then offer their thoughts…  Those things are huge in a way that is hard to describe.

But trusting that things will work out?  That is tough.  Trusting that I really am enough – no matter what happens – seems nearly impossible.  I have this internal battle going on inside.  It is between what I know in my head and what I fear.  Those fears, some irrational and some completely possible (maybe even probable), well up inside of me.  The urge I have is to freeze, to let them paralyze me.  I am fighting it with all that I have.  Because the reality is that I will be fine.  I am strong.  I am capable.  I am worthwhile.  I have to trust my own decision to trust (twisty I know), because that is the only way to defeat my fears.

Lies, Lies, Go Away… Come again NEVER!

6 Jul

I love House. Just look at those eyes! Unfortunately, he is right about the prevalence of lies. I just can’t take it anymore.

Lies.  They destroy relationships.  They destroy lives.  They pile up on top of each other until they feel like they might bury me alive.  Small lies, big lies, white lies, half-truths, gaslighting – they are all the same.  They all cause pain.  I’ve reached the point now where my tolerance for lies of any sort is basically nonexistent.  I will not accept them, but more than that I feel like I can’t accept them.  I think one more lie might actually cause my brain to crack.

So I continue to keep my distance from my husband.  It doesn’t matter why he still lies.  It just matters that he does.  He can’t promise me that he won’t lie again because that’s how ingrained in him it is.  As far as I know he has not been to individual counseling this week.  He knows the steps to take, but he isn’t taking them.  So I’m in this weird limbo.  We coexist.  I don’t have animosity towards him (or he towards me).  Yet we cannot be as close as I would like us to be.  I can’t fully rely on or trust him.  I can’t put my raw heart back into his hands.  He just isn’t doing what it takes for me to feel comfortable and safe.

That means this weekend may be a bit strange.  I have already started planning some things that I can do on my own.  I am going to check out J.C. Penney for some items that I know are on sale this month.  I may or may not be getting another tattoo (depending on what the sketch looks like when I go see it today).  Maybe I’ll even drive down to the outlet mall in Williamsburg, although I doubt it considering the blistering heat we are supposed to be experiencing.

I’m not sad.  I’m not happy.  I’m just kinda blah.  I have noticed that my recent posts tend a bit toward the melancholy.  I’m not sure completely why that is – and to be honest I don’t know if they really do have a melancholy feel or not.  I just don’t know what my emotions are.  That’s possibly because they are conflicted and changing from moment to moment.  I see others in pain on the message boards or experiencing a lot of triggers or joy or triumph in their marriages.  I read about progress, steps backward, and frustrations.  And I feel like I’m just hanging here.

It actually reminds me of a time that I paid a little extra for a bungee jumping/ hang gliding thing at a local theme park.  They call it the Xtreme Skyflyer.  They have you cocooned up in this body harness that is attached to a long bungee cable.  The cable is connected to what looks like half of the McDonald’s arch.  They raise you up about 17 stories and let gravity do the rest.  There is a moment when you are high above everything, anticipating what is to come.  Then you’re dropped.  There is a long free fall to about 6 feet above the ground – so low that you are convinced you will slam into the spectators below.  The initial speed is somewhere around 60 mph, then you swing back and forth for a while until everything slows down and you are just hanging.  They slowly lower you down to the ground, and the ride is over.

This journey has been like that.  At first I thought our life together would be an adventure.  I looked at the ride from the ground and thought it would be fun – exciting even.  I trusted that I would be safe with him.  That we would be in this together.  That no matter how scary it got we would always have each other.  I got harnessed in (a.k.a. married) and enjoyed the view as we climbed higher and higher together.  I wasn’t really anticipating a drop – maybe I closed my eyes and didn’t watch how the ride played out before, maybe I didn’t want to know, maybe I let myself overlook what was coming or convinced myself that we could just keep going up forever.  That’s not how the ride worked, though…

Those clues from before that I had overlooked?  The small lies, the hiding of pornography, the sexting and affair, all of the things he said he has “stopped,” that were “fixed.”  They weren’t.  They were just waiting at the top to pull the cord that would drop us.  During and immediately following D-Day I discovered so many lies – they were coming fast and hard.  It felt like my stomach was dropping out of my body.  All I could manage was to hold on for dear life.  The adrenaline must have been the only thing keeping my body running.  Our marriage was holding us together while our entire relationship was dangling by a thin cable.  He was taking me on this ride right along with him, and there wasn’t anything I could do to keep from being affected.

As we settled into recovery, therapy, and counseling things started slowing down.  We were still on this giant swing, though.  Some days we were up, some days we felt very close to crashing.  Each new lie still caused my stomach to drop a bit, but nothing like that initial free-fall.  I started to think that I could handle this.  That I could deal with the back and forth, up and down as long as there were no more big drops.

Now the pendulum is slowing.  We are nearly on solid ground.  And I realize now how much I want that solid ground.  How much I need it.  I want to get off of this ride and feel the Earth under my feet.  Know that my world has stopped swinging out of control.  Each lie he tells makes it seem like I will never get there…  I will be stuck on this ride forever.  I can’t do that.

I want him to get off the ride with me.  I’m not sure if he can, though.  He is either too scared, too confused, too caught up, or too…  I don’t know.  So right now we are still bundled together, just hanging there.  A few feet away from the ground.  Almost where we want to be.  And those 6 feet seem like an immense canyon.  I’m not sure how long I can keep hanging here before I cut myself loose and go those last few feet on my own.  I guess only time will tell.

In the meantime, here I am.  Hi everyone!  I’m up here just watching you go about your lives.  I laugh with you over your joys.  I feel empathy for you if you are down.  I offer advice (what little I have) if I think it might be helpful.  Some of you are on your own rides.  Some of you are already on the ground walking around where I want to be.  I will get there some day.  I’m very close!  I will not let anything stop me.  Those lies are going away one way or another because I won’t let them in the next time they come knocking!

I want to feel my feet back on solid ground. My toenails are painted this color right now, in fact.

Farting on the Massage Table

3 Jul

See how relaxed the woman in this picture looks?  When your entire body relaxes that way, all your stress melts, and your muscles begin loosening it is a great feeling.  Until your body gets a little too relaxed.  The dim lights, soothing sounds of waterfalls, and quiet music make for such a peaceful environment.  It’s almost like being in a library, only more serene and low-key.  It’s the last place you want to let one rip.  I’ll put it out there right away that I didn’t actually fart on the massage table, but it took quite a bit of willpower not to.

Let me back up a bit.  Yesterday I had a massage.  It was part of a Groupon deal at a chiropractor that was set up about a month ago.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  After the lie discovery I could use a little quality “me time.”  I also decided to give the 180 a real try for the first time.  I found it a few months back, around the same time as our D-Day antiversary.  I wasn’t ready to implement it at the time because I still wasn’t focused on myself and my own happiness.  I was too wrapped up in everything he was doing, saying, feeling, etc., etc.  Since then I have used some of the techniques during a few arguments, but not consistently.  I had some success the times I did implement it, but ultimately I would end up losing my temper or being drawn back in far too easily.  This time I’m going to try to do it right.

So, back to yesterday.  During the day I stayed busy at work.  We didn’t have very much contact at all, and I didn’t initiate anything.  He texted me at lunch and said:

“Another in the line of the many days after I have caused in which both of us are asking ourselves why?  With no good answer to that question only more uncertainty about where we are headed.  I am afraid and angry at me.  I sit here broken and fearful that I am not fixable.  For all I have done and all the hurt I have caused us both I am very sorry.”

Normally a text like that would have caused me to gush all over him – tell him that I know he is scared, reassure him, tell him I love him, say that I think he is fixable, and try to make him feel better.  I did all of that out of a place of wanting to help.  However, it really didn’t help either of us because I can’t fix it.  It is also his job to figure out his why.  I do love him, and I don’t want him to be afraid and angry – but I can’t fix it.  I fear that he isn’t fixable sometimes, too.  I am not going to give up on him or our marriage right now, but I can’t fix it.  I want him to feel better, and I do want him to get help.  But I can’t provide that for him.  So this time I responded by saying simply:

“I can accept your apology.  I do not have the answer to the questions, though.  Those are yours to find.”

That’s it.  I had already told him that I feel like he needs to work on those issues in therapy.  I already told him that I would like him to go to SA more regularly.  I already told him that I can’t sleep in the same bed with him until I see him making real efforts and I feel safe again.  That’s all I really can do.

After work I headed over to my massage appointment.  I had told him about it back when I set it up and again last week when I remembered I would have to cancel my normal chiropractor appointment to make it.  I didn’t notify him of where I was going.  I wasn’t even planning to get in touch with him at all.  Then one of the guys I work with let me know that he would be dropping a dog house off at my house that evening.  We had talked earlier in the day and his mother, who lives in my neighborhood, was getting rid of a really nice wooden shingled dog house.  Since we have 3 dogs he asked if I wanted it.  I said definitely because I have always wanted one like that but they are expensive.  Since I was going to the massage, though, I wouldn’t be home when he dropped by.  I told him I would let my husband know because he should be home.  I then sent Mr. Mess a quick text that said:

“A___  from work will be dropping off a doghouse at some point soon.  I may not be home yet so just wanted to let you know.”

Once that was done I drove over to the massage appointment and decided to leave my phone in the car.  He hadn’t texted back yet, and I really didn’t want any distractions during my hour of being pampered.  Once the massage began I immediately felt relaxed and relieved.  I let myself drift off a bit, not think about anything, and just feel the sensation of the massage therapist kneading my muscles.  Having someone massage your neck, shoulders, and head is fantastic.  It is like the shampoo you get at the hair salon, only better.  When she turned me over and started massaging my feet, calves, and legs is when I really felt my tension fading.  It’s also when I felt the gas trying to escape.  Eeeek!

As I laid there suddenly tense again trying to hold in a fart during one of the most serene and relaxing moments I have experienced lately, I almost started laughing.  It really was funny.  I saved myself from embarrassment when the urge passed, but it got me thinking.  There really is humor everywhere in life.  Instead of getting wrapped up in the drama and pain of the lie my husband told me I was laying on a massage table holding back gas and laughter.  It really is such a better option.  My day ended up pretty darn good.  Excellent even!

After the massage was over, I headed out to my car to find several text messages from my husband.  Here they are in order:

“Ok see you when you get home.  What is the dog house for?”

“Im going to food lion to pick up a few things do you want anything?”

“Im not sure what your message means.  Are you still working or is it something else.”

“Im going to [my brother’s house] you dont have to stay away from your home because of me.”

Wow…  That 180 thing seems to be working already!  This is a man who doesn’t feel the need to tell me when he changes plans.  We got into an argument recently when he came home 2 hours late from work on a night when he had school and a test he hadn’t studied for (with the books sitting on the table) and no phone call.  He thought it was no big deal and I shouldn’t have been concerned at all.  Now I can’t even be out of contact for a 1-hour massage without him becoming Mr. Needy?  I shot him back a reply that the dog house was for the dogs and I was just finishing up a massage.  I left it at that.

My plan was to swing by the tattoo parlor on my way home and look into a face piercing I think is super sexy.   A picture of the look is to the left.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind after seeing it on Avery from Around the World in 80 Plates.  I was going to stop by and ask them about the process and cost.  My plan was to just go for it.  Unfortunately, they were closed.  Apparently they have weird hours on Mondays and close super early.  Oh well…

Once I got home Mr. Mess acted like nothing had happened.  He came home from visiting his brother, who recently broke his leg, and just started making dinner.  We ate together, and I was perfectly polite.  I answered the questions he asked about my day with short, to the point replies.  I was positive and happy.  He was more than content to just pretend not a thing was different.  When it came time for bed, though, I went to the bedroom, closed the door, and he stayed on the couch.  Today we also haven’t had much contact at all.  Again, my day was perfectly happy and peaceful.  When I get home today from the chiropractor he will be off at school.  So far, I’m liking the 180 quite a bit.  He will either take care of himself, go to counseling, and SA or he won’t.  I will just keep enjoying my life in the meantime.

Note:  I looked into the face piercing today and found out it is called a microdermal piercing.  They are apparently permanent.  If you want to take them out it requires a scalpel.  As adorable as I still think they are, I’m gonna have to opt out of that one.  I’m seriously considering a nose ring, though.  I may just stop by on my way home tonight and get it done!

Being Independent

28 Jun

This topic is something that I just haven’t been able to find the right words for.  I am independent, and I pride myself on that.  So how, at the same time, can I also be codependent?  It’s something that I struggle with because the codependent side of me is not welcome.  It’s not who I want to be.

I don’t want to control other people.  Even though I am independent, and can do it all by myself, I also don’t want to feel like I have to.  Far from it!  I want someone to tell me that they will take care of things, that they will do what needs to be done, that I don’t have to do it all.  I want that person to be my husband.  At the same time I’m afraid to let go before I see that he has the wheel.  What if we crash?  He hasn’t exactly proven to be the safest driver.

History has taught me that when you rely on someone else it doesn’t work out.  I have been hurt, let down, betrayed.  Not just by my husband, either…  The only person I have been able to fully count on is myself.  My family is wonderful, don’t get me wrong.  If I was ever in a position where I needed help and support, they would be there, without a doubt.  I have worked hard for everything in my life, though, and had to prove myself to lots of people.

I was the oldest and felt like I had to take care of myself and be independent so my parents could focus on my brother and sister.  My Dad worked, and my Mom stayed home with us, and I knew how hard that must have been.  I was also smart, so I was expected to achieve great grades.  I let my Mom focus on helping my sister through school, since that wasn’t her forte.  If I got all A’s then that took the pressure off them to worry about me.  I was talented, so I was expected to perform and be spectacular.  My Dad loved sports, so I put everything into playing softball and making the all-stars team every year.  The list goes on and all.

I was also home-schooled until 6th grade, which I have talked about (See Pink), and was the odd-man-out once I got into private and then public school.  I am an introvert (See Being Complete Opposites), so I’ve never been one to have an entire gaggle of friends hovering around me at all times.  That sounds exhausting to me.  I have always marched to the beat of my own drummer, zagged when others zigged, and done things my own way.  I left home to live on my own the day I turned 18 – no free-loading for this girl!  Instead of going straight to college after high school I took off across Europe with money I had saved while working as a file clerk at a local company after school.  I still think that is one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I bought my house at 19, and established myself in a career early on.  When I did go to college 4 years after high school I still got a full scholarship because my prior academics were very strong and my essay about my world experience and desire not to just follow the pack must have impressed them.

When I met my husband I was living very well on my own, thank you very much.  I was several years into home ownership, I almost had my car paid off, and I was in a very good job.  I was nearly done with my degree, which I finished in 3 1/2 years while working full-time.  I had a 4.0 GPA, which I kept all the way through graduation.  I was comfortable.  My credit cards had very low balances or were almost paid off.  My credit score was through the roof.  I didn’t need anyone.

I think that is part of why this relationship seemed to start off on a good foot.  I’m not needy, for the most part (although who doesn’t love to feel loved?).  I was doing my own thing.  I think that was very attractive.  He wasn’t doing so well on the financial front and was just starting a new job, but I could understand that.  He was about a year out from a very bad breakup.  I was coming off a 7 year relationship.  I could definitely relate to how difficult it can be starting your life over.  Even though he wasn’t in as good of a place as me, he also didn’t seem like the clingy type.  He was sweet, but was more than comfortable taking things slow and giving me my own space.  That was what I wanted at that point, so the emotional distance was something I readily accepted.

When I look at where we are now and everything that we have come through I sometimes wonder where that independent woman went.  What happened to her?  I am still a homeowner, I still have amazing credit, and I could definitely still handle all of my responsibilities and bills by myself.  So why am I worried about rescuing him?  Why did I cling when there was barely anything in it for me?  Why did I sell myself short for those first few years when I knew something was off and didn’t demand that he get therapy?  Part of me thinks it’s because I thought we had something great and maybe we can have it again.  He does  have strengths where I am weak and vice versa.  That seems like a pretty thin excuse, though.

Another part of me wonders if my independence is just a shell, another coat of protection to shield me from being hurt.  It is easier to do it all than to open myself up to being disappointed or wounded.  It is easier to be strong than vulnerable.  It is easier to take charge than put things in another person’s hands.  It is easier to focus on someone else’s problems than my own.  I think that is really the heart of the issue.  Maybe it’s also why I love turtles so much.  Once someone has gotten through that shell to the heart of me, it is very hard for me to push them away.  It is easier to “help” than watch someone fail and reap the consequences.  I want the people I love to have the best life possible, even to the point of taking on their pain as my own and taking away from my happiness.

So here I am, a strong, independent woman who is also attached to a lying husband who has cheated on me multiple times.  I’m in a codependent relationship.  What an oxymoron!  I am starting to become more and more self-aware at the same time that he is beginning to take responsibility.  I want to continue down this path more so I can fully realize the joys of being cared for and nurtured as much as I do for others.  Letting go of that control and peeking out of my shell is a requirement that I continue to work on.  I think I’m getting better at it every day.  I look forward to truly being the independent yet vulnerable woman that I know I can be.

Finishing up the Checklist

19 Jun

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

WEAK BOUNDARIES

Codependents frequently:

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

LACK OF TRUST

Codependents:

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

ANGER

Many codependents:

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

SEX PROBLEMS

Some codependents:

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

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

MISCELLANEOUS

Codependents tend to:

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

PROGRESSIVE

In the later stages of codependency, codependents may:

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

And that’s all folks!

Being Self-Aware

18 Jun

I started talking about the checklist from the book Codependent No More a few days ago (Being Self-Reflective).  I have gotten some positive responses from my followers, but the best thing is that I am feeling accomplished.  This book, this check-list – they’re making sense.  I didn’t think they would.  I fought against it.  But now that I’ve given in I feel so much relief.  So here’s a continuation of the checklist and my self-evaluation.

REPRESSION

Many codependents:

  • push their thoughts and feelings out of their awareness because of fear and guilt.  (0 – although I guess I wouldn’t really know if this was true?)
  • become afraid to let themselves be who they are. (1 – used to be true more than it is now)
  • appear rigid and controlled.  (2)

OBSESSION

Codependents tend to:

  • feel terribly anxious about problems and people.  (1 – I don’t have a lot of anxiety)
  • worry about the silliest things. (0)
  • think and talk a lot about other people.  (1 – maybe?)
  • lose sleep over problems or other people’s behavior.  (0 – I rarely lose sleep because it is very precious to me)
  • worry. (0 – nope, not a worrier.  I find it rather useless)
  • never find answers.  (0)
  • check on people.  (1 – Not so much “people” (plural), but sometimes on my husband)
  • try to catch people in acts of misbehavior.  (same as above – this has gotten much better in the past few months)
  • feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems. (1)
  • abandon their routine because they are so upset about somebody or something.  (0)
  • focus all their energy on other people and problems. (1)
  • wonder why they never have any energy.  (2)
  • wonder why they can’t get things done.  (1-2)

CONTROLLING

Many codependents:

  • have lived through events and with people that were out of control, causing the codependents sorrow and disappointment.  (2 – absolutely!)
  • become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.  (2)
  • don’t see or deal with their fear of loss of control.  (1-2)
  • think they know best how things should turnb out and how people should behave.  (2)
  • try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination.  (2)
  • eventually fail in their efforts or provoke people’s anger.  (1)
  • feel controlled by events and people.  (2)

DENIAL

Codependents tend to:

  • ignore problems or pretend they aren’t happening.  (0)
  • pretend circumstances aren’t as bad as they are.  (0-1)
  • tell themselves things will be better tomorrow.  (1)
  • stay busy so they don’t have to think about things.  (1)
  • get confused.  (0)
  • get depressed or sick.  (2)
  • go to doctors and get tranquilizers.  (0)
  • become workaholics.  (0)
  • spend money compulsively (-2 – I am so far in the other direction it’s not even close)
  • overeat (2 – check)
  • pretend those things aren’t happening, either.  (0 – I can see my flaws, I just don’t know where to go from here)
  • watch problems get worse.  (0)
  • believe lies.  (2 – in the past, but not anymore)
  • lie to themselves.  (1)
  • wonder why they feel like they’re going crazy.  (2)

DEPENDENCY

Many codependents:

  • don’t feel happy, content, or peaceful with themselves.  (1)
  • look for happiness outside themselves.  (1)
  • latch onto whoever or whatever they think can provide happiness.  (0)
  • feel terribly threatened by the loss of any thing or person they think provides their happiness.  (2)
  • didn’t feel love and approval from their parents.  (2)
  • don’t love themselves.  (0-1)
  • believe other people can’t or don’t love them.  (1)
  • desperately seek love and approval.  (0)
  • often seek love from people incapable of loving.  (0 – I don’t think “often” applies or that my husband is “incapable of loving.”  Maybe he is stunted, but he does love me.)
  • believe other people are never there for them.  (0 – I have a great family and support network)
  • equate love with pain.  (1)
  • feel they need people more than they want them.  (0)
  • try to prove they’re good enough to be loved.  (2)
  • don’t take time to see if other people are good for them.  (2 – definitely)
  • worry whether other people love or like them.  (1)
  • don’t take time to figure out if they love or like other people.  (0)
  • center their lives around other people.  (2)
  • look to relationships to provide all their good feelings.  (1)
  • lose interest in their own lives when they love.  (1)
  • worry other people will leave them.  (1)
  • don’t believe they can take care of themselves. (0)
  • stay in relationships that don’t work.  (1)
  • tolerate abuse to keep people loving them.  (1)
  • feel trapped in relationships.  (1)
  • leave bad relationships and form new ones that don’t work either.  (not sure how to answer this because I haven’t had a ton of relationships – just 2 serious ones)
  • wonder if they will ever find love.  (0)

POOR COMMUNICATION

Codependents frequently:

  • blame.  (1)
  • threaten.  (0)
  • coerce.  (1)
  • beg.  (0)
  • bribe.  (1)
  • advise.  (2)
  • don’t say what they mean.  (0)
  • don’t mean what they say.  (1)
  • don’t know what they mean.  (0)
  • don’t take themselves seriously.  (1)
  • think other people don’t take the codependents seriously.  (1)
  • ask for what they want and need indirectly – sighing, for example.  (1 – I have been known to do that sometimes, but I am usually pretty blunt.)
  • find it difficult to get to the point.  (0)
  • aren’t sure what the point is.  (0)
  • gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect.  (1)
  • try to say what they think will please people.  (0 – rarely)
  • try to say what they think will provoke people.  (1 – when in a heated argument… but who doesn’t?)
  • try to say what they hope will make people do what they want them to do.  (1)
  • eliminate the work no from their vocabulary. (1)
  • talk too much.  (2)
  • talk about other people.  (1)
  • avoid talking about themselves, their problems, feelings, and thoughts.  (1 – I am trying to get better about this… see?)
  • say everything is their fault.  (1)
  • say nothing is their fault (1)
  • believe their opinions don’t matter.  (0)
  • wait to express their opinions until they know other people’s opinions.  (0 – rarely)
  • lie to protect and cover up for people they love.  (0)
  • lie to protect themselves.  (0)
  • have a difficult time asserting their rights.  (0)
  • have a difficult time expressing their emotions honestly, openly, and appropriately. (0 – I am really pretty good at this)
  • think most of what they have to say is unimportant.  (0)
  • begin to talk in cynical, self-degrading, or hostile ways. (1 – I can sometimes be sarcastic… does that count?)
  • apologize for bothering people.  (1)

Wow…  this list is longer than I remember.  There is still a lot of it left.  I will get back to this as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I hope that you all enjoyed your Father’s Day weekend and are feeling as free and positive as I do right now.

Being Self-Reflective

16 Jun

I have been reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.  On my tablet.  That officially means I am doing two things I never thought I would be doing.  I have been adamant about my strong loyalty to paper books and my dislike of reading things on a computer screen.  However, my tablet came with a Kindle app, and I’m an Amazon freak.

So…  One night a week or so ago I was checking out a few books on Amazon that had been recommended and I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.  While I was browsing around I noticed that you can get the first chapter of most books as a free preview on the Kindle.  I figured that would be a good way to really know if the book would be a good fit for me because I could check out the first chapter and get a feel for the author and content.  I opened the Kindle app, registered it to my Amazon account, and promptly downloaded the first chapter of about 4 or 5 books.

I immediately found that I like this system!  Right off the bat I was able to eliminate two books that were far too religious and didn’t speak to me at all.  I also found a few to be mildly interesting.  I had some bad pre-conceived notions about Codependent No More from a woman in my support group, but I thought I would read the first chapter to see if I agreed.  My secret hope would be that I would find some major flaw in logic or point that I disagreed with completely so that I could justify my avoidance of the book.

Instead I found that I was devouring it.  A lot of what she said spoke to me.  I really “got” a lot of what I read.  And I wanted to read more.  I was so hooked that I went ahead and downloaded the rest right there.  Amazon made it even easier because the Kindle version was a few dollars cheaper than even the older paperback version.  I read the first 3 chapters in one sitting.

Then I forced myself to slow down.  I discussed a few things with my husband.  I told him what it had me thinking about.  I discovered the bookmark and highlighting feature in the Kindle and really started going to town.  I went back and bookmarked some things I want to think about more.  I highlighted a few passages that were especially meaningful.  I started pondering the parts that I connect with.

Yesterday I got to a list of characteristics of codependents.  She said that the first step toward change is awareness.  I agree with that.  Then I started reading the various lists.  I do identify with a lot of them.  My first gut reaction was that this list is so varied and generic that a LOT of people could identify with several things on the list.  That is true.  However, I started to realize that I agreed with more than just a few.  In fact, I identify with more things than I don’t.  The bookmarks were flying.

At the end of the chapter she suggest going through the list and rating the characteristics.  She said to rate it a 0 if it is never a problem for you, rate it with a 1 if it is occasionally a problem, and mark it with a 2 if it is frequently a problem.  The list is long, but I decided to start doing that today.  I also decided to share that list here on my blog.  I think it is something that others may relate to.  I also think that it will really force me to be completely honest with myself by having some accountability and transparency with others about the things I need to work on.  So here it goes:

CARETAKING

Codependents may:

  • think and feel responsible for other people – for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny. (2)
  • feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem. (2)
  • feel compelled – almost forced – to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings. (2 – with the caveat that my need to help generally takes the form of actions, like helping them study, doing the research or work myself, etc.)
  • feel angry when their help isn’t effective. (1)
  • anticipate other people’s needs. (2)
  • wonder why other don’t do the same for them. (2)
  • find themselves saying yes when they mean no, doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves. (3 – I know that is off the scale, but it really applies to me)
  • not know what they want and need or, if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important. (2)
  • find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves. (2)
  • feel safest when giving. (2)
  • feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them. (2)
  • find themselves attracted to needy people. (1)
  • find needy people attracted to them. (2)
  • feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help. (0-1)
  • abandon their routine to respond to or do something for somebody else. (1)
  • overcommit themselves. (1)
  • feel harried and pressured. (1)
  • believe deep inside other people are somehow responsible for them. (0-1)
  • blame others for the spot the codependents are in. (0-1 in everyday life, 2 with my husband’s infidelity and sex addiction)
  • say other people make the codependents feel the way they do. (same as above)
  • believe other people are making them crazy. (same as above)
  • Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and used. (same as above)
  • Find other people become impatient or angry with them for all the preceding characteristics. (0 except for my husband, which would be a 1)

LOW SELF-WORTH

Codependents tend to:

  • come from troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional families.  (1 – we had our share of issues, but I think I was very lucky overall to have the parents I had)
  • deny their family was troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional.  (1 – although according to this my family must have been a nightmare and I’m denying it)
  • blame themselves for everything.  (2)
  • pick on themselves for everything, including the way they think, feel, look, act, and behave.  (2)
  • get angry, defensive, self-righteous, and indignant when others blame and criticize the codependents – something codependents regularly do to themselves.  (off the charts here I have to admit)
  • reject compliments or praise.  (1)
  • get depressed from a lack of complements and praise – stroke deprivation.  (0)
  • feel different from the rest of the world.  (0)
  • think they’re not quite good enough.  (2 – absolutely!)
  • feel guilty about spending money on themselves or doing unnecessary or fun things for themselves.  (2)
  • fear rejection.  (2)
  • take things personally.  (2)
  • have been victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or alcoholism.  (1 – I think my Dad definitely could be called emotionally abusive when I was growing up, and maybe even physically abusive as well, depending on where you fall on the corporeal punishment spectrum)
  • feel like victims.  (0)
  • tell themselves they can’t do anything right.  (0)
  • be afraid of making mistakes.  (2)
  • wonder why they have a tough time making decisions.  (1)
  • have a lot of “shoulds.”  (2)
  • feel a lot of guilt.  (2)
  • feel ashamed of who they are.  (1)
  • think their lives aren’t worth living.  (0)
  • try to help other people live their lives instead.  (0)
  • get artificial feelings of self-worth from helping others.  (1)
  • get strong feelings of low self-worth – embarrassment, failure, etc. – from other people’s failures and problems.  (1 – only when that person is tied to me – like in a marriage. For instance, I still want to help my sister succeed in school, but I don’t feel personal embarrassment if she doesn’t.)
  • wish good things would happen to them. (1)
  • believe good things never will happen.  (0)
  • believe they don’t deserve good things and happiness.  (1)
  • wish other people would like and love them.  (1)
  • try to prove they’re good enough for other people.  (2)
  • settle for being needed.  (2)

Well, that’s all I have time for right now.  I will come back to this later.  Hope this gives you some food for thought.  I definitely have plenty to think about!

Letting Go… Easier Said Than Done

23 Apr

One thing I have been struggling with lately is letting go and detaching from the decisions my husband makes and the responsibilities that are his alone.  The issue of co-dependancy has been on my mind a lot.  I was reading a blog post, Third Person Perspective, from another woman who is going through a similar situation.  She wasn’t really talking about co-dependency.  Her post was about how her triggers are still gut-wrenching and how her husband’s upcoming business trip is causing anxiety.  Some of the comments talked about what her husband could do to help alleviate those fears since she wasn’t able to take off work and go along.  She also delved into some of her own insecurities surrounding his behavior and her worry that he might not be able to “stick to his ideals.”

I have some of the same worries.  Even when I think my husband has no intention of doing wrong, I get nervous and anxious in situations that seem similar to what we went through.  I know that is partly due to “triggers.”  For those not familiar, a trigger is an event or situation that is similar to something you have experienced before that immediately brings back the same emotions from the past.  I have talked to my husband about the different things that trigger me – like seeing that his phone ringer is completely off or catching him in a lie, no matter how “small.”

But I also realized today that a lot of my anxiety is about the fear that I can’t control how things turn out for us.  A lot of this is really on him.  And that scares the shit out of me.  He is the only one who can stop himself from lying, cheating, destructive behavior, and his negative patterns.  Sure, being there for him and supporting him is something that I can do.  But I can’t be there all the time.  He is on his own the majority of every day when he’s at school or work.  A lot of his past behavior was at work, but if I dwell on that fact it would drive me crazy.  So I’m working on finding a way to let go of the things that I have no control over.

It’s really not easy.  Because if he can’t control himself (like he couldn’t in the past), I know now what that will do to me.  And I know I can’t handle it.  It’s hard to hand your future sanity over to someone who has hurt you so deeply, even if you are rebuilding the trust.  But somehow I have to do it because there is no way to control his every action.  I have also come to realize that I don’t want that responsibility.  Maybe that means I’ve made progress. Who knows…

What I do know is that he has to make the right choices whether I’m in the picture or not.  I can’t be his conscience or therapist.  He needs to develop his own boundaries, figure out his own way of staying right, and go back to his individual counselor who has a plan and can teach him the correct tools for healing.  I’m not going to be his guide through this anymore – he needs to take some action on his own.

So, back to the whole idea of co-dependency.  What is it really?  At what point does it become unhealthy?  Are there different “rules” if you have been cheated on?  Is it something I should be concerned about at this point?  What can I do about it?  Depending on who you ask it is either a terrible thing or a necessity for a marriage (to a certain degree).  Every article I read also seems to have a different definition of what codependency is.  Under some definitions our relationship could be characterized that way, but under others we don’t fit the bill.  Some things I read sound like I could be an “enabler,” but other things are so far off base that I would be termed something more like a “disabler.”  It can get quite confusing.

For now I have reached the conclusion that the important thing is finding a healthy balance of personal independence and dependence on your spouse.  After all, if I wanted to be completely unconnected and independent of another human being why would I be married?  In his book Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship, M. Gary Neuman encourages couples to establish a “healthy co-dependence” in their marriage.  I haven’t read the book, but I think I will have to order it because I want to know how to do that.  I certainly don’t want to feel chained like the picture below, but I also don’t want a relationship where we merely co-exist in our separate lives without worrying about the other person’s needs, feelings or desires.

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