Tag Archives: Communication

Our First Post-Separation Date (With Each Other)

25 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results from the Affair Analyzer

24 Oct

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

Affair Analyzer

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

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

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

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

About what happened

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

The Path Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About your mate

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

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

Next Steps for Recovery

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

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

Confused Much?

22 Oct

My husband is confused.  That much is obvious to me.  Other than that, I’m really not sure.

He came by tonight to bring me the joint checkbook that he took from the house last week.  He knocked.  I let him in.  He asked if he could use the computer to balance the checkbook (even though he had it for days, apparently he didn’t actually do anything with it).  I said, sure.  He went to the computer room.

When he had arrived I was in the middle of making myself dinner (it was about 6:30 pm).  I went back to what I was doing, then asked if would like some roasted chicken or a glass of wine (both were sitting on the counter already).  He said no, that he was fine.  I carried on with my preparations, then took my dinner to the den and proceeded to watch The Family Feud.

Once the episode was over, and I had finished my dinner and been properly amused by the silly answers the contestants gave, I started putting things away.  Mr. Mess was still in the computer room.  I decided on a fudgecicle for dessert, and yelled back to ask if he wanted one.  Again, he said no.  That was fine with me because those are my favorite treats right now.  I get the Healthy Choice sugar-free 100 calorie bars, so I don’t even feel bad about having ice cream.

I went back with my treat on a stick to see what was taking so long.  He was still on the bank site.  He finished up as I watched and told me that he had set up the new password in the computer system.  He said it was the same one he had texted me, except he forgot to capitalize the first letter in his text (which makes a big difference).  I said okay.  He said he was going to head home and go to sleep.  He picked up his mail and exited the house.

I have gotten used to his sullen mood and antisocial tendencies over the last week and a half, so I just let his behavior roll right off of me.  A few minutes later I got a text that read: “I dont get you one day you dont want to have dinner with me then you invite me to have wine and dinner.  You have done a good job confusing me.”  I responded with, “That was before we talked & had the meeting with the therapist.  You could have spoken to me while you were here which is really all I was trying to do.  That & be kind.”  I really don’t get it…  He basically pretends I don’t exist while he’s here, then starts texting me when he leaves.  Huh?

A few seconds later my phone rang.  He said that he is “trying to follow the rules we talked about in therapy” by only talking when we are in a neutral location.  That really isn’t how I interpreted things, but okay…  We discussed in therapy about sitting down in a neutral place to have a conversation once a week, but we did not say that we should not talk at all outside of that once per week “date” (for lack of a better word).  In fact, we discussed making sure to speak about any sensitive subjects or those that could be confusing by phone or in person rather than by text.  It seems he was violating a “rule” in his quest to follow another.

I said that I am still more than happy to do that, he just hasn’t made an effort.  He said that he is planning to set something up later this week, but he didn’t think we should talk at my house.  I asked why he decided to come here today then.  He said “to drop off the checkbook,” then said that he wants to spend as little time as possible at my house right now because he feels “uncomfortable” here.  I questioned why he chose to come here and stay for 45 minutes then.  He had some excuses about being tired, not having computer access at his house, not wanting to drive to the library to balance the checkbook, etc., etc.  Again, they were excuses, not valid reasons.

He also said that he doesn’t understand why I would offer him something to eat or drink.  I asked what he would rather I do – ignore him and be mean?  He said no.  Again, I just said okay…

I really don’t know what is so confusing about me being polite to him.  I didn’t ask him for anything, I just offered some of the chicken that was already prepared.  I didn’t even ask him to leave the room he was in.  He said that he “doesn’t feel welcome” in my house and that I have made that “obvious”…  I guess my friendly offer was somehow nefarious or had ulterior motives in his mind…?  He said it was “implied” that I wanted him to sit and have a deep conversation with me, which he didn’t think was appropriate.  Again…. huh?  When I was noticeably confused by his answers he said that he must not know how to take me, or something like that.  At least we were on the same page with that one.

I tried to see what he meant by what he was saying.  More than once I asked him “In what way?” or “What do you mean by that?” in response to one of his vague statements.  He would usually just repeat the last thing he said, like I had told him that I couldn’t hear him, not that I couldn’t grasp his thought-process.  I know that move – it’s his way of shutting me down and stopping any conversation from going deeper than the shallow end of the pool.

In the end he said that he was feeling too emotional to have this conversation.  I asked him how we are ever going to reconcile and have a real relationship if he runs away and hides every time he has an emotion.  He said that he is not running away.  I told him that I really don’t see what else this could be…  He waits until he leaves to text me, then calls instead of speaking to me in person, then avoids any real conversation by saying we will talk “later.”  The only problem is that “later” will never come – at least not if history is any indication.  He has already said once this week that we would talk “later” about the anger that came out of nowhere this weekend.  I think it’s probably clear that didn’t happen since he is barely speaking to me right now.

Tonight he has me wondering why he pushes me away anytime I try to be the least bit cordial to him.  It seems that he has already decided that I am angry or bitter or want this marriage to be over.  Anytime my actions don’t fit with this fabricated reality he doesn’t seem to know what to do.  Or maybe it’s just that he is miserable and can’t stand that I’m not.  Who knows…

What I do know is that I’m going to continue trying over the next 3 months.  Whether he chooses to try as well is up to him.  After all, that’s what this separation is all about.  Will he step up or won’t he?  That is the question at the moment.

What Are We Doing Now Regarding Separation?

18 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?)

We Obviously Need to Wait for Thursday

16 Oct

I learned another hard lesson today:  I should not text late at night or when I’m feeling lonely and tired.  This lesson was one that I should already have learned the night before (see the account of my last late-night texting adventure here).  However, I am nothing if not hard-headed…

Yesterday my husband asked if we could meet after work today (Tuesday) to talk about this separation and our plans moving forward.  At first I agreed, but then I really thought about it.  I have a lot of things to consider.  I have a lot of questions going on in my head.

When my husband came by yesterday to pick up some clothes his frowney face and surly attitude also told me that he wasn’t exactly feeling remorseful about his lying.  At least it didn’t seem that way.  He also made a comment that led me to believe he was going to push this whole thing off on me.

Keeping that in mind, I asked if he could wait until Thursday to talk since we already have a marriage counseling appointment set up at 9 am, and I want to make sure we are being productive.  He said something like “Whatever is more convenient for you.”

I should have left it at that.

I fully intended to.

Photo Credit: Alex Ragone/Flickr.com

Then around 9 pm my husband texted me and said, “I just remembered there are two whole chickens in the bottom drawer in the fridge you should freeze them so they don’t go bad.”

First of all, I know that text is perfectly fine.  It’s very nice of him to let me know that so the chickens don’t go bad.  I never look in that bottom drawer and would not have known they were there.

Secondly, I realize that 9 pm does not sound very late to most adults on the planet.  However, I was hopped up on medicine for my strep and ear infection and had been laying in bed for at least 30 minutes, so it was already too late for my brain to function properly.

Like a moron, I texted: “If you want to come over tomorrow night for dinner I might roast one of them.”  Insert foot in mouth.

I want to defend myself by saying that I didn’t think before I texted.  Bad idea.  I had been thinking about roasting a chicken all day, but didn’t realize there were any in the house.  We love roasting chickens with the rotisserie in the convection toaster-oven that I bought him for his birthday in August.  We have this amazing smoked sea salt that makes them absolutely delicious.  I knew I couldn’t eat a whole chicken by myself.  I thought maybe dinner would be nice.  Blah, blah, blah…

To his credit, he responded with, “I will let you know tomorrow.”

This morning, after getting sufficient sleep to improve my brain function and let all cold medicines wear off in the night, I awoke with a pit in my stomach.  I quickly texted him, “That probably wasn’t a good idea.”  I didn’t hear from him again until lunch-time today, when the following text disaster occurred:

Him: “I guess you are talking about having dinner together not being a good idea i never said that.”

Me: “Yeah, but it was kinda implied.  And it might be a bad idea.”

Him: “If you say so.”  (passive-aggressive much?)

Me: “I don’t.  I just don’t know.”

Him: “That last statement does not make since to me.  You know how you feel and by what you have been saying i dont think having dinner with me is what you want”

Me: “I do not really know what I feel right now.  Thats the thing.  I don’t know if it would help or hurt things so I guess the safest bet is to talk in MC.” (MC stands for marriage counseling)

Him: “All i know is “i dont know” has never been an acceptable answer from me yet im accepting it from you.  I hope you figure it out then we will both know” (Ok, Buddy, now you’ve crossed a line!)

Me: “Its not fair to put everything on me.  You put us in this situation with your lies then expect me to make all the decisions about where that leaves us.”

Him: “Im not asking where it leave us im asking where it leaves you.”

Me: “Thats the same thing.”

Him: “We should just keep this conversation for thursday.”

Me:  “That’s exactly what I was saying.”

So, we now officially have a gag order in place until Thursday, at least in my mind.  I think no contact for a day and a half really won’t be a bad thing.

Being Aware of Our Vulnerabilities

2 Oct

man on a wire – by simple pleasure

Last week a blogger I follow posted about a Vulnerability Assessment from her marriage counselor.  I was instantly intrigued.  She pointed out that Vulnerability + Opportunity = Affair.  That makes sense, although the reality is probably a tiny bit more complicated.

Those do seem like the basic questions to ask yourself, though – how vulnerable are you to being led astray and what kind of opportunity do you have to act on that vulnerability.  Those two things together are important to the equation.  Having lots of opportunity to cheat doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.  Similarly, being vulnerable to an affair doesn’t guarantee you will have one.  Someone can also be vulnerable and make their own opportunity or have so much opportunity that it creates a vulnerability.  However, if you mix equal parts vulnerability to an affair and opportunity to have one, it is obviously a recipe for disaster.

That made me wonder…  Just how vulnerable am I?

If I had to guess, I would say that I probably have a fairly high score on that assessment.  My husband is a sex addict, so his cycles and behaviors have definitely put him at a high risk overall.  But what about me?

Certainly, according to the small snapshot she shared, I would answer “True” more often than I would like.  Just look at some of this stuff…  Did you know you are at increased risk of having an affair simply if:

  • you have a Facebook account?
  • you have been dealing with stress (family, illness, work, marriage, new job)?
  • you have moved?
  • you have had to deal with the loss of a parent, child, sibling, pet, close friend, family member?
  • you have dealt with or are dealing with a physical/emotional illness (stress, depression, low self-esteem)?
  • you feel taken for granted or taken advantage of at work, at home, in life?
  • you have had to deal with children that are teenagers, rebellious, or unruly?
  • you have felt self-conscious of aging, a bulging mid-section, receding hairline, sagging breasts, erectile dysfunction, major weight loss/gain?
  • you have felt sexually inadequate or second-rate in bed?
  • you confide easily in others?
  • you lack clear goals or dreams or sense of purpose for your life?
  • you have thought or spoke negatively about yourself?
  • you have a lack of self-awareness concerning infidelity, such as:
    • “This couldn’t happen to me.”
    • “I’m committed to working on my marriage.”
    • “No one would be interested in me.”
    • “I would recognize the signs.”
    • “I can be his/her friend only.”
    • “He/She is only a friend.”
    • “He/She is not attractive to me, so this is OK.”
    • “We are both married.”  [As if that totally rules it out…]
    • “This will not get out of hand.”
  • you have a high need for affirmation from others in your life?
  • you feel sorry for yourself?
  • you often see things as ALL or NOTHING?
  • you are unable to communicate your thoughts and emotions to your spouse? perhaps you have been dishonest with them about difficult issues because you fear them rejecting you or punishing you, or because you think it will protect them…”What they don’t know won’t hurt.”)
  • compared to others, you view yourself as:  morally superior, smarter than, or more self-aware?
  • your spouse embarrasses you in public?
  • your marriage is “keeping up the image” to others?
  • you have felt your sex life lacked quality, passion or adventure, and/or it has not been frequent enough?
  • you are disconnected sexually because of emotional starvation?
  • you have married friends who complain about their marriages?
  • you spend time alone?

Teetering on the brink – © Copyright John Naisbitt and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

I definitely don’t have all of them, not even half, but several of them stood out.  This is also not the entire list.  She got a HUGE list of almost 250 characteristics that can make you vulnerable to an affair, and chose just to share some of the ones that she found the most surprising or that made the most sense.

If I spent time alone I’m more vulnerable to an affair?  Huh?  If it’s on there, though, there must be a reason.  I think it is important to remember all of the little ways we can become vulnerable – to an affair, but also to drifting apart from our partner.  Each of these things is part of a bigger picture.  Too many of them together can mean that you are opening yourself up to stray, or even just to become estranged from your spouse.  The moral of the story is:

Expose your weaknesses before the lies become believable.

I am about to head into the therapist’s office to have my husband give me a full disclosure of his acting out behavior.  I am nervous.  There are all sorts of thoughts and emotions swirling around inside me.  One thing I have been keeping in the forefront of my brain is that the roles could easily be reversed.  If I had a different childhood, if I were treated or raised differently, if I had chosen to cope with sex or porn instead of shopping or eating, if any number of things had happened… this could be me today.  I am going to try my hardest to leave all judgement at the door.  We have walked down different paths.  We have experienced life differently.  The things we have been through brought us together, and we are moving forward hand in hand.

What’s that saying… “But for the grace of God go I.”  I may not believe in God, but I do believe that none of us can be positive that we aren’t vulnerable to being that person we despise, pity, hate, laugh at, etc…  I am going to try to hold onto that renewed sense of humility and self-awareness as I listen with an open heart to the things my husband has struggled with in his past.  Wish me luck.

A homeless man in Paris – work by Eric Pouhier

Last Retrouvaille Post Session – Writing to Heal

6 Sep

The writing is on the wall!
© Copyright Alan Bowring and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

I know that I have been absolutely horrible with describing our Retrouvaille experience.  So far I have only told you about our first night.  Bad me!  The main reason is that there is just so much involved with the program.  I have literally filled an entire notebook with notes, writing, and letters.  I will try to go back and give more details.

However, today I want to share a bit about the last post-session.  It was a long session that took place on August 25th beginning at 9:00 am.  Since we have a long drive to the post-session location, Mr. Mess and I had quite an early morning.  We decided that it was a good investment in our marriage, though, and worth a little lost sleep on a Saturday morning.

The entire first half of this post-session was called “Writing to Heal.”  I have pulled information from the Retrouvaille of Northern Virginia blog about what this day entails:

Purpose and Goals of the Writing to Heal Day
• Promote personal and couple healing through deeper exploration of our stories and a deeper understanding of the Retrouvaille concepts.
• Provide an environment for spiritual growth
• Experience the healing power of our unique story

The session will focus on helping couples write their Personal Introduction, but couples who are working on other presentations–including Weekend and Post Weekend Presentations–will have individual help and time to write as well.

The “spiritual growth” bullet point makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth, but the actual day was great.  There wasn’t anything religious about it at all.  In fact, it was all about coming up with your personal story as a couple.

We were asked to create an outline with one another, decide who would write what parts of our story, and work together to create a snapshot of our life together so far.  They provided us with a general idea of the various sections we should include as well as guidelines for how to write the personal introduction.  The outline they provided us with was:

Couple’s Personal Introduction

I.        The Beginning

A.    Start by telling your names, where you are from, how you met.  (Husband or Wife)
Include the number of years married, children, when you made your weekend, etc.
B.    Talk about how you felt in the beginning of your relations.  (Husband and Wife)
This could include the romantic stage

II.        Trouble that led you to Retrouvaille
Remember to be brief and to the point, but give sufficient information so that the couples can connect with you and realize you have something to share.  This is a very important part where you need to be sure to share deeply and honestly enough for the couples to get a believable connection with you.

A.    Briefly talk about how your marriage deteriorated and how you were led to Retrouvaille.  (Husband or Wife)
Remember here – the one who did it, says it!
B.    Other spouse shared how they felt about their relationship before going to Retrouvaille.
Share your feelings here and describe them fully: abandonment, devastation, crushed, etc.

III.        Life Now
Share about your weekend and post sessions.
  (Husband and Wife)
Share your vision and inspire the couples to continue working at their marriages.  Tell what you learned during the weekend and post sessions and what happened in your relationship.  Share your struggles.  What kept you going?  Share your feelings and desires. State that you will share your journey since the weekend during the rest of these post sessions.  Explain that you continue working on your relationship and remind the couples that it is a continuous journey, and the journey is made much easier with support and dialog!

The great thing about the Writing to Heal day is that we were allowed to bring laptops.  Score!  I can type waaayy faster than I can hand write.  Typing our story also meant that it would be much, much easier to blog about.  Instead of having to type and format pages of hand-written notes, I could just copy and paste.  If laptops has been allowed during the weekend and other post-sessions you would already have those details.

So, Mr. Mess and I went about the task of trying to summarize our relationship so far.  We talked about what to put in each section, and I have to admit that we had some disagreements.  He thought everything before we were married should be in “the beginning.”  I felt that since our troubles started before we were married, they should be included in Section II.  He didn’t understand me.  I couldn’t picture how we could make his idea fit into the outline they gave us.  Finally, he went and asked the instructor.  He confirmed what I thought – the point of the first section was to stick to the gushy, romantic, happy memories.  If the trouble started before the marriage, then it should be discussed in Section II, but Section I should be all about the butterflies.  Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of those.

We also had a few formatting hitches when it came to who was going to write which section.  Since the person who “did it” was also supposed to “say it,” that meant we had to work the back and forth so that he introduced the topic of his affair and addiction.  He wanted to do the very beginning of our story, so we were able to make that work pretty well by picking a half-way point in “the beginning” and having him write about everything before that and me write about everything after that up to our “trouble.”  From there the back and forth story-telling really worked itself out.

Just to make sure that this is clear, the personal story we were writing was intended to be read out loud by both of us.  It can be used if you want to be a couple who leads a Retrouvaille weekend or post-session.  It can also just be done for the two of you and kept private.  Whatever the final purpose, the initial goal is to interact with one another, collaborate, remember the positive memories and great things that brought you together, open up about what went wrong, and see how far you have come as a couple through better communication.

During our writing to heal day, I typed my section, and Mr. Mess gave me his as he finished them.  I then added them into my sections to complete the outline with indications of who wrote and was to read each part.  By the end of the post-session, we were done.  We had added all of the sections, figured out a way to make them flow, and edited it together.  All of the couples were given the opportunity to share their personal story at the end, but no one volunteered.  I was ready, but Mr. Mess felt a little more reserved, so we held back as well.

What we did do, however, was approach the lead couple at the end of the day.  They were one of our weekend presenting couples, had led a few post-sessions, and helped to coordinate the entire thing.  We had been emailing with them from the beginning.  We asked if we could email them a copy of our outline and get their feedback.  They said they would certainly be willing to do that.  In fact, they did that with most of the presenting couples before they came to the weekend, so they already had a process down for recommending edits, areas that should be elaborated on more, etc.  Mr. Mess was very willing to do that, so when we got home we sent them our personal story.

So far I haven’t heard back from them.  I’m sure they’ve been busy with the holiday and preparing for the upcoming Retrouvaille weekend.  I was going to wait for them to give their feedback before I posted it here on my blog, but I’m starting to get antsy.  You guys have seen some works-in-progress before, and I haven’t been beat up too much.  This post has already become much too long to also include our detailed personal story, but I will be publishing it very, very soon for you all to read.  I look forward to your honest opinions.

Flirting: Where To Draw The Line?

24 Jul

This post hit me hard today. Both my husband and I have been guilty of harmful flirting in the past. It is such an unhealthy behavior, and one I’m glad to see gone from our marriage. This is a must-read!

Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night, Part 2

17 Jul

As promised, I will now continue with the experience on Friday night.  I already told you how we got there, what our first experience was like, the initial notes I made on the program, and the initial three questions that they asked us to write about.  Here they are again with my answer following each question.

1.    Why did I come here this weekend, and what do I hope to gain?
2.    How can I make this weekend a disappointment for us?
3.    What can I do to make this weekend a positive experience?


My answers (completely unedited except for names):

1.    I came here this weekend because I really want this marriage to work.  I am willing to put in the work, and I like the idea of having a program that can help.  I am hoping that we will both learn tools for communicating that will make that goal easier to reach.

I am also sincerely hoping that something we learn here will make it easier for Mr. Mess to talk to me.  I want to find a way that helps him be more comfortable sharing.  I feel like if that can be achieved out battle is more than half-way over.

I heard that this weekend involved a lot of writing, and that is the best way that I communicate (at least I think so).  Mr. Mess has also said he was going to start journaling but he never did.  I know that my blog helps me to process my thoughts and feelings so I can make sense of what is going on.  I want that clarity and release for Mr. Mess as well.

2.    First, I have to say that I really dislike the negative phrasing of this questions.  Maybe analyzing things like that is something I do that could impede progress here.  Complaining is not really productive and could take away from this experience.  I can’t help thinking that I really, really, really wish I had a computer and keyboard right now, though, because my hand is already killing me.

But I digress.  If I want to make this weekend a disappointment I suppose I could mock, whine, moan and refuse to participate.  I don’t see the point in wasting our time and money by doing that, though.

3.    Participate!  Not be sarcastic or mocking.  Try to be open.  Stop judging.

If you can’t tell already, I ran out of time for the last question.  I jotted down a few quick thoughts as Mr. Mess was coming through the hotel room door.  It turns out they only gave us like 10 minutes to write down our thoughts.  The time varied throughout the rest of the weekend, but we discovered that writing for 10 minutes, then dialoguing for 10 minutes is the goal.  20 minutes total.  At first we felt incredibly rushed and like this definitely couldn’t accomplish anything with such strict time limits.

The process isn’t about “accomplishing something” in the traditional sense of things, thought.  It is designed so that we can each understand the other’s feelings.  Dialoguing is NOT about solving a problem.  It isn’t supposed to be the last word on an issue or topic.  It can be the foundation for truly resolving conflict, though, because it allows each person to be open and unreserved with their emotions so that the other person can really try to understand what those feelings are.  In this way, when we actually do try to solve the problem our defensiveness will hopefully be disarmed since we will know the other person’s heart – their feelings, fears, desires, hopes, and all of the other emotions surrounding the topic.

Photo Credit – I have to say that I love, love, love this picture!

But we weren’t there yet.  We still didn’t really understand the process.  Now that I do know the process, my answer above shows that.  Still, that first discussion (because that’s what it was at that time) went well.  We were able to read and accept each other’s answers.  I also discovered that the second question was helpful to him, even though it seemed like an entirely pointless, negative and rhetorical question to me.  That helped me to actually let go of my judgments and go for the rest of the ride.

As I mentioned earlier, we certainly weren’t done there for the night.  I think the most productive thing for me to do is recount and describe each presentation we received and the dialog that followed.  I do this NOT so that you can try to follow the program from my directions.  I wouldn’t recommend that at all.  It really works much better as an experience and process that the couple shares as intended.

However, I do think it will help me to really absorb the information by re-telling the events as I remember and using the extensive notes that I wrote down.  I will also be glad to share my part of the dialoguing as well as additional thoughts, feelings, and experiences I had during this process.  My hope is that it could influence someone to give the program a shot if they feel this format and process could work in their marriage.  Remember, I am still early on in this program, so I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  I simply intend to share my insight and how the weekend (and later the post-sessions) affected me and my marriage.

Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night, Part 1

17 Jul

The Retrouvaille logo – It was at the top of our name tags with the slogan “We are not alone.” Mr. Mess and I quickly decided that was due to the aliens – a running joke that got us past all of the religious propaganda.

This weekend Mr. Mess and I attended the Retrouvaille program.  It was intense.  It was looonnng.  It was immeasurably helpful.  By the end of the first night we already felt closer.  It helped us both to understand one another’s feelings.  The process they taught us was like a light-bulb coming on for Mr. Mess.  Even the super-religious sessions brought us closer as we came up with an inside joke to help us laugh at their fundamental perspective instead of getting frustrated.  I would highly recommend it to any couple who needs help communicating effectively with one another and understanding their partner’s point of view.

Let me back up just a bit.  We are about 2 hours away from where the program was being held – provided there is no traffic.  I was convinced it was going to take us at least 3 hours to get there because of the direction we were headed.  We left in plenty of time and surprisingly hit only one stretch that was significantly slow.  The car ride was somewhat awkward, but there was only one incident where I got frustrated.  He handled himself well, and we got there with almost an hour to spare and no major issues.  That left us time to have a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Dinner was already a step in the right direction.  We talked about the Boundary Agreement.  He went over the items I had put down, asked a few questions, and said that he doesn’t have any problem with agreeing to any of my boundaries.  There were a few that he didn’t understand why they would be necessary – like not keeping a secret email account or phone.  He has never done that before, but I have fear surrounding it.  I will take a look at those items and really examine my feelings about them.  Part of the boundary agreement will be really deciding what is an actual boundary and what is an unrealistic fear or attempt to control him.  I think I can pare down the list a bit and still be true to myself.  He also said that he will think of a few things that he would like to add to the agreement.

Back to the original point of this post.  We got to the hotel during the designated “check in” time, and headed over to the Retrouvaille table.  The couple there handed us our room key and said to be back down by 8:00 pm.  That’s it.  I asked if we were going to get an agenda or anything to help us know what to expect.  He said “No” and that we should just “trust the process.”  Already I was feeling leery and apprehensive.  As a planner, I do not do well with a “just trust us” mentality.  I wanted to know what we were going to be doing, what time I could expect to get to bed, when I would have to get up, and what I should expect.  Challenge #1 to my controlling mentality was not well-received.  Mr. Mess, however, was already stepping up.  He told me that we would figure out what to expect when we got down there, and that all we were giving up was one weekend if it didn’t go well.  I agreed, calmed down a bit, and said that he was right – I could commit to let go for one weekend and see what happened.

Down in the conference room at 8:00 we found tables set up with two notebooks and pens for each couple.  We choose a table and sat down…  Looking around the room at the other couples, they also seemed just as nervous and unsure of themselves.  None of them appeared to me to be “troubled.”  I found myself wondering what had brought them here.  I was almost convinced that we were the only ones there with real, hard-core marital problems.  Everyone else seemed so normal.  I’m sure we seemed normal, too, though.  On second inspection, I noticed that no one seemed to be holding hands or even touching.  There was an air of tension and questioning in the air.  After a few minutes the room settled down into almost absolutely silence.  In the front of the room was a table with sound equipment and three chairs – two were filled by an elderly couple and in the third sat a tall middle-aged man.

Finally it was time to begin.  The people at the front of the room introduced themselves.  The elderly couple had gone through the Retrouvaille program several years earlier.  The middle-aged gentleman was a priest.  The couple introduced themselves individually, gave the name of their spouse, and one positive quality about their husband/wife.  Then they asked everyone in the room to do the same thing.

Panic set in immediately.  My brain was completely blank…  What was one positive quality about Mr. Mess?  I know the answer to this, I told myself, yet I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.  The train of introductions was winding itself through the room.  We were in the second row of tables directly in the middle.  There were just enough couples in front of us for me to get a chance to breathe, hear a few of the other people’s answers, and allow myself to get even more worked up.  The first couple had raised the ante and said TWO positive things about their spouse.  Everyone else after had felt pressured into doing the same.  Now I needed two things?!?  Oh gosh!  I couldn’t be the only person who said nothing, staring blankly at the presenters like a deer in headlights…  A few couples before us the presenters chimed in that we only have to say one thing, not two.  Phew!  But I still had no idea what I would pick.

All too soon, it was out turn.  Mr. Mess had to go first because of the direction these intros were headed.  He said that my best quality was that I am forgiving.  I felt a little embarrassed that he would be airing our problems so soon… everyone else said things like “kind, generous, a good mother, etc.”  I am just forgiving?!  Doesn’t that say more about you than me?  I didn’t have much time to think about his answer, though, because it was my turn.  I mumbled that he is hard-working and has a good sense of humor.  I thought of two after all.  I let out the breath and tension that I had unconsciously been holding in.  The introduction train continued, so I must have done okay…  I tuned out the other answers in the room, too caught up in my relief and simultaneous fear that we would be put on the spot like this the entire weekend.

At the end of the introductions, the presenters said that would be the only time we were asked to speak to the group.  I let out a huge sigh of gratitude.  They then went on to read from papers in front of them to describe the program.  I took some notes in my newly, provided notebook.  After a few minutes I wrote a note to Mr. Mess that said, “These people have no personality!”  It was double underlined.  The woman of the couple was reading from her paper in a monotone voice, not making any eye contact.  They explained that they are not professionals, and it is easier for them to read from prepared statements because it ensures that they don’t forget anything.  It also helps with their nerves.  Okay…  I could understand that.  I vowed to give them the benefit of the doubt and try to curb my sarcastic tendencies.

Here are some of the things I wrote on my first page of notes:

  • We will be learning dialog communication technique
  • Writing is the best was to get your thoughts and ideas down! (my blog)
  • Other Rules:
    • You will receive a question after the presentation.
    • Answer and reflect (separately, then swap)
    • Read your spouse’s answer twice.
    • Silent time is silent: no talking, socializing, distractions, etc.
    • No snacks during presentations, writing or silent time
    • No maid service
    • No cell phones
    • No right or wrong answers, just honest ones (don’t hide things)
    • Be gentle (no attacking)

I did not know then, but this was the first of nearly 60 pages I would write that weekend.  I thought I had the rules down pretty well after that first session, but I learned later that I had plenty to learn and absorb.  We were given our first dialog questions:

  1. Why did I come here this weekend, and what do I hope to gain?
  2. How can I make this weekend a disappointment for us?
  3. What can I do to make this weekend a positive experience?

The women were asked to go up to our rooms to write while the men stayed in the conference room.  We weren’t told how long we would have to write.  We were just told to write for as long as we needed on each topic.  We were also given a little booklet that had an outline of the dialog process and some good “feeling words.”  There were two pages, one for positive and one for negative feelings, and basic headings under each like angry, sad, happy, and loved.  Under each heading were more feelings and words that express specific, more descriptive emotions such as furious, despondent, ecstatic, and tender.  We were to use those to help us find the correct words for our feelings.

I will share my answers and more about the process later.  I also need to talk to Mr. Mess to see how much he is comfortable with me sharing on my blog.  I would like to say that right off the bat, once I allowed myself to participate and leave my judgments at the door, we started being more connected.  I will also add that I wasn’t nearly prepared for what was to come – including sessions that lasted until 11:00 pm that first night!

Photo Credit

Retrouvaille Weekend

13 Jul

Today we are going to Retrouvaille.  It is a weekend program that is designed to help couples in distress.  On the website it says, “Retrouvaille attempts to re-establish trust and communication in damaged relationships… It operates from the premise that most marriages can and should be saved.”  Here is a more extensive description:

What is a Retrouvaille Program?

The word Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vi with a long i.) is a French word meaning rediscovery. The program offers tools needed to rediscover a loving marriage relationship. Thousands of couples headed for cold, unloving relationships or divorce have successfully overcome their marriage problems by attending the program.

The Retrouvaille Program consists of a weekend experience combined with a series of 6-12 post-weekend sessions over 3 months. It provides the tools to help put your marriage in order again. The main emphasis of the program is on communication in marriage between husband and wife. It will give you the opportunity to rediscover each other and examine your lives together in a new and positive way.

We signed up for this program in early May.  We were doing really well in our recovery then, and this seemed like a really great tool for strengthening our marriage even more.  Now it feels like a lifeline that might get us back on track.

Communication.  Such a simple idea.  Talking.  Sharing.  Confiding in each other.  Yet Mr. Mess’s lies are like a brick wall between us that we have to scream through to hear one another.  Maybe this weekend will help with that.  At least I hope so.

Despite reading just about everything on their website and speaking to other couple’s on forums who have gone, I still don’t have any concrete idea of what to expect.  I do know that this is a religious-based program, which makes me worried since both of us are on the agnostic/ atheist scale – me more so than my husband (I’m a full-blown atheist to the core).  I’m a little worried that I may shut down if they try to ram religion down my throat as the solution to all of this.  Others who have gone say the religious tone is very subtle, but subtle to them may not feel subtle to me.

I have decided, though, that I’m willing to come out of my protective shell for this weekend and be emotionally naked.  One weekend can’t hurt me but so much, right?  All I can do is give it my all and hope for the best.  I don’t know what the result will be.  I’m not sure what I have to offer.  I wonder if I’m too far gone to reconnect to what we had before all of this.  But I’m going to try.

We will be departing around 4:00 pm Eastern Time on this journey.  Wish me luck!

Minding Your P’s and Q’s

13 Jul

Photo Credit

Mr. Mess and I had a marriage counseling session on Wednesday.  It was very emotional, so I’m warning you now that this will be very long.  We touched on quite a few things.  It was the first time we had sat down in the same room and talked about the lying incident and its aftermath.  The entire session is a bit of a blur.  Unlike the way I can usually recall conversations in very specific details from beginning to end, my memories of that hour are jumbled.  They pop up in my brain in small segments.  I recall things in the order of impact they had on me instead of their chronological order.  That is a new experience for me, and has made it very difficult to write about.  I have started and stopped, erased sentences and entire paragraphs, re-arranged my thoughts over and over, and given up more than once.

Today I decided that it is important to do my best to catalog my emotions and the topics covered.  One big reason is that we are going away for the weekend.  More about that later.  I think I need to put a period on this in my mind so that I can move on and fully engage.

Just about the only thing I didn’t go back and forth with about this post is its title.  Since I’m not sure where to start, I will start there.  Wednesday night as I was lying in bed sifting through my emotions and thoughts, I began trying to form a general outline of this blog post.  It’s something I find myself doing unconsciously now.  It’s a way to organize my thoughts and process them.  If I can start forming them into a logical order that would make sense to a reader, then they also start to make more sense to me.

Photo Credit – Writer’s Block

The very first thing that popped into my head during that process was “Minding Your P’s and Q’s.”  I like titles that play off of socially recognized phrases or ideas, but mean something different.  That title was a natural choice because of the direction our therapy session went.  Our counselor asked a lot of questions, and so did Mr. Mess and I – hence the “Qs.”  Other topics that we discussed started with the letter P.  In fact, at one point our counselor said something to the effect of, “I have two words for you, and they both start with the letter P.  They represent two ways you can look at this situation.  I want to tell you the difference.”

Now that I have explained my title and gotten the first few words on the page, I can feel my brain loosening up.  Thank you for bearing with me up to this point.  Here we go.

There are a few different posts about how my husband lied to me regarding his work schedule two Sundays ago and how I discovered those lies (Setting Boundaries).  I have shared how the fact of a lie wasn’t as bad as the fact that he continued to lie, tried to cover his lies with half-truths, and kept lying once I found evidence that countered his story (Lies, Lies, Go Away… Come again NEVER!).  I talked about detaching and the things I have done for myself since (Farting on the Massage Table and A Holiday, a Tattoo and a Piercing).  Hopefully you now know enough of the story from my perspective.

What I discovered in counseling was Mr. Mess’s perspective.  After giving a brief description of events (Mr. Mess lied, then kept lying, then gaslighted, and now we are sleeping in separate rooms), our therapist jumped right in with the questions.  His first one was whether Mr. Mess lied intentionally or unconsciously.  My husband then plainly stated that he made the conscious choice to lie.  It wasn’t a gut reaction.  It wasn’t a slip.  He lied because he had intended to lie to me all along.  That was a punch in the gut!  But at least I knew the truth.  It wasn’t a mistake.  It wasn’t an instinct.  I am not crazy.  He wanted to lie to me, so he did.

Let me tell you, in that moment I felt all hope slip away.  I was thinking so many things simultaneously – “How could he?  After everything we have been through and all of the progress we have made, he just decided to throw it out the window?  I married a monster!  He is pathological!  What could he possibly get out of lying that my feelings mean absolutely NOTHING to him?”  The overriding thought was “I don’t think I can deal with this.”  I didn’t say any of that.  I just sat there staring at the floor.  I don’t know if I could have gotten up and left if the thought had entered my mind – which for some reason it didn’t.

The next question from the therapist was something to the effect of “what was the goal of lying” or “what did you get out of it” or “why did you make the choice to lie.”  I obviously can’t remember the exact wording.  Either way the answer was that he wanted control.  He wanted to feel like he had control over something completely – that there was something that was just “his.”  He didn’t want to share with me.  He didn’t want me to know about it.  He wanted me to just leave him alone and not bother with caring what his work schedule was or when he would be leaving the house.

He continued by saying that he doesn’t feel like he has had any control since this “whole thing” started.  I was baffled.  Completely.  I think I actually snorted.  “Are you serious?” I threw out, exasperated.  “Come on!  You are driving this crazy bus and dragging me along behind you!  I didn’t pick this, you did!”  Our therapist gently stepped in and said that we probably don’t have the same perspective (there’s a P-word), but it is still important to hear where Mr. Mess is coming from.  He asked for a clarification, more information about the how he feels he lacks control.

Again, Mr. Mess said that from the beginning of this “whole thing,” he didn’t feel like he had any say in how things happened.  I had to cut in to ask what he thinks of as the “beginning” – the start of our relationship, the affair discovery, his childhood, this lie, what?  He said May 2011.  I asked, do you mean March 31, 2011 (side note – he doesn’t even remember the date?  What the hell?!?!?)?  He said, sure, whatever – from this last discovery forward.  I said okay, then sat back to hear what he could possibly have to say.

I may not do justice to this part because I don’t remember what he said word for word.  By this point I also had so many different swirling emotions, thoughts, and crazy feelings that my head was literally buzzing.  The general gist is that when I discovered the last time he was viewing and hiding porn on his phone I told him he was a sex addict and made him go to therapy.  Yeah…  that’s what he said.  I (not so kindly or graciously) cut in to say that, yes, when I found teen porn on his phone it was the last straw and I said go to therapy or leave.  Period.

He took my outburst in stride and continued with his version of events where I diagnosed him with sex addiction, something his current therapist said that he “might have.”  Again, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing and had to jump in.  I said something like “Seriously?  I didn’t diagnose you, and that’s not what he said to me when I met with him.”  What I should have added (but didn’t) is, “You ended up going to him after you described your own issues to several therapists who said it was over their head and you need to go see him because he specializes in problems like that – a.k.a. porn addictions.”

He (rather sarcastically) asked what Dr. C told me then.  I said something like, “We both sat down in his office and he said point-blank that you have a sex addiction problem, but he was going to help you through it.  He said that you need to use a 3 pronged approach – medication, therapy (including a sex addiction workbook) and SA meetings.”  Our MC asked if he remembers that.  Mr. Mess said yes, but…  This is the point where my brain gets fuzzy because I just couldn’t accept one more excuse, justification, denial, or re-writing of history.  I think he said something to the effect of – I just went along to get along because she told me I had to.

I know I nearly yelled that I did not MAKE him do anything.  I just said that this time I wasn’t going to just sweep it under the rug.  I told him what I needed in order to continue this relationship.  If he didn’t want to do it, he was free to walk out of the door.  I told him that then and reiterated it more than once.  I think at that point he may have agreed with me, but said that he didn’t have any control over what he had to do in order to stay with me.  He said that he “loved” me, then quickly corrected himself and said that he still does.  He didn’t want to lose me, so he did things that he didn’t really want to do in order to keep our marriage going.

I can’t remember if there was any resolution to that or how we got on a different topic, but I do know that we started talking about my response to his lie this time.  He said that I shut him out completely.  He felt I was saying that I was done and the relationship was over, and that I was going to show him by doing things just to “spite” him.

I asked what he was talking about.  He brought up my tattoo and piercing, saying how I did those things to hurt him.  Huh?  I said, “No, I did those things for myself.  It had nothing to do with you.”  He said that the timing and the fact that I didn’t talk to him about it first makes him think I was trying to make him angry – that he had no idea I wanted to do that.  What??  I asked, “Don’t you remember us bicycling to the tattoo parlor in the 100 degree weather to see about a piercing and tattoo before our fight?  That should tell you that I was serious about getting something done.”  He countered that I was talking about a different piercing (the face one that I found out is permanent) and a tattoo in a different place.  He didn’t know what I wanted specifically.  So??  Was he looking for me to ask permission (another P-word)?  Would it really have changed anything if I asked him before I went instead of telling him when I was there?  He said yes, it would have.  There was more back and forth which was petty and not important to this summary.

Thankfully at this point our wonderful MC got involved again to referee this issue and get us back on track.  He said that in a healthy marriage I probably would have talked to him about what I wanted to get done more specifically before I just did it.  However, I didn’t feel safe enough to do that.  This relationship wasn’t in a healthy place.

Again, the movie in my head skips here.  I know that we started talking about Mr. Mess’s past and how he relates to people in his life.  Yesterday I talked briefly about his lack of empathy for others – or at least how it takes him a lot of effort to consider how his actions could make another person feel and actually care about those feelings.  He admitted that he has negatively affected the lives of every single friend, family member, or person who has loved him.  Every. Single. One.  Wow!  That must have taken a lot to admit.  He talked about regrets he has, especially that he can’t apologize to his parents, who are both passed away.

He also said that he has always done whatever he wanted, right or wrong, consequences be damned.  He has never had another person be so affected by the things he chooses to do.  He has never “answered” to anyone for his actions, or had to worry about having another person tied to the outcome of his decisions.  He is afraid that he can’t be the kind of person who thinks or cares about how he will affect someone else.

Our MC then asked the next logical question – “Then why did you decide to get married?”  He said that he is not trying to be flippant or sarcastic, but getting married is the ultimate act of tying your life to another person’s.  It requires selflessness, sacrifice, compromise – the exact opposite of what he just finished describing.  Mr. Mess said something like “Yeah, that’s true.  I didn’t think about it that way, though.  I proposed because I didn’t want to lose her.”

MC then asked if he had thought about it then, does he think he would have done it?  Mr. Mess said no.  He wouldn’t have proposed to me.  He wouldn’t have gotten married.  If he had thought things through back then, if he knew what he knows now, then he would never have married me.  I didn’t (and still don’t) know what to do with that.  I don’t know where that leaves us now.  I don’t even know why our MC asked that.  What’s the point?  We can’t change the past.  So why torture me with the fact that my husband wouldn’t even be my husband if he had put any kind of thought into things?  Maybe to point out that he loved(s?) me enough to try to change his own nature?  Maybe to tell me to run?  Maybe because he likes to see people squirm?  Okay, those last two probably weren’t entirely fair, but still…  That was pretty messed up!

I have another mind jump here…  I think that last thing just put me in stunned mode for a little bit.  The next thing I remember we were back to the aftermath of this last lie.  I know at some point during the visit Mr. Mess asked if I am done.  I asked him a question right back – can you tell me you won’t lie to me.  He said no.  And I said, then I guess maybe we are.  Neither one of us was giving.  He was still stubbornly tied to the idea that I abandoned him, was acting out to “spite” him, and had already decided I was out of the door.  I couldn’t get past the hurt of his intentional lie.  It was a stalemate.

Then our therapist gave his “two P-words” speech.  Those two P-words were protection and punishment.  He said that my withdrawal after his lie felt to Mr. Mess like a punishment.  Mr. Mess indicated his firm agreement in that.  He then said that what it actually was is a way to protect myself.  He asked me if he was correct.  I said absolutely.  I just know that I absolutely cannot handle another lie.  That I don’t know what it would do to me emotionally or physically.  That I felt like my head might actually implode.  That meant I couldn’t open myself up to him because it would be disastrous if he hurt me again.  It might cause irreparable damage.  So I had to do the only thing I could do – focus on me.  Do things that made me feel good, that made me happy.  Be my own rescuer for once.

Mr. Mess still didn’t get it.  He said something like, “yeah, but all of that was about me – she was doing it to spite me or in spite of me.  I feel like she was throwing it in my face.”  I said, no – I wasn’t thinking about him at all.  I was only thinking about me for once.  Our MC interjected to say that it is a boundary.  That in order to protect my emotions and keep myself from any additional pain I had to set a firm boundary and take care of myself.  He also said that there is a difference between a boundary and an ultimatum – just like when I said I need him to be in therapy working on his issues in order to continue with the marriage.

Mr. Mess said that sure sounds like an ultimatum to him.  MC said, no, it isn’t.  She is asking for what she needs to feel safe.  You have the option to do it or not.  I said that I think the big difference between an ultimatum and a boundary is that it has nothing to do with the other person.  I don’t set a boundary to manipulate him, make him “do what I want” or get a certain result (like an ultimatum).  I set a boundary because it is something I have to have.  It’s not tied to him or anyone else – it’s all about my limits and what I can accept in my life.

He then said that he might have to move out.  He said that he knows himself, and if he keeps sleeping on the couch and seeing me doing my own thing he will grow to resent me.  He said that the more time I am detached the more it will make him bitter.  Because he knows himself he also knows that he will probably end up doing something stupid and cruel to purposefully hurt me.  I told him that he doesn’t have to sleep on the couch.  We have 3 rooms, and one could easily be a spare room if he just set up his bed again.  He said he isn’t going to sleep in a boiling hot room.  I said he could always buy a window A/C… they aren’t that expensive.  He said he would think about it.

Then I made sure he knows that whatever he decides I am fine with it.  I have set my boundary, now he needs to choose what to do in response to that.  The MC concurred.  He said that Mr. Mess needs to do what is best for him as well.  If that means leaving so that he can work on himself outside of the home, then he should do that.  It is up to each of us to decide how we respond to the things and people around us.

Our MC explained it like this – he said that when couples come in to see him he often asks them to do an exercise where they list their needs and wants in two separate columns.  He tells him that the only things that should go under the needs column are the non-negotiables.  Most things in a marriage are negotiable – are up for debate, can be compromised and worked around.  Some things can’t be.  They are the necessities.  Those are the things that boundaries are there to protect.

I said exactly!  And at the very tippy top of my list is honesty.  If he thinks that he can’t give that to me then it will be a deal-breaker because it is something I can’t compromise.  I don’t know for sure, but I think that might have been the point that Mr. Mess understood, at least a little bit.  He said that if he promised me he will never lie to me again that would be a lie.  But, what he can tell me is that he is going to work on his lying problem.  He is going to try his best not to lie.  He is going to keep going to Dr. C because he admits he has an addiction problem and an issue with lying that he needs IC to address.  He also said that he would keep coming to MC with me for as long as I was willing.  He even said he would keep going to SA.  I told him that is something I can accept.  I also said that I will have to stay detached for a bit until I see real progress.  That my boundaries are now firmly in place, and I have to keep protecting myself.

So that’s where we are.  We returned from MC and actually continued talking – at least much more than what we had done in the week and a half between.  I told him that I am stepping back and it is now up to him to decide whether to step up.  I told him that I can’t be the one bringing up everything, initiating our discussions, coming to him to figure out his feelings, etc., etc.  We had some heated words in the middle, but I think we left things in a pretty good place.

Since then he has gone to work at 3am and gone to his night class.  I went out with a woman from work to see our co-worker’s band perform.  We played pool.  I listened to heavy metal, which is so not my style but was still somehow enjoyable.  I caught up with some old school friends (high school and college) who happened to be at the bar.  I had fun.  Who knows what is to come down the road, but I have decided that I’m going to enjoy the journey no matter where it takes me.

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.

Needs, Communication, and filling gaps in the Information Environment.

29 Jun

Communication is key! This is so very true. I love this blogger’s step by step process on identifying needs and bringing them up to your spouse in a healthy, productive manner. Affairs would never happen if all spouses followed this easy process. You would be able to know immediately whether your spouse was willing to meet your needs (actual needs, not just desires) or not, and how to create a plan to make that happen.

The Pillars of Her Earth

In the past few days I’ve seen and responded to a number of posts about blame and infidelity and one in particular about how a spouse could have an affair if they really loved their partner ( http://ourjourneyafterhisaffair.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/that-age-old-question-after-the-discovery-of-an-affair/#comment-312 ).  A subscriber to that blog argued that the betrayed spouse has responsibility in that they failed to meet the wayward spouse’s needs, and that is why the wayward spouse strayed. 

I want to be clear in this: that I am not bashing that poster, or wayward spouses/partners, and I am not bashing my wife.  These are my thoughts on most affairs, needs, and communications.

On why affairs happen:  I believe each situation is unique.  Either way, most times the affair is a selfish act.  If you feel that your needs aren’t being met and you decide to satisfy them somewhere else, you are at fault.  Communication here is key.  Let’s take…

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