Tag Archives: hope

Something Has Changed Within Me

3 Dec

change

I have gotten comments from many people, both here on my blog and in “real life,” that I seem different.  It’s because I am.  I can’t necessarily put my finger on exactly what it is, but something deep within me has changed.

The one song that I have been playing over and over that epitomizes how I feel right now is Defying Gravity.  My all-time favorite musical is Wicked.  I loved the book before they even made it into a Broadway musical.  I have seen it in New York, D.C., and Richmond.  I could watch it hundreds of times and never get tired of the amazing story, music, whimsy, costumes, message, and wonder it inspires in me.

Defying Gravity is the most famous song from that show for a very good reason.  My current favorite version of the song comes from Glee.  The episode itself was also very touching.  It included themes of being who you are despite difficult odds, standing up for yourself, fighting for what’s right, and finding internal peace and acceptance.  All of those things are apropos for my life in general and where I am now specifically.

I want to share this inspiring music with you today.  I hope that you, too, are defying the odds in your life, creating your own rules, trusting your instincts, taking chances, and refusing to be brought down by whatever circumstances you are up against!

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game

Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye I’m
Defying gravity
And you won’t bring me down…

I’m through accepting limits
‘Cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change,
But till I try, I’ll never know!

Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!

I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity.
Kiss me goodbye,
I’m defying gravity.
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you won’t bring me down.

I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity.
Kiss me goodbye,
I’m defying gravity.
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity

And you won’t bring me down!
Bring me down!
Ahhahhoahh

Cover of "Wicked: Piano Solo"

Step 1 Musings

1 Dec

A-journey-of-a-thousand-miles-begins-with-a-singl-step

This weekend I am at an intensive step work S-Anon retreat.  We will be going through at least Step 4 today with reading and journaling time and panels.

As I sit in these meetings I will be jotting down my thoughts and feelings and the things that really resonate with me.  I am going to publish these thoughts without any editing or order, as they come to me.  Feel free to enter my swirling mind, take what works for you, and leave the rest.

Step 1 Notes from Our S-Anon Retreat

Sometimes we play games with ourselves – “if only” x or y or z would happen (or wouldn’t have happened) then everything would be fine.  That magical thinking just keeps the plates in the air, spinning.  It is juggling, it isn’t managing.
One thing that is a blessing and a curse about this program is that admitting unmanageability is a slow process.  Step 1 seems like one step, but it is really 4 or 5 wrapped up all together.

One of the hardest parts is that we can’t understand it.  Crazy is crazy.  It can’t be explained with logic.  We can’t control things, but we also can’t necessarily understand it because it isn’t ours to understand.  We have to understand ourselves, not the addict.

Finding serenity can be very difficult in the midst of a crisis.  Surrender. That is the challenge of Step 1.  That’s what it takes to find peace.

Letting go brings clarity.

We are all waiting for the next lesson.

Step 1 is about “admitting” the truth.  It is hard to make progress when you won’t even tell yourself that you are somewhere.  It was easy to acknowledge inside that you are powerless, but saying it out loud puts action into the process and makes it real.

Powerlessness and unmanageability go back and forth like a seesaw.  The more that we buy into the false thought that we can manage, the more we convince ourselves that we are powerful.  There is a gratitude that comes with recognizing that life is unmanageable.  We just create an illusion of manageability.  The more unmanageable life seemed, the more power and energy that we try to expend attempting to control it.

Powerlessness does not mean helplessness.  In fact, it means the ability to ask for help and gain true power and tools to get better.  Control meant hanging on with a tight fist.  Slowly when we are able to loosen the grip and just admit that we are powerless, we can trust something greater than ourselves to lead us where we need to be.

This is a wake up program for us to become who we are supposed to be, who we really are.

These things aren’t going to go away.  Life is like an ocean with wave after wave after wave.  You don’t sit there and hope the ocean stops having waves.  You just learn how to deal with them, how to find peace in the midst of it all.

There is no magic cure.  There is not one thing I can do or change that will make things better or perfect.  I have gotten rid of my husband, but that doesn’t “solve” the problem.  My life isn’t magically manageable because he is no longer here.  It is much healthier and much more fulfilling and much happier, but there is always something to work on.  Organizing things differently doesn’t change the problem.

Its okay to work on the same problem over and over.  There is no failure in digging into things, and doing Step 1 many times with many different issues.  This is not a “once through” kinda program.  You don’t get a certificate and a passing grade and an “everything is cured” pat on the back.  It is a constant process towards growth and change.

How many of us saw red flags at the beginning of our relationship with our addict and thought, “Oh, I can handle this”?

I like the idea that one member suggested of a “god box” where she puts slips of paper with all of the things she tries to control in order to let go of them.

“Step 1 was the hardest step I had ever done because I hadn’t done any other steps.”

One member re-words Step 1 to remove the “we” and focus entirely on herself in the here and now.  “I admit that I am powerless and my life is unmanageable.”

one-step-closer

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.

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

My Pity Party: The Importance of Taking My Antidepressants

26 Sep

Last night I was in quite an emotional state.  My husband and I lay in bed talking about a few things from the day, and I got triggered big time from the feeling that he was keeping something from me.  He kinda was.  We ended up resolving the issue, but that feeling wouldn’t quite go away.  I was incredibly overwhelmed.

The last few days were both wonderful and a blur.  My entire morning routine got messed up last week when, on a rushed morning, I forgot to take all of my pills (vitamins, antidepressant, and allergy medication).  I started taking them at lunch, instead, since I need to take them every 24 hours.  Then one day I didn’t make it home for lunch, so I began taking them at dinner.  Then we went away to the mountains for the weekend, and I left all of my medicine at home.  Last night I realized that I hadn’t taken my antidepressants for 3 days.  At least I don’t think so.  I actually can’t remember.  Did I take them when I got home on Sunday or didn’t I?  How about Monday?  Even last night I couldn’t remember if I had taken them that morning.  It’s like my brain was in a fog.

After we had our talk and connected really well, my husband was all talked out and ready to go to bed.  I didn’t really have anything else pressing to talk about, but I just couldn’t go to sleep.  We turned off the lights and I gave it a try, but my brain was swirling with everything and nothing all at once.  I didn’t want to get on the computer because I knew I would end up awake half the night, so I got up and grabbed my journal.

As an aside:  I’m pretty awful at keeping a written journal because I hate hand-writing…  It is mostly because I prefer typing and I’m faster and more efficient that way.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  I realized, though, that what’s behind that preference is the fact that I don’t like the messiness of it.  I don’t have bad handwriting, it’s just that I can’t edit, tweak, and polish what I have written.  I don’t like the rough, unfinished quality of my words right out of my head.  I don’t like the fact that I can’t rearrange paragraphs, insert new sentences, and change words without leaving a mess.  I don’t like having something that incomplete and raw sitting around, even if it is just for me.  It drives me crazy.  So, I’m going to address that irrational perfectionism head on, and share what I wrote last night.  Unedited.  Here goes:

I’m a mess.  I want to write about our fantastic honeymoon weekend.  Instead I’m feeling emotional and hormonal, sitting up at night not able to go to sleep.  I don’t think I’ve taken my ADs for 3 days.  My dog just walked in and peed on the floor out of nowhere.  Wow…  Just my day.  No ADs (my schedule got messed up), I’m starting my period, my neck and shoulders are tweaked, I’ve got a cold, and my emotions are running wild.  Now I’m cleaning up dog urine at 11:30, too.  Oh, and my husband has gout…  Yeah, gout.  Last year I was convinced that was some medieval disease that no longer existed.  Now I know better, although I’m not really all that thrilled to be enlightened.  So, I guess this is just one big bitch session.  I’m obviously feeling sorry for myself and needed to throw a little pity party.  Tomorrow I will get back on my ADs, load the beautiful pictures from Shenandoah, and get on with enjoying life.  Right now I’m just going to let this extra strength Tylenol work on my cramps & muscles, hope this cold medicine makes breathing easier, and try to get some sleep…

English: The Gout by James Gillray. Published ...

English: The Gout by James Gillray. Published May 14th 1799. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Proof that I was feeling completely out of it is the fact that I wrote “honeymoon weekend” instead of “anniversary weekend.”  I almost edited that here before I posted it because it is just so ridiculous and embarrassing that I got it wrong.  No one will probably care at all about that mistake, but I still have the urge to go fix it before I hit Publish.  How crazy is that?  I just have to breathe and accept that sometimes I really am a complete mess, and not even a beautiful one (although my husband argued otherwise last night).

Today really is better already.  I am in an amazing, feminine skirt suit set that is polished, luxurious, and was on sale at over 80% off.  I have a deep purple top on that looks amazing with my skin tone.  I’m wearing the pearls that my husband gave me at our rehearsal dinner for our wedding day.  I have on adorable Tahari heels with a bow detail and decorative stitching.  I took all of my medicine this morning.  I have my annual review this afternoon with my boss, who is taking me out to lunch where I already know I’m receiving a nice raise.  I feel like a million bucks.  Even though this head cold is being stubborn, I have a few twinges of cramps, and my neck is still incredibly tight, this is going to be a good day.

Yesterday wasn’t even a bad day.  My outlook just wasn’t right.  I let the little things overwhelm me because I wasn’t in the right head space.  I’m getting back there, and trying to focus on all of the great things that I have going for me.  Tonight we are continuing our anniversary celebration by going to a great local restaurant that I’ve wanted to go to for ages.  We were supposed to go on Friday, but I didn’t want to miss karate and my husband had a flare-up of his gout (which he wasn’t aware he had until yesterday).  Tomorrow I’m going to try to write about how our anniversary went, complete with stunning pictures of the mountains.

Today, though, I’m going to focus on noticing all the little things that I’m thankful for.  Starting with you guys.  Thanks for listening.  Thanks for helping me see my mess and giving me insight to address it head-on.  Knowing that I’m going to post my thoughts for you to comment and “like” (or not), somehow allows me to see the truth behind my words, the real reasons behind my excuses and justifications, and put my thoughts and feelings into perspective.

It also gives me the opportunity to face my demons head-on, like admitting that I make mistakes sometimes and I have off days.  It helps me to realize that it’s okay.  I will be fine.  No one is going to stop following me (hopefully) because I wrote “honeymoon” accidentally instead of “anniversary.”  Even if they do, who cares?  That doesn’t define me.  I’m more than the total of my faults and mistakes – I’m also a complicated, beautiful mess with an interesting perspective and a zeal for life who is improving every day by growing and changing and becoming a better version of myself.  Instead I could be stuck, afraid of admitting that I’m not perfect, and slowly languishing into mediocrity.  I’m glad that I’m able to recognize when I’m throwing a pity party, pick myself up, and move on.  I’m also happy that I have people along the way who can help motivate me to keep moving forward.  So, thanks!

Thank You

Thank You (Photo credit: purplekiss024)

I’m Seriously Lacking Self-Compassion

15 Sep

Quite a few things this week have led me to examine the way that I treat myself.  My husband and I try to get together daily and spend at least an hour talking, followed by 20 minutes of dialoging.  Some days we have topics that one or both of us want to touch on, so that is what we use as our dialog question.  Other days we use questions from the Retrouvaille workbook.  I also found a great website with a huge list of questions by topic (with everything you can possibly think of organized A-Z), and a random question generator.

On Wednesday we decided to give that a try and decided on the randomly generated question, “Do I judge other people by higher or lower standards than I use on myself?  How do I feel about that?”  Below is a portion of my answer:

Generally speaking, I judge others by lower standards than I use for myself.  For example, I would only accept strait A’s for myself in college, but I don’t expect the same from you (my husband) or my sister.  I can be very proud of you when you get a B in class, whereas if I got a B it would be devastating, embarrassing, and traumatic.

I also expect perfection, or near perfection in almost anything I do.  As such, I feel less than or embarrassed (yet again) anytime I make a mistake or have to ask for help.  I put immense pressure on myself in a way I would never dream of putting on others.

At the same time, I believe even my lower standards for others are sometimes higher than they are used to.  My overall philosophy is to set the bar high and expect 100% effort.  In that way, even if someone falls a little short they still achieve more and push themself harder than they would with little to no expectations set forth.  I always responded much better to teachers and others who wanted the best out of me.  It made me feel like I was someone with value, who was special, and I want to do the same with those that I love – let them know I think highly of them and their abilities.

I have mixed feelings about my answer.  When I think of the increased pressure I put on myself, I feel sad.  This sadness is a feeling of dismay, probably a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  It feels unfortunate that I would judge myself so harshly.  The physical sensation is like a twinge or a pang of pain in a sore muscle after a few days of recuperating.  It isn’t sharp and powerful, but more of a remnant.

My second response is in response to my lowered, yet still high, expectations of others.  It seems like a more reasonable approach, and it makes me feel like an inspirational person who gives encouragement.

Keep in mind that the above was written in a 10 minute span with no opportunity to edit or review my thoughts as they were going onto the paper.  The fact that I am even posting it here, unedited, makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable.  I suppose the best way to get over my issues is to attack them head on.

After my husband and I exchanged notebooks and read each other’s answers, we started dialoging on our feelings.  The point of the 10 minutes of dialoging is to really understand the emotions of your spouse.  I actually wrote a bit too much about my thoughts and not enough about my feelings since I ran out of time.  However, when my husband and I dialoged I was able to delve into my feelings much more.  Of course, I ended up in tears.  That was the first smack in the face that my approach to myself is really not healthy.  I knew it before, but I pushed that realization to the back of my mind and never let the emotional aspect come out.

Then Friday while reviewing the blog of a fantastic writer who has done a lot of self-reflection I came across a post about self-compassion.  The words really resonated with me, even though he is far more compassionate to himself than I am.  He included a link to an online test that he took.  I decided to head over there and see how bad it really was.  Here is the scoring rubric and my scores:

Score interpretations:
Average overall self-compassion scores tend to be around 3.0 on the 1-5 scale, so you can interpret your overall score accordingly. As a rough guide, a score of 1-2.5 for your overall self-compassion score indicates you are low in self-compassion, 2.5-3.5 indicates you are moderate, and 3.5-5.0 means you are high. Remember that higher scores for the Self-Judgment, Isolation, and Over-Identification subscales indicate less self-compassion, while lower scores on these dimensions are indicative of more self-compassion (these subscales are automatically reverse-coded when your overall self-compassion score is calculated.)

My Scores:
Self-Kindness: 2.40
Self-Judgment: 4.40
Common Humanity: 2.00
Isolation: 3.50
Mindfulness: 2.75
Over-Identification: 4.00
Overall score: 2.21

So, there it is…  I’m not very compassionate to myself, and I’m extremely self-judgmental.  Sadly, that sounds about right.

This morning in my S-Anon meeting the topic chosen by the group (not proposed by me) was self-care.  Yep.  I definitely needed to hear everyone’s shares on how to take care of yourself, give yourself grace, and put your feelings and needs first.  I have been getting slightly better with self-care in areas like eating better, exercising (I absolutely love karate), and doing little things for myself every day.

I still have a very critical mindset towards myself, though.  I am still a perfectionist.  I still set myself up for failure, then beat myself up when I do fail.  Now that I am really aware of it and how it affects me emotionally, I’m going to have to find a way to contradict that voice inside that tells me I will never live up to anyone’s expectations for me, or my own expectations for myself.  I have to really accept that I am enough, that I am exceptional just the way I am.

compassion hearts

compassion hearts (Photo credit: journeyscoffee)

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 Emotional Lives (Retrouvaille – Friday Night, Part 3)

18 Jul

So, where did I leave off?  That’s right…  Friday night and presentation #2.  After we all came back down from dialoguing a new couple was at the front of the room with the priest and ready to begin their presentation.  This one was about our emotions.  The first thing they wanted to give us is a definition of emotion.  Here it is:

Emotion – A spontaneous inner reaction to a person, place or situation.  It is the feeling that I have within me when I come into contact with something outside of myself, or even with a thought that I have.

Likewise, they wanted to differentiate between emotions (feelings) and thoughts.  Thoughts can cause emotion, but they are not feelings.  The rule they gave was this:

If in a sentence you can replace the words “I feel” with the words “I think,” you have expressed a thought, not an emotion.

If you can substitute the word “am” for “feel” then you have expressed a feeling.

That’s a pretty neat little trick.  They also said that we should avoid the statement “I feel that…”  Again, this is not an emotion.  It is the beginning of an opinion.  Light bulb!  So very true!  Finally, they said to avoid using why, because, or any other explanation for your feelings.  We are not looking to talk about the situation, we are just looking to talk about how we feel about it.

So, how do you do that?  So far it sounds like a lot of “don’t”s.  To help with that they gave us a few tips on how to be specific about our emotions.

  • Rate the intensity of the feeling on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
  • Make sure that you use the right word – be precise.  Utilize the list of feeling words on the handout and stretch your vocabulary.
  • Go beyond/ below the surface, like peeling an onion.  Find your first feeling (anger) and then dig deeper – what is underneath the anger?  Fear?  Insecurity?  Doubt?  Now, be even more specific – is the fear more like terror, dread, horror, anxiety, panic, distress, etc.?
  • Describe your feeling in as much detail as you can.
  • Identify your emotions alone, not your thoughts or opinions.
  • Try to communicate in a way that your spouse can understand.  Knowing your audience can help you get your point across more effectively.  Think of ways that they can relate to your feelings.
  • Use analogies for your feelings such as images, similes, metaphors, and examples from nature.
  • Utilize shared memories or experiences.  Think of a time when you and/or your spouse had that same emotion.  Call on past events to help you explain what you are feeling now.
  • This is not a time to blame.  The point is what you feel, not why you feel it.
  • This is not the time to change your spouse.
  • This is not the time to make a decision.
  • Exchange books in silence.  Avoid negative body language.
  • Remember, this ability is not innate, but it can be learned.  Practice!

A little more organized (and using an anagram), the process is:

  1. Find the word that most closely relates to your feeling
  2. Rate the feeling on a scale of 1-10.
  3. P –> Identify the physical feeling that you have
  4. I –>Describe the feeling in terms of an image or something you can compare it to
  5. M –>Recall a shared memory – an incident that you both experienced and can relate to.

They then gave us a mini-example.  Here it is, step-by-step:

  1. They asked us to think of a specific moment that day.  The moment I picked was writing my blog about our last counseling session.
  2. They then told us to look at the feeling words list and pick the one or two that are closest to what we were feeling at that moment.  The emotions I was feeling were lost/confused and frustrated
  3. Then they asked us to rate the feeling(s) on a scale of 1-10. I rated them both at a 7.
  4. Next, they wanted us to describe the physical sensation we had at that moment or a physical sensation that describes that emotion.  The physical sensation that these emotions gave me was fatigue.  My body and mind were both exhausted.
  5. Next, they asked us to come up with an analogy.  Mine was, “I felt like I was in a swirl of thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t differentiate, like walking through an unfamiliar place in the dark.”
  6. They then asked us to elaborate on our feelings and find a way to speak to our audience (our spouses).  I wrote, “I couldn’t remember the exact order of things or specifically what we had said.  I could finally relate to how not remembering would feel for you.”
  7. Finally, they asked us to come up with a way we can relate to our spouse using a shared memory.  I wrote about a time that we got lost.

Finally, they provided us with barriers to open communication.  They told us to be aware of them and try to avoid this type of behavior:

  • Fear of rocking the boat
  • Defeatist mentality (there is nothing I can do, our marriage is already over)
  • Withdrawing
  • Overanalyzing
  • Not keeping an open mind
  • Not following directions
  • Burying emotions
  • Falling back into old patterns from our culture or background
  • Dwelling on the past (acknowledge, but focus on the present) – what are your feelings NOW?

Before we were allowed to go to bed, we also had three more questions to answer, this time focusing on our feelings.  The questions were:

  1. What do I like best about you?  How do I feel about my answer?
  2. What do I like best about me?  How do I feel about my answer?
  3. What do I like best about us?  How do I feel about my answer?

Just like Friday night, I am already starting to feel exhausted.  Our writing and dialogue went well on this topic.  I’m going to save you all of the details of my answer.  I will add, though, that given we had one bed in our hotel room, the couch was more like a loveseat, and most importantly, I now felt closer and more safe with Mr. Mess we shared a bed again that night.  It felt like the right thing to do, especially since we were going to be leaving all of the recent mess behind us for the weekend to focus on repairing our communication and overall marriage.  It was a good decision that I do not regret.

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.

Inspiration from Others

12 Jul

This week has been extremely emotionally taxing for me.  It has been wonderful at the same time, too.  What has made it wonderful is all of the support, hope, and inspiration I am getting from others in the blogging community.  I have found so many pieces of wisdom from so many people this week.  They have all been exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.  Here are a few excerpts and the links to the full posts.

Image – © Eric Hill/ Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

From Scabs in her post Step 1: Recognize:

Boundaries used to piss me off in a teenage angst kind of way.  I was really put out that I’d have to set a boundary.  Wasn’t our marriage based on mutual respect?  Promises?  Fidelity and love?  Wasn’t the boundary that we had committed our lives together, as one?  Aren’t we both adults?  Wasn’t there some kind of courtesy or Golden Rule?

This is where I was so wrong.  Just because you are kind, compassionate, empathetic and aware of others doesn’t mean that everyone has that outlook.  I was under the impression that if I sacrificed something for him, he would do the same for me.”

I relate to this in a big way!  It is hard to understand how someone could NOT think that way.  I am a very empathetic person and I was raised to follow the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I try to put myself in other people’s shoes and I always expected that the person I love (who loves me back) would care for me and sacrifice for me if needed.   That is something I have always taken for granted.  Why would you NOT treat the person you love with mutual respect, kindness, compassion, empathy and awareness?  Isn’t that what a relationship is?  Apparently not for everyone.

Yesterday in marriage counseling Mr. Mess said that he has a hard time feeling empathy for other people.  He is capable of it, but it takes him a lot to get there.  Most of the time he just thinks “I will do what I want to do and they’ll get over it.”  Something about that really rang true to me.  That is how he thinks, and it blows my mind!

I can’t say that I have never screwed up and hurt someone, but I can say that I’ve never done the same thing twice.  Once you see how devastated your actions can make someone else any normal person would avoid doing that again at all costs, especially if they care deeply for the other person.  He sees how his lying affects me, he says hurting me hurts him, but then he goes right ahead and makes a conscious choice to lie again (which he admitted yesterday – his most recent lie was not subconscious or a knee-jerk reaction – he decided to lie and keep lying).  How can someone do that?

So, like Scabs, I am now learning to set boundaries and demand those things in my relationship.  I will be treated with respect, courtesy, compassion, empathy and awareness.  If not, there will be consequences.  I am recognizing the things I deserve.  It is not selfish!  It is what I deserve.  It’s what I give, and it’s what I should get in return.  It feels quite good to realize those things and stand my ground.

Image – © Flominator / Multi-license with GFDL and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.5 and older versions (2.0 and 1.0)

From Recovering Wayward on his post yesterday:

The Serial Cheater/ Sex Addict/ Tiger Woods Type Affair

Most people are familiar with how Tiger Woods’ sexual addiction drove him to have an extraordinary number of affairs. Many people who Tiger Woods types of affairs describe themselves as relatively happy in their relationship. However, they’ve never been able to find complete fulfillment from it because they are enslaved by obsessive needs and compulsive behaviors. Hard as it is for many to believe, sex addicts truly feel powerless in their ability to control their desires.

Just like Tiger, more often than not the sex addict does not want his/her marriage to fail. Its about something inside of them, not the marriage. Usually they were addicts before the marriage and may have stopped for awhile when first married only to be pick up again when they realize that the marriage can’t meet the needs of their addiction.

They may feel trapped in a destructive cycle of feeling hopelessly trapped by their behaviors and at times by their marriages, but are afraid to come clean because they don’t want to lose their marriage or their addictive behavior.

This type of betrayal can be very difficult for the spouse because a) the breadth of the betrayal can seem so enormous and b) while most people can understand alcohol or drug addiction, sexual addiction is a tough one for most to have much empathy for.”

and

“Personally I think the ones hardest to reconcile with someone would be certainly the Sex Addict type married partner, and frankly, the one-night stand/attention whore type partner, as well as the “Love is the Drug” type.   I don’t know how you ‘reconcile’ from those. The affairs are so much more about who THEY are and less about what your marriage is.”

and

“You really are counting on him to make fundamental changes within himself, which most adults are never able to do, except in response to a major crisis and in concert with an overwhelming desire to do so.”

Finally someone created a post to address all of the different types of affairs and what they really mean for the relationship and recovery.  Not all affairs are created alike.  We may all be on a journey of recovery, but the roads we take will be very different depending on what kind of affair we are dealing with.  So much of the journey also depends on both spouses to be working on the correct things for repairing that particular type of relationship problem.

Probably the hardest part of my husband’s addiction and where we are today with our marriage is that his acting out is about who he is.  It’s about deep, ingrained patterns and issues that will take him a long time to change.  He admitted yesterday that he has an addictive personality.  He has been addicted to various things throughout his lifetime including his sex addiction, alcohol, and just about any drug you can name that doesn’t have to be injected (he is a big scaredy cat when it comes to needles).  That means so much of this depends on his wholehearted committment to change – which requires daily re-committment for addicts.    He has to be in it 100% all the time & he has to want to change for himself, not me.  He says he is.  Only time will tell.

So where does that leave me?  What I’ve decided is that I have to work on myself, guard my heart, and hope that he does what it takes to enter real recovery.  It is a precarious position.  I also know that a lot of people wouldn’t have made that choice.  Almost every day I ask myself if I’m really strong enough to keep going.  So far my answer to myself has been yes.  I am really going to need a lot of hard work from him in order for that to keep being the case.

What I can say is this experience has made me much stronger and more confident.  I know myself better than I ever have.  I am discovering ways that I allowed this to keep going and some fundamental things in myself that I have to change – like feeling the need to “rescue” others.  It is painful, but so far worth it.

From Wendy in response to the same post:

“I admire you so much for being able to be so strong and hang in there.  I’m sure it is terrifying, but if he doesn’t recover – for himself with his SA – then at least you gave it YOU’RE all and you are making yourself stronger for any future relationships.  And you are making yourself stronger for your current relationship, whether things get better or they don’t.  It’s what you have to do.

In the end, what really matters is what you do for yourself.  You have to be your number one priority, always.”

This one made me cry.  She just summarized exactly how I feel, exactly where I am right now, and exactly why I’m doing this.  It is so validating that she “gets” me.  My husband did a lot in the past week to make me feel like a monster for focusing on me, protecting myself, and being my own #1 priority.  But there it is – in black and white – from another person.  I am making myself stronger.  I am doing what really matters – taking care of myself.  It is terrifying.  He may not recover.  But it is still worth it.  I am giving it everything that I have.  I am making myself a better person.  Whether things work out or they don’t I will be okay.

{{GFDL}} A rainbow caught in Alaska, USA

Image – © Marcin Klapczynski / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/ GFDL

How long will I wait?

11 Jul

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

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

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

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

Forgiving for me

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

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

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

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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.

Choosing to Reconcile

19 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Positive

22 May

This is something that I am really struggling with right now.  It’s not because I can’t be positive.  It’s not because I don’t have hope.  It’s mostly because of the crazy ups and downs that I briefly posted about late last night (Rollercoaster).

I think out of everything it’s the inconsistency that is the most difficult thing for me.  We really have so many positive things going on.  If you don’t believe me, read back through Being Thankful.  I only listed a few things in that post… there are so many more.

For example, we have been working through some exercises from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  We are doing at least one every Saturday, and sometimes more.  We have been discovering that our marriage has a much stronger foundation than we thought.  We do well at connecting, romance, affection, and a ton of other stuff.  The things that we need to work on we were already aware of for the most part – like flooding and avoiding harsh start-ups.

I could keep going with my list of positive things, big steps forward, and continued progress.  There are tons of comparisons I could make between where we came from and where we are today.  I generally don’t have a problem looking on the bright side of things.

But when we have a bad day, boy do we have a bad day!  I am the first to admit that my triggers can take control of my emotions and leave me a much different person than the rational, compassionate, positive woman who I normally am.  I can become a downright nightmare.  I have gotten better at recognizing my triggers and handling them in a calm way, but some things really send me over the edge.  Lying is a huge one.

That is why I was surprised last week when my immediate response to finding out lies wasn’t outright anger.  As I admitted, that did come later.  Even the fact that I have a delayed anger reaction I think of as a positive thing.  It means that I am working through those triggers and emotions a little better, even if it is just at the very beginning or the very end.

Last night was not one of those days.  I uncovered a few more lies about his school which I took in stride (for the most part).  But then he really ticked me off about something that is relatively small, especially in the grand scheme of things.  Long story short – we had a huge blow up fight over dinner.  I mean that exactly.  It was over dinner and it was about dinner.  It had more to do with my triggers, his forgetfulness, and my primary love language (Quality Time) than with the actual dinner, but that’s what set it off.

Here’s where the runaway rollercoaster takes over.  Mr. Mess really doesn’t do well handling his anger.  It takes over and turns him into this raging, sarcastic, yelling ball of spite.  He says everything he can think of to make me angry and hurt my feelings, and then he yells over top of anything I try to say in response.  It doesn’t always happen.  In fact, it really hasn’t happened like that in a while.  For the most part our disagreements have been more in the way of conversations.  When I trigger he has been willing to talk to me about it and not get defensive.

Again, that was not last night.  Things got so carried away and out of control that he was threatening divorce.  Well, not really threatening – just saying that he was done, it was over, and he had no desire to keep trying.  It wasn’t a threat, it was reality and it was happening now.  He packed his things and left.  That’s where the whole, “He says everything he can think of to hurt my feelings…” part comes in.  I said some pretty bad stuff, too.  I called him names.  I said he was a liar and a coward who runs away when things get tough.  I’m not going to recount everything, but it was a dirty fight.  He ended up coming home a few hours later and we were able to talk a little bit more sensibly.

I’m not thrilled that things got out of control.  I’m not proud of those moments.  But it doesn’t change everything for me.  The positive things are still positive things.  That was just a really bad night, a really unfortunate fight, and big dip in the rollercoaster.  On the other hand, we can learn from that.  We can figure out what set us off.  How we can react better.  We can renew our promise not to throw divorce around in an argument.  We can take the opportunity to talk about those things that led to all that anger boiling over – unfulfilled promises, realizing each other’s love languages, figuring out how to deal with triggers better, not keeping secrets, and improving communication.

I see this as just another tool to improve our marriage.  Albeit, it’s a crummy, unpleasant tool that could have been avoided.  The only way to know how to do that, though, is to learn from it.  I can be realistic in saying that arguments will happen.  We will have more fights.  It’s just a fact of life, especially the part of life that we are going through.

My husband, though, has such a black-and-white, all-or-nothing mentality that it throws me off.  It is a struggle to be positive for me AND positive for him.  He honestly would have told you things were going great on Saturday.  We had worked through the lying issue, he had a plan of attack, we connected really well over the exercises, and we worked together to clean up the house a bit.  He was on top of the world.

Then after our argument last night he was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.  An argument meant we couldn’t understand each other well, which in turn meant that everything was falling apart, which in turn meant that we may as well divorce.  Saturday the world was sunny and wonderful.  Last night it was dark, gloomy, and despondent.  Saturday the marriage was strong.  Last night it was crumbling.  There is no in between.

I don’t know how to combat that.  Even my positive doesn’t seem to be positive enough for him.  I talk about hope.  He says that means I don’t have faith in him, that I may as well have ended in a big “BUT…”  I tell him I see faith as something religious and irrational.  In fact, the very definition of faith according to the Encarta Dictionary is “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.”

I can’t have that anymore.  Hope is what I have.  I’m proud that I have gotten to this point because several months ago even the sight of the “HOPE” sign above our therapist’s door made me want to scream, tear it off the wall, and stomp on it.  Hope for me means that I can see a brighter future.  The Encarta Dictionary’s definition of hope is “to have a wish to get or do something or for something to happen or be true, especially something that seems possible or likely.”  That is much more positive in my eyes!  I would much rather be looking hopefully towards something that is possible than having faith in something without logical proof.

So I’m going to keep the dialog open.  I’m going to keep sharing my thoughts, feelings, and yes – my hope.  I’m going to keep seeing shades of gray instead of just black and white because that’s what allows me to keep going on the bad days.  I’m going to hold on tight and do my best to slow down this rollercoaster and get us back on solid ground.  That’s how I’m going to stay positive.

Sex Addiction and Change

8 May

Sex addiction.  It’s a topic I have been avoiding up to this point in my blog.  I haven’t mentioned it yet because I haven’t been able to wrap my brain around the best way to talk about it.  I don’t even know if it’s real in the sense of being an actual disease.  It’s certainly not in the DSM IV.  But people can have incredibly warped sexual behaviors that negatively affect their lives.  That’s what I’m talking about.  I will use the term sex addict throughout this blog for simplicity, and because that’s the only term I know to use for what has caused havoc in my life.  It is the omnipresent elephant in the room.  That’s because my husband is a sex addict.

That was harder for me to write than it should have been.  Sex addiction is something that a lot of people struggle with.  It is similar to other types of addictions like alcohol and drugs.  But it is somehow treated so much differently.  Television makes a big joke out of it.  People glorify sex addiction like it is something wonderful and glamorous – like it just means having sex a lot and liking it.  Sex addiction is dismissed as not real or not really a problem.  Culture continues to promote the idea that sex is great and the more sex the better.  In this society a man who talks about sex addiction is likely to get a high-five and a few laughs.

That’s not sex addiction at all.  Sex addiction in the real world is not fun.  Some people who are heavily addicted to pornography are unable to be aroused by real men or women.  People who struggle with it often feel guilt-ridden and dirty.  They can’t stop even when they want to.  It is a compulsion, it escalates, and they need more and more to be satisfied.  It overtakes lives.  It destroys relationships.  It takes something fun and healthy and twists it into something shameful and unfulfilling.  It hurts people other than just the one who is addicted.  It is difficult to overcome and painful to deal with.

For those of you not familiar with what sexual addiction is, this is what www.everydayhealth.com has to say about sex addiction:

Warning Signs of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is not rare. Between 12 and 15 million people in the United States have a sexual addiction, according to some estimates.

Indications that a person might have a sex addiction include:

  • Using sex to numb negative feelings or achieve a fleeting high
  • Hiding sexual behaviors from your spouse
  • Feeling that you’ve lost control over your sexual behavior
  • Failing to heed self-imposed limits on your sexual behavior
  • Finding that your sexual behavior has caused you to lose a relationship, fail at your job, or spend less time with your friends and family
  • Knowing that your sexual behaviors could lead to problems in your life if people knew about them
  • Finding that you can’t permanently quit harmful sexual behaviors.  They engage in sexual activity even though they experience negative consequences or truly want to stop what they’re doing.
  • Feeling intense guilt or shame over sexual behavior and your inability to control yourself.   Regretting the pain you’ve caused others through your actions.

How to Spot Sexual Addiction

A sexual addiction can manifest itself in many ways, so you will need to look for a variety of possible warning signs that you or your spouse or partner is a sex addict. Kathryn A. Cunningham, PhD, director of the Center for Addiction Research at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, identifies the following possibilities:

  • Sex dominates an individual’s life to the exclusion of other activities.
  • The individual engages in phone sex, computer sex, pornography, use of prostitutes, or exhibitionism.
  • Their preferred sexual behaviors become ritualized, as they repeat similar activities or re-enact certain situations again and again. These behaviors are not necessarily intended to provide orgasm; they may serve to just constantly elevate the person’s arousal levels.
  • The individual has multiple sexual partners or cheats on partners.
  • In extreme cases, the person engages in criminal activities, including stalking, rape, incest, or child molestation.

Does that still sound like fun?  My husband dealt with almost all of those things except the more extreme examples at the end (that I know of).  His sex addiction and pornography habit took him away from a real-life, sexy woman who wanted him (a.k.a. me).  For years I wondered why the man in my life kept rejecting me.  I thought men were supposed to want sex!  Real sex.  With real women.  So why was I always the one asking for it?  Why was he always the one too tired or not in the mood or full of excuses?

Now I know the answer – his sex addiction.  Sound weird and backwards?  It did to me, too.  But apparently it’s not uncommon for a man with a sexual addiction to feel compelled and drawn to pornography, sex chatting, strip clubs, and other “deviant” forms of sexual release.  They wear themselves out with these behaviors and inundate their brains with so many false images and ideas of sex that they are not able to relate sexually to another person who cares for them.  The act of sex becomes disengaged from love, tenderness, and connectedness to someone else.  It becomes preferable to watch increasingly disturbing sexual images, have inappropriate sexual contact with people who are meaningless or even repulsive, and engage in other compulsive behaviors remotely (phone, internet, videos) than to be truly intimate in real life with someone who cares about them.

When I began to understand the truth about sexual addiction, it was terrifying.  We live in the age of rampant internet porn, normalized teen sex, and the increased sexualization and exposure of young children to sexual programs, advertisements and images.  Our society and culture are heading even further down that road every day.  That’s not to say that sex is a bad thing.  I love frequent, creative, “dirty,” wild, amazing sex.  With a committed partner.  Not with strangers or the computer.  But I married a sex addict.  Did that mean our marriage was doomed?  Would he never get better?  Was I better off running away as fast as my legs could carry me?

Obviously, I decided to stay.  I decided to believe in him and us.  I made the choice that if my husband would seek help for and work on his issues, I would give him another chance.  I have asked myself why a few times, and there are a lot of answers.  One reason is that there are people in my family who have struggled with addiction and come through on the other side.  Another is that I love my husband.  Yet another is that he finally admitted and accepted his problems.

Probably the biggest reason, though, is that I believe people can and do change.  I know that change is hard, but it is possible.  Sometimes people do not live consciously.  They repeat old learned behaviors without any sort of thought process being called to action.  My husband’s sexual problems, his compulsive lying, and all of the hurt he caused me were partly conscious decisions but also partly a result of those deeper patterns of behavior and distorted thought.

Still skeptical?  You can probably relate more than you think you can.  Have you ever identified something that you wanted to change?  Overcome shyness?  Make better food choices?  Stop biting your nails?  Quit smoking?  Stop watching so much TV?  Implementing those sorts of changes involves cognitively overriding what would be your normal inclination until the new behavior has become established enough to be your new normal.  It means breaking bad habits, figuring out what leads to those behaviors, finding new ways to respond to your environment, and keeping yourself from backsliding into what is easy, familiar, and routine.  It takes work and committment, but it can happen.  We can change our behaviors and we can overcome addictions.  Humans are very adaptable and resilient like that.

So, getting to my point…  I explained all of that to say this – I am on a difficult journey, my husband has a long road ahead of him, and our marriage will undoubtedly have more challenges in the future, but I have some hope.  That is something I couldn’t have imagined saying a year ago.  In the midst of all this mess, all this yuckiness, all this hurt and darkness, I have found a way to hold onto the promise that things will be okay, no matter what happens.

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