Tag Archives: infidelity

10 Excuses People Use to Stay with a Cheater

15 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why You Should Leave a Cheater

14 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My world stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How ridiculous!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Look It Up

22 May

I ran into this song today through Spotify, and it is hilarious.  The video made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

Look It Up

The word is “faithful,” look it up
It don’t mean sneakin’ around behind my back
Like you ain’t gettin’ enough

How ’bout “forever”
Just look it up
It means through thick and thin and pitchin’ in
Even when the times get tough

The word is “easy”
Look it up
And you’ll see a picture of that piece of trash
Ridin’ ’round in your pickup truck

Let’s try “liar”
Just look it up
But you’ll need boots to wade through all the bull
You tell me when you come home drunk

It’s just like you to be so clueless
‘Cause you never thought I’d do this
I said go, goodbye, get lost, get out
Get gone, the word is “over”
Look it up

You said you’re “sober”
Look it up
It’s right next to hell is freezin’ over, flyin’ pigs
And all that stuff

And how ’bout “baby”
Look it up
It’s what you call me and it’s how you act
Every time I call your bluff

It’s just like you to keep denyin’
Save your whinin’ and your cryin’
I said go, goodbye, get lost, get out
Get gone, the word is “over”
Look it up

The word’s “forgiveness”
Look it up
It’s what Jesus has in store for you
But I don’t, no matter what

Quit your beggin’ and your cryin’
Can’t you hear what I been sayin’?
I said go, goodbye, get lost, get out
Get gone, the word is over
Look it up

Asshole
Just look it up, look it up

Congratulations! You’re an Ass!

17 Nov

I’ve been reading the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? that our marriage counselor used for the basis of out controlled separation.  My two airplane rides gave me a chance to really dig in and get more insight.  One thing the author suggests is that if one person is interested in seeing what else is out there, the controlled separation time should be used for that.  The guideline is that if one person wants to date other people and the other doesn’t, the person who does want to date should get that option.

At first I was confused and negative about that idea, but this week really opened my eyes.  I honestly didn’t think there was anything out there that could be better until I met great, quality people with character who I connected with.  Suddenly, I could understand the value of dating other people.  This is a time to figure out if this marriage is what’s best for me, after all.  How can I know that without opening my eyes to other possibilities?

I told Mr. Mess yesterday that I would like to date other people while we are separated.  I told him that I want to make connections and try out new things.  He isn’t taking it well.  In fact, he is showing me exactly what kind of person he really is, and it’s not pretty.

His immature, manipulative reaction is to start texting my family – my Dad and my Mom and probably others as well.  He refused to listen to what I actually have to say and started accusing me of going after one of his friends (who is very sweet, has been great to connect with, but who I am not involved with in any way whatsoever other than friendship). He started playing games and sending nasty texts and acting like a 5 year-old. I know he is angry and hurt. He has a right to be. It just shows me that he can’t think about anyone else for even one second.

Here is just a sampling of our exchanges:

Him: “So why dont you say you want a divorce because i dont want to date anyone and your wanting to tells me you are looking to move on”

Divorce does seem like that is where things are headed, but I told him, “I have always been looking to move on. I’m just done waiting for you to join me, step up, be an adult & give me what I deserve. So I’m going to make my own happiness – whatever it may be & where ever it may lead me.”

His response was a passive-aggressive jab – “Wow i see you have heeded doctor [MC]’s advice and not use text messages for this type of conversation.”

He has a point. I agreed to that.  I can own my shit.  Rather than address my valid concerns, though, he just brushed them off and made it all about him.

My response: “Sorry about that. I didn’t want to not be honest about my feelings. You also havent taken any initiative to coordinate face to face contact. After over a month of separation, I didnt want to wait any longer to tell you.”

His response: A string of childish texts naming his friends or people I know that he is convinced I now want to start “screwing.”

Me: “No. Sorry you are hurting.”

Him: “Right i can tell you are… lets see you get back to town and tell me you want to start sleeping around no [beautifulmess] im not hurting im seeing everything clearly now.” Then more crap about going to see someone and give them his blessing to sleep with me.

Me: “I dont know why you dont believe me but I dont lie to you & I have no plans to date ____.”

Him: “Yeah i know [beautifulmess] you just keep things from me until you feel it is to your advantage to tell me.”

Me: “I dont know what I’ve kept from you. If you havent seen me begging for years for a committed, honest relationship with someone who appreciates me then its not because I have been hiding anything.”

“This week just made me realize how free & happy I can be & how much life has to offer.”

“I really do hope you are seeing things clearly. I know you are angry. It is not my intention to cause that.”

Him: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Me: “Look I know you are mad but its been over a month now that we’ve been separated & nothing has changed. You’ve barely made any effort & I am realizing I can’t pause my life waiting for you to step up. Maybe if you read my blog you would understand.”

Whatever. There has been more and more and more crap that I could go into, but I’m getting tired of it all. With his last move texting my family that I won’t give him the time to get better because I can’t wait for him and other poor me crap, I have just had it. I’ve been trying and trying and trying for the last year and a half years since all hell broke loose in March of 2011 and I drew my line in the sand – get help, get better, or get out. I’ve done nothing BUT wait. Now I have to keep moving forward.

I truly am sorry that he is so hurt and angry about it all.  As much as he doesn’t believe me, I hope he does get better.  That hope is now just based on the fact that I care about him, not on my fantasy that he can be what I need.  I’m sorry he’s miserable.  I simply refuse to be any more.

I Forgot What It Feels Like To Be Cared About

17 Nov

One of the people that I formed a bond with this weekend is a kid from a neighboring state.  I say “kid” because he is 19 years old and grew up (running & playing) around in this business.  His Dad owns a franchise, and he is starting to learn sales and spread his wings.  I have met his father a few times, but never really had a conversation with his son, who I’ll call Abercrombie for the purposes of this post.

Not too long into this training I realized that he is really sharp and together, especially for his age.  He got married in August and is doing everything he can to succeed.  He is also incredibly sarcastic and brutally honest, sometimes to the point of coming across entitled or bratty.  At his core, he is a really sweet kid, though.  He has the same bantering, insult-laced style of joking that I love.  I told him today that he is like the little brother I never wanted.  In all seriousness, although he can be annoying, he reminds me of family in the best possible way.

I will admit that on Monday and Tuesday night I got much more inebriated than I should have.  We weren’t driving anywhere, and the beer and wine were complimentary.  I let the drinks flow as freely as the conversation.  I was in a circle of about 10 people.  The group ran the gamut from a newlywed (Abercrombie), to two divorcees, to a few happily married folks, one of which has a new baby on the way, and a few of us disenchanted, unhappily married sad sacks (for lack of a more positive description).

Before I knew it we were sharing things I never thought we would share.  I can’t even tell you how the subject came up, but all of a sudden we were talking about our sex lives.  I didn’t even remember until I was reminded tonight, but I apparently mentioned some of my unhappiness with the state of things in the Mess household (if you can even call it that anymore).  Although Abercrombie is too young to drink, he stayed up with us talking and laughing and taking it all in (as only a sober person in a group of drunks truly can).

After Tuesday I swore off beer completely for at least a year.  Seriously, I felt sick most of the day.  I purposely put out of my mind whatever my honest nature, plied and intensified with alcohol, may have revealed.  As the week continued we all got closer.  Abercrombie and I started ragging on each other even harder.  We all studied as a group and stressed over the test.  He got my cell phone number from the employee I brought with me when he saw me doing payroll on a break so that he could text me his request that I cut him a check, too.

As the week wound to a close today, we all shared a limo bus to the airport.  Abercrombie, my employee, and myself are all going to areas that are only a few hours apart, but we were all flying into different airports.  Tonight when I arrived at my destination my step-mom picked me up and she, I and my Dad had dinner.  Not too long after I finally arrived home I got a text from Abercrombie asking if I made it back safely.  I told him I had and asked about him.  He still had a 3 hour drive from the airport to his house.  We joked around a bit, and I figured I would hear from him occasionally and see him on the work forums and Twitter every now and then.

Instead, about 3 hours later he sent me a text that he had gotten home okay.  He asked if my husband was glad to see me, then said “Don’t have too much sex tonight, we all know how much he likes to do it lol.”  I honestly had no idea what the fuck he was talking about.  Then in horror I remembered those first drunken evenings…  Oh gosh!  He followed up with, “That’s what happens when u drink too much. u talk alot. lol” 

I deflected him with a great tactic we learned over the week called “acknowledge and ignore.”  He started talking about other people who drank too much and all the crazy personalities in our class.  He mentioned another guy who is married, but incredibly unhappy.  Suddenly all of the “lol”s disappeared.  He sent me these simple words: “I hope you’re happy.”

That sudden sincerity (I could sense a dramatic change in tone, even over text), made me dissolve into tears.  Those tears turned into sobs with this next exchange:

Me: “You are sweet.  I’m not as happy as I want to be but I’m working on it.”  

Abercrombie: “What can we do to fix that.”

Me: “I don’t know.  I will tell you when I figure it out.  You’re making me cry.”

Him: “Well I really care about you…  so I wanna help u figure it out.”

Just like that, the words started flowing.  He asked some gentle questions, I gave him a quick summary of my sordid life as it stands now.  An hour later I apologized for dumping all of that on him.  He replied with another statement that made me break down:

“No I wanna talk about it.  i know ur not happy just by looking u in the eyes.” 

Wow…

Then he said, “Heres what most dont know abt me. i am very cocky, outgoing, and speak my mind but i have one of the biggest hearts you’ve ever seen. but i never show it.”

I told him that he shows it more than he thinks.

After a little pause he asked, “r u alright?”

Me: “Yeah, I am fine.  I appreciate your concern and that you took the time to ask & listen.”

Him: “u suck at lying i hope u know tht

Me: “What am I lying about?”

Him: “ur not really ok”

Me: “Im better than I have been but I’m a mess, its true.  I take that bad liar thing as a compliment because I don’t ever want to get as good at it as my husband.”

Him: “what can i do to help u??”

Me: “You’ve done it.  I’m blown away that you care at all… I have forgotten what it feels like to be cared about.”

And there’s the crux of this whole thing.  I’ve forgotten how it feels to have someone put your needs and feelings first.  I connected with this great young man just 4 days ago, and he has stayed up texting me until midnight after a long day of studying, testing, and travel that included a flight and a 3-hour drive.  He genuinely cares.

He doesn’t have an interest in me in any other way than friendship, and neither do I.  He and his wife make me feel hopeful that there is a chance for real love out there.  They are so sweet and caring and great with each other.  His eyes light up when he talks about her.  He loses that arrogant edge, and his dimples show.

He said to me tonight in another text, “If your married to someone it means your devoted to them and nobody else.”  He is 19, and he knows that.  He is giving that to his wife, and I don’t doubt that he always will because he is a great guy.  I was starting to believe those didn’t exist, especially in this generation.  I am happy to be proven wrong.

It turns out I was right last week when I told my therapist it would be far easier to trust a stranger than my husband.  Right now we aren’t even at ground level in the trust factor.  A nuclear bomb has been dropped on my little town, and it’s now a huge crater miles below sea level.  I don’t think I can rebuild there anymore.

What that means for me is that I have to hold my head up and make the difficult, painful choices.  If such a simple gesture from a near stranger can have me crying for 2 hours, then it’s obvious to me that big changes are necessary.  I’ve taken one step toward that this week.

Tomorrow I will be going to marriage counseling alone again (at this point marriage counseling has probably breathed its last breath) to figure out what the next steps really are.  My husband is too busy to come, but I’ve already grown used to him not putting any real, honest effort into this relationship.  That means I have to do what I have to do in order to take care of me.  This week I found the motivation, internal strength, and support to do so.

Delving Into My Childhood

10 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes…

8 Nov

I have never really done well with change.  Now my life is full of them.  It is a hard adjustment.  Last night I had another in the long string of recent challenges that have been coming my way.  I made mistakes, but I also made some improvements (however slight).  I’ll tell you the story, and we’ll see if you pick out the same ones that I did…

The very first challenge that I have been dealing with is my health.  Two weeks ago I had strep throat and an ear infection.  About 3-5 days after the antibiotics for that were finished I contracted a killer cold that developed into an upper respiratory infection complete with whooping cough, fever, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and the inability to breathe (okay, maybe that last one is a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear that’s how it feels).  I powered through most of the week until yesterday I just couldn’t take it any more.  I dragged my sorry ass out of work around 3:30, went to the doctor for some meds, then wiped out the CVS cold and flu aisle before heading home.

I arrived to a mailbox full of stuff for Mr. Mess, which I added to the already-impressive stack on the table by my door.  He had cancelled all 3 of the proposed “dates” he set up last week due to his own health issues (flu, maybe?).  That meant there hadn’t been an exchange of things like mail in over a week.  Here is where my first mistake appears in this tale (I’m not giving you any more freebies – from here on out, you have to identify the mistakes for yourself).  I called him and told him that he had a lot of mail here whenever he wanted to come get it.  He said he would head on over then, and I agreed.

I will pause in the re-telling of this story to recap something I learned in S-Anon that applies well in this situation.  It is the acronym H.A.L.T.  This wise slogan advises you not to act when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  I would add another letter at the end.  S for sick.  I did not need to contact my husband while I was sick.  The mail could have stayed right there.  Although I wasn’t especially hungry, angry, lonely or tired, the sick made all of those things much closer to the surface than they normally are.  It also made me more emotional than I was aiming for.

Mr. Mess arrived at my door about an hour after our phone conversation ended…  maybe 45 minutes.  I had already caught myself complaining like a whiny child on the phone about how awful I felt, so I resolved not to do that.  He walked in, and the first thing I noticed was the smell of his cologne.  I love that damn stuff.  It is probably the best smell in the entire world.  At least I thought that last night.  In retrospect, I’m surprised I could even smell it given the state of my sinuses.  Mr. Mess walked up to me, reached out to rub my arms, and said that he is sorry I am feeling so bad.  In that moment all I wanted was to curl up in his arms.

Instead, I said thank you and pointed out the stack of mail.  He went through it, throwing things away as he went, and then started looking around.  He asked if there is anything he could do for me.  I told him it would be really nice if he could take the trash can to the curb so I didn’t have to go out there in the cold (trash pickup is on Wednesday night).  He said that would be no problem at all.  Then he commented that he hopes I have been eating.  I said that I have, except for yesterday when all my cold seemed to want was chocolate.  Everything else tasted gross.  Although that was borderline whiny, it was true.  For the most part, though, I have been cooking myself quite fine meals, and I told him so.

He then walked into the den.  I asked what he was doing.  He said that he wanted to say hi to the dogs (they were in the utility room, which is connected to the den).  While he was in there I went to get the extra pair of nail clippers that he asked to borrow earlier in the week.  I also handed him his key chain, which I had found buried in the pull-out sofa bed when my sister stayed the night last weekend.  I resisted the urge to call him out on his lie surrounding those keys or ask him where he got the key he had been using since his was in the couch and the spare was where it always is.  It doesn’t matter.  Plus, I’m pretty sure he must have taken the spare and gotten a copy made in order to hide the fact that he lost his keys.  What a pointless thing to hide.  And also a pointless thing to be angry about.  So I just let it go.

My Mom and I had literally just gotten off of the phone about 5 minutes before Mr. Mess arrived, and she asked me about Thanksgiving and Christmas – whether to expect him, whether she should be buying him a gift, etc.  She is going on a long cruise very shortly and wanted to have all of the gifts purchased in the next week or so.  I took the opportunity last night to ask.  He got this strange look on his face and started stammering a bit – falling over his words, starting a sentence, then not finishing it, saying “you know” when I really did not…

Finally he said that he would feel like a black cloud hanging over everything.  He said that he feels too bad about what he has done to me to be around my family, and he wants to wait.  I asked what he wants to wait for.  He didn’t really answer.  By that point my short fuse and irritation with his beating around the bush was getting the best of me.  It really seemed like he was saying that he can never be around my family again because what he did is not going to change.  I proposed an answer to my own question – maybe he is waiting until he feels good about what he did?  He said no, and started getting emotional.  Instead of feeling compassion, a red hot anger welled up inside of me.

I don’t remember the exact words that came out of his mouth next.  It doesn’t really matter.  However, it was something about not being able to change what he did or how guilty he feels about it.  Even though that is basically the same thing I was thinking just moments before, my rage monster wanted to let out a big growl.  I told him that he COULD have changed quite a lot in the last year of false recovery.  Instead of a year that was full of lies and deceit, he could have been honest and changed where we are now.  It was up to HIM to put his all into it just like I had been.  He said that I’m right, and that he wants to wait until he has made more progress in his recovery to be around my family so that it doesn’t feel like just another lie.

With those words and that simple revelation, my rage dissipated.  That, in and of itself, is progress.  His bottom lip trembled, his eyes started to overflow, and he walked away from me – like he always does when he is feeling real, human emotions.  Or maybe because he couldn’t keep up the act much longer – it’s hard faking emotions as a sociopath.  I thought he was walking to the door, which he was at first.  Then he stopped and turned around.  He asked if there was anything else I needed besides him to take the trash to the street.  I said no.  He turned as if to go, then said that there was one more thing he needed.  Without another word of explanation, he took off down the hall toward the computer room and my bedroom.

The fleeting moment of tenderness I had felt towards him was quickly shoved aside by annoyance.  I called after him, asking where he was going and what he needed.  Without stopping, he strode into the computer room, turned on the light and called back that he was looking for his checkbook.  My annoyance turned to indignation and territoriality.  I had seen his checkbook while I was cleaning, and it was NOT in there.  The bigger point, however, is that he doesn’t live here right now to go stomping off through my house opening doors, turning on lights, and rummaging through things without asking.  I told him that his checkbook was not in there, then went and fetched it from the spot where I had seen it earlier in the week.

Still, he continued going through things in the computer room.  I asked him to tell me what he is looking for instead of going through all of my stuff.  First he got exacerbated and said nothing, never mind.  I told him that I am happy to help, but I would like to know what he is looking for.  He said he was trying to find his actual checks (which weren’t in the checkbook).  I told him that I hadn’t seen them.  I searched (pointlessly) for his checks, which were nowhere to be found.  I asked if he was sure they were even in here.  He said that he brought them with him when he moved in (over 4 years ago now).  I said I haven’t ever seen them, and showed him my checks, which I always keep in one specific spot.  I checked everywhere he suggested with no luck.

When he finally accepted that the checks were not here, he asked for the joint checking account number.  I immediately bitched at him.  He asked me over a week ago for that number while I was driving, and I suggested he call the bank (since THEY have the number much handier than I do).  I caught myself in full bitch-out mode, complaining about how he should just pick up the phone and call himself instead of asking me to do things for him.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal, though…  I took a deep breath, pulled the checkbook out of my purse, and gave him the number.  We exchanged a few more tensely polite words, and he left.

Fifteen minutes later I thought to check outside.  Sure enough, the garbage can hadn’t been moved.  Out into the cold with my cold I went.  My body shivered and I raged in my head.  I fought the uge to send him a snarky or bitchy text thanking him for doing the one thing I had asked him for.  I fought the urge to call a friend and complain.  Instead, I put my phone down.  I hooked it up to the charger, and left the room.

I might have made many poor decisions yesterday, but I have learned enough in the last few months to know that my anger at that moment would not have been productive.  It wouldn’t have accomplished anything other than to drive an even bigger wedge between us.  It would have resulted in him feeling either defensive or more guilty.  None of those options are what I’m looking for.

Somehow I was able to push aside my strong urge to punish him for his oversight, and take responsibility for myself.  It is my trash, afterall.  Sick or not, I needed to take it to the curb.  Today this seems like it could be some very deep metaphor for what we are going through in general.  Last night it was just irritating.

About an hour or so later, once I had calmed down, taken some medicine, and regained my perspective and compassion, I sent him a text.  It simply said, “Sorry I upset you.”  I am sorry.  I pushed things.  I lashed out a few times.  I made him feel back about himself when I shouldn’t have because it doesn’t move us in the right direction.  I have to work on that.  I have to learn to control my temper a little better, or at least to not make decisions when I’m feeling on edge.  I have to look inward when what I really want to do is point the finger.  At least I didn’t send him that pissy text about the trash.  Progress, not perfection, right?

After thinking on things a bit more, I realize that all of those bad reactions came from fear of change.  I don’t like that I don’t have my husband to hold me when I’m feeling crappy.  Instead of affirming myself for the positive steps I’m taking in enforcing my boundaries, I wallow in self-pity because my lying, cheating sex addict husband can’t get his shit together.  I let anger and entitlement take over because it is easier than seeing the ways I contributed to being where I am today.

Yes, where I am is separated from a husband who lied to me repeatedly , cheated on me, and is a sex addict – but I put myself here just as much (or more) than he did.  It was my poor decisions, my loose boundaries, my fear of abandonment, my low self-esteem, my repeated failure to trust my gut, and my codependent tendencies that put us here just as much as it was his sex addiction.  I have to own my shit, too.  And then I have to change it.  But changing things sucks.

Sometimes I want my fantasyland back.  I wax nostalgic about the “good old days” when I could curl up on the couch whenever I felt sick and have my husband make me dinner, bring me medicine, and rub my feet.  I want that sense of security and love.  Then I remember how false it was.  I remember how that same loving, caring man would sneak off to call, sext, internet chat, or meet another woman.  Or maybe he wouldn’t do that, but he would lie about something from his day or hide what he was feeling or thinking.  I remember how I might sense something was off, but dismiss my own instincts.  I also remember how late at night, when he was snoring beside me, I would lie awake knowing that there was something big missing in this relationship.

I say all of that to say this:  Change is painful, but it is also necessary.  I have a long way to go.  However, I am going to keep pushing forward.  I need to change for me.  As much as I hate admitting my mistakes, acknowledging my flaws, and accepting change – those things are necessary for growth.  And one thing I hate worse than change is being average.  He’s to self-awareness and change.  Those bitches.  🙂

Our First Post-Separation Date (With Each Other)

25 Oct

image

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.

Forgiveness in the Face of Turmoil

13 Oct

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His “Rules” About Cheating

8 Oct

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

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

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

Yeah…  that was basically his pattern for 20 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Other Woman Became 4…

5 Oct

That’s about all I’m emotionally able to say right now.  I’m still processing…

I am glad that I have a therapy appointment today at 11.  I really need it.

Gifts of the S-Anon Program

3 Oct

Today at lunch I got what I needed – time to talk with my Mom.  She is so wise.  She puts things in perspective.  She has the ability to empathize and see all sides of a situation.  I am truly lucky beyond belief to have her as my mother.  Some people never have someone so insightful, loving, encouraging, and warm in their lives.

Somewhere in the midst of my conversation with her I realized that I was hungry.  I ate an apple, cheese, and a few crackers.  It wasn’t the most nutritional thing in the world, but it wasn’t complete and utter junk, either.  My nausea disappeared.  A sense of peace came over me.  I realized that there is a lot I will have to keep processing, but I will be fine.

I have wanted to share the gifts of the S-Anon program for a while.  Today the urge was overwhelming.  I read the passages in my little green book.  I thought about what it means for me.  I am trying to hold onto those truths and let them work in my life.

In the below passage, I think of the recovery process (therapy, connecting emotionally, growing, changing, etc.) as my “Higher Power.”  Instead of “God” or some invisible entity, I think of the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before me.  I think of MY 11th step, which is – “Make a genuine effort to maintain a positive attitude and remain honest with myself when tracing the root of my troubles.  Continue to think for myself and not be easily led, but seriously consider the input of others.”

This is what I’m focusing on today:

GIFTS OF THE S-ANON PROGRAM

When we approach the process of recovery with honesty, openmindedness, and willingness to apply the principles of the Twelve Steps to our lives, we will soon begin to see the rewards.  We will become able to surrender our self-defeating behavior.  We will find that we have the strength and insight to make good choices for ourselves.  Our ability to act positively for our health, families, jobs, and bank accounts will amaze us.  We will find that others are doing things for themselves, which we though we had to do for them.  Our ability to give and receive love will expand tremendously, and we will become increasingly available for loving relationships with others.  We will recover the feeling of joy.  We will become more honest with ourselves and experience a new comfort in our intimate relationships.  We will feel the security that arises from true fellowship with others in the program, knowing that we are loved and accepted just as we are.  Feelings of failure and inadequacy will be replaced by self-confidence and independence of spirit.  We will no longer expect other people to provide us with an identity or a sense of self-worth.  We will find the courage to be true to ourselves.  We will know peace of mind and feel a stronger connection with the Higher Power of our understanding, and our Hope will turn to faith that God is really working in our lives, as we explore the wonders of serenity, dignity, and emotional growth.

Besides realizing that they really need to add more paragraph breaks to that passage, typing it out has been a great experience.  Reading it again on my own gave me a sense of serenity.  We read that and a few other readings aloud at each meeting.  I have taken more time recently to really look at what they are saying and determine how I feel about it all.  I have never been one to “follow the crowd,” I never thought slogans would be the least bit useful to me, and a younger version of myself probably would have made a gagging gesture at the hopeful, syrupy tone and promise that just following the steps could make your life better.

I still have a little of that skepticism inside me, but I also have a sense that those words are meaningful.  Syrupy or not, they have power.  I have also seen some of the gifts manifest themselves in my life already.  I want more of that serenity.

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

Anniversary Memories: Camping in Shenandoah

1 Oct

My husband and I recently celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary.  It was a good experience.  Last year was nice, but the shadow of everything I had discovered just 6 months before was hanging around.  We had great moments, but sadness creeped in every now and then.  I distracted myself through lots of planned activities and experiences that would take my mind off of anything negative.

This year was almost the opposite.  We had no distractions, nothing really planned beyond where we would be camping, and nothing over the top.  It was just him and me… and a tent.  I left my laptop and tablet at home, he left his phone.  Mr. Mess had picked out and reserved a camp site in Shenandoah National Park, we had a rough idea of when we wanted to leave, and he had a few general plans of what we could do in the area.  When we arrived at the entrance to Skyline Drive they gave us a map, a brochure, and told us that there was an apple butter festival happening that afternoon.  Fun!

We picked up some firewood and a few supplies, then got right to the business of setting up our tent.  The campsite was perfect.  It was right at the end of a road and there was an area set back from the fire pit and picnic table that was surrounded on 3 sides with trees.  That is where we set up our tent.  It was the only moment where things got a little hairy…  We had a small tiff over getting the tent staked down, but it didn’t linger.  We were both able to see how completely useless it would be to argue over something that minor, so we moved on and had a nice time.

Once the camp was established, we headed down Skyline Drive and made our way to the apple butter festival.  30 miles doesn’t seem like far, but at 30 miles per hour, it takes an hour… not counting stops along the way to check out breathtaking views like this one:

By the time we made it down to the area where the festival was located we were quite hungry.  The parking was also about a mile or so away from the festival area.  My husband’s knee started really bothering him (it was probably his gout flaring up, but he didn’t know that he had gout at that point).  Then out of the blue a very nice gentleman stopped and let us hop on his tailgate.  Yay for helpful strangers!

The festival itself was somewhat disappointing, but we managed to connect with each other over the horrible food and cheesy items for sale.  One really neat aspect was two large vats of boiling apples over open fires.  There were large, long-handled stirrers to keep the boiling liquid mixed and evenly heated.  The smells were amazing.  There was also great music and several acts, including cloggers.  There were pony rides for kids, a wine tasting booth, and plenty of cute doggies.

When we had our fill of that environment I was able to get us another ride back up the mountain (sometimes you just gotta ask).  We then exited onto Route 33 to head into town.  The pump for the queen air mattress that we brought was useless – some moisture must have gotten in when it was stored, and the batteries were corroded.  On the way to Wally World we stopped by the ABC store to get some yummy local wine (we already had some favorites from previous trips to this area).  We also picked up a knee-brace for hubby, and a few other things – including wonderful cheese (blue cheese, gouda, and an herbed cheddar), bakery-made Asiago focaccia bread (the best bread in the world – I stand by that statement), and contact solution (which I had forgotten to pack).

On the way back to our campsite we caught this phenomenal view of the sun starting to descend behind the mountaintops.

That evening my husband cooked us one of the best dinners I have ever had.  First, we started up the fire.  I have to add here that I find the smell of a camp fire incredibly amazing.  It’s one of my favorite smells in the entire world.  We worked together to prep the items to cook – sliced Portobello mushrooms and onions, filet mignon, the various cheeses, the wonderful bread, and a beautiful bottle of wine.

He heated up the cast iron skillet, we loaded it up with butter, and sautéed the veggies.  The steaks soon followed (in the same pan), then a thin layer of blue cheese was applied over everything.  We enjoyed the wine as things cooked, then shared a dinner that can only be described as scrumptious.  I wish I had pictures to share, but that meal lives only in our memories.

That evening we drank quite a bit, played with the fire, lounged around the campsite, and snuggled.  When the stars came out I could swear there were a million of them.  Our tent has a mesh top with an optional cover, which we left off.  As we lay in each others arms on our comfy mattress under a thick comforter, we laughed, kissed, and stared in wonder at the beauty of nature.

The next morning it was COLD!!  30 degrees, frost on the picnic table, can see our breath cold!  Mr. Mess tried to start our fire back up, but it was so windy that all we could create was a smoke monster (we joked that it could have been an extra in Lost).  I wrapped myself up from head to toe in our huge comforter and watched him try to make breakfast over our pseudo fire.  It resulted in a somewhat edible breakfast that was nothing compared to our dinner.  We quickly decided to pack everything up, get in the warm car, and start our day of adventure early.

Without any specific plan in mind, we drove in the direction of the closest winery, according to our GPS.  We should have known better.  That thing is evil.  I really think it hates me.  The first thing it tried to do was take us down an old fire lane that was overgrown with grass and blocked off by the park rangers.  It refused to detour us – according to evil GPS that was the only way to get to said winery.  We decided to continue to the exit that we were closest to, then try again.  We should have just given up on that winery, but for some reason we were stuck on finding it.

After we got to Route 33, we tried again.  It said the winery was 2.6 miles away…  Not too bad.  All of a sudden, that 2 miles turned into 6.  Then 11 more.  Apparently this was the magically moving winery.  Still we continued on.  Next thing we knew, we were in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  The paved road was ending and a gravel road stretched out ahead.  Our GPS told us to turn left.  The problem is there was no road.  Just a little grassy clearing that ended in a ditch.  We wandered around a bit trying to find anything close to a winery.  No luck.  We finally decided to give up, while laughing and cursing our evil British GPS (I gave him a funny accent to make him more bearable).

Not to be dissuaded, we picked up some food and chose a more easily located winery that we had visited in the past.  The weather was beautiful, the windows were down, and our car and all of our belongings smelled like the wonderful camp fire (smoke monster).  Life was great!  On the way to said winery, we passed this beautiful, inquisitive cow, and my husband stopped to allow me to snap a few pictures.

The first winery was simply stunning.  The wine was good, but the view was better.

The chatty woman who went over the wine tasting with us also gave us a map of all of the wineries in Virginia.  (Funnily enough, she knew about the winery we were trying to find earlier…  She said it was like 2 miles farther up the winding gravel road.  When we checked out the winery on said map, we discovered in large, bold letters the warning NOT to use a GPS to get there.  Oh well.)  We picked a few wineries on the map that were on the way home, and took off with the wind in our hair.  Here’s the view from the next one we hit:

We picked the final winery based solely on the fact that free wine glasses came with each tasting.  It was a fantastic choice!  Not only were the wines fantastic, they have a weekly polo match there every Sunday!  There were hundreds of people there, the energy was fabulous, and they had a cooler full of great cheeses.  We grabbed our glasses, a few warm baguettes, some cheese, and a bottle of wine and headed down to the polo field.  The sun was shining, the grass was soft, and the food and wine were delicious.  We couldn’t have planned things this perfect if we had tried!

Our last stop on the anniversary celebration was apple picking in Charlottesville.  It was the first time Mr. Mess had ever been, and we had a good time.  He bought some ice cream, I got a few cinnamon donuts, and we filled a bag with apples that we climbed trees to salvage.  I will leave you with a picture of the orchard we wandered through together.

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