Tag Archives: marriage recovery

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.

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Confused Much?

22 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Start of Our Separation Guidelines

19 Oct

Yesterday morning my husband and I had our marriage counseling session.  He was late, and for the first time ever (seriously) our marriage therapist was running a bit early.  That meant I had about 5 minutes or so to tell our therapist the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Okay, it was more like a beam than a straw, but you get the point.

Once Mr. Mess arrived he told the therapist we had been separated since the previous Wednesday…  Really?  You can’t even remember when this all happened?  Apparently the separation seemed to have lasted longer for him than 5 days.  He was kinda sullen and frowny-faced.  We had a bit of a moment where we disagreed in the re-telling of an incident.

None of that is really the point of this post, though.  Those little details don’t matter at all.  What does matter is that we both agreed that the separation needs to continue so that we can focus on ourselves.  Our marriage counselor concurred.  He felt that at this point it was a healthy, positive decision for us as individuals and for our marriage.

Once that was decided, we set upon the task of setting a few guidelines for the separation.  We didn’t cover everything there is to cover, but we did get a good foundation laid.  He utilized the book Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage by Lee Raffel.  I have already ordered the book so I can read the rest.

The first thing our marriage counselor covered was a time limit.  He said that in a controlled separation it is helpful to have an idea of when we want to sit down, take stock, and consider moving back into the same house again.  He recommended a time limit in the 1-6 month range.  He advised that both extremes of that time limit would probably not be the best choice at this time.  We settled on 3 months.

For the next 3 months that means we will maintain separate residences.  Both of us also agree not to file for divorce or see a lawyer to move forward with divorce proceedings.  At the end of the three month period we will talk about whether we want to move back in together, extend the separation for a period of time, or divorce.  In those three months we will continue going to marriage counseling together once per week or as often as both of our schedules allow.

The next issue was to decide on our continuing relationship and contact outside of marriage counseling.  He gave us both an opportunity to offer suggestions and provide our ideas on things that we want, need, or expect during this time.  Based on my not-so-great experiences of the previous 5 days, I proposed no contact after 9 pm.  He agreed, and our marriage counselor added his suggestion that we only use texting for basic housekeeping and non-emotional topics – no strong feelings or loaded conversations allowed.  That sounded like a good idea for me.

I also asked that Mr. Mess announcement himself before entering the marital home.  In the 4 days before our counseling session there had been a few times when he just used his key to walk right in unannounced.  He would send a vague text like “I’ll be coming by at some point tomorrow for some things,” but I didn’t get any real idea of when until he was letting himself in.  I asked for that to stop, and to at least get a specific call or text with notice and a knock at the door when he arrives.  He agreed, then upped the ante by saying he will give me the key back.  Okay…  I didn’t ask for that, but I’ll take it if that’s what he wants.

Contact-wise, those were my main requests.  Then it was Mr. Mess’s turn.  He said he is fine with my requests, then said that he would like to have some face-to-face contact with me at least once per week outside of marriage counseling.  He suggested meeting at a neutral place just to talk about how we are doing in our respective recoveries, how things are going in general, and other lighter topics that we should be able to handle without a mediator.

I considered that request, and didn’t see a reason not to comply at this point.  I truly do not have animosity towards him.  I just can’t have him be a constant presence in my life while he isn’t a trustworthy person.  Always a details girl, I asked how these meetings will be coordinated.  Our marriage counselor said that he would recommend that my husband take the lead and show initiative in this area.  He (very aptly) explained to my husband that I am looking for him to step up and show me that he is invested in this marriage and willing to fight for it.  I didn’t even have to be the one to say it…  I love our marriage counselor!

Somewhat surprisingly, Mr. Mess said that was absolutely his plan (although really, how could he say anything different?).  He said that he will contact me a few days in advance with a suggestion of a time and place we can meet.  He even said that he will choose a location close to where I am since he isn’t sure yet where he will be staying.  No matter where he ends up, he said he is willing to come to an area that I am comfortable and familiar with.

In the final few minutes we decided on a basic financial arrangement for joint bills like his car payment, car insurance and our cell phones.  I include his car payment on this list only because it is in MY name, not because I will actually be putting any money towards it.  In fact, that car payment is the bulk of what he is contributing to “joint” bills – 3/4 of the amount we agreed on, in fact.

He suggested removing himself from the cell phone plan and getting his own.  That immediately triggered me.  First of all, most of these plans require a 2 year contract.  If he is going to get off of our joint account and commit himself to 2 years on his own, then my thinking is we may as well proceed with the divorce.  Suddently 3 months of separation is turning into 2 years?  Uhhh….  what did I miss?

Secondly, it made me think that he is looking to hide things from me.  Why else would he need his own cell phone plan?  Joint plans are always cheaper, and he isn’t making a ton of money.  In fact, in our financial discussion of just a few minutes prior he made a point of how little he will have left over once he puts in for the 3 joint bills he would currently have to contribute towards.  So WHY exactly would you be looking to increase one of those expenses?  His current payment for his cell phone is $50 – with unlimited texting, a decent amount of minutes, and free nights and weekends.  It is actually on the lower end of plans that Verizon offers, and I can’t imagine even on a bare bones pre-paid phone he would pay much less than that…

It just got my spidey senses tingling and made me feel uncomfortable.  The marriage counselor advised against separating things too far or making any changes that aren’t necessary, especially long-term ones.  Mr. Mess said that was “fine” with him, but never offered his reasoning for not wanting his phone connected to me.  I still find it very strange and disconcerting.  When I pair that with the fact that he changed the password to our joint account without telling me and took the checkbook and register out of the house (again without telling me), I am feeling more uneasy today than I was yesterday.

Still, I’m trying to give this separation a chance.  I committed to 3 months of the above plan.  We would have to be separated for 6 months in order to be granted a divorce anyway, so there is no use in me getting caught up in a “what if” or “what is he doing” panic.  Instead, I choose to focus on the positive, and on how I can keep my serenity during this time.

One really fantastic thing has been the support of my S-Anon group.   Tonight I went out with a few women who I have gotten to know.  We had dinner at a Mexican place, a few of the women had a margarita (me included – raspberry – yummm), and then we went to see Taken 2.  I love, love, love the first movie!  The second movie wasn’t quite as good (in my opinion), but it was just perfect for tonight.

I found myself laughing, cheering, shouting at the screen, and getting caught up in the action (yes – I am one of those people).  I wasn’t alone.  The whole theater seemed to be sucked into the storyline.  I really couldn’t believe how fast the movie seemed to end.  A glance at my watch confirmed that it had run the proper amount of time – it just flew.

I’m still on a little bit of a high from the pumped up action.  Plus, who wouldn’t want a man like Liam Neeson who is handsome, rugged, bad-ass, and who will go to any lengths for his family?  Especially when so far the man in my life has put forth a very lackluster, pitiful effort on the simplest things – like getting STD tested or telling the truth.  Maybe he should watch the movie for a little inspiration.

Not Only Do I Have An Addictive Personality, I Also Have An Addictive Blog!

12 Oct

Wow…  Where did this week go?  Here is it Friday, and I’ve barely had a chance to talk to you guys this week.  I know that no one is waiting with bated breath for the words that come out of my fingertips.  🙂  Still, I like to blog because writing is such a cathartic thing for me.  I also like to think that my story and experiences help some, or at least are interesting and slightly entertaining.

I don’t know about the first part, but I did get confirmation this week that my blog is addictive.  Whether I’m addictive like Lay’s (you can’t eat just one) or like cocaine, I’m not really sure.  Neither are particularly good for you, but at least the former just gives you greasy fingers and a little padding on your hips.

Seriously, though, two wonderful and talented women nominated me for an award this week.  Being Her, (the other woman)… nominated me here, and our24yeargap nominated me here.

Now for the Rules:

Thank the person awarding you.  Share a little about why you blog and how the journey started. Paste the blog award on your page. Nominate 10 other bloggers you feel deserve the award.

I don’t have to be told to thank the two ladies who nominated me because they are truly fantastic.  I never imagined that I would feel such kinship, empathy, and connection to “the other woman,” but Being Her has bared her soul and shared her unique situation in a way that made those things possible.  Addiction has also touched her life in a very real, very devastating way, and I appreciate that she has given me a window into her world.  I found our24yeargap because we share the bond of loving older men.  She has since won my heart with her raw, honest commentary on life and the beautiful photographs that she takes.  I only hope that those close to her in “real life” can begin to acknowledge and recognize her talents and beauty, inside and out.

As for why I blog and where my journey started, I share a lot of that on my What Brought Me Here page.  Here’s the longer, brutally honest version.  I didn’t enter this blogging world intending to start a blog of my own.  On the contrary, I never understood blogging.  I know I made more than one negative joke about how everyone in the world seems thinks they have something that the rest of us care to read about – NOT!  I despised everything about blogging, especially the stupid name…  Who came up with that anyway?  And why exactly did it stick?

Then a friend shared a few links to his blog on Facebook.  I checked it out – mostly to support him, but also because I did think he had something to say that was worth reading.  I soon discovered other bloggers that commented on his posts, and realized some of their stuff was pretty interesting.  Then I read a post about infidelity that evoked very strong emotions in me.  For the first time ever, I responded to a blog other than my friend’s.  In fact, I wrote so much and got such a positive response that I realized I had something to say on the topic.  My blog was born.

Since then, my blog has morphed from a commentary on infidelity to one that touches on sex addiction, marital recovery, S-Anon, Retrouvaille, pornography, and even completely unrelated subjects like food, travel, and zombies.  What this blog has become for me is a place where I can bare my soul and talk about whatever passion or topic is currently on my mind.  It has become my refuge, my sounding board, a place where I have met great friends, continue to grow and change, and publish insights as I uncover them.  These are the chronicles of a mixed-up woman with an addictive personality, a sex addict husband, a half-blind dog, and a wonderful support system making her way through marriage recovery, infidelity, codependence, love, hurt, joy, pain, and good food one day at a time.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Now for 10 other wonderful bloggers that I have become addicted to (in no particular order):

  1. IM IN LOVE WITH A SERIAL CHEATER
  2. theothersideofinfidelity
  3. Repairing Shattered Pieces
  4. persuaded2go
  5. Castimonia
  6. Teatart
  7. livinginsidethetornado
  8. Our Journey After His Affair
  9. bRaving Bipolar
  10. The Significant Other of a Fuck (Sex) Addict

I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend.  Thanks again to everyone who reads what I type – I appreciate all of my followers and fellow bloggers more than you know!

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.

Preparing for Full Disclosure (and a Wonderful Weekend)

30 Sep

Tuesday I am supposed to get a full disclosure from my husband at his therapist’s office.  He has been preparing for about 3 weeks.  He is going way back – from his first acting out through today.  I am nervous because I don’t know everything that is going to come out.  Our MC is back from his medical leave, so I am glad to have his support.  I have seen him for IC and I know if I need extra support he can offer it.  I have a knot in my stomach just thinking about it, though.

In the meantime, I’m trying to focus on all the positive things happening to relieve some anxiety.  Today was incredibly nice.  We slept in, had a “roll in the hay,” then my husband went out to pick up coffee and came back with flowers for me.  We went to a winery tour, tasting and picnic in the afternoon.  On the way up we talked and laughed.  We touched, kissed, and were close emotionally all day.  The weather was as perfect as it has ever been, we purchased several bottles of delicious wine from 2 wineries, and dinner was amazing.  It was a fantastic day.

For now, that’s what I’m focused on…  Our present progress and where our future will take us.  I’m hoping that the full disclosure can create closure on the past and help me feel more trust in my husband.  This entire process has been hard for him, too, I’m sure, although he hasn’t complained once.

I know I promised to give some details and pictures from our anniversary, and I will do it soon.  I just want to bask in the glow of my wonderful day for now.  Hope the rest of your weekend is great!

image

The High Price of Forgiveness

27 Sep

By hang_in_there, Some Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ever associated forgiveness with a big price tag?

by Rick Reynolds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Pity Party: The Importance of Taking My Antidepressants

26 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You

Thank You (Photo credit: purplekiss024)

Accepting the Truth

8 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night, Part 2

17 Jul

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

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


My answers (completely unedited except for names):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night, Part 1

17 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit

Retrouvaille Weekend

13 Jul

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

What is a Retrouvaille Program?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minding Your P’s and Q’s

13 Jul

Photo Credit

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

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

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

Photo Credit – Writer’s Block

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration from Others

12 Jul

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

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

From Scabs in her post Step 1: Recognize:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Recovering Wayward on his post yesterday:

The Serial Cheater/ Sex Addict/ Tiger Woods Type Affair

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

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

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

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

and

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

From Wendy in response to the same post:

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

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

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

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

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

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