Tag Archives: Pornography

Gifts of the S-Anon Program

3 Oct

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

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

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

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

This is what I’m focusing on today:

GIFTS OF THE S-ANON PROGRAM

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

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

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

Advertisements

Facing Reality Sucks

3 Oct

… so I’ve been avoiding it. 

We had the disclosure last night.  I’m not going to use the word “full” yet, because I know there are some things he didn’t go over in very much detail at all.  There were a few places he skimmed a bit.  There are som things he didn’t cover in his disclosure that have already come out, which means it is at least somewhat incomplete.  We will definitely need to talk more about his feelings and thought-processes leading up to his actions.  I do think most of the layers of the onion are peeled and visible.  There was more than I thought there would be once it was all laid out in front of me.

I thought I was prepared.  I mostly was.  Then the silliest thing jumped up and ripped my heart out.  It wasn’t even about his actions per say.  I got confirmation that he has been lying to me about something that I knew he was lying about.  Being faced with that reality made me look at it in a way I never had before.  Even though I had a gut feeling that was pretty solid before the revelation, I had never let my mind process everything through to its logical conclusion.  There was always the tiniest glint of hope that what he told me was the truth.  Once the reality was staring me in the face, I was forced to see that someone else I have grown to respect and like may have been involved in a way I don’t want to face.  I still don’t have a resolution on that issue – Mr. Mess is going to get a few questions answered for clarity sake.  I fear that I may lose someone I have come to think of as a friend and an activity that I have fallen in love with.

There was also a deeper revelation about his past that I didn’t see coming.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming – in hindsight all of the signs were there, and I know that sex addiction escalates.  It still took me by surprise.  I don’t know how I feel about it.  I don’t know how TO feel about it.

So I’m not.  I’ve browsed eBay (so far, I haven’t bought anything, but my “Watch List” suddenly went from nothing to 20).  I vented my frustration in an email to a company that has been yanking me around and picked the wrong day to mess with me.  I have read other people’s blogs – more to distract myself than to offer any real support or advice.  I don’t have any of that right now.  I have cleared out my computer, organized files, and any other mindless task I can think of.

I have lost 3 pounds overnight from the stomach issues I’ve experienced.  All I’ve managed to eat so far today is half an apple, which made me feel nauseous.  I did make sure to take my antidepressant this morning, even as zombied out as I was.  I need to go to lunch now.  I just don’t know what I’m going to do with an hour alone in my house.  Try to eat something.  Probably watch something mindless from my DVR.  Maybe manage a sentence or two in my journal.  Probably call my Mom and set up a day soon to have lunch, or just come to her house and curl up on her couch.  I am seriously considering calling our MC for an individual appointment soon.  I know I need to process this, and I probably need help to do it.

I am keeping everything in mind that I said yesterday.  I’m not angry with my husband.  I’m not judging him.  I’m just numb.  This is a totally different feeling than discovering something on my own.  It is far better than THAT feeling, but it is so new that I don’t know what to do with it.

Some rights reserved by Marco Bellucci

As a side note:  How fucked up is it that when I typed “avoiding reality” into the image search engine I got tons and tons of porn images.  It just makes me feel sick and also sad.  I knew pornography was used by many as an unhealthy coping mechanism and a way to avoid reality, but to have it come up automatically with that tame, G-rated search made my heart hurt.

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

Our Retrouvaille Couple’s Introduction

6 Sep

*I wrote earlier today about the process of penning our personal couple’s introduction.  You can catch up on that here if you haven’t read it yet.  The only changes I made were to remove our names and replace them with the pseudonyms I use on my blog.  Beautiful Mess is me, and my husband is Mr. Mess.  This is a fairly long introduction to who we are, how me met and fell in love, where things went wrong, and where we are now in recovery as a couple.  For that reason, I will not include a lengthy introduction.  Enjoy our story. 

I.  The Beginning

Intro (Mr. Mess):

Hello, my name is Mr. Mess and this is my wife, Beautiful Mess.  We have been together for five years, and married for the last two.  Both of us were born in Virginia.  We have no children.  We made our Retrouvaille weekend on July 13th, 2012.

When my wife and I met I was just getting back on my feet from losing my job and my prior relationship.  It was a weekend night in the fall of 2007, and I was out to celebrate my new job.  We met at a local bar, and hit it off from the beginning.  We started talking to and texting each other on a regular basis.  Our first date was at one of our favorite night spots.

We started doing a lot of things together.  Two months into our relationship New Year’s Eve was upon us, and I invited her mother to my house for a party that I was throwing for my family and friends.  I was very nervous because I knew that Beautiful Mess’s mother was religious and I was not.  Neither were the people that were going to be at the party.  To make a long story short, the party went off without a hitch, and I was given her mother’s approval to date her daughter.

Not long after that, Beautiful Mess was over my house and we were outside in my front yard.  As we were heading into the house, Beautiful Mess stepped into a hole that was concealed by grass.  I heard something crack.  I immediately got her up and took her to Patient First, where it was determined that she had severely sprained her ankle.  Prior to this we had made reservations at one of Beautiful Mess’s favorite restaurants, and I was sure that it would have to be cancelled.  However, she was determined to keep our date, and went to the restaurant on crutches.  That was special to me because it showed that she was really committed to our relationship.

Me:

The beginning of our relationship progressed somewhat slowly.  Both of us had come from long-term relationships that had ended badly, and we didn’t want to jump into anything without really getting to know one another.  We enjoyed each other’s company a few nights per week, and started opening up and having great conversations.  I was in college at the time, about 3 semesters into a demanding course of study.  I remember bringing the exam questions for my Japanese and Chinese History course over to his house, and working on all of my essay outlines and rough drafts while he watched TV.  After my spring exams were finished the two of us decided on a whim to take a weekend trip to Atlantic City as a reward for my hard work.

That trip was the first time I thought I could be in love.  It was about six months into our relationship.  I remember walking down the boardwalk as a slight drizzle started.  We huddled together on a bench and watched a street performer and an artist who were both on the other side of the street.  Even without talking, I felt close to him.  I wanted so much to tell him how I was feeling, but then the rain picked up and the moment was lost as we sprinted into a nearby casino.  There, he taught me how to play Blackjack, and we walked away with $1200.

The next weekend I finally got up my nerve and blurted out “I love you” rather unceremoniously after watching a movie together.  To my relief, he felt the same way.  He declared his love for me to his brother and best friend on a camping trip the next week.

From that point forward we spent more time together.  We shared activities and attended family events together.  Late that summer I had to attend a conference for work, and he offered to stay at my house to care for my dogs.  He did a good job, and after I returned the things he had brought over for that week never left.  Soon after, about a year into our relationship, we had a formal discussion and decided to take the next step and move in together.


II. Trouble that led you to Retrouvaille

Mr. Mess:

It was during our dating that I showed my ugly side to Beautiful Mess.  She had seen glimpses of my addictions, but I had done everything in my power to keep the real me covered and hidden.  It was after we had moved in with each other and started to combine our lives that she discovered my dirty secret.  I was an addict on multiple levels.  Not only did I use drugs and alcohol excessively, but I was also involved in pornography, sexting and online chatting with other women.

When this blew up on me I promised to stop and never do it again.  I was very convincing, and she forgave me.  We moved forward.  I was a master liar.  I lied to everyone.  I lied to Beautiful Mess, and most of all, to myself.  I did stop with the online chatting and sexting for a while.  However, I never stopped my use of porn, and I hid it from her.  Instead of being open or turning to her sexually, I isolated and pushed her away.  I even went so far as to go to strip clubs several times and spend large amounts of money, then lie about it.

I kept up the lies for many months.  It wasn’t until after we were married that my lies caught up to me and ruined my marriage.  My wife had started to suspect something was up due to my secretive actions.  As she started to investigate she found out that I had been using my phone to access online porn and chat sites and to sext other women.  When asked about it, I went straight into lying mode.  It was at this point that my new wife gave me a choice.  Get help or get out.

Out of pure fear of losing everything, I agreed to do whatever it would take.  However, I was still lying to myself and Beautiful Mess.  I didn’t believe I had a problem, so I did what I thought would make her happy while not really believing I needed to change.  It has been a long road for me to admit openly and honestly to myself that I have a problem.

When Beautiful Mess mentioned the Retrouvaille program to me, I was all for it.  I knew that I needed help with communication, and this seemed like the right start.  As the time of our weekend came closer, I started to become afraid.  Was I going to be able to share my problems with complete strangers who by their own admission were not professionals?  I remember arriving at the hotel where our weekend took place, and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Me:

Once Mr. Mess and I moved in together I started noticing a few things that made me uncomfortable.  I discovered that he was viewing pornography a lot online and then trying to hide it from me by clearing the history.  I tried to watch it with him, to have an open discussion, to figure out if something was lacking in our relationship.  He kept lying and hiding and using every opportunity to push me away.  Literally every opportunity – he would reject me in the morning, then surf porn when I ran to the store for15 minutes to pick up eggs.  When I tried to confront him about it, he denied that he was doing anything, and I chose to let it go.

After discovering that Mr. Mess was having an online, phone and text affair with another woman I was devastated.  When I realized he had stayed in her area for work several times, I felt literally sick to my stomach, helpless, inadequate and incredibly heartbroken.  I sat across the living room from him in a chair, asked a few questions, and listened to his responses in a calm, disconnected way.  I was in shock.

My reaction to the situation was to try to “fix” things.  I now realize that I was deeply codependent.  I asked Mr. Mess to go to therapy and do a few other things, but when he didn’t, I again let it go.  I convinced myself that if I were better somehow he would be, too.  I felt panicked and uncertain, but I kept those feelings contained, thinking that if I showed too much of my hurt it would drive him away.  I tried to control the situation in very unhealthy ways – like trying to monitor his phone and computer use, obsessively checking behind him, and bottling my feelings up inside.

After a while, things returned to “pretend normal.”  Our relationship seemed happy.  We went out with friends together, watched movies, and talked about all sorts of things, except the elephant in the room.  My intense fear and anxiety about his behavior started to fade over time, but I still felt a tightness inside my chest every time I thought about the possibility that he could be engaging in behavior that made me uncomfortable.  I went on a vacation with my family that August, about 6 months after the affair discovery.  I was nervous about going, but thought we had built up trust and that I should be more positive about our relationship.  I rationalized that one week away wouldn’t be a big deal.

We had talked about my feelings on strip clubs – how I was uncomfortable about him going to them and how it had hurt my feelings the times I knew he went with his friends and lied about it.  He quickly agreed that he wouldn’t go, and said that he could understand my concerns.  Unfortunately, upon my return I found a $300 charge on our bank statement from a strip club while I was gone.  On a night where he (of course) said he was somewhere else.  I was thrown back into that despair from 6 months prior, but this time I was also furious.  I woke him out of a dead sleep, and after an hour or so of screaming, yelling and crying, I threw him out.

Once things calmed down a few days later and I was more emotionally stable, he said that he had gone for a friend’s birthday.  He apologized for lying to me that night and swore that the money was spent for his friend, not for himself.  Despite my misgivings and doubt, I again pushed my feelings aside.  I let him back in the house, and continued our relationship.

About 7 months later things seemed to be going smoothly.  We hadn’t gone to counseling or really addressed our deeper issues.  However, it had been several months since I caught him in a lie, and we had grown comfortable.  Those problems seemed like a distant memory, and even if our relationship wasn’t perfect I thought we had grown from those experiences.  It was around this time that we started seriously considering marriage.  It was a topic that was brought up on more than one occasion, and in April of 2010 he proposed.

What followed was a whirlwind.  We made our wedding plans together – picking out the cake, choosing invitations and decorations, and going over our wedding vows.  Mr. Mess was very involved in the process.  We even had premarital counseling sessions with the pastor performing the ceremony.  Our wedding occurred on September 18th, 2010.  Mr. Mess cried more than I did.  Our honeymoon was fun, and we settled into marital bliss.

Or did we?  Just six months into our marriage those nagging feelings that something was off returned.  I tried to ignore them, but one night I picked up his phone on a whim.  What I found there wounded me to the core.  There were pages and pages of pornographic websites, some of them highly disturbing to me, pictures, and messages.  I felt like our marriage was hopeless and broken.  I wondered how this could be happening to me, to our marriage, after only 6 months.  I decided that I just could not go through this unhealthy cycle for the rest of my life.  This time I put my foot down.  The only way I could continue in this marriage is if he got help for himself and we sought counseling as a couple.

During the next year we both went to therapy off and on.  He found a specialist.  I found a group for betrayed wives, and started finding support.  I realized that this issue wasn’t about me, but that I did have issues on my own.  The unhealthy coping mechanisms I had developed contributed to our communication breakdown, and made my life unmanageable.  I started addressing my behavior and learning to find my confidence and self-worth.  During that time I joined an online forum dealing with infidelity, where I learned about Retrouvaille.  Although things were improving slowly in our relationship, I realized that we really needed to work on communication.  We decided together that this program was vital to the continuation of our marriage.


Life Now

Mr. Mess:

Both Beautiful Mess and I knew that we needed work on our communication.  As we settled into the first phase of our weekend we found out just how intense this was going to be.  We worked late into the night that weekend.  We were taught the process of dialoging and told that everyone is entitled to their feelings.  As we worked our way through our weekend I could feel us moving closer to each other emotionally and physically.  It was on this weekend that my wife and I started to understand how each of us was feeling about certain aspects of our marriage.

We are now doing the work needed to better our marriage.  I am now seeing an individual counselor to help me deal with my issues.  We are going to a marriage counselor to work on us as a couple.  I have become much better at communicating how I feel, even when I think I don’t deserve those feelings.  I am better able to empathize with my wife, and I think she can see the change in me.  We are still a work in progress, but thanks to this program we are on our way to a happier and more harmonious life together.

After our weekend we made the decision to go to the post sessions.  On the night of our first post session I got angry at the fact that we had to drive for hours through heavy traffic to get to the session.  Half-way through the drive I turned around to go home.  It was at that time that I knew if I did not go to this first session it would be the beginning of me reverting back to my old behaviors.  So, I turned back around and arrived at our first post session about an hour late.

As we worked through the post sessions we learned a lot about what have been the major things in our lives that have made us who we are.  We also learned how to work through our differences and find ways to accept or change whatever it is causing our difficulties.

Me:

The Retrouvaille weekend was positive experience.  We were coming off of a rather heated fight, but decided to put that aside and focus on rebuilding our marriage, connecting, and building our communication skills.  I was surprised that the first night went so long, and apprehensive about what the rest of the weekend might hold.  I have always enjoyed writing, though, so I dove right in.  Very quickly I discovered that this process made me feel closer to Mr. Mess.  I found that I understood things about him and his feelings that I didn’t know before.  We left the weekend feeling renewed hope.

Even though the post sessions were a long drive from our home – at least 2 and a half hours, but sometimes much longer in traffic – we committed to going.  It was in that part of the program that we saw progress.  Continuing to dialog and learning the additional tools from the post-sessions improved our communication skills by leaps and bounds.  Understanding the feelings behind the other’s actions diffused arguments before they began.  I could empathize with his feelings and see things from his point of view, without immediately jumping to the conclusions that I had already formed based on assumptions.

Many of our original marital problems still exist.  Retrouvaille is not a cure-all or a quick fix.  It does help us to deal with obstacles better, though.  Rather than blaming each other or getting sucked into unproductive cycles we are reaching out and supporting one another.  Learning to communicate honestly and share our feelings is the way to do that.  Who knows what may be ahead.

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.

Being Worth It

10 Jul

One of my absolute favorite bloggers – Eat My Scabs – did a post today about boundaries:  Step 2: Set Your Boundaries.  She gave a few questions and fill in the blank sentences and challenged us all to complete them.  I loved the exercise and the questions really got me thinking.  I decided to share my answers here on my blog as well as submitting them on her original post.

Introduce yourself, your current obsession and one word to describe your mood today.
I am just another person on this journey to marriage healing.  I have recently realized that I’m codependent, and I’m working to free myself from the tangles of my husband’s sex addiction and focus on me.  My current obsession is with self-expression, especially with my body.  In the last few months I have gotten fuchsia streaks in my hair, a nose ring, and a new tattoo.  I have another tattoo being drawn up right now.  My mood today is a bit morose.  The weather has been dreary, I could have stayed in bed all day, and my husband has taken my recent detachment as license to stop having real conversations with me.

The craziest reaction I got from setting boundaries was… my husband saying “I don’t know what this (gesturing toward me) is all about” and walking out of the house.  He returned home several hours later, but he was not happy with my boundaries.  He didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t going to accept his bad attitude or react by screaming and yelling back.

My favorite boundary and consequence is…  I don’t know yet.  My favorite boundary is honesty in this marriage because it is the one thing I absolutely need the most.  It is also the one my husband seems to be struggling with the most.  As for consequences, I haven’t figured it out all the way.  Right now the consequence is that I won’t share my bed with someone who continues to lie to me.  That consequence will stand until I feel safe again.  When that will happen I have no clue.

My biggest boundary failure was when…  I didn’t stick to my request for him to get individual counseling after I discovered his affair and again after I caught him breaking his word about something important.  Both times I put an expectation out there that I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who was unfaithful or who was constantly lying to me.  However, I didn’t set any real consequence (me getting mad at him, being hurt and upset obviously wasn’t enough).  Of course he didn’t go, and I just let it go.  I told myself he was doing other things.  I told myself it was okay, that he was okay.  I told myself everything except what I should have told myself – if he won’t get help then you need to get out.  I paid the price for that after we were married because his lying, hiding ways had been reinforced for years by my lack of action and follow-through.

I got in the biggest trouble when I broke this boundary…  don’t steal.  I was caught shoplifting.  It was an incredibly selfish, stupid decision that I made in a time when my life was out of control.  I had the money to pay for the stuff, I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge on myself, and instead chose to stick it in my purse.  I did pay the price.  Literally – thousands of dollars for a lawyer, restitution and court fees.  I stayed out of jail, but I have a misdemeanor record.  Stupid me!

The most successful boundary/consequence I’ve worked on is…  not doing for others what they should (and can) do for themselves.  I am at peace with saying that I will not accept responsibility for something that is his to deal with.  I am getting much better at not feeling guilty if/when he falls on his face.  I would like to be able to echo what another poster responded with:  “Being willing to say I will not accept blame, lying, anger, or victim behavior from my husband and seeking distance from him when that happens.”  I am still working on this one.  It takes real effort for me to disengage and “seek distance” rather than continuing to respond.

If I could break any social boundary it would be… the understanding that we should all keep up a façade.  Wouldn’t it be nice if “fine” or “great” weren’t the only socially accepted and expected responses to “How are you doing today?”  What if we could all just be honest all of the time?  I bet we would all feel less pressure to be perfect if we had the understanding of how imperfect we all feel all of the time.

My favorite quality in a man is…  honesty (I’m sensing a theme here) and wit.  I love a man who can be unexpected and funny just by telling it like it is.

My favorite quality in a woman is…  genuineness.  I am drawn to women who are straight-forward and confident in themselves just as they are.

If I could go back one decade and change anything is would be…  I missed this question when I was reading the original post.  If I could go back one decade and change something about my 17-year-old self I would be more confident.   I would tell my teenage self that being different is beautiful, it is just fine to be an introvert, you are NOT fat, and trust your instincts because they are good.

I’m terrified that enforcing boundaries will…  result in my marriage failing.

I’m excited that that enforcing boundaries will…  allow me to be my own person and be treated the way that I deserve.

My most elusive boundary questions is…  what is an appropriate consequence f someone breaking one of my boundaries?

Being worth it … gives me the confidence to stand strong in my boundaries.

I hope you enjoyed this little exercise.  Feel free to participate if you would like, either here or on her blog!

Photo Credit – used with permission By SuperDewa

Lies, Lies, Go Away… Come again NEVER!

6 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex — The Good Men Project

16 Jun

What Happens When We Don’t Teach Out Boys About Sex

 

This article is so very true.  I wish more boys were taught about their body and sex.  This is an interesting read that describes the process of dealing with sex from boyhood to manhood in great detail.  My husband said that this was his experience exactly.

screw infidelity

What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex — The Good Men Project.

Interesting food for thought.  It’s old news that’s current and urgent.  Is it any wonder that porn thrives, sex addiction occurs and infidelity is so common?

View original post

Being Normal

31 May

I recently read a post on SI from a fellow Year-2-of-Recovery warrior.  She put into words something that I have been feeling in the back of my mind.  She said, “I am so scared of just being normal.  Our marriage was OK pre-affair.  We had a few issues, nothing major but we have done a lot of work and things are great now but I just can’t relax.  I am just so scared that if we relax into our marriage it will go wrong again.”  That is true for me as well. 

Just like the author I thought our marriage/ relationship was going pretty good before my last porn discovery.  The rockiest time in our relationship was at the end of 2008/ beginning of 2009.  That was when the affair discovery happened (see Gaslighting for more info).  After that we had a few ups and downs revolving around lies, strip clubs, and pornography.  The last incident like that was around August of 2009.  In April of 2010 he proposed.  Just a few short months later in September we were married.

That time of our lives was really great (I thought).  We were connected, we were enjoying the wedding planning, not taking things too seriously, and we had our financial situation pretty well set.  He was probably more involved in the wedding planning than I was.  He picked out the food, the cake, helped with deciding the decorations, and was really enthusiastic about everything.  The photographer and music were really the two main areas of importance to me.  I was never one of those “bridezillas,” so the entire process went smoothly with very minimal stress.

I have never been a girl who dreamed about her wedding day – in fact I would have preferred something small with no fuss.  A courthouse or backyard wedding would have been just fine with me.  But my mother and future husband were more set on something with a lot of family and friends, a white dress, tuxedos, and the whole 9 yards.  Don’t get me wrong, I ended up loving our wedding.  I’m glad now that we did things the way we did – even though it was expensive (I consider myself a very frugal person).  One of my most cherished memories is the look on his face and tears in his eyes when I came down the aisle.

Our honeymoon was wonderful.  We had so much fun together – in and outside of the bedroom.  We picked a place that had amazing food, great music, culture, adventure, and energy.  Our room was spectacular, and we spent a lot of time bonding with each other and just enjoying ourselves.  The pictures from our honeymoon are full of laughter, joking, and obvious love.  Even after we got back to reality that connection and euphoria stuck around.  At least I thought it did.

Then about 6 months in I started getting that old familiar feeling that something was off.  I followed my gut, picked up his phone, and opened his browser history.  There were pages and pages of porn.  Even though he had promised he wasn’t doing that anymore.  Even though we had tons of conversations about how hurtful it was.  Even though it was over the line of the clear boundaries we had set in our relationship.  Even though our sex life was great.  The frequency, concealment, and lying weren’t the only issues, though.  The content of that porn was quite disturbing to me.  It still is.

That’s what is so hard about being married to a sex addict.  They can compartmentalized so well that everything can seem completely normal, superb even, while they are acting out in secret.  I know that my husband would take that the wrong way if he read it today.  It is not that I don’t have confidence in him.  It is not that I don’t believe he is staying sexually “sober.”  It’s not even that I have any kind of “bad feeling” about what he is doing.  That is not where the fear is coming from.

I think most of my fear is coming from the fact that it is so hard to really gauge what is going on in the mind of a sex addict.  The fact that my husband is generally so closed off to his emotions, especially any seemingly “negative” ones, makes it incredibly difficult for me to feel completely secure.  He can so easily lie to me and just go on living his life normally as if that lie doesn’t affect him or isn’t weighing on his conscience at all.  Part of that is what happens with an addicted brain.  They are great at denial, justification, and keeping things separate. 

One of the most difficult things for me still is how he could text her, send her messages and pictures, and call her in-between calls and texts with me or after just leaving and giving me a big kiss and “I love you.”  How is that possible?  How can you lie to someone that you love right to their face with no emotion or guilt?  How can you be loving, funny, caring, and completely engaged one minute and just turn it off the next for a sexual fantasy with another person, pornography, or a strip club?  How can you promise one thing and do a completely different thing effortlessly?  It is terrifying.

Even though my husband is no longer that person it is difficult to just turn off the part of my brain that lives in constant fear and uncertainty.  He makes it better every time he opens up and tells me things.  He makes it better every time he goes to a meeting.  Every time he goes to a therapy appointment.  Every time he answers a question honestly or lets me see his vulnerability.  Every time he reads a book or does an exercise with me.  Every time he shares his day, calls me “just because,” holds my hand in the car, and all the other little things that mean so much when they are added together.

Those things are my new “normal.”  I think to a certain extent they will have to continue to be our new normal for quite a while if not indefinitely.  That’s not because I think I will never trust him fully.  It’s quite the opposite.  I want to keep the same level of richness, honesty, trust, love, and connection that we have now forever.  I don’t want to “relax” if that means falling back into a rut where we aren’t being real with each other.  I want to be able to feel completely safe and know that I can trust him because we talk, I know what’s going on with him, and we are each other’s best friend, confidant, and unconditional support.

Being Thankful

17 May

As I have said in past posts, I have started going back to the women’s group for spouses of sex addicts on Wednesday nights.  It hadn’t met for 2 weeks because of schedule conflicts and vacations, but last night it started back up.  The turnout ended up being rather small (just me and one other woman plus the couselor), but it really helped me to put things into perspective.

There is a woman who I have gotten close to that is dealing with a husband who has no real remorse, desire to change, or respect for her.  He had a long-term affair with her best friend and has continued to make small forms of contact (checking her Facebook page, seeing and talking to her at their children’s’ sports events, etc).  He also has tons of anger and resentment towards her and sees himself as the primary victim in the relationship because her focus has been on their 8 children for the past 20 years and not fulfilling his every whim and desire.  He is resentful, unwilling to participate in regular marriage or individual counseling, and constantly defensive of himself and dismissive of her needs and feelings.  His arrogance and delusions astound me.  When I listened to her stories and struggles from the past few weeks I felt such anger and indignation for her.  I also felt a deep respect and appreciation for the things my husband is doing right.

I really started thinking about how lucky I am that my husband is willing to put so much effort into making our marriage stronger.  The last few weeks have been full of a lot of progress and successes.  Sure, there have been a few low points and some disappointments – there are always bound to be some of those.  But when I step back and look at where we are now compared to where we have been I feel proud and hopeful.  I really have a lot of things to be extremely thankful for.  That might sound a little strange given our history, some of my more painful posts, and the fact that my husband is a sex addict.  It is still very true, though.  Here are a few recent examples of what I mean…

Mr. Mess has been really turning a corner in his thinking.  I can’t quite put my finger on what has changed, but I can see that he is actually starting to “get” the work and effort required to have a happy, healthy relationship.  And he is willing to do it!  That is huge!  I can’t even begin to describe how safe and loved that makes me feel.  This week we have had at least 3 really good, meaningful conversations that lasted for a while (over an hour).  Even a year ago it wouldn’t have been possible to talk about triggers, emotions, and deep feelings without defensiveness, yelling, stonewalling or all three becoming part of the mix.  I recognize that shows a real change in both of us – the way we approach each other, open up, become vulnerable, and break down our defenses and pride is paying off.

He has been very validating when I have a bad day or a trigger.  He has started telling me that he is sorry for the part he played in making me feel this way.  If I get angry or upset over something he is willing to empathize and tell me that he can understand why I would feel that way.  It’s amazing how those simple things can just pop the balloon of anger and resentment that I feel.  I am finding that I am much more willing and able to take a step back, see things from his perspective, and offer understanding and forgiveness in return.  It is also becoming easier to admit my faults and the things I need to adjust in my thinking and behavior.  Our communication has improved 10 fold, and so has our trust.  That has been a big hurdle, and it seemed insurmountable at first.  Now I’m finding that all of these little things really add up and help in ways that I couldn’t have imagined before.

Mr. Mess is finally starting to really take the initiative he needs to take.  He is in individual counseling again.  He went once last week and has another appointment today.  He isn’t just going, though…  he is really fully participating.  His IC has a book that they were working through on recovering from sex addiction that has exercises and deals with all aspects of addiction like what it is, recognizing the damage it has done in your life, how to identify triggers and change behaviors, and the list goes on.  He was part-way through the book when he stopped going a few months back.  This time he took the initiative to say that he feels he needs to start from the beginning, give it his all, and follow through all the way to the end.  He came up with that all on his own – without me even suggesting or hinting about it.  That makes me feel so happy because I know he is taking the reigns of his recovery, which is the only way it can really work.

Along the same lines, he is going to SA meetings at least once a week and sometimes twice.   That was something that I requested that he go back to doing, but this time around I feel like he is fully committed.  Something fundamental seems to have changed inside him.  He was very resistant to SA at first, and I think to an extent the entire time he was going.   His therapist was insistent that recovery takes 3 prongs: individual counseling, medication (if necessary to stabilize moods, deal with depression and anxiety, etc.), and group meetings.  He went for a little while and complained the whole time.  In a few angry outbursts during arguments he would say that he doesn’t even think he really is a SA.  Now at least he really accepts it and is giving it a real shot to see what he can get out of the program.  He still struggles with some aspects of it, especially the religious stuff like prayers, “God” in the steps, etc.  We have found atheist/agnostic 12 steps that he is using now.  More than that, though, this time around I see a change in his overall attitude.

We are also doing marriage counseling twice per month.  It has been very helpful in understanding each other.  We have done the love languages, which I talked about in Physical Touch, and we both took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and talked about what our results mean (more about that later).  Not only that, but he is doing some reading, he has been opening up and talking to me about it, and we have committed to doing couple’s exercises on a regular basis from a few books.  One of the most exciting things, though, is that we have decided to go to Retrouvaille.  It is a weekend program designed for married couples that focuses on “our emotional lives; family of origin issues; modern society’s attitudes toward marriage; managing conflict and anger; personality styles and how they influence our relationship; trust; forgiveness and healing; sexual intimacy; belonging to each other; and communication skills.”  I have heard positive feedback about the program, and there is one not too far from us in July.  We talked about it last night, and Mr. Mess seems very enthusiastic and more than willing to attend.  Yay!

All of these great, positive things have really made me realize that I have a great man who is willing to work on himself and our marriage because he loves me.  How lucky am I?  We are working together to change, grow stronger, and become each other’s support.  There are more great things to come.  That needs to be my focus, even when I’m having a rough time or a bad day.  When we have setbacks, I need to remind myself of everything we have made it past and how much farther along the road we are now.  I am choosing to focus on the fact that our committment will get us through whatever comes our way.  As long as we both continue giving it our all, we will be okay.

Sexual Dysfunction: The Escalating Price of Abusing Porn

14 May

I was just directed to an interesting article about the effects of pornography on male sexual dysfunction:  Sexual Dysfunction: The Escalating Price of Abusing Porn | Sex and Intimacy.  I found the article incredibly interesting and full of fascinating facts and explanations.

It turns out that my theory seems to be correct – excessive porn use can cause decreased desire or ability to perform with a willing spouse.  It can also lead to sexual dysfunctions like erectile dysfunction (ED) and delayed ejaculation (DE).

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the article:

“In a way, this confirms what many in the sexual addiction treatment field have known for quite some time—that among the many symptoms and consequences of sex and porn addiction is reduced or even nonexistent interest in sexual, physical, and emotional connections with spouses and/or longer-term sexual partners.”

I knew it wasn’t about me this whole time, but seeing those words coming from a clinical psychotherapist was extremely validating.

Sex Addiction and Change

8 May

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

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

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

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

Warning Signs of Sex Addiction

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

Indications that a person might have a sex addiction include:

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

How to Spot Sexual Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Makes Me Beautiful?

4 May

So yet again, a topic on a forum has given me something to think about.  The question came up, “What makes you beautiful?”  It made me pause.  What does make me beautiful?

Having an unfaithful partner can make you wonder what is wrong with you.  It makes you question whether you are pretty enough, thin enough, sexy enough, and the list goes on.  I know in my head that there is nothing about ME as a person that caused my husband’s infidelity.  I understand that his almost non-stop porn viewing habit while he turned me down was not about me, my body, or my sexuality.

Still, I wonder sometimes about my intrinsic value as a person.  It is hard not to be critical of my shape or my weight when I am surrounded every day with media and images that virtually scream that a woman’s worth is directly tied to her beauty.  There is constant advertising that tells women that if they just change this or that they will be desirable, and their whole world will improve.

“Women’s” magazines are plastered with headlines like “lose weight fast,” “get a flat tummy,” and the promise that this haircut, this makeup, or this piece of clothing will fix your flaws.  They even slim down and Photoshop the super models and celebrities who are a size 2 to begin with.  With all of those things constantly barraging us, how do normal women even stand a chance of feeling beautiful?

      

In the same post I mentioned earlier a very good point was brought up.  Someone said, “I want the world to recognize my beauty, but first I have to believe it myself.”  So I asked myself what makes me beautiful to myself?  When I actually started thinking about it I realized that there are a lot of things that I admire and love about who I am right now.  Without changing a single thing.  Here are some of them:

  • I have a beautiful singing voice.  It is reminiscent of Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood.  I am a vocal powerhouse.
  • I am confident.  I could stand up in front of a crowd of strangers and sing my heart out without fear.  I am also glad to be who I am despite my occasional moments of self-doubt.
  • I have beautiful hair.  It is a deep, dark brown that is almost black.  In the sun some of the strands hit the light which brings out auburn undertones.  And it is completely natural.  I don’t ever have to touch a bottle of dye.
  • I am unique.  I am who I am, and it is different from everyone else.  I have come to embrace my quirky.
  • I am devoted to my family.  They are the most important people to me, and I show it all the time in many different ways.
  • I have a very womanly body.  It is curvy, well-proportioned, and looks great in a pair of jeans because I have an ass that fills them out wonderfully.
  • I am smart.  I graduated from college Summa Cum Laude.  On a full scholarship.  While working full-time.
  • I am ambitious.  I bought my house when I was 19.  I am driven to be the best.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I know it will be good things because I won’t accept any less.
  • I have a little hump on my nose.  I used to hate it because I thought it was a flaw.  Now I see it as part of my unique beauty.  It gives me character.
  • I have freckles that come out strong in the summer.  Again, I used to hate these.  Now I find them endearing.
  • I have a beautiful spirit.  I keep pushing through things no matter how hard they get.
  • I am compassionate.  I feel other people’s pain and can empathize with what they are going through.  Some people can’t do that – my Dad being one of them.
  • I am an adventurous soul masquerading as a home-body.  I love to travel, see new places, and experience new cultures.  At the same time I am always glad to come home and curl up on the couch.
  • I am strong.  I am finding the strength to get through this bad situation.  Every day I realize this a little more.
That is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I think it’s a great place to start.  I already feel better about myself.  This also reminded me of another great song from Sara Evans that I blasted from my radio for a few months:

It became my mantra – I’m getting a little bit stronger.  I’m done relying on him for my feelings of worth.  I have everything I need inside of me already.  I know now what I will and won’t accept.  I know that I will be okay no matter what happens.  There is nothing he can do to take my beauty away or make me feel like I’m not enough.  Because I am.

This might be really hard for some of you, but tell me, what makes you beautiful?

%d bloggers like this: