I thought I would share the emotional sobriety audio that we listened to on Friday night at my retreat. This is definitely worth downloading and listening to.
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!
Quite a few things this week have led me to examine the way that I treat myself. My husband and I try to get together daily and spend at least an hour talking, followed by 20 minutes of dialoging. Some days we have topics that one or both of us want to touch on, so that is what we use as our dialog question. Other days we use questions from the Retrouvaille workbook. I also found a great website with a huge list of questions by topic (with everything you can possibly think of organized A-Z), and a random question generator.
On Wednesday we decided to give that a try and decided on the randomly generated question, “Do I judge other people by higher or lower standards than I use on myself? How do I feel about that?” Below is a portion of my answer:
Generally speaking, I judge others by lower standards than I use for myself. For example, I would only accept strait A’s for myself in college, but I don’t expect the same from you (my husband) or my sister. I can be very proud of you when you get a B in class, whereas if I got a B it would be devastating, embarrassing, and traumatic.
I also expect perfection, or near perfection in almost anything I do. As such, I feel less than or embarrassed (yet again) anytime I make a mistake or have to ask for help. I put immense pressure on myself in a way I would never dream of putting on others.
At the same time, I believe even my lower standards for others are sometimes higher than they are used to. My overall philosophy is to set the bar high and expect 100% effort. In that way, even if someone falls a little short they still achieve more and push themself harder than they would with little to no expectations set forth. I always responded much better to teachers and others who wanted the best out of me. It made me feel like I was someone with value, who was special, and I want to do the same with those that I love – let them know I think highly of them and their abilities.
I have mixed feelings about my answer. When I think of the increased pressure I put on myself, I feel sad. This sadness is a feeling of dismay, probably a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. It feels unfortunate that I would judge myself so harshly. The physical sensation is like a twinge or a pang of pain in a sore muscle after a few days of recuperating. It isn’t sharp and powerful, but more of a remnant.
My second response is in response to my lowered, yet still high, expectations of others. It seems like a more reasonable approach, and it makes me feel like an inspirational person who gives encouragement.
Keep in mind that the above was written in a 10 minute span with no opportunity to edit or review my thoughts as they were going onto the paper. The fact that I am even posting it here, unedited, makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable. I suppose the best way to get over my issues is to attack them head on.
After my husband and I exchanged notebooks and read each other’s answers, we started dialoging on our feelings. The point of the 10 minutes of dialoging is to really understand the emotions of your spouse. I actually wrote a bit too much about my thoughts and not enough about my feelings since I ran out of time. However, when my husband and I dialoged I was able to delve into my feelings much more. Of course, I ended up in tears. That was the first smack in the face that my approach to myself is really not healthy. I knew it before, but I pushed that realization to the back of my mind and never let the emotional aspect come out.
Then Friday while reviewing the blog of a fantastic writer who has done a lot of self-reflection I came across a post about self-compassion. The words really resonated with me, even though he is far more compassionate to himself than I am. He included a link to an online test that he took. I decided to head over there and see how bad it really was. Here is the scoring rubric and my scores:
Average overall self-compassion scores tend to be around 3.0 on the 1-5 scale, so you can interpret your overall score accordingly. As a rough guide, a score of 1-2.5 for your overall self-compassion score indicates you are low in self-compassion, 2.5-3.5 indicates you are moderate, and 3.5-5.0 means you are high. Remember that higher scores for the Self-Judgment, Isolation, and Over-Identification subscales indicate less self-compassion, while lower scores on these dimensions are indicative of more self-compassion (these subscales are automatically reverse-coded when your overall self-compassion score is calculated.)
Common Humanity: 2.00
Overall score: 2.21
So, there it is… I’m not very compassionate to myself, and I’m extremely self-judgmental. Sadly, that sounds about right.
This morning in my S-Anon meeting the topic chosen by the group (not proposed by me) was self-care. Yep. I definitely needed to hear everyone’s shares on how to take care of yourself, give yourself grace, and put your feelings and needs first. I have been getting slightly better with self-care in areas like eating better, exercising (I absolutely love karate), and doing little things for myself every day.
I still have a very critical mindset towards myself, though. I am still a perfectionist. I still set myself up for failure, then beat myself up when I do fail. Now that I am really aware of it and how it affects me emotionally, I’m going to have to find a way to contradict that voice inside that tells me I will never live up to anyone’s expectations for me, or my own expectations for myself. I have to really accept that I am enough, that I am exceptional just the way I am.
This is something I read yesterday, and I wanted to share it here. It really connected with me, big time. This isn’t going to be an eloquent, well-planned post. It is just a small snapshot of what has been bouncing around in my mind for the last 12 hours or so. This excerpt came from a longer post on a forum. She is talking about breaking the negative cycle with an addict.
“Somebody has to break the cycle. There’s an analogy in an Al-Anon book that helped me get this. Imagine there’s a ladder, and the addict is in front. We’re behind them on the ladder, pushing and prodding them to go up. They keep falling, and each time they fall, we cushion the blow for them.
We keep doing this over and over until one day, we notice there’s a ladder next to this one–but this ladder has OUR name on it. So we begin to climb this ladder, and leave the addict to climb their own. When they fall, we can sympathize, but we concentrate on climbing our own ladder. This addiction has NOTHING to do with us. We have to learn to take care of ourselves and become healthy ourselves in or out of the relationship…
In learning to focus on my own needs and learning not to enable, I have gained a life where I know I’ll be okay no matter what happens. To me, you have to put the focus on yourself. Whether it’s therapy, S-Anon (which saved my life) or Al-Anon, get help. Get tools to use that will help you move up your own ladder. ”
I like this analogy. My husband and I are both traveling up ladders that will bring us to a healthier, happier place. We are each dealing with our own stuff that can cause us to fall. He is struggling against his addiction and his pattern of lying to avoid his feelings. I am struggling against my codependency, controlling personality, and perfectionism. On any given day, one of us may slip and fall. I am tired of letting one person’s fall cause us both to hit the ground, though. In order to keep moving upward, we need to focus on our own separate ladders. We have to learn how to sympathize with whoever is falling and help motivate them to keep climbing, while continuing to reach toward our next rung.
We are both moving in the same direction. We both have the ultimate goal of being healthier individuals with a stronger marriage. We are moving parallel with one another towards that goal, but we will face different challenges on our climb. In the past, I have been right there underneath him, waiting for him to fall and crush me. I have tried to hold him up, cushion his fall, and mitigate his losses as best as possible, with great personal consequences, especially to my sanity. Now I see that I have my own ladder. It has my name on it. It isn’t going to be an easy climb, but it’s going to be MINE.
But what if he falls? I still have that internal struggle that says I should try to catch him somehow. But I can’t. Not if I’m focused on my own climb, my own struggles. Does that mean I won’t care if he falls? Not at all. It might even make me falter a bit on my climb, while I check to make sure he isn’t fatally injured. On some occasions I may take a few steps backward. But I won’t be down there on the ground with him. It won’t take me to the depths of despair. And I will eventually keep climbing, whether he catches up or not.
What do you think of that analogy? Does it make sense to you the way it does to me?
I know that I have been absolutely horrible with describing our Retrouvaille experience. So far I have only told you about our first night. Bad me! The main reason is that there is just so much involved with the program. I have literally filled an entire notebook with notes, writing, and letters. I will try to go back and give more details.
However, today I want to share a bit about the last post-session. It was a long session that took place on August 25th beginning at 9:00 am. Since we have a long drive to the post-session location, Mr. Mess and I had quite an early morning. We decided that it was a good investment in our marriage, though, and worth a little lost sleep on a Saturday morning.
The entire first half of this post-session was called “Writing to Heal.” I have pulled information from the Retrouvaille of Northern Virginia blog about what this day entails:
Purpose and Goals of the Writing to Heal Day
• Promote personal and couple healing through deeper exploration of our stories and a deeper understanding of the Retrouvaille concepts.
• Provide an environment for spiritual growth
• Experience the healing power of our unique story
The session will focus on helping couples write their Personal Introduction, but couples who are working on other presentations–including Weekend and Post Weekend Presentations–will have individual help and time to write as well.
The “spiritual growth” bullet point makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth, but the actual day was great. There wasn’t anything religious about it at all. In fact, it was all about coming up with your personal story as a couple.
We were asked to create an outline with one another, decide who would write what parts of our story, and work together to create a snapshot of our life together so far. They provided us with a general idea of the various sections we should include as well as guidelines for how to write the personal introduction. The outline they provided us with was:
Couple’s Personal Introduction
I. The Beginning
A. Start by telling your names, where you are from, how you met. (Husband or Wife)
Include the number of years married, children, when you made your weekend, etc.
B. Talk about how you felt in the beginning of your relations. (Husband and Wife)
This could include the romantic stage
II. Trouble that led you to Retrouvaille
Remember to be brief and to the point, but give sufficient information so that the couples can connect with you and realize you have something to share. This is a very important part where you need to be sure to share deeply and honestly enough for the couples to get a believable connection with you.
A. Briefly talk about how your marriage deteriorated and how you were led to Retrouvaille. (Husband or Wife)
Remember here – the one who did it, says it!
B. Other spouse shared how they felt about their relationship before going to Retrouvaille.
Share your feelings here and describe them fully: abandonment, devastation, crushed, etc.
III. Life Now
Share about your weekend and post sessions. (Husband and Wife)
Share your vision and inspire the couples to continue working at their marriages. Tell what you learned during the weekend and post sessions and what happened in your relationship. Share your struggles. What kept you going? Share your feelings and desires. State that you will share your journey since the weekend during the rest of these post sessions. Explain that you continue working on your relationship and remind the couples that it is a continuous journey, and the journey is made much easier with support and dialog!
The great thing about the Writing to Heal day is that we were allowed to bring laptops. Score! I can type waaayy faster than I can hand write. Typing our story also meant that it would be much, much easier to blog about. Instead of having to type and format pages of hand-written notes, I could just copy and paste. If laptops has been allowed during the weekend and other post-sessions you would already have those details.
So, Mr. Mess and I went about the task of trying to summarize our relationship so far. We talked about what to put in each section, and I have to admit that we had some disagreements. He thought everything before we were married should be in “the beginning.” I felt that since our troubles started before we were married, they should be included in Section II. He didn’t understand me. I couldn’t picture how we could make his idea fit into the outline they gave us. Finally, he went and asked the instructor. He confirmed what I thought – the point of the first section was to stick to the gushy, romantic, happy memories. If the trouble started before the marriage, then it should be discussed in Section II, but Section I should be all about the butterflies. Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of those.
We also had a few formatting hitches when it came to who was going to write which section. Since the person who “did it” was also supposed to “say it,” that meant we had to work the back and forth so that he introduced the topic of his affair and addiction. He wanted to do the very beginning of our story, so we were able to make that work pretty well by picking a half-way point in “the beginning” and having him write about everything before that and me write about everything after that up to our “trouble.” From there the back and forth story-telling really worked itself out.
Just to make sure that this is clear, the personal story we were writing was intended to be read out loud by both of us. It can be used if you want to be a couple who leads a Retrouvaille weekend or post-session. It can also just be done for the two of you and kept private. Whatever the final purpose, the initial goal is to interact with one another, collaborate, remember the positive memories and great things that brought you together, open up about what went wrong, and see how far you have come as a couple through better communication.
During our writing to heal day, I typed my section, and Mr. Mess gave me his as he finished them. I then added them into my sections to complete the outline with indications of who wrote and was to read each part. By the end of the post-session, we were done. We had added all of the sections, figured out a way to make them flow, and edited it together. All of the couples were given the opportunity to share their personal story at the end, but no one volunteered. I was ready, but Mr. Mess felt a little more reserved, so we held back as well.
What we did do, however, was approach the lead couple at the end of the day. They were one of our weekend presenting couples, had led a few post-sessions, and helped to coordinate the entire thing. We had been emailing with them from the beginning. We asked if we could email them a copy of our outline and get their feedback. They said they would certainly be willing to do that. In fact, they did that with most of the presenting couples before they came to the weekend, so they already had a process down for recommending edits, areas that should be elaborated on more, etc. Mr. Mess was very willing to do that, so when we got home we sent them our personal story.
So far I haven’t heard back from them. I’m sure they’ve been busy with the holiday and preparing for the upcoming Retrouvaille weekend. I was going to wait for them to give their feedback before I posted it here on my blog, but I’m starting to get antsy. You guys have seen some works-in-progress before, and I haven’t been beat up too much. This post has already become much too long to also include our detailed personal story, but I will be publishing it very, very soon for you all to read. I look forward to your honest opinions.
- Retrouvaille Weekend (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night Part 1 (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Retrouvaille Weekend – Friday Night, Part 2 (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Our Emotional Lives (Retrouvaille – Friday Night, Part 3) (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
I really like the article that she quotes from here. It is exceptional advice for both partners.
Yesterday I was contemplating changing the name of my blog to focus more on me and more on the positive. I took my friend Ben’s advice and slept on it, and today I decided to make the change. I have officially changed the title of my blog to Beautiful Mess. I have also updated the website address to www.beaingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com. I am already glad that I have made this leap.
I have beeing taking other leaps of faith in my “real” life, too. I am still working on letting go (see my post Letting Go… Easier Said Than Done), and I have been seeing much more success in that area lately. In the last few weeks I have let go of my feeling of responsibility for my husband going back to individual counseling. I told him why it was important to me, how it would make me feel if he went back (safer, loved, and important), set a deadline… and he took care of it! I realized how good it feels to give away responsibility for things that weren’t mine to take responsibility for in the first place. I want to be the “fixer” but then get frustrated that I’m having to do all of the work. The only way to stop that is to stop “fixing” and start asking for what I need.
I have also worked on my procrastination (see Procrastination… Check). Last night I went back to my women’s support group for wives of sex addicts, and remembered how much I love being able to connect to other women who are going through the same thing. It was like going back to your childhood home – that feeling of nostalgia, welcome, and being transported back like nothing ever changed. Of course things had changed a bit – for all of us – but there was the same camaraderie and understanding. Blogging and being part of an online community are very valuable, but there is something about being in a room and speaking face-to-face with other people who honestly know how you feel that is validating in a way I can’t quite describe.
That’s certainly not to discount my blogging buddies! I have also been inspired by other bloggers a lot this week. I have found several women this week in the forums and blogs who seem to be going through the same internal battles that I am. One really struck me today: If Happy Ever After Did Exist – Diving Off The Cliff. Her blog in general always hits home – it’s like we are living parallel lives. In this particular post she talks about coming up with her expectations for their marriage recovery, then handing them over to her husband to let him discover his own way to meet them. That is exactly where I am right now. I get to set the bar, but my husband has to find his own way to get there. It is his problem to solve.
Just like me, the whole process is somewhat terrifying for her. The overriding fear is what will happen if he doesn’t do the work. I have those same worries. If I’m not there driving, will he take the wheel or crash us? What if he can’t figure out his own way? What if he isn’t motivated? What if he just doesn’t meet my goals or expectations? It used to paralyze me. It is still really, really scary if I’m being totally honest with myself.
But I’ve realized that all I can do is make goals, set deadlines for when I want to see things accomplished, and be ready for him to either do it or fail. And if he fails I have to decide what that will mean for me and what actions I will take in response. I guess that is the scariest part – am I ready to deal with failure? Historically I’m not very good with it and have done everything I can to avoid it at all costs. For now I am choosing to feel positive. I’m not pushing away or burying my fear, but after I feel it I try to let it go. I am choosing instead to believe in my husband and that he will step up. I have to give him the opportunity to shine.
So for now this play-by-the-rules, need-to-be-in-charge, scared-of-failure woman is taking a giant leap and letting go of the outcome. I’m going to trust, face my fears, and stop worrying if my husband will be there to catch me. I just have to believe that he will be. Thanks again to My Ideal Woman, Repairing Shattered Pieces, and all of the other people out there in blog world who have been reading, supporting me, and helping me to feel positive and empowered about myself!