Tag Archives: Sexual addiction

Objectification, Violence, and Self-Worth

14 Apr

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS EYEING UP LONG LEGGED GIRL AS SHE WALKS PAS

The specific topic weighing on my mind tonight is the objectification of women.  Not porn actresses or movie stars, but real women on the street.  Sex addicts often look (or rather gawk, gape, ogle, stare…) at regular women who happen to be unlucky enough to walk across their path, then objectify, fantasize and masturbate or act out in other ways.  Sometimes it stays there, but other times it leads to flashing, stalking, rape, or other forms of sexual assault.  That type of activity is out of control and harmful.

My ex was in construction for a while.  He would watch women walking down the street on the job site and talk to other men about it in explicit detail.  Often times he would go to the porta-potty and jack off while thinking of them.  Sometimes he might even do it right there in the vehicle while they were walking by just a few feet away.  I wonder if anyone ever saw him or felt awkward and uncomfortable and picked up their pace.  I know the sensation of having unwelcome eyes on you, inching over your body.  I wonder how many women my ex made feel dirty and creeped out.  I felt that and more when I caught his gaze lingering too long on a woman’s body.

Right before we got married (maybe 2 months before, tops), we had our worst fight.  We were in a new country bar in our city with a few of his friends.  It was maybe the second time I’d ever been to a nightclub before – this place had a DJ, huge areas just set up for dancing upstairs and down, several bars on the outskirts, and a mechanical bull in the front.  That’s usually not my scene.   That night he started blatantly making sexual gestures and comments about women, right in front of me, with no regard to my feelings whatsoever.  His facial expressions and lewd manner set me off.  It’s one thing to notice attractive people, that’s only natural no matter how much you love your partner.  It’s a completely different thing to be crude about it, and continue the behavior when you can see the person you’re with is uncomfortable.

I made a comment to him about it, then stormed away.  In true narcissistic sociopath fashion, he wouldn’t let me get away.  He came after me, dragged me off of the dance floor (where I had joined a group of women line dancing to blow off some steam and pretend he didn’t exist).  I tried to walk away and go downstairs to the ground floor of the club (we were upstairs on a balcony area), and he cornered me, trying to intimidate me and tell me that I hadn’t seen what I had just seen.

I told him that he was being disrespectful, and I wasn’t going to stand for it.  He kept putting his hands on me, grabbing my arms, wrenching me around, getting in my face.  He said that I saw things wrong, that he was checking women out for his friend, that he was just fantasizing about the women he was ogling, he wasn’t going to do anything, and that I needed to come back and hang out with him.  His excuses were contradictory and insulting.  I didn’t want to hear them.  I tried to jerk away several times, and he would grab me again, tighter.  I was spitting mad.  When I get like that, I also cry.  I hate that about myself sometimes.  We must have been making enough of a scene that someone got a bouncer to come up.  They dragged him off of me, and I was able to make my escape while he turned his arguments and justifications that he wasn’t doing anything wrong onto them.  Thankfully, they didn’t buy it, and kept him away from me.

I remember walking downstairs and out of the club.  I stood just outside of the building looking at the line of people trying to get in.  I had been drinking that night, my emotions were out of control, and I was shaking.  I leaned back against the building trying to get myself together and breathe.  I might have been hyperventilating a little bit.  I don’t know how long I stood there, just sucking in air.  My mind was blank.  I might have been in shock a little bit because he hadn’t gotten physical like that with me before.

Finally, I started walking back toward the parking deck where my car was parked.  The city has these cobble stone sidewalks, and I focused on carefully placing my feet on the uneven ground to keep myself from breaking down into tears again.  It was only a few blocks, and the weather was nice.  It was the summer of 2010, somewhere between April when we got engaged and September when we got married.  There were so many happy people on the streets, laughing, holding hands, and doing stupid drunken things.  I tried to focus on them, not what just happened.  It’s all a bit of a blur, though.

When I got to the parking deck I turned on the car, cranked up the air conditioning and the radio and just sat there.  I didn’t know what to do.  I just stared out the windshield at the concrete walls.  The entire time my phone had been going off.  I could have texted him back, but I don’t really remember.  I do know that he called me.  I don’t recall what he said, but I distinctly remember two of his friends in the background yelling and cussing and calling me names.  I got out of the car and started pacing, crying again.  I was so hurt and angry that he was letting them talk about me that way, and agreeing.  I asked him why he was letting his friends talk for him, didn’t he have a mind of his own?  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have engaged at all.

Next thing I knew, he was at the car.  His friends didn’t come along, so maybe he told them he was going to “handle me.”  Who knows…?  Not me.  He started yelling at me again, immediately.  He got right back in my face, grabbing my wrist and upper arm.  I tried to push him away, and his face contorted with rage.  He pushed me as hard as he could, and I fell back against the car.  I banged my arm, scuffed my knee, and twisted my ankle.  My tears of anger turned to tears of pain.  I paused and took a deep breath, assessing my injuries, which were relatively minor.  I tried to get myself composed, hating the feeling that things were spiraling even faster out of control.

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Then he came at me again.  I felt a primal instinct to attack that I had never felt before and never have since.  I launched myself at him, a sound that was half scream, half growl coming out of my throat.  I kicked at him and swung, my hand connecting with his jaw.  He grabbed my wrist and twisted hard, then pinned me against the car.  I know I was yelling, telling him to get off of me.  The noise must have caught someone’s attention.

Two officers showed up.  They separated us.  One took me to the other side of my car, where I nearly collapsed, shaking and sobbing, but trying to pull myself together.  The other walked him a few yards away, and had a conversation.  The officer asked if I was okay, I told him I was.  He said that someone had complained about the fighting, and it looked like there might have been some violence involved.  To this day I don’t know why, but I down-played it.  He asked if I had someone who could come pick me up because I wasn’t in any state to drive.  I told him that I did – that I could call my sister.

My key was still in my car, and it was still running from earlier.  I asked if I could just sit there for a second to gather myself.  He said yes, then he stayed there while I called my sister and asked her to come get me.  She was so great.  It was late – at least midnight – and I told her where I was, and asked if she could pick me up.  She said yes, and asked me how to get there.  I gave her really bad directions (I told her the wrong exit accidentally because I was so shaken up).  She asked where Chris was.  I told her he was with his friends, and left it at that.  She didn’t ask any more questions.

In the meantime, I heard Chris with the other officer.  It sounded like he was blaming me for the whole thing (of course).  They asked if he could find a ride somewhere, and told him not to go to my house that night.  He must have said okay, and they let him walk away.  Not 5 minutes after he sauntered away all cocky and self-assured, I got another text from him.  Then he called again.  More yelling and name-calling in the background and from him.  That time he told me the police told him that HE could press charges against ME since he was bleeding from where I hit his lip and I wasn’t.  He made it seem like he was doing me a big favor.  I hung up on him and just sat there in my car staring at the concrete again, rubbing my arms and wrists where they were still stinging and throbbing from his grip.

My sister finally showed up.  She called me when she was close (after she got lost taking the wrong exit).  I walked out to the corner to meet her.  I got in her car, and she drove me home.  By that point I had gathered myself enough to stop crying.  I had grabbed a light cardigan or jacket from my trunk, I think.  I had it wrapped tightly around me like I had a chill, even though it was a warm night.  She didn’t really talk much on the way to my house.  I thanked her, walked inside like a drone, and turned off my phone.

That night I couldn’t even bear to sleep in my bed.  The bed he usually slept in with me.  I couldn’t handle his scent or the idea that his head had just been there.  I grabbed a blanket and laid down on the couch.  I cried.  I was in a state of semi-shock, just staring at the blue numbers on the Comcast box for hours and hours.  I watched the red marks on my arms darken and turn into bruises.  I couldn’t sleep.

eliana_lopez_bruise_022412

Somewhere around 4 am I turned my phone on again.  I had numerous voicemails from him.  Some were the drunken, angry ones with his friends calling me a stupid bitch in the background.  A few were more pathetic and apologetic.  Those sounded like they were made from outside somewhere.  He had texted me that he was staying at his friend’s house.  The friend who I couldn’t really stand that he was “checking out the girls for.”  Along with the other ass who had been screaming at me.

By 6 am he had called and texted some more.  I actually answered.  He begged me to come pick him up.  He said he was so sorry.  Whatever.  I’m sure you can all write the script if you’ve seen any bad Lifetime movie.  The really sad thing is that I bought it.  I agreed.  I got into his vehicle, drove to his friend’s house, and he snuck out the back while the other two were still sleeping.  He got in the SUV with me, and we went to pick up my car from the parking garage.  I don’t even know if I spoke to him during that ride.  He may have started to talk and make excuses, but I just cut him off.

DV_Day_1_Bruise_(2)When we got to the parking deck where my car was, I pulled into another lot right next to it, parked, and told him that I was ready to talk.  I showed him the newly developing bruises.  He looked stricken.  He looked like hell in general.  He had bags under his eyes, his lip was a little puffy, and his hair was sticking up in 50 different directions.  I told him that I cannot and will not tolerate the behavior that he displayed the night before (even as I was tolerating it by allowing him back into my life in any capacity).

He kept saying he was sorry for hurting me, but stuck to his guns that he didn’t do anything wrong before, that I shouldn’t have gotten upset with him blatantly ogling other women in front of me like a total perv (my words, of course), and that he had eyes and was going to notice other women.  I said, yeah… but you don’t have to make faces and gestures and obviously point them out and objectify them right in front of me.  Noticing and behaving in a over the top, offensive way are two totally different things.

We went around and around like that for I don’t know how long.  Somehow the violence was completely disregarded.  He still made it seem like I was the aggressor and he was the one doing me a favor by not pressing charges.  I don’t know how I bought that bullshit.  I’m a strong woman.  I know about domestic abuse.  Just like cheating, I had told myself if a man put his hands on me that would be it, the end.  But it seemed so subtle in that moment, with the blur of the night before still making me dizzy, and his justifications and excuses pounding in my ears…  He didn’t mean to grab me so hard, he was just angry when I tried to push him away, I was the one who pushed first, he just pushed me back, I happened to fall against the car because of my heels, I was the one who hit him, and on and on it went.

I do vividly remember telling him that if that was the way he felt, if he thought what he did was okay and he didn’t see anything wrong with his actions, then we should just call the whole thing off.  In my mind I was planning how to let people know that the wedding wasn’t going to happen.  We had already sent invitations, so it would be embarrassing, but I couldn’t live like that.  I told him that I wanted someone who would love me and treasure me and only want ME.  We already had disclosures of his cheating, secret porn use (while he rejected me), and lying about strip clubs.  This leering at women who were in the same room as me was something new, though.  That and the violence had me emotionally overwhelmed.  My face was splotchy and red and puffy from sobbing, my voice was hoarse from yelling the night before, and most of all, my entire spirit felt crushed.  I wanted out.

I have looked back at that moment, in that car, over and over and over again.  How I wish I had followed through.  Or not even gone to pick him up.  There are times I have fantasized about getting out of that car, walking to mine, and driving home to change the locks.  I would have still been broken and emotionally and physically bruised, but I wouldn’t have been married to him.  There still would have been things to divide up and pride to swallow and therapy, but the next 2 1/2 years of torture wouldn’t have happened.  We all know that I didn’t do that, though.

Seeing how serious I was, he backtracked.  He told me that he would never do anything like that “for his friends” again.  He swore up and down that he wouldn’t lay a hand on me ever.  He said that he loved me and couldn’t imagine his life without me.  He told me that I was the only woman for him, the only person he wanted.  He begged me to still marry him.  I don’t think I answered right then.  I did get in my car and drive home, but I let him follow me.

Over the next few days I let him apologize and tenderly touch my bruises with a look of contrition on his face.  I listened to him swear off drinking.  I let him tell me how his friend egged him on, and how he was never going to talk to one of them again.  He also swore that the other friend wasn’t the one calling me names, that he tried to calm him down.  He blamed the alcohol.  He blamed his one friend.  He blamed his anger for getting out of control.  He stopped blaming me directly, but there was always a certain air about him, a haughtiness that would flicker over his face and quickly disappear.  That was the sociopath showing itself, gleeful at pulling the whole thing off.  Back then I mistook that for resentment over his lip (which he made sure to play up).

That example is an extreme one.  I didn’t even intend to share it when I started writing.  However, it’s just one scenario of how out of control his behavior got.  The objectification of women, the justification, the blaming, the violence, the escalating pattern…  From that point forward he tried to be much more subtle about checking out other women in front of me.  I recently came across a picture from a work convention that he attended with me about 6 months after we were married, just before the last affair discovery.  In the photo, I am talking to a colleague at the table with me, and he is standing behind me staring at a woman at the bar with a pervy smirk on his face.  The corporate photographer, snapping pictures of the room, obviously happened to catch that particular moment on film.  I’m not sure why it surprised me when I saw it this week while looking through photos on the company website to see if I could find a good head shot.  For a moment I wondered if he actively pursued anyone at that convention when I was in meetings and seminars.  Then I realized that it doesn’t matter.

In retrospect, I don’t really know how I coped with it.  I think I internalized it a lot.  Seeing him objectify women and knowing that he would jack off to thoughts of other people and think of those fantasies while having sex with me (which he disclosed later), made me feel less than and insignificant.  He told me that he just “didn’t have” that issue anymore once I discovered things.  I call bullshit on that.  I know that he lied to me all of the time.  There is no way for me to know how often he lied or what about.

I do know that it really damaged my image of myself.  I grew up the ugly duckling, and he made it obvious that I still was because I wasn’t even enough for my boyfriend/fiance/husband.  Finding my own self-worth outside of men is still a struggle for me, but I’m trying.  I am shocked when people say that they find me beautiful.  Honestly and truly stunned.  Then, for a little while, I feel wanted and good and sexy.  The doubts and issues start to creep back in, though.  My own adolescence plays a part, as does the bullying in school, but my ex emotionally scarred me deeply.  The bruises faded, but the memory of that night probably never will.  I still feel shame and guilt and a touch of nausea when I think about it.  And no matter how much I tell myself otherwise, there is still nagging doubt that maybe it was all my fault.  Maybe I was being unreasonable in expecting him not to gawk at other women.  He’s a man, right?  Isn’t that supposed to be expected?  The real question is, should it be?

That night wasn’t the only incident of him checking out other women in front of me.  It happened all of the time, even if you don’t count all of the hidden porn discoveries.  Each incident wore on me, carving the message that I wasn’t enough deeper and deeper into my subconscious.  He would deny, say I was imagining things, tell me I am jealous and blowing things out of proportion, and that “every man” does that.  Somehow I doubt that every man jacks off to women who are walking down the street in a porta-potty at work or in his car 5 feet away, but I digress.  Even without the violence, what he did to me and to those unwitting women is wrong.  Plain and simple.

A friend of mine has a tattoo that says “I am enough.”  More and more that is sounding like a brilliant idea.  For now, I try to tell myself that as much as possible.  I am beautiful.  I am worthy.  I do not need the validation of a man.  I am enough.  You are, too.  No matter what has happened to you, what you have been through, or who has told you that you are not.

i am enough teal

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The Start of Our Separation Guidelines

19 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Still My Swirling Thoughts

18 Oct

So, I got a few more great questions today.  I have not been able to do much real thinking because of all the swirling thoughts.  However, I’m going to attempt to answer a few of the simpler ones – mostly to occupy my brain and fingers until I get tired enough to actually fall asleep.

Is your husband capable of being honest—does he even know how? That is the fundamental question. He may want to be honest and he may hate himself for his lies, but if he doesn’t know how, is that something he is capable of learning? Is it really a choice he can make?

That IS the fundamental question.  I’m not sure I know the answer.  I would like to think he is capable, but if I really examine that I can see it is magical thinking – I want it to be that way, so I convince myself it is.  Truly, there is not much evidence to prove that he is actually capable of being truthful and fully honest.

Whether or not he can LEARN honesty – overwrite his old behaviors, replace them with new ones, have truthfulness be his first reaction instead of his last – is a question someone else will have to answer.  I think only a trained psychiatrist can even say if that is possible.  Whether or not it is probable considering his history is a completely different question.  Again, using history as a guide, he tends to not put forth the complete effort and follow-through that a huge change like that would likely require.

What is his pattern?  Has he ever admitted to a lie when you’ve discovered it, but before you’ve shown your evidence?  Does he always or almost always continue to lie in the face of evidence or until you show evidence?  Think about that.  Admitting he has lied when faced with evidence is not a sudden burst of honesty—he doesn’t get a positive check mark for it.

To answer this question I have to admit that he does have one basic, overriding pattern.  That is to lie, then lie some more, then stick to that lie even when it is no longer a reasonable, feasible story that any rational human-bring would believe, then finally cave when presented with irrefutable evidence that cannot be explained away.  So, yes, in that regard he does not deserve a check mark for finally fessing up when to do otherwise would be tantamount to absurdity.  It would be like pointing at the sun and calling it a coffee mug – you can do that all you want, but no one will ever believe it because it is so obviously false in every way.

That is not to say that he has NEVER admitted a lie before I have found out.  It just rarely happens.  In fact, I think the ONLY time it has ever happened is with his last disclosure where he told me about the random online sex hookups.  I had no way of knowing that.  I had no way of finding out.  I hadn’t really ever asked him about it directly, although we had plenty of indirect conversations where that topic would have naturally come up – like when we talked about how many people we have slept with, whether we have ever used online dating services (technically a sex chatroom isn’t a dating site, I guess), exposure to STDs, etc.

There have also been a few times in the recent months where he has told me something that did not sound true or didn’t make complete sense.  When I questioned him by saying, “Is that really the truth,” he then said, “No, it isn’t” and gave me the real story.  Those occasions felt like HUGE steps forward – mini victories in and of themselves.  Now it seems almost absurd that his level of dishonesty was so high that having him admit to a lie when asked seemed like some ginormous progress.

There are different levels of separation. No Contact is the strictest level and it is only broken for limited exceptions: financial issues, emergencies—one of you is in the hospital. As for how long, that depends on the progress. I don’t think No Contact should be an option in your situation. If your situation gets to a No Contact level, it should go all the way to divorce instead.

Agreed.  Completely.  If we have to get to that point, then there is no way we will ever be able to salvage this marriage.

So for a lower level separation you could start out with No Contact other than counseling sessions and draw up a plan for gradually increasing contact. Of course that begs the question and brings up the fear: without your presence is he even less trustworthy?

Another blogger commented on that as well.  If my presence makes a big difference in his recovery, his level of committment to change, or his trustworthiness, then I think we are already doomed.  If he can’t be a trustworthy individual without me right by his side, then he really can’t be a trustworthy individual, right?  At least not trustworthy enough for me to intrust my life, safety, and future to.

ProgressWhat is progress? What sort of things can prove progress? Is it something objective and measurable or is it subjective?

These are excellent questions.  How DO you measure someone’s honesty objectively?  How do you measure progress with something so abstract?  My only answer is that someone else will have to assist me in making that call – preferably a trained therapist or psychiatrist.

I don’t think he can make real progress on this issue alone.  I don’t think I qualify as a real judge of progress in that area.  I certainly don’t think it’s healthy for me to be the one who decides when he is being honest and trustworthy.  So that means I can’t accept that progress has been made on this issue until I can see that he has actually worked on it with someone who is qualified and who believes change is possible and has a plan for how to get there.

“Full disclosure with polygraph? (Does it even matter if he’s lying to himself?)” Will this tell you anything new? Sure, it might tell you when he’s lied regarding something specific, but you already know that he is dishonest in general. Can repetition with a lie detector train honesty into a person?

That is what I keep coming back to.  Will a polygraph tell me anything new?  Even if he passes every question I can think of, that will not change his general dishonesty.  It won’t change the fact that there isn’t one “perfect” question I could ask that would ensure he won’t lie again.  It won’t tell me whether he is already keeping something from me that I could never imagine to ask about.  It definitely can’t tell me that he won’t lie in the future.

Can regular polygraphs “train” someone to be honest?  I don’t know.  Some people seem to think it is necessary for recovery from sex addiction.  My thought is that if you have to be strapped to a lie detector regularly to scare yourself into telling the truth then you are probably not a person I would ever want to put my trust in.  My husband seems to think that I want a polygraph, that I have decided that is the only way I can move forward.  The reality is exactly the opposite – I haven’t decided anything yet with regards to a polygraph.  I’m still on the fence, and I’m honestly leaning towards the “what good would it do?” side.

“My goal would be to work towards REAL recovery and reconciliation where we are each taking responsibility for our own healing.” A noble goal, but only part of it is within your control. Your goal is for you to take responsibility for your healing; your desire is for him to take responsibility for his healing, but that cannot be a goal of yours because it is not within your control.

Very, very true.  Again, I have to be reminded of what I can really control.  I may be able to ask for something from him, but I really can’t control if he does it or not.   I can’t set a goal for our marriage that relies on his actions right now because I do not know what actions he will take.

I often wonder if my go-getter nature enables his lazy, passive side.  I do the research, I read the books, I make the lists, I look at the details, I set the goals, I figure out the plan to reach them – so he thinks he can just sit back and watch.  Since that is my nature and it is not his, I tend to become the only one really taking a hard look at things.  His move is to say “here’s a decision that needs to be made, let me know what is going to happen.”  He certainly did that in this case. 

I have realized that I cannot control or dictate how he does the work, or even if he does it at all.  I can’t ever say that “my way” would be the best way for him – it probably wouldn’t be since we process things so completely differently.  He needs to figure out what HIS way would be – or he needs to stop trying (or pretending to try) altogether.  Actually, I need to stop saying that HE needs to do anything.  What really has to happen is I need to figure out what my bottom line is…

That last part is where I have been trying to get.  That is where all of this thinking, list-making, questioning, and soul-searching has been leading me.  I have to figure out what MY needs are, what plan of action I will take, and at what point I stop waiting for him to figure things out on his own and just keep moving forward without him.

You have been focusing on your development with hope that he will too. As I said in my previous post, you have been earning way to reconciliation or divorce. But at some point you need to say you are there. What is the reality of your situation?

Yep.  I can feel that I am getting closer to discovering the reality of my situation.  You would think that “reality” would be easy to discern, but, funnily enough, it has been one of the hardest processes I have ever been through.  We shall see what tomorrow (really today at this point) holds as I take yet another step closer to wherever it is this journey is leading me.

What’s Next? What SHOULD We Be Doing?

17 Oct

The final post in the series answering questions from a reader about our separation.

And what do you think you should be doing?

This is probably the hardest question of all.  I think I should be really thinking things out.  I have been doing that, for the most part, once my body started recovering (thanks to the amoxicillin).  I have been doing a LOT of journaling.  I’m trying to take this time to decide what it is that I want from this marriage, what it is that I need to be happy, and how I think that can be accomplished.  I definitely don’t have all of the answers.  I have started coming up with the questions, though.  That’s a step in the correct direction, right?

For example, some of the things I have written under the title Questions to Consider in my journal are:

  • Am I running and hiding from my own problem by asking him to move out?  Or am I protecting myself?
    • Can an in-house separation work or is that setting us both up for failure?
    • Is separation a way for us both to deal with our respective issues? 
    • How long?
    • End goal?
    • How much contact?
    • What terms?
    • Money?  Bills?
    • Viability of that plan?
    • Avoiding complacency – Does this force us to push ourselves out of our boxes and discover ourselves separate from one another?
    • Does that have to happen before we can work on our marriage?
  • I can’t control the outcome!!
  • Can he be honest with me?
    • What matters in order to move forward is honesty.  In fact, it’s the single most important factor in whether this marriage can continue
    • He has a choice to make – continue to be selfish and choose himself by lying to me or choose our marriage and STOP lying
    • That really determines our future
    • Choose lying & choose to stay gone and turn this separation into divorce
    • Or work on himself, really dig into the lying, solve that issue, and maybe move home.
  • I need him to FIGHT for me (bottom line)

That’s as far as I’ve gotten in my stream-of-consciousness writing.  My goal would be to work towards REAL recovery and reconciliation where we are each taking responsibility for our own healing.  I feel like that has to happen before I can say whether this marriage will ever be able to work long-term.  I want it to.  I really, really want it to.  But I’m starting to realize that may not be a possibility unless some drastic changes happen in both of us.

I know that I have made a lot of posts recently (if you were only in my brain you would really know how this is).  For that reason, I will share the things I have gained in the last few days about my own self-awareness in another post.  Probably tomorrow.  Unless something more pressing comes up before I get around to it or I get the urge to share earlier (very specific, aren’t I?)

Codependent Behavior or Simply Trusting My Gut?

16 Oct

To start with, I really appreciate the insight that several people gave me about what I thought was codependent/ co-addict behavior.  There is a fine line between that and trusting myself.  I believe in this case I was following my gut.  I think calling it a “knowing” is very fitting.  That’s what it feels like when I get that kind of intuitive premonition that something is off.

I really haven’t been checking on him otherwise – I swear I can’t even remember the last time I checked that computer history.  There have been plenty of times he has been out of the house or even in it when I’ve had the chance – we agreed to full transparency with electronic devices, after all.  He always gets home before me.  He almost exclusively uses that desktop computer now that I have a work laptop and tablet.  He is in there all the time when I get home from work.  Still, I haven’t felt the need to look.  Until that day.

It sounds weird, I’m sure.  I don’t think I’m psychic or anything.  I just know that we all pick up things that we don’t consciously process.  Little perceptions, changes in speech or behavior or even the air in our environments.  I can’t explain it, but sometimes I do just have a strong feelings that something isn’t right.  I have come to rely on those “knowings” (I really like that term).  I don’t really have to go looking for things, my instinct will tell me when something is wrong.

Similarly, I usually know when I’m feeling a need to control or an urge to “check up” on him in an unhealthy way.  It is then that I can remind myself to focus on the things that I can change – that which is in my control.  I think I have to do more to fine-tune my self-perception on this issue.  I need to find a way to ask myself is this codependent behavior or simply listening to my gut?

So, on to the challenging questions in my next post…

Poked, Prodded and Cracking…

15 Oct

Last night I took a look down my throat with a flashlight and did NOT like what I saw…  This morning I got up and made my way immediately to the doctor’s office.  I was poked, prodded, and swabbed everywhere imaginable.  They did a strep test on my throat, diagnosed an ear infection, and I had them go ahead and run the full panel of STD tests while they were at it.  I could have gone to Planned Parenthood and probably saved some money in the long run.  I don’t care.  I just wanted it over and done with.

Only an hour later, I was walking out with antibiotics, a prescription for a yeast infection, and a little more peace of mind.  I still don’t have the STD results back yet, obviously, but having it taken care of is a relief.

On my (short) ride home I called my Mom.  She said something that really struck home.  She said as women and as wives we do our best to remain vulnerable, to give our husbands the opportunity to protect us.  We let ourselves need them.  We give them the chance to take care of us.  When they blow that chance or squander that opportunity we have to pack up that vulnerability and be strong for ourselves.  When we take that next step to care for ourselves we also end up not needing them anymore.

I tried to need him.  I tried to give him the opportunity to step up for me.  I wanted him to be a man, to protect me, to make my health and safety a top priority.  He didn’t, so I had to take the bull by the horns and take care of myself.  Once I found out he hadn’t gotten tested, it took me only until the next business day to get tested myself.  Those tests, plus the extra ones because I’m so sick, took only an hour.  One hour.

In that hour I stopped needing him.  I stopped being vulnerable.  I took back my independence.

At the same time, I feel my resolve cracking.  Last night was the first time I really started wanting him here badly.  My codependence started peeking through.  For most of the weekend after his big lie was revealed we had only minor contact.  Last night he texted me with:

Im not sure what things from the kitchen are mine to take.  I know the new cook ware is yours just wondering about the things i was given as gifts.  If you want them they are yours.

My first reaction was something like – Seriously?!?  That is what he’s worried about right now?  Then I realized that I should have been prepared for this.  It’s what I asked for.  Here are some of the other thoughts I jotted down in my journal:

  • I’m weak.  I want him here in bed with me.  I want to touch him, hold him.
  • I find myself considering an in-home separation.  I just know I can’t do that.  I’m not strong enough.  I would talk to him, laugh with him, fall into those old patterns…
  • I want to call him an ass for sticking to business (what he wants, when he can get it), but that’s what separation IS.  He is doing me a favor, really.
  • I want him to fight for me, for us, but I want him to be well first!
  • I can’t have it both ways – him now & him better because he is obviously not better.
  • I HATE THIS!!!!

Those were just my cliff notes version of the things going through my head.  I wasn’t going to respond to his earlier text.  In fact, I held out for quite a while.  Until after midnight.  Yeah… bad decision.  Nothing good comes from texting someone that late.  I engaged in a few back and forth texts, told him the gifts belong to him, and let him know about my strep.

In the morning light I realized that I need to disconnect myself from him emotionally.  Letting go of my expectations for him, his recovery, his health, his therapy, etc. is my job now.  I can’t control him.

He’s going to be coming by at some point today to pick up a few more things.  I don’t know how I’m going to react.  I don’t know if he will even try to talk to me.  I don’t even know if I want him to.

On a completely unrelated note, I now have a Twitter and Facebook account for my blog.  Check them out if you want.  I could use a little distraction.

Forgiveness in the Face of Turmoil

13 Oct

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Oct

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

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

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

Now for the Rules:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His “Rules” About Cheating

8 Oct

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

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

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

Yeah…  that was basically his pattern for 20 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Other Woman Became 4…

5 Oct

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

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

More Details About Disclosure

4 Oct

The two most shocking things from disclosure concerned his bachelor party and his history with chat rooms and anonymous sexual partners.  I am still processing some things from the bachelor party and waiting on the answer to a few questions that he was unsure of (mostly concerning the timeline, when the plan was made to do what happened, and who was involving in the planning).  His best man came to me well in advance of his bachelor party, and ask me what would make me feel comfortable and what was off-limits.  I asked that the party not entail strippers or live, naked women of any kind (you have to be specific sometimes with that bunch).   My husband was also adamant about that before-hand.  I say this to clarify that I didn’t have to volunteer the information that I didn’t want strippers – I was asked about what would make me comfortable, then promised that my feelings would be respected.

It turns out there were strippers involved with his bachelor party, complete with multiple lap dances and naked lady parts all over my soon-to-be husband.  There was a trip to the “back room.”  He said he wasn’t aware of what was going to happen until after the got there and had already been drinking.  By that point he wasn’t able (willing, whatever word you want to use) to say no.  He said if he knew ahead of time he wouldn’t even have gone to the party.  Not going at all and putting his foot down in advance would have been easier for him than saying no face-to-face with the peer pressure of his friends, especially once he was already drunk and high.  He didn’t have the balls to say no because he didn’t want to look “pussy whipped.”  Gag!

I believe him that he didn’t know in advance, but I am so incredibly hurt that he didn’t stand up for me, for himself, for the promise he made to me, for our soon-to-be marriage.  I am very hurt about all of the lies he told me afterwards, all the way up to 2 days ago.  I feel sick thinking about it.  I also get flashes of anger.  We had talked about strip clubs extensively.  He had lied to me about going to strip clubs on several occasions in the past, so it wasn’t a secret in any way, shape, or form that I already felt betrayed by him in regard to strippers.

A month or so before his bachelor party we also had a HUGE blow-up incident because he was blatantly checking out another woman at a bar in front of me in a very disrespectful way.  The wedding almost didn’t happen because of that, and we had a very long, very emotional conversation about my boundaries.  I told him then that I feel disrespected and devalued when he does those things, and I will not accept that in my relationship.  I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have married him if I was aware of what happened that night.  We aren’t in the past, though.  I think I can move beyond that now.  I am upset, though.  I don’t know what to do.

However, I would really like to know whether his best man lied to my face to give me a false sense of security, or whether the planning was done by someone else and materialized after that conversation.  That distinction is very important to me.  It doesn’t make a difference in my marriage, but it does make a difference regarding his best man, who has recently made a re-entry into our lives on a very regular basis.

He didn’t owe me anything, really – my husband was the one who made commitments and promises to me that I had the right to trust in.  Still, I always thought he was a friend of our relationship – one of Mr. Mess’s only decent friends (there is only one other friend of his that I have felt close and safe with besides his best man).  It’s possible that he didn’t plan things to go the way they did.

The best man’s younger brother has been a constant thorn in the side of our relationship since the beginning.  He was the one “responsible for” the strippers.  I have no illusions about him, and wouldn’t trust a single word that ever came out of his mouth.  He is Bad News in every way I can think of – alcoholic, drug addict, sex addict, immature, pushy, an overall bully, and someone who hasn’t had a real relationship or commitment to another person in his adult life (except for a married stripper that he was dating for a bit).

I didn’t think his best man was like that, though.  I always thought he had more integrity than his brother.  He has been married for ages, and he always struck me as an upstanding, honest person.  He is the only person who could have convinced me that my boundaries were going to be respected.  His word to me before the bachelor party is the only reason I have held onto a shred of hope that what my husband told me happened (or didn’t happen) was the truth.  At this moment I don’t know how much he knew about the strippers or when.  If he lied to my face to make me feel safe while planning all along to disregard what we talked about, I don’t know how I will react.  It may also ruin a new sport that I have grown to love.

I am trying not to live in “what ifs.”  I am trying to put my feelings in perspective.  I am trying to reconcile whether he can still be a part of our lives – whether I should let it go until or unless another situation comes up where I would have to trust him or his integrity.  I am trying to figure out why that betrayal hurts worse than anything else I heard.  I am trying, trying, trying to wrap my brain around this.  I think I will post an article later that really resonated with me on this topic.

As for the other information… I discovered my husband has been visiting chat rooms for the purpose of having sexual encounters since the invention of the internet (basically).  I also discovered that he has slept with somewhere in the ballpark of 50 women off of those chat rooms (he isn’t certain of the number).  That activity – sex chatting, phone sex, pictures, then finally culminating in an in-person encounter – was a constant pattern in his life, happening at least 2-3 times per year.  When he had slept with one woman he ignored her from that point forward and the cycle repeated itself.   That happened four times during our relationship.

After revealing his random sex partners off of the internet over the course of almost 20 years, he said that he “always” used protection with them. Later I asked what sexual activities they engaged in (just the basics, no details). When he mentioned oral and anal sex, I had to ask again… So you always used a condom with all sexual contact? He said yes. Then I clarified a third time – including oral and anal? Suddenly, the story changed, and he realized that NO, he in fact did NOT use protection every time.  He only concerned himself with condoms for vaginal sex, even though STDs can also be transmitted through other sexual contact.

In that circumstance, I needed to ask those questions to feel safe. I don’t know how long some sexually transmitted diseases can stay dormant or which ones he could be a carrier of without recent symptoms.  I do know that he hasn’t been tested since 2003, and I have never been.  That makes me worried, especially because his last sex hookup off of a chat room was 6 months before we met.  So that question was one I needed to be triple sure of.

So far, those have been the two areas of his disclosure where I asked for more details than he provided (for the most part, with the exception of basic clarification).  I really have to make the distinction – what will help me heal and what will keep me stagnant? What do I NEED to know, and what will keep me from moving forward?

There will be plenty of other details that I won’t be asking. There will be many things I don’t want to know.  There may be things that come up that I realize are important.  We shall see.  For now, I’m looking forward to getting a resolution on those few things, and to talking to the MC in an individual session tomorrow.

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.

When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match: From the Perspective of a Woman Who Wants More Sex

18 Sep

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...It seems the topic of sex – and mismatched libidos – is swirling around in the blogosphere today.  I feel that I have something unique to add to the discussion (or really not so unique, if you keep reading).  I have touched on the topic of sex more than a few times here since it has been an issue in our relationship and our recovery.  Even if you aren’t married to a sex addict, though, sex is a topic that you should be talking about.

I won’t waste too much time on the great importance of sex and intimacy in a relationship. There are thousands upon thousands of articles about that. I will, however, point out that sex and intimacy create a bond, a connection, between two people that can make them feel closer and carry them through difficult situations.  Intimacy and sex are incredibly important to a marriage.  It’s one of the aspects of a relationship that takes it to the next level – to the realm of romantic love versus platonic friend or family love.

So how is it that around 20%* of married couples in the United States live in what is what is defined as a “sexless marriage?”  What is a “sexless marriage,” you may ask…  It is a marriage where sexual intercourse occurs 10 times or less each year.   In marriages where sex has dried up to that extent it’s a vicious cycle, and often no one can remember what exactly came first: “lack of sexual desire, lack of trust, anxiety, financial issues, misunderstandings, pressure from children,” or a myriad of other factors.**

Even when things haven’t gotten that bad, couples can find themselves frustrated or feeling rejected from their partner when there is a difference in how much sex each person thinks is “normal.”  In the first 6 months of a sexual relationship both parties are tearing each other’s clothes off with the same intense passion and vigor. Once things settle into a comfortable place and those “lusty” brain chemicals die down, our natural preferences will start to emerge.  It’s actually common for spouses to have different amounts of sexual desire.  Sexuality is a complicated, delicate thing.  Each of us have our own ideas of how much is “enough,” and those ideas do not always mesh.  However, not addressing those differences or talking about sex with your partner can be devastating to your relationship.

Now that the groundwork is laid (haha), I’m going to jump right into the heart of my topic.  Whenever a marriage is struggling with sexual intimacy the finger is automatically pointed at the wife.  If the sex isn’t frequent enough or someone is sexually dissatisfied, it must be HER fault!  Society in general loves to joke about how once a woman gets married she stops wanting sex.  Women are overly sexualized in magazines, movies, posters, entertainment, etc., yet conversely we are told that we really aren’t very sexual beings.  When a woman is open about her sexuality, she is treated like a freak or a whore.   If you want sex more than your male partner, there must be something wrong with you.  Make up your minds people!

Women do love sex.  And sometimes we want it more than the man in our life.  In fact, as one article put it, “It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common” for a woman to want sex more than her partner.  That’s right, folks!  In many, many cases the wife is the sexually dissatisfied one in the relationship.

Our culture doesn’t want to talk about it and certainly doesn’t want to accept it, but there are a lot of us out here.  In fact, that very same article says that in about 1/3 of the cases where a couple sees a sex therapist it is the woman who wants sex more frequently.  In those cases, fighting against cultural stereotypes in addition to an imbalance in sex drives is incredibly difficult.  Here’s an excerpt that I just have to share:

“Any chronic desire difference can drive people crazy. But in our culture, when the woman wants sex more, the couple descends into a special circle of hell, the place reserved for those caught in culturally unexpected circumstances. It’s bad enough to have a chronic desire difference, but when the situation contradicts the highly prevalent assumption that women—all women!—are erotically coy, while men—all men!—are insatiable horn dogs who can never get enough, desire differences feel even more distressing.”***

The stereotypes and public perception that men should or do want sex more than their female counterpart make it more difficult for women like me to find an outlet to talk about this type of thing.  I have connected with more women than you could imagine who also have higher sex drives than their husbands.  It is very isolating because you think there must be something wrong with you…  Men are SUPPOSED to want sex more.

It’s just not true, though.  Think about it.  If the woman in 1/3 of couples wants sex more than her spouse, then the number of women like me who are left disappointed and sexually frustrated when our husbands are “too tired” at night has to be in the millions.  There are millions of us!!!  Are we still in the minority?  Maybe.  But if this wasn’t such a taboo issue, maybe more and more of us would speak up and that 1/3 number would inch up closer to 50%.  I have no empirical proof of that, but the logical, reasonable side of me is screaming that if sex and sexuality is so varied then why couldn’t that be true?

Just check out this message board on Women’s Health with 38 pages of responses to one woman who was concerned that her sex drive was too high.  Or read this response from an advice columnist to a woman whose high sex drive was causing friction in her marriage.  In the beginning of her answer she says, “You are far from being the only woman who finds that her partner’s sex-drive is way lower than her own.  I get more questions from women on this subject than from men.”  Maybe that’s because we are the ones who write to advice columnists.  Maybe it’s because we are seeking to find out whether society is right and there is something wrong with us.  Or maybe it’s because there are a lot of us out here.

I don’t deny that there are a lot of studies that point to the fact that men think about sex more than women.  That’s probably true.  I’m not sure how much any male thinks about sex because I am certainly not in their brain.  I am also not some sex-crazed woman who is lost in sexual fantasy all day.  I just love sex, and I want it frequently.  I don’t stop and think about it obsessively – I just make a move on my husband, send him a flirty text, go in for a long kiss with a little tongue, or any number of other actions.  I’m a woman of action, though.

So what about the evolutionary theory?  Men are programmed to spread their seed and all that, right?  Well, there might be more to it than just that.  In Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha talk extensively about early human sexuality.  I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if I would agree with every single conclusion they draw, but I have read several articles that touch on their findings.  Surprisingly (to some), the psychological and anthropological evidence they gathered shows that without the constraints of society women were just as sexual as men (or more so).

So what changed?  In an interview with Dr Snyder’s PsychologyToday’s blog “SexualityToday,” lead author Christopher Ryan said, “Even as we speak, clitorectomies are taking place in North Africa, women in Iran are being stoned to death, and American girls are committing suicide because their classmates call them ‘sluts’ online.  The world is hardly a safe place for women to express sexual curiosity, and hasn’t been for a very long time.”  So very true.  I really think a lot of this boils down to our society.

Today I was referred to this article about how men and women’s sex drives differ.  They conclude that “men score higher in libido, while women’s sex drive is more ‘fluid.'”  I found it very, very educational and interesting.  There were a lot of valid points made, some of which I have addressed above and some of which I am not going into.  One thing in the article really jumped out at me, though.  The #4 difference between men and women’s sex drive is that “Women’s sex drives are more influenced by social and cultural factors.”  All of the bullet points under there were spot-on, and I would highly recommend that you take a look.

This is my interpretation.  Women’s sexuality is more influenced by their peers, church, education, age, and other outside influences.  If you create a role for women like, “The wife never wants to have sex as much as the husband,” some women will go ahead and fill that role.  They will suppress their sexuality and let their husband take the driver’s seat because that’s how things are supposed to be.  If, by chance, they step out of line, another woman is more than happy to call them a “whore” to put them back in their place.  Men and women alike are there joking and whispering in their ear that men are more sexual, and they just need to accept that fact.

That bullet point also explains a bit why I might be more open sexually than a lot of people – male or female.  I am well-educated, not religious, and don’t care what everyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks is “normal.”  That makes me able to fulfill my entire sexual potential (or at least a lot of it).

When it all boils down to it, I think the baseline sex drive for men and women is more equal than people think. While men may think about sex more often and may be more direct or less complicated sexually, I think both genders equally want sex.  We both crave good sex in it’s fantastic, intimate form.  It may be a higher priority for some men than for women, especially when children enter the picture.  Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that, either.  In a vacuum, though, I think men and women’s sex drives would be very, very close (and pretty darn high).  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum.  We live here, in this society, and every single one of us has a completely different sexual experience and background.

Today I just wanted to be a voice for women like me.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are not alone.  Remember, men peak sexually at around the age of 17 while women peak in their late thirties.  It just is what it is.

As for what to do about it?  My answer, no matter which way the imbalance of sex drives goes, is to open up about sex with your partner.  We both need to be communicating about sex.  We both need to be initiating.  We both need to be finding ways to connect sexually.  We both need to realize how important it is.  We both need to make time and make sex a priority.  So go home, give your man or woman a deep, romantic, passionate kiss, and get busy!  Talking that is…  If that leads to more, then more power to you!

Footnotes:

* According to the National Health and Social Life Survey and Newsweek magazine
** From MSNBC.com, “The Big No: The truth about sexless marriage” (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32735936/ns/today-relationships)
***When She Wants Sex More than He Does: It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common. Published on December 4, 2011 by Michael Castleman, M.A. in All About Sex

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.

Being a Sexual Woman

22 Aug

After finding that hilarious picture and posting it yesterday I realized that I don’t share a lot of that side of myself.  Sure, I talk about sex a lot in the context of my husband’s sex addiction, but I think I have allowed that cloud to affect my self-perception too much.  Just because my husband has a problem identifying healthy sexual behavior and controlling his urges to act out in inappropriate ways doesn’t mean I do.  Talking about sex as part of a fun, healthy relationship is not a bad thing, and neither is really enjoying loving, intimate sexual acts with my husband – even if they can get a little kinky sometimes.  😉

I’m not really sure how Mr. Mess would feel about me sharing things about our sex life, so I won’t really go into specifics about him.  I do, however, feel the need to talk about myself as a very sexual woman.  I probably am not “experienced” in the traditional sense of that word – at least when it comes to my quantity of sex partners.  In fact, I’ve only had 2.  Pick your jaw up off of the floor…  It is possible to be a 20-something in today’s society who hasn’t slept around a lot.

It’s not for lack of opportunities, but more from the fact that I want my sexual relationships to be with people I have a deep, meaningful connection with.  I’m not really a one night stand kinda girl.  I am also not interested in a relationship with everyone who is interested in me. I’ve had my share of men who were infatuated with me.  I even gave some of them a shot and dated a few times, thinking maybe once I got to know them better they would grow on me and maybe then I would feel sexually attracted.  That’s not really how things work, though.

Another reason I have had so few sexual partners is because I “paired off” very young – at only 15.  That relationship continued into my 20s.  7 years to be precise.  It was also with a woman.  I think I’ve posted that somewhere in here before, but it’s possible I haven’t.  I know that I have mentioned that my family is staunch, right wing Christian. We almost literally lived in church.  We went to Monday choir practice, Wednesday night service, Thursday music rehearsal (my Mom played the piano for the praise & worship), and BOTH services on Sunday because my Dad was an usher in addition to my Mom’s piano-playing, choir-directing duties.  Even as teenagers when we could drive we were required to attend all services “as a family.”

Given all of that, it should be pretty apparent that they were not open to the idea of their daughter being bisexual (or a lesbian, since at that time I wasn’t entirely sure myself).  They found out when I was 16.  I lived in Hell for the next 2 years.  I graduated right after my 17th birthday, but wasn’t allowed to move out.  That year was the worst of my entire life.  I moved out at 18 (the very day), and did my own thing for almost a year without speaking to them.  Eventually, they came around.  Don’t get me wrong, they always said I was “going to Hell.”  But they grew to accept and even like her.  She went on family trips with us, came to Christmas, they bought her birthday gifts, and the whole 9 yards.

Even though that relationship didn’t last, for reasons that are neither here nor there, I did explore my sexuality a lot during that time.  I enjoyed all sorts of sex, and we discovered things together.  We bought toys, used blindfolds, even tied each other up or used handcuffs sometimes.  We had passionate sex for a long time.  Then things started fading in the bedroom – what many in the community refer to as “lesbian bed death.”  I have always had a very high libido, but her – not so much.  Once things fizzled and eventually died, I had really come into my own sexually.  I was ready to explore.

As a young girl (because face it, that’s what I was at 15) I was somewhat frightened by the idea of a penis.  I had, of course, never been faced with one before and at that time couldn’t imagine ever wanting to be around “one of those.”  Experimenting, using toys, and yes, watching a little porn and Queer As Folk (which is basically gay porn wrapped up in a storyline, albeit a really great one IMO), I became much more comfortable with the idea.  Curious and eager even.  I realized more and more that I am truly bisexual – it is more about the entire package, who a person is on the inside, than what their outside “package” might be.

When I met my now husband and realized that spark was there, it was game on.  I, unfortunately, didn’t wait as long as I would have liked conceptually before jumping into bed.  We were sexual after our second date (the third time I had been out with him since I’m not counting the night we met as a date).  We had hours and hours of phone conversation by then, but still…  I have that slightly conservative core that comes out now and then, making me feel ashamed for giving away the goods so fast.  Oh well…  Although he is a sex addict, that didn’t seem to spill over into our dating life in a negative way at first (until 9 months to a year later with the porn and affair and all of that mess).  While dating, Mr. Mess was a gentleman.  In fact, in the inebriated, horny state I was in the night I met him I was ready to go at it right there in my car, parked in the middle of a city block.  He politely declined, talked some sense into me, and we parted company that night with the promise of a real date.  I guess I was special to him in the beginning…

The deep throating comment from yesterday’s post is not untrue.  I have realized that I really love giving oral sex.   It’s just a fact.  Giving another person pleasure, feeling that power and excitement, turns me on beyond belief.  I can actually orgasm just from making someone orgasm.  I get all tingly just thinking about it.  I’ve probably said far too much for my husband’s comfort level.  He is a very private person, and fairly easily embarrassed being open about this type of stuff, oddly enough.

Back to me.  I am a very sexual woman.  I would gladly have sex every day for the rest of my life.  In fact, that sounds marvelous.  As long as I can throw in a few marathon days here and there.  One orgasm is great, but multiple orgasms are ecstasy.  I love variety, and I’m certain I could ensure things never get boring.  For now, though, I am pacing myself.  I am giving my husband time to rediscover healthy sexuality and learn to control his addiction cycles.  I am being patient and biding my time for when my husband’s brain is reset and ready for all the sexy fun I have to offer.

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