The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All I Got for Christmas

I realized this morning that I’ve come to dread Christmas.

Years ago I bought Husband a Thai cookbook for his birthday. He’d always enjoyed cooking, and had discovered Thai food as several inexpensive Thai restaurants blossomed around Seattle. I was so excited for him to open his present, and was crushed when he seemed almost insulted by my gift. The details of what was said have faded with time, but I was left with low-level dread about giving Husband gifts that has increased with the passing years.

My experience was that Husband always felt dissatisfied with gifts, particularly at Christmas. He never seemed to feel he’d gotten exactly what he wanted, and always seemed to feel slighted when given gifts that weren't "him," declaring them impersonal. He could never look past the thing to appreciate the thought and effort that had gone into getting the gift, and the care that it expressed. So I’ve learned to ask for a List and just shop from that rather than to try to put any thought into something special that I think up myself.

At the top of Husband’s list this year was an iPhone. He was also lobbying hard for Guitar Hero. But he’s being laid off in January and I’ve had a slow 4th quarter, so I was hoping we could go a little easy on the gifts this year. However gifts are a very big deal with Husband (he loves to give as much as he loves to receive,) and I began to get the feeling that I was getting some big surprise gift and that if I didn’t match up, I’d be disappointing him again.

I’d finished all my shopping the week before Christmas but realized over the weekend that I didn’t have anything “mind-blowing” for Husband. I’d gotten many things from his list, but not the high-end items. I thought back on the video iPod I’d gotten him a few years back and the beautiful watch I’d gotten him for our 10th anniversary (both of which were from his List,) both of which he lost soon after receiving. Even expensive things just seemed to sink into the insatiable abyss of wanting, instead of being valued as much as they were sought.

But as my anticipation of failure grew, I toyed with getting Guitar Hero. For the money I didn’t really think he’d play it a lot after the novelty wore off. So I considered the iPhone. It was expensive, but I’d heard that it was going to be available after Christmas for $99. So I thought I’d give him a $100 bill with my old cell phone.

But then on Sunday I had the opportunity to get him a gift certificate toward some spiritual classes he’d wanted to take. That wasn’t on the official List, but he’d mentioned that he was interested in taking some classes just weeks ago. I knew he’d end up with an iPhone anyway (especially if they were really going to be available for $99.) I decided to get the $200 gift certificate because, while the iPhone was more practical and could be written off as a business expense, the classes were a luxury so he’d be less likely to do that for himself.

But this morning as Son opened his considerable bounty yet still seemed to feel disappointed when it came to an end, and when Husband made joking mention of “not getting what I really wanted anyway, an iPhone” (he hadn’t opened my gift certificate yet) that feeling of dread surged and I felt the hollowness of what Christmas has become.

As I pondered, it dawned on me that because of Husband’s narcissism and affliction with addiction, almost anything would fall short of his expectations. Just like with all the prostitutes, he was always looking for that one mind-blowing ultimate experience, conversation, gift, whatever, that always seemed just out of his reach. Nothing was ever as good as he imagined once he got it, and he was always left unsatiated. Of course, nothing was ever enough to fill the undistinguished empty space he carried with him.

So all these years it had nothing to do with me falling short. It was a manifestation of where he was on his path.

Though I understood that logically and the realization helped me get some space and clarity, a heaviness continued to linger until I began to look more closely at my own feelings of sadness and disappointment. (The benefit of all the therapy and reading over the past 19 months is that I can often stay with the muck long enough to recognize the opportunity for me to grow rather than spinning into resentment, blame, distraction or skipping down the happy path of denial.)

I realized that I was feeling bad because I didn’t get what I wanted either.

What I wanted was for Husband to be thrilled with the gift certificate I’d gotten him (he wasn’t.) And for Son to revel in what he’d received rather than to be looking for more presents under the now barren tree. I was attached to each of them having specific experiences and because I didn’t get what I wanted I was hurt, sad, angry, disappointed.

Then, my Higher Power reminded me that I have no control over the experiences of another.

Authentic gratitude is a steep learning curve for narcissists, and only through this crisis we've faced has Husband found a foothold with which to being his ascent. (As I heard in church recently, it is darkness that makes it possible for us to see the light.)

All I can do is give what I give with love and joy, and Husband and Son must make their own experiences from there. And that will depend on where each of them are on their own paths, not on anything that I do or don’t do.

I still want to do Christmas differently next year, with less focus on lists and what we want (in other words, less focus on lack and desire for the months leading up to Christmas day.)

But now I have an opening to give with love and joy, and to revel in what I’ve received – life’s important basics: food, clothing, shelter; the love and support of family and friends; my health; my son; a career; material luxuries; spiritual growth; good therapists; the breath I'm taking now; all my needs met; and my growing presence to myself and each of us as unique and vital expressions of the Divine.

"... if the wave bends down and touches her true nature she will realize that she is water." - Thich Nhat Han, No Death, No Fear.

Once again, my life leaves me present to gratitude. That's what I got for Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Learning not to be afraid of fear

A central concept in Buddhism is Dukkha, which translates generally as discomfort but encompasses the full range of discomfort from uneasiness and annoyance to the deepest pain and suffering.

My recent visit to a psychic medium represenced me to this concept and illuminated for me how far I've come in my journey.

I'd seen Laura soon after I found out about Husband's addiction when I was looking for anything that might provide some answers about how it came to be that my life was suddenly unrecognizable to me. The session had given me some good things to think about (letting him "off the hook" - in other words, not trying to make him pay for what he'd done is one of the things I recall her saying.)

This time my friend Sara had set up a group session with the two of us and 3 other women. Laura worked with each of us individually, serving as a vehicle for communications from the spirit world from people who've passed on, as well as from what I'd describe as the Universal Consciousness. When she came to me, she had little in the way of messages from departed relatives, but lots of thoughts from this Universal Consciousness presence.

She started out by singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" which, in retrospect, was very funny given how our conversation went. A joke from the spirit world, perhaps.

She said I was like a rose waiting to bloom with lots of opportunity available to me if I would stop focusing on others, stop living in fear, and focus on nurturing and developing myself. She suggested that I'd have to do this despite the fact that Husband might be threatened by success that comes my way. She told me I needed to start walking my walk, and to live up to the expectations I had for others. That was the good stuff.

She also said that my relationship was a cluster-fuck, that fixing absorbs 80% of my life and that I live in fear of when the next shoe is going to drop. When she asked my why I was still in this relationship, I said "because it's my path."

"For how long?" she asked.

She said I'm in a no-win situation because Husband is threatened when my life gets better. She said They were telling her it's a pattern I got on track with, and that I can't continue to hide my life being afraid of what he's going to do. There's more to my life than being a wife and mother. And, with respect to Husband's addictions, there have to be dealbreakers because people don't learn until boundaries are set.

She said I'm at a point where I must choose what to do with my life now, and the result with either be that I expand or crash and burn.

While I could listen in the context of my experience and find a lot that made sense to me, the context in which Laura was speaking and Sara was listening and later talking about it with me seemed to be based on the past, and it was very confronting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More opportunity to practice (AFGO)

On the CD that comes with the book Spiritual Liberation by Michael Bernard Beckwith, he says "In the mind of God there aren't any problems, there are just impetuses for us to evolve." He goes on to say that the real question to ask as we face challenges is "where must I grow, where must I evolve?" What is it within me that I must set free to empower myself in the face of this issue?

I've also been thinking about the difference between self-delusion and serenity. If I just choose to be happy, as I'm often invited to do, isn't it possible that I'm just looking on the sunny side and not dealing with the muck and darkness like I've always done?

After more thinking I've concluded that delusion is when I choose to be happy by ignoring or otherwise distracting myself from problems; and that serenity and empowerment come when I can choose to be happy in the presence of challenges and obstacles. This involves acceptance regarding what I can't control, and faith that I have everything I need within myself to meet all challenges that come my way. I can grow, I can evolve. It may not be easy, it may not be pleasant, but it's definitely something I can do. I can find the opportunity in any situation if I really want to.

So I have another opportunity, and my grand conclusion is easier contemplated than practiced.

Husband found out last night that he's being laid off in January. With my consulting work a trickle the past month, my mind immediately flings off in the direction of foreclosure.

This is part of my sickness. I fall into a downward spiral and hem and haw about disasters that haven't happened and things I can't control.

I have A LOT OF FEAR about financial insecurity, and about Husband being able to handle the stress of job loss, job hunting, stress in his current job, his continuing health issues, his upcoming operation, staying on his new medically supervised liquid diet, and sometimes not being able to get enough good sleep. I worry that the addict is going to pay us a visit.

So...I'm going to meditate more, exercise more, ask myself how I can evolve (I've already got a hunch this involves restructuring my relationship to abundance and surrendering to what I can and can't control,) talk to my higher power and turn things over...and we'll see. I'm getting better at seeing what is mine to deal with and what is Husband's to deal with, so that's useful progress.

Maybe over the past 18 months I've gained some facility in dealing with groundlessness and the impermanence of life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Question

I was thinking about my 20 history with Husband, and how I would ever be able to start a new relationship with someone other than him if I had to.

Without 20 years of history, how would I know this person, and how would they know me? How would I be able to feel safe with somebody completely unknown?

What popped into my head was this:

The question would not be "Do you know and love me enough to be in a relationship with me?"

The question would be "Do you know and love YOURSELF enough to be in a relationship with me?"

And this, or some version of it, is the same question I'd need to ask myself and the question that I want to ask myself even now in my relationship with Husband: Knowing and loving myself, is this where I want to be? Knowing and loving myself, does this feel good and right in this very moment?

I have fleeting fears about safety. How can I be sure I'm safe? With Husband or with any partner?

The answer that feels most right in my gut is that the safety I seek will come from knowing and loving myself, and not from anybody else.

Easier said than done. I've learned much I didn't know about myself over the past year and a half. I'm learning to accept, embrace and love my humanity, my flaws and failings as well as my strengths and gifts. But knowing myself and loving myself are probably conscious acts best done one day at a time anyway...part of the journey, not the destination.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I've started going to church

It's a surprising development, considering my skepticism. But more than anything else, this has been a spiritual journey for me. Who woulda thought? Certainly not me.

One of the things I've realized through all the reading I've been doing (mostly Buddhism) and through participating in the S-Anon 12 step program is that spirituality has been missing from my life. I've always had to have every answer, to be completely self sufficient. My ability to figure out things, to anticipate and solve problems has been one of my most successful tools for survival. Even now, there is a part of me that has fingers on the buttons that will hermetically seal me off in a Bat-Mobile of self sufficiency.

But now I also see another possibility.

A few days ago I was exploring my resistance to forgiving Husband. I realized that the obstacle was my fear of being hurt again, and that I was resisting my powerlessness in this area.

Refusing to forgive, holding on to just a tiny bit of the past, feels like a safeguard against being vulnerable. Holding onto the distrust is my way of reminding myself not to let betrayal happen again. (There's that resistance to powerlessness!)

I realized that what there is to surrender, what I'm being given the opportunity to wake up to, is that whether or not I'm hurt or betrayed again is beyond my control, and in fact quite likely to happen again. Not something I really want to surrender to, but there it is.

I thought about what would happen if I were betrayed so deeply again, if I ever again felt such deep and raw pain. What would happen if the world as I know it proves profoundly false, lets me down, doesn't meet my expectations / fantasies once again?

The answer that came was that I'd have to face that unbearable pain and surreal disorientation. And that I'd have only myself and the community I've created to support me to help me get through it.

That answer surprised me.

I've never felt community before, let alone thought about getting support from any kind of community. Mostly I've seen myself as very isolated and alone, with the few bright exceptions of 3 or 4 very close friends. I'm the one who helps others, not the recipient of help.

What I've come to realize is that community is there if I open up to it. I've learned that I don't have to have the answers. I don't have to always be the one holding it all together, handling everything when others can't. I can be human, I can be lost, I can be wrong and fallible without becoming unforgivable, I can have messy, even irrational feelings. And when those things happen, there can be a community of people there to hold me, nurture me, hear me, comfort me, and lift me up.

I don't have to do it alone.

As an only child of very young parents, I think I learned a lot about self-sufficiency. And growing up in a family where "bad" feelings were immediately squelched out with love or the withholding of love, where anger was frosty and tight lipped and a lot of communication was indirect, I learned how to deal with things internally instead of reaching out. But now that I'm an adult can I see other options. And acknowledging a power other than myself, a god of my understanding, even if I don't have a clear definition for what that is, seems to turn out better for me than trying to hold it all together alone.

Surrendering to the unknown, embracing the impermanence of life, facing that moment by moment without taking refuge in my intellect, cynicism and skepticism...that is a spiritual experience.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Eleven years today

Husband and I got married on November 1, 1997.

We don't have any special celebration planned this year. Last year we celebrated with a honeymoon on Maui, about 4 months after the truth had come out. It was an intense, emotional time.

This year I feel different. Less emotional, more guarded, yet willing to leave the past in the past, live in the present moment and give what I have today a chance.

I'm tired of my bouts of fear and anxiety, yet I still can't seem to shake them entirely. Husband is struggling with his food addiction a little right now, and I get really nervous about the possibility of things getting out of control. I know he can't be perfect, but I've been through the food struggles before with him and now I have an idea of what he's really struggling with, and where that can lead. I don't think he'll go so far as to go back to porn, massage parlors and prostitutes, but I still fear it. This indicates to me that I have more spiritual work in front of me, more surrender to impermanence and unknowability. And more work around control issues and my ability to feel safe in an uncontrollable world.

I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, afraid to jump back into living 100 percent. It feels easier just to be afraid. But I know that if I jump I might find out I can fly. The fear is still there, though. But it's not insurmountable.

And maybe I'll find that I need to choose again whether or not to jump every single day from here on out.

And I can only begin to imagine where that kind of life will take me, jumping and jumping and jumping again.

Friday, October 17, 2008


The past couple of weeks have been exhausting and confusing. It's no one big catastrophe. More visits to the ER with more of Husband's medical issues; Husband's fear of pain which results in him screaming like he's dying even when he's not; wondering what I'll do if Husband does die (unlikely) because he let his hard-to-get life insurance lapse when he was in the throes of his addiction; lots of late nights with client work for my job; taking on most of the household stuff since Husband is bed-ridden; taking husband to doctor appointments; worry about Husband's job situation (he feels like if they lay anyone off he'll be the first to go;) worry about my own flow of income - consulting has been good through last week, but feels like it might be light for the rest of the year; trying to figure out how we'll keep our house if one or both of us lose our jobs; my relationship with my mother, which is very hard for me to manage when I'm under stress from all this other stuff; the anger and resentment that comes welling up when I feel like Husband's narcissist is playing up his suffering to make sure that he gets the sympathy he deserves (this may not be true, but I get suspicious about this and then angry.)

It's no one big thing. Just all these different concerns, feelings and fears piling on top of each other.

I've continued to feel that detachment I felt when I first saw him lying on the bathroom floor in a sweaty, bloody, pallid heap a few weeks ago (the result of an undetected kidney infection doctors think, which resulted in temporary kidney failure.) I'm sure it's my defense against the fear I feel about the possibility of him dying. I'm already struggling so much with trying to get to a place where I can honestly reinvest. With the fright of middle-of-the-night 911 calls and all the thoughts those bring, I feel numb and tired. It's confusing to be trying to help nurse him back to health when I have unresolved feelings about the things he's done and his recent slip that I've not really been able to heal from because of dealing with his medical crises.

I also feel lonely. I've talked to Nora and Marcie, but they are cities away and have their own families and their own concerns, and I don't want to burden them with mine when there's little they can do except worry about me. I know it's hard for them to hear me sad. (I hear myself trying to manage their experiences - one of my ingrained codie behaviors.)

I contemplated telling another close friend who was visiting from out of town, just so I could have someone to talk to about my feelings, but it didn't work out logistically.

As usual, I can't talk to my mother about any of it because we're far too enmeshed for her to offer me anything that would be remotely helpful. (Just the other day for example, she offered that she felt so sorry for my son because "people" were yelling at him more these days about whining, when previously he'd been told by Husband and me that it was fine to whine. (Actually we'd told him it was fine to express his feelings.) Not with her of course, she reminded me, because she'd made it clear from the beginning that there was to be no whining and crying when he was with her (i.e. no unpleasant FEELINGS to deal with.) But now she was feeling sad for him because people were having less patience with him and it was hurting his feelings.

Thanks, Mom. And she couldn't understand why I felt criticized. She said it wasn't a judgment, just an observation. She alway claims with righteous certainty that she's never in her life judged anybody. Whatever... (I get my absolutism from my mother's side of the family.)

I didn't want to call my sponsor because I had so much going on I felt like it would just be a dump of emotion and negative thoughts and complaints and fears. I know this is exactly when I should call. But I gave myself the excuse that I was too tired.

I got on the treadmill a couple times which helped. Got into the lovely rum that was brought to us from the Caribbean a couple times. Ate a few too many coconut fruit bars a couple of times. Prayed. Read. Tried to get some sleep.

Finally, at Husband's urging (and recognizing the codie tendencies that were keeping me from making this call,) I called my sponsor today. It didn't turn out to be an emotional dump session, but a really good conversation. It was just a relief to talk about things with someone who I didn't need to hide anything from. She reminded me to write.

I'm still tired. Still feeling detached. But I also feel lighter for having reached out and made a connection with someone.

I went and saw The Duchess tonight (really wanted to see "W" but it started too early and too late), and found it to be a story of waking up to a life that is not what you expected it would be and being trapped in that life. In the end it was just painful choices between different heartbreaking paths. It left me sad.

I don't feel trapped, but I feel as if I've woken up in somebody else's life and to choose to leave this life for my actual life would be more heartbreaking than to just stay. I have reason to believe that over time Husband and I can continue to heal and make progress. So for now, since I have a child who loves his father, and a husband who is a wonderful father despite his problems, the benefits of giving it time outweigh the difficulties of living with discomfort, confusion and uncertainty.

I need to get myself unstuck. Unstuck from this defensive position. I need to reopen to what is before me and stop resisting. But the fear is powerful. I am afraid.

I'm afraid that Husband can never love me in the way I think I want to be loved. I don't think his love will ever be the safe-haven it used to be, my harbor from the storms of life. He is the storm now. I am alone in my boat, in the storm, wondering where I will find this harbor.

Truthfully, I want to be taken care of.

But I know it's time to be done with that. It's time to find out how to take care of myself. Time to develop a relationship with my higher power from which I will draw strength to stop resisting impermanence; to stop resisting that which is beyond my control, and that which is unknowable; to accept the uncertainty that comes with grey in place of the illusory safety found in black and white; to stop searching for ground and accept groundlessness as a natural condition that I don't have to fix; to be open and present instead of closed off and numb in the face of fear.

Much like happiness, I'm finding that peace is not a destination, but a journey. Moment by moment, one day at a time.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Force fields up, phasers set to vaporize

I'm feeling more stable now that my walls are firmly in place.

I'm still connecting with my feelings, but I have decided to take off the wife and lover hats, as Sophie wrote to me explaining how she handles trust in her marriage to an addict.

I had to deliver something to a client today, and ended up parking right in front of the Oriental Massage place where Husband got his first taste of prostitution. Massage with happy ending.

We lived right around the corner from that place at the time he started visiting it. I always wondered when I passed it what kind of a place it was. I'd heard about "oriental massage" from a friend whose husband had experienced the happy ending at a posh hotel in Hong Kong.

I decided that it was time to face this head on. I'd been avoiding driving by the place, and getting anxious every time I knew I'd be near it. So I got out of the car, walked up and opened the door.

It opened right into a dingy, white space that was 3x8 with a counter running the length of it. A sign read "No one under 21 allowed." I glanced around the small space, wondering what Husband was thinking when he opened that same door for the first time. He knew why he was there...I'm sure of that now.

A bell had rung as I entered and Asian woman came out after a moment in response. She muttered something indecipherable.

"This is where my husband first got introduced to prostitution, so I just wanted to see it," I said. I glanced around, looked at her as she muttered something else, and then I shut the door.

My heart was pounding. I felt like I'd looked into the mouth of a beast. But I also felt strength, having faced something that had become such a symbol in my mind.

I continued to the next building to visit my client, heart still pounding as I rode the elevator up and waited in the lobby. Pounding as I talked to the cheerful woman who greeted me. But eventually my chest calmed, and my mind moved into the present moment.

When I returned to my car, a final glance at that door confirmed that I'd vanquished something. Although I could feel my heart pounding again. I took a deep breath, switched on NPR, and pulled into traffic repeating a favorite mantra under my breath. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay..." In the present it's okay.

Our couples therapy session Tuesday night was good. I expressed a lot of the anger and pain I'd been keeping inside. Husband talked about what the experience of slipping was like for him, from the cigarette and shot to the stupid hair salon to the sneaking money. Our therapist suggested that he do whatever he can to demonstrate that he's trustworthy so I can begin to see over time again that he's actively in recovery and not lying about it.

I told her that I really had no idea what he was doing - going to meetings or lying about it, going to his therapist or lying about it. I had no idea any more about the validity of anything coming out of his mouth. She said that if he was lying on such a massive scale, if he was pulling away from the recovery community like that, he'd demonstrate in other areas of life behavior that would be clearly addict or narcissist behavior, and he'd be oblivious to it. In other words, I'd get some trustworthy flags. That made sense to me. That helped. I may not be able to tell when he's lying to my face, but I know I'd be able to pick up on other addict / narcissist behaviors.

So now, I'm giving it time. Time, time, time. Weeks? Months? Years? I don't know. My priority is me and my son. Right now Husband is my partner in raising our son, managing our finances and the logistics of life. I have the parent hat on. I don't know when the other hats will feel right. The friend, the wife, the lover...

I feel resentment about the fact that I feel alone in the world, without an intimate relationship to trust, without a partner I can feel safe to trust and love freely. I'm pissed about that. But I breathe. I read. I do step work. I work on my relationship with higher power. I try to remember not to do it alone, to reach out to others.

Something that's odd for me is that while I don't want to reach out to Husband, I don't want him to stop reaching out to me. I need to be able to remain detatched, but I also need to feel Husband's love for me. I feel like an animal that's been hit, craving touch but freezing in my tracks so I can detect whether it's going to be a blow or a caress and respond to save my life if I have to. So dramatic, huh?

I don't feel like a victim. But I am disappointed. Disappointed and sad. And angry. But I'm also stronger, more grounded, more in touch with myself, and grateful for the progress I've made with my own issues.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Feeling a lot of fear

Today the overwhelming thing I'm feeling is fear.

I'm afraid to trust Husband. When I can't reach him on the phone, where is he?
I'm afraid that my pulling back is making him so sacred that he's going to slip back into old behaviors and resentment.
I'm afraid that he'll start to pull away from me, and from trying to work things out because of his fear
I'm afraid of losing him
I'm afraid of wanting him
I don't know what I want
I'm afraid of him, afraid to trust anything he says
I'm afraid because I don't know how this will all turn out

He says he wants to keep fighting for our marriage, that he wants to do whatever he can to work things out. I want to believe him, but I just don't know if that's crazy or not anymore.

He had a slip. He lied. He started sneaking money to do...who knows what. He said it wasn't for strip clubs or prostitutes, but I can never know for sure. He didn't tell me about a cigarette he had, about a drink he had (he's not abstaining as part of a program, but he had said he wouldn't drink for a year.) In the context of everything else he's done, these things are minor. But lies, omissions and hiding are the problem.

I feel like I don't know what to trust. My defenses are way up, and I'm pulling away to protect myself. But is that motivated by intuition or fear? I started to feel that trust was possible, and then this happened. So is it just hopeless? If I pull away out of fear, will I lose a real chance at healing and recovery in our marriage?

I guess if Husband is really back on the path of recovery, he will be on that path no matter where I am. Maybe that's where I can look. What does he do when he gets no reassurance from me? Does he continue to use his new tools, or does he give up and fall into the abyss of resentment and self-pity, and swiftly return to old ways of being? How sincere is his recovery? Is this how I can get an idea of that?

Everything looks frightening right now. I want some solid ground.

I know I can continue on my own path of recovery. But I wish I could know what is possible for our relationship. Either way, with him or without him, I can move forward in a healthy way. I'm confident of that. But this not-knowing...that is where all the fear is. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being hurt again, betrayed again.

I think the person I loved and married is there somewhere, and I don't want to give up on that. But neither do I want to sacrifice my self and self-respect if the addict is going to dominate our relationship. I don't know who I'm talking to right now...Husband the-man-I-knew or Husband the Addict. They are different, but they look the same to me.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I can't do this alone

I've come a long way in 15 months.

As I face the current situation there are many ways in which I can see I'm doing things differently.

I'm not giving him the benefit of the doubt on anything that doesn't feel quite right to me.

I'm allowing myself to be in my feelings of anger, confusion, and pain rather than immediately looking for a way to be understanding and reasonable or make him feel better.

I'm reaching out to others (and there has been lots of support with many different persepectives, every one helpful) and not trying to figure it out myself or handle it alone the way I've always done before. I actually made some outreach calls to people other than my two best girlfriends, fighting all the way the tempation to manage other peoples' experiences (I always worry that people won't be able to say no when they want to, so I often don't do things like make outreach calls.)

Looking at this in the context of screenplay analysis, this is one of those points where the protagonist has undergone change and the new self is being tested by old, familiar challenges. One of the benefits of this current challenge is to allow me to see how far I've come, and how much further I can go if I choose.

I don't know yet exactly what I'll do. We have a couples therapy session scheduled for tomorrow night to deal with this (I feel so thankful that I have therapy as an option) and I'll finally be able to express myself in an environment that feels safe to me. Until now I've worried that if I started really getting into it with Husband, I'd say something I didn't really mean and/or his narcissist and my co-dependent would join forces and ambush me (which is usually what happens when we go head-to-head.)

In this moment I am full of gratitude for all that I've gained, and for the love and compassion of others.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Love without truth?

Having little opportunity to deal with Husband's recent lies and omissions has left me sitting with anger and pain and confusion that only seem to increase with time.

I did an outreach call today, and the woman I talked with suggested I write down some of my feelings as a way of releasing them.

I feel so disrespected. How could he lie to me again? After seeing the pain and agony it caused before? He said he couldn't promise me that he'd never slip, but he said he'd never lie about it.

On the list of boundaries I drew up and talked about with Husband, I'd specified that one of the things that wouldn't work for me was lying, hiding or omitting anything he thought I might want to know as his partner. I also drew up a list of consequences as part of that exercise. Those we agreed I didn't need to share with him. I referred back to that list the other day to see what I'd thought, in more rational moments, was the appropriate consequence for lying, hiding or omitting.

"He moves out" it said.

But while this incident has crossed that boundary, I feel like I just can't make that move yet because of my son. I'm not sure yet that I want to take this to that next level, and I need to be sure before I disrupt my son's life in that way.

I'm so angry that I caught him. Why didn't he come to me and tell me about the cigarette and the shot? How could he make the choice to sneak that money knowing how fragile my ability to trust is, and how I felt that I was actually beginning to make progress in that area? He may be an addict, but doesn't he have a memory or a brain? Can't he think? Is he so overcome by narcissism when he's anxious that I just cease to exist?

I feel like this is happening all over again. The betrayal feels almost as big as the first time I found out, even though it didn't involve sex with other women. I wonder what else he's been doing in the inner circle.

I don't trust him anymore. And I don't know if love is possible without trust. I don't know if I love him anymore. But I'm not sure. I can't tell if I'm just too afraid to be alone, too afraid to give up on what I thought I could have. Or if I'm too afraid of him to feel feeling that are still there.

I've been so afraid of his resentment, and it's that resentment that's taken us down this path again. It's that resentment that's allowed him to justify lying and hiding and not telling me things.

Sometimes I hate him.

He tells me he's afraid of my anger, yet he does the one thing that is most likely to make me angry. So now that I've discovered his deceit I'm mad and I'm imagining that he's slipping into that place of self loathing and self pity that turn to resentment. But my only other choice is to put his experience before mine, and show him that he doesn't have to fear my anger, that he can make mistakes and be flawed and he won't be abandoned. But that doesn't work for me anymore. If he feels like telling the truth and not hiding qualifies as walking on eggshells around me then I guess we should come to terms with our differences sooner than later.

How do you demand truth from an addict?

How do you stay in a loving committed partnership without truth?

I hate him for taking away the person I thought I married, the person who would never lie to me.

How does he feel about me that I'm not worth telling the truth to, not worth having the courage to be honest with?

Someone wrote to me from the perspective of the-other-woman saying that sometime she was jealous that the man she was having an affair with loved his wife enough to want to lie to her and keep their affair secret. But being lied to feels so shitty. He may lie because he is afraid, but it doesn't feel at all like love to me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A hard day

Today I was feeling a lot of fear, anxiety and grief. I'm trying to have compassion for Husband, and to be with him during his medical crisis. I have waves of sadness because I can't feel love for him sometimes.

Still, even at this point in the journey, sometimes I have a hard time with what's happened.

Is Higher Power up to something?

I've spent most of the day at the hospital after finding husband collapsed on the bathroom floor this morning in pain and sweaty with numb extremities. It was such a weird experience, paramedics and all, because I was still angry about the hiding, lying and omitting I'd caught him doing.

Before I left to drop son at school and head to the hospital to catch up with him, I grabbed a copy of Jack Kornfield's The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace just in case I couldn't muster up any compassion on my own.

The thoughts that went through my head reflected the detachment I'd made to cope with the discovery of his addict behavior. For example, I was pissed off that he can't get a life insurance policy because his health is poor. I was much more concerned about son's well being around the incident, and felt that Husband's issues would play out however they did and there was little I could do about it. I was ready for anything in a cool, detached way.

But I realized as I was driving to the hospital that I was husband's only person to turn to in life, and given who he's been for me in many good ways, that he's the father of my son, that he was a human being in a scary crisis, he deserved basic care and compassion, so I did my best to bring that forward today.

Husband did put $110 back into the bank account Tuesday. Was it really at work? Did he spend it and borrow that money from someone so he could continue his deception? I'll never know.

And that's part of where the learning is. How do I take care of myself without creating boundaries that are simply masked attempts to control his behavior? How do I handle his imperfection? How will I know when to cut bait? What is trust? What is faith? What is love? Can I learn to turn something over to Higher Power rather than trying to handle, fix, solve and control the outcome by myself? Can I surrender to the unknowability of life without sinking into an unhealthy relationship?

Anyone can lie. There is no way to protect myself from that completely. This much I know. So then what? What is there left to do? Learn to set boundaries, learn to trust myself, learn to distinguish willingness and imperfection from denial and indulgence, be willing to make the hard choices...

I feel like there have to be consequences, but I also feel like those consequences need to come from a place of authentically trying to protect and take care of myself, and not to punish or control him. What that will look like I'm still sorting out.

His health emergency doesn't overshadow what still needs to be dealt with between us. Compassion and care feel appropriate here, but so does accountability, and so does protecting myself. This recent incident has reminded me that even though he's willing and working his program, slips and all, he's still an addict and I need to protect myself from that aspect of his personality in the good times as well as the bad.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The addict slips in

Not only did Husband go to "the Hooters of mens' hair salons" to quote Margaux Mead, he also took $170 in cash out in small amounts over the weekend, most disguised as cash back on debit card purchases.

I found out about all this when I went to do some online banking in our joint account last night.

So I asked.

Is THAT where you went to get your hair cut?
Yes. But it's not like that.
(Yeah, whatever.)
And why did you take out $170 in cash over the last 2 days?
I did? Are you sure? I don't know, blah, blah, blah, lies, blah, blah, blah...I didn't do anything wrong. (RED FLAG!)
So what did you do...then. Because that's what you told me before, those exact same words. So now I don't know what to believe.

I asked to see the cash, and he was unable to produce it. (He told me it was in the car, but after "searching" (buying time) he came back empty handed.)

It's at work. I left it at work.

I've learned not to accept anything that doesn't make taking out $170 and then forgetting it at work.

Long story short, he finally confessed that he left the $$ at work because he was secretly taking out money to buy himself something.

Like WHAT?

Well, actually I was going to buy you an iPod. (sounds fishy)

If you're going to take out money to buy me a surprise, TELL ME! Don't SNEAK and LIE about taking out money! So you were sneaking around to buy me an iPod? Why?

Because I resented that you didn't get one.

Then it came out that he's under all sorts of stress at work, also in pain from a medical condition for which he's about to have a minor operation, which is also causing stress, and feeling resentful when I told him I was feeling upset about him working late when he used to give me such a hard time about not prioritizing my family when I used to work late. So lots of stress, building up resentment, and not talking to anybody about it.

Hello Addict!

So I still couldn't figure out the bit about the iPod.

I resented you for not getting one, because I felt like you weren't valuing my input. (He think I need it for work and he's right, but we're also on thin financial ice.)

So now I'm all confused about what to ask, what boundaries to draw (my own bank account?), what is codependency and what is healthy. My instinct is to protect myself by cutting him out of things (like my income) but that feels like a form of trying to control what he does, which I don't want to do (because...I can't.)

I'm going to call my sponsor, and thank god we have couples therapy Saturday.

I've wondered what a slip might look like, so now I know. At least he didn't go to a strip club or fuck someone.

But I really hate the lies. They scare me, and...does he think I'm stupid?

Monday, September 22, 2008

What a #$%^ing idiot!

Husband went and got his hair cut at a place called Major League Trim during work today. For a smart guy he sure lacks a fucking clue sometimes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Inspiration from Elizabeth Edwards

I just listened to excerpts from an interview with Elizabeth Edwards, and she mentioned the lyrics to a Leonard Cohen song that reflected the perspective I've gained from this experience:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

-Anthem, Leonard Cohen

It felt good to recognize my journey, and be reminded again that others share this journey even though we're each on our own path.

Waking up is scary, but I'm not doing it alone.

And it's good to see and feel the light that's getting in.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sex on TV

So Husband and I sat down to watch some good old HBO tonight. I loved Six Feet Under, and have previously enjoyed Entourage. But after trying to watch both Allan Ball's latest, True Blood, and the 2nd new episode of Entourage, I had to leave the room. Within the fist 5 minutes of both there were graphic depictions of sex.

In True Blood a character (and the viewing audience including me) was watching a video of a woman hanging from her bound hands as a man had sex with her from behind while strangling her. Of course, she was smiling, and later was revealed to have revived and enjoyed it.

We had to turn that off.

So on to Entourage. The writing and characters have generally been good, but again within the first 5 minutes one of the characters accidentally turned on some porn movie while trying to watch something else, and the TV audience was treated to a woman lying on her back, pulling at her nipples and doing something else I think. I had to get up before I could mentally capture the whole picture.

Now I'm not a prude. I favor sex education, have no problem with pre-marital sex, and no problem (theoretically) with healthy, tender or lusty sex depicted in a context where it forwards a story. (Of course, I'd consider it appropriate only for adults.)

But I'm so sensitive now to how women and sex are depicted in the media. Negative sexuality (addiction, loveless sex) and negative, objectified images of women are so prevalent. So much so that I worry about what my son will pick up as acceptable from billboards as we drive around town.

I'm not in favor of prohibition although I believe in regulation. Porn magazines are for adults (although I consider them unhealthy.) But the more important thing here is that I think we're really sick as a society. And that the sexual revolution has gone beyond a healthy regard for sexuality, and into a mentality were anything goes. And with materialism foisted upon us via advertising that tells us we can never have or be enough, and the accompanying anxiety and fear that goes along with those beliefs, I think we are a society full of people who tend toward addiction, depression and low self-esteem. The dehumanization of sex and women are a symptom of that.

Maybe I'm just getting older. Am I just like every other generation that's gone before me, complaining about too much sex, too much violence, and young people these days?

These thoughts make me uncomfortable, because they sound so much more conservative that I feel. But I worry about the world. How can we get through this cultural crisis in a way that is progressive and not regressive?

I'm not a social conservative, but neither do I think it okay for society to accept unhealthy, negative, soulless attitudes as the norm.

I feel out of sorts and confused, and am going to go to bed and read my Buddhist books. I think for me clarity on this subject will be found in spirituality.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Trust is scary...even if you're merely considering it

For the second night in a row last night, I felt like Husband wasn't interested in sex with me.

Now I have plenty of nights where I'm not interested in sex. I'm tired. I'm stressed out about work. Things that have nothing to do with Husband.

But as I said to him last night, it's been so many years since I've been the only sex partner in his life. It's easy to start thinking that maybe I'm not enough. And that's especially painful because our relationship was one of the few places in my life where I really did feel like I was enough.

We talked about it. About my anger, how it's still hard for me to accept sometimes that he could lie to me. I feel like I could never lie to him, even now. We talked about my sadness about him lying.

I talked about how sometimes I still feel like I just want to level the playing field. Sometimes I feel like going out and doing to him what he did to me. Cheating, lying. But for one thing I couldn't face my son after that, because it would feel like a betrayal of his trust as well. And I've never been interested in casual sex, so I doubt it would satisfy anything for me. I know in my gut that it would be nothing more than an attempt to protect myself, and would do nothing but harden me and put distance between us. I would never be the same person, and that would be my loss. And I've already lost enough because of this.

But I feel so powerless. And that's the root of the fear. So I tried to think about the tools I have to face this. The first one that came to mind was prayer. Allowing myself to turn to a higher power for strength. Praying for the strength to surrender to my inability to control, to protect myself, if I really want deep intimacy.

I feel like if I take the chance of trusting him, I run the risk of being lied to again. What if he loses interest in a single partner? What if his apathy becomes a justification for thinking about others, fantasizing about others, turing to the internet for stimulation, and then who knows what else?

I hate this feeling of powerlessness. But I think surrendering to powerlessness comes hand in hand with trust. That is what is so when you really trust someone. You open yourself up to being hurt by them. I'm not powerless to put an end to a relationship. But as I've learned, I'm powerless to prevent someone I love, and someone who says he loves me, from hurting me.

So I'm glad to be on this uneasy path. Glad to be feeling that trust is a possibility. Considering trust now brings up fears. And as I think about it, that's not surprising. And on the other side of this part of my journey, hopefully I'll have grown.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Duchovny, Spitzer, Murray, (Clinton, etc...hello?)

Surfing the comments out there it's evident that dispite some very public revelations this year, sex addiction continues to ride very below the radar and be misunderstood. And I don't read anything about people connecting the dots between addicts - seems like it's just another story about a man cheating on his wife, and of course people can't understand why because "she's so hot."

Of course, if your wife isn't hot, I guess everybody would understand then, huh?

This time around the story doesn't bring edge of pain that it did with Spitzer, which is good progress to report at the 1-year-and-3-months-since-discovery mark.

I really feel like I've turned the corner in my ability to consider that Husband is a different person. He says that he is, and intellectually I understand how that would be possible given the research I've done. But my body has resisted until recently. Not that I've resisted having sex, but I haven't felt anything close to the trust I had before in my gut.

Lately I feel as though I've let go of something physically. I can't name it, but it was something I was holding on to, or something that was gripping me.

Whatever it is, it feels like a gateway to the next level of healing.

That feels like a good place to be.

Thoughts about true love

I'm beginning to understand that despite the lies and infidelity, love has always been present in my relationship with Husband. It just didn't look the way I thought it would. I wish I could change that, but I can't. Love is not perfect because Husband and I are not perfect, because we are human. But it is there. And for my growing ability to trust that, I'm grateful.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Insidious codependency

I am terrified of my husband's resentment. Most of Husband's resentment has been toward others, but that resentment is what allowed him to justify his infidelity and betrayal of my trust. He "deserved" something to compensate him for the injustices and disappointments in his life.

The other day we were in the car and I asked him if he was beginning to be unhappy in his job. When he replied yes, I said I was sorry to hear that he was feeling unhappy. And then I proceeded to "speak from my own experience" (as I've learned to do in my 12-step group)about finding that life is not what you thought or wished it would be.

I was surprised when he seemed angry, and I thought I'd hurt his feelings because I'd been speaking to him about my experience with him in a way that may have been hurtful.

We talked about it in therapy, and it came out that Husband actually felt like it wasn't okay with me for him to be dissatisfied in his job, and that was what upset him.

As we talked I realized that, because I'm so terrified about Husband's resentment because of what it might mean for and about me, I do a lot to manage his happiness level. I get anxious and terribly uncomfortable when he's unhappy because I feel that this leads to resentment, and try to "help" him. Or if I think he's upset with me, I try to correct what I think are misunderstandings he has with respect to me. I need to fix misperceptions immediately lest they result in unwarranted resentment toward me. And this dynamic is something I never recognized. And I do this because I feel threatened by his resentment on a very deep level.

So we worked out a code. When Husband really just needs me to be there and listen, he'll break through my advice by saying, "I really need your help." I'll know that I need to get a grip on my own anxiety, with the understanding that we will talk about what I need to talk about, but not just at that moment. And I can do the same.

We have yet to try this, but discovering this pattern is a great breakthrough for me.

I was reminded by a woman from my therapy group about how much opportunity there is in leaning toward what is uncomfortable and scary.

What will happen when I stop trying to control Husband's feelings, stop trying to manage against resentment, and allow for the possibilty that he'll develop those feelings? Who will I be when I have to face that head on, instead of resisting it?

I look forward to finding out.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Images in my head obstruct intimacy

Last night Husband and I were making love, and I couldn't get certain thoughts and images out of my head. I opened my eyes, and kept my gaze fixed on him, my eyes on his eyes, and still I could not feel a connection. The images and the fear they brought up were pulling me out of the moment and I couldn't stop it.

Thinking about it this morning, I felt a deep sadness at not being able to connect with him. Sometimes my lack of ability to connect is worse than others, but it's always sad because Husband used to be the person I felt most deeply connected to.

I got up earlier than I expected to this morning, and so had time to jump on the treadmill for half an hour and do some reading.

Finishing an article I'd printed out from Buddhadarma, The Wondrous Path of Difficulties, I came across exactly what would be helpful to me right now.

Jack Kornfield talked about making a human connection. "There has to be a willingness to go to the place of vulnerability...we have difficulty making a human connection because we don't trust our heart. We don't trust that our heart has the capacity to open to the sorrows as well as to the beauty of the world...We have within us buddhanature, the capacity to hold all the sorrows and joys of the world."

He described not being reactive to others as "being present with a lot of courage," and quoted Martin Luther King. "King said to his adversaries, "We will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, to face suffering and still not stop, still march, still tell the truth, still do what's necessary to make the change.""

Fear is my adversary. Perhaps I can wear it down by expanding my capacity to face suffering and pain.

I can practice expanding my capacity to be open to suffering and sorrow, as well as to joy and happiness; not to resist those things, not to react to the fear I feel in the face of those things; but to take a deep breath and turn toward those things with open arms as I would welcome a beloved friend or a beautiful day. And on that path I'll find intimacy with Husband. That practice of being open to pain and fear will allow me closer to that which has been the source of pain and fear, but also the source of happiness and joy.

My instinct is to run from pain and fear, but maybe to run from that is to run from life. To cut off pain and fear, maybe I also have to cut off joy and intimacy, and that's not the path I choose. To have the quarter, I must take the heads with the tails. There is no tails without heads. So maybe life is joy and sorrow, happiness and pain, and there is not one without the other.

Not a new discovery for me, but one I must think about and practice daily or it will disappear and survival instincts will take over.

I think survival is about protecting yourself (an instinct), and living is about making yourself vulnerable (a practice), and those two things, safety and risk, seem to go against each other. Perhaps this is why it's just a one-day-at-a-time thing, moment by moment giving up instinct for practice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Notes to self

In group therapy I noted two things tonight that I don't want to forget:

1) Husband's sex addiction could be my higher power's way of providing me with the opportunity to deal with unresolved issues with my father. Perhaps I'm ready now in a way that I wasn't before.

2) My attempts to manage other people's experiences result me not seeking support from others and missing out on making connections. The issue is rooted in my lack of boundaries, and my fear that others can't set boundaries. While it may be true that others can't set boundaries, that's not my responsibility to manage. I can manage my own boundaries, but I can't (and miss out on intimacy in some cases) when I try to do that for others. It holds me back from a lot.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A chance to practice, or how recovery can seep into other areas of life

Mark Twain once described a man who died and met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. He said, “I have been interested in military history for many years, who was the greatest general of all time?”

Saint Peter responded, “Oh that’s a simple question. It’s that man right over there.”

“You must be mistaken,” responded the man, now very perplexed. “I knew that man on earth, and he was just a common laborer.”

“That’s right my friend,” assured Saint Peter. “He would have been the greatest general of all time, if he had been a general.”

This story illustrates a truth that is, unfortunately, all too common. Far too many people spend a lifetime headed in the wrong direction. They go not only from the cradle to the cubicle, but then to the casket, without uncovering their greatest talents and potential." - (T.Rath, Strength Finder 2.0 (Gallup Press, 2007) 29.)

I had a long talk today with a colleague about my professional future. As in many areas of my life, I'm learning that I find it incredibly hard to value myself. I don't naturally or easily give value to anything I bring to the table. Which makes committing to consulting full-time very frightening. (Sadly, I can take on creating my professional "story" much more easily as a task or assignment from my colleague than I can as a simple, honest self-assessment of my skills, talents and abilities.) Not that I don't want to have a career as a consultant, but I'm afraid that I'm somehow unqualified and unworthy of the rate I ask for my services, and that people will discover this.

But, because of the growth I've had this past year, I recognize that fear now as something to lean toward. Part of the reason I know I need to take this on is because it makes me nervous and uncomfortable.

So I'm raising a bowl of Ben & Jerry's to my Year of Self Definition, and committing to doing everything I can to succeed at this in spite of all the self-doubt that's plaguing me right now.

If it weren't for what I've learned about myself in therapy, and the reading I've done, and the spiritual growth I've had, I think I'd miss this opportunity.

This is my chance to practice acknowledging and accepting myself, all that I am. It's my chance to focus on my strengths instead of feeling guilty and unworthy because of my weaknesses; to take joy in what is there, rather than to suffer over what I perceive as missing. It's my chance to let myself be enough, even though I'm not everything...even though I'm not perfect.

I'm scared, but it's my Year of Self Definition, right? And I've learned that I can lean into the fear and be okay.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What is healthy?

I'm still trying to figure out for myself how I feel about pornography in general.

I don't believe sex between consenting adults is dirty or shameful. I don't object on principle to love scenes in movies, though watching them with Husband has made me uncomfortable over the past year. I'd rather my son see healthy love scenes than violence in the media he's exposed to (although that's an uphill battle in our culture where violence and the objectified female form are on billboards and in cartoons, while depictions of healthy sexuality between loving adults seem scarce and tend to be "R" rated.)

My views on prostitution have certainly changed. I don't think it's within the range of healthy sexuality for either the prostitute or the customer.

But as far as porn...sexual images of naked people...I don't know. I find artistic images of naked people beautiful. But they can be used for sexual fantasy and masturbation just like porn magazines.

My immediate reaction is that no sexual activity without intimacy, or activity that avoids intimacy by going into fantasy, is not healthy. Maybe it depends on what is depicted and how it's used?

I need to figure these kinds of things out so I pass the right values on to my son. I want him to have a healthy sexuality, and now I'm highly aware of how easy it is for sex to become part of an unhealthy pattern. And with an addict for a father, it feels even more important for me to impart strong, healthy values.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Boundaries and Consequences (but I'm not your mother)

In my group therapy last night we brought lists of boundaries and consequences we'd drawn up. Specifically these are boundaries with regard to our sex addicted partners.

Before doing this list, I realized that while there was one clear boundary that I'd communicated (no sexual contact with anybody else while we're married) I hadn't communicated other boundaries around sex addiction issues, nor had I articulated any consequences for broken boundaries.

I've been resisting doing this kind of list because I refuse to draw up a list of rules Husband has to follow. I want my partner to have his own moral compass, and responsibility for his own thoughts and feelings, and to use recovery tools, support groups and therapists to address compulsive behavior - NOT to turn to something I've spelled out to know what is okay and what's not.

I'm not his mother and I don't want to be.

However, knowing my boundaries, thinking them through in detail, is good for me. It's part of my self-definition. What works for me, and what doesn't. So this is my list-in-progress of what doesn't work for me (in other words, boundaries to protect me, not to control him):

It doesn't work for me if Husband:
1) has sexual contact of any kind with anyone else, in person or otherwise.
2) lies, hides or purposely omits anything that I would want to know as his partner.
3) uses porn or media of any kind for sexual activity.
4) visits online prostitution sites, or phones or otherwise contacts prostitutes
5) gets a massage of any kind from a woman (if he needs a theraputic massage, he can get a man)
6) spends large sums of our money without consulting me
7) discontinues weekly 12-step meetings
8) discontinues therapy against the advice of his therapist

He is free to do any of these things, but now he knows that if he chooses to do them he's making a choice that threatens the basic level of comfort and safety I need to feel in our relationship and that there will be consequences for crossing my expressed boundaries.

Even as I write it, it sounds too punishment oriented to me, too much like a list of things not to do if he wants to be a good boy. (Yuk!)

But on the other hand, boundaries without consequences are meaningless, and will get me nowhere in terms of having a strong sense of self.

I never felt the need to establish boundaries with Husband before. At least not about these kinds of things, and not explicitly. (I guess I was assuming wedding vows would count for something.)

But here we are. And that's my recovery work for today.

We agreed that the consequences don't need to be shared, although I did tell him that as long as he's actively participating in recovery I won't end the relationship without discussion. (Though if the boundary crossing is major, we'll have the discussion AFTER he moves out.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Got a sponsor (I think) just in time

Finally after a year I'm ignoring that voice in my head that's telling me I can do the 12 steps on my own. I ignored that voice tonight when it told me that I didn't want to bother someone else and when it told me that I didn't want to ask for help in case that person I asked didn't want to help me but would be uncomfortable saying so. And I asked. And she said yes, maybe, most likely. And I was so nervous afterward that I forgot where I'd parked. And when I told her that she said she was so nervous after I asked her that she'd almost walked out the window instead of the door. And we talked a bit about how just like the sex addicts, we have issues too. Like intimacy issues, for example. That create such anxiety that we forget where we are and walk out windows instead of doors. She'll let me know next week if she accepts.

I realized last night that something very specific I'm grieving over is the loss of the feeling that I'm special to Husband.

I used to feel like the intimate connection we had was private, precious, and something shared only between the two of us. And though intimacy goes beyond just the physical, now that I know he's held, caressed, kissed, and had sex with so many other women during our marriage, it's hard to believe that I'm special - or at least as special as I thought I was. And that makes me sad. Perhaps that need arises from a childish fairy tail picture in my head that doesn't really exist between adults. Perhaps it's my own narcissistic tendencies or my need for validation that leaves me sad that I no longer feel special.

I've always loved the song English Rose, and that's the feeling that I miss. That some one person on the planet loves me so deeply that nothing can come between us.

Husband had a bad day today. He woke up not having slept well (sleep apnea) and went on to have a frustrating day - one little annoying thing after another. I went to meet him this afternoon after he'd discovered he'd left his headlights on and drained his battery. He was cranky and I felt like he was full of contained frustration. What made it worse was that this morning I sat down at the computer to find that he'd created a Resentment List in his Google Docs account. I assume it's part of his work with his sponsor or therapy group or something. And it took everything I had to close that window and not read that list. But this afternoon, and later in the day I couldn't stop myself from feeling like he was resenting me for some reason. When he's tired, I think he resents the world. Anyway...I imagine this is what he felt when he justified sex with prostitutes and the lies he told me. And that scares me. Scares me, scares me. I'm afraid of his resentment.

Why? I can't quite figure it out. What comes to mind is that I'm afraid he'll stop trying, stop loving me, break my heart again. His resentment is a big part of his sickness. I'm afraid of how much it allows him to justify.

I also see this is part of my pattern of being afraid of any bad feelings I think he has because of what they might mean about me. A symptom of my lack of self-definition: In my crazy head I'm constantly defined by the thoughts and feelings of people around me. This leaves Husband feeling absolutely no space for having these kinds of feelings where I'm concerned. He's said many times that he feels he can never express when he's angry with me, and his experience is that I turn his anger into a character flaw while justifying my own so thoroughly that I don't see what I'm doing. "When I'm angry, there's something wrong with me," he says. "When you're angry, there's something wrong with the world."

While I was helping him with his battery, he went back inside his office building to use the restroom and I started looking through for his phone, which he said he thought was lost somewhere in the car. (His car is a pretty big mess, so from time to time he does lose his phone in there.) Suddenly my heart started pounding as I thought about the possibility of finding a porn magazine among all the magazines, papers and other stuff in the back seat.

I didn't find anything. But I did realize that it's still a very strong possibility in my mind. When I sense that resentment, targeted at me or not, I get afraid of what he might justify as a result of that.

I know he has help, I know he has tools, and I know I'm powerless. That helps me stay on my side of the street, but it doesn't help so much with the fear I feel.

This is why I'm so happy to be getting a sponsor and starting on the 12 steps. This is my Year of Self-Definition. This is the year that I will learn to value myself, whether Husband values me, loves me, thinks I'm special or not. So that if things do fall apart, I will still be whole.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The price of feeling comfortable

"Do not ignore reality in order to comfort yourself, for once you do, you make it easy for others to deceive you." - The Dragon Saphira in Christopher Paolini's book Eldest

I was listening to a CD recording of this book with my son today, and was stunned by that line. Dispite his disgruntled protests, I had to rewind and listen to it again. It's such a jarring experience when I get the feeling that the universe (my higher power?) is speaking to me from unexpected places.

The idea fit in so perfectly with a book I've just started, Harriet Lerner's "The Dance of Deception". Lerner has written this book primarily for a female audience, and deals largely with lack of truth in the female experience.

I consider myself a modern woman, as much a feminist as the average forty-something, liberal, college-educated woman might be. But as the tail end of the baby boom, and as one who had until recently felt I'd overcome my personal issues with men, I haven't immersed myself in feminist thought, literature, philosophy, psychology. Honestly, though I know there's still progress to be made, I've felt like the greatest strides of the women's movement were mostly covered by my mother's generation.

But Harriet Lerner's book is causing me to re-examine my experience, my beliefs, my assumptions and the way I've lived my life.

Since this is my Year of Self Definition, calling all of these things into question seems as good a place as any to start.

Where have I ignored reality in order to comfort myself?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Even with sobriety, there are ups and downs

Even though Husband has over a year of sobriety and is doing everything he can to work his program, deal with his issues and get the support he needs, I still have ups and downs. I think this has to do with the fact that I still have a lot of unexpressed feelings.

I loved Ellen Page's performance in the movie Juno and wanted to see more of her work so I watched the movie Hard Candy. I only vaguely knew what the movie was about, but as I watched it I found myself identifying with the feeling of wanting power over men. I got satisfaction out of seeing her in control and detached. Men: A group of people who will always let you down when given the opportunity.

But as I became aware of my feelings, I got very disturbed, and started to feel sick to my stomach. I began thinking about my son, and how I didn't want to have feelings about "men" because my son will be a man some day, and I'd never want him to pick up on those kinds of feelings from me. I grew sadder over the course of the evening, and ended up lying in bed with Husband, crying as he did his best to comfort me.

I woke up the next day feeling better, but still pretty down. We had couples therapy that day, so I was able to talk about my feelings there. But at the end of the session I was still disturbed and confused by my strong pull toward that feeling of detachment.

After being deeply betrayed by my father when I was twelve, I'd sworn off ever being completely vulnerable to any man. I'd be like Angelina Jolie in Wanted (a movie I hated) - mysterious, alluring, totally self-sufficient, desirable, and most of all unattainable. When Husband and I got together, I told him at some point that I wanted him to know that I didn't need him. That stayed with him, even as my need to withhold myself diminished as we built trust over the years. By the time I found out about his betrayal, any defenses I'd had against being hurt by him were long dissolved.

The next day I watched the second half of the movie. I don't know why exactly. I think I still had more feelings and the movie was an access point. I got very present to the wall that I put between Husband and me. Sometimes its feet thick, and sometimes it's just a piece of saran wrap, but it's there and it never, ever was before. I grieve the loss of that trust and openness a lot.

I went to an Alanon meeting, because I felt like I was really hitting a low point and needed to get more serious about my own recovery. I still don't have a sponsor and haven't started working the steps, but that will be part of this Year of Self Definition I think.

I realized that my fear of getting close to Husband is like being afraid to touch a hot stove after you've been burned by it. That's a crazy thing to do. But as someone in my therapy group said, Husband is a different person now that he's in recovery.

So I guess recovery makes Husband a fridge or something instead of a stove. He's a different appliance. He's a fridge that could become a stove again (a stove or a stove in recovery, right?) But I'm also a different appliance. I'm a blender that can recognize unhealthy, stove-like behaviors in a fridge. And I know if the fridge is going to meetings, therapy and otherwise getting support. And I'm developing my own blender-self, reading my manual, finding all the great features I didn't know about or pay attention to. I'm a blender who is educated about addiction and co-dependency. So chances are much better that I'll know something is wrong if I open the fridge door and see an oven.

Finally, to flog the metaphor completely to death, I can look at this as a new relationship between full-featured blender and fridge rather than trying to fix the old relationship between the unexamined blender and the stove.

This two-week journey is what I got out of watching Hard Candy.

Opportunities for growth pop up in the oddest places.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sometimes I fantasize about getting back at him

While I know it's not the path of recovery, sometimes I fantasize about taking a year to have affairs and lie to Husband about it. The idea being of course that he might gain a bit of insight into how it feels to doubt your ability to distinguish reality from lies, how f'd up it feels not to be able to trust your partner, and how hard it is to rebuild trust with someone who has betrayed you so deeply.

The women in my therapy group tonight seemed to feel that given the growth they've had they'd be able to know if their partners were lying. I don't have that confidence. And that really pisses me off. Will I have to live in the shadow of doubt forever, always prepared for the worst, ready for the unimaginable to suddenly become my new reality?

Then I remember MPJ's wise warning that it's a mistake to assume that "making people realize just how poorly they've done or how much they've hurt people is an excellent way to provide that needed motivation, be it in the form of shame, guilt or even empathy."

I also know that not only would this tactic not have the desired result, but I would be compromising who I am, and would most likely feel sadder, angrier and emptier than ever.

But the thought does cross my mind from time to time. I still have flashes of wishing I could hurt him as deeply as I think he's hurt me.

Thank god for groups and therapists, spiritual reading and recovery. In my heart of hearts, even when I'm angry or hurting or questioning the future, I know recovery is the path I really want to be on.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Suspicious emails

Today I was on the computer and saw something that made me take a closer look at Husband's email. I can't even remember what it was now. But I did that, and found that he started receiving emails again from an escort service at the end of May. It looked as though he hadn't received any since April of last year, and then he started getting them again about 4 weeks ago.

I've just spend the last 3 hours (when I should have been working) combing his email and other places for evidence of activity. I found one more from another site, but no evidence of correspondence.

But the fact of the matter is, anything he didn't want me to find out about he could easily hide. He could have other accounts in other names. I guess the best way I have of being sure is bank statements and pay stubs. This way I'll know exactly what's coming in and what's going out. Which would have alerted me years ago if only I'd been paying close attention. But I wasn't. Even now, I don't. Sometimes I go through the bank statement more carefully, looking for large amounts. But that's about it.

There's never going to be any way to be sure, and that's part of what I have to figure out if I can deal with I guess. I hate that my relationship will forever have this aspect to it. At this moment I hate him for bringing this into our lives.

I feel a lot of the same physical sensations I did the first time I found all this - my lips are cold, I'm tense, sick to my stomach.

The word that just popped into my mind is surrender. I'm resisting things. I have to look to see where I can surrender so I can get some peace back. Surrender to how life is, and then decide what I want to do in light of that I guess.

Husband starts his group therapy tonight.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Here come the brides

It's that time of year, and we had a wedding to attend this weekend. Two old friends of ours. The wedding was simple, the vows beautiful, and the whole experience much less painful for me than weddings last year at this time.

As I listened to the vows about passing through doubt and disappointment and stepping into the light of faith, I thought about how much that is part of what it takes to make it for the long haul. When they said to each other, "I place my trust in you and I give you my heart..." I wondered what that meant to them, and how it would play out over the coming years.

Weddings still bring up a lot of questions, but fortunately not so much pain. More signs of healing and recovery.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Group therapy

Prior to my adventures as the partner of a sex addict, I'd never been to any kind of therapy. I thought it was something that everybody should have the opportunity to try, but I'd just never gotten around to it.

Now, life is a therapy buffet. The latest dish I'm sampling is a therapy group for partners of sex addicts. It differs from S-Anon meetings in that it's moderated by a therapist who specializes in sex addiction, and discussion and response (although not advice-giving) are encouraged.

It's a small group of women, culturally, racially, economically similar, but different in our individual stories. It feels like going at it from this different angle may allow me to access some things I've been trying to get to.

We'll be studying the book Mending the Shattered Heart, which I haven't yet read.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nude scenes

Was watching a bit of the movie 21 Grams last night, and Husband happened to come in during a scene in which Naomi Watts was naked. This was the first time I'd seen on-screen female nudity in Husband's presence since finding out about his addiction. It made me so uncomfortable that I got up and left the room.

I wasn't sure what to do. Husband seems to be conscious about staying away from imagery that triggers him. The scene was depressing, and Watts' nudity had nothing to do with the sexual fantasyland of porn and prostitution. We both love movies. Do I expect him never to watch another narrative or documentary movie with contextal nudity? I don't know.

I know I'm uncomfortable with imagery in "men's" magazines, and sex fantasy based advertising of any kind (unfortunately so prevalent in our culture.) I know I don't like to watch Mad Men with him - the betrayal played out evokes too many painful thoughts for me.

But contextual nudity? I guess it depends partly on whether or not he feels triggered by it. Clearly an area where we both need to come to an agreement on what the boundaries are.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A relationship between hatred and fear

Sometimes I hate my husband. But if I explore that feeling at all I can readily identify that feeling as a form of fear.

I'm afraid of how vulnerable I feel. I'm afraid of feeling his resentment and contempt. I'm afraid of the power it feels like they have to negate me.

If I felt his resentment and contempt all the time I'd leave. I feel like I could close the door on him if I had to, to protect myself. I don't want to be with someone who doesn't love and cherish and respect me. So I'm not afraid in the sense that I'll have to endure something so painful to be with somebody. If it was like that, I'd choose to be alone.

So what am I afraid of?

I think I'm afraid of the pain of being written off, relegated to some lesser status, cast aside as unworthy of even an argument by someone I love. I'm afraid of those moments before I can get to the door to slam it shut.

I'm also afraid that he won't be honest. That he'll build up all this resentment and disappointment again without letting me know, without acknowledging it when I ask, and then one day I'll find myself living with a stranger and that will be that for me. My life will be completely changed, missing something so important to me, without me ever having had the chance to have my say.

I'm afraid because I feel powerless. Not in my whole life. But powerless like something that I don't have have control over is going to happen and break my heart, leave me alone, fool me, ruin me. I guess it's no surprise that I have that fear.

Given that is going to happen again, because things I don't have control over are going to happen, I suppose the most relevant question is what do I have control over?

I have control over how I respond when I am broken, alone, fooled and ruined.

I know that. So what am I afraid of?

I'm afraid of the pain of being resented, disappointing, being regarded with contempt by someone I hold dear. Invalidated by someone I value so much. I know I can survive it, but I'm afraid of feeling that pain...that burning, searing, ripping pain...the pain of those moments before I can shut the door. That's all I can seem to figure out at the moment.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How things are different, and what I'm planning for the next year

Husband was playing the piano today. A variety of songs, among them Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection." Suddenly he turned to me and said that he wanted me to know that he thinks about how deeply he's hurt me and how he's screwed up so badly all the time. "I really love you," he said.

That was something I used to know, like the air I breathe. But I realized that I was surprised by that. I think I have a fear that Husband is so damaged that he can't love me the way I thought he did. And I think I still hold in my mind that he had to be so angry and resentful toward me to do the things he did, which I've been told by him and by therapists isn't the case. But the deep parts of me that were hurt are still protecting themselves, protecting me. Instead of assuming the depth of his love, I now assume that I could be hurt, I could be surprised by something I could never imagine at any turn.

So that's a way things are different than they used to be. I hope I can get back to being connected to how deeply he feels for me, and when I finally feel like I can do that, I hope he still does.

Since I just celebrated an anniversary of sorts, I've been thinking about what I want this year to be about, and I've decided that I want it to be my year of self definition.

I'm going to establish myself as distinct from the opinions and reactions of others, and learn to love and know myself as fundamentally okay, whether or not others like me, are disappointed, angry, resentful, hurt, aggressive, disapproving, etc.

I'm going to create and define my self and build a solid relationship with what I create such that I am my own harbor in a storm. I'm going to grow my sense of self such that it can't be destroyed by anyone else. That's my agenda for this year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Last day of work

Today was my last day of work. I worked until almost 9pm and will probably do a bit more over the weekend so everything is wrapped up properly.

I also had a job interview today, and I think I may have gotten the job, but it feels too soon. I haven't even decided what I really want to do next.

I'm exhausted, stressed out, having a large drink right now. Too tired to get on the treadmill to work out all this anxiety.

Husband is being very supportive, encouraging me to take time and figure out what will make me happy.

This is another re-presencing, albeit a less painful one, to the unknown. I don't know what the future holds, and that makes me nervous. But I'm going to try to take what I've learned this past year and apply it generously to the affected areas, rinse, and repeat again if necessary.

I wonder why I'm getting this lesson again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it possible I'm coming to not regret the past?

Reading Pema Chodron's Wisdom of No Escape this morning, I realized that, while sounding trite, it's also true that those with the greatest challenges have the greatest opportunities.

I once visited a Tarot card reader who told me that this life was my R&R life. And, if you don't count my father lying about being sick and then running off to a commune when I was 12, that's pretty much been true.

I haven't had great fame or fortune, but I am lucky enough to have been born in the US at a time when life for the average American is easy relative to the lives of the rest of the world's population; I've always felt loved by my family and friends; I have a wonderful son and a husband who loves us and is committed to us; I've never wanted for any necessities in life; I've had the opportunity to get a good education and find good jobs; and I've had the luxury of thinking about life in terms of optimal self-realization and self-expression rather than survival. I've been lucky.

Maybe the ultimate luck is that I found a loving partner who has also, as a part of his own journey, presented me with my biggest opportunity for growth by delivering the biggest challenge of my life.

I never knew, and would likely never have known had I stayed on the same trajectory, that I was almost entirely without self-definition. I could describe myself certainly, my flaws, my qualities, my dreams and aspirations, my way of being in the world, the person I was striving to be. But as for identifying a core "self" that I defined as valid and worthy on its own, a self which could not be dictated or shattered by the responses of others...This was a distinction I didn't know I didn't have.

I am grateful to be on this journey, grateful for new perspective, new tools, a new relationship to spirituality and surrender. And while I don't always recognize it in the moment, I'm grateful for the pain that has taught me the non-dualistic nature of pain: The great opportunity that is only available with the greatest challenge.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kung Fu Panda as it relates to addcition, betrayal and recovery

"One often meets one's destiny on the road one takes to avoid it." - Oogway
(from a French proverb, also quoted in Keep It Simple: Daily Meditations for Twelve-Step Beginnings and Renewal)

Following the major betrayal by my father when I was 12, I spent a good part of my life after that working to protect myself from experiencing that kind of pain and betrayal again. I was sure I'd found an impenetrable fortress against that in my relationship with Husband. Of course, as it turned out, my destiny followed me right in to my carefully constructed fortress.

My destiny as I see it was not to suffer pain and betrayal, but to discover my own self and my own strength. I am finally beginning to do these things in a very fundamental way that I've never in my life done before.

"There is no charge for awesomeness...or attractiveness." - Po

To me this is about acknowledging the unique expression of the divine that I am, and allowing myself to be that right now, with no reason or purpose other than because that is who I already am.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Big leap!

Last night Husband got upset that I told him I'd be there in a minute when he asked me to come look at something he was doing on the computer, and then stayed at my computer instead of coming when I said he would.

He was on his computer about 10 feet away from me at the dining room table on my laptop. I was deep in thought when he'd asked, "Got a minute?" and I should have said, "No, I don't. I'm busy right now and I don't know when I'll be done." But I didn't want to do that. I knew he didn't want to hear that, and I didn't want to say no to him. Lesson learned. I don't have to be available when someone wants me.

He said, "When you do that what I make up about that is that you don't give a shit. And not only that, it feels like what I've said is so unimportant that not only do you come when you said you would, you don't even acknowledge it; you don't even bother to say that you won't be doing that. You don't say, "I thought I'd be done, but I'm not so I won't be there."

"Here's my request," he said. "When you aren't going to do what you say you're going to do, would you say so?"

I looked at him, thinking that something didn't feel right about this whole thing. True, I didn't do what I said I was going to do. I didn't come when I said I would. But he was sitting 10 feet from me, and if he had a problem, if his feelings were hurt, as a grown up adult wasn't it HIS RESPONSIBILITY to let me know? Yes! That felt right! Part of my mind wanted so much to cling to his words, to accept the shame of not having done what I said I would do and to vow to be a good girl and never do that again. But this new part of my mind held me back.

"No," I said. He looked at me, incredulous. "No? No? You don't accept my request?" Then he said something that struck me as odd. "What are you thinking? My paranoid fantasy is that you're thinking that if you don't do exactly what I say you think I'm going to act out." That was the farthest thing from my mind at the moment.

I explained to him that what I was thinking was if he'd made all that up in his head instead of saying something directly to me, who was sitting in the same room 10 feet away, that I wasn't going to be responsible for that. I told him I wasn't going to be responsible for and responsive to the stories he makes up in his mind in lieu of expressing his feelings.

The good thing is that in addition to being an addict and an asshole at times, he's also smart. So he got it pretty quickly. After a few minutes of mulling it over, he apologized and thanked me for my patience. That felt weird to me, because it wasn't important to me that he decided I was right.

What was important was that I'd recognized what was my responsibility and what was his responsibilty, and I'd refused to be responsible for what was his. It was something that my work over the last year made possible. I was surprised by what I'd done. It felt new. And I felt strong, and I felt grateful.

Getting others to do what you want

I've just read something I want to remember. In MPJ's post about the difficulty of changing behavior, she discusses the mistaken assumption that "making people realize just how poorly they've done or how much they've hurt people is an excellent way to provide that needed motivation, be it in the form of shame, guilt or even empathy."

Something for me to remember when I feel that need to have husband get how much he's hurt me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

On the benefits of staying

Tonight I was looking for files on an old computer and I came across a picture of Husband that I absolutely love. He's wearing his Superman t-shirt, standing on a stage and singing passionately into a mic. For me that picture has always been an expression something beautiful. He's in the moment, doing something he loves, an expression of his true self.

Then I realized the picture was dated November 8, 2003, just a couple weeks or so before he first had intercourse with a prostitute.

So now that picture is different for me. It represents a time in my life when I didn't know what was real. A time in his life when he was lost and unhappy. He wasn't superman. He was just a man. A man who was hiding a lot from everbody, including himself. I wanted to bring it up with him, ask him if he remembers that evening, what he was thinking and feeling that night and how it all lead to finding another woman to have sex with.

And then I caught myself. I realized that I was going down that path of trying to figure out why, when there is no good answer. Just as Husband will probably never fully understand how I've felt in the wake of his betrayal, I'll probably never understand what was going on with him such that it made sense to him do what he did.

Ahh, yes...non-duality. The shadow and the light in the same instant. Love and betrayal don't obliterate each other even though it seems to me that they would.

I wonder how many more times I'll start down this path over coming years. Will my mind ever stop asking that question?

Living with things that I don't understand and that don't make sense to me in my relationship with Husband is new, but it's something I'll have to accept to move forward. Not lies, not secrets, but the unknowable and unanswerable.

While the unexpected look back has brought up painful feelings, it's nothing compared to the searing rawness I felt in the first few months when I looked back and no longer felt anchored in any type of reality. Now, the pain of looking back is mitigated by the strength and insight I've gained while entertaining the notion of non-duality and learning how to stay present in the face of pain and impermanence.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Something to come to terms with

I was re-reading the letter I gave to Husband as part of disclosure. While I've grown and changed a lot, so much of what I expressed is still relevant.

This morning I asked Husband if he ever re-reads that letter, and he said that though he hasn't in a while, he does go back to it. I was feeling very emotional as I have been over the past couple of days, but it was not the time or place to initiate conversation about big things. We were getting ready for work and Son was in the next room. So I remained silent.

Husband asked what I was thinking about. "Just that I still need your reassurance," I said. "Reassurance that I love you?" he asked. I didn’t think I could speak without bursting into tears, so I just nodded. He came over and kissed me on the cheek and said, "Well, I love you."

Then he said, "I need that, too." I couldn't understand what he meant. Did he mean that he needed to tell me he loves me, too? That telling me he loves me was as important to him as it feels to me? "I need reassurance that you love me, too," he said.

I immediately felt resentful. In my mind, Husband has to be the one to go the extra mile right now. If I'm taking the risk of staying with him and trying to rebuild trust in the face of his monumental betrayal, he needs to give me the extra support and attention I need whether or not he gets any reassurance of my love. He needs to be willing to risk jumping into loving and supporting me with no net, just as I feel I'm doing. It doesn't sound fair, but that's my thinking. In short, I guess I really think he owes me.

That thinking doesn't feel entirely healthy to me, so I'm going to talk about it in therapy. But it brings me to what I've realized again that I will need to come to terms with in order to move forward: Husband will probably never fully understand the depth of the pain he's caused me. He's going through his own stuff to be sure, but he did not have the discontinuity of betrayal to deal with the way I have. His understanding of reality has had at least a thread of continuity, while mine was completely severed by his betrayal. Though now that I'm writing this, I suppose that discontinuity was also brought about in part by my idealization of him. But no, on second thought, I don't think it was deluded of me to expect honesty and trustworthiness. Those are pretty basic elements to a respectful relationship.

But the fact is, whether or not Husband is ever able to fully grasp how devastating his betrayal was for me, in order to move forward for myself and my own recovery, I must disconnect those things in my mind. If Husband must grasp something in order for me to heal, I may never be able to heal. And I don't want to base my healing on someone else's response or actions. I want to empower myself to give myself everything I need to heal. So to have what I want I must let go of my attachment to that outcome. Husband will grasp it or he won’t. Can I love and trust him anyway? That is the question that remains to be answered.