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.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Feeling peace

In couples therapy this weekend we talked a lot about my feelings of doubt. About my wish that there was some way to be sure I could count on somebody not to betray me. About my concern that I was returning to my old feelings about the untrustworthiness of men that I was left with after I found out that Dad was lying to us.

I was trying to get to the learning that is there for me. The lesson seems to be that no matter what, ultimately you can't trust anyone. But I don't see the growth in that lesson. And I do have girlfriends I can trust - who I feel like I "know" in the same deep way I was sure I knew Husband.

In our session I realized that I so reflexively take on responsibility for the way Husband feels that I don't have an instant to see what actually happened. And I'm such an absolutist that I judge myself a bad person when somebody important to me is upset because in my word view good people don't do things that make those they love angry or hurt. If somebody around me is mad in reaction to something I've done, I look at myself to see what went wrong, instead of letting them be responsible for their feelings and simply looking to see where I can take responsibility for my actions.

We learned the tool of checking with each other about our "paranoid fantasies," the often catastrophic things we make up that may be true, or may be completely off base.

We talked about whether or not I could accept people as flawed, as doing the best they could. And the fact that in Husband's addict mind what he was doing, although it impacted me, wasn't directed at me and wasn't really connected with me. Those are things I can get my mind around most of the time. But the self doubt is still there. The struggle with trusting myself, which didn't work out so well before.

I think the fact that I was able to share and have validated so much of what I have been feeling has given me a sense of peace this week. Husband heard me. He expressed the fear he feels when he hears me talk about considering what it would be like to leave, or to be with someone else. But, as I tell him, I don't really want those things...I just turn them over in my mind like stones to see if they feel like more appropriate paths...but they don't.

Maybe the growth is in compassion, forgiveness, letting go of the way I think things should be, wish they were. Letting go of that desire for a different past. In coming to terms with the unknowability of our existence. In accepting that Husband is human, and acknowledging that he was truly doing the best he could at the time with the tools and coping skills he had. And in being with him in the present where he is also doing the best he can, now in the clarity afforded him by his recovery work. I will lean toward these lessons, and away from fear and mistrust.

But even tonight as I was wrapping my arms around Husband, breathing in his scent as he played the piano, that cold sliver of fear passed through my heart for an instant. I wondered how many other times I'd breathed him in that deeply, filled myself with his presence, allowed myself to be intoxicated by my love for him, while he was lying and leading that secret life.

This will be the dance for a while, I guess. The dance between fear and forgiveness, between love and mistrust, between joy and anger. Until I can get free of the mindset of duality, and accept everything as existing at once and be at peace with that.

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