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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

"Through" doesn't necessarily mean "straight through"

Having accepted that the only path to the other side of this is "through" rather than around or something else, I'm now realizing that the path from point A to point B is not necessarily a straight line.

In other words, I'm wading through thoughts, feelings, fears, anxieties, etc that I thought I was mostly done with by now.

Husband's mother has been in town which stirred up a lot of stuff for him. And we've been trying to get at my anger in our couples therapy which has been bringing up stuff for us both.

Last night amidst those old invasive thoughts about Husband having sex with other women, I asked him if he still masturbated at work. I was worried because we hadn't had sex for maybe a week, and I was wondering if he was doing something else in place of sex with me.

As we talked I realized that at the core of the anxiety I'm feeling right now is a basic distrust of...everything. I don't trust the world to be the way I think it is. And this fear stands in the way of me feeling a deep connection with Husband. I'm afraid to let go and be in a moment of joy or love with him because I'm afraid to trust that moment.

I don't have any reason to think he's lying to me now, and it's not about that. It's as if on some basic level I've become unable to trust myself, men, and relationships with men. I don't think I'd trust any other man in a relationship more than I trust Husband, so I don't see a new relationship as a way "out" of this mindset or situation. But I can't seem to bring myself to trust Husband completely. I can't pinpoint what it is I don't trust, since I don't think he's lying or having sex with other women now and I don't think he will. But the hesitancy and fear I feel these days is related to trust somehow.

The other night we went to see a play, and there were several talented, beautiful (and young) women in the cast. I found myself watching him to see if his eyes were following them. As I stood in line for the bathroom at the end of the show I was feeling very inadequate, less talented, less attractive, less appealing, whatever. And suddenly I found myself reciting the serenity prayer in my head. Very surprising, since prayer is not a common tool for me. I clung to it like a bouy in the stormy turmoil of my fear and self-doubt, and I could feel it brining me stabilty and calm.

One of the things I continue to be grateful for is my developing spirituality. I still don't know exactly who or what I feel comfortable praying to, but I don't know that I have to have all that figured out in order to pray.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Surprised by feelings of sadness

I've been feeling sad today, and for the last few days although I didn't identify it until today.

I think it's because I've been under a lot of stress at work. That, combined with other things in life has left me feeling somewhat unhappy.

In the past when I've been unhappy with certain aspects of life, my relationship had been my oasis, my solid ground when I was swimming in discontent, fear or uncertainty. I could find peace knowing that in at least one area of life, and probably one of the most important areas, I was happy and satisfied; that I knew I could trust in my relationship to be a source of joy, comfort, inspiration and nurturing. I could truly know and be known at the deepest, most profound level.

We often said that in the end, money didn't matter; career didn't matter; material things didn't matter; that when it came down to what was important, we knew we had each other. And to me that meant the security of trust. To me that meant that Husband wouldn't deceive me. It meant a special knowledge that I had with him and no one else that he would never knowingly betray me.

But now that I don't have that feeling of safety and truth anymore I don't have a shore to swim to. I don't have that one thing that I look toward and feel, "...this, this is right...the world may be big and frightening around me, but in this one little place where it really matters, I've got it right."

I have no more secret safe place, and for that I'm so sad. And I think it's worst when other aspects of life get overwhelming. I feel lonely and disconnected, and afraid that I'll never love Husband in the same way I did before.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Okay...what is it with men?

My housekeeper just found out that her husband of 10 years was cheating on her with a young woman. His response to the discovery was the same as Husbands in general terms: He loves her, he wants to work it out, (I'm feeling so cynical at the moment I want to say "blah, blah, blah..." but I'll resist because I don't doubt the pain and truth in his claim.)

Men need to be socialized differently so that they can express their internal conflict in other ways aside from betraying loving relationships.

I know...this is unfair, women cheat too, etc, but I'm venting! It's challenging to be on the receiving end of this shit and keep looking for the opportunity and the growth, and to continue to recognize such painful actions as them dealing with their problems. I read some statistic months ago about the high rate of infidelity among men compared to women. So clearly they lack something...self-expression, character, self-control...any way you slice it, it's not that appealing.

How do I raise my son to be a different kind of man?

Being the mother of a son becomes more complex in a way now, that Husband, who I believed so completely to be a man of integrity, has cheated and lied. I don't want to form opinions about "men" that I'll inadvertently convey to my boy. But as much as I try to be conscious of it, sometimes I feel that mindset creeping in.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Progress in individual therapy

I went to my therapist thinking I was going to tell her I wanted to go on an "as needed basis."

Husband is doing contract work now, and doesn't have health insurance so we can't cover all our therapy anymore (not that our insurance companies were covering it all before anyway...but that's a different topic.)

But as we talked, I realized how much work I can still do and how valuable it is to have someone to do it with.

One of the things I distinguished today is that I still find it pretty unbearable when I think anybody is mad or upset with me. I know this ties into the fact that I look outward for my definition of self, but I didn't realize how pervasive that is in my life, or what a firm grip it has on me until today.

My life has been all about avoiding and managing perceived disapproval or disappointment by being nice, accommodating, understanding, reasonable, etc. That realization opens the door to more growth in that area.

Another thing I distinguished is a subtlety about acceptance.

From the reading I've been doing I've learned about a kind of acceptance that has to do with accepting others because I understand both others and myself as different expressions of the same thing (God, Spirit, the Universe, energy, or something along those lines.) Non-duality.

But how I usually approach acceptance is accepting "the other." And I do this because I'm a "good person" and I'm being understanding, kind, generous and reasonable. So in this kind of acceptance there is me, and there is the recipient of my understanding, kindness, generosity and reason: the Other. In other words, duality.

This kind of acceptance allows me to remain in my world of absolutism, where I am a "good person" (martyr) doing what good people do (accept Others) rather than acknowledging the potential for what I see in that Other in myself as well.

The result is that I end up limiting what I allow myself to feel and express, constraining myself only to what I think "good people" do. I don't allow "good" and "bad" to co-exist in myself and have difficulty accepting it in others. For example, how can Husband both love me and hurt me if "good people" don't do things that hurt people they love.

Of course none of this is to say that I don't do things that are mean, unreasonable, unkind, selfish, etc. I just don't think they are when I'm doing them (otherwise I wouldn't do them because I'm a "good person.") And when others do things I think are "bad people" things, I assume that (unlike me) they are consciously making the choice to be selfish, unreasonable, etc.

So clearly, I still need therapy.

My therapist also pointed out something she noticed when we were talking about the Spitzer family. When talking about it, I said almost nothing about how Silda Spitzer might feel, or about how other women feel about the issue. I went right to thinking about the causes (sex addiction) and to helping others (I went onto different sites that were blogging about the Spitzers and posted sex addiction resources.)

It never crossed my mind that I had glossed over thinking about or talking about any feelings of anger that I or others may have as a result of learning that Spitzer had been unfaithful to his wife.

On the positive side, my therapist said that she's seen me grow my ability to stay with discomfort (things that are frightening or cause anxiety) and express my anxiety and fear; and that's halfway down the path to being able to have and express healthy anger.

Once again, progress, not perfection.

The Big Question on my mind was, how does one learn to express anger when one is in such deep denial one sometimes doesn't feel anger when it would be appropriate? My therapist suggested watching how others express their anger (even watching anger scenes in movies and on TV); staying with others who are expressing their anger instead of avoiding or fixing; role play responding the way a "bad person" would (be unreasonable, mean, demanding, messy, selfish, etc.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Flashbacks and Silda Spitzer

The unfolding of the Spitzer family's crisis has definitely raised my level of anxiety. Watching Silda Spitzer standing there beside her husband took me back to those first days when I found out about Husband's sex addiction.

I've been feeling detatched again; picturing Husband touching those other women the way he is touching me when we are making love; doubting his word; wondering if he's really where he says he is. Nothing has changed. I have no new reasons to doubt him. I can tell these aren't "instincts" but just reactions to revisiting my past triggered by watching the Spitzer crisis play out. It is part of the process. I also look forward to feeling joy when Husband says "I love you" instead of feeling a combination of nothing and doubt as to what that means.

My mantra: Nothing is permanent and this, too, shall pass.

I'm surprised by all the analysis, judgement and criticism of Silda Spitzer, although I admit I may have been in the "outraged as a woman" camp myself. I've heard people say "I can't imagine standing by my husband in that situation." And my initial reaction is, "Of course you can't! You haven't been through it, so stop judging her!"

But I also understand that Spitzer's betrayal brings up all sorts of fears and defenses for people, and that just like them, I wouldn't have been able to imagine the complexity, shock and profound disorientation of it had I not experienced it myself.

I hope Hillary or someone who understands sex addiction has been able to reach out to her and offer help.

Monday, March 10, 2008


My heart goes out to Silda Spitzer and their daughters. My first thought was that I wanted to send her books. Here is the book list I'd recommend:

Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes (all the Carnes books I've read have been helpful)
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Grief Club by Melody Beattie
Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner
On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler

My heart goes out to him as well. I think sex addiction is such an under-diagnosed and certainly under-discussed issue.

Reading about the Spitzers today brought a little pit back into my stomach. I don't like looking back, but it's good to go back there. When I can look back with no fear, no anxiety, no anger, no resentment, no regret...then I'll know I've faced all there is to face and learned the lessons there for me to learn.

Right now, I'm still on the journey.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Thinking about the present moment

Something I want to be aware of is how I bring what Pema Chodron describes as "habitual ways of gluing ourselves together" into my training in ungluing. Specifically, I can easily use what I've been learning to distance myself from the chaos and unsettled feeling I have about life now. She says "we try to use our spiritual training to avoid the queasy feeling in our gut." And that's exactly what I do. I use non-attachment as an avoidance tactic. My learning will come from staying with the mess, chaos, discomfort and disappointment.

One of the things I've been trying to adopt is a focus on the present moment. The past is over and done with, the future is unknowable, the present is the only thing we have. But I realized today that I have an underlying distrust of the present moment. I used to be able to feel fully present, but now I know that I can feel present and not be present to what is really going on in my life. I can feel profoundly connected to someone who is looking into my eyes and lying to me about very intimate, fundamental things. So this present do I be in it knowing that I can't even really know that moment as I'm experiencing it?

I also realized that I have very specific ideas about what it means to love somebody. For example, if you really love somebody there are certain things you just don't do. You don't lie; you don't betray a monogamous relationship. But tonight I got a glimmer of the idea that both could be present at the same time. That it's possible Husband could love me and still do these other things that feel so disrespectful and hurtful to me.

Pema Chodron writes, "Dwelling in the in-between state requires learning to contain the paradox of something's being both right and wrong..." She calls this "the paradox of being human." I want to be present to that my husband loved me as much as I thought he did, even when he was secretly having sex with all those prostitutes. That when he'd come home after fucking them and hold me and kiss me and tell me how much he loved me, those two things could really coexist. Once again, non-dualtiy

So maybe my experience of the moment wasn't false, as I fear. Maybe it was real, even though I was only present to certain aspects of it. Maybe if I can learn to accept that "paradox of being human," I can learn to trust the moment again, to trust my experience of life, knowing that the larger context for each moment is not-knowing.

The other day, I was thinking that when Jesus said "whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other" he didn't go on to say "and let him hit you again." Perhaps this Jesus was talking about not-knowing. You offer the other because you don't assume that someone who hits you will hit you again. You don't react with aggression or defensiveness, but instead respond with not knowing what the next moment will be. And if that person goes to strike you again, perhaps you raise your hand to stop it, or step aside, or respond in some other way to preserve yourself. But the first response is not knowing what the next moment will be. Maybe that's what Jesus was trying to say.

Look at me, who's always considered myself decidedly NOT Christian, talking about what Jesus said.

Strange as it seems, this path I'm on is a spiritual one. I'm not running down to the river to be baptized, but I've started praying. Here's the prayer I say (again, quoting Pema Chodron and 12 step literature):

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." "I am surrendering moment by moment to whatever is happening in this very instant of time. With precision and gentleness, I surrender my cherished ways of regarding myself and others, my cherished ways of holding it all together, my cherished ways of blocking bodhichitta. I do this again and again over many challenging and inspiring years, and in the process develop an appetite for groundlessness." - Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You

Thursday, March 6, 2008

You must pay!

Over the last few days I've been having that nagging feeling again that somehow Husband is getting away with something. Not something new, but all the stuff he did when he was lying to me.

I know he feels like he's dealing with a lot because he's realizing how deeply screwed up he is, but he'll probably never know what it's like to have his context for life shredded, to doubt the world and everything in it to such a profound extent.

And he'll never know what it takes to stay with him. It's my choice, but it's challenging in ways I'm sure he'll never imagine.

So sometimes I find myself wondering how he's going to pay for this.

Ultimately, his path is his path and my path is mine, and we each have our own lessons and growth. That I understand.

But these thoughts and feelings do come up still.