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.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why I stay

I've been asking myself this question again lately, and this morning had some clarity that allowed me to remember.

I've considered starting over. Leaving always seemed like the easiest option. But I realized early on that for me, leaving would actually be turning away from pain that I know I need to face.

I had a major betrayal when I was young. My father went on a camping trip with my uncle and my uncle returned alone with a message. My father had said he was very ill and was leaving the country to get treatment and that we should not try to find him.

I don't have many memories about this time, although I was twelve and should probably recall more. So I don't know how long it all went on. But I remember that my mother began to doubt his story. I was incensed! How could she think my father would lie about something like this? How could she have such thoughts? As a loyal and loving daughter, I dismissed her doubts with disdain.

Well, as it turned out, my father had gone to a commune in northern California to try to "find himself." He'd had a very stressful year, and basically had a nervous breakdown and left.

From my mother I have learned to be understanding, forgiving, reasonable. I've learned that many points of view are valid and to be considered. That's what she showed me how to do when my father came back.

But what I never learned, never had the chance to do, was have and express my feelings of hurt, betrayal and anger at my father. I had the absolute faith of a child in a parent, made possible by the love and security my family had provided up to that point. And he had decimated that, blown it way by lying to us in a way that I'd never imagined possible.

Secretly, inside, I swore that I'd never trust men again; never, ever need a man. I'd have power over them, be desireable, but always remain detatched. And I was good at this. I even told Husband that when we started our relationship. "I want you to know that I don't NEED you."

Over the years this fear gradually slipped away. Through my relationship with husband I learned that it was okay to trust people. But I'm also an absolutist. An all or nothing kind of gal. So trust is either absolute or absent. No room for human flaws and frailty.

So that's what I think I have the opportunity to face now. That we often hurt the ones we love. But that doesn't necessarily mean we love them any less.

There is no man out there that can make me feel good about myself, or bad about myself for that matter. Another lesson I face here is to learn to be the source of those feelings for myself.

By not turning away from the pain, by being with it, feeling it, and learning to express my reaction to it, I think I can strengthen all the parts of me that were hurt before. I can teach them that they are stronger than they realize. And I can learn love and compassion for myself beyond what my absolutism has allowed before.

This is why I stay. This is the hope that keeps me on this path.

On better days I can remember this.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Not enough

For most of my life, like many people, I have felt in many ways not enough. I started reading fashion magazines when I was 11, so not pretty enough was a big one. Followed shortly by not thin enough. In 4th grade I was friends with two other girls. They were more mature, thinking about boys and knowing about puberty and telling dirty jokes. And they were best friends and I was the other friend. I felt I must be lacking something which kept me just outside the inner sanctum of their friendship. When I did get around to boys, I was always worried that I was going to fall short somehow and be discarded.

With Husband, after almost two decades of being together, I was comfortable in the knowledge that for him, I was enough. Pretty enough, thin enough, talented enough, smart enough, nice enough, funny enough. I was confident that we'd be together forever, and that no matter what hardships lay ahead for us, we'd get through them together.

When I found out about Husband's lies and all the infidelity, suddenly, once again, I began to be afraid I was not enough after all.

That's part of the hurt that still lingers. That's part of the fear that's hard to shake. Just maybe if I'd been more worthy, if he'd deemed my more valuable, when he weighed the options in his mind he would have chosen me. My intellectual mind knows the weakness of this thinking. But the part of me that looks to others for validation, the part that never learned how to bestow value upon myself, is afraid that after all these years it was right, and that somehow I'm not enough.

It's not rational, and on better days I can acknowledge my strengths and attributes. But the irrational part of me that is scared and hurt is there too, and suddenly has new evidence to reinforce her fears. Maybe the opportunity here is to help her grow up and join the woman I am now so she doesn't have to be afraid anymore.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Being present

Had therapy and an S-Anon meeting today. Driving home this evening I realized that in my despair I've been much less available and present to Husband, and that if I am present with him in the moment this might help me out of those feelings.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rollercoaster and chicken neck

We attended my grandfather's wedding 2 weeks ago. It was the first time seeing much of my family since I found out about Husband's activity. Keeping a smile on my face and cheerfully saying, "Great!" when family members asked how we were was surprisingly stressful. Adding that to the family tension around my grandfather's remarriage and the prevalent general family disfunction on that side of my family is what I think initiated the brittle and depressed feelings I'm experiencing.

I reverted back to some pretty deep existential despair. My relationship has always been one of the things that was going right in my life. Right now I'm in a relatively stressful job I don't much care about, I haven't accomplished much of anything I'm particularly proud of, haven't made that much of a difference in the world, so what's the point? Right?

I have a lot to be grateful for, without a doubt. My amazing son, my good fortune at having a well-paying job and owning a home, close girlfriends who love me very much, a family that loves me no matter how disfunctional they are, and a sex and food addict husband who loves me and wants to do whatever he can to help me heal from the damage he's done to my psyche and my fundamental understanding of my existence.

But somehow that doesn't always perk me up.

In an attempt to pull myself out of an almost paralyzing funk, I've gone back to Yoga - Iyengar style, which I love. And that, along with my trusty treadmill and my books on Buddhist philosophy are lifting me out of the hole I've slid into.

I feel a bit numb, but not hopless and dispondent. I never feel suicidal, because that's just not me. But the valley I've been in lately is close to those I'd descend into early on in this ordeal. I'm feeling a lot of bitterness, too. Maybe a good sign that the anger is finally making its way to the surface.

And on top of all this, I think I'm getting chicken neck.

The only way through is through.

A year ago today was the last time Husband had intercourse with a prostitute

To my knowledge. As far as he can remember. And that will have to do.

Specifically, it was blonde, 25-30 year-old Ashely at the Four Points Sheraton on Sepulveda. (This is the price of getting the details...there's no getting rid of them once you have them.)

I told Husband last night that there is so much about all of this that just hurts me so deeply. Last night it was imagining Husband lying beside me as he was at that moment thinking about having sex with Ashley the next day. I don't even know if he'd arranged it by then, but the thought that at some point over his 3 1/2 years of secretly having sex with prostitutes he must have had a "date" arranged as he lay beside me at least once cuts me to my core.

His betrayal, while very explainable in terms of his illness (addiction,) feels in my heart and my gut like an act of hateful aggression toward the love and trust that I gave so freely and completely. All the knowing in the world somehow doesn't completely ease the pain. I swing back and forth between understanding that in his addict mind his betrayal was so completely compartmentalized that he believed it had nothing to do with me to feeling pain and depression about the loss of trust and the deep connection I felt with him.

I was reading about the Four Seals (different from the Four Noble Truths):
All compounded things are impermanent
All emotions are pain
All things have no inherent existence
Nirvana is beyond concepts

If I look at what has happened through this lens, I can begin to get some peace. Everything is impermanent, good as well as bad. With great joy comes the possibility for great pain. Reality is a construct (a chair is a chair because I call it a chair.) And the perfect peace of the mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflictive states is unlike anything I can conceive of because I'm human.

But my ability to hold on to that perspective, and authentically feel that peace, is inconsistent at best.

For the past couple weeks I've been going through a down of the ups-and-downs cycle. The ups are getting much longer, so hopefully the down cycle will be correspondingly short.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Unearthing a barrier between us

If I met Husband now, and he told me about all the things he'd done, but he'd done them to somebody else; and told me how much he loved me and how he was committed to being honest and trustworthy and respectful in our relationship, to cherishing it and me, I think I'd have an easier time forming a deep bond with him.

But because he's lied to me (I know that it wasn't being done to me, because the sex addict is feeding his addiction just like the alcoholic or drug addict, but that's not the way it feels,) I've been feeling painfully worthless.

Thinking about it I've concluded that it's not so much that I think I'm worthless, but that I feel like he didn't value me enough to be honest, trustworthy and respectful the way he promised. Deep down I feel that if he'd really cherished me and our relationship more, he wouldn't have lied to me, particularly for so long and about something so intimate.

Intellectually I understand that this wasn't the case. But I can't shake the feelings. The pain I have in my heart and my gut about not feeling valued by the person I loved and valued the most stands between us. My body doesn't trust the intellectual assessment, and goes on doubting the moment.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I have pinpointed the trust issue

Tonight I realized that what is between me and Husband is that I don't trust the moment. Or that I'm afraid to trust the moment. I'm afraid to trust what I think is happening in the moment between Husband and me, because I trusted so completely before and he betrayed me for so long and about something so basic.

And the thing that concerns me is that I don't see how I can ever get that back. I want to trust him. I want more than anything to feel the connection I felt before. But I can't imagine it now.

So I will keep praying and meditating (and going to therapy and trying to connect with and express my feelings of anger) and see where that gets me.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

If not trust, then what?

I am really struggling today. Struggling with the value and meaning of trust. Struggling to put aside the desire for a different past. Struggling with feeling like Husband can never love me enough to make me feel safe from being lied to and betrayed again.

Life is so short, I want to live in this moment with the man in front of me who loves me and is committed to recovery and to sharing his feelings and creating a happy family with me. But I thought I had that kind of committment before - he already promised not to betray me, not to lie, to respect me, to listen to and communicate with me, to be honest and trustworthy, to look for the greatness within me. Those were all part of the wedding vows we wrote together 11 years ago(about the time he was starting to secretly visit strippers for lap dances)after 9 years of being together. So if he makes promises now, of what value are they? And if asking for these things is futile because we can never know who someone really is or what someone will actually do, if all we can really know is that nothing is permanent, then what can I ask for? Do I be in a relationship and ask for nothing? That doesn't seem like a relationship to me. But I don't want to delude myself by asking for things that someone can't truly give, even if they intend to.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Parking Lot Lady

I've been working on anger lately, and I had a moment of self expression in the parking lot of my grocery store.

I had pulled around to the front by the entrance to pick up my mom and son who'd gone back into the store for a moment. I pulled over far to the right so I wouldn't be blocking any cars that wanted to pass.

A woman came out of the store and looked like she was having trouble getting around my car. With a smile on her face she said something I didn't hear, so I rolled down my window and asked what she'd said. Still with that smile on her face she made a snide remark about how she was sure the way I was parked was really convenient for someone, but that it was really inconvenient for everyone else but she was sure that didn't matter because it suited me. Then she turned her cowardly, condescending ass around and walked away. She couldn't even be nasty and then stand her ground! Her self righteous tone set me off, and I called after her that she could have said it in a nice way, but that no...she had to be nasty about it because she was a nasty, ugly person. I continued shouting after her along those lines, and as my mom and son were betting back into the car I yelled "Learn to love your self, lady!" Mom asked what was going on and I continued loudly out my window about how mean and nasty she'd been and how it was because she had a mean spirit and was nasty and mean on the inside, and could have just as easily been nice but chose to be horrible and rude. As I kept on, we drove right past her and she started to say something back but I didn't hear her because I kept talking right over her as I drove away, on and on about how she was rotten and unhappy inside. I was so pissed! And I was trembling from the shock of having just done what I'd done.

She was right. I'd made a mistake and parked in a bad spot. But she was so unnecessarily nasty about it, especially considering I thought I was being careful not to inconvenience others.

This is a pattern in my life. I try so hard to be good, nice, reasonable, kind, blah, blah, blah. And when others aren't, I assume they're doing that on purpose, and I get so pissed off because I squelch my self expression in order to be good, nice, reasonable, kind, etc. So it was intersting to see that pattern appear.

But it was also great to actually have an outburst. I never do that kind of thing (because I'm nice, reasonable, blah, blah, blah.) I never have unruly, unreasonable bouts of messy self expression. I either get resentful or quickly rush to "how can I be reasonable? How can I be understanding?" And I've always regarded people who have such messy, angry outbursts as selfish and indulgent. It's amazing how messed up I am in this area. As if having spontaneous feelings makes someone a bad person!

Anyway, I was worried about this from a spiritual perspective. It didn't seem to do much for peace and harmony in the world for me to have this kind of self expression. Bad karma, I told my therapist. But she pointed out that maybe that was exactly what that woman was supposed to get on a karmic level. And for me it was definitely a moment of growth.

The next opportunity is to find this messy self expression around what Husband did. I think the anger is there, and I think I'm getting closer to tapping into it. But it scares me. I'm pushing toward it, though, because I think anger is just like the rest of what we've been dealing with. The only path that leads to the other side is right through it, not around it or in the opposite direction.