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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It's a year of change.

I got laid off this afternoon. Perhaps now would be a good time to figure out what color my parachute is.

More lessons, more opportunities for growth, more chances to be with what is so.


Off to the treadmill to work up a sweat and focus on staying wonderfully present to life!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Circling back to things I haven't dealt with emotionally

I realized last night that I'm continuing to return to issues that I've understood in an intellectual sense, but have not dealt with emotionally.

I used to feel I had this special connection with Husband where I knew on a level beyond words what was true with him and between us. That connection, that confidence in knowing him and feeling safe in that knowing, was a large part of what distinguished our relationship from my relationships with others. Put in simpler terms, he's the guy I felt like I was in a fox hole with, facing what came along together, knowing we always had each others' backs. The part of me that was connected to him I didn't have to protect and I turned all my vulnerabilty to face him while protecting myself from most of the rest of the world.

Now I know that I couldn't tell that the connection I felt was based on false assumptions. I couldn't detect that Husband could act like he was being the partner I thought he was while lying to me about things that impact me on the deepest, most profound level possible. I know I can look someone in the eye, feel deeply connected and free to trust and, after years of shared experiences, words, deeds and other evidence that it's safe, be dead wrong.

I understand and believe that having this attachment to the past is what is keeping me from joy and relatedness in the present. And I understand that Husband could both lie to me and love me deeply at the same time. I accept non-duality. Intellectually, philosophically I see the path.

But I'm afraid, I'm angry and I don't think I've dealt with those feelings fully enough because no matter how much I know about taking the path that is in front of me and dealing with what is, rather than wanting what is not, the same fears and anger keep coming up again.

But I don't quite know how to directly confront and process the anger and fear. I've been learning not to run from it, but I don't know how to express it in a way that lets me move forward. More therapy? More S-Anon meetings? Working the twelve steps? Those are my best guesses.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Still a long way to go

I was feeling cranky today because Husband was going to play his usual Sunday basketball game this morning, and then wanted to go watch the Celtics game at a bar with a friend. Earlier in the week he'd told some friends that their daughter could come over and hang out with us for the day, and we'd been talking about going to the beach. But then this Celtics game came up.

Husband's interest in sports has developed over the last 5 or so years (probably not coincidental that it developed as his addictions were kicking into high gear, as sports talk radio was just one of many distractions he found.) So I'm not really used to being a sports widow. But I don't really care. I've always liked the fact that we had our own separate lives and interests, even though many of our passions overlap. So when he brought up going to the game, I was disappointed because I was looking forward to our day at the beach, but he's also expressed a desire to "go to a bar and watch sports with the guys" once in a while, and I fully support that in theory. In practice, I wanted to see him, because I don't see much of him during the week. But I said it was okay, because I know this time with the guys thing is important to him, and having lives outside of being a couple is important to me.

As it worked out, Husband drove out to the beach with us (the daughter of our friends didn't come after all,) swam with Son for about 20 minutes, and then went off to find a bar so he could meet up with his friend and see the game. He'd come back to the beach when the game was over. Fine. That worked for all of us. But I was still feeling residually cranky.

Son ended up getting a bad sunburn on his shoulders, and we were both worried about that so we packed up to go shortly after Husband re-joined us. As Son was washing off at the beach shower, Husband said, "Well, the Celtics won."

I glanced up at him. I didn't know what to say. I was cranky that I hadn't seen as much of Husband as I wanted, I was very worried about Son's sunburn, feeling like a shitty mother for not realizing sooner that Son needed more sunscreen (I had on these weirdly tinted sunglasses that made it hard to see how red Son's back was) I said, "I...don't about basketball." I wasn't trying to be mean. I was feeling crappy and just didn't have any small talk to make about sports in that moment. But I saw Husband's face harden into a mask of pissed off.

I asked if he was ticked off. He said that my response was rude. I apologized and said I didn't mean to be rude, but that I just had a lot of other things on my mind these days (yes - a passive aggressive reference to impact of Husband's betrayal) and was not interested in basketball. "I know you're not that interested. I was just trying to tell you about something that's important to me. But you don't care. I'll keep that in mind." His hard stare extended into the distance. As conflict avoiders we both slide easily into quiet resentment.

Looking at his angry expression, suddenly I could feel my heart in my throat. I became aware of the large breasted woman in the bikini top walking toward us as Husband glanced in her direction; I saw other bikini clad women with great figures all around, and realized how easy it would be for Husband to start looking at other women if he was angry at me. I felt searingly vulnerable - like he had so much power to hurt me so easily. I doubt anything like that was formulating in his mind. But I was painfully aware of the feeling that I would never be enough for anyone. I could find someone else, but there would always be someone prettier, thinner, younger. There was no way for me to be safe. No way. Except to be alone. To be done with vulnerability. To do everything I could to be a good mother, but to withhold myself from men. He has too much power, he has too much power. That kept going through my head.

As we were putting our things in the trunk, Husband apologized for speaking in anger and kissed me. But my anxiety and fear did not subside. Sitting beside him in the car, I tried to hang on to my picture of Husband Not The Addict. Because the face I'd seen him harden into was definitely the face I identify as Husband The Addict. I tried to separate the two but it felt impossible. I felt scared of the power Husband had, and sad at the thought of being emotionally isolated for the rest of my life.

Dinner was hardly any better. I held it together because I didn't want Son to have to deal with whatever was going on with me. But as soon as I could I got myself out to the treadmill. It had been a hot day, and the sweat came easily. Only then did I feel the anxiety start to recede. My thoughts became more rational.

Now, seven hours later, I can see that I have a lot of work to do yet on my individual path. A lot of learning how to hang on to my self and not be defined by the disapproval of important others when they express anger. (After all, I can see how my response to Husband's attempt to share what was on his mind with me was hurtful.) I'm much too easily wounded, because I depend so much on others for feelings of value and self-worth. It's easy for anybody to become too powerful because I give them so much power. I know I've grown, because I'm much less thrown by the disapproval of strangers. But important people (Husband, colleagues, etc) are still granted too much power.

The fear, sadness and anxiety have not completely dissipated but they are accompanied by the knowledge that if I did see Husband The Addict for a flickering second today, Husband Not The Addict was there too, and I think that's who's upstairs in our bed now. I'm just so afraid of the part of him that can discard me, the part of him that was able to do something so deeply hurtful to me without a thought.

More meditation, more spiritual reading, more reaching out, more therapy, more talking with Husband, more of the good, healthy stuff will lead me to a better place. I don't doubt this. But I was blindsided by my reaction today, and surprised at how much uphill work in this area of self esteem, self definition, lies ahead yet.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

2 for 1

Went to couples therapy by myself today because our therapist wanted to me to do EMDR alone so I could be free from any conscious or unconscious concern for Husband's reaction to the session.

During the EMDR session she had me separate Husband into two parts: The aspect of him that is the addict, and the aspects of him that are not the addict. At first I separated the Addict from him, giving him the status of victim (this not responsible for his actions) and the Addict the status of stranger/intruder.

She instructed me not to separate him from the addict in that way, but to have both parts be him. The addict was him, and the part that was not the addict was him.

Doing it this way gave me access to two different things. I could more readily express more intense feelings of anger, rage, even hatred toward Husband The Addict, and keep him responsible for what he did. And I could be with Husband Not The Addict in a more trusting way. I was less afraid, I had compassion for his struggle with Husband The Addict, I could feel my love for him, I could see how powerless he felt against Husband The Addict (during the EMDR we were looking at a point at which Husband was still having sex with prostitutes.)

As a result of the perspective I was able to gain from that session I feel I can consciously work on building a relationship with Husband Not The Addict, because that's who he is now. Not that he's not an addict, but he's aware of both aspects, and he's choosing to pursue being Not The Addict with all his strength and will. He's actively in recovery, actively seeking support, and actively working to rebuild our relationship. The Addict isn't going anywhere, but right now Husband Not The Addict is the stronger aspect, and with the help of his community and his higher power, he's keeping Husband The Addict at bay one day at a time.

Whew - some clarity!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some days...not so grateful

When Husband and I were making love a few days ago I was so aware of being in my head. Not present in the moment with what we were doing, but imagining what he'd done in the past, wondering, wishing for a clear answer as to what he could possibly have been thinking. How did he feel as he entered another woman's body with his for the first time in 15 years? Did he think of me as he was betraying my trust, our vows, our years together? I can't imagine not thinking about him if I were to do such a thing. And what about the second, third, fourth time? How easy was it to forget about the gift of trust that I'd given him, the access to my most vulnerable self, so difficult for me to give after learning from my father not to trust men?

My mind has stayed distracted by thoughts and fears along these lines since that night, and I've felt more distant from him again. Will I ever be able to trust him? Will he find the strength to stop resisting life as it is, to throw off the addict, the narcissist who tells him he deserves a break, who justifies hurtful acts, who whispers to him that his self-righteous disdain for others is valid? He says "I love you" and I wonder how it's different now? It must be, but it sounds, feels, looks the way it did before. When I thought I knew him. When I felt so profoundly connected.

Husband has done nothing (as far as I know) but stay on the path of recovery. It's not him, but my own mind, my own fears, my own clinging to fantasy and the desire for security that drive me into downward spirals. Even now, with the clarity and peace I so often feel, I'm not free of these things.

I'm reading about maitri right now, "...The complete acceptances of ourselves as we are...a simple direct relationship with the way we are." So this is my opportunity to accept my fears and my clinging to what I wish for and my downward spirals with compassion. I often feel ashamed to have these feelings because there's an abundance of pain and suffering so much worse than mine. But maitri allows me to stop judging my feelings, my confusion, my stuckness. They don't have to be good or bad, valid or invalid, worthy or unworthy. They can just be.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Finding compassion...or not

I'm having trouble finding compassion for some of Husband's struggles. And yet, having decided to try to make things work, there is really no other path.

He seems to be in the throes of midlife crisis, and sometimes this is so irritating to me. Maybe it's really that his struggles scare me. I don't want to see him vulnerable in this way. I don't what to see him feeling worthless, dissatisfied, defeated.

If they stay long enough, do all women wake up at some point and wonder how they ended up with the man they're sharing their life with? (I pose this question about straight women, as I imagine, probably in ignorance, that women with women don't face this situation because women seem so much more resilient than men.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A new relationship with fear

I've recently become aware that my relationship to fear is shifting, and this shift is throwing light on how much my life has been defined by fear.

Because I've relied so much on the opinions of others, their response to me, for the definition of my self, I've lived in constant fear of disappointing people, making them angry, hurt, annoyed, upset in any way. I've never been able to separate myself, know myself as good, worthy, of value, and understand the reactions of others as distinct from me. I've needed acceptance, approval, praise, love to let me know who I am in the world. My every action or inaction, my every word, has been motivated by inspiring those responses. The cost to me has been knowing and expressing my self.

For example, for me work has always revolved around pleasing my superiors. I've always felt that I was going to be "in trouble" for not doing my work perfectly, above and beyond, putting all else behind that priority. Recently I've had the chance to observe the parent-child quality of that relationship dynamic. I've begun to identify that sharp feeling of fear, that leaping of the heart accompanied by dread, that I experience whenever I don't receive approval and praise. And I've been able to distinguish it for what it is, and to start to provide that validation for myself in those moments. The effect of this is that the playing field is leveled and I'm no longer afraid of getting in trouble, doing something wrong, making a mistake, being less than perfect.

This is some of what I'm learning by standing my ground and leaning into fear and the unknown when every particle of me screams "run!"

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A new freedom

Over the past week or so, I've begun to express myself more with Husband. I always thought I could and did say everything to him. But I didn't.

I often didn't tell him when things pissed me off. Partly because of his response, and partly because I only knew how to be reasonable/understanding/forgiving or mean. Nothing in between. Now I'm learning about in betweens.

I'm also opening up to the idea that I can love Husband in new ways. I'm letting go of needing to love him the way I did before or not at all. I'm trying to stay in the present moment.

In the present is a healthier man who loves me. When I linger over his past actions, pain and sadness come up. It will take time for me to heal those wounds, and I want to heal, not just forget or ignore. And I think a big part of that healing is being with the man he is in the present.

Who is he now?

He's someone who has lied to me; someone who has been unfaithful to our commitment to each other; someone who has hurt me more deeply than I've ever been hurt; someone with more problems than either of us imagined; someone who loves me; a loving, responsible and committed partner in raising our son; someone who sees the greatness in me even when I don't; someone who is committed to recovery and self-discovery through therapy and spiritual practice; someone who is willing to try to build a new relationship with me despite his knowledge that I might discover I can't do that; he's funny, smart, generous, gentle, kind.

He is many things. He is human. I used to think he was Superman. My super man. Now I know he is not. Not Superman. But a good man, with a good heart.

If he weren't this man, if the pain of being with him now was as great as the pain of having been betrayed by him, I might not stay.

For me there is a difference between staying in a hopelessly bad situation and staying in a painful situation. I think the defining question is "Where is the opportunity for growth?" And the companion question: "What am I avoiding?"

One of the best things I have learned from all of this is to face what I'm avoiding, "to lean into the sharpness of life."

For access to that possibility; for the opportunity to discover my strength in the face of pain and not knowing, to learn who I can be as I let that pain and fear wash over me instead of running for higher ground; for the chance to deal with the devastation and turmoil of betrayal as a woman and do what I couldn't when I was a child, I'm profoundly grateful.