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, 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.


MargauxMeade said...

I wonder if you were only upset about your husband not spending time at the beach with you, or if your upset had to do with him engaging in behaviors associated with the height of his addiction (sports) at a place where it's easy for addictive behaviors to come out (a bar).
Despite the fact that I think it's important for couples to spend time apart, I always feel really vulnerable and pick fights when my husband has gone to a bar. I guess I worry about his defenses being down after a couple of beers in a "meet market" kind of setting. It's definitely one of my triggers for feeling mistrustful and thinking back on his past betrayals.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I struggle in these situations too -- especially, as margaux said, when my husband is giving up time with family for time in a setting that makes me think of addiction. It's hard to find that balance between letting him be who he is and setting my own boundaries in the relationship.

woman.anonymous7 said...

Margaux - I didn't think about how I connect the sports thing with his addictions and how that might impact my thinking. This is a good insight.

MPJ - When I saw that you'd commented my first thought was "please let it be her telling me I'm not pathetic and crazy."

I know this takes time, but I'm still surprised when I seem to lose ground or when I make it over a hill and see a mountain.

MargauxMeade said...

MPJ, I'm totally with you. That's my biggest struggle in recovery: How to maintain a healthy distance/individuality while not going insane imagining what he could be doing when we're not together. I also fear that if I freak out and go into coaddict mode after he's done something on his own, it's going trigger the addict in him. It's a catch-22.

Catherine said...

I always have thet itch in my gut when my husband chooses an activity with pals over family time. I found that working out and staying focussed on myself is the way to stay on track. it keeps me feeling happier and therefore I am less likley to become annoyed when we conflict.

thejunkyswife said...

"I was painfully aware of the feeling that I would never be enough for anyone."

I struggle with feelings like that, and I keep looking for language of "not good enough" in my own mind and writing. I keep trying to tell me that I'll always be enough for me...that no matter what decisions I make, what career I'm in, or who I'm married to...I've got me to rely on. It's kind of silly, but it makes me feel better in those vulnerable moments.

I so identify with that shaky feeling, and it's yucky. Sometimes I beat myself up for not being perfect enough...if I don't always say the correct spiritual, recovery-centered, perfect, supportive but boundaries-in-place thing, then I'm not doing it right and I should be ashamed of myself. I have to remind me to go easy when I'm having a hard day, and to remember that I've done a lot of forgiving in my relationship, so it's ok if I mess up and need forgiving sometimes, too...