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.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Even with sobriety, there are ups and downs

Even though Husband has over a year of sobriety and is doing everything he can to work his program, deal with his issues and get the support he needs, I still have ups and downs. I think this has to do with the fact that I still have a lot of unexpressed feelings.

I loved Ellen Page's performance in the movie Juno and wanted to see more of her work so I watched the movie Hard Candy. I only vaguely knew what the movie was about, but as I watched it I found myself identifying with the feeling of wanting power over men. I got satisfaction out of seeing her in control and detached. Men: A group of people who will always let you down when given the opportunity.

But as I became aware of my feelings, I got very disturbed, and started to feel sick to my stomach. I began thinking about my son, and how I didn't want to have feelings about "men" because my son will be a man some day, and I'd never want him to pick up on those kinds of feelings from me. I grew sadder over the course of the evening, and ended up lying in bed with Husband, crying as he did his best to comfort me.

I woke up the next day feeling better, but still pretty down. We had couples therapy that day, so I was able to talk about my feelings there. But at the end of the session I was still disturbed and confused by my strong pull toward that feeling of detachment.

After being deeply betrayed by my father when I was twelve, I'd sworn off ever being completely vulnerable to any man. I'd be like Angelina Jolie in Wanted (a movie I hated) - mysterious, alluring, totally self-sufficient, desirable, and most of all unattainable. When Husband and I got together, I told him at some point that I wanted him to know that I didn't need him. That stayed with him, even as my need to withhold myself diminished as we built trust over the years. By the time I found out about his betrayal, any defenses I'd had against being hurt by him were long dissolved.

The next day I watched the second half of the movie. I don't know why exactly. I think I still had more feelings and the movie was an access point. I got very present to the wall that I put between Husband and me. Sometimes its feet thick, and sometimes it's just a piece of saran wrap, but it's there and it never, ever was before. I grieve the loss of that trust and openness a lot.

I went to an Alanon meeting, because I felt like I was really hitting a low point and needed to get more serious about my own recovery. I still don't have a sponsor and haven't started working the steps, but that will be part of this Year of Self Definition I think.

I realized that my fear of getting close to Husband is like being afraid to touch a hot stove after you've been burned by it. That's a crazy thing to do. But as someone in my therapy group said, Husband is a different person now that he's in recovery.

So I guess recovery makes Husband a fridge or something instead of a stove. He's a different appliance. He's a fridge that could become a stove again (a stove or a stove in recovery, right?) But I'm also a different appliance. I'm a blender that can recognize unhealthy, stove-like behaviors in a fridge. And I know if the fridge is going to meetings, therapy and otherwise getting support. And I'm developing my own blender-self, reading my manual, finding all the great features I didn't know about or pay attention to. I'm a blender who is educated about addiction and co-dependency. So chances are much better that I'll know something is wrong if I open the fridge door and see an oven.

Finally, to flog the metaphor completely to death, I can look at this as a new relationship between full-featured blender and fridge rather than trying to fix the old relationship between the unexamined blender and the stove.

This two-week journey is what I got out of watching Hard Candy.

Opportunities for growth pop up in the oddest places.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sometimes I fantasize about getting back at him

While I know it's not the path of recovery, sometimes I fantasize about taking a year to have affairs and lie to Husband about it. The idea being of course that he might gain a bit of insight into how it feels to doubt your ability to distinguish reality from lies, how f'd up it feels not to be able to trust your partner, and how hard it is to rebuild trust with someone who has betrayed you so deeply.

The women in my therapy group tonight seemed to feel that given the growth they've had they'd be able to know if their partners were lying. I don't have that confidence. And that really pisses me off. Will I have to live in the shadow of doubt forever, always prepared for the worst, ready for the unimaginable to suddenly become my new reality?

Then I remember MPJ's wise warning that it's a mistake to assume that "making people realize just how poorly they've done or how much they've hurt people is an excellent way to provide that needed motivation, be it in the form of shame, guilt or even empathy."

I also know that not only would this tactic not have the desired result, but I would be compromising who I am, and would most likely feel sadder, angrier and emptier than ever.

But the thought does cross my mind from time to time. I still have flashes of wishing I could hurt him as deeply as I think he's hurt me.

Thank god for groups and therapists, spiritual reading and recovery. In my heart of hearts, even when I'm angry or hurting or questioning the future, I know recovery is the path I really want to be on.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Suspicious emails

Today I was on the computer and saw something that made me take a closer look at Husband's email. I can't even remember what it was now. But I did that, and found that he started receiving emails again from an escort service at the end of May. It looked as though he hadn't received any since April of last year, and then he started getting them again about 4 weeks ago.

I've just spend the last 3 hours (when I should have been working) combing his email and other places for evidence of activity. I found one more from another site, but no evidence of correspondence.

But the fact of the matter is, anything he didn't want me to find out about he could easily hide. He could have other accounts in other names. I guess the best way I have of being sure is bank statements and pay stubs. This way I'll know exactly what's coming in and what's going out. Which would have alerted me years ago if only I'd been paying close attention. But I wasn't. Even now, I don't. Sometimes I go through the bank statement more carefully, looking for large amounts. But that's about it.

There's never going to be any way to be sure, and that's part of what I have to figure out if I can deal with I guess. I hate that my relationship will forever have this aspect to it. At this moment I hate him for bringing this into our lives.

I feel a lot of the same physical sensations I did the first time I found all this - my lips are cold, I'm tense, sick to my stomach.

The word that just popped into my mind is surrender. I'm resisting things. I have to look to see where I can surrender so I can get some peace back. Surrender to how life is, and then decide what I want to do in light of that I guess.

Husband starts his group therapy tonight.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Here come the brides

It's that time of year, and we had a wedding to attend this weekend. Two old friends of ours. The wedding was simple, the vows beautiful, and the whole experience much less painful for me than weddings last year at this time.

As I listened to the vows about passing through doubt and disappointment and stepping into the light of faith, I thought about how much that is part of what it takes to make it for the long haul. When they said to each other, "I place my trust in you and I give you my heart..." I wondered what that meant to them, and how it would play out over the coming years.

Weddings still bring up a lot of questions, but fortunately not so much pain. More signs of healing and recovery.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Group therapy

Prior to my adventures as the partner of a sex addict, I'd never been to any kind of therapy. I thought it was something that everybody should have the opportunity to try, but I'd just never gotten around to it.

Now, life is a therapy buffet. The latest dish I'm sampling is a therapy group for partners of sex addicts. It differs from S-Anon meetings in that it's moderated by a therapist who specializes in sex addiction, and discussion and response (although not advice-giving) are encouraged.

It's a small group of women, culturally, racially, economically similar, but different in our individual stories. It feels like going at it from this different angle may allow me to access some things I've been trying to get to.

We'll be studying the book Mending the Shattered Heart, which I haven't yet read.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nude scenes

Was watching a bit of the movie 21 Grams last night, and Husband happened to come in during a scene in which Naomi Watts was naked. This was the first time I'd seen on-screen female nudity in Husband's presence since finding out about his addiction. It made me so uncomfortable that I got up and left the room.

I wasn't sure what to do. Husband seems to be conscious about staying away from imagery that triggers him. The scene was depressing, and Watts' nudity had nothing to do with the sexual fantasyland of porn and prostitution. We both love movies. Do I expect him never to watch another narrative or documentary movie with contextal nudity? I don't know.

I know I'm uncomfortable with imagery in "men's" magazines, and sex fantasy based advertising of any kind (unfortunately so prevalent in our culture.) I know I don't like to watch Mad Men with him - the betrayal played out evokes too many painful thoughts for me.

But contextual nudity? I guess it depends partly on whether or not he feels triggered by it. Clearly an area where we both need to come to an agreement on what the boundaries are.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A relationship between hatred and fear

Sometimes I hate my husband. But if I explore that feeling at all I can readily identify that feeling as a form of fear.

I'm afraid of how vulnerable I feel. I'm afraid of feeling his resentment and contempt. I'm afraid of the power it feels like they have to negate me.

If I felt his resentment and contempt all the time I'd leave. I feel like I could close the door on him if I had to, to protect myself. I don't want to be with someone who doesn't love and cherish and respect me. So I'm not afraid in the sense that I'll have to endure something so painful to be with somebody. If it was like that, I'd choose to be alone.

So what am I afraid of?

I think I'm afraid of the pain of being written off, relegated to some lesser status, cast aside as unworthy of even an argument by someone I love. I'm afraid of those moments before I can get to the door to slam it shut.

I'm also afraid that he won't be honest. That he'll build up all this resentment and disappointment again without letting me know, without acknowledging it when I ask, and then one day I'll find myself living with a stranger and that will be that for me. My life will be completely changed, missing something so important to me, without me ever having had the chance to have my say.

I'm afraid because I feel powerless. Not in my whole life. But powerless like something that I don't have have control over is going to happen and break my heart, leave me alone, fool me, ruin me. I guess it's no surprise that I have that fear.

Given that is going to happen again, because things I don't have control over are going to happen, I suppose the most relevant question is what do I have control over?

I have control over how I respond when I am broken, alone, fooled and ruined.

I know that. So what am I afraid of?

I'm afraid of the pain of being resented, disappointing, being regarded with contempt by someone I hold dear. Invalidated by someone I value so much. I know I can survive it, but I'm afraid of feeling that pain...that burning, searing, ripping pain...the pain of those moments before I can shut the door. That's all I can seem to figure out at the moment.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How things are different, and what I'm planning for the next year

Husband was playing the piano today. A variety of songs, among them Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection." Suddenly he turned to me and said that he wanted me to know that he thinks about how deeply he's hurt me and how he's screwed up so badly all the time. "I really love you," he said.

That was something I used to know, like the air I breathe. But I realized that I was surprised by that. I think I have a fear that Husband is so damaged that he can't love me the way I thought he did. And I think I still hold in my mind that he had to be so angry and resentful toward me to do the things he did, which I've been told by him and by therapists isn't the case. But the deep parts of me that were hurt are still protecting themselves, protecting me. Instead of assuming the depth of his love, I now assume that I could be hurt, I could be surprised by something I could never imagine at any turn.

So that's a way things are different than they used to be. I hope I can get back to being connected to how deeply he feels for me, and when I finally feel like I can do that, I hope he still does.

Since I just celebrated an anniversary of sorts, I've been thinking about what I want this year to be about, and I've decided that I want it to be my year of self definition.

I'm going to establish myself as distinct from the opinions and reactions of others, and learn to love and know myself as fundamentally okay, whether or not others like me, are disappointed, angry, resentful, hurt, aggressive, disapproving, etc.

I'm going to create and define my self and build a solid relationship with what I create such that I am my own harbor in a storm. I'm going to grow my sense of self such that it can't be destroyed by anyone else. That's my agenda for this year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Last day of work

Today was my last day of work. I worked until almost 9pm and will probably do a bit more over the weekend so everything is wrapped up properly.

I also had a job interview today, and I think I may have gotten the job, but it feels too soon. I haven't even decided what I really want to do next.

I'm exhausted, stressed out, having a large drink right now. Too tired to get on the treadmill to work out all this anxiety.

Husband is being very supportive, encouraging me to take time and figure out what will make me happy.

This is another re-presencing, albeit a less painful one, to the unknown. I don't know what the future holds, and that makes me nervous. But I'm going to try to take what I've learned this past year and apply it generously to the affected areas, rinse, and repeat again if necessary.

I wonder why I'm getting this lesson again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it possible I'm coming to not regret the past?

Reading Pema Chodron's Wisdom of No Escape this morning, I realized that, while sounding trite, it's also true that those with the greatest challenges have the greatest opportunities.

I once visited a Tarot card reader who told me that this life was my R&R life. And, if you don't count my father lying about being sick and then running off to a commune when I was 12, that's pretty much been true.

I haven't had great fame or fortune, but I am lucky enough to have been born in the US at a time when life for the average American is easy relative to the lives of the rest of the world's population; I've always felt loved by my family and friends; I have a wonderful son and a husband who loves us and is committed to us; I've never wanted for any necessities in life; I've had the opportunity to get a good education and find good jobs; and I've had the luxury of thinking about life in terms of optimal self-realization and self-expression rather than survival. I've been lucky.

Maybe the ultimate luck is that I found a loving partner who has also, as a part of his own journey, presented me with my biggest opportunity for growth by delivering the biggest challenge of my life.

I never knew, and would likely never have known had I stayed on the same trajectory, that I was almost entirely without self-definition. I could describe myself certainly, my flaws, my qualities, my dreams and aspirations, my way of being in the world, the person I was striving to be. But as for identifying a core "self" that I defined as valid and worthy on its own, a self which could not be dictated or shattered by the responses of others...This was a distinction I didn't know I didn't have.

I am grateful to be on this journey, grateful for new perspective, new tools, a new relationship to spirituality and surrender. And while I don't always recognize it in the moment, I'm grateful for the pain that has taught me the non-dualistic nature of pain: The great opportunity that is only available with the greatest challenge.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kung Fu Panda as it relates to addcition, betrayal and recovery

"One often meets one's destiny on the road one takes to avoid it." - Oogway
(from a French proverb, also quoted in Keep It Simple: Daily Meditations for Twelve-Step Beginnings and Renewal)

Following the major betrayal by my father when I was 12, I spent a good part of my life after that working to protect myself from experiencing that kind of pain and betrayal again. I was sure I'd found an impenetrable fortress against that in my relationship with Husband. Of course, as it turned out, my destiny followed me right in to my carefully constructed fortress.

My destiny as I see it was not to suffer pain and betrayal, but to discover my own self and my own strength. I am finally beginning to do these things in a very fundamental way that I've never in my life done before.

"There is no charge for awesomeness...or attractiveness." - Po

To me this is about acknowledging the unique expression of the divine that I am, and allowing myself to be that right now, with no reason or purpose other than because that is who I already am.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Big leap!

Last night Husband got upset that I told him I'd be there in a minute when he asked me to come look at something he was doing on the computer, and then stayed at my computer instead of coming when I said he would.

He was on his computer about 10 feet away from me at the dining room table on my laptop. I was deep in thought when he'd asked, "Got a minute?" and I should have said, "No, I don't. I'm busy right now and I don't know when I'll be done." But I didn't want to do that. I knew he didn't want to hear that, and I didn't want to say no to him. Lesson learned. I don't have to be available when someone wants me.

He said, "When you do that what I make up about that is that you don't give a shit. And not only that, it feels like what I've said is so unimportant that not only do you come when you said you would, you don't even acknowledge it; you don't even bother to say that you won't be doing that. You don't say, "I thought I'd be done, but I'm not so I won't be there."

"Here's my request," he said. "When you aren't going to do what you say you're going to do, would you say so?"

I looked at him, thinking that something didn't feel right about this whole thing. True, I didn't do what I said I was going to do. I didn't come when I said I would. But he was sitting 10 feet from me, and if he had a problem, if his feelings were hurt, as a grown up adult wasn't it HIS RESPONSIBILITY to let me know? Yes! That felt right! Part of my mind wanted so much to cling to his words, to accept the shame of not having done what I said I would do and to vow to be a good girl and never do that again. But this new part of my mind held me back.

"No," I said. He looked at me, incredulous. "No? No? You don't accept my request?" Then he said something that struck me as odd. "What are you thinking? My paranoid fantasy is that you're thinking that if you don't do exactly what I say you think I'm going to act out." That was the farthest thing from my mind at the moment.

I explained to him that what I was thinking was if he'd made all that up in his head instead of saying something directly to me, who was sitting in the same room 10 feet away, that I wasn't going to be responsible for that. I told him I wasn't going to be responsible for and responsive to the stories he makes up in his mind in lieu of expressing his feelings.

The good thing is that in addition to being an addict and an asshole at times, he's also smart. So he got it pretty quickly. After a few minutes of mulling it over, he apologized and thanked me for my patience. That felt weird to me, because it wasn't important to me that he decided I was right.

What was important was that I'd recognized what was my responsibility and what was his responsibilty, and I'd refused to be responsible for what was his. It was something that my work over the last year made possible. I was surprised by what I'd done. It felt new. And I felt strong, and I felt grateful.

Getting others to do what you want

I've just read something I want to remember. In MPJ's post about the difficulty of changing behavior, she discusses the mistaken assumption that "making people realize just how poorly they've done or how much they've hurt people is an excellent way to provide that needed motivation, be it in the form of shame, guilt or even empathy."

Something for me to remember when I feel that need to have husband get how much he's hurt me.

Friday, June 6, 2008

On the benefits of staying

Tonight I was looking for files on an old computer and I came across a picture of Husband that I absolutely love. He's wearing his Superman t-shirt, standing on a stage and singing passionately into a mic. For me that picture has always been an expression something beautiful. He's in the moment, doing something he loves, an expression of his true self.

Then I realized the picture was dated November 8, 2003, just a couple weeks or so before he first had intercourse with a prostitute.

So now that picture is different for me. It represents a time in my life when I didn't know what was real. A time in his life when he was lost and unhappy. He wasn't superman. He was just a man. A man who was hiding a lot from everbody, including himself. I wanted to bring it up with him, ask him if he remembers that evening, what he was thinking and feeling that night and how it all lead to finding another woman to have sex with.

And then I caught myself. I realized that I was going down that path of trying to figure out why, when there is no good answer. Just as Husband will probably never fully understand how I've felt in the wake of his betrayal, I'll probably never understand what was going on with him such that it made sense to him do what he did.

Ahh, yes...non-duality. The shadow and the light in the same instant. Love and betrayal don't obliterate each other even though it seems to me that they would.

I wonder how many more times I'll start down this path over coming years. Will my mind ever stop asking that question?

Living with things that I don't understand and that don't make sense to me in my relationship with Husband is new, but it's something I'll have to accept to move forward. Not lies, not secrets, but the unknowable and unanswerable.

While the unexpected look back has brought up painful feelings, it's nothing compared to the searing rawness I felt in the first few months when I looked back and no longer felt anchored in any type of reality. Now, the pain of looking back is mitigated by the strength and insight I've gained while entertaining the notion of non-duality and learning how to stay present in the face of pain and impermanence.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Something to come to terms with

I was re-reading the letter I gave to Husband as part of disclosure. While I've grown and changed a lot, so much of what I expressed is still relevant.

This morning I asked Husband if he ever re-reads that letter, and he said that though he hasn't in a while, he does go back to it. I was feeling very emotional as I have been over the past couple of days, but it was not the time or place to initiate conversation about big things. We were getting ready for work and Son was in the next room. So I remained silent.

Husband asked what I was thinking about. "Just that I still need your reassurance," I said. "Reassurance that I love you?" he asked. I didn’t think I could speak without bursting into tears, so I just nodded. He came over and kissed me on the cheek and said, "Well, I love you."

Then he said, "I need that, too." I couldn't understand what he meant. Did he mean that he needed to tell me he loves me, too? That telling me he loves me was as important to him as it feels to me? "I need reassurance that you love me, too," he said.

I immediately felt resentful. In my mind, Husband has to be the one to go the extra mile right now. If I'm taking the risk of staying with him and trying to rebuild trust in the face of his monumental betrayal, he needs to give me the extra support and attention I need whether or not he gets any reassurance of my love. He needs to be willing to risk jumping into loving and supporting me with no net, just as I feel I'm doing. It doesn't sound fair, but that's my thinking. In short, I guess I really think he owes me.

That thinking doesn't feel entirely healthy to me, so I'm going to talk about it in therapy. But it brings me to what I've realized again that I will need to come to terms with in order to move forward: Husband will probably never fully understand the depth of the pain he's caused me. He's going through his own stuff to be sure, but he did not have the discontinuity of betrayal to deal with the way I have. His understanding of reality has had at least a thread of continuity, while mine was completely severed by his betrayal. Though now that I'm writing this, I suppose that discontinuity was also brought about in part by my idealization of him. But no, on second thought, I don't think it was deluded of me to expect honesty and trustworthiness. Those are pretty basic elements to a respectful relationship.

But the fact is, whether or not Husband is ever able to fully grasp how devastating his betrayal was for me, in order to move forward for myself and my own recovery, I must disconnect those things in my mind. If Husband must grasp something in order for me to heal, I may never be able to heal. And I don't want to base my healing on someone else's response or actions. I want to empower myself to give myself everything I need to heal. So to have what I want I must let go of my attachment to that outcome. Husband will grasp it or he won’t. Can I love and trust him anyway? That is the question that remains to be answered.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

One Year Later

The beginning of the most deeply painful experience I've ever had was a year ago today. It was the day I discovered that my lover, partner, and best friend of 20 years had been lying to me and seeking out sexual activity with other women outside our relationship since before our marriage.

"I hope you enjoyed your time with Angie." I'll never forget the words I read in that email from the escort service that began to unravel the horrible truth over the course of that Friday evening after which my life would be profoundly and irrevocably changed.

A year ago I had no idea what today would bring. I remember thinking about my wedding vows, about what it meant to have made the decision to publicly declare my commitment to spending the rest of my life with Husband. To me that meant that when the going got rough I was going to give it my best to work things out. With that in mind, I decided the next day, or maybe even that night, I really don't remember, that the result I wanted was to try to stay together, mostly for the sake of my son. So I made decisions based on what would cause that outcome. I didn’t leave. I didn’t kick him out. I didn’t tell the world about his lies, the sex with prostitutes, the tens of thousands of dollars he’d spent, the anguish I was experiencing at this profound betrayal.

After a solitary drive that ended up at the beach, I came home and took my son to his martial arts class on Saturday morning. As usual my mom came with us. I couldn't say anything to her because I knew she'd never be able to forgive Husband, and would forever be trying to use this against him. My close girlfriend was there with her son, and she could tell something was not right with me. She put her arms around me and hugged me tightly. "I really needed that," I said. She'd recommended a therapist for me before, and I got the information again from her that day and immediately made an appointment.

Monday morning I was in my therapist's office. She introduced me to the concept of sex addiction, and gave me a list of suggestions for Husband. I met him for lunch later that day and passed on the information. "You can do whatever you want." I told him. I wasn't going to lay down any rules or ultimatums. I was not going to step into the role of parent and tell him what he had to do to make up for what he'd done. I wanted to see what he would do, and then make my choices accordingly. He said he'd start going to SAA meetings and see a therapist, but that he didn't think he needed inpatient treatment she’d suggested.

I didn't know it at the time, but his addict was sill very much in the driver's seat, despite being found out. I don't think he had any more sex with prostitutes after that, but he's since told me he really didn't think he had a problem that day. He was still very much in denial, and it would take months of SAA meetings and therapy with his wonderful therapist and our amazing couples therapist before he could begin to understand how lost he was that day.

There was a lot I didn't know either. What I didn't know about Husband was only part of the problem. What I didn't know about myself was equally significant.

Through individual therapy, couples therapy, SAnon meetings and spiritual reading and practice, I've been able to begin the journey of my own recovery. After the first several months of dealing with the shock and the raw, agonizing pain of having my deepest core beliefs about my life, my husband and the world as I believed it to be ripped away, I have been able to explore how I got to where I was in my life and my relationship with Husband that June 1st.

I’ve learned that I’m an absolutist who sees things at their extremes, with little ability to tolerate the grey, murky, messiness of real life. I've realized that I didn't listen and/or didn't provide Husband the experience of being heard about important things in our relationship. I idealized him so completely that I wasn't able to see the depth of his unhappiness, and couldn't see that he felt he had no space to express his fears, upsets and imperfections. I've seen how neither of us had the tools to deal with conflict and did everything we could to avoid it, once again leaving no space for either of us to express upsets or deal with problems. And I've a tremendous spiritual growth. I've learned the practice of leaning into the fear and pain of life rather than turning or running away from it. I've learned how to express myself more in spite of fears and doubts. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be afraid of other people, that I can be an adult who doesn’t worry about getting in trouble or disappointing or angering others. I've learned how much I depended on Husband for my sense of self, and how much I've let other people's responses define me throughout my entire life. I've learned what boundaries are, why they are necessary, and how to define and express them. I've learned the power of reaching out for support. I've begun to accept that I can't handle everything all by myself, and that a higher power doesn't have to be a crutch, but can be a source of compassion and an opportunity for surrender. I've learned that life will continue to present me with the same lessons over and over again until I stop turning away from them. I've come to believe that there is little we can really know about life outside of our own selves, and that any thought that we can control people, situations or outcomes is an illusion. I've started to explore Buddhism, and this has been an incredible source of strength and peace for me. I would never choose to experience the pain I've felt over the last year, but at the same time the opportunities for growth and learning this pain has presented have been profoundly life changing in a positive way, and I'm grateful for that.

Despite the growth and my gratitude, things aren’t resolved. I still feel pain; I still have unwelcome thoughts and images passing through my mind. I still feel incredibly alone at times, and deeply miss the trust that I had in my relationship with Husband prior to all of this. That took years to develop, and may take years to restore, if it’s even possible. I’m still having trouble with surrendering to what is so. Husband is someone who’s hurt me more than anyone else in my life, he’s given me reason to profoundly distrust him, and yet if I want a relationship with him these are the things that I need to surrender to. For example, the knowledge that he could hurt me the way he did, and that there is no way for me to prevent that from happening again.

Just yesterday I realized in therapy how much I idealized Husband. Before all of this, when I expressed unhappiness with my job Husband’s response was something along the lines of “I’m sorry you’re unhappy, but if that’s the case why don’t you do something about it?” In other words, he didn’t provide the support I could have used. He didn’t acknowledge and have compassion for my fears and my sadness. But I couldn’t conceive that he had anything other than my best interest at heart and therefore took his words to mean that there was a problem with me that I had to fix. It never crossed my mind that a narcissistic addict full of anger and resentment was speaking to me. It never occurred to me to believe that I was okay, and that he was being a jerk who was lacking compassion for my feelings. He was wonderful, loving and brilliant, so there must be something wrong with me. I didn’t think about it exactly like that. I didn’t say those words, or even think them. But that’s how I processed it internally. I never questioned his response, only my thoughts, feelings and self-expression. I defined myself, my validity, according to his response to me. And this is something I just realized yesterday. With that realization came a deeper understanding of how much farther I have to go in healing my own self, developing my own core of strength, a strong sense of and belief in who I am no matter what anyone else says, thinks or does. The path may be long, but at least I’m on it now. A year ago today this path wasn’t even on my map.

With this great pain has come great opportunity and growth. I can’t say how things will turn out. Perhaps that’s partly because I think now that things will always be evolving. I’ve come to believe that I will never arrive, but that I’ll be walking a path into the unknown for the rest of my life, one day at a time. I do believe I can find peace with that. It may be something I have to do over and over again, but I know from experience that peace is possible.

And as I continue to face fear, to be present to non-duality, to accept the inseparable nature of joy and pain, to honor myself and all others as expressions of the divine, to have compassion for myself and others, and to practice loving kindness, I believe I will experience joy in a deeper way. I believe I will be able to love and trust Husband as he is, and to accept his love. I believe I’m developing a core of strength that I never even knew I was missing, and that I’ll experience with increasing frequency the depth of peace and serenity that comes with love and compassion for self and others.

The pain, fear and despair I’ve felt over this year have been unprecedented in my life; yet in spite of that, the resulting spiritual growth I’ve had leaves me with the experience that profound peace, joy and serenity are possible ways I never imagined before.