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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Feeling a lot of fear

Today the overwhelming thing I'm feeling is fear.

I'm afraid to trust Husband. When I can't reach him on the phone, where is he?
I'm afraid that my pulling back is making him so sacred that he's going to slip back into old behaviors and resentment.
I'm afraid that he'll start to pull away from me, and from trying to work things out because of his fear
I'm afraid of losing him
I'm afraid of wanting him
I don't know what I want
I'm afraid of him, afraid to trust anything he says
I'm afraid because I don't know how this will all turn out

He says he wants to keep fighting for our marriage, that he wants to do whatever he can to work things out. I want to believe him, but I just don't know if that's crazy or not anymore.

He had a slip. He lied. He started sneaking money to do...who knows what. He said it wasn't for strip clubs or prostitutes, but I can never know for sure. He didn't tell me about a cigarette he had, about a drink he had (he's not abstaining as part of a program, but he had said he wouldn't drink for a year.) In the context of everything else he's done, these things are minor. But lies, omissions and hiding are the problem.

I feel like I don't know what to trust. My defenses are way up, and I'm pulling away to protect myself. But is that motivated by intuition or fear? I started to feel that trust was possible, and then this happened. So is it just hopeless? If I pull away out of fear, will I lose a real chance at healing and recovery in our marriage?

I guess if Husband is really back on the path of recovery, he will be on that path no matter where I am. Maybe that's where I can look. What does he do when he gets no reassurance from me? Does he continue to use his new tools, or does he give up and fall into the abyss of resentment and self-pity, and swiftly return to old ways of being? How sincere is his recovery? Is this how I can get an idea of that?

Everything looks frightening right now. I want some solid ground.

I know I can continue on my own path of recovery. But I wish I could know what is possible for our relationship. Either way, with him or without him, I can move forward in a healthy way. I'm confident of that. But this not-knowing...that is where all the fear is. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being hurt again, betrayed again.

I think the person I loved and married is there somewhere, and I don't want to give up on that. But neither do I want to sacrifice my self and self-respect if the addict is going to dominate our relationship. I don't know who I'm talking to right now...Husband the-man-I-knew or Husband the Addict. They are different, but they look the same to me.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I can't do this alone

I've come a long way in 15 months.

As I face the current situation there are many ways in which I can see I'm doing things differently.

I'm not giving him the benefit of the doubt on anything that doesn't feel quite right to me.

I'm allowing myself to be in my feelings of anger, confusion, and pain rather than immediately looking for a way to be understanding and reasonable or make him feel better.

I'm reaching out to others (and there has been lots of support with many different persepectives, every one helpful) and not trying to figure it out myself or handle it alone the way I've always done before. I actually made some outreach calls to people other than my two best girlfriends, fighting all the way the tempation to manage other peoples' experiences (I always worry that people won't be able to say no when they want to, so I often don't do things like make outreach calls.)

Looking at this in the context of screenplay analysis, this is one of those points where the protagonist has undergone change and the new self is being tested by old, familiar challenges. One of the benefits of this current challenge is to allow me to see how far I've come, and how much further I can go if I choose.

I don't know yet exactly what I'll do. We have a couples therapy session scheduled for tomorrow night to deal with this (I feel so thankful that I have therapy as an option) and I'll finally be able to express myself in an environment that feels safe to me. Until now I've worried that if I started really getting into it with Husband, I'd say something I didn't really mean and/or his narcissist and my co-dependent would join forces and ambush me (which is usually what happens when we go head-to-head.)

In this moment I am full of gratitude for all that I've gained, and for the love and compassion of others.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Love without truth?

Having little opportunity to deal with Husband's recent lies and omissions has left me sitting with anger and pain and confusion that only seem to increase with time.

I did an outreach call today, and the woman I talked with suggested I write down some of my feelings as a way of releasing them.

I feel so disrespected. How could he lie to me again? After seeing the pain and agony it caused before? He said he couldn't promise me that he'd never slip, but he said he'd never lie about it.

On the list of boundaries I drew up and talked about with Husband, I'd specified that one of the things that wouldn't work for me was lying, hiding or omitting anything he thought I might want to know as his partner. I also drew up a list of consequences as part of that exercise. Those we agreed I didn't need to share with him. I referred back to that list the other day to see what I'd thought, in more rational moments, was the appropriate consequence for lying, hiding or omitting.

"He moves out" it said.

But while this incident has crossed that boundary, I feel like I just can't make that move yet because of my son. I'm not sure yet that I want to take this to that next level, and I need to be sure before I disrupt my son's life in that way.

I'm so angry that I caught him. Why didn't he come to me and tell me about the cigarette and the shot? How could he make the choice to sneak that money knowing how fragile my ability to trust is, and how I felt that I was actually beginning to make progress in that area? He may be an addict, but doesn't he have a memory or a brain? Can't he think? Is he so overcome by narcissism when he's anxious that I just cease to exist?

I feel like this is happening all over again. The betrayal feels almost as big as the first time I found out, even though it didn't involve sex with other women. I wonder what else he's been doing in the inner circle.

I don't trust him anymore. And I don't know if love is possible without trust. I don't know if I love him anymore. But I'm not sure. I can't tell if I'm just too afraid to be alone, too afraid to give up on what I thought I could have. Or if I'm too afraid of him to feel feeling that are still there.

I've been so afraid of his resentment, and it's that resentment that's taken us down this path again. It's that resentment that's allowed him to justify lying and hiding and not telling me things.

Sometimes I hate him.

He tells me he's afraid of my anger, yet he does the one thing that is most likely to make me angry. So now that I've discovered his deceit I'm mad and I'm imagining that he's slipping into that place of self loathing and self pity that turn to resentment. But my only other choice is to put his experience before mine, and show him that he doesn't have to fear my anger, that he can make mistakes and be flawed and he won't be abandoned. But that doesn't work for me anymore. If he feels like telling the truth and not hiding qualifies as walking on eggshells around me then I guess we should come to terms with our differences sooner than later.

How do you demand truth from an addict?

How do you stay in a loving committed partnership without truth?

I hate him for taking away the person I thought I married, the person who would never lie to me.

How does he feel about me that I'm not worth telling the truth to, not worth having the courage to be honest with?

Someone wrote to me from the perspective of the-other-woman saying that sometime she was jealous that the man she was having an affair with loved his wife enough to want to lie to her and keep their affair secret. But being lied to feels so shitty. He may lie because he is afraid, but it doesn't feel at all like love to me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A hard day

Today I was feeling a lot of fear, anxiety and grief. I'm trying to have compassion for Husband, and to be with him during his medical crisis. I have waves of sadness because I can't feel love for him sometimes.

Still, even at this point in the journey, sometimes I have a hard time with what's happened.

Is Higher Power up to something?

I've spent most of the day at the hospital after finding husband collapsed on the bathroom floor this morning in pain and sweaty with numb extremities. It was such a weird experience, paramedics and all, because I was still angry about the hiding, lying and omitting I'd caught him doing.

Before I left to drop son at school and head to the hospital to catch up with him, I grabbed a copy of Jack Kornfield's The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace just in case I couldn't muster up any compassion on my own.

The thoughts that went through my head reflected the detachment I'd made to cope with the discovery of his addict behavior. For example, I was pissed off that he can't get a life insurance policy because his health is poor. I was much more concerned about son's well being around the incident, and felt that Husband's issues would play out however they did and there was little I could do about it. I was ready for anything in a cool, detached way.

But I realized as I was driving to the hospital that I was husband's only person to turn to in life, and given who he's been for me in many good ways, that he's the father of my son, that he was a human being in a scary crisis, he deserved basic care and compassion, so I did my best to bring that forward today.

Husband did put $110 back into the bank account Tuesday. Was it really at work? Did he spend it and borrow that money from someone so he could continue his deception? I'll never know.

And that's part of where the learning is. How do I take care of myself without creating boundaries that are simply masked attempts to control his behavior? How do I handle his imperfection? How will I know when to cut bait? What is trust? What is faith? What is love? Can I learn to turn something over to Higher Power rather than trying to handle, fix, solve and control the outcome by myself? Can I surrender to the unknowability of life without sinking into an unhealthy relationship?

Anyone can lie. There is no way to protect myself from that completely. This much I know. So then what? What is there left to do? Learn to set boundaries, learn to trust myself, learn to distinguish willingness and imperfection from denial and indulgence, be willing to make the hard choices...

I feel like there have to be consequences, but I also feel like those consequences need to come from a place of authentically trying to protect and take care of myself, and not to punish or control him. What that will look like I'm still sorting out.

His health emergency doesn't overshadow what still needs to be dealt with between us. Compassion and care feel appropriate here, but so does accountability, and so does protecting myself. This recent incident has reminded me that even though he's willing and working his program, slips and all, he's still an addict and I need to protect myself from that aspect of his personality in the good times as well as the bad.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The addict slips in

Not only did Husband go to "the Hooters of mens' hair salons" to quote Margaux Mead, he also took $170 in cash out in small amounts over the weekend, most disguised as cash back on debit card purchases.

I found out about all this when I went to do some online banking in our joint account last night.

So I asked.

Is THAT where you went to get your hair cut?
Yes. But it's not like that.
(Yeah, whatever.)
And why did you take out $170 in cash over the last 2 days?
I did? Are you sure? I don't know, blah, blah, blah, lies, blah, blah, blah...I didn't do anything wrong. (RED FLAG!)
So what did you do...then. Because that's what you told me before, those exact same words. So now I don't know what to believe.

I asked to see the cash, and he was unable to produce it. (He told me it was in the car, but after "searching" (buying time) he came back empty handed.)

It's at work. I left it at work.

I've learned not to accept anything that doesn't make taking out $170 and then forgetting it at work.

Long story short, he finally confessed that he left the $$ at work because he was secretly taking out money to buy himself something.

Like WHAT?

Well, actually I was going to buy you an iPod. (sounds fishy)

If you're going to take out money to buy me a surprise, TELL ME! Don't SNEAK and LIE about taking out money! So you were sneaking around to buy me an iPod? Why?

Because I resented that you didn't get one.

Then it came out that he's under all sorts of stress at work, also in pain from a medical condition for which he's about to have a minor operation, which is also causing stress, and feeling resentful when I told him I was feeling upset about him working late when he used to give me such a hard time about not prioritizing my family when I used to work late. So lots of stress, building up resentment, and not talking to anybody about it.

Hello Addict!

So I still couldn't figure out the bit about the iPod.

I resented you for not getting one, because I felt like you weren't valuing my input. (He think I need it for work and he's right, but we're also on thin financial ice.)

So now I'm all confused about what to ask, what boundaries to draw (my own bank account?), what is codependency and what is healthy. My instinct is to protect myself by cutting him out of things (like my income) but that feels like a form of trying to control what he does, which I don't want to do (because...I can't.)

I'm going to call my sponsor, and thank god we have couples therapy Saturday.

I've wondered what a slip might look like, so now I know. At least he didn't go to a strip club or fuck someone.

But I really hate the lies. They scare me, and...does he think I'm stupid?

Monday, September 22, 2008

What a #$%^ing idiot!

Husband went and got his hair cut at a place called Major League Trim during work today. For a smart guy he sure lacks a fucking clue sometimes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Inspiration from Elizabeth Edwards

I just listened to excerpts from an interview with Elizabeth Edwards, and she mentioned the lyrics to a Leonard Cohen song that reflected the perspective I've gained from this experience:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

-Anthem, Leonard Cohen

It felt good to recognize my journey, and be reminded again that others share this journey even though we're each on our own path.

Waking up is scary, but I'm not doing it alone.

And it's good to see and feel the light that's getting in.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sex on TV

So Husband and I sat down to watch some good old HBO tonight. I loved Six Feet Under, and have previously enjoyed Entourage. But after trying to watch both Allan Ball's latest, True Blood, and the 2nd new episode of Entourage, I had to leave the room. Within the fist 5 minutes of both there were graphic depictions of sex.

In True Blood a character (and the viewing audience including me) was watching a video of a woman hanging from her bound hands as a man had sex with her from behind while strangling her. Of course, she was smiling, and later was revealed to have revived and enjoyed it.

We had to turn that off.

So on to Entourage. The writing and characters have generally been good, but again within the first 5 minutes one of the characters accidentally turned on some porn movie while trying to watch something else, and the TV audience was treated to a woman lying on her back, pulling at her nipples and doing something else I think. I had to get up before I could mentally capture the whole picture.

Now I'm not a prude. I favor sex education, have no problem with pre-marital sex, and no problem (theoretically) with healthy, tender or lusty sex depicted in a context where it forwards a story. (Of course, I'd consider it appropriate only for adults.)

But I'm so sensitive now to how women and sex are depicted in the media. Negative sexuality (addiction, loveless sex) and negative, objectified images of women are so prevalent. So much so that I worry about what my son will pick up as acceptable from billboards as we drive around town.

I'm not in favor of prohibition although I believe in regulation. Porn magazines are for adults (although I consider them unhealthy.) But the more important thing here is that I think we're really sick as a society. And that the sexual revolution has gone beyond a healthy regard for sexuality, and into a mentality were anything goes. And with materialism foisted upon us via advertising that tells us we can never have or be enough, and the accompanying anxiety and fear that goes along with those beliefs, I think we are a society full of people who tend toward addiction, depression and low self-esteem. The dehumanization of sex and women are a symptom of that.

Maybe I'm just getting older. Am I just like every other generation that's gone before me, complaining about too much sex, too much violence, and young people these days?

These thoughts make me uncomfortable, because they sound so much more conservative that I feel. But I worry about the world. How can we get through this cultural crisis in a way that is progressive and not regressive?

I'm not a social conservative, but neither do I think it okay for society to accept unhealthy, negative, soulless attitudes as the norm.

I feel out of sorts and confused, and am going to go to bed and read my Buddhist books. I think for me clarity on this subject will be found in spirituality.