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, October 17, 2008


The past couple of weeks have been exhausting and confusing. It's no one big catastrophe. More visits to the ER with more of Husband's medical issues; Husband's fear of pain which results in him screaming like he's dying even when he's not; wondering what I'll do if Husband does die (unlikely) because he let his hard-to-get life insurance lapse when he was in the throes of his addiction; lots of late nights with client work for my job; taking on most of the household stuff since Husband is bed-ridden; taking husband to doctor appointments; worry about Husband's job situation (he feels like if they lay anyone off he'll be the first to go;) worry about my own flow of income - consulting has been good through last week, but feels like it might be light for the rest of the year; trying to figure out how we'll keep our house if one or both of us lose our jobs; my relationship with my mother, which is very hard for me to manage when I'm under stress from all this other stuff; the anger and resentment that comes welling up when I feel like Husband's narcissist is playing up his suffering to make sure that he gets the sympathy he deserves (this may not be true, but I get suspicious about this and then angry.)

It's no one big thing. Just all these different concerns, feelings and fears piling on top of each other.

I've continued to feel that detachment I felt when I first saw him lying on the bathroom floor in a sweaty, bloody, pallid heap a few weeks ago (the result of an undetected kidney infection doctors think, which resulted in temporary kidney failure.) I'm sure it's my defense against the fear I feel about the possibility of him dying. I'm already struggling so much with trying to get to a place where I can honestly reinvest. With the fright of middle-of-the-night 911 calls and all the thoughts those bring, I feel numb and tired. It's confusing to be trying to help nurse him back to health when I have unresolved feelings about the things he's done and his recent slip that I've not really been able to heal from because of dealing with his medical crises.

I also feel lonely. I've talked to Nora and Marcie, but they are cities away and have their own families and their own concerns, and I don't want to burden them with mine when there's little they can do except worry about me. I know it's hard for them to hear me sad. (I hear myself trying to manage their experiences - one of my ingrained codie behaviors.)

I contemplated telling another close friend who was visiting from out of town, just so I could have someone to talk to about my feelings, but it didn't work out logistically.

As usual, I can't talk to my mother about any of it because we're far too enmeshed for her to offer me anything that would be remotely helpful. (Just the other day for example, she offered that she felt so sorry for my son because "people" were yelling at him more these days about whining, when previously he'd been told by Husband and me that it was fine to whine. (Actually we'd told him it was fine to express his feelings.) Not with her of course, she reminded me, because she'd made it clear from the beginning that there was to be no whining and crying when he was with her (i.e. no unpleasant FEELINGS to deal with.) But now she was feeling sad for him because people were having less patience with him and it was hurting his feelings.

Thanks, Mom. And she couldn't understand why I felt criticized. She said it wasn't a judgment, just an observation. She alway claims with righteous certainty that she's never in her life judged anybody. Whatever... (I get my absolutism from my mother's side of the family.)

I didn't want to call my sponsor because I had so much going on I felt like it would just be a dump of emotion and negative thoughts and complaints and fears. I know this is exactly when I should call. But I gave myself the excuse that I was too tired.

I got on the treadmill a couple times which helped. Got into the lovely rum that was brought to us from the Caribbean a couple times. Ate a few too many coconut fruit bars a couple of times. Prayed. Read. Tried to get some sleep.

Finally, at Husband's urging (and recognizing the codie tendencies that were keeping me from making this call,) I called my sponsor today. It didn't turn out to be an emotional dump session, but a really good conversation. It was just a relief to talk about things with someone who I didn't need to hide anything from. She reminded me to write.

I'm still tired. Still feeling detached. But I also feel lighter for having reached out and made a connection with someone.

I went and saw The Duchess tonight (really wanted to see "W" but it started too early and too late), and found it to be a story of waking up to a life that is not what you expected it would be and being trapped in that life. In the end it was just painful choices between different heartbreaking paths. It left me sad.

I don't feel trapped, but I feel as if I've woken up in somebody else's life and to choose to leave this life for my actual life would be more heartbreaking than to just stay. I have reason to believe that over time Husband and I can continue to heal and make progress. So for now, since I have a child who loves his father, and a husband who is a wonderful father despite his problems, the benefits of giving it time outweigh the difficulties of living with discomfort, confusion and uncertainty.

I need to get myself unstuck. Unstuck from this defensive position. I need to reopen to what is before me and stop resisting. But the fear is powerful. I am afraid.

I'm afraid that Husband can never love me in the way I think I want to be loved. I don't think his love will ever be the safe-haven it used to be, my harbor from the storms of life. He is the storm now. I am alone in my boat, in the storm, wondering where I will find this harbor.

Truthfully, I want to be taken care of.

But I know it's time to be done with that. It's time to find out how to take care of myself. Time to develop a relationship with my higher power from which I will draw strength to stop resisting impermanence; to stop resisting that which is beyond my control, and that which is unknowable; to accept the uncertainty that comes with grey in place of the illusory safety found in black and white; to stop searching for ground and accept groundlessness as a natural condition that I don't have to fix; to be open and present instead of closed off and numb in the face of fear.

Much like happiness, I'm finding that peace is not a destination, but a journey. Moment by moment, one day at a time.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Force fields up, phasers set to vaporize

I'm feeling more stable now that my walls are firmly in place.

I'm still connecting with my feelings, but I have decided to take off the wife and lover hats, as Sophie wrote to me explaining how she handles trust in her marriage to an addict.

I had to deliver something to a client today, and ended up parking right in front of the Oriental Massage place where Husband got his first taste of prostitution. Massage with happy ending.

We lived right around the corner from that place at the time he started visiting it. I always wondered when I passed it what kind of a place it was. I'd heard about "oriental massage" from a friend whose husband had experienced the happy ending at a posh hotel in Hong Kong.

I decided that it was time to face this head on. I'd been avoiding driving by the place, and getting anxious every time I knew I'd be near it. So I got out of the car, walked up and opened the door.

It opened right into a dingy, white space that was 3x8 with a counter running the length of it. A sign read "No one under 21 allowed." I glanced around the small space, wondering what Husband was thinking when he opened that same door for the first time. He knew why he was there...I'm sure of that now.

A bell had rung as I entered and Asian woman came out after a moment in response. She muttered something indecipherable.

"This is where my husband first got introduced to prostitution, so I just wanted to see it," I said. I glanced around, looked at her as she muttered something else, and then I shut the door.

My heart was pounding. I felt like I'd looked into the mouth of a beast. But I also felt strength, having faced something that had become such a symbol in my mind.

I continued to the next building to visit my client, heart still pounding as I rode the elevator up and waited in the lobby. Pounding as I talked to the cheerful woman who greeted me. But eventually my chest calmed, and my mind moved into the present moment.

When I returned to my car, a final glance at that door confirmed that I'd vanquished something. Although I could feel my heart pounding again. I took a deep breath, switched on NPR, and pulled into traffic repeating a favorite mantra under my breath. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay..." In the present it's okay.

Our couples therapy session Tuesday night was good. I expressed a lot of the anger and pain I'd been keeping inside. Husband talked about what the experience of slipping was like for him, from the cigarette and shot to the stupid hair salon to the sneaking money. Our therapist suggested that he do whatever he can to demonstrate that he's trustworthy so I can begin to see over time again that he's actively in recovery and not lying about it.

I told her that I really had no idea what he was doing - going to meetings or lying about it, going to his therapist or lying about it. I had no idea any more about the validity of anything coming out of his mouth. She said that if he was lying on such a massive scale, if he was pulling away from the recovery community like that, he'd demonstrate in other areas of life behavior that would be clearly addict or narcissist behavior, and he'd be oblivious to it. In other words, I'd get some trustworthy flags. That made sense to me. That helped. I may not be able to tell when he's lying to my face, but I know I'd be able to pick up on other addict / narcissist behaviors.

So now, I'm giving it time. Time, time, time. Weeks? Months? Years? I don't know. My priority is me and my son. Right now Husband is my partner in raising our son, managing our finances and the logistics of life. I have the parent hat on. I don't know when the other hats will feel right. The friend, the wife, the lover...

I feel resentment about the fact that I feel alone in the world, without an intimate relationship to trust, without a partner I can feel safe to trust and love freely. I'm pissed about that. But I breathe. I read. I do step work. I work on my relationship with higher power. I try to remember not to do it alone, to reach out to others.

Something that's odd for me is that while I don't want to reach out to Husband, I don't want him to stop reaching out to me. I need to be able to remain detatched, but I also need to feel Husband's love for me. I feel like an animal that's been hit, craving touch but freezing in my tracks so I can detect whether it's going to be a blow or a caress and respond to save my life if I have to. So dramatic, huh?

I don't feel like a victim. But I am disappointed. Disappointed and sad. And angry. But I'm also stronger, more grounded, more in touch with myself, and grateful for the progress I've made with my own issues.