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.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Question

I was thinking about my 20 history with Husband, and how I would ever be able to start a new relationship with someone other than him if I had to.

Without 20 years of history, how would I know this person, and how would they know me? How would I be able to feel safe with somebody completely unknown?

What popped into my head was this:

The question would not be "Do you know and love me enough to be in a relationship with me?"

The question would be "Do you know and love YOURSELF enough to be in a relationship with me?"

And this, or some version of it, is the same question I'd need to ask myself and the question that I want to ask myself even now in my relationship with Husband: Knowing and loving myself, is this where I want to be? Knowing and loving myself, does this feel good and right in this very moment?

I have fleeting fears about safety. How can I be sure I'm safe? With Husband or with any partner?

The answer that feels most right in my gut is that the safety I seek will come from knowing and loving myself, and not from anybody else.

Easier said than done. I've learned much I didn't know about myself over the past year and a half. I'm learning to accept, embrace and love my humanity, my flaws and failings as well as my strengths and gifts. But knowing myself and loving myself are probably conscious acts best done one day at a time anyway...part of the journey, not the destination.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I've started going to church

It's a surprising development, considering my skepticism. But more than anything else, this has been a spiritual journey for me. Who woulda thought? Certainly not me.

One of the things I've realized through all the reading I've been doing (mostly Buddhism) and through participating in the S-Anon 12 step program is that spirituality has been missing from my life. I've always had to have every answer, to be completely self sufficient. My ability to figure out things, to anticipate and solve problems has been one of my most successful tools for survival. Even now, there is a part of me that has fingers on the buttons that will hermetically seal me off in a Bat-Mobile of self sufficiency.

But now I also see another possibility.

A few days ago I was exploring my resistance to forgiving Husband. I realized that the obstacle was my fear of being hurt again, and that I was resisting my powerlessness in this area.

Refusing to forgive, holding on to just a tiny bit of the past, feels like a safeguard against being vulnerable. Holding onto the distrust is my way of reminding myself not to let betrayal happen again. (There's that resistance to powerlessness!)

I realized that what there is to surrender, what I'm being given the opportunity to wake up to, is that whether or not I'm hurt or betrayed again is beyond my control, and in fact quite likely to happen again. Not something I really want to surrender to, but there it is.

I thought about what would happen if I were betrayed so deeply again, if I ever again felt such deep and raw pain. What would happen if the world as I know it proves profoundly false, lets me down, doesn't meet my expectations / fantasies once again?

The answer that came was that I'd have to face that unbearable pain and surreal disorientation. And that I'd have only myself and the community I've created to support me to help me get through it.

That answer surprised me.

I've never felt community before, let alone thought about getting support from any kind of community. Mostly I've seen myself as very isolated and alone, with the few bright exceptions of 3 or 4 very close friends. I'm the one who helps others, not the recipient of help.

What I've come to realize is that community is there if I open up to it. I've learned that I don't have to have the answers. I don't have to always be the one holding it all together, handling everything when others can't. I can be human, I can be lost, I can be wrong and fallible without becoming unforgivable, I can have messy, even irrational feelings. And when those things happen, there can be a community of people there to hold me, nurture me, hear me, comfort me, and lift me up.

I don't have to do it alone.

As an only child of very young parents, I think I learned a lot about self-sufficiency. And growing up in a family where "bad" feelings were immediately squelched out with love or the withholding of love, where anger was frosty and tight lipped and a lot of communication was indirect, I learned how to deal with things internally instead of reaching out. But now that I'm an adult can I see other options. And acknowledging a power other than myself, a god of my understanding, even if I don't have a clear definition for what that is, seems to turn out better for me than trying to hold it all together alone.

Surrendering to the unknown, embracing the impermanence of life, facing that moment by moment without taking refuge in my intellect, cynicism and skepticism...that is a spiritual experience.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Eleven years today

Husband and I got married on November 1, 1997.

We don't have any special celebration planned this year. Last year we celebrated with a honeymoon on Maui, about 4 months after the truth had come out. It was an intense, emotional time.

This year I feel different. Less emotional, more guarded, yet willing to leave the past in the past, live in the present moment and give what I have today a chance.

I'm tired of my bouts of fear and anxiety, yet I still can't seem to shake them entirely. Husband is struggling with his food addiction a little right now, and I get really nervous about the possibility of things getting out of control. I know he can't be perfect, but I've been through the food struggles before with him and now I have an idea of what he's really struggling with, and where that can lead. I don't think he'll go so far as to go back to porn, massage parlors and prostitutes, but I still fear it. This indicates to me that I have more spiritual work in front of me, more surrender to impermanence and unknowability. And more work around control issues and my ability to feel safe in an uncontrollable world.

I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, afraid to jump back into living 100 percent. It feels easier just to be afraid. But I know that if I jump I might find out I can fly. The fear is still there, though. But it's not insurmountable.

And maybe I'll find that I need to choose again whether or not to jump every single day from here on out.

And I can only begin to imagine where that kind of life will take me, jumping and jumping and jumping again.