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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Digging deeper on my side of the street

Husband and I were beginning to make love one night last week, and I was wrestling with being trapped in my head.

Earlier in the evening as I was washing dishes somehow my mind went to thinking about how husband could have been spending his time with prostitutes while I was going about my daily life doing mundane things like washing dishes and not realizing what unimaginable physical intimacies he was sharing with other women. After that, all evening long my thoughts strayed down this path of invasive pictures forming in head.

I was going back and forth about whether or not to say anything to Husband, but I decided that this was my opportunity to get practice at getting myself back to the present while I was on a downward spiral. So I continued wrestling while trying to engage in making love with Husband at the same time.

The struggle in my head intensified as I was giving Husband a massage, because this was how the whole prostitution thing took off (massage parlors) and was a part of most of his sessions with prostitutes. Things were getting worse and worse, with every touch leading down some dark path of images. My heart was racing, and I realized that I was feeling a lot of anxiety and fear. As we continued kissing and caressing part of me was thinking very hard about what it was that I was afraid of.

I reached down and found that he'd lost his erection. He's middle aged, so that's not completely unusual, although I always have that little voice in the back of my mind that makes me consider the possibility that he is bored with me. Suddenly, he pulled away.

"I'm sorry. I don't know why, but I'm really in my head right now," he said.

A rush of relief flowed through me as I laughed and told him all about how I was so in my head, too. I confessed that I'd been struggling with a PTSD spiral of invasive images all evening, and that I'd been trying to figure out how to pull myself into the present without bringing him into it. We talked about it, and he said, "When in doubt, it's probably always best to talk about things. You're not responsible for my feelings or my reaction."

He has grown tremendously, so much that he's really able to support me when I'm feeling vulnerable and anxious. It was an amazing experience to be "seen" by him when I thought I was doing such a great job of concealing my struggle to get fully into the moment.

So I took all this to therapy last weekend (I would have forgotten, but Husband firmly encouraged me to write it down, so I wrote "Fear of - I don't know what. Fear of things that have happened in the past. Not afraid that it will happen again. But just have fear.")

Well...SURPRISE (to me, at least)! I thought I was trying to do the evolved thing and get myself back into the present. But what I didn't see was that I was using my old ways of handling things myself, trying to control Husband's experience (I didn't want him to feel bad about things that seem like they should be resolved for me by now,) and withholding myself to avoid being out of control (talking about what's going on while not knowing how Husband might respond.) In hindsight I could see that I was already feeling so out of control and in the grips of fear and anxiety in my spiral of thoughts and images, that the way I was trying to regain some sense of stability was to clamp down and get back "in control" by taking care of my feelings all by myself.

So I've told Husband that I'm going to try to talk about my feelings, and face my fear of things being messy and out of my control. I want intimacy, not a secret island of safety where I know I won't be hurt because I'm completely in control and alone.

I don't exactly know how to do this, because "handling it myself" is like water to a fish for me. It's really hard for me to distinguish when I'm doing this because it's deeply integrated into who I am in the world. But I know that the other side of discomfort and pain can be freedom if I stay with those things long enough to get present to the fact that all things change, and to my willingness to have faith that I have everything I need, and that my higher power answers before I ask.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Transition out of therapy

Since the beginning of June, and at the suggestion of his therapist, Husband has concluded both his individual and group therapy. Husband consulted me about this decision, and said that his therapist had offered to see us together if I was uncomfortable with this transition. But I decided that if both of them felt he was ready, and as long as Husband was planning to continue attending regular SAA and OA meetings, from my perspective I could see so much growth and progress that it seemed like a natural time to take this step.

Then, last weekend, Husband and I realized we also both felt ready to end our regular couples therapy. Our therapist agreed that if we felt ready, in her opinion we were ready.

We left both therapists with an open-door policy, meaning we can return at any time for a "tune-up" or to resume regular sessions.

And this week, according to the plan Husband and I had discussed, I resumed my individual therapy with the therapist who was seeing us as a couple. I have uncovered a lot of family of origin issues that I was unaware of (nothing dramatic, but certainly important to my experience of life) and I realized I need to be challenged in this area before I slip into complacency, which is so easy to do when life feels good.

My goals for therapy are to continue to explore where I'm not setting boundaries, and to further develop my own self-definition and relationship with myself. Having never been in individual therapy outside of the crisis of discovering Husband's sex addiction, I have a conversation in my head telling me that it's indulgent. Surely there are millions of people more in need of help than me. But a different part of me recognizes this as an old conversation, so I'm actually going through with this. I don't expect to spend years in therapy, but I think 6 months to a year will give me a solid foundation of learning, growth and practice around being a strong, self-aware, self-defined, self-loving, adult woman assuming full responsibility for my experience, and accepting all the love and support that comes into my life at the same time.

I am grateful, thankful, and appreciate the chance to be a human being in this world, right here, right now. To quote that Jesus Jones song that Husband loves, "There's no other place else I want to be..."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me!

On June 1, 2007 my life disintegrated when I found out that my husband and best friend of 20 years had spent tens of thousands of dollars having intercourse with high priced prostitutes for the past 3 1/2 years, and had been visiting strip clubs for lap dances since before we were married. I never had reason to suspect a thing, (in fact my husband always spoke with disdain about infidelity) and I would have bet my son's life on my husband's honesty.

Because we had a child, I chose not to leave immediately (as my whole being was screaming out that I should do, and I would have were it not for our son.) I decided to take actions that were aligned with what I wanted the outcome to be. Even though I couldn't begin to imagine at the time how it would be possible, what I wanted was for us to be able to be together to provide a loving stable environment for our little boy. I wasn't going to stay if it didn't seem to be heading in that direction, but I was willing to stay long enough to try.

Over the past 2 years we both entered individual therapy for the first time in our lives, and also went into couples therapy with someone who specailizes in sex addiction. We started attending recovery meetings regularly (SANON for me and SAA and OA for him.) And we both began individual explorations of spirituality.

Two years ago the life I'd thought I was living was destroyed. And today, I have peace, serenity, clarity and a relationship with myself that I never even knew was possible. (I'm still learning and growing from this experience - the more I learn and grow the more I see where I can learn and grow, in a very positive way. ) Husband and I also have a better relationship than either of us ever knew we could have.

I've learned that for me I'll never say "forever" again, because things change due to forces beyond my control. But taking my life and my marriage one day at a time, I can honestly say that I have come to not regret the past, and that I don't wish to shut the door on it. It's still difficult to say with total authenticity that I'd choose all the pain I've gone through again, but I can say definitively that I don't know how else I would have had the growth and learning that I've had over the past 2 years. The leaps and bounds I've made are a direct result of the discomfort and groundlessness of discovering such profound betrayal. I was left with no choice but to grow and learn exponentially or be annihilated by pain, loss, dispair and hopelessness.

I am thankful. I am grateful. And I am here to say that it's possible to survive discovery of a partner's sex addiction and come out healthier and happier (whether or not you stay together) on the other side of it. Everybody's circumstance and everybody's journey is different. My story is only one story. For those of you struggling to maintain hope where hope seems impossible, my experience is that having gotten support and having focused on myself rather than the addict, I have not only survived this, but I've blossomed as a result. I have realized aspects of myself that were previously unknown to me: I've found more strength, more confidence, more compassion, more courage; I've found I'm a more loving person, a more honest person, a more forgiving person, a more courageous person, a more conscious person, a more spiritual person. I am more fully myself - the self that has always been there, but that I've never had a relationship with until now.