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.


Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I love the growth that both of you are experiencing! Thanks so much for sharing.

Rae said...

I want to thank you for sharing this experience here on your blog. Trying to find my way in healthy sexuality with my husband can sometimes feel so difficult. Like you, I get lost in my head in one way or another and I just want to please him and get it over with. There is a more honest and healthy way to do this and I thank you for sharing your journey. It was very helpful to me.

Sophie in the Moonlight said...

Wow. thank you for putting into words experiences I, too, have had and been unable to untangle. the one thing I have learned is to say Stop when I am uncomfortable and Slow Down when I want to be in the moment but need time to figure out if that is the right thing for me to do.

I applaud both your courage in looking within yourself and the obvious growth in intimacy between you and your Husband. Being able to sense and understand without judgement the "off-ness" of one's partner is a huge sign of true intimacy and caring.

Thank you for this post. It was truly beautiful from start to finish.

World said...

How do you know, for sure, that he isn't continuing his earlier behavior behind your back? Have you been monitoring everything? Every raise he gets, every penny he spends, perhaps a bank account you would never know about?
If both of you are still well-employed, I simply can't understand why you don't divorce. To me, this post makes it pretty clear - your life will never be the same again.
I am also quite shocked by Rae's comments above : "..just please him and get it over with". Is that how all women think about it, or maybe there is something in Rae's history I haven't yet read.

woman.anonymous7 said...

World - The fact is I don't know 100% for sure what Husband is doing at all times. And I never did. And if I divorce and move on to another relationship that will still be true.

What I have learned is that no matter what a good job I do of protecting myself, life is still full of uncertainties beyond my conrol.

So what do I do in the face of this? I set strong boundaries, and I pay attention. Not to the point of obsession, but I pay attention to life in a way I didn't before. I try to always take full responsibility for my own well being in the world, rather than counting on others (like Husband) to be responsible for my well being.

What does that look like? Well, Husband no longer gets the benefit of the doubt about anything. If I see, feel, sense something, anything that makes me uneasy or uncomfortable, I ask about it and expect resolution. Husband is willing to do this with me. If he weren't, if he expected me to be "over it" by now, or gave me crap about needing his privacy, then I probably would be looking at divorce. Bottom line is, now I will do what I need to do to preserve my well being. I trust my instincts, I ask questions, I have boundaries, I speak up when something's bothering me, and I don't worry about the outcome. I'm willing to walk away now, in a way that I wasn't when I had stars in my eyes about our relationship, and that creates a clarity in our relationship that wasn't there before, I think.

Add to this that I'm still learning, still making my way, still making mistakes. But I'm living from the perspective that nothing is 100% certain, and that I need to remember that, even in my most intimate relationships. A hard pill for a former idealist to swallow, but I feel stronger in my life for surrendering (which means acknowledging, NOT giving up or giving in to) to the unknowables of life instead of resisting them.