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, August 28, 2009

Metaphors, puns and rambling out of the fog

My son was in tears the other day because he accidentally erased his profile on his Nintendo DS game Lego Battles. He explained to my mother, who couldn't understand the problem this presented, that it meant that everything he'd accomplished, done, overcome, figured out, and scored over the past month of playing this game was gone and he had to start over with a blank slate.

"Exactly!" I thought as I listened to his wailing.

My slate feels so blank sometimes, because I've gone from believing that there were a very few things that I could absolutely count on to believing that impermanence is possibly the only thing I can count on and that despite all indications there is no way to have any certainty about the future at all. This perspective, while feeling less delusional than past certainties, also sends me into a bit of an existential freak-out. It feels too big and scary and lonely for it to be just me and my higher power. I admit it: I want something to cling to. I want to know something for sure. "I want to be able to count on something," I told my therapist.

She gently suggested that the Buddhist perspective on this (because she knows I swing that way) might be along the lines of finding gratitude for the present moment, and I realized (again) that this is where peace is for me. Since I believe that impermanence is the only constant and the future is unknowable, peace has no other place to wait for me aside from the present moment. Little comfort as I sat in my therapist's office, but my brain could grasp it and begin to make sense of the world again. Okay, so as my mind swished down the toilet of past pain and fear about the future, I had forgotten about staying in the present. But now I was remembering again. The cold fingers of my dark confusion began to loosen their grip.

The bumper sticker I get out of this experience: There is nothing good at the bottom of the toilet.

I don't feel completely alone, actually. I have girlfriends whom I still believe I can count on to be who I think they are. But in my relationship I don't have that sense of security any more. I can count on Husband 99.9% when it comes to our son. But when it comes to me...when it comes to counting on him to take me into consideration when he does something...that's where I'm afraid. I believed in this 100% before and got burned.

I told my therapist that sometimes it feels like Husband is a hot stove that I'm afraid to touch again. As we talked I realized that my subconscious assumption has been that the stove would burn me again if I touched it. But my conscious mind doesn't think that. I'm not afraid that Husband would be able to betray me again the way he did before. I have training about stoves that I didn't have before! So it was a good opening for me to realize that I'm not trying to touch a hot stove again. I'm just trying to touch the stove to see what it feels like now, and I'm not reaching out unprotected. More importantly, I need to remind myself (again) what I realized more than a year ago: Because he's in recovery, Husband probably isn't a stove anymore.

I've been caught up (again) trying to make sense of things. (Perhaps this cycle of "agains" is something I just have to surrender to.) I want things to make sense. But the lying Husband did is something that will never make sense to me. How do you so deeply betray someone you love? I can fantasize about it, but when it comes down to it, I could never go through with it. I'd have to hate him in order to lie to him the way he did to me. That's how I'm built. And he is built differently. And now we're both working on our defective parts, rebuilding our engines. They will always be different engines, but hopefully they will work better than they did before and we'll be able to finish out this road trip together.

I think a lot of this circling back is because there's anger and resentment I haven't fully expressed and it's surfacing and that's a good thing. Those things are hard for me because I never learned about openly expressing those feelings as a child. But now's my chance.

My friend recently wrote on her blog about a palm tree outside her window that was cut down, and how it took only minutes to destroy something that had taken years to grow. I told Husband this is how I feel about our relationship, and why I think it's sometimes such a struggle. The tree that was my understanding of the world has been cut down and there's no putting it back. He nodded and put his arms around me.

Replant. Give water and light. (Perhaps some therapy and the love and support of friends.) Wait. And don't lose faith that a big tree can grow from a little nut.

Later I asked him if there was anything we needed to talk about from the arguments and discussions we'd had over the past few days. "I'm afraid to tell you this, because I don't want you to feel responsible for my feelings, but when you say you can't count on anything I feel terrible. I know that you can't know anything absolutely for sure, but I'm going to do my best to be someone you can count on for the rest of my life."

Just when I need it most, my higher power chimes in. I'm both surprised and not surprised at all.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


After two years of gigantic personal growth spurts, newly discovered spirituality, and tons of therapy, it would seem like everything would be on the up and up, yes?

Well of course not! The whole "journey, not a destination" rigmarole seems to be proving true once again. (This is why it gets on mugs and magnets I suppose. They rival bumper stickers as a source for all of life's deepest truths.)

I've spent the last couple weeks caught in a downward spiral. I'm in one of those places where I'm finding it hard to feel anything, mostly where Husband is concerned.

Yesterday afternoon we snuck away together to see Julie & Julia. I watched with a little sadness because that's the relationship I thought we had in many ways - loving, connected and close but independent, respectful, supportive - and the relationship I thought I would have as we grew old together. (I'm sure I've idealized things, and that's something I need to keep in mind.) But now I have doubts I will ever feel that easy deep connection with him again, and that makes me very sad.

Husband does everything right. He has worked his 12-step program diligently since day one; he's gone to therapy; he ACTS differently; he's grown tremendously; and he's probably much more the man I thought I was married to than ever before. He's a different person than he was in 2007.

But despite all his work and all his progress (not to mention my own work and progress,) I have sunk into this low place where my relationship is concerned. I talked with my therapist about it, and she summed up our session saying that I seem to have two choices: Wait it out and let my openness to deep intimacy grow as Husband proves himself over time; or take the risk and jump in with my heart open as wide as possible. Both are fine choices she said.

I want to do the latter, because I think a risk like that with someone who has been in active recovery for 2 years is less of a risk than it feels. And I know peace will be more accessible if I can make the shifts within myself that make that kind of openness possible for me again. But I just don't seem to be able to push myself past some undefinable obstacle that has settled in. Sometimes I wonder if I love my husband. I think I do, I have a lot of good reasons to, but sometimes I can't feel it.

When I imagine being with someone else, I certainly don't get any rush of relief. Another man simply represents a different set of challenges and unknowns. There is no Prince Charming (if anything, I believe I'm the only one who can sweep me off my feet.) So I think something in me needs to shift. I think my current numbness has little to do with Husband, and mostly to do with another level of growth that is becoming available to me. I think the root of my funk has something to do with my inability to completely surrender to the bottom line that life is ultimately beyond my control. My Good People/Bad People buckets can't protect me from being hurt and betrayed.

And Husband and I are DIFFERENT. (Something I forget again and again.) But that doesn't make him dangerous (I also forget this.) It just feels that way. Not that I'm absolved from taking care of my own well-being first and foremost. But he can tick differently from me and not be dangerous as long as he's not slipping into delusion, denial and grandiosity. And how do I know that's not happening? Only by his actions - only by the fact that he's working his program, going to meetings, apologizing when he's an asshole, doing things differently from how he used to when he was an unconscious narcissistic addict and I was an unconscious codie.

It does feel like a bit of a tightrope to navigate, but I think any high-stakes situation is going to feel like that.

I met with my step-buddy (I'm still working on writing up my 1st step) and she reminded me that the ups and downs I'm feeling are the landscape of a long-term relationship. I am an absolutist through and through, and another thing I always, ALWAYS forget is that this moment is not how it will be forever.

This too shall pass.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Forgive but can't forget?

A good article:

I've been struggling with this issue of getting past the past lately. Don't know why it's coming up now, more than two years out. But healing from sex addiction and betrayal has its own timeline, and while I can work hard, and I can watch Husband working hard, I've learned I can't put a date on when I'll be "healed."