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 30, 2009

No "fuck you"

Because I have decided to try to work on my relationship with Husband, I've never had that final fuck-you moment. I've never been able to declare myself completely free of his influence and power over me.

Instead I have said, "Yes, I gave you power over me - I gave you my trust. You betrayed that trust. And instead of withdrawing I'm choosing to trust you again. I'm giving you the power to hurt and betray me again."

We are two different people now, so there is no going back to what we had before. We have no choice but to create something new.

So maybe it's not as crazy as it feels sometimes.

But sometimes I have doubts. Sometimes I imagine doing to him what he's done to me. Except if I consider it for any length of time the cost always seems too great.

Tonight he said to me in mock exasperation, "I love you so much I can't stand it!" I used to feel that way about him. But now I don't know that I'll ever be able to feel that way again. Maybe that's the trade-off for the gains I've made. I give up that child-like, carefree, unfettered kind of love in exchange for learning how to live in the world as an adult woman, responsible for my own happiness and well being.

Do grown-up women love their partners so much they can't stand it?

I wish I could feel that kind of enthusiasm for Husband again. He's a great partner, great father, a good, kind, intelligent person. But since I've never been able to declare myself no longer vulnerable to him, will I always be protecting myself in some way, thereby forsaking any possibility of the depth of intimacy I used to feel?

I've said that being betrayed by Husband made me feel like I'd been shot by the fellow soldier I was sharing a fox hole with. Now, after the work we've done individually and as a couple, I feel confident that Husband is still a good fox hole partner. I think he'd always have my back. But there's also a part of me that is poised for anything to happen. Not because of him, but because of me. Something to do with not being able to let go of the past. Maybe it's resentment, maybe it's realizing who I'm really married to and being less enamored of that man than the man I thought I'd married. I try to focus on gratitude, because there is a lot to be grateful for in the man that Husband is. But sometimes I can't overcome my fear and confusion. Even when I feel firmly in the present, not wanting a different past, not worrying about the future...I still don't feel the same free, deep, joyful love for him that I used to. Maybe this is just the process of getting to know the person he really is and falling in love with that person. It took 20 years to get to where we were before, so maybe it just takes time (more time than I thought) to rebuild that level of vulnerability and trust.

Sometimes I feel so good on my path, and sometimes I feel so lost and stuck.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

So how do you cultivate self esteem?

On the Pat Morrison radio show yesterday, Rabbi Harold Kushner said "I would make a distinction between curing, making a problem go away, and healing, which is giving a person the emotional, spiritual resources to cope with a problem that isn't going away."

I think this is an insightful way to describe the process I've been going through since I discovered Husband's sex addiction.

There is no making my past go away. But I've been gaining the emotional, spiritual,and psychological resources to cope with the reality of life. I've been healing.

One area that remains unclear for me is building my self esteem. In June 2008 I declared a Year of Self Definition and yet 16 months later I still feel a bit stumped about how to cultivate a strong relationship with myself.

I have glimmers of it. I've gained a lot of tools and insight from therapy, support groups and reading. But I also have a lot of persistent patterns that originate in self-loathing.

I felt a flash of clarity in the reading I did today in Pema Chodron's The Wisdom of No Escape. In the chapter called Satisfaction she said that "one of the major obstacles to what is traditionally called enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are."

This passage really caught my eye because I recognized myself in it, and I began to start thinking about how I could re-orient my thinking and feeling about what I lack and focus instead on everything I have, everything I am. Gratitude for my life, and loving-kindness toward myself.

How would I treat myself, regard myself, be with myself if I were someone I loved? Certainly much different than I do now. I think exploring this question is on the path of developing / creating a relationship with myself that supports health and peace.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I am my own white knight

At my S-Anon meeting this week we talked about some of the surprising things we'd learned about ourselves in the recovery process.

One of the big things I've learned is how much power I'd given over to Husband. I'm not a person who becomes intimate with many people, and at the time Husband and I met, I didn't trust people easily either. But in Husband I found someone I thought I could trust 100% and I entered into a relationship completely without boundaries. I trusted Husband, I think, more than I trusted myself. And, though I never depended on Husband financially, I put the responsibility for my emotional and psychological well-being and my happiness with him.

Out of this experience I've learned that as a grown woman I am responsible for taking care of myself. Not even the most well-meaning husband, and I think mine was, can offer me the kind of safety I thought I had in my marriage. That kind of safety only comes from shuffling off delusions such as if you love someone you won't hurt them. That kind of safety can only come from surrendering to human imperfection, to suffering, to pain, knowing that all things shall pass.

The balancing act now is learning to have boundaries and make sure I'm taking care of myself without going through life on the defensive. Now that I'm aware of this dynamic in my life, this absolutist tendency of mine to trust without boundaries or not at all, I'm getting better at thinking about my own needs and wants as an important part of every equation. I'm learning to trust appropriately, and to trust in the face of human frailty and the knowledge that nothing can be known for sure. I'm learning to find peace in the face of my inability to completely shield myself from pain.